Business Insider: Americans Love Moving More Than Almost Everyone Else In The World
Business Insider: Americans Love Moving More Than Almost Everyone Else In The World
... Barely half of Americans polled in 2010 by GlobeScan said they believed in the free-market system, down from 80 percent in 2002. A large majority had lost trust in government. The most recent Edelman Trust Barometer found that trust in business has been below 50 percent for 8 of the past 12 years. Throughout Europe, only small minorities said they believed in free-market capitalism.
Meanwhile, social entrepreneurs are developing innovative business models that blend traditional capitalism with solutions that address the long-term needs of our planet. They are tackling chronic social problems, ranging from healthcare delivery in sub-Saharan Africa to agricultural transformation in East Asia and public-school funding in the United States. Social entrepreneurs are working in close collaboration with local communities, incubating groundbreaking (and often lifesaving) innovations; modeling synergistic partnerships with governments, companies, and traditional charities; and building business models that deploy technology and enable networking to create wins for investors and clients alike. “Social entrepreneurs are mad scientists in the lab,” says Pamela Hartigan, director of the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship at Oxford University. “They’re harbingers of new ways of doing business.”
We believe this collaborative approach offers intriguing hints about how enterprises of all sizes can deliver value for themselves and society. Below we suggest four ways in which social entrepreneurs are showing the way forward.
USING PROFIT TO FUND PURPOSE ...
DELIVERING INDIVIDUALIZED PRODUCTS THAT MARRY NEED AND WANT ...
CROWDSOURCING THE SOLUTION ...
WORKING THEMSELVES OUT OF A JOB ...
This piece is a little too narrow in attributing positive change almost exclusively to markets. I would argue that things are considerably more complicated and the video would be more convining with some balance. But the video does do a powerful placing our economic moment in time in context.
Christian Science Monitor: Protecting land rights using Wikipedia-style maps
Anyone who is familiar with Hernando DeSoto's The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else, knows that the poor control trillions of dollars of capital in the form real estate but can't leverage it due to inadequate property rights. As you read this article keep in mind that 5 billion people are expected to gain access to the internet in less than a decade.
Building data bases of land ownership, Wikipedia-style, would be a cheap and easy way for poor, rural communities to compile a record of property rights and land use, reducing corruption and helping to lessen illegal land grabs.
Imagine whipping out your smartphone, walking the boundaries of your property, and pressing “Send” to upload a map of your land to a common databank. You also could attach a photo of a legal contract proving your tenancy or ownership.
The pressure to record land tenure is mounting worldwide. ...
It seems like this could have a tremendous impact on economic development with the poor.
... Six of the world’s ten fastest growing economies of the past decade are in sub-Saharan Africa. A clutch of countries have enjoyed growth in income per person of more than 5% a year since 2007. ...
... GDP is not a perfect measure of living standards. A new study from the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and the Tony Blair Africa Governance Initiative takes a broader look at well-being in Africa. As well as income per person, BCG’s gauge of living standards includes jobs, governance, health, and inequality. Measured in this way, well-being in much of sub-Saharan Africa is lower than it ought to be, given rising average incomes per person. Levels of well-being in South Africa are out of whack with its GDP per head. Kenya and Ghana do a much better job of reaping the benefits of a growing economy.
Yet many of the countries whose well-being has improved most in the past five years are in Africa. This list is headed by Angola and includes Congo, Ethiopia, Lesotho, Malawi, Nigeria, Rwanda and Tanzania. All have enjoyed rapid growth in GDP per person. But they have also done well at translating that strong growth into improved well-being: in technical terms, the correlation between GDP per person and well-being above one in these countries (see chart). ...
New York Times: Is It Crazy to Think We Can Eradicate Poverty?
... Fortunately, this deadly and cyclical form of poverty [living on less than $1.25 a day] is already on its way toward obsolescence, and much faster than many development economists expected. The first Millennium Development Goal — to halve the proportion of the world population living in dire poverty by 2015 — was met five years early, as the rate fell to an estimated 21 percent in 2010, from 43 percent in 1990. Some economists had feared that the recession would arrest or even reverse the trend, given how interconnected the global economy is, but the improvement continued, unabated. Annual growth dipped for developing economies in 2009 but has since rebounded to about 5.3 percent a year, a figure dragged down by weaker peripheral European economies.
For much of the improvement, the world can thank one country: China, which alone accounts for about half of the decline in the extreme poverty rate worldwide. It has also driven significant gains across the region. In the early 1980s, East Asia had the highest extreme-poverty rate in the world, with more than three in four people living on less than $1.25 a day. By 2010, just one in eight were. But other middle-income countries, like Brazil, Nigeria and India, have experienced significant growth, too — in no small part because tens of millions of the very poor have moved from rural areas to cities, where they become richer, healthier and more productive for their economies....
... For the poor living in poor countries, particularly the profoundly unstable ones, gains have been harder-fought and slower, a trend that the World Bank’s own economists describe as worrisome. But that is not to play down the successes so far. In 2008, for the first time since the bank started measuring the statistics, the number of people living in dire poverty and the dire-poverty rate fell in every region around the world. Extreme poverty in sub-Saharan Africa has at last dipped below the 50 percent mark. Still, many within the development world doubt the ability of NGOs to cure the world’s most troubled nations of their woes. “I don’t think we have a recipe for fixing the Congo or South Sudan or Afghanistan,” says Birdsall, of the Center for Global Development. ....
... Myths abound about the young entrepreneurs who dreamed up crazy ideas while in their dorm room, raised millions of dollars in venture capital, and started billion-dollar businesses. But these are just the outliers. The typical entrepreneur is more like Albert -- a middle-aged professional who learns about a market need and starts a company with his own savings.
Research that my team completed in 2009 determined that the average age of a successful entrepreneur in high-growth industries such as computers, health care, and aerospace is 40. Twice as many successful entrepreneurs are over 50 as under 25; and twice as many, over 60 as under 20. The vast majority -- 75 percent -- have more than six years of industry experience and half have more than 10 years when they create their startup. Nearly 70 percent start their companies to capitalize on business ideas that they have -- which they see as a way to build wealth. ...
The Irish Times: We may be witnessing an African economic miracle
... By almost every measure – of health, wealth and education – and for most of its people, life in Africa is getting better.
All of these developments are perhaps best encapsulated by the UN’s Human Development Index. Over decades, that organisation has measured health, education and poverty indicators across the world to assess people’s quality of life. Since the turn of the century, human development has not only improved in every one of sub-Saharan Africa’s 45 countries but gains were bigger in the 2000s than in any previous decade.
In many ways, Africa remains the world’s most miserable place. None of its longstanding problems can be declared solved and it faces some new ones, including rising global food prices and climate change, issues discussed this week in Dublin.
The scale of challenges cannot be underestimated. But Africa’s prospects are improving. The dashed hopes of the post-independence decades now stand a better chance than ever of being fulfilled.
Africans are helping themselves more than aid workers are, according to new research.
Analysis of cash flows by Hong Kong-based Ghanaian academic Adams Bodomo shows that Africans living outside the continent send more money home to their families than is sent by traditional Western aid donors in what is called Official Development Assistance (ODA).
In 2010 - the most recent year for which meaningful comparisons can be made, according to Mr Bodomo - the African diaspora remitted $51.8bn (£34bn) to the continent.
In the same year, according to World Bank figures, ODA to Africa was $43bn (£28bn).
"I started the research to see if I could support a hunch I had that money remitted by African families was more efficient aid than ODA money," the Ghanaian professor told the BBC.
"I found it was clearly more efficient and better targeted but to my surprise I found it was also a much bigger sum." ...
The story of India's economic surge is dominated by two conflicting narratives.
... Delving into the relationship between caste and entrepreneurship, the researchers have found that scheduled castes and tribes, the most disadvantaged groups in Hinduism's hierarchy, owned very little businesses despite a decade of sprightly economic growth and a long history of affirmative action.
Mining information thrown up by the 2005 economic census covering more than 42 million enterprises, they found schedule castes owned only 9.8% of all enterprises in India in 2005, well below their 16.4% share of the total population.
The scheduled tribes owned only 3.7% of non-farm enterprises despite being 7.7% of the population.
However, ownership of business among OBC's - an acronym for Other Backward Castes or the "middle castes" who "neither suffering the extreme social and economic discrimination of the Scheduled Castes, nor enjoying the social privileges of the upper castes" - has grown.
OBCs comprise 41% of India's people. Their members owned 43.5% of all enterprises in 2005, and accounted for 40% of non-farm employment.
This is a remarkable achievement considering that affirmative action for this group was widely introduced only in the 1990s.
The pattern of dismally low ownership of businesses among the most disadvantaged groups, the researchers found, is not specific to any one region or state in India. ...
Africa on the Blog: What Forces Are Driving African Economic Growth?
... Much of the promising economic news coming out of Africa reflects the benefit of rising commodity prices. The continent can also expect to capitalize on having a comparatively young demographic structure, as the growth 16 to 30 age bracket provides the potential for an expanded workforce. This is also the demographic that will rapidly adopt mobile technology, which is likely to increase both markets and productivity on the continent.
With sharp and rapid growth, however, there is greater economic disparity. While global demand for Africa’s natural resources will continue to attract investors, the growing gap between the rich and the poor could trigger social and political instability in the future if countries do not take measures to reduce economic disparity so that more people will benefit from the growth of national and regional economies.
African nations should also be careful to direct a sizable portion of the surplus from this growth into infrastructure and economic diversity, so that nations will not be dependent on high commodity prices to sustain a higher standard of living over the long-term.
Foreign Affairs: Unfair Trade
The Fair-Trade Movement Does More Harm Than Good
... Until now, any questioning of the fair-trade movement has been limited to the micro level. The movement has faced repeated criticisms, for example, for the relatively expensive fees that producers must pay to get a fair-trade label, which make it ineffective for many poor farmers. Another area of concern is just how lucrative the process is for middlemen and retailers. Finally, several studies show that very little of the premium that consumers pay actually reaches needy producers. Consumers might be surprised to learn that only one or two percent of the retail price of an expensive cup of “ethical” coffee goes directly to poor farmers.
The adverse effects of fair trade are even more worrying at the macro level. First, fair trade deflects attention from real, long-term solutions to rural poverty in developing countries; and second, it has the potential to fragment the world agricultural market and depress wages for non-fair-trade farm workers. ...
... Fair-trade enthusiasts might argue that the world would be better off if the fair-trade market replaced the free-trade one. But in fact, such an outcome would destroy the livelihoods of millions of farmers who do not have the luxury of paying for fair-trade certification. To survive, these farmers would likely have to stop planting basic crops, such as wheat, corn, and rice, and shift to cash crops, such as coffee, tea, and fruits, which could bring in the income for certification. The immediate effect would be a prohibitive hike in food prices. Further, as farmers shift their production, non-fair-trade basic food products would become more vulnerable to price instability caused by supply and demand shocks, because there would be fewer producers willing to take the risk of non-subsidized farming.
If the fair-trade movement eventually came to encompass all categories of agricultural production (including basic food products), the price shocks would be even worse. Rather than responding to market prices, farmers in developing countries would be incentivized to produce whatever products garner the greatest subsidies. With subsidies, not consumer demand, dictating production, consumers in the developed and developing worlds would see further increases in basic food prices. ...
... Self-proclaimed ethical consumers need to start looking reality in the eye. Fair trade is a form of protectionism, and it should not be allowed to hide behind the mask of morality. There is nothing ethical about privileging small groups of producers while the majority are sinking deeper into poverty.
This is one of those topics where a particular activity (buying fair trade goods) feels so worthwhile and yet does harm in ways that are not readibly discernable. When it comes to commodities, I suspect the authors are right that fair trade does more harm than good. Fair trade doesn't fully account for the economic complexity involved. It becomes yet another form of toxic charity. However, it is not clear to me that all fair trade products have the same consequences. For instance, handcrafted products sold through stores like Ten Thousand Villages are not commodities and I don't think they subject to the same type of economic realities. I haven't seen a detailed analysis by economist that would help me clarify the differences.
Once again we need to heed the admonition to act with warm hearts and cool heads. For an insightful booklet on the problems with Fair Trade Coffee see Victor Claar's Fair Trade? Its Prospects as a Poverty Solution. I suspect that what he says about coffee applies to all agricultural commodities.
Christian Science Monitor: Behind the historic shift in poverty
A United Nations report on human development signals huge progress in reducing poverty. All the reasons for it may add up to a turnaround in attitudes among the poor about their future.
... For much of history, despair often bred despair among the poor. “The anticipation of future poverty will exacerbate current poverty,” says economist Esther Duflo of the Poverty Action Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a new appointee to President Obama’s Global Development Council.
In her field studies, Ms. Duflo often found the poor rejected help simply out of depression about their future. Farmers, for example, might refuse new types of fertilizer even if told it would aid their harvests.
The UN report suggests a possible end to this mental mire, with hope perhaps now breeding on hope.
“Hope operates as a capability,” says Ms. Duflo. “A little bit of hope can allow people to realize their potential.”
The UN report finds countries that emphasize investments in social policies – gender equality, health, and education – do better in the traditional measure of progress, economic growth. And the most successful developing countries have also been more open to world markets, such as welcoming foreign investment. Since 1990, the share of global trade by the so-called “global south” group of developing countries has grown from a quarter to nearly half. Big countries – China, India, Brazil – have led the way.
While these steps of progress – from free-trade pacts to water wells, from roads to new seed varieties – have helped reduce poverty, the overriding effect seems to be an improvement in the poor’s image of themselves as able to use the assets made available to them. ...
1. The United States had its financial bubble. Europe is having one too. Is China next? If it is, it could reshape the global economy and radically reshape Chinese government. Here is an interesting piece about China's real estate bubble.
2. Robert Tracinski thinks we are in midst of a Third Industrial Revolution.
... I like the idea of a breaking the Industrial Revolution into stages, but I would define them in more fundamental terms. The first Industrial Revolution was the harnessing of large-scale man-made power, which began with the steam engine. The internal combustion engine, electric power, and other sources of energy are just further refinements of this basic idea. The second Industrial Revolution would be the development of interchangeable parts and the assembly line, which made possible inexpensive mass production with relatively unskilled labor. The Third Industrial Revolution would not be computers, the Internet, or mobile phones, because up to now these have not been industrial tools; they have been used for moving information, not for making things. Instead, the rise of computers and the Internet is just a warm-up for the real Third Industrial Revolution, which is the full integration of information technology with industrial production.
The effect of the Third Industrial Revolution will be to collapse the distance between the design of a product and its physical manufacture, in much the same way that the Internet has eliminated the distance between the origination of a new idea and its communication to an audience. ...
3. Tyler Cowen has some thoughts about the impact our technological revolution as well Are we living in the early 19th century?
... Eventually all of the creative ferment of the industrial revolution pays off in a big “whoosh,” but it takes many decades, depending on where you draw the starting line of course. A look at the early 19th century is sobering, or should be, for anyone doing fiscal budgeting today. But it is also optimistic in terms of the larger picture facing humanity over the longer run.
4. You may have seen a deeply flawed viral video about wealth inequality this past week. I working on my own response but here is economist Mark Perry's response. In response to the viral ‘Wealth Inequality in America’ video
5. What are the contours of income inequality in the United States? This 40 minute video by Emmanuel Saez offers some important insights.
6. Futurist Ray Kurzweil is a little too sensationalist for my taste but this vid offers interesting food for thought about nanotechnology and the future sports. We will even be able to have meaningful sports competition?
7. Atlantic takes up at a frequently perpetuated myth. 'Women Own 1% of World Property': A Feminist Myth That Won't Die
The recovered wealth - most of it from higher stock prices - has been flowing mainly to richer Americans. By contrast, middle class wealth is mostly in the form of home equity, which has risen much less.
10. When looking at decisions in your own context, Seth Godin explains why Macro trends don't matter so much
Whether or not you think science is wonderful, the stereotype of all scientists being atheists is unrealistic. There is, however, a special dance.
12. I consider this good news. Old Earth, Young Minds: Evangelical Homeschoolers Embrace Evolution
More Christian parents are asking for mainstream science in their children's curricula.
13. Remember to keep Syria and Egypt in your prayers. Nearly 1 in 20 Syrians are now refugees
Mar 09, 2013 in Asia, China, Current Affairs, Economic Development, Economics, Religion, Science, Sports and Entertainment, Technology, Technology (Biotech & Health), Technology (Digital, Telecom, & Web), Technology (Energy), Technology (Food & Water), Technology (Manufacturing & Construction)), Technology (Transportation & Distribution), Weatlh and Income Distribution | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
... Nonetheless, China has been transformed from the inside out over the past 35 years. This transformation is the story of our time. The struggle of China, in other words, is the struggle of the world. ...
Given our account of how China became capitalist, what can we say about the form of capitalism that has emerged in China? A persisting feature of China’s market transition is the lack of political liberalization. This is not to say that the Chinese political system has stood still over the past 35 years. The Party has distanced itself from radical ideology; it is no longer communist except in name. In recent years, the internet has increasingly empowered the Chinese to exercise their political voice. Nonetheless, China remains ruled by a single political party.
This continuity hides a fundamental change in China’s political reality. With the death of Deng Xiaoping, “strongman” politics was brought to a closure. Under Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao, China is no longer ruled by a charismatic leader. In that sense, Chinese politics today is qualitatively different from the time of Mao and Deng. But the Chinese government has not come to terms with this political change on the ground; there have been few efforts at institution-building to prepare China for the new political reality.
The combination of rapid economic liberalization and seemingly unchanged politics has led many to characterize China’s market economy as state-led, authoritarian capitalism, which many people have rightly recognized as fragile and unsustainable. When and how China will embrace democracy, and whether the Party will survive democratization, are the main questions asked about China’s political future. In our book, a different perspective is offered. It provides a different diagnosis of the main flaw of the Chinese market economy: China has developed a robust market for goods, but it still lacks a free market for ideas.
The market for ideas points to an alternative way of thinking about China’s political future. Our reasoning is mainly based on the following two considerations. First, multiparty competition does not work unless it is cultivated and disciplined by a free market for ideas, without which democracy can be easily hijacked by interest groups and undermined by the tyranny of the majority. The performance of democracy critically depends on the market for ideas, just like privatization depends on the market for capital assets. Second, multi- party competition had virtually no precedent in Chinese history. Indeed, the Chinese word for the “party” (党) has a strong negative connotation in traditional Chinese political thinking. “Forming a party and pursuing self-interest” (结党营私) has been consistently denounced as undermining the political ideal, which is “what is under heaven is for all” (天下为公). In contrast, the market for ideas has a deep and revered root in traditional Chinese thinking; “let one hundred schools of thought contend” has been respected as a political ideal since the time of Confucius. In our view, the market for ideas promises a more gradual and viable approach to rebuilding Chinese politics on the principles of tolerance, justice, and humility.
Over the past 35 years, China has embraced capitalism not just in the economy. The Theory of Moral Sentiments has more than a dozen Chinese translations; the book has won the heart and mind of premier Wen Jiabao. The message of Adam Smith resonates strongly with the Chinese, not least because of its striking affinity with the traditional Chinese thinking on economy and society. A surprising outcome of China’s transition to capitalism is that China has found a way back to its own cultural roots. ...
1. I love maps and charts. Naturally I was drawn to this: 36 Maps That Explain The Entire World. Here is just one example:
2. Roger Pielke, Jr., says It's Time to Bury the Easterlin Paradox.
"The Easterlin paradox suggest that in terms of human happiness -- a
squishy concept to be sure -- there is a limit to economic growth beyond
which there really is just no point in attaining more wealth. Further, a
decoupling between income and happiness at some threshold would imply
that GDP would not be a good measure of welfare, we would need some
A recent paper (PDF) by Daniel Sacks, Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers argues that the Easterlin paradox is also wrong. ..."
3. John Danforth thinks We Need Less Religion in our Politics and Less Politics in our Religion.
"Why isn't there more outrage about the president's unilateral targeted assassination program on the left?"
5. Arnold Kling with an interesting piece on the role of Jews in the rise of the modern urbanized economic order. The Unintended Consequences of God
"In those days, most people were farmers, for whom literacy’s costs generally outweighed its benefits. However, in an urbanized society with skilled occupations, literacy pays off. As urbanization gradually increased in the late Middle Ages, Jews came to fill high-skilled occupations. Botticini and Eckstein argue that literacy, rather than persecution, is what led Jews into these occupations."
6. New Geography wants to know Is Urbanism The New Trickle-Down Economics?
"But while progressives would clearly mock this policy [trickle-down economics], modern day urbanism often resembles nothing so much as trickle-down economics, though this time mostly advocated by those who would self-identify as being from the left. The idea is that through investments catering to the fickle and mobile educated elite and the high end businesses that employ and entertain them, cities can be rejuvenated in a way that somehow magically benefits everybody and is socially fair."
7. NPR has nice piece on mini-reacters. Are Mini-Reactors The Future Of Nuclear Power?
8. Mark Perry excerpts a quote from green libertarian John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market.
“Capitalism is the greatest creation humanity has done for social cooperation. It has lifted humanity out of the dirt. In statistics we discovered when we were researching the book, about 200 years ago when capitalism was created, 85% of the people alive lived on $1 a day. Today, that number is 16%. Still too high, but capitalism is wiping out poverty across the world. 200 years ago illiteracy rates were 90%. Today, they are down to about 14%. 200 years ago the average lifespan was 30. Today it is 68 across the world, 78 in the States, and almost 82 in Japan. This is due to business. This is due to capitalism. And it doesn’t get credit for it. Most of the time, business is portrayed by its enemies as selfish and greedy and exploitative, yet it’s the greatest value creator in the world.”
9. Economist Gavin Kennedy with some interesting thoughts on the relationship between the state and the economy in developing nations:
The problem is to achieve the right balance between a competitive market economy and an effective state: markets where possible; the state where necessary.
10. Climate Change: Key Data Points from Pew Research. Highlights some interesting shifts in the public's priorities.
11. Great piece about yet another way family life is changing. Yes, I’m a Homemaker
I’m a guy. My wife works. We’ve got no kids. I’m a stay-at-home dude.
"... What a sweet picture this conjures: the stay-at-home dad nurturing his children, looking after the house and helping support his wife in her budding career and shelving his own big ambitions for later. Now it gets a little awkward. There is no adorable kid, nor plans to have one. No starter home that needs knocking into shape. I'm not just doing this temporarily until I find something meaningful to do. I’m actually a full-time homemaker ... not stay-at-home dad but stay-at-home dude. A conversational pause. Where do you mentally file this guy? Usually I just change the subject. ..."
12. The Atlantic reports that Women Are Often Remarkably Reluctant to Ask for Help Around the House
A new study shows that high-earning women are more likely to let their houses be messy than to hire a housekeeper or get their husbands and kids to pitch in. ...
... "You can purchase substitutes for your own time, you can get your husband to do more, or you can all just do less," Killewald says. "Whether women outsource housework in particular has less to do with resources, but whether or not paid labor is viewed as an appropriate strategy for undertaking domestic work.
Doing less housework seems to be a popular option. ...
13. Business insider reports on a finding that comes as no shock to me: Men Really Do Have A Harder Time Reading Other People's Emotions.
Psychiatrists have concluded that males take longer to assess facial expressions as their brains have to work twice as hard to work out whether another person looks friendly or intelligent.
14. Daniel Kirk with a thoughtful piece Homosexuality under the Reign of Christ
In particular, researchers found that 40% of people say they would avoid someone who unfriended them on Facebook, while 50% say they would not avoid a person who unfriended them. Women were more likely than men to avoid someone who unfriended them, the researchers found.
... Libraries are responding to the decline of print in a variety of creative ways, trying to remain relevant – especially to younger people – by embracing the new technology. Many, such as New York’s Queens Public Library, are reinventing themselves as centers for classes, job training, and simply hanging out. In one radical example, a new $1.5 million library scheduled to open in San Antonio, Texas, this fall will be completely book-free, with its collection housed exclusively on tablets, laptops, and e-readers. “Think of an Apple store,” the Bexar County judge who is leading the effort told NPR. It’s a flashy and seductive package.
But libraries are about more than just e-readers or any other media, as important as those things are. They are about more than just buildings such as the grand edifices erected by Carnegie money, or the sleek and controversial new design for the New York Public Library’s central branch. They are also about human beings and their relationships, specifically, the relationship between librarians and patrons. And that is the relationship that the foundation created by Microsoft co-founder’s Paul G. Allen is seeking to build in a recent round of grants to libraries in the Pacific Northwest. ...
17. 3-D Printing just gets more amazing. A 3D Printer That Generates Human Embryonic Stem Cells
3-D printers can produce gun parts, aircraft wings, food and a lot more, but this new 3-D printed product may be the craziest thing yet: human embryonic stem cells. Using stem cells as the "ink" in a 3-D printer, researchers in Scotland hope to eventually build 3-D printed organs and tissues. A team at Heriot-Watt University used a specially designed valve-based technique to deposit whole, live cells onto a surface in a specific pattern.
Feb 09, 2013 in Capitalism and Markets, Culture, Economic Development, Economics, History, Male and Female, Politics, Public Policy, Religion, Social Media, Sociology, Technology (Biotech & Health), Technology (Digital, Telecom, & Web), Technology (Energy), Technology (Manufacturing & Construction)) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Last week I linked an article reporting that rich countries are trashing up to half of all food. Our distribution channels are good but we tend to waste a lot of food through our consumption habits. Emerging nations are wasting food too, but for different reasons. Distribution channels are so bad that great quantities of food are wasted in transit. Furthermore, because the distribution channels are so bad, and food must pass through so many middle-men, it is often more expensive than it would otherwise need to be.
Business Insider now reports:
Last fall, following a relaxation in India’s foreign-investment rules, [Wal-Mart] said it was planning to open its first stores in the country in the next two years, tapping into a prized $490 billion retail sector. But to cash in, Wal-Mart and other foreign retailers will have to solve a fundamental problem: how to move goods into stores efficiently in a country that offers big retailers little in the way of modern logistics and is plagued by dilapidated infrastructure.
The hurdles are particularly daunting in the food sector, which makes up more than half of the revenues at the Bentonville, Ark.- based company.
Watch this video by the Wall Street Journal as the document the route of food from field to table. Here the age old cry of the various agents in present decrepit system opposing streamlined distribution for fear of losing their positions. The reality is that if distribution improves, then food will become cheaper, people will have more disposable income, people will eat better, people will become more productive, and all this will in turn lead to the formation of new businesses and jobs. I'm not saying the change will be painless and that some will not suffer in the process but I suspect the trade-off for the masses in terms of improved quality of life is huge.
… FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Despite billions of dollars in new infrastructure, power interruptions are chronic in India. Consumers large and small rely on backup systems, at huge cost to both the environment and economy, says energy expert Kirit Parikh. He traces the problem to policies that never really took into account the cost of power and gave it away to some consumers.
KIRIT PARIKH, energy expert: We started out with saying that farmers should get cheap and free electricity. This was 30 years ago, when we wanted farmers to really adopt more modern technologies. It was considered a good way to promote green revolution.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Power was distributed cheaply or free to farmers and other groups whose votes politicians courted. Little effort was made to meter it. That prompted many people to hook themselves up illegally. Parikh says a third of all power is stolen off the grid. …
… FRED DE SAM LAZARO: … But to anywhere from a third to a half of them, it really didn't matter, because they have never been hooked up to the electric grid.
Vast swathes of rural India remain off the grid or get minimal, unpredictable service from it. …
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Ratnesh Yadav has tried to tackle at least this part of the problem. He and a partner founded a company called Husk Power. Their idea? Village-based micro-grids.
At this one in the village of Patelli (ph) in the northeastern Bihar state, tractors arrive with rice husks, the byproduct of milling this region's staple crop. It is poured into a hopper, about 100 pounds per hour, and gassified to run a simple turbine. Each evening, 700 customers have access to power for five hours. …
… MAN (through translator): We used to work with a gas light. This is much cheaper. We used to stay open until 9:00 in the evening. Now we stay open until 10:00 or 10:30, so it's a benefit. …
… FRED DE SAM LAZARO: In five years, Husk Power has installed 75 of these simple plants. Their networks cover an area no bigger than a couple of square miles, with wires strung on poles made from bamboo, a renewable resource like the rice husk fuel.
RATNESH YADAV: The good thing about this rice husk is, it has no alternate uses. It doesn't burn easily, so you can't use it for cooking. You cannot feed it to cattle because it has high silica in it. So it is a waste. It has no value for anybody else. And that is why -- and it is in plenty. …
… ERIC BERKOWITZ, investor: As people increase income, which hopefully they will, that will create new livelihood opportunities, they will have opportunities to incrementally increase electricity that they will take from these kind of solutions, and maybe add maybe two lights, three lights, a radio, a TV, a refrigerator.
It's not the only solution. There's other solutions that involve solar technologies. And Husk Power is actually looking at those kind of solutions as well.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Renewable fuel plants also qualify for subsidies from India's government and possibly credits in a global carbon trade. Power expert Parikh appreciates what micro-plants can provide, but he doesn't see them as a long-term solution. …
Millions of newly affluent people in emerging economies are reshaping and resizing the global middle class. The world’s middle class will swell from 2 billion to almost 5 billion by 2030, with most of that growth coming from developing countries, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. The world population in 2030 is expected to be about 8 billion.
The OECD defines “middle class” as making $10 to $100 a day, adjusted for the purchasing power of each currency. Today, people in developing countries make up almost 30% of the world’s consumer spending, up from 18% a decade ago as they become middle class. This change, what the US National Intelligence Council called a ”tectonic shift,” is one the most important trends for the next several decades. ...
Christian Science Monitor: Hope for US economy: Young black men as entrepreneurs
Young African American men, especially ex-offenders, face high obstacles to employment. That’s where entrepreneurship training comes in. If just 1 in 3 small businesses hired one employee, the US would be at full employment. Young men of color can be crucial to this progress.
... This new non-profit [City Startup Labs] was created to take at-risk young African American men, including ex-offenders, and teach them entrepreneurship, while creating a new set of role models and small business ambassadors along the way. City Startup Labs contends that an alternative education that prepares these young men to launch their own businesses can have far more impact with this population than other traditional forms of job readiness or workforce training.
Today’s economic climate allows employers their pick of candidates, leaving few options for anyone with a record. Young black men, who’ve had no brushes with the law, still routinely face real barriers in getting on a job ladder’s lowest rung.
According to a 2005 Princeton study, “Discrimination in Low Wage Labor Markets,” young white high school graduates were nearly twice as likely to receive positive responses from employers as equally qualified black job seekers. Even without criminal records, black applicants had low rates of positive responses – about the same as the response rate for white applicants with criminal records.
This is where entrepreneurship comes in. For example, a report done by the Justice Policy Institute states that, “…recidivism is higher for those persons who are unable to obtain employment after leaving prison and imposes a high cost on society; and yet employment opportunities are especially limited for ex-convicts. Thus self-employment would be a viable alternative for ex-offenders, at least for those with above average entrepreneurial aptitude…” Someone like a Lawrence Carpenter. ...
... Despite this entrepreneurial divide, black business development has quite a compelling story. According to the Census Bureau, during the period from 2002 to 2007 and before the Great Recession struck, the growth rate of black-owned companies was more than triple the national rate of 18 percent. Revenue generated by black-owned companies increased more than 55 percent to $137.5 billion. Many of those were businesses like Carpenter’s Super Clean Professional Janitorial Services. ...
The Chinese are running away with thorium energy, sharpening a global race for the prize of clean, cheap, and safe nuclear power. Good luck to them. They may do us all a favour.
... The aim is to break free of the archaic pressurized-water reactors fueled by uranium -- originally designed for US submarines in the 1950s -- opting instead for new generation of thorium reactors that produce far less toxic waste and cannot blow their top like Fukushima. ...
... The thorium story is by now well-known. Enthusiasts think it could be the transforming technology needed to drive the industrial revolutions of Asia -- and to avoid an almighty energy crunch as an extra two billion people climb the ladder to western lifestyles.
At the least, it could do for nuclear power what shale fracking has done for natural gas -- but on a bigger scale, for much longer, perhaps more cheaply, and with near zero CO2 emissions. ...
... The beauty of thorium is that you cannot have a Fukushima disaster. Professor Robert Cywinksi from Huddersfield University, who anchor's the UK's thorium research network ThorEA, said the metal must be bombarded with neutrons to drive the process. "There is no chain reaction. Fission dies the moment you switch off the photon beam," he said. ...
... Yet it leaves far less toxic residue. Most of the mineral is used up in the fission process, while uranium reactors use up just 0.7pc. It can even burn up existing stockpiles of plutonium and hazardous waste.
Cambridge scientists published a tantalising study in the Annals of Nuclear Energy in February showing that it is possible to "achieve near complete transuranic waste incineration" by throwing the old residue into the reactor with thorium.
In other words, it can help clean up the mess left by a half a century of nuclear weapons and uranium reactors, instead of transporting it at great cost to be encased in concrete and buried for milennia. It is why some `greens' such as Baroness Worthington -- a former Friends of the Earth activist -- are embracing thorium. Though there are other reasons.
The thorium molten salt process takes place at atmospheric pressures. It does not require the vast domes of conventional reactors, so costly, and such an eyesore.
You could build pint-size plants largely below ground, less obtrusive than a shopping mall, powering a small town the size of Tunbridge Wells or Colchester. There would be shorter transmission lines, less leakage, and less risk of black-outs. The elegance is irresistible....
US News and World Report: Why Africa Is Essential to America's Future
... So, yes, let us acknowledge these problems in Africa, and let us not be romantic about the opportunities that exist in Africa. Instead, let us be realistic about the opportunities, and the reality is that the opportunities for investment, trade, and economic development are almost limitless on the continent of 54 different nations. There are challenges in some places but extraordinary opportunity in other places.
Many parts of Africa are booming and they present the greatest growth opportunities in the world at this time. Accra is a boom town, emerging into a global city. Ghana itself is growing almost as fast. In the Sahel, next to a Mali is a Burkina Faso, which is becoming a regional hub of development and a trading center between Europe and Africa.
Southern Africa is full of promise and has a far more receptive business climate than in many parts of the world, and the work of the East Africa Community is beginning to open the nations of East Africa as important business destinations for the world.
The promise of Africa is recognized internationally by many nations. While we talk much about the Chinese in Africa, so too are the Indians, Malaysians, Japanese, the Arab nations, Turkey, Israel, the Russians, the South Koreans, the Brazilians, and of course the Europeans. Let us also not forget that when energy investment is taken out of the equation, South Africa is a larger investor in the rest of Africa than is the United States. ...
A group of Chinese intellectuals has called on the government to implement urgent political reforms and respect human rights or risk "violent revolution".
In an open letter 71 top academics warned that growing economic imbalances were fuelling social unrest and an uprising could erupt if reforms were not implemented immediately, Hu Xingdou, one of the signatories, told AFP Monday.
"If urgent systematic reforms needed by Chinese society continue to suffer setbacks and stagnate, then official corruption and social dissatisfaction will boil up to a crisis point," said the letter, posted on the Internet last week.
"China will once again miss the opportunity for peaceful reform, and slip into the turbulence and chaos of violent revolution." ...
... While the latest call for reform steered away from Charter 08's advocacy of western-style democracy, it called on the Communist Party fully to implement the freedoms of speech, press and association that are protected by the constitution but routinely ignored by the authorities and police. ...
Globe and Mail: The new famine is a crisis of undersupply
"... Is this a catastrophe of the sort that took place a generation ago, when mass famines in the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s killed hundreds of thousands of people at a time? No. This time around, the cause is much simpler, and the solution much more readily at hand. We’re experiencing a basic crisis of undersupply: After three decades of worldwide food surpluses, starting in 2008, the world’s farms have not produced enough food to meet demand.
People no longer doubt, as they did 40 years ago, that the world is capable of producing enough food for all of humanity, even if our numbers grow to nine billion. We know it can, and we know how to make it happen. Farms in Africa and the Indian subcontinent – where the land is fertile and the growing season long – should be producing much more food than their European counterparts. Instead, India produces half as much per hectare, and Africa hardly anything. They could easily feed the world.
This isn’t hard to solve, and farmers know what’s needed: better transport and market infrastructure, new seeds engineered for their climates and needs, an end to subsidies and trade barriers, a shift from survival-based to commercial farming practices. And these things are being done (in part because farming is suddenly profitable), albeit too slowly. This decade may well be remembered as the unfortunate gap between the first Green Revolution (which ended mass famines and widespread Asian starvation in the 1970s) and the second (which is poised to make even bigger changes in Africa and Asia). Until supply catches up to demand, we have a crisis.
What stands in the way, this time as last time, is misunderstanding. Aid organizations in the West and governments in the developing world, motivated by myths of village tranquillity, pay people to stay rural rather than to consolidate their holdings and modernize their farming. Too many people believe, falsely, that a shift to commercial agriculture means a shift to big or exploitative farms, rather than more income for small farmers. We allow superstitions about engineered crops to become progress-blocking policies. We let meaningless middle-class fetishes for “organic” or “local” foods pollute the debate, when what’s needed is more protein, now. ..."
And to the last paragraph I say Amen!
In a new report from the McKinsey Global Institute, we learn that the manufacturing sector's share of employment rises and then falls as GDP per capita rises. The decline is associated with the rise in service sector hiring as people demand more services.
"This pattern holds across advanced economies and will hold for today’s developing economies as they become wealthier," write the authors.
Marginal Revolution: Working Conditions in China: Supply and Demand - Alex Tabarrok
... The Times articles, part of a larger series, are well written and informative and no doubt they have prodded some changes at certain companies. China, however, is a very big place and the real story of better working conditions is a story of supply and demand.
Wages in Chinese factories have been low because wages in China’s agricultural interior were even lower and the great migration from the country to the city, one of the largest migrations in human history, meant that there was a ready supply of workers desperate for work and the more work the better. Even today many workers want longer hours:
In March, when Foxconn announced that workers’ hours would be reduced to China’s legal limits, employees began complaining. “Absolutely I’d like to do overtime to work more than 60 hours, but now there’s a ceiling on it,” said Ma Changqiao, a 23-year-old at Foxconn’s Chongqing factory.
As the great migration leveled off, however, wages began to rise. At first, workers wanted all of the increase in wages in money but as the more basic needs of workers and their families have been met the demand for better working conditions and more leisure has increased and this has made it profitable for firms to supply better working conditions.
Thus, the real story of better working conditions is not a spate of negative publicity, a mere blip in the face of much larger forces, but rising wages with a touch of Maslow’s hierarchy. ...
In short, economic development happened. Given relatively stable social institutions, this is what happen with expanded trade and improvement in productivity.
New Geography: Alleviating World Poverty: A Progress Report
There has been a substantial reduction in both the extreme poverty rate and the number of people living in extreme poverty since the early 1980s, according to information from the World Bank poverty database. The World Bank maintains data on developing world nations, which include both low income and middle income nations. The analysis below summarizes developing world (low and middle income nations) poverty trends from 1981 to the latest available year, 2008 (Table and Figure 1).
The article also includes this graph:
Go to the article for a number of interesting nuances in how poverty has changed.
Cracked.com: 4 Reasons Why Fair Trade Coffee Is a Scam
My friend Victor Claar wrote a great monograph two years ago, Fair Trade? Its Prospects as a Poverty Solution. It cost $3.00 in Kindle format. You can read my review posted here at Kruse Kronicle. Some aspects of fair trade initiatives may be helpful. But while fair trade coffee sounds noble on the service, it does not help intended targets, and may in fact harm them (and I expect this is true with most fair trade agricultural commodities.) The linked article highlights some of the same problems Claar does. It is just interesting to see the points being made by an outlet that I expect does not identify as an economic conservative. ;-) He is a little more polemic than I like but you'll get the point.
Coffee is the second most valuable resource exported from poor and/or developing countries (Angelina Jolie's children being the first). Thus the Fair Trade model was established, which is supposed to pay coffee growers a set "fair trade" price if they meet labor and production standards. The idea was to prevent them from being exploited, but the reality is that in practice, Fair Trade just makes exploitation easier.
#4. Growers Are Paid Very Little for Fair Trade Coffee ...
#3. Consumers Are Charged Much More for Fair Trade Coffee ...
#2. Fair Trade Is Essentially a Marketing Organization ...
#1. Growers Receive a Higher Percentage from Non-Fair Trade Coffee Sales ...
New York Times: Life Expectancy Rises Around the World, Study Finds
A sharp decline in deaths from malnutrition and diseases like measles and tuberculosis has caused a shift in global mortality patterns over the past 20 years, according to a new report, with far more of the world’s population now living into old age and dying from diseases more associated with rich countries, like cancer and heart disease.
The shift reflects improvements in sanitation, medical services and access to food throughout the developing world, as well as the success of broad public health efforts like vaccine programs. The results are dramatic: infant mortality has declined by more than half between 1990 and 2010, and malnutrition, the No. 1 risk factor for death and years of life lost in 1990, has fallen to No. 8.
At the same time, chronic diseases like cancer now account for about two out of every three deaths worldwide, up from just over half in 1990. Eight million people died of cancer in 2010, 38 percent more than in 1990. Diabetes claimed 1.3 million lives in 2010, double the number in 1990.
But while developing countries made big strides – the average age of death in Brazil and Paraguay, for example, jumped to 63 in 2010, up from 28 in 1970 – the United States stagnated. American women registered the smallest gains in life expectancy of all high-income countries between 1990 and 2010. The two years of life they gained was less than in Cyprus, where women gained 2.3 years of life, and Canada, where women gained 2.4 years. The slow increase caused American women to fall to 36th place in the report’s global ranking of life expectancy, down from 22nd in 1990. ...
... The World Health Organization issued a statement Thursday saying that some of the estimates in the report differ substantially from those done by United Nations agencies, though others are similar. All comprehensive estimates of global mortality rely heavily on statistical modeling because only 34 countries – representing about 15 percent of the world’s population – produce quality cause-of-death data. ...
Infant mortality and life expectancy at birth are probably the two best indicators of human well-being. So many interconnected factors must be present for improvement in these numbers to be realized. The reality is that human flourishing is getting better. Better does not mean utopia or the consummated Kingdom of God. Better means better. The challenge is to learn from what is going right and strengthen it.
AP has a story summarizing Global Trends 2030, a report put out by the U.S. Intelligence community.
... The study said that in a best-case scenario, Americans, together with nearly two-thirds of the world's population, will be middle class, mostly living in cities, connected by advanced technology, protected by advanced health care and linked by countries that work together, perhaps with the United States and China cooperating to lead the way.
Violent acts of terrorism will also be less frequent as the U.S. drawdown in troops from Iraq and Afghanistan robs extremist ideologies of a rallying cry to spur attacks. But that will likely be replaced by acts like cyber-terrorism, wreaking havoc on an economy with a keystroke, the study's authors say.
In countries where there are declining birth rates and an aging population like the U.S., economic growth may slow.
"Aging countries will face an uphill battle in maintaining living standards," Kojm said. "So too will China, because its median age will be higher than the U.S. by 2030."
The rising populations of disenfranchised youth in places like Nigeria and Pakistan may lead to conflict over water and food, with "nearly half of the world's population ... experiencing severe water stress," the report said. Africa and the Middle East will be most at risk, but China and India are also vulnerable.
That instability could lead to conflict and contribute to global economic collapse, especially if combined with rapid climate change that could make it harder for governments to feed global populations, the authors warn.
That's the grimmest among the "Potential Worlds" the report sketches for 2030. Under the heading "Stalled Engines," in the "most plausible worst-case scenario, the risks of interstate conflict increase," the report said. "The U.S. draws inward and globalization stalls." ...
Here is the overview from the report:
Over the next two decades, the relative power of major international actors will shift markedly. Around 2030, after nearly a century as the preeminent global economic power, the United States will be surpassed by China as the world’s largest economy. With its trade in goods expected to nearly double that of the U.S. and Europe, China’s international economic clout will reach new heights. By 2030, India will become the world’s most populous country and third-largest economy, while Brazil’s economy will rank fourth in size. India and Brazil will join China at the high table of 21st century international politics alongside the United States, even as the relative weight of Russia and Japan diminishes. The European economy will remain in the top tier, but it is not clear whether Europe will be able to act with common purpose to leverage this source of strength.
With its enhanced economic base, Beijing could rival Washington in overall military spending, even as a slowing Chinese economy and internal political conflict complicate China’s ability to lead internationally. The United States will remain primus inter pares in light of its continued advantages across the full spectrum of national power and the legacy benefits of its leadership. It will, however, be operating in a post-Western world in which the bulk of global economic power is held by countries whose per capita incomes are far below those of the traditional great powers. This reality will leave China, India, Brazil, and other players focused on internal development and domestic challenges, torn between their desire to be global powers and their interest in free-riding on Western management of the international system.
How will the rise of the rest impact the international system? The National Intelligence Council’s draft Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds maps out three broad scenarios:
Reverse Engines. Under this scenario, the international system would consist of several powerful countries — but no single state or bloc of states would have the political or economic leverage to drive the international community toward collective action. Such a world, characterized by a global vacuum of power, assumes that the United States will no longer be willing or capable of sustaining the predominant leadership role it has assumed since 1945. With no other country able to step in to replace the U.S. as a global leader, the resulting divergence of interests would lead to fragmentation and the inability of great powers to work cooperatively to solve global issues. Mercantilism and protectionism could lead economic globalization to go into reverse, constraining technological breakthroughs required to manage scarce global resources. Conflict and disorder would follow.
Great Power Convergence. An alternative scenario is what the NIC calls a “fusion” world, in which major powers work together to adopt and enforce a set of globally accepted rules and norms. As U.S. predominance over the international system recedes, other emerging powers would step in to assume greater responsibility for the management of international affairs commensurate with their swelling economic might. Emerging powers emerge as full stakeholders in a global order that is transformed by power shifts but remains liberal and pluralistic. Great power concert (perhaps enabled by democratization in China) to meet global challenges increases the stability of the international system even as power is diffused within it. U.S. resilience enables it to create enduring partnerships with rising powers to sustain the basis of liberal order. Technological advances create new possibilities for joint management of key global challenges, rewarding positive-sum behavior by the great powers.
Multipolar Divergence—U.S. Primacy. A third scenario, one the NIC calls “fragmentation,” involves a multipolar system characterized by a divergence of views among great powers that challenges global governance. The United States would continue to maintain disproportionate global influence and leverage that influence to address global challenges by working through coalitions of like-minded states. A multispeed global economy accelerates the diffusion of power but an alternative coalition to the West does not form, with developing giants consumed by their domestic challenges – even as the global middle class explodes in ways that transform politics within the rising powers. With inclusive global institutions effectively stalemated, the United States instead turns to its old and new allies in Europe and Asia, who would continue to see Washington as their partner of choice in advancing the norms and rules of a liberal order. The risk of conflict increases with the continued rise of new powers like China and the rapid pace of technological change.
One key conclusion of the NIC study is that the future role of the United States in the international system is a decisive variable in determining what kind of “alternative world” will exist in 2030. The choices U.S. leaders make – about how to marshal (and preserve) domestic resources, how vigorously to assert U.S. military and economic leadership overseas, and how much to invest in alliances old and new – will be central to determining which of the above pathways the international system will follow over the coming 20 years. To a certain extent, the answer to the question of how the “rise of the rest” impacts the U.S.-led international system is that it is not up to them… so much as it is up to us.
Conservation Magazine: Are There Too Many People on the Planet?
... Here’s what I bet goes on when this question is posed—and I want to say up front that I think this way myself. I do not like long lines and traffic jams. I do not like that I have to drive 60 minutes to get to a decent natural area or that when I get to the Cascades for my hike, I’m likely to run into dozens of others on the same trail. I do not like how built up our coastline has become and how hard it is to get access to beaches. And so on.
In other words, I do not like the impact of “too many people” on my personal happiness. Rarely do we admit that this is the basis of our concerns about human population. Instead, we couch them in terms of “exceeding the Earth’s carrying capacity” or “causing the extinction of species.” ...
... And when we so easily jump to the conclusion there are too many people on the planet, what solutions does it suggest? Who should be eliminated? Who should not be allowed to have children? And who gets to decide? Is it really that there are too many people on the planet? Or is it more about the kinds of settlements and economies we have built?
Lastly, the entire notion of too many people neglects those studies showing that large numbers of people, especially concentrations of people in cities, are engines for innovation and cultural advances. (4) For example, new patents and inventions overwhelmingly come from cities—and the larger the city, the more patents and inventions are produced. ...
... More importantly, the question of whether there are too many people is the wrong one for conservationists to ask. The right questions are: What quality of life do we want all people on the planet to share? And how can we achieve that quality of life while preserving as many species and ecosystems as possible?
Conservation of nature has a lot to contribute to answering those questions and to enhancing that quality of life. So don’t automatically nod in agreement when a colleague says: “The problem is, there are too many people on the planet.” People can be the solution as well as the problem.
It is popular these days to decry consumerism ... and rightly so. Voices in our world tell us that our life consists of the products we buy and the things we own. It is materialism.
But the irony is that many consumerism critics fall prey to is their own form of materialism. They see human beings primarily as subtracting from a fixed stock of resources. Human beings are parasitic, adding nothing. Reduce the number of humans and you save the planet.
Human beings do not just consume, though that is part of our reality. All forms of life consume. But human beings also add to the world in a way that other beings in the created order do not. They add creativity and intelligence to the world. With creativity and intelligence come beauty, ingenuity, community, and flourishing.
There are challenges. Through unlocking powers of productivity and exchange we have found we can radically improve the material status of people around the world. But we find we have to adapt our methods and perspectives to sustain the changes we have made ... doing more and more with less and less, as we minimize our destructive impact. We have to find ways to be stewards of the world that recognize more than just our material quality of life. As Christians, we know that sin often twists our creativity and intelligence toward destructive behavior. The answer to these challenges is not to dehumanize people by framing them in materialistic terms as consumption units. Rather it is to work toward unlocking and unleashing the creativity and intelligence of everyone as we work for a flourishing shalom-filled world.
Business Insider has an article, Why Newly-Released Prisoners Make Great Entrepreneurs.
Jeff Smith, a former Missouri State senator, spent a year in prison for conspiracy and attempt to obstruct the Federal Election Commission during his 2004 campaign.
During that year, he learned that prison is filled with men learning lessons similar to those in a first year MBA class.
Smith spoke about his experience in a TED talk in June. ...
... When you are starting a business from the ground up, you don't have many resources, and have to raise money in whatever way you can. If inmates can give haircuts with toenail clippers, as Smith describes, or make meals from stolen scraps at a warehouse, they could be the perfect people to start companies once they are freed.
The only problem, Smith explains, is the lack of training and rehabilitation the men receive while in prison. His talk ends with a call to action to train prisoners that have an innate entrepreneurial spirit.
A group of South African students and an aid agency in Norway are challenging the stereotypical image of Africa as a continent riddled with conflict, disease, corruption, poverty, and brutal dictatorships needing rescue from developed nations. ...
... The video is humorous, but there is a serious message. The point is that images of helpless Africans are just as inaccurate as the idea of helpless freezing Norwegians. A lot of Africans cannot relate to the patronizing videos and development initiatives.
The organization says it has certain goals with the video. Among them, that fundraising "should not be based on exploiting stereotypes" and that media should have more respect in portraying suffering children.
"We want to see more nuances," it writes on its website. "We want to know about positive developments in Africa and developing countries, not only about crises, poverty and AIDS. We need more attention on how western countries have a negative impact on developing countries."
Worldwatch Blogs: Supporting Climate-Friendly Food Production
This [United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization] report, Innovations in Sustainable Agriculture: Supporting Climate-Friendly Food Production, discusses six sustainable approaches to land and water use, in both rural and urban areas, that are helping farmers and other food producers mitigate or adapt to climate change—and often both. They are:
By tapping into the multitude of climate-friendly farming practices that already exist, agriculture can continue to provide food for the world’s population, as well as be a source of livelihood for the 1.3 billion people who rely on farming for income and sustenance. If agriculture is to play a positive role in the global fight against climate change, however, agricultural practices that mitigate or adapt to climate change will need to receive increased research, attention, and investment in the coming years.
Futurists always get it wrong. Despite the promise of technology, our world looks an awful lot like the past.
Close your eyes and try to imagine your future surroundings in, say, five, 10 or 25 years. Odds are your imagination will produce new things in it, things we call innovation, improvements, killer technologies and other inelegant and hackneyed words from the business jargon. These common concepts concerning innovation, we will see, are not just offensive aesthetically, but they are nonsense both empirically and philosophically.
Why? Odds are that your imagination will be adding things to the present world. I am sorry, but this approach is exactly backward: the way to do it rigorously is to take away from the future, reduce from it, simply, things that do not belong to the coming times.
I am not saying that new technologies will not emerge — something new will rule its day, for a while. What is currently fragile will be replaced by something else, of course. But this “something else” is unpredictable. In all likelihood, the technologies you have in your mind are not the ones that will make it, no matter your perception of their fitness and applicability — with all due respect to your imagination. ...
... So, the prime error is as follows. When asked to imagine the future, we have the tendency to take the present as a baseline, then produce speculative destiny by adding new technologies and products to it and what sort of makes sense, given an interpolation of past developments. We also represent society according to our utopia of the moment, largely driven by our wishes — except for a few people called doomsayers, the future will be largely inhabited by our desires. So we will tend to over-technologize it and underestimate the might of the equivalent of these small wheels on suitcases that will be staring at us for the next millennia. ...
... Technology is at its best when it is invisible. I am convinced that technology is of greatest benefit when it displaces the deleterious, unnatural, alienating, and, most of all, inherently fragile preceding technology. Many of the modern applications that have managed to survive today came to disrupt the deleterious effect of the philistinism of modernity, particularly the 20th century: the large multinational bureaucratic corporation with “empty suits” at the top; the isolated family (nuclear) in a one-way relationship with the television set, even more isolated thanks to car-designed suburban society; the dominance of the state, particularly the militaristic nation-state, with border controls; the destructive dictatorship on thought and culture by the established media; the tight control on publication and dissemination of economic ideas by the charlatanic economics establishment; large corporations that tend to control their markets now threatened by the Internet; pseudo-rigor that has been busted by the Web; and many others. You no longer have to “press 1 for English” or wait in line for a rude operator to make bookings for your honeymoon in Cyprus. In many respects, as unnatural as it is, the Internet removed some of the even more unnatural elements around us. For instance, the absence of paperwork makes bureaucracy — something modernistic — more palatable than it was in the days of paper files. With a little bit of luck a computer virus will wipe out all records and free people from their past mistakes. ...
Taleb is always thought provoking.
I find myself frequently wondering if the consumerism of late and post-industrial capitalism isn't transitional phenomenon on the way to a new order of things. Industrialism created wide spread abundance of material things. The production of that abundance continues to explode, using less and less energy and resource per unit. At some point do we get to the point where the added satisfaction of the next thing is not very satisfying? The availability of things, even if I don't own them at the moment, is so abundant that there is no drive to keep acquiring? Does focus return to less cluttered existences while still incorporating the technology and innovation that created stuff in the first place? I don't expect this will play out globally in my lifetime (maybe in the West?), but might it play out over the next century or two? Just something I wonder about.
Hans Rosling is one of my favorite social scientists. Mashable has a post Hans Rosling: 5 TEDTalks That Shaped My Worldview.
"Data visionary Hans Rosling has given nine TEDTalks over the years, focusing on global trends in health, economics and population growth. His favorite talks, naturally, keep an eye toward these global themes — from business in Africa to youth culture in China."
I've only seen a couple of the five he lists. I'm looking forward to viewing the others. Here are two of my favorite Rosling videos.
"This patient capital movement has already attracted tens of millions of dollars. Investors are driven by the opportunity to match their faith with their finances."
Christian investment vehicles have always struggled. When the FaithShares ETF launched in December 2009, it was to significant press. The founders rang the opening bell on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, and the Christian and secular press covered their launch. The funds allowed retail investors to put money into stocks based on the recommendations of their denominations. Baptists could avoid liquor while Methodists could avoid gambling profits. However, 18 months after the high-profile launch, FaithShares went defunct.
Now a new movement is well underway that links Christian values and emerging investment opportunities. This time, it isn’t retail investors who are participating but the more affluent “qualified” investors. They’re taking a new approach to their money, patiently allowing firms the time required to obtain their objectives. They aren’t ringing bells to announcing these new opportunities, but slowly attracting wealthy Christian investors who want to earn solid returns, achieve social goods like providing jobs or clean water, while also seeing spiritual fruit.
This patient capital movement has already attracted tens of millions of dollars. Investors are driven by the opportunity to match their faith with their finances. They expect to earn a return, but to see social impact (jobs created, children in school) and spiritual fruit (families seeking prayer from chaplains and churches built). The Acumen Fund, a non-sectarian group seeking social good, defines patient capital as “a debt or equity investment in an early-stage enterprise providing low-income consumers with access to healthcare, water, housing, alternative energy, or agricultural inputs.” The Christian funds also seek some kind of spiritual return on investments of less than $2.5 million.
Andreas Witmer, a former member of the Pope’s Swiss Guard, began studying Catholic theology and the free market economy after one of his own investments turned bad. Witmer is now launching a debt fund and has served as a kind of personal think tank for the movement. He’s the author of The CEO and the Pope: John Paul II’s Leadership Lessons to a Young Swiss Guard. Despite his early questions, he has now determined that “business done in a virtuous way is a core constituent of prosperity.” ...
Financial Times: Fetish for making things ignores real work
Manufacturing fetishism – the idea that manufacturing is the central economic activity and everything else is somehow subordinate – is deeply ingrained in human thinking. The perception that only tangible objects represent real wealth and only physical labour real work was probably formed in the days when economic activity was the constant search for food, fuel and shelter.
A particularly silly expression of manufacturing fetishism can be heard from the many business people who equate wealth creation with private sector production. They applaud the activities of making the pills you pop and processing the popcorn you eat in the interval. The doctors who prescribe the pills, the scientists who establish that the pills work, the actors who draw you to the performance and the writers whose works they bring to life; these are all somehow parasitic on the pill grinders and corn poppers. ...
... Many of those who talk about the central economic importance of manufactured goods do so from an understandable concern for employment and the trade balance. Where will the jobs come from in a service-based economy, manufacturing fetishists ask? From doing here the things that cannot be done better elsewhere, either because of the particularity of the skills they require, or because these activities can only be performed close to home. Manufacturing was once a principal source of low-skilled employment but this can no longer be true in advanced economies.
Most unskilled jobs in developed countries are necessarily in personal services. Workers in China can assemble your iPhone but they cannot serve you lunch, collect your refuse or bathe your grandmother. Anyone who thinks these are not “real jobs” does not understand the labour they involve. There is a subtle gender issue here: work that has historically mostly been undertaken by women at home – like care and cooking – struggles to be regarded as “real work”.
Where will exports come from, they ask? From exporting “designed in California” or “tailored in Savile Row”. Ask Apple, or your tailor, how they derive their earnings.
There is a persistent misconception that the value of something lays within the thing itself. Economic theorists ranging from Adam Smith to Karl Marx subscribed to the labor theory of value, the idea that the value of a thing is related to the amount of labor put into its production. In fact, the economic value of a thing is determined by the amount someone is willing to pay for it. It is about as simple as that.
Economic value is not a measure of importance. Water is very important to sustaining my existence. A diamond is not. Yet I might $1.00 for a bottle of water but millions of dollars for the Hope diamond. Why? Because water is so plentiful that finding the next bottle of water is no problem. Finding the next Hope Diamond is a big problem.
Rather than imputing intrinsic economic value to things, we need to look at how economic value is created. Joseph Pine explains that most of human economic history was about growing or extracting things from the ground. They were commodities. As commodities are undifferentiated the, big issue was price. Then came the ability to fashion things we take from the ground into goods. The value was in the fabrication. But after a time, competition drove goods into a commodity mode (Henry Ford and the Model T), with people looking for the lowest price for the good. Goods were now commodities. Then came customization. Value came from being able to customize goods to particular consumer needs. It was this service that created value but now the ability to customize is becoming commoditized. Pine suggests that creating experiences for consumers is the next step in adding value. Check out his video at TED for more.
Region now has as many middle class people as those who are poor thanks to rapid growth in incomes, study reveals.
Income inequality is falling in Latin America even as it rises elsewhere in the world, according to a World Bank study that encourages government intervention to reduce the wealth gap.
Over the past 15 years, more than 50 million people have risen into the middle class, which is now – for the first time – about the same size as the population of poor in the region, says the report, which was unveiled on Tuesday. ...
... He said the main reason for the reduction in inequality is not a compression of income from the rich at the top, but because of a rapid growth in the incomes and spending power of those at the "bottom of the population pyramid".
About 30% of the region's population is now in the middle class, which the World Bank defines as those who have less than a 10% chance of falling back into poverty. This is similar to the proportion who are classified as poor. In between is the biggest group, the 38% who are considered "vulnerable" because they live just above the poverty line on an income of between $4 and $10 a day. ...
... The report, titled Economic Mobility and the Rise of the Latin American Middle Class, recommends improvements in public education and healthcare as a way of consolidating the upward mobility of the population. Currently, one of the biggest gaps is not in spending power, but in access to decent social services. In many countries, poorer families have no choice but to put their children in low-standard schools and their sick in poorly-funded hospitals, while the middle class spend substantial sums on private education and health care.
The World Bank's president, Jim Yong Kim, emphasised the role played by the private sector, which he said creates 90 percent of jobs in developing countries.
But he said the great strength of the story in Latin America was that countries that have self-consciously focussed on reducing inequality have also experienced rapid economic growth. ...
Atlantic Cities: How Facebook and Twitter Are Making Developing World Cities Better
... In Latin America, Mexico City is not unique. Use of social media is growing at a breathtaking pace across the region. When Facebook passed the 1 billion user mark in October, few people noticed that 19 percent of those users live in Latin America (which only accounts for 8 percent of the world's population). The governments of virtually all large Latin American cities now use social media to engage with citizens, and smaller cities are quickly following suit. The Inter-American Development Bank recently found that social media is used by governments in 70 percent of the region´s 140 "emerging cities" (those having 100,000 to 2 million residents and above-average economic growth rates).
Although the press has focused on Latin American presidents who have embraced social media as a potent new channel for old-fashioned political communications, something very different is happening at the municipal level.
Mayors seem to be betting that by micromanaging urban issues via Twitter or Facebook, they will give voters concrete evidence of their effectiveness in office. This is a risky tactic, of course. Many local governments that find it easy to virtually "engage" with constituents may not have the budgets, the organization, or the staff to actually solve the problems that generate complaints. The result, in that case, could be a voter backlash amplified, ironically, over the same social media channels. ...
... Over the coming decade, hundreds of millions of city dwellers in emerging economies such as Mexico, Brazil, India and China are likely to rise from poverty. Much has been written about how their increasing expectations will pressure governments like never before to deliver tangible improvements that make urban life safer, healthier, and more egalitarian.
I predict that social media will have a highly disruptive but largely positive effect in this context. At a minimum, these technologies will give new vitality to the ancient ideals of participation and accountability. At best, they might shorten the wait for new lights in a darkened park. In either event, the next mayor of Mexico City, like others across the developing world, will not really have the option of ignoring social media. That's where people are choosing to speak, and where they expect to be heard.