How might opposing schools of economic thought — from neoclassical and Keynesian to Libertarian and Marxist, view Christmas presents? Levity aside, the answer reveals the pompousness and vacuity of each and every economic theory.

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Photo by Carsten Koall/Getty Images.

By Yanis Varoufakis

ATHENS — To welcome the New Year with a cheeky take on the clash of economic ideologies, how might opposing camps’ representatives view Christmas presents? Levity aside, the answer reveals the pompousness and vacuity of each and every economic theory.

Neoclassicists: Given their view of individuals as utility-maximizing algorithms, and their obsession with a paradigm of purely utility-driven transactions, neoclassical economists can see no point in such a fundamentally inefficient form of exchange as Christmas gift-giving. When Jill receives a present from Jack that cost him $X, but which gives her less utility than she would gain from commodity Y, which retails for $Y (that is less than or equal to $X), Jill is forced either to accept this utility loss or to undertake the costly and usually imperfect business of exchanging Jack’s gift for Y. …


In Argentina and Brazil, one cannot understand recent political changes without reference to the corrupt antics of populist and semi-populist operatives. But that simple explanation does not fit Chile, where outgoing President Michelle Bachelet misdiagnosed the public mood.

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Sebastian Pinera and his wife Cecilia Morel. Photo by Claudio Reyes/AFP/Getty Images.

By Andrés Velasco

SANTIAGO — In Chile’s November election, anti-establishment voting was the name of the game. A new populist left coalition, modeled after Spain’s Podemos, received one-fifth of the vote. Many long-established figures, including the president of the Senate, lost their seats in Congress. Pundits were quick to describe a sharp turn to the left.

And yet in the second round of voting held on December 17, Chileans sent Sebastián Piñera, a billionaire former president and poster child for the local conservative establishment, back to La Moneda (the presidential palace). How was this possible? …


Economists have always believed that previous waves of job destruction led to an equilibrium between supply and demand in the labor market at a higher level of both employment and earnings. But if robots can actually replace, not just displace, humans, it is hard to see an equilibrium point until the human race itself becomes redundant.

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Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

By Robert Skidelsky

LONDON — Dispelling anxiety about robots has become a major preoccupation of business apologetics. The commonsense — and far from foolish — view is that the more jobs are automated, the fewer there will be for humans to perform. The headline example is the driverless car. If cars can drive themselves, what will happen to chauffeurs, taxi drivers, and so on?

Economic theory tells us that our worries are groundless. Attaching machines to workers increases their output for each hour they work. They then have an enviable choice: work less for the same wage as before, or work the same number of hours for more pay. And as the cost of existing goods falls, consumers will have more money to spend on more of the same goods or different ones. …


Journalists are increasingly being targeted by Interpol arrest notices, as authoritarian regimes abuse a system meant to curb cross-border crime. Media advocacy groups warn that Interpol has a responsibility to guard against this type of misuse, or risk losing credibility as a legitimate crime-fighting agency.

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Photo by Roslan Rahman/AFP/Getty Images.

By Jago Russell, Christophe Deloire

LONDON — Arrests of journalists in Spain and Ukraine on the basis of Interpol notices have raised serious questions about the methods of the international police agency. For media professionals in particular, the trends are deeply worrying.

The cases in Spain and Ukraine are not isolated incidents. Countries opposed to a free press are increasingly using Interpol’s “wanted person” alerts to target and silence journalists who have fled. Since July, Fair Trials and Reporters Without Borders (RSF) have responded to a number of cases in which reporters have been arrested and detained on the basis of Interpol information. …


Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that every child should have access to free primary education. Yet, 69 years after that pledge, a record number of children — some 70 million — are caught in the crossfire of humanitarian crises that are denying them schooling and placing their futures in jeopardy.

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Photo by David Turnley/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images.

By Gordon Brown

LONDON — For nearly seven decades of a tumultuous century, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has served as a beacon of hope worldwide. But some of its finely crafted provisions have come back to haunt us in the form of some shocking new statistics.

Article 26 of the declaration states explicitly that every child has the right to free primary education. Yet, 69 years after that pledge, a record number of children — some 70 million — are caught in the crossfire of humanitarian emergencies that are denying them basic rights and placing their futures in jeopardy. …


At this point, the best way to encourage Israelis and Palestinians to return to the negotiating table is to work to level the playing field. Because the US clearly won’t do that, the EU must take the lead, sending a message that is as forceful as it is necessary, by immediately recognizing the State of Palestine.

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Photo by Abid Katib/Getty Images.

By Javier Solana

MADRID — Once again, US President Donald Trump has taken a unilateral approach to foreign policy — this time, by recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. And once again, Trump has misinterpreted the realities of the Middle East. Given that his latest move — which effectively blew up more than 70 years of international consensus — could precipitate a rapid deterioration in the region, it is imperative that the European Union step up.

The Trump administration’s Middle East policy rests on a reinvigorated alliance between the United States and Saudi Arabia. Every American president since John F. Kennedy has made his first foreign visit either to Mexico, Canada, or Europe. Not Trump. He made a beeline to Riyadh, where he participated in a summit with 54 Muslim-majority countries and delivered an inflammatory speech vilifying Iran, which he asserted should be shunned by the international community. …


The climate policies lauded in Paris at the One Planet Summit this month are essentially high-cost, low-effect gestures. While the EU will devote 20% of its budget this year to climate-related action, even fully achieving the accord’s emissions targets throughout this century would prevent just 0.053°C of global warming by 2100.

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Photo by Oliver Berg/AFP/Getty Images.

By Bjørn Lomborg

JAIPUR — Two years after the Paris climate agreement was signed, the French capital this month again attracted the world’s good and great, who gathered for President Emmanuel Macron’s One Planet Summit. In turns blasting US President Donald Trump for withdrawing from the Paris accord and telling each other that it remains on track, politicians formed a self-congratulatory huddle with celebrity campaigners and business leaders.

We should treat such smug bonhomie with caution. …


“Carbon majors,” like big oil and gas companies, have long been the focus of efforts to curb climate change and stem rising temperatures. And yet, while energy giants like Exxon and Shell have drawn fire for their roles in warming the planet, the corporate meat and dairy industries have largely avoided scrutiny.

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Photo by Daniel Garcia/AFP/Getty Images.

By Shefali Sharma

BERLIN — Last year, three of the world’s largest meat companies — JBS, Cargill, and Tyson Foods — emitted more greenhouse gases than France, and nearly as much as some big oil companies. And yet, while energy giants like Exxon and Shell have drawn fire for their role in fueling climate change, the corporate meat and dairy industries have largely avoided scrutiny. If we are to avert environmental disaster, this double standard must change.

To bring attention to this issue, the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, GRAIN, and Germany’s Heinrich Böll Foundationrecently teamed up to study the “supersized climate footprint” of the global livestock trade. What we found was shocking. In 2016, the world’s 20 largest meat and dairy companies emitted more greenhouse gases than Germany. …


Legal setbacks in the US have forced the tobacco industry to concede that its products are harmful, and that for decades cigarette producers deliberately misled the public about the health effects of smoking. But these “corrective statements” do not mean that the war with the industry is over.

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Photo by Michel Porro/Getty Images.

By Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and Tabaré Ramón Vázquez

GENEVA — We all know how bad tobacco is, that it kills millions of people every year, and that it harms many more. We also know that tobacco companies have consistently lied about how much damage their products cause.

But now, even Big Tobacco has been forced to state the facts publicly. After losing a string of appeals following a 2006 US federal court ruling, four companies have been forced to reveal the truth behind years of deceptive marketing, by publishing advertisements containing “corrective statements” in US newspapers and on television. …


A chaotic Brexit, in which key questions about the relationship between the UK and the EU are left unanswered, may be avoided, but severe political and economic harm could still await both sides. What, then, accounts for the evident lack of urgency in taking the necessary steps to avoid such a scenario?

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Photo by Tolga Akmen/AFP/Getty Images.

By Jean Pisani-Ferry

PARIS — On December 8, the United Kingdom and the European Union’s 27 members settled on some key aspects of the Brexit divorce agreement, opening the way for the decision, on December 15, to open a new chapter in negotiations, focused on addressing the future EU-UK relationship and transitional arrangements. This is good news, not least because it averts the worst-case scenario: a hard Brexit. But what lies ahead is much more challenging.

It seemed for some time that Europe would sleepwalk into hard Brexit. With the UK’s ruling Conservative Party deeply divided, and the EU seemingly unwilling to act strategically, the likelihood of a no-deal cliff-edge scenario appeared high. …

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