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There is plenty that we do not know about the coronavirus. But let us take stock of the things that we do know for sure, and of some other things that we will soon know.
By now, a child understands exponential growth. If you start with one apple on March 1st and double every three days, you will have a thousand apples on March 31st and a million on April 30th.
But in the real world, not the abstract world of math, there are constraints on that growth. Doubling your apples every three days is feasible for a month or so because you can probably find a thousand apples and also find a place to store them. But it would be more difficult to find, transport and store a million apples, unless you are willing to pack a six car garage with apples from floor to ceiling (accurate math). If you did, most of them would rot and your neighbors would call for psychiatric help, two other constraints on unbridled exponentiality. Read more
Or how Greta Thunberg can create more converts.
“Nature is not a temple. It is a workshop, and a human being is the worker in it.” _ Ivan Turgenev
Item 1: The outbreak of coronavirus that threatens to create a global pandemic and the tragic sudden death of basketball star Kobe Bryant both remind us that the unexpected can happen quickly and that we humans live in an environment that can at times be ruthlessly hostile.
Nature, fate, providence, or whatever one chooses to call it, works in inscrutable ways. The virus will spread and endanger millions, if humans do not stop it. It has no will or conscience and would inexorably destroy those who are dearest to us, in a matter of days. And, before downing Bryant’s helicopter and killing him, his young daughter and seven others, fate or gravity did not pause for a millisecond to ponder the sadness that it would inflict on hundreds of millions all over the world through such a senseless death.
Modern society is generally free of deadly viruses and helicopters are generally safe to fly. But it took centuries of human progress to get there in both instances. And it will take more human progress and ingenuity to seal the cracks in our vigilance that allowed the coronavirus to emerge and spread, and the helicopter to crash .
Item 2: Last week in Davos, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin volunteered that climate activist Greta Thunberg ought to get an economics degree before preaching her message to grown-up policy makers. That is more confidence in university economics departments than most of Miss Thunberg’s critics would be willing to concede. It is true that Miss Thunberg’s message is incomplete, but that is not for lack of economic pedigree. The building blocks that are glaringly missing from her campaign are 1) a better understanding of Turgenev’s aphorism on nature and man, and 2) a trip or two to China, India or other fast developing countries.
“You go to some of these places [Midwestern cities], the question they ask when they meet you is ‘where did you go to high school’?… The fact that where you went to high school is a social marker places you in a community. You go to Washington DC and nobody cares where you went to high school… In New York, they ask ‘where are you from?’ because it is assumed that you are not from here. Some of these places in the Midwest… need more outsiders to come in because outsiders are the natural constituency of the new.” _____Aaron Renn
Aaron Renn, a Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, speaks to Sami J. Karam about US cities. What makes the large coastal cities so successful? What are the prospects for mid-sized and smaller cities in the Rust Belt? What is the current state of play for mass transit? What role does immigration play in the development of cities?
Among the cities discussed, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, Washington DC, Seattle, Houston, Dallas, Austin, San Francisco, Charlotte, Minneapolis-St Paul, Nashville, Columbus, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, St Louis, Cleveland, Detroit, Madison, Iowa City, Rochester (MN), Singapore, Paris.
- 0:00 Introduction of Aaron Renn
- 1:15 What makes the large coastal cities so successful at creating wealth?
- 8:30 Can a large city become dominant in a new sector? (e.g., New York in tech)
- 13:00 How would you categorize non-coastal cities in terms of their prospects?
- 16:30 Why some cities are struggling while others are restructuring successfully
- 20:55 Will some smaller cities turn into ghost towns within twenty years?
- 26:35 What is going on with Detroit’s recovery?
- 30:40 The role of new immigrants in the development of a city
- 36:50 Immigration policy in Canada and Australia compared to the US and UK
- 43:50 What is the future for mass transit?
- 48:00 The lack of city to city benchmarking in infrastructure costing and execution
- 53:40 Is there anything going on in high-speed rail, other than in California?
- 59:40 The decline of trust in institutions and the problem of cronyism.
TO HEAR THE PODCAST, CLICK HERE OR ON THE TIMELINE BELOW:
A user’s content and browsing history are monetizable assets.
Rather than tax, regulate or break up Facebook and Google, we should ask that they pay for the monetizable assets that they have so far mined for free. These assets are a user’s content and browsing history.
As with all types of mining, the tech giants have developed an innovative technology that they combine with an exogenous asset (an asset obtained from someone else) in order to make money. In their case, it is information and data. In the case of a traditional miner or oil company, it was copper or zinc or oil, or other resources.
The Wharton Africa Business Forum took place in Philadelphia on November 3-5, 2017. Present were the Finance Minister of Nigeria, the CEO of Ethiopian Airlines and other business leaders (notably from lead sponsors McKinsey & Company and the Boston Consulting Group) and educators. The event was attended by hundreds of participants including Wharton faculty, students and alumni, African investors and entrepreneurs, members of the African diaspora and many others who have an interest in Africa.
These are our notes from the event. They are not intended to be comprehensive.
First, there was a tremendous amount of energy and optimism surrounding Africa developments. There were a palpable sense that Africa’s moment is coming and an urgency that it should not be squandered. These sentiments are validated by our analysis of African demographics that show a coming decline in the dependency ratio and an accompanying increase in the odds of realizing some demographic dividend. However, fertility rates remain too elevated and are not falling fast enough to deliver the massive dividend that was seen in China, the US and Europe in recent decades. Read more
This post will be continuously updated as we learn about new projects. Go to the bottom of the page for new entries.
On the three main vectors of wealth creation, African countries have lagged other developing nations for several decades. Sub-Saharan Africa is the poorest region of the world and suffers from poor infrastructure, uneven literacy, endemic corruption, political instability and war. While this is problematic for the present, improving conditions are pointing to a more promising future.
In particular, sub-Saharan Africa could have a unique opportunity to realize a demographic dividend if its elevated fertility rate and dependency ratio decline in the same way as have those of other countries in the past.
The experience of China shows that a significant dividend can be reaped if other conducive factors are also present. Most important among them are a growing workforce that is more literate and productive, and an institutional framework that is supportive of economic development. Read more
This article first appeared at Foreign Affairs.
How countries hit the demographic sweet spot.
Demographics are among the most important influences on a country’s overall economic performance, but compared with other contributors, such as the quality of governance or institutions, their impact is underappreciated. Demographic factors, such as the age structure of a population, can determine whether a given economy will grow or stagnate to an even greater extent than can more obvious causes such as government policy.
One of the most consequential aspects of demographics as they relate to the economy is a phenomenon known as the “demographic dividend,” which refers to the boost to economic growth that occurs when a decline in total fertility, and subsequent entry of women into the work force, increases the number of workers (and thus decreases the number of dependents) relative to the total population. The demographic dividend has contributed to some of the greatest success stories of the twentieth century, and countries’ ability to understand and capture this dividend will continue to shape their economic prospects well into the future. Continue reading at Foreign Affairs >>>
A decision that could fix Twitter or hasten its demise.
This is not the first article to suggest that Twitter can generate some revenues by charging its users, but perhaps we can offer some new angles to the discussion. To begin, it is helpful to differentiate between the different types of Twitter users. These seem to be:
- Media firms publishing their stories and videos, for example CNN, the New York Times, etc.
- Corporations marketing their products or making announcements.
- Non-profit organizations and NGOs raising awareness on various issues.
- Government institutions, agencies or individuals trying to inform the public.
- Famous individuals looking to communicate with their fans, for example celebrity entertainers, politicians or opinion leaders.
- Public or semi-public individuals looking to raise their visibility and to build their personal brand, for example journalists, consultants and academics.
- Small or mid-sized businesses promoting their services and products.
- Private individuals seeking a mode of expressing their thoughts and feelings, often anonymously through a pseudonym.
- Private individuals who rarely or never tweet but visit Twitter frequently to read the news or other people’s tweets. Continue reading at Seeking Alpha >>>
If you and your neighbor have the same income and expenses except that he rides the bus for free every day while you pay a fare, he will be richer than you. Until recently, this was obvious: the neighbor is a free rider while you pay your way.
But now, the obvious is presented as a novelty. Plenty of people are extolling the benefits of free-riding without naming it as such and encouraging a large exodus from active to passive (or indexed) funds. The only problem is that proponents of this form of free-riding neglect to also mention the following corollary sub-plot.
Now your neighbor makes you feel like a fool and convinces you to also ride for free. Soon, your whole town has caught on to the idea and fewer and fewer people are willing to pay for the bus. After a while, the number of people supporting bus service with their dollars becomes so small that buses go out of business or fall into a state of disrepair. Continue reading at Seeking Alpha >>>