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A VIRAL VIDEO of a man punching the back of a women’s reclined airline seat got Delta Air Lines Chief Executive Officer Ed Bastian’s attention. But he made things worse, when he asked flyers to be polite and check with the passengers behind them before hitting the recline button. This angered many people who have watched seats shrink over the years, as airlines try to raise profit margins by packing ever-more paying customers onto their planes.
ONE OF THE MORE pernicious ideas now coming into vogue is that societies should voluntarily halt their economic growth. In a recent New Yorker article, John Cassidy chronicles the rise of this so-called degrowth movement. The idea holds appeal for environmentalists concerned about planetary destruction, egalitarians who worry that growth leaves the poor behind, futurists who envision a leisure society and so on. Degrowth might even be a way for citizens of wealthy, declining nations to maintain their pride as hungrier up-and-coming societies catch up, since it recasts economic slowdown as virtue.
ON SUNDAY NIGHT, there was widespread rejoicing when the South Korean film Parasite received the Academy Award for best picture along with several other awards. Not only was this the first such win for a movie in a language other than English, but to many it represented a long-sought victory for Korean popular culture.
THE US dollar’s position as the world’s reserve currency might be weakening. In the last few years, the fraction of global reserves denominated in dollars has been inching down.
A HUGE SHIFT has taken place in the global economy during the past few decades. Financial capital was once scarce and it’s now abundant. This has huge implications for policies ranging from taxation to fiscal austerity to financial regulation. Economists and commentators who haven’t internalized that shift can sound irrelevant and out of touch.
IN THE SITCOM The Office, a bumbling manager spends much of his time distracting the hapless employees of a paper company’s local sales branch. Somehow, despite all the antics that seem to interfere with getting anything done, the branch consistently manages to be the company’s most profitable. Though that must have seemed laughably unrealistic to many fans of the show, it turns out to have some basis in reality.
IN 1953, mountaineers Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary made the first confirmed summiting of Mount Everest, the world’s highest peak. Recently, Everest has grown so popular that photos are surfacing showing huge lines of climbers waiting to surmount that same peak. On rarefied ground where once only Norgay and Hillary tread, now climbers are dying because of overcrowding.
REJOICE, people of Earth! News outlets are reporting that NASA is planning to visit an asteroid made of gold and other precious metals! At current prices, the minerals contained in asteroid 16 Psyche are said to be worth $700 quintillion -- enough to give everyone on the planet $93 billion. We’re all going to be richer than Jeff Bezos!
NETFLIX just re-released one of the most popular animated television programs of all time -- Neon Genesis Evangelion. The show, which combines dark, complex themes of alienation and loneliness with action-packed battles between robots and monsters, captivated the worldwide audiences when it came out in 1995. It introduced an entire generation to Japanese animation, whose high quality, adult themes and unique sensibilities helped redefine Japan’s culture in the eyes of the world, supplanting traditional visions of Mt. Fuji, geisha and tea ceremonies. But a quarter-century later, Japan is having difficulty transforming its newfound cultural cachet into economic riches.
THERE’s an old theory that as an organism develops, it progresses through the same evolutionary stages traveled by its ancestors. Traditionally, economic development has worked in a similar way. When a country first shifts from agrarian poverty to industrialization, it tends to start out in light manufacturing, especially textiles. Later it masters more complex manufactured products, and finally it progresses to inventing its own cutting-edge technology. Thus, each country’s development tends to look a bit that of nations that already went through the process.
WHY AREN’T PEOPLE starting more start-ups? That might seem like a weird question to ask, in an age when Silicon Valley ventures are hot commodities and money and talent is flooding into machine learning companies. But in fact, Americans don’t start businesses like they used to.