The Economist Continental Europe Edition

The Economist Continental Europe Edition February 22, 2020

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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.

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8 min.
the world this week

Politics Mike Bloomberg took part in a Democratic presidential debate for the first time, after a surge in his opinion-poll standing qualified him for inclusion. The other candidates attacked him over lewd comments he has made in the past and his billionaire status. Mr Bloomberg will reportedly sell his media company if he is elected president. More than 2,600 former lawyers and officials from the Justice Department signed a letter calling on William Barr to resign as attorney-general. Mr Barr recently intervened to reduce the recommended sentence in the case of Roger Stone, a disgraced confidant of the president. Using the power of the presidency Mr Trump pardoned a Who’s Who of business and political felons. These included Michael Milken, the “junk-bond king”, who was imprisoned in the 1990s, and Rod Blagojevich, a…

5 min.
big tech’s $2trn bull run

IN 2018 A new word entered Silicon Valley’s lexicon: the “tech-lash”, or the risk of a consumer and regulatory revolt against big tech. Today that threat seems empty. Even as regulators discuss new rules and activists fret about the right to privacy, the shares of the five biggest American tech firms have been on a jaw-dropping bull run over the past 12 months, rising by 52%. The increase in the firms’ combined value, of almost $2trn, is hard to get your head round: it is roughly equivalent to Germany’s entire stockmarket. Four of the five—Alphabet, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft—are each now worth over $1trn. (Facebook is worth a mere $620bn.) For all the talk of a techlash, fund managers in Boston, London and Singapore have shrugged and moved on. Their…

3 min.
getting the maths right

AMERICA’S TOTAL student debt, at over $1.5trn, is larger than the national borrowing of most countries. It has quintupled in size since 2004, overtaking both borrowing on credit cards and car finance. This growth is often presented as evidence of a crisis. But the rise in total debt, though arresting, is not the real problem. It largely reflects increased borrowing by graduate students, such as budding lawyers, who will go on to be high earners. And 92% of student debt is owed to the federal government, meaning defaults pose no risk to the financial system (see Finance section). The real problem is that 11m Americans, many poor and non-white, and many duped into studying for worthless degrees, struggle to repay even modest debts. Some Democratic candidates for president seem not to…

4 min.
couples therapy

FEW POST-WAR economic institutions have been as successful as the Bundesbank. Its tough stance on inflation in the 1970s ensured that, while the world battled double-digit price rises, those in Germany were relatively contained. Its credibility with the public and markets was so strong that other countries were keen to harness its might, leading to the creation of the single currency in 1999. Jacques Delors, a European politician, once joked not all Germans believe in God, but they all believe in the Bundesbank. Others in Europe were ready converts, ceding monetary sovereignty to the European Central Bank (ECB), which is based in Frankfurt, and was at first heavily influenced by German economic doctrine. The Bundesbank has a distinct role and identity—it represents Europe’s biggest economy at the ECB, runs payments systems,…

4 min.
boris v the judges

IN SEPTEMBER LAST year, when the Supreme Court overruled a government attempt to suspend Parliament during the Brexit negotiations, Boris Johnson called the decision “unusual”, but a source from Number 10 was franker: the court had made “a serious mistake in extending its reach into these political matters”. Payback, it seems, is coming. Mr Johnson has appointed a new attorney-general, Suella Braverman, who has made clear her enthusiasm for curbing the judiciary’s power (see Britain section). That the power of judges has grown in the past few decades is not in doubt. This is the consequence of three factors: the public’s growing enthusiasm for taking the government to court through judicial review; the spread of law to corners of people’s lives into which it did not previously much intrude (such as…

3 min.
the great bezos giveaway

JEFF BEZOS, the boss of Amazon and the world’s richest man, has long had a reputation as a peculiarly frugal plutocrat. A quarter of a century after Amazon was founded, the firm, now worth over a trillion dollars, still does not pay dividends to its shareholders. Lately, though, his personal purse-strings have loosened. Earlier this month Mr Bezos paid $165m for a mansion in Beverly Hills. On February 18th he announced that he would be spending $10bn (around 8% of his fortune) setting up the Bezos Earth Fund. Climate change, he said, was the biggest threat facing humanity, and the fund’s resources would be available to any effort that offered a “real possibility to help preserve and protect the natural world”. Mr Bezos has long been gripped by an environmentalist dream—albeit…