Weekend Reads

For the profit and pleasure of subscribers, here's a few longer reads on economic, political and social issues for the weekend.

Simon Wilson is doing a fantastic job making Auckland Council politics interesting over at TheSpinoff. His long piece on Phil Goff and the new Council is a must read. You will laugh out loud over the corgis and Colin Meads.

I'm a huge fan of Ken Burns' documentary series about American history, so his views on Trump's election are worth reading, particularly because he described Trump as an "insult to history" in June to a Stanford commencement address. This exchange from earlier this week with a student who listened to that speech in June highlights what Trump's opponents are thinking now.

Burns takes the high road.

"I hear in your anguish a call to action that ought to awaken anyone — including myself — who misread this election. We need to be thoughtful in that action. Blind, angry protest will not help; it will only strengthen those who do not share our worldview. Passivity — as we have both discovered — is also not an option. We must choose a middle ground: engagement. But the engagement we seek must understand that those people who did not vote as we did are not our enemy. In fact, true engagement is walking into the heart of that constituency, offering shared stories and real solutions rather than narratives that are calculated to divide, offering fellowship and unity, where fake news has helped stoke tribal angers."

This summary from Joel Winston of how Donald Trump's digital team built an identity database and used Facebook ads to win the election is a fantastic summary of one of the biggest stories of the year -- how an outsider used Facebook to upend the political landscape.

One of my big finds of the year has been Branko Milanovic, the former World Bank economist who did the research behind the Elephant Chart. Here's his latest blog post on the economics and politics of globalisation, in which he poses some uncomfortable questions about the loss of cultural diversity in a (theoretical) world of free movement of peoples.

"There is a clear trade-off between the maintenance of diversity of cultural traditions and freedom of individuals to do as they please. I would be happier if the trade-off did not exist, but it does. And if I have to choose between the two, I would choose human freedom even if it means loss of tradition," Milanovic writes.

Sorry it's a slightly shortened version this week. Bear with me. The last couple of weeks have had too much news. Next Friday's version will be the last for the year and will feature a bumper crop for the entire summer.