The Economist Latin America November 20, 2021

THE ECONOMIST is a global weekly magazine written for those who share an uncommon interest in being well and broadly informed. Each issue explores the close links between domestic and international issues, business, politics, finance, current affairs, science, technology and the arts. In addition to regular weekly content, Special Reports are published approximately 20 times a year, spotlighting a specific country, industry, or hot-button topic. The Technology Quarterly, published 4 times a year, highlights and analyzes new technologies that will change the world we live in.

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8 min.
the world this week

Politics America’s president, Joe Biden, held talks by video link with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping. It was the closest thing to a meeting between the two men since Mr Biden took office in January. Mr Xi told Mr Biden that he was ready to “take active steps” to improve relations between China and America. Mr Biden called for co-operation “where our interests intersect”, including on climate change. America’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said the two leaders had agreed to “look to begin to carry forward discussions on strategic stability”. He appeared to mean that America and China would explore talks on nuclear-arms control. A court in Hong Kong sentenced Ma Chun-man to nearly six years in prison for violating the territory’s national-security law by chanting slogans calling for the territory’s…

6 min.
the triumph of big government

“KEEP YOUR eye on one thing and one thing only: how much government is spending,” Milton Friedman once said. Today his eyes would be popping. Governments have spent $17trn on the pandemic, including loans and guarantees, for a combined total of 16% of global GDP. On current forecasts, government spending will be greater as a share of GDP in 2026 than it was in 2006 in every major advanced economy. America is about to put $1.8trn into expanding its welfare state; Europe is doling out a €750bn ($850bn) investment fund; and Japan is promising a “new capitalism”, with even more government largesse. In the coming decades the state’s economic footprint will expand yet further. Four-fifths of the world economy is now subject to a net-zero emissions target, a goal that in…

4 min.
barbarians at the garden gate

“VULTURES OUT” read one of the many placards young protesters waved at a recent rally in Dublin. The cause of their anger was spiralling rents in the Irish capital, pushed higher as the fastest growth in house prices in years has made renting more attractive. The sentiment is spreading. Private-equity firms, insurance companies, pension funds and other institutional investors that have snapped up residential property during the pandemic are becoming the butt of resentment in rich countries. As their share of the residential-property market has grown, so has the backlash. Some blame big landlords for soaring rents. Others accuse them of exploiting crisis for profit. Policymakers have been fast to respond (see Finance & economics section). The White House wants to restrict the types of properties that large investors are allowed…

3 min.
the next afghanistan

IN MANY WESTERN countries, politicians, soldiers and veterans gather every November to pay tribute to comrades killed fighting for their country. Among those commemorated this year were more than 3,500 troops from America and its allies who died in Afghanistan before the West’s humiliating retreat this summer. And among those paying tribute, far from the Cenotaph in London or the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, were dusty Western soldiers in small garrisons across a swathe of Africa. With the formalities over, they resumed their posts among almost 9,000 European and American troops on the front line of what is now the West’s biggest offensive against jihadists, in the Sahel. It is not going well (see Middle East & Africa section). How it will end depends in no small part on…

3 min.
from role-model to cautionary tale

FOR MOST of this century Chile was a stable and predictable country, with steady economic growth and moderate politics. Outsiders saw it as a success story and a model for Latin America. But that stable Chile disappeared two years ago, in an explosion of massive and sometimes violent protests. Discontent had built up and politicians seemed unable to deal with slower growth and narrowing opportunities, especially for younger people. A plan to hold a convention to write a new constitution calmed the protests and seemed to offer a peaceful solution to the sort of grievances that have afflicted many countries in recent years. But Chile has yet to recover its balance, as a polarised presidential election on November 21st is likely to show. In a vote for the constitutional convention in…

3 min.
don’t mock the metaverse

“A REVOLUTIONARY APPROACH on how to connect our world without being super-weird…In the Icelandverse, there’s …skies you can see with your eyeballs, volcanic rocks you can caress, and really big geysers you can observe from a safe distance.” So runs a viral advert designed to lure tourists to Iceland. The target of the parody is Mark Zuckerberg in particular, and Silicon Valley in general, for whom the idea of the “metaverse”—a sort of 3D sequel to today’s two-dimensional internet, in which users work, play, buy and sell inside immersive virtual worlds—has become the latest Next Big Thing. Iceland’s tourist board is not the only sceptic. When, on October 28th, Mr Zuckerberg rebranded Facebook as Meta Platforms, to signal his commitment to the new idea, many assumed it was a PR stunt…