“The benefits of globalisation are widely dispersed, often unseen and thus all too easily taken for granted

– The Economist

Globalization has become a buzzword used to describe the international exchange of ideas, products, political movements, music and many other aspects of culture. While the world has changed dramatically as a result of this phenomena, disentangling what that means and how good it is, is an overwhelming feat.

The Economist took this challenge and tackled the pros and cons of globalization in its “Special report: The world economy”. Through a series of articles the magazine argues that globalization, on the whole, is a positive force that must be embraced but that must also be managed with better policy.

Specifically, the magazine proposes a “three-pronged agenda” for the course of globalization including  demand management, active labor-market policies, and competition.

Demand Management.

The magazine proposes that workforce retraining and adequate immigrant integration are critical to fortifying dynamic economies.

Workforce retraining

  • “Too little effort and money has been expended on taking care of those who have been hurt by the opening up of markets. America in particular makes little attempt to assist people find new jobs to replace lost ones.”
  • “Members of the OECD…set aside an average of 0.6% of GDP a year for…job centres, retraining schemes and employment subsidies—to ease the transition to new types of work. America spends just 0.1% of GDP”
  • “Jobs and pay have been greatly affected by technological change. Much of the increase in wage inequality in rich countries stems from new technologies that make college-educated workers more valuable.” Government-led retraining must support less educated workers left with fewer employment opportunities.

Immigrants

  • “Along with trade, migration is one of the two main sources of public anxiety about globalisation” however, it’s important to remember that immigration enriches the workforce [by raising] average productivity and living standards”.
  • “To deal with the tension between immigration and the welfare state, three rules suggest themselves. First, make benefits conditional on having paid into the system. Second, tie the funding of local public services to local tax revenues to ensure an automatic response to an influx of migrants. Third, restrict migration to prime-age, skilled workers who are more likely to get jobs and less likely to lose them in a recession”
  • A lesson from America’s engagement with Mexico is that a formal system for low-skilled immigration, perhaps with fewer entitlements than for skilled workers, is far preferable to turning a blind eye to informal migration.

Active labor-market policies.

Politicians should work together to end imprudent international corporate tax breaks and should understand that creating trade barriers would hurt the poorest.

Capital

“For developing economies, capital mobility is a conduit for new technology, management know-how and business networks. It also allows investors to vote with their feet, encouraging governments to follow prudent regulatory, monetary and fiscal policies.” However, “rather than imposing discipline, access to foreign capital seemed to allow countries to get into bigger messes. Whereas academics argue about the pros and cons of free movement of goods or people, they now mostly agree that liberalising capital flows can sometimes do more harm than good”

 

The growing practice of using offshore investment to avoid corporate tax might make capital mobility the target of popular anger, alongside trade and immigration.

“Many people see footloose global companies and deregulation as the handmaidens of the worst kind of corporate practice. Yet economic ills such as weak real incomes, inequality and immobile workers may be partly due to a failure to liberalise product markets further…Deregulation is almost always a difficult task. Those whose interests are hurt by such reforms protest noisily. The political costs quickly become apparent, whereas the gains may not become clear before the next polling day…. In an age of insecurity, it is hard to persuade anyone that they should give up such protections for the greater good”

 

“A study…suggests that in an average country, people on high incomes would lose 28% of their purchasing power if borders were closed to trade. But the poorest 10% of consumers would lose 63% of their spending power, because they buy relatively more imported goods”

Market

 

Factory jobs peaked in the 1970s, but manufacturing output has continued to increase. Indeed, America’s share of world manufacturing output, on a value-added basis, has been fairly stable at a bit under a fifth for the past four decades. Thanks to advances in technology, fewer workers are needed to produce the same quantity of goods. But since trade with lower-cost countries and technological change have similar effects on labour-intensive production in the rich world, it is hard to disentangle their effects.

“America has run a trade deficit every year since 1976. But this does not mean that America is ‘losing’ at trade, as Mr Trump suggests…a trade surplus is not a virility symbol”

“In most rich countries, particularly America, the trade deficit widens when GDP growth is strong, and shrinks during recessions. To balance trade, Americans would have to invest less or save more. Neither would create jobs”

“Almost two-thirds of the new jobs that will be added to America’s economy in the next decade will be low-skilled or mid-skilled jobs, according to a projection by the country’s Bureau of Labour Statistics. Such demand may not easily be met by indigenous workers, even at higher wages”

Competition. 

“Competition policy needs to become more vigorous” to break with current industry concentration.

“A landmark Supreme Court judgment in 2004 said monopoly profits were the just reward for innovation. That has made it harder for trustbusters to root out rent-seeking or block mergers”

 

There must be greater competition with large firms so that “startups can thrive and incumbent firms are kept on their toes…the growing habit of big tech firms to swallow startups that might become rivals is worrying. Such deals often suit both sides—the buyer gets the innovation and the startup makes a lucrative exit—but the practice saps dynamism from the economy”

Without competition, there is “less chance of the dynamism that boosts productivity (and earnings) and creates new job opportunities”

The article goes on to make the following recommendations:

  • As borders have been steadily opened up, policies needed to complement globalisation have not kept pace, particularly in America. They need to catch up.
  • Dani Rodrik, of Harvard University, argues that a good way to build public support for globalisation would be to link trade pacts with agreements on, for instance, the taxation of multinational companies. Such a deal would give national governments more rather than less policy autonomy.
  • In America and Britain, a strong case can be made for locking in low-cost long-term funding to finance a programme to fix potholed roads and smarten up public spaces. Private pension funds with expertise in infrastructure have a role to play in such schemes.
  • Skeptics say that those who stand to lose from globalization are given little thought when trade deals are signed. That is a fair point. But there is also a risk of the opposite error: that the enormous good that free trade has done for the bulk of humanity in both rich and poor countries over several decades is forgotten at times when people are feeling anxious about it.

A wave of anti-establishment and anti-globalization parties across Europe are on the rise. Many have called for referendums on their membership to the European Union following suit with Brexit. Before any (further) reckless decisions are taken, politicians, policy-makers, and citizens should consider that “closing borders to trade, capital and people would cause great harm and do very little to tackle inequities in the economy” in fact, “blocking imports would only entrench the market power of rent-seeking firms, further harming the prospects for higher productivity and pay.”

** The primary source is The Economist’s “Special report: The world economy”. All quotes have been taken from the report.

Read original article: http://www.economist.com/news/special-report/21707837-how-make-economic-liberalism-fairer-and-more-effective-reset-button

 

Not intended to be a comprehensive study of globalization, rather a quick read of The Economist’s take on this global matter.

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As close friends know, I take extensive notes on most places I visit. I thought I would share the notes from a ~12-day trip in Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Naoshima and Koyasan in case someone else finds them useful in planning their trip!

Some of the details (see: train times) will no longer be relevant, but may still be helpful to other planners as samples of timetables for inter-city travel.

To access notes, click on the image below and expand in a new window.

If I were doing this all over again I would just spend one or two more days in Naoshima exploring the art on the island. Otherwise, I recommend this itinerary for a first-time traveler to Japan!

Safe travels!

No.

No Colombian, likely no citizen anywhere, would reject peace in preference to war.

Though the vote has largely been compared to producing a ‘Brexit’ level surprise by the international press, I would argue that the (almost) 50/50 vote may effectively represent just how conflicted Colombians are as they decide the terms that would end the 50-year war.

screenshot-2016-10-06-22-36-56Referendum result. Courtesy of El Tiempo.

Why would a Colombian vote ‘no’?

A few reasons…

  • Close to 6 million people were displaced from their homes as a result of the FARC. They likely voted.
  • Over 220,000 people have died – their grieving family members were also voting.
  • Almost every Colombian has a personal story of somebody who was kidnapped, extorted, or who simply disappeared at the hands of the FARC. These people voted.

The New York Times may have explained the ‘no’ vote best:

The war has lasted so long that it might have been difficult for many Colombians to forgive the FARC. “The adults that were born before the war now number very few,” said Juan Gabriel Vásquez, a novelist who voted for the deal. “As a society, we are a massive case of post-traumatic stress, because we have grown up in the midst of fear, of anxiety, of the noise of war.”

That may create the impression that Colombians may be bitter and unwilling to forgive the FARC for the damage they have done. But that is clearly not the case as 48.8% of Colombians voted for peace.

Accepting peace, at what cost?

The official question on the referendum ballot was “Do you support the final accord that concludes the conflict and constructs a sustainable and durable peace?”

colombia-peace-vote-plebiscito-paz-1068x712

Referendum ballot. Photo courtesy of The Bogotá Post.

To many Colombians it may have read as “Do you find that the terms of peace offer justice for the atrocities the FARC has committed?” or perhaps “Does this agreement offer justice with the group that [kidnapped / killed / tortured] your [cousin / friend / parent]?”

The 50/50 vote represents just how difficult it may have been for Colombians to answer this question – both as a personal resolution and a political strategy for their country.

To answer, citizens should have looked to the 297-page agreement that details the FARC’s reintegration into civic society.  But in most every case, that did not happen.

The New York Times explains that “voters face a problem in any referendum: They need to distil difficult policy choices down to a simple yes or no…voters typically solve this problem by finding what the political scientists…have termed ‘short cuts’. The voters follow the guidance of trusted authority figures or fit the choice within a familiar narrative.”

Colombia’s referendum was no exception.  A major point of tension is the misinformation that was shared by the ‘No’ campaign led by former president Alvaro Uribe. The campaign’s scare tactics may have swayed the vote in the end.

Nonetheless, it’s worth examining a few of the highlights of the agreement and how they have been received:

  • Expected and widely accepted:
    • The FARC’s fighters would disarm handing over weapons to the United Nations
    • The FARC would declare all the monetary and non-monetary resources that have formed part of their war economy and will use those resources towards reparations
    • The government pledged under the peace agreement to invest substantial resources in improving the country’s rural areas.
  • Slightly Controversial
    • Demobilized fighters would also receive financial aid from the Colombian government to help them reintegrate
    • The accord creates 16 seats in areas battered by the conflict where only locals (in areas where the FARC are likely favored) will be able to run.
  • Very Controversial
    • The rebels would automatically attain legal political representation via a political party with 10 guaranteed seats in the country’s Congress. 5 in the 166-seat house of representatives and 5 in the 102-seat senate.
    • The deal would allow rebels to avoid jail time if they confessed to their crimes. Those who confess to crimes would not serve any prison sentences.

A FARC member explained that by accepting the accord they would get “rid of the arms and become politicians…. but would not lose [their] structure. [They would] be at the ballot boxes [next] time.”

The sentiment among some was that by offering automatic political representation to a rebel group who has undermined democracy, Colombians would be giving the country away and perhaps also giving into the FARC. A voter in opposition to these terms felt that “There’s no justice in this accord…if ‘no’ wins, we won’t have peace, but at least we won’t give the country away to the guerrillas. We need better negotiations.”

Indeed…

“It is…hard to accept that FARC leaders who were responsible for holding hostages in chains for years on end, or for terrorist bombs against a Bogotá club and defenseless villagers, should end up in congress rather than in jail” – The Economist

But still, Colombians want peace.

So, who is to blame for this ordeal?

Colombians have taken to social media to blame each other for the outcome. They should be looking at the leaders of government instead.

President Santos and his negotiators had the responsibility to offer an accord that would satisfy the majority of Colombians. It did not.

santosSantos accepts defeat. Photo courtesy of NYT.

Even if the referendum passed by a small margin, it could still have been a failure.  To attain a final, sustainable peace, Colombians must be genuinely convinced and ready to participate in the reintegration of ex-guerrillas.

A 51% win is hardly a legitimate basis on which to build peace, especially an inclusive one. As former director of the National Commission of Reparation and Reconciliation, Eduardo Pizarro stated, “we can’t make peace with only half the country”. If nothing else, the plebiscite has shown that a more inclusive pact needs to be sought, and although this seems like a daunting task, it could also constitute an opportunity for a rapprochement between the divided political sectors of the country. – The Bogota Post

It will be important to understand the objections and concerns of the ‘No’ voters and to incorporate them into the dialogue of peace. This should have happened years ago.

Adam Isacson from the Washington Office on Latin America explains that “if poor or botched reintegration programs fail to offer opportunities to former child combatants, Colombia’s powerful paramilitaries and trafficking groups may offer them a tempting alternative”.

Isacson reminds us that signing a peace accord will be the easiest part of any peace process. Offering reintegration programs, retraining projects, education scholarships and fulfilling law-abiding lifestyles to ex-guerrillas whose skills are best suited for organized crime would take years, perhaps decades. Peace can only succeed if effective systems are in place to support complete reintegration into a law-abiding civic life.

If Colombians are not content with the terms that would bring guerrillas into cities – it might be best not to bring them at all. A hostile welcome would certainly discourage ex-guerillas to effectively reintegrate.

Better negotiations are in need.

It is widely understood that Colombians who voted against the accord were largely voting for better, more just terms. Not against peace.

How to do that will be a major challenge for the president who has announced that the unilateral ceasefire expires October 31st. Thankfully, neither the FARC nor the government are prepared to return to war.

“I will not give up,” declared Mr Santos in a televised address. The FARC’s top commander, Rodrigo Londoño Echeverri, known as Timochenko, said the guerrillas would “use only words as a weapon to build toward the future”. – New York Times

Critically, President Santos will need the help of the man who led the campaign against the accord: former President Alvaro Uribe. Some analysts speculate that a “weakened Santos can only rescue the accord by inviting Uribe to directly negotiate a solution to the impasse with the FARC”.

Santos must work with the opposition to produce the terms he should have offered in the first place. His failure to meaningfully integrate critics into four years of negotiations have put him in this situation, hopefully, his ability to engage detractors can produce a different result.

Santos must find a platform to share new terms with the Colombian people and re-engage peace with more popular terms.

What’s the Silver Lining?

Colombian leaders have the opportunity to create a final, just, and persuasive peace accord that offers Colombians terms they will feel compelled to live with.

The international community dreads that Colombia’s peace process was unsuccessful because it is a failed model for peace to share in other areas. That should not be the takeaway.

This ‘no’ should be interpreted as democracy at its best. Politics, peace, and justice are complex. We should celebrate iteration on this process as representing an opportunity to execute peace within the framework of an inclusive dialogue and with sustainability in mind.

Colombians have returned to the streets to show their peaceful support of continued negotiations.

paz4
A peaceful demonstration in favor of continued peace talks after the referendum. Photo courtesy of El Tiempo

We may not have gotten “Peace at Last” in the headlines this time around – but the opportunity for peace may still be around the corner. We must work towards peace in unity every day until the opportunity ceases to exist.

Time is running out. Still, we stand strong, we stand with hope.
#AcuerdoYa

screenshot-2016-10-07-15-28-01Photo courtesy of El Tiempo.

Sources:

Why Referendums Aren’t as Democratic as They Seem http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/05/world/americas/colombia-brexit-referendum-farc-cameron-santos.html?ref=americas

Colombia and Its Rebels Want Peace, but How Has Never Been Less Clear http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/05/world/americas/colombia-farc-rebels-peace.html?ref=americas

Deep Scars and Complacency Defeated Colombia’s Peace Deal http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/04/world/americas/colombia-rebels-farc-santos-uribe.html?ref=americas

Colombia Peace Deal Is Defeated, Leaving a Nation in Shock http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/03/world/colombia-peace-deal-defeat.html?src=me

Aching for Peace, but Also Justice, Colombians Weigh Deal With FARC http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/26/world/americas/colombia-farc-peace-deal.html?mtrref=www.nytimes.com

Colombia’s ‘No’ to Peace Deal Could Hit U.S. Aid http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2016/10/04/world/americas/04reuters-colombia-peace-usa-aid.html?ref=americas&mtrref=www.nytimes.com&mtrref=www.nytimes.com

A chance to clean up http://www.economist.com/news/briefing/21707921-all-its-imperfections-and-complexities-agreement-between-government-and-farc

Saving Colombia’s peace agreement http://www.economist.com/news/americas/21708156-no-one-wants-return-war-voters-have-blocked-path-peace-saving-colombias-peace

A messy but necessary peace http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21707930-colombians-should-vote-approve-peace-deal-farc-messy-necessary-peace

Colombia war victim denounces lack of ‘solidarity’ after peace deal rejected http://colombiareports.com/colombia-war-victim-denounces-lack-solidarity-peace-deal-rejected/

What next? Post-plebiscite questions and possibilities http://thebogotapost.com/2016/10/04/next-post-plebiscite-questions-possibilities/

Colombian President Meeting Rival Uribe in Bid to Save Peace http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2016/10/04/world/americas/ap-lt-colombia-peace.html?ref=americas&mtrref=www.nytimes.com

Why Referendums Aren’t as Democratic as They Seem
www.nytimes.com/2016/10/05/world/americas/colombia-brexit-referendum-farc-cameron-santos.html

Earlier this year four lovely friends visited me in Bogotá for a long weekend. I decided to take them to Colombia’s famous coffee region and created this document to give them context about what we would be seeing.

I do this for most of the trips I take but these notes are more ‘opinionated’. Other Colombians may have a different perspective on some issues, so keep that in mind and feel free to shoot me a note with any questions you may have.

I  wrote this with my friends in mind hoping they would find it informative and helpful – hopefully, it worked. :)

Finally, excited to share a few of my favorite pictures from our trip to the coffee region.

Safe travels!

 

Una de las maneras más efectivas y prometedoras de crear empleos y oportunidades económicas en Colombia se basa en el desarrollo del talento tecnológico y digital. La comunidad de tecnología que existe hoy debe ser expandida para capturar las oportunidades económicas que existen en la exportación de software — un mercado que supera los US$600 mil millones de dólares. Esta expansión requiere el apoyo del gobierno Colombiano el cual debe ayudar a promover las oportunidades que existen para los individuos que sean parte o que desee ingresar de la comunidad del talento digital.                   

Los Hechos

Impacto Económico del Desarrollo de Software       

“En los últimos 20 años, el software se ha convertido en un insumo esencial para el funcionamiento de prácticamente todos los negocios, en todas las industrias y sectores. Como resultado, la industria del software ha tenido efectos desproporcionadamente positivos en la productividad, las exportaciones y el empleo

“Los mercados emergentes se están convirtiendo en los nuevos centros de gravedad de la economía mundial, y la competencia por el talento es cada vez más feroz. El acceso a los trabajadores con talento es considerado por algunos como el indicador más importante de la competitividad de un país.”

El poder económico del Desarrollo de Software           

“Sólo en año 2012 la industria del software contribuyó $526 mil millones al PIB de EEUU. Sobre un período de 10 años la industria del software ha crecido 130,4% más rápido que el resto de la economía norteamericana y ha ofrecido 3,5 millones de empleos a la economía”

Impacto socioeconómico de inversión en Desarrollo de Software           

“Las inversiones empresariales en software están destinadas a aumentar la productividad de una empresa. Las ganancias de productividad…crean puestos de trabajo mediante la generación de riqueza y el ingreso adicional.”

Nuevo software dará lugar a la aparición de nuevos hubs de estilo Silicon Valley…Durante los próximos 10 años, las batallas entre empresas establecidas y los insurgentes de software serán [tan] épicas [como los impactos económicos que traerán].

Fuentes:

Software & Information Industry Association: https://www.siia.net/Admin/FileManagement.aspx/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=yLPW0SrBfk4%3D&portalid=0

Emerging Market Talent Strategies Creating an effective global talent model http://dupress.com/articles/emerging-market-talent-strategies/

Software & Information Industry Association: https://www.siia.net/Admin/FileManagement.aspx/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=yLPW0SrBfk4%3D&portalid=0

Why Software Is Eating The World By Marc Andreesen http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424053111903480904576512250915629460

 

  1. Steven Pinker takes on a big challenge as he attempts to explain the history of violence in his 800+ page best-selling book Better Angels of Our Nature. To do this Pinker breaks down human history into five parts:
    • The Pacification Process – going from hunter gatherers into settled civilizations
    • the Civilizing Process consolidation of small kingdoms into large kingdoms with centralized authority and commerce
    • The Humanitarian Revolution—emergence of Enlightenment philosophy that puts substantial value on human’s capacity to be logical, creative, and non-violent
    • The Long & New Peace—a time supported by political hegemony and the trend of wars becoming more infrequent and less violent
    • The Rights Revolution—the incremental distribution of rights to once-suppressed groups (women, animals, gay rights, etc.)
  2. Pinker attributes the trend of decreasing violence throughout history to the genetic evolution of the humans , an increase in global commerce, the feminization of cultural norms, growth in information and communication networks, and reliance on science and reason (as opposed to religious doctrine).
  3. In order to prove that things have gotten better he has to prove that things were much worse. Notably he emphasizes the savage nature of tribes and, as Stephen Corry notes, Pinker “promotes a fictitious, colonialist image of a backward ‘Brutal Savage’, which pushes the debate on tribal peoples’ rights back over a century”.
  4. In order to slickly prove his point, that violence has definitely decreased over time, Pinker also asks the reader to accept the following truths:
    • That capitalism has been an overwhelmingly positive contribution to the world, since “violence has declined since its advent”…minus a few inconvenient statistical peaks of violent wars and genocides.
    • That we should ignore the violent the dealings of Colonialism. As the New Yorker says, this is a serious omission because “of the scale of the slaughter and because of the way it troubles the distinction between savage and civilized.” (New Yorker)
    • That we should ignore small modern wars because they are essentially statistical flukes, these wars include: “The Korean war, the Chinese invasion of Tibet, British counter-insurgency warfare in Malaya and Kenya, the abortive Franco-British invasion of Suez, the Angolan civil war, decades of civil war in the Congo and Guatemala, the Six Day War, the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956 and of Czechoslovakia in 1968, the Iran-Iraq war and the Soviet-Afghan war” (New Yorker)
    • Here is my favorite –> That using a graph he provides, we are asked to draw conclusions of the “rate of battle deaths in state-based armed conflicts between 1900 and 2005” (Figure 6-1) while being instructed to ignore the figures for the first and second world wars. The New Yorker says it best here: “Though he hesitates to label the Second World War an out-and-out fluke, he is reduced to claiming that, as far as his thesis is concerned, it doesn’t really count. Accidents happen, and the Nazis’ rise to power was one of them”(New Yorker)
  5. Ultimately , though Pinker is “most likely correct that prehistoric life was more violent than life in agrarian civilizations and modern states…the way he pitches the evidence raises suspicions from the very beginning…The sources Pinker cites for the numbers of dead are themselves just aggregates of other estimates, the vast majority of which, if one follows the thread of sources to the end, turn out to be more or less informed guesses.” (Foreign Affairs)

I found the conclusions the author made to be poorly argued and statistically undisciplined. As a renowned academic it is no surprise Pinker can throw around academic jargon, but this does not make up for his habit of misinterpreting the scope of his data to convince himself and others of what seemed to be his pre-existing beliefs.

One of my goals for 2015 is to read an average of a book per week. Partly to fulfill this goal I will attempt to read every book that Mark Zuckerberg posts in his book club ‘A Year of Books’ (which averages to two books per week). My intent is to build a stronger hypothesis / perspective on the events taking place around me.

Below are my notes and thoughts on Moises Naim’s “The End of Power”.

Summary:

Naim—an economist, author, former Minister of Trade and Industry for Venezuela, and Executive Director of the World Bank—argues in his book that today “power is easier to get, harder to use and easier to lose”. Previously, and notably in the 19th century, large organizations became powerful because they were able to maximize profits and operate more efficiently than individuals because they were able to “internalize a broad range of necessary tasks, thereby saving on…transaction costs”. This gave rise to bureaucratic corporations, labor unions, large political parties and organizations that emphasized size, hierarchy, and centralized control. Today, he argues, these organizations are no longer advantageous because there is a notable decay of power due to three overarching trends he calls the “more”, “mobility”, and “mentality” revolutions.

The more revolution basically notes that because there is more of virtually everything today, power has become more easily decentralized due to the abundance of products/ choices consumers have at their disposal. Better stated, the Economist explains that the ‘more’ revolution describes a world of abundance. There are “more young people [who] they live in cities—65m people a year move to cities and more than half of the human population now lives in urban settings. There are more weapons, more medicines, more political parties, more companies, more NGOs, more religions, more communications. There is also more money—global GDP has increased five-fold and per capita GDP by three and a half times”.

There is also more mobility in our world. This allows people to travel, communicate and transfer goods with little control by national states or large bureaucracies. It creates what Naim calls the “end of captive audiences” for nation states, or as the Economist explains “the number of people living outside their country of origin has increased 37% according to the United Nations. Therefore, people are becoming harder to govern”.

Finally, there is a change in mentality that has brought higher expectations for people across the world who now have a “greater moral consensus about the proper behavior of nations than humanity has ever known before”. According to the Economist “this change in cultural norms is corroborated by the World Values Survey which shows a clear movement towards openness, gender equality and increased tolerance of difference”. (Related: The Athena Doctrine)

Nat’s Notes:

One of the consequences of these ‘revolutions’, especially to large players, is that micro-actors and micro-powers have become more relevant/ influential today than ever before. An interesting statistic related to this trend is that:

 “…when nation-states go to war these days, big military power delivers less than it once did. Wars are not only increasingly asymmetric, pitting large military forces against smaller, nontraditional ones such as insurgents, separatist movements, and militias. They are also increasingly being won by the militarily weaker side…A study by former Harvard scholar Ivan Arreguin-Toft on asymmetric conflicts shows that between 1800 and 1949 the weaker side won 12% of the time, but between 1950 and 1998 the weaker side won 55% of the time”

This trend also seems to signal that large, powerful players (CEOs, politicians, public figures), pay a steeper and more immediate price for their mistakes than did their predecessors due to the increased power of micro-actors (ie. bloggers, opinionated tweeters, startups, etc).

It is an interesting trend because, as the book points out, it creates a potentially stagnating situation in which “everyone has a little bit of power…everyone can constrain and veto but nobody has the power to get things done”. In a sense, this quote reminds me of the power that ‘sharing economy’ companies have gathered—companies like Airbnb and Uber—who have tremendous power over relatively vast resources and customer bases, but who sometimes cannot act because larger governmental / hotel / taxi lobbying powers prevent them from being fully legal. Against so many stakeholders the state does seem to not have the resources, decisiveness, and maybe even power, to definitively take a stance on the legality of these companies, making it so that users continue to rent out their apartments in a stagnated grey area of moral correctness / legality.

A second consequence, and one that I find especially relevant to my age group (18-34), is that because power has become increasingly decentralized it may no longer make sense for millennials to plan their careers around a single, powerful institution, but rather to focus on polishing personal skillsets and develop a brand that highlights individual potential. Related, the Economist recently published an article titled “There’s an app for that: Freelance workers available at a moment’s notice will reshape the nature of companies and the structure of careers”.

In this article the Economist explains that:

For a while after the second world war everybody seemed to benefit from [the large institutional] model: workers got security, benefits and steady wage rises; companies got a stable workforce in which they could invest with a fair expectation of returns. But the model started to get into trouble in the 1970s, thanks first to deteriorating industrial relations and then to globalization and computerization. Trade unions have lost power in the private sector, particularly in America and Britain, where legislation has reduced their ability to take action. Companies kept stricter control of their labor costs, increasingly contracting out production in industrial businesses and re-engineering middle-management. Computerization and improved communications then sped the process up, making it easier for companies to export jobs abroad, to reshape them so that they could be done by less skilled contract workers, or to eliminate them entirely….

The on-demand economy is unlikely to be a happy experience for people who value stability more than flexibility: middle-aged professionals with children to educate and mortgages to pay. On the other hand it is likely to benefit people who value flexibility more than security: students who want to supplement their incomes; bohemians who can afford to dip in and out of the labour market; young mothers who want to combine bringing up children with part-time jobs; the semi-retired, whether voluntarily so or not…

…The on-demand economy will inevitably exacerbate the trend towards enforced self-reliance that has been gathering pace since the 1970s. Workers who want to progress will have to keep their formal skills up to date, rather than relying on the firm to train them (or to push them up the ladder regardless). This means accepting challenging assignments or, if they are locked in a more routine job, taking responsibility for educating themselves. They will also have to learn how to drum up new business and make decisions between spending and investment”

If this is the case then it is likely very worthwhile for people in my age group to approach a career differently than our parents once did. If the ‘App Economy’ demands sharp, on demand, opinionated contractors we should devote more time crafting a strategy that allows us to position ourselves for a professional future that anticipates individuals to sell themselves, over having a companies sell the individual.

Sources:

There’s an app for that: Freelance workers available at a moment’s notice will reshape the nature of companies and the structure of careers  (http://www.economist.com/news/briefing/21637355-freelance-workers-available-moments-notice-will-reshape-nature-companies-and )

The End of Power: From Boardrooms to Battlefields and Churches to States, Why Being In Charge Isn’t What It Used to Be (http://www.amazon.com/End-Power-Boardrooms-Battlefields-Churches/dp/0465065694/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1422550637&sr=8-1&keywords=the+end+of+power)

Quick study: Moisés Naím on power “It ain’t what it used to be” via The Economist (http://www.economist.com/blogs/prospero/2013/03/quick-study-mois%C3%A9s-na%C3%ADm-power)