Weekend reads for July 15-16

Especially for subscribers, here's a few longer reads on economic, political and social matters for the weekend.

If you're looking for a good long sleep over the weekend, it may pay to read this piece from David Wallace Wells in New York Magazine on climate change in the morning rather than just before bedtime. It's a tad scary, It's titled 'The Uninhabitable Earth' and it's a sobering read full of startling facts.

The White House has had another awful week and the chaos inside Donald Trump's administration is laid bare in this New York Times piece from Maggie Haberman and Peter Baker. It sounds like Lord of the Flies inside that place. Here's a sample: "Now people close to the president and to his legal effort are engaged in a circular firing squad, anonymously blaming one another for the decisions of the last few days."

Frank Rich's summary of this week's events in New York Magazine is almost as good. "There will be no single smoking gun that will bring down this White House. It will be death by firing squad — or perhaps a sequence of firing squads — as the whole story inexorably pours out of the administration’s smoldering ruins. Trump Jr.’s panicked release of the self-incriminating emails is tantamount to picking up a loaded gun and shooting himself in the head," Rich writes.

Economists have copped a lot of flak for not predicting or preventing the Global Financial Crisis. Fair enough. Here's Dean Baker in the Democracy Journal of Ideas about that failure:

"The problem is not that modern economics lacks the tools needed to understand the economy. Just as with firefighting, the basics have been well known for a long time. The problem is with the behavior and the incentive structure of the practitioners. There is overwhelming pressure to produce work that supports the status quo (i.e. redistributing to the rich), that doesn’t question authority, and that is needlessly complex. The result is a discipline in which much of the work is of little use, except to legitimate the existing power structure. In terms of the poor quality of work, it is easy to point to the failure to recognize the size and risks posed by the housing bubble in the last decade."

This piece from Arnold Kling in National Affairs also challenges the prevailing views of economists and asks: 'How effective is economic theory.'

Anyone trying to understand the rise of populism should have a look at this Ipsos Global Trends article based on a survey the firm did last year of over 16,000 people globally. It found alarming levels of distrust in Governments and elites.

This week America's major newspaper groups joined together to ask for an exemption from anti-monopoly rules so they could jointly negotiate with Google and Facebook. It's an echo in a way of our very own NZME-Fairfax merger. This WSJ Op-Ed on the matter summarises the issues well. "The two digital giants don’t employ reporters: They don’t dig through public records to uncover corruption, send correspondents into war zones, or attend last night’s game to get the highlights. They expect an economically squeezed news industry to do that costly work for them," David Chavern writes. Too right.

Have a great weekend.

cheers

Bernard