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The Economist Continental Europe Edition

The Economist Continental Europe Edition December 7, 2019

The Economist is the premier source for the analysis of world business and current affairs, providing authoritative insight and opinion on international news, world politics, business, finance, science and technology, as well as overviews of cultural trends and regular Special reports on industries and countries.

United Kingdom
The Economist Newspaper Limited - Europe
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5 min.
britain’s nightmare before christmas

BRITISH VOTERS keep being called to the polls—and each time the options before them are worse. Labour and the Conservatives, once parties of the centre-left and -right, have steadily grown further apart in the three elections of the past four years. Next week voters face their starkest choice yet, between Boris Johnson, whose Tories promise a hard Brexit, and Jeremy Corbyn, whose Labour Party plans to “rewrite the rules of the economy” along radical socialist lines. Mr Johnson runs the most unpopular new government on record; Mr Corbyn is the most unpopular leader of the opposition. On Friday the 13th, unlucky Britons will wake to find one of these horrors in charge. At the last election, two years and a political era ago, we regretted the drift to the extremes. Today’s…

3 min.
the good, the bad and the ugly

SO MUCH TALK of “crisis” has surrounded NATO’s 70th-birthday year that it has been easy to forget there are reasons to celebrate. Not only has the alliance proved remarkably durable by historical standards, but since 2014 it has responded aptly to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, refocusing on its core mission of collective defence. It has deployed multinational battlegroups into the three Baltic states and Poland and committed to improved readiness. Goaded by criticism from President Donald Trump, its members have raised their spending on defence. Though many countries, notably Germany, still fall short of their promises, NATO now estimates that between 2016 and 2020 its European members and Canada will shell out an extra $130bn. This new money helps explain one welcome development at the meeting of NATOleaders in Britain this…

3 min.
search result

“YEAH, OK, WHY not? I’ll just give it a try.” With those words Sergey Brin abandoned academia and poured his energy into Google, a new firm he had dreamed up with a friend, Larry Page. Incorporated in 1998, it developed PageRank, a way of cataloguing the burgeoning world wide web. Some 21 years on, Messrs Brin and Page are retiring from a giant that dominates the search business. Alphabet, as their firm is now known, is the world’s fourth-most-valuable listed company (see Business section), worth $910bn. In spite of its conspicuous success, they leave it facing three uncomfortable questions—about its strategy, its role in society and who is really in control. Silicon Valley has always featured entrepreneurs making giant leaps. Even by those standards Google jumped far, fast. From the start…

5 min.
reverse gear

OF THE WISDOM taught in kindergartens, few commandments combine moral balance and practical propriety better than the instruction to clear up your own mess. As with messy toddlers, so with planet-spanning civilisations. The industrial nations which are adding alarming amounts of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere—43.1bn tonnes this year, according to a report released this week—will at some point need to go beyond today’s insufficient efforts to stop. They will need to put the world machine into reverse, and start taking carbon dioxide out. They are nowhere near ready to meet this challenge. Once such efforts might have been unnecessary. In 1992, at the Rio Earth summit, countries committed themselves to avoiding harmful climate change by reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, with rich countries helping poorer ones develop without exacerbating the problem. Yet…

5 min.

Taxing the super rich The political left gets many things wrong, but by identifying billionaires as a “policy failure” they are exactly right. As you say, on average billionaires inherit one-fifth of their wealth (“In defence of billionaires”, November 9th). These transfer payments are unrelated to any effort or talent. Therefore, high inheritance taxes would not just be “welcome” but are necessary for a well-functioning capitalist system. Furthermore, the inequality of income and, more importantly, wealth, is a disincentive for the vast majority of individuals who can’t expect to be millionaires when they are toddlers (hello, Donald Trump). Research has shown that inequality can suppress economic growth. William Nordhaus conflates billionaires and innovators when he says that the latter collect only 2% of the value they create. To the extent that billionaires…

12 min.
the chronic complexity of carbon capture

ON ONE SIDE of a utility road at the edge of Drax power station in Yorkshire sits a vast pile of deep black coal. On the other side, trains loaded to the brim with compressed wood pellets. “The old and the new,” says a worker. Opened just under half a century ago, Drax (pictured) was not only the biggest coal-fired power station ever built in Britain: it was the last. Now only two of its six mighty boilers are still fired by coal, and at the end of November they had sat idle since March. In the first half of 2019, coal accounted for just 6% of Drax’s electricity output. The rest came from those wood pellets. Biomass burned at Drax provides 11% of Britain’s renewable electricity—roughly the same amount as…