News — At The Edge — 8/11
There must be some way outta here — politicians, global economy & democratic crisis — said the joker to the thief.
“[I]f we replaced…politicians with algorithms… might we be better off?….We already cede decision-making responsibility on health and finances to algorithms, why not with voting?….2016 election, candidates used social-media advertising to target different voters with different messages….
[So] can we replace politicians with robots? The answer is a soft yes.
Big data and artificial intelligence allow us to understand public issues better and faster…[and] may be able to identify the most effective approaches to solving problems…. Predictive analytics…can predict voting habits from Facebook likes….
This raises the issue of what we want from our politicians and government….[It’s] not just about understanding citizens’ views…[but] decision-making, human reason and emotion…[that] swirl together in…clashes and compromises and imperfect-but-necessary choices….
Political leadership is as much about leadership, vision and belief, as it is about information, analysis and communication….
[Since] truckers, lawyers, doctors, builders and now even chefs…are being automated, whether we automate our politics is up for serious discussion.” https://www.economist.com/open-future/2018/07/31/is-it-time-to-automate-politicians
Who Do You Trust?
Civilization has inflated the “great man theory” of history. A19th-century idea in which history is largely explained…
“Four big themes emerge from…the post-2008 era….
- immediate post-crisis response, in which the banks were rescued and both the monetary and fiscal taps were loosened….
- euro-zone crisis….
- shift in the developed world after 2010 to a more austere fiscal policy….
- rise of populist politics in Europe and America…
[T]he immediate post-crisis response was necessary, but unfortunate in that executives in the banking industry paid too low a price for their folly….
Europe was slow…in dealing with the peripheral countries; and that the switch to austerity was a mistake….
[T]he backlash against bankers, frustration with EU governments and the impact of austerity led to the rise of populism, the election of Donald Trump and the Brexit vote…a failure of political leadership….
Bush administration got its crisis measures through Congress only with support from Democrats, but bipartisanship stopped the moment Barack Obama took office….
[T]he most dangerous failure…[is] the unwillingness to deal with problems which lie at the heart of the…finance sector, which caused the crisis, looks remarkably unaltered….[Bonuses] on Wall Street last year was $184,220, just shy of the 2006 record. Scandals over banks’ bad behavior, in areas such as price-fixing, money laundering and mis-selling continue to come to light….
In global terms, the amount of debt relative to GDP is about as high as it was before the crisis…[and] it is far from clear that governments will be willing to take decisive action when the next crisis hits….
The big change has been in the public mood…as voters peel off towards the far-left and nationalist right….
The level of co-operation that occurred in 2008 and 2009, such as when America’s central bank made dollars available to its cash-strapped European counterparts, may not be easy to achieve next time around….
Central banks brought a global economic heart attack to an end…[with] emergency surgery. But the patient has gone back to his old habits of smoking, heavy drinking and gorging on fatty foods. He may be looking healthy…[but] next attack could be…more severe and…techniques that worked a decade ago may not be successful a second time.” https://www.economist.com/books-and-arts/2018/08/04/ten-years-after-the-financial-crisis
American democracy is in crisis, and not just because of Trump —
“[A] crisis of governance has been building for decades…[so Trump’s] assaults on established beliefs, laws, institutions and values…[reveal] the true scale of pre-existing weaknesses and faultlines is becoming apparent…[and] bordering on national meltdown….
[The] frequent use of ‘executive orders’ [is]…[a] wake-up call…[because] once issued, such orders are rarely overturned…[as] diktats and fatwas like the worst kind of unelected despot or ayatollah….[FDR] interned Japanese-Americans…[and] Lincoln’s emancipation proclamation was an executive order….
[T]he ‘imperial presidency’ is…one that Congress…failed to curb over the years…[with] two-party system, virulent partisanship and out-of-touch politicians are blamed for chronic failures of governance.
The advantages conferred by incumbency are…reducing democratic choice…[and] Trump was the fifth president to win office despite losing the popular vote, thanks to the archaic…electoral college process.
Members of Congress are…overly beholden to corporations, wealthy donors and special interests…[and] seen as corrupt…[with] $6.5bn…spent by presidential and congressional candidates in 2016 — enough to give every teacher in the country a $2,000 pay rise. The average cost of winning a Senate seat was $19.4m…[House] seat in the midterm…cost an average $1.5m…[which] excludes many would-be candidates…and places others in hock to their financial backers….
[Worse] 40% of all television ads for political candidates are financed by secret donors with private political or commercial agendas…[and] untraceable money emanating from foreign governments or individuals, via agents and lobbyists….
[Trump’s ] behavior highlights these entrenched structural problems…[and] encouragement of ultranationalist, racist and neo-fascist forces…divisive demagoguery, relentless vilification of independent journalism, contempt for the western European democracies, coddling of dictators and rejection of the established, rules-based international order all reinforce perceptions that the global role of the US as shining democratic beacon is dimming rapidly….
The most urgent task is to recognize what is happening…. Radical, inclusive political reform is urgently required.” https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/aug/07/american-democracy-crisis-trump-supreme-court
Quicksand of Our Past
History teaches men and nations behave wisely once they have exhausted all other alternatives. [Eban]
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