November 30, 2016
While the United States may be outperforming other advanced economies, it is underperforming relative to its own potential. Slower growth has been feeding on itself in a vicious cycle of weak demand, low investment, and slowing productivity growth. In real terms, the median US household income is back at its level of two decades ago. Meanwhile, the vast majority of income gains have gone to households in the top quintile, which do not have the same propensity to spend. This in turn hobbles aggregate demand in the short term—and when businesses do not see the need to invest, it reinforces the cycle. US productivity growth recently turned negative for the first time in 30 years. ... A new briefing paper from the McKinsey Global Institute, The US economy: An agenda for inclusive growth, suggests that the United States can regain its dynamism and restore the sense that everyone is advancing together. This effort can take many forms: reengaging more workers in the labor force, enabling them to move to more productive jobs and locations, creating an environment that fosters new business formation and healthy competition, and helping declining cities reinvent themselves. When the economy is firing on all cylinders, income gains tend to be more broad-based and less easily concentrated.
- Globalization and trade
- America’s cities
- A resource revolution
We need to read and to be readers now more than ever. ... We overschedule our days and complain constantly about being too busy. We shop endlessly for stuff we don’t need and then feel oppressed by the clutter that surrounds us. We rarely sleep well or enough. We compare our bodies to the artificial ones we see in magazines and our lives to the exaggerated ones we see on television. We watch cooking shows and then eat fast food. We worry ourselves sick and join gyms we don’t visit. We keep up with hundreds of acquaintances but rarely see our best friends. We bombard ourselves with video clips and emails and instant messages. We even interrupt our interruptions. ... And at the heart of it, for so many, is fear—fear that we are missing out on something. Wherever we are, someone somewhere is doing or seeing or eating or listening to something better. ... Books are uniquely suited to helping us change our relationship to the rhythms and habits of daily life in this world of endless connectivity. We can’t interrupt books; we can only interrupt ourselves while reading them.
Over the past several months, I’ve interviewed Henry Kissinger, the former secretary of state, numerous times on the subject of America’s role in the world. Our conversations took place before this week’s election, but were informed by the foreign-policy differences between the candidates. ... There is obviously a gap between the public’s perception of the role of U.S. foreign policy and the elite’s perception. I think the new president has an opportunity to reconcile the two. He has an opportunity, but it is up to him to seize it. ... I’m fairly confident that China’s reaction will be to study its options. I suspect that will be Russia’s reaction as well. ... I think most of the world’s foreign policy has been in suspense for six to nine months, waiting for the outcome of our election. They have just watched us undergo a domestic revolution. They will want to study it for some period. But at some point, events will necessitate decision making once more. The only exception to this rule may be nonstate groups; they may have an incentive to provoke an American reaction that undermines our global position. ... Universities, he said, “like to teach history as a series of discrete problems. And they above all don’t want to teach Western history. They believe that the West has committed so many crimes that they are not entitled to single it out. That is a thought that would never occur to a Chinese. To return genuine pluralism to the campuses—to examine even ideas conventional wisdom rejects—has become a major national challenge.” ... What most annoyed Kissinger was the manner in which Obama talked about some other world leaders.
Perfecting the digital printout, he told me, had involved hundreds of hours of analog assessment: thousands of paint samples were mixed by hand, in Luxor, to match the tones in the original tomb, then compared with ink-jet outputs. Factum modified an enormous Epson printer so that it could make repeated passes over the gesso-like skin in perfect registration, allowing for fine tweaks. ... The only thing that was perceptibly modern was the absence of a musty odor. Lowe noted that the room’s sound wasn’t right, either. He hopes to enlist engineers to record the “acoustic signature” of Tutankhamun’s tomb, so that he can re-create it inside the facsimile. ... Factum began operations in 1998, when it was becoming clear that 3-D printing was a revolutionary tool. The workshop has made millions of dollars by fabricating sculptures for artists—Anish Kapoor, Maya Lin, Marc Quinn—who sometimes require technological assistance to realize their visions. Lowe appears to spend nearly all his profits on fanciful-seeming projects that, in aggregate, mount a serious case that the facsimile can play a central role in art conservation. ... Because an art work can be scanned without physical contact, the facsimile process makes traditional conservation efforts—from repainting to varnishing—seem like an exalted form of graffiti. A facsimile also allows the public to see objects that are nearly impossible to approach in person: Factum has recorded and reassembled everything from a Renaissance painting outside the Pope’s bedroom to rock carvings on a remote plateau in Chad.
Brazil does not produce cocaine. But it plays a crucial role in the international trafficking of the drug, which even Brazilians know little about. Cocaine is smuggled by the Colombian cartels and other South American producers through Brazil’s porous borderlands, which stretch for almost 17,000km. ... The drugs are most likely to end up in Santos, a sprawling, rundown place 50 miles south of São Paulo. No city of its size – it has a population of less than half a million – has such a prominent position in Brazilian history. Santos FC nurtured Pelé, Brazil’s greatest footballer. It was in Santos that most of Brazil’s European immigrants landed, and it was from Santos that most of its coffee departed. In the ornate but decrepit city centre you can still visit the old coffee exchange where dealers used to sit in throne-like chairs and negotiate prices. ... The ’Ndrangheta (pronounced ehn-DRANG-eh-ta, with the stress on the second syllable) originated in Calabria, the toe end of the Italian “boot”. Over the past 20 years its reach has extended to the farthest corners of the world. ... A study from the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in Milan, commissioned by the Italian interior ministry and presented in 2013, concluded that the earnings of the ’Ndrangheta rivalled the Camorra’s, and were almost double those of the Sicilian Mafia. But there was a significant difference that set it apart from its rivals. Whereas the other two groups derived an estimated 40% of their revenue from outside Italy, in the case of the ’Ndrangheta that figure rose to 80%.