February 23rd, 2011
In January and February of this year, editors at The Economist polled 50 of the world’s top economic experts, asking them to judge their peers and to answer two questions: Which economist was the most influential over the past decade?” and “Which economist has the most important ideas in a postcrisis world?”
While laypeople may feel rather cynical toward economists – after all, the self-proclaimed experts could not prevent the global financial crisis from playing out – the economists’ divergence on the causes of and solutions to the crisis does little to lower skeptical eyebrows: No single economist dominated the poll. By a hair, Ben Bernanke’s peers voted the Fed chairman the most influential economist of the last ten years for the part he played in the government bailouts of 2008. John Maynard Keynes came in second. Jeffrey Sachs, Hyman Minsky and Paul Krugman shared the bronze. This eclectic mix of neoclassical and Keynesian economists does not give any indication as to which group, according to the economists, held the most traction over the last decade.
As for the most important economist in a postcrisis world, Raghuram G. Rajan, author of Fault Lines, received the gold medal. Robert Shiller, author of The Subprime Solution, and Kenneth Rogoff, co-author of This Time Is Different, shared second place. To learn why these economists have such an important role in stabilizing today’s topsy-turvy economy, read their ideas for yourself:
February 18th, 2011
In 2009, the Internet was a Nobel Peace Prize nominee. Perhaps the Nobel Committee felt that Barack Obama would be a more enchanting dinner guest when it decided to award the prize to the US president instead of the Internet that year, but the World Wide Web would be an entirely worthy winner. According to Internet for Peace, an organization that raises awareness of the web’s role in peace and society, the Internet is a forum “where there is openness, acceptance, discussion and participation. And contact with others has always been the most effective antidote against hatred and conflict…That’s why the Internet is a tool for peace.”
The recent uprisings across the Middle East have once again confirmed the Internet’s tremendous capabilities: Its universal accessibility creates a level playing field where all people can participate as equals. This openness, proponents promise, will eventually allow democracy to flourish and bring autocracies to their knees.
While the Internet’s role in world revolutions is obvious, let’s not forget the net’s impact on the lives of ordinary citizens. The web gives a voice to the individuals who formerly had none. Three years ago, Lele, a three-year-old boy, was kidnapped on the street outside his dad’s shop in Shenzhen, a city in south China. Although CCTV cameras captured the kidnapping, the authorities found no leads in the case. Lele’s father, Peng Gaofeng, embarked upon a three-year mission to find his son – in defiance of the government, which urged him to stay silent and give up his all-too-public campaign, since it contradicted the idealized image of a harmonious society. Using a Chinese microblogging site similar to Twitter (since Twitter is banned in China), Peng amassed more than two million connections, one of whom recognized the missing boy, now six, and sent his picture. The family is now reunited.
This story is a poignant reminder of the power of the net. Social media are gaining momentum. To learn more about the digital generation that will bring about world change, check out these titles:
February 17th, 2011
Would you elect a man whose name is synonymous with corruption, adultery, mafia collusion, bribery, false accounting and a string of other misdemeanors? Apparently the Italians would – not once, not twice, but thrice (1994, 2001 and 2008). In fact, Silvio Berlusconi is currently the longest-serving leader of any G8 nation, and he is Italy’s second longest-serving prime minister of all time.
Over the course of his long political and business career, Silvio Berlusconi, the world’s 74th richest man, has faced many allegations and has stood trial for numerous transgressions, but he has never been sentenced. Conveniently for Berlusconi, in each case, either the jury has acquitted him or the court has thrown out the case. Now Berlusconi will face trial for allegedly employing the services of an underage prostitute, Karima El Mahroug, at one of his infamous “bunga-bunga” parties. He also is charged with abuse of power for having El Mahroug released from jail following an unrelated arrest. Berlusconi says he thought he was helping out his buddy Hosni Mubarak, since he believed El Mahroug to be the ex-Egyptian leader’s granddaughter. She is not. If convicted (he won’t be), Berlusconi could face up to 15 years in prison. The prime minster seems unfazed: “Suffice it to say that I am not worried in the least.”
“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood.” Here are some tips on how to walk the road Berlusconi has not traveled (it could make “all the difference”):