Society & Governance

  • Purity or Universalism?
    This article first appeared at Quillette. A few days after his recent passing, the Manhattan Institute reposted a speech by V. S. Naipaul from October 1990. The title, “Our Universal Civilization,” captured the triumphal and optimistic spirit of that moment, nearly one year after the fall of the Berlin Wall. In order to render this … Read more Purity or Universalism?
  • Soccer for Americans
    Three rule changes to turn American soccer into a big money maker. The experience of watching a soccer game rarely lives up to the anticipation. You go in hoping for a 4-3 cliff-hanger (as with Argentina vs. France recently) but too often you end up with 1-0 or worse, a draw, or much worse, a … Read more Soccer for Americans
  • Fertility and Literacy in India’s States
    Higher female literacy is a reliable predictor of lower fertility and improved prosperity. In a previous article, we highlighted a clear connection in sub-Saharan Africa between a country’s total fertility rate (TFR = average number of children per woman) and its young female literacy rate. The data showed that higher literacy may set off a chain reaction … Read more Fertility and Literacy in India’s States
  • Future Hubs of Africa and Asia
    On UN projections between 2015 and 2050, the world population will grow by nearly 2.38 billion people, from 7.35 billion to 9.73 billion. Although this 32% growth is a big increase, it marks a slowdown from the 66% growth rate recorded in the preceding 35 years (1980-2015). Total Fertility Rates (TFRs) have come down all … Read more Future Hubs of Africa and Asia
  • Cronyism and its Scapegoats
    Cronyism destroys trust and assigns the blame to scapegoats of its own creation. Only a fiercely committed left or right-winger would fail to recognize that there is today a social and political divide that does not easily fit within the traditional mold of left vs. right. If, loosely speaking, the left leans socialist and the … Read more Cronyism and its Scapegoats
  • Immigration and Trust
    Do we only really trust people who are like us? And if so, is that a mistake? Distrust of the unfamiliar and the foreign is a natural survival mechanism for most species, including the human species. But, if empirical evidence is worth anything, a reflexive distrust of the foreigner cannot be said to be equally benign. Distrust … Read more Immigration and Trust
  • Cronyism Damaged Venezuela before Chavez
    Venezuela is bankrupt, having just defaulted on three interest payments. And much of the world is pointing fingers at the socialist policies of Hugo Chavez and those of his successor, the incumbent Nicolás Maduro. This laying of the blame is not wrong but it is incomplete. The kindest thing you could say about Mr. Chavez … Read more Cronyism Damaged Venezuela before Chavez
  • Notes from the Wharton Africa Business Forum
    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 … Read more Notes from the Wharton Africa Business Forum
  • Africa: 800 Million Jobs Needed
    African economies are in a race to get ahead of the demographic boom. Let us share without fear the journey of migrants and refugees. #ShareJourney — Pope Francis (@Pontifex) September 27, 2017 “Let us share without fear the journey of migrants and refugees.” Pope Francis (@Pontifex) tweet on 27 September 2017. While some people in … Read more Africa: 800 Million Jobs Needed
  • A Different Kind of Border Wall
    To slow mass migration, stop the illicit capital flight from poor to rich countries. An asset manager called ____ Capital recently sent out this email seeking referrals: The US Investor visa program allows one to invest $500,000 U.S. in a government licensed fund for a period of about five years and in around 18 months, a … Read more A Different Kind of Border Wall
  • Capitalism Did Not Win the Cold War
    This article first appeared at Foreign Affairs. Why cronyism was the real victor. When the Soviet Union collapsed 26 years ago, it was generally agreed that the West had won the Cold War. This was affirmed by the prosperity and possibilities awaiting citizens of Western countries, as opposed to the political and economic stagnation experienced … Read more Capitalism Did Not Win the Cold War
  • New Infrastructure in Sub-Saharan Africa
    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 … Read more New Infrastructure in Sub-Saharan Africa
  • Why Buffett Won His Bet Against Hedge Funds
    QE had a lot to do with it. Active fund manager billionaires Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger have been critical of active fund manager millionaires for their very high fees and chronic underperformance. It is not unusual for the ultra wealthy to trash the merely wealthy for their avarice. After all, ultra wealth is so rare that it can be … Read more Why Buffett Won His Bet Against Hedge Funds
  • Father of the Bernie Sanders Presidency
    President Trump’s elite-managed populism opens a path for a more genuine version. On the usual political spectrum, there are left and right, people who call themselves progressive or conservative, socialist/social democrat or capitalist. But these labels seem to mean less today than in the past. The Trump phenomenon highlighted another divide that has little to do with the historic … Read more Father of the Bernie Sanders Presidency
  • Outsmarting Crime Together: CityCop CEO Nadim Curi, 23 March 2017
    Sami J. Karam speaks to Nadim Curi, CEO of the anti-crime app CityCop. Powered by its successful rollout in Latin America started in 2014 and further boosted by funding from startup accelerator techstars, CityCop has staked a claim to turn its “social platform for community watch” into the global leader in crime reporting and public safety. Curi explains: What Waze has … Read more Outsmarting Crime Together: CityCop CEO Nadim Curi, 23 March 2017
  • The Economics of Dependency
    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 … Read more The Economics of Dependency
  • Trump Country: Where the Immigrants Aren’t
    Trump did best in the states with the lowest percentages of foreign-born residents. “I love the poorly-educated”, gushed Donald Trump after winning the Nevada primary in February. But in the end, what happened in the primary, stayed in the primary. Come November, Trump lost the state to Hillary Clinton, a turn that is explained by the fact … Read more Trump Country: Where the Immigrants Aren’t
  • Passive Funds Are Just Free-Riding Active Funds
    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 … Read more Passive Funds Are Just Free-Riding Active Funds
  • The Futility of Annual Top 10 Predictions
    In every recent year, a black swan event has made top 10 lists appear quaintly naive and unimaginative. Our list is probably no better. This time of year, top 10 predictions are all the rage. These lists can be interesting and entertaining but how useful are they really? This question goes to the heart of forecasting. How futile or how useful … Read more The Futility of Annual Top 10 Predictions
  • The Mainstream Media Will Rise Again
    The news media was flattened on November 8th but its recovery has already started. One of the striking features in all the commentary on Facebook about Donald Trump’s victory is the number of times that the words I, me and my appeared in member posts. For example, “I am proud”, “I am optimistic” or “I am fearful”, “I am worried” etc. The … Read more The Mainstream Media Will Rise Again