Trends

It’s Too Late to Compensate Free Trade’s Losers

Dani Rodrik: “Today’s consensus concerning the need to compensate globalization’s losers presumes that the winners are motivated by enlightened self-interest – that they believe buy-in from the losers is essential to maintain economic openness. Trump’s presidency has revealed an alternative perspective: globalization, at least as currently construed, tilts the balance of political power toward those with the skills and assets to benefit from openness, undermining whatever organized influence the losers might have had in the first place. Inchoate discontent about globalization, Trump has shown, can easily be channeled to serve an altogether different agenda, more in line with elites’ interests.”

“The time for compensation has come and gone. Even if compensation was a viable approach two decades ago, it no longer serves as a practical response to globalization’s adverse effects. To bring the losers along, we will need to consider changing the rules of globalization itself.”

How Left and Right Media Models Perpetuate Partisan Politics

Mark Jamison: “…how the media conducts its business in this country should also be partly blamed for the political rift. I don’t mean that we should blame CNN or MSNBC for being too liberal, or blame FOX News for being too conservative. The problem isn’t that journalists have opinions, but rather that the standard media business models – daily news for traditional media and talk radio like Rush Limbaugh’s and Sean Hannity’s programs – drive some media to the left and others to the right, leading large segments of their respective audiences to become caught in media bubbles.”

“Why do traditional media lean left? As historian John Summerville points out in his book ‘How the News Makes Us Dumb,’ the daily news business model relies on convincing viewers and readers that they have to consume news every day; that the news is urgent, that today’s news is bigger and scarier than yesterday’s news and that people who don’t watch or read today will suffer as a result. Stories are often couched in terms of groups – mostly race, gender and sexual preference – which accentuates the drama. A media mindset that focuses on urgent problems often concludes that someone in authority, namely the government, should fix them… Why don’t these same economic forces press talk radio to the left? Talk radio by its nature puts greater emphasis on the individual, which aligns with the conservative mindset.”

Are Living Standards Truly Stagnant?

“It may turn out that the widespread belief that most Americans’ incomes have stagnated for years is, well, false or at least overstated,” Robert Samuelson argues for The Washington Post.

“In a provocative new study, economist Bruce Sacerdote of Dartmouth College reviewed the material well-being of the poorest 50 percent and 25 percent of Americans. What he concluded was that even these families had achieved a ‘meaningful growth in consumption . . . [despite] a prolonged period of increasing income inequality . . . and a decreasing share of national income accruing to labor.'”

“If true, the result is not a pervasive stagnation of living standards — or even declines — but what Sacerdote calls a ‘slow and steady’ advance that, to varying degrees, has permeated the income spectrum. Of course, that conclusion is likely to be challenged, because it rests heavily on controversial technical issues in estimating inflation. In addition, many political leaders and economic commentators, of both parties, have a vested interest in criticizing government economic policy.”

Why So Many Americans Are Saying Goodbye to Cities

Derek Thompson: “Net domestic migration to New York City metro area (which includes the five boroughs plus slivers of New Jersey and Pennsylvania) is down by a whopping 900,000 people since 2010. That means that, since 2010, almost a million more people have left New York for somewhere else in America than have moved to New York from another U.S. metro—more than any other metro in the country. This is the ‘fleeing’ that the Post finds so ‘alarming.’ But the New York metro has also netted about 850,000 international migrants since 2010. That number is also tops among all metros—more than Miami, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, combined.”

“…that’s the story of New York City, today. It is an extremely popular first-stop for immigrants. It is also a popular destination for young, upwardly mobile Millennials who have graduated from top colleges and don’t yet have families with children. But since it’s expensive, chaotic, and mostly lawn-free, it’s not a great place for middle class families who dream of an affordable house, car, and yard.”

“In this regard, New York is a microcosm of the American city. Population growth in big cities has now shrunk for five consecutive years, according to Jed Kolko, an economist and writer. While well-educated Millennials without children have concentrated in a handful of expensive liberal cities, the rest of the country is slowly fanning out to the sunny suburbs.”

All Those Warnings About the National Debt May Understate the Problem

Eric Pianin: “The CBO outlook paints a fairly grim picture, but a well-known spending watchdog says the national debt may be in even worse shape. A new analysis by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget finds that given the right set of policies and economic circumstances, the debt could actually rise as high as 225 percent of GDP over the next three decades.”

A World Unsafe for Democracy

Bret Stephens: “How did the world become unsafe for democracy?”

“The striking finding in the Freedom House report is that the global erosion of political liberty is largely taking place in the democracies. People are losing faith in freedoms that no longer seem to deliver on the promise of a safer, richer, fuller, fairer life.”

“If Americans can’t be persuaded of the merits and decency of our system, why should anyone else? If the winner of a U.S. presidential election is a man who embarrasses—or terrifies—much of the free world, how do we make the case to ordinary Russians or Chinese that the road of democracy isn’t simply the way of the buffoon?”

“Americans used to care deeply about the future of freedom in the world. Lose the care, risk the freedom.”

Break Up the Liberal City

Ross Douthat: “So has the heyday of these meritocratic agglomerations actually made America greater? I think not. In the age of the liberal city — dating, one might argue, to the urban recovery of the 1990s — economic growth has been slack, political dysfunction worse, and technological progress slow outside the online sector. Liberalism has become more smug and out-of-touch; conservatism more anti-intellectual and buffoonish. The hive-mind genius supposedly generated by concentrating all the best and the brightest has given us great apps and some fun TV shows to binge-watch, but the 2000s and 2010s haven’t exactly been the Florentine Renaissance.”

“Thus this week’s installment in my series of implausible, perhaps even ridiculous proposals: We should treat liberal cities the way liberals treat corporate monopolies — not as growth-enhancing assets, but as trusts that concentrate wealth and power and conspire against the public good. And instead of trying to make them a little more egalitarian with looser zoning rules and more affordable housing, we should make like Teddy Roosevelt and try to break them up.”

2016 Didn’t Just Give Us ‘Fake News.’ It Likely Gave Us False Memories.

Brian Resnick: “Here’s a reasonable fear: 20 years from now, very few people are going to agree on the details of our shared history.”

“Recently, I spoke Henry ‘Roddy’ Roediger, a psychologist at Washington University in St. Louis, one of the world’s leading experts on memory and learning… His research and others’ paint a grim picture for the future. Political polarization, misinformation, the internet, and the human mind are working in lockstep to fracture reality into countless pieces.”

Why People Continue to Believe Objectively False Things

New York Times: “Since the 1980s, Americans have been reporting increasingly negative opinions about the opposing party. Partisanship, and particularly ‘negative partisanship,’ the rejection of the opposing party, has now become a kind of tribal identity that shapes how people define themselves and others, according to Sean Westwood, a professor at Dartmouth College who has studied partisan polarization.”

“Even when myths are dispelled, their effects linger. The Boston College political scientist Emily Thorson conducted a series of studies showing that exposure to a news article containing a damaging allegation about a fictional political candidate caused people to rate the candidate more negatively even when the allegation was corrected and people believed it to be false.”

In 18 Years, A College Degree Could Cost About $500,000

Buzzfeed: “Tuition has been rising by about 6% annually, according to investment management company Vanguard. At this rate, when babies born today are turning 18, a year of higher education at a private school — including tuition, fees, and room and board — will cost more than $120,000, Vanguard said. Public colleges could average out to $54,000 a year.”

“That means without financial aid, the sticker price of a four-year college degree for children born today could reach half a million dollars at private schools, and a quarter million at public ones. That’s for a family with one kid; those with more could be facing a bill that reaches seven figures.”

Our Brains Love New Stuff, and It’s Killing the Planet

Harvard Business Review: “As you read this, thousands of scientists, engineers, policy makers, and advocates around the world are working with all the brainpower they can muster to try to solve this environmental crisis with technological and social approaches. But a number of scientists believe this same inherited neural equipment undermines these efforts because some basic aspects of our brains are designed for a different world than the one in which we find ourselves today. While many behavior experts have focused on our inability to perceive climate change as an immediate threat, others have begun to focus on the major consequences of our excessive consumption. One critical network that may be partly responsible for the latter is the brain’s reward system.”