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jerryking : societal_choices   4

The last days of the middle-class world citizen
October 3, 2019 | Financial Times | Janan Ganesh.
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what I think Janan Ganesh is talking about; the divide between the globally mobile elite and the locally restricted peasantry is getting increasingly stark, and the middle class is being hollowed out.
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'10s  Big_Tech  climate_change  decline  deglobalization  disposable_income  downward_mobility  dystopian_futures  frictions  future  globalization  Janan_Ganesh  lifestyles  middle_class  millennials  pessimism  societal_choices  subtractive  The_One_Percent  thought-provoking  travel 
october 2019 by jerryking
The Dangers and Opportunities in a Crisis
October 7, 2012 | NYTimes.com | By HUGO DIXON, Hugo Dixon is the founder and editor of Reuters Breakingviews.

Wherever one turns — politics, business, medicine, ecology, psychology, virtually every field of human activity — people talk about crises. But what are they, how do they develop and what can people do to change their course?

The first thing to say is that a crisis is not just a bad situation. When the word is used that way, it is devalued. The etymology is from the ancient Greek: krisis, or judgment. The Greek Orthodox Church uses the term when it talks about the Final Judgment — when sinners go to hell, but the virtuous end up in heaven. The Chinese have a similar concept: The characters for crisis combine parts of those for danger and opportunity.

A crisis is a point when people have to make rapid choices under extreme pressure, normally after something unhealthy has been exposed in a system. To use two other Greek words, one path can lead to chaos; another to catharsis or purification.

A crisis is certainly a test of character. It can be scary. Think of wars; environmental collapses that destroy civilizations of the sort charted in Jared Diamond’s book “Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed”; mass unemployment; or individual depression that leads to suicide.

But the outcome can also be beneficial. This applies whether one is managing the aftermath of the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy, the current euro crisis, the destruction of an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico or an individual’s midlife crisis. Much depends on how the protagonists act.

Students of crises are fond of dividing them into phases. For example, Charles Kindleberger’s “Manias, Panics, and Crashes: A History of Financial Crises” identifies five phases of a financial crisis: an exogenous, normally positive, shock to the system; a bubble in which people exaggerate the benefits of that shock; distress when some investors realize that the game cannot last; the crash; and finally a depression.

Although there is much to commend in Mr. Kindleberger’s system, it is too rigid to account for all crises in all fields. It also downplays the possibility that decision makers can change the course of a crisis. A more flexible scheme that leaves space for human agency to affect how events turn out has just two phases: the bubble and the crash......The bubble is typically characterized by mania and denial. Things are going well — or, at least, appear to be. Feedback loops end up magnifying confidence...............Manic individuals do not know their limitations and end up taking excessive risks — whether on a personal level or in managing an organization or an entire economy. As the ancient Greeks said, hubris comes before nemesis........But before that, there is denial. People do not wish to recognize that there is a fundamental sickness in a system, especially when they are doing so well........The ethical imperative in this phase is to burst the bubble before it gets too big. That, in turn, means both being able to spot a bubble and having the courage to stop the party before it gets out of hand. Neither is easy. It is hard to recognize a sickness, given that there is usually some ideology that explains away the mania as a new normal. The few naysayers can be ridiculed by those who benefit from the continuation of the status quo.

What is more, politicians, business leaders and investors rarely have long-term horizons. So even if they have an inkling that things are not sustainable, they may still have an incentive to prolong the bubble.......The crash, by contrast, is characterized by panic and scapegoating. People fear that the system could collapse. Negative feedback loops are in operation: The loss of confidence breeds further losses in confidence. This is apparent on an individual level as much as on a macro one.

..Events move extremely fast, and decisions have to be made rapidly........The key challenge is to make effective decisions that avoid vicious spirals while not embracing short-term fixes that fail to address the fundamental issues. With the euro crisis, for example, it is important to improve competitiveness with structural reforms and not just rely on liquidity injections from the European Central Bank.

In this phase, no one denies that there is a problem. But there is often no agreement over what has gone wrong. Protagonists are reluctant to accept their share of the responsibility but instead seek to blame others. Such scapegoating, though, prevents people from reforming a system fundamentally so that similar crises do not recur......Crises will always be a feature of life. The best that humanity can do is to make sure it does not repeat the same ones. And the main way to evolve — both during a bubble and after a crash — is to strive to be honest about what is sick in a system. That way, crises will not go to waste.
blaming_fingerpointing  books  bubbles  clarity  crisis  dangers  decision_making  economic_downturn  Jared_Diamond  market_crash  opportunities  risks  scapegoating  societal_choices 
february 2015 by jerryking
Lunch with the FT - Lunch with the FT: Jared Diamond
August 7 2009 | Financial Times | By David Pilling.

Jared Diamond is the guru of collapse. Collapse is the title of one of the books that have made him a world-famous academic. Collapse is subtitled How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, a swipe at those who suggest his books preclude choice. It is a theme that captures the Zeitgeist: markets have collapsed, banks have collapsed and confidence, even in the capitalist system itself, has collapsed.

Diamond’s celebrated book – which added to the reputation he earned through Guns, Germs and Steel, a Pulitzer prize-winner about why some societies triumph over others – sought to discover what makes civilisations, many at their apparent zenith, crumble overnight. The Maya of Central America, the stone-carving civilisation of Easter Island, and the Soviet Union – all suddenly shattered.

The question lurking in Diamond’s work is: could we be next? Could the great skyscrapers of Manhattan one day become deserted canyons of a bygone civilisation, a modern version of Ozymandias’s trunkless legs of stone?....There is no obvious segue between pomegranates and the recent shock to Anglo-Saxon capitalism but we get there via a discussion of collapsing fish stocks, a subject prompted by the salmon. Diamond knows I used to live in Japan and says, “If I was Japan’s worst enemy trying to figure out a strategy to drive it into a crisis in 10 years’ time, my strategy would be to get the Japanese to do exactly what they are doing, which is to over-harvest their main source of protein.” Humans’ ability to destroy the basis of their own livelihood is a recurring Diamond theme.
authors  books  Jared_Diamond  overconsumption  pomegranates  Pulitzer_Prize  societal_choices  societal_collapse  sustainability  writers 
october 2009 by jerryking

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