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Love in the Age of Big Data: Scientists believe they've discovered a simple formula for happy relationships. Reader, I tried it.

When we imagine that every human life and every complex love can be molded to fit a scientifically derived ideal, we cover our eyes to the realities of circumstance–and shame people who can’t manage to twist their circumstances to that ideal.

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Why We Can’t Get Over Ourselves: Exposing the reasons we fail to understand the minds of others.

One of the biggest barriers to understanding others is excessive egocentrism. You can’t see into the mind of others because you can’t get over yourself. You can’t overcome your own experiences, beliefs, attitudes, emotions, knowledge, and visual perspective to recognize that others may view the world differently. Copernicus may have removed the Earth from the center of the universe, but every person on this planet is still at the center of his or her own universe.

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The Autumn of Europe's Discontent

Between now and the end of 2015, a number of fundamental crises will combine to push the capacity for European policymaking to its limits.

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The Sun-God Also Rises: A Christian’s Eulogy for ISIS-Occupied Palmyra

Modern Palmyra, like the ancient, is newly cast into darkness. But in truth, this darkness predates ISIS’ demolition of the Baalshamin temple, or even its capture of the city last May. Like any city under the rule of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose perpetuation of a civil war has effectively cannibalized 200,000 Syrian citizens since 2011, Palmyra’s lamp has flickered on the verge of being extinguished.

Palmyra

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Bean Counters to the Rescue: Can Accounting Save Capitalism From Itself?

To save contemporary capitalism from this dangerous myopia, Jane Gleeson-White’s insightful book Six Capitals suggests a set of unusual prospective heroes: accountants, who can capture and quantify the factors that determine a firm’s reputation and thus its short-term financial value to shareholders and its long-term value to society. A “true and fair view” of a modern company, Gleeson-White argues, must take into account not only financial and physical assets but four other forms of capital as well: intellectual, human, social, and natural. Do this, she claims, and businesses will know and report their true worth and therefore operate more sustainably.

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Why Is China So Fascinated by Amateur Porn? Beijing's unwillingness to acknowledge a sexual revolution has helped boring sex tapes go wildly viral.

Denied legal access to pornography, China’s 649 millionweb users have often afforded unusually high status to low-grade footage of amateur sexual activity.

Why Is China So Fascinated by Amateur Porn?

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The Creative Apocalypse That Wasn’t: In the digital economy, it was supposed to be impossible to make money by making art. Instead, creative careers are thriving — but in complicated and unexpected ways.

Take a look at your own media consumption, and you can most likely see the logic of the argument. Just calculate for a second how many things you used to pay for that now arrive free of charge: all those Spotify playlists that were once $15 CDs; the countless hours of YouTube videos your kids watch each week; online articles that once required a magazine subscription or a few bucks at the newsstand. And even when you do manage to pull out a credit card, the amounts are shrinking: $9 for an e-book that used to be a $20 hardcover. If the prices of traditional media keep falling, then it seems logical to critics that we will end up in a world in which no one has an economic incentive to follow creative passions. The thrust of this argument is simple and bleak: that the digital economy creates a kind of structural impossibility that art will make money in the future. The world of professional creativity, the critics fear, will soon be swallowed by the profusion of amateurs, or the collapse of prices in an age of infinite and instant reproduction will cheapen art so that no one will be able to quit their day jobs to make it — or both.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Plunder of Africa: How Everybody Holds the Continent Back

Discussions about the fate of Africa have long had a cyclical quality. That is especially the case when it comes to the question of how to explain the region’s persistent underdevelopment. At times, the dominant view has stressed the importance of centuries of exploitation by outsiders, from the distant past all the way to the present. Scholars such as the economist William Easterly, for example, have argued that even now, the effects of the African slave trade can be measured on the continent, with areas that experienced intensive slaving still showing greater instability, a lack of social trust, and lower growth. Others observers have focused on different external factors, such as the support that powerful countries offered corrupt African dictatorships during the Cold War and the structural-adjustment policies imposed by Western-led institutions in the 1980s—which, some argue, favored disinvestment in national education, health care, and other vital services. At other times, a consensus has formed around arguments that pin the blame on poor African leadership in the decades since most of the continent achieved independence in the 1960s. According to this view, the outside world has been generous to Africa, providing substantial aid in recent decades, leaving no excuse for the continent’s debility. 

Philippe Wojazer / REUTERS

Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos leaves a meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, April 2014.

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Is A Slow Putsch Against Putin Under Way?

A quarter century after the fall of the USSR, Kremlinologists sense a putsch in the air, despite Vladimir Putin’s overwhelming approval ratings. The tea leaves say that the Kremlin elite, dubbed by some as Politburo 2.0, is currently deciding whether Putin should go before he makes a bad situation worse. 

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Introducing the Gigantic and Dangerous Wall Street Loophole You’ve Never Heard of

This spring, traders and analysts working deep in the global swaps markets began picking up peculiar readings: Hundreds of billions of dollars of trades by U.S. banks had seemingly vanished. The vanishing of the trades was little noted outside a circle of specialists. But the implications were big. The missing transactions reflected an effort by some of the largest U.S. banks — including Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup, Bank of America, and Morgan Stanley — to get around new regulations on derivatives enacted in the wake of the financial crisis, say current and former financial regulators. The trades hadn’t really disappeared. Instead, the major banks had tweaked a few key words in swaps contracts and shifted some other  trades to affiliates in London, where regulations are far more lenient. 

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Russia used to have a powerful weapon in its energy sector. Not anymore.

For years, Russia’s ability to choke off energy shipments any time tensions spiked with the West was a potent threat, one that could force much of Europe to shiver during the wintertime. But with energy prices swooning, the Kremlin’s pipeline politics are looking a lot less threatening.

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Enlightened Despots, Then and Now: The Truth About an Islamic Enlightenment

By now, the pattern is predictable. Jihadists carry out a suicide bombing, a ritual beheading, an immolation, a murder in a Western city, or some other such barbarism, and newspapers, magazines, and blogs demand or suggest an Islamic enlightenment. By “enlightenment,” they generally mean the turn that the West took centuries ago from faith to reason, from religion to science, from traditional authority to democracy, and from religious violence to tolerance: in short, modernity. Before the Enlightenment, European and American Christians burned witches and heretics and fought and died for obscure otherworldly beliefs; after the Enlightenment, they did not. And so, the argument goes, Islamic societies need their own enlightenment to wrest them back to the future.

The frontispiece of the book Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes; engraving by Abraham Bosse

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Why the oil industry is doomed

Like any good, the price of oil is always negotiable, defined by who's winning the eternal shoving match between supply and demand. The current price plunge happened because U.S. oil production roughly doubled (thanks to similar technological advancements) while Canadian and Iraqi production took off as well. Meanwhile, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, better known as OPEC, refused to cut back exports. That flooded the market with supply, while the global economic downturn after the Great Recession, and China's recent currency devaluation, shrank demand.

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Forget Sykes-Picot. It’s the Treaty of Sèvres That Explains the Modern Middle East.

Ninety-five years ago Europe carved up the Ottoman empire. That treaty barely lasted a year, but we're feeling its aftershocks today.

Forget Sykes-Picot. It’s the Treaty of Sèvres That Explains the Modern Middle East.

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Why White People Seek Black Privilege

Victim status is treasured in America, and black skin guarantees automatic victim status thanks to America’s history. In America’s racist heyday, black people attempted to pass for white in order to escape destitution and persecution; today, white people attempt to pass for black — or appropriate black culture — to win popularity.

1847

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Advice From Antiquity: Economic Lessons From Ancient Greece

History is the obvious testing ground for the competing theories. But most historical tests of core ideas in political economy have, until recently, focused on the last several hundred years of primarily European history. Limiting the sample for studying the relationship between politics and economic growth to modern states is problematic, however, because factors other than institutional innovation, such as the exploitation of the New World and technological advances, have influenced modern economies. Perhaps ironically, the road to a solution leads back to Greece—indeed, all the way back to ancient Greece, the history of which offers a detailed “out of sample” demonstration of how good institutions promote economic development.

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Europe's Crisis Over? Hogwash!

Almost everyone I talk to thinks the European sovereign-debt crisis has passed. They say Greece's bailout fixed the problem. Europe is on the mend, they say. But as far as I'm concerned, nothing could be further from the truth.

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Merkel's Misstep: How Pragmatism Backfired

The euro has ruined Greece and benefited Germany most. And although there’s no denying that Greek banks borrowed huge amounts of money because of their own corruption and shortsightedness, German and French banks encouraged them to take loans that they normally wouldn’t have approved.

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White America dons the shroud of guilt

The racial horrors of the past are undeniable. But the reality of black life has changed immensely since the ’50s. Black governors, mayors, and a president are the new normal. Black families are far more prosperous. Although discrimination has by no means disappeared, social attitudes have undergone a revolution. Yet even as racial attitudes and racial equality evolve, enlightened people rush to don the shroud of guilt.

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The Iran Nuclear Deal

Is the nuclear agreement between the United States and Iran a good or bad deal? Would it be harder or easier for Iran to develop nuclear weapons? Would it make Iran and its terror proxies stronger or weaker? Should the U.S. Congress support or defeat the deal?

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