Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Economist: Weekly Perspective - July 3rd, 2010

I've had a subscription to The Economist ever since the beginning of my freshman year. In addition to my other sources of worldly information, The Economist offers a much higher-level perspective and insight than I have been able to find anywhere else. Maybe it's because I'm enthralled with real world economics that I regard it so highly; I loved Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely, Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt, and can't wait to read their follow-ups. But while it delves deeply into some of the most important economic issues facing us today, your average high school graduate should be able to comprehend many of the articles that it addresses without any additional study of economics.

The Economist: Cyberwar Cover

On that note, I'd like to address several of the articles that I found most interesting in the July 3rd edition of The Economist. I plan to review the highlights every week and hope that some form of discussion will transpire. I will also include links to articles that are not restricted to subscribers on The Economist's website.

Against Fairness (p17)
I'll usually start these summaries with the featured article, but in this issue, another leader struck such a chord with me that I have to write about instead. The article addresses the blandness and intentionally misleading use of the word "fair" as a common theme in the British coalition government's campaigns and policy proposals, most recently in the "Tough but fair" budget approved on June 22nd that proposed higher taxes and sharp budget cuts. The advantage of the word fair is that it seems to be positive. Who would argue against something that was fair? The problem, is that different people define fair in exactly opposite ways. "To one lot of people, fairness means establishing the same rules for everybody, playing by them, and letting the best man win and the winner take all. To another, it means making sure that everybody gets and equal share. They represent a choice that has to be made between freedom and equality. (In politics) Fairness is fudge." To me, fair means just and is clearly embodied in the former definition. The only problem, is that not everyone sees it that way. So what are we to do? Require politicians to give definitions of any homographic words they intentionally use? Certainly not. The only solution I can think of is to use sharper words that have real meaning. But in order for that to happen, we'd have to assume that politicians we're as well intentioned as they claim to be.

China and Taiwan signed an agreement to liberalize trade across the Taiwan strait.
Russian spies were found in an investigation by the FBI, but whether they actually did anything harmful is debatable.
A crackdown is coming on the financial industry with the passage of the Dodd-Frank bill in the House of Representatives.

Cyberwar - The Threat from the Internet (p11-12) &
Cyberwar - War in the fifth domain (p25-28)
Since it's almost taken me a week to get this published, I didn't have time to summarize the featured articles before the July 10th issue summary that's coming soon. Fortunately, both featured articles from this edition are available without a subscription.

As I get this site up and running, my magazine summaries will become more standard. For now, please learn to deal with the chaos and slightly inconsistent publication schedule. Thanks for reading.

All the best,

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