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The EconomistThe Economist

The Economist

November 16, 2019

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The Economist Newspaper Limited
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51 Issues


access_time8 min.
the world this week

Politics Unrest flared again in Hong Kong after a protester died. Another was shot at close range by a police officer, allegedly while trying to grab his gun. A man was set on fire by demonstrators after remonstrating with them. One senior officer said society was on the “brink of a total breakdown”. The Chinese government said Hong Kong was “sliding into the abyss of terrorism”. China’s president, Xi Jinping, paid a visit to Greece, an important partner in the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative, which aims to improve global infrastructure. The two countries said they would work to “overcome any obstacles” facing a Chinese state-owned company’s plan to upgrade the port of Piraeus. Mr Xi promised support for Greece’s campaign to secure the return of the Elgin marbles from Britain. India’s Supreme…

access_time3 min.
was there a coup in bolivia?

THERE ARE few more emotive words in Latin America than “coup”, and for good reason. From 1930 to the 1970s, the region suffered the frequent overthrow of civilian governments in often bloody military putsches. The victims were usually of the left. In 1954 a moderate reforming government in Guatemala was ousted in the name of anti-communism by the CIA. Other coups followed, including that of General Augusto Pinochet against Salvador Allende, a radical socialist, in Chile in 1973. Since the democratisation of the region in the 1980s, coups have been rare. But the very idea has become a potent propaganda tool, especially for leftists. Scarcely a week goes by without Nicolás Maduro, Venezuela’s fraudulently elected dictator, claiming that he is threatened by one. Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua says the same. Dilma…

access_time3 min.
dependants’ day

MANY WORKERS in the private sector no longer have them. But most public-sector employees in America are still entitled to a valuable benefit: a pension linked to their final salary. A long-standing problem is that states and cities, which fund their plans differently from the federal government, have been lax about putting aside enough money to cover these promises. The resulting black hole is becoming ever more alarming (see Finance section). Although the American stockmarket has been hitting record highs, the average public-sector pension fund has a bigger deficit in percentage terms than it did in either 2000, or the start of this decade. In some states and cities schemes are less than 50% funded; Illinois has six of the worst. The cost of pension promises has risen because people are living…

access_time4 min.
unlock that door

IMAGINE YOU are offered a job at triple your salary. But first you must pass through a locked door, and someone with the key won’t open it. You might be willing to pay them to let you through. Whether this is fair or not is beside the point. They have the key and you don’t. If you gave them a portion of the increase in your wages, you would both be better off. This is not a bad analogy for global immigration policy. When migrants move from a poor country to a rich one, they typically make three to six times as much money as before (see our Special report in this issue). If everyone who wanted to migrate were allowed to do so, the world would by one estimate be…

access_time3 min.
sink or swim

“NO PIECE OF hardware better exemplifies America’s military might than an aircraft-carrier,” declare the memoirs of Ashton Carter, America’s defence secretary in 2015-17. Nor does any other piece of hardware so plainly exemplify what is wrong with America’s military thinking. Aircraft-carriers are the largest and most expensive machines in the history of warfare. A new American Ford-class ship costs $13bn—more than the annual defence budget of Poland or Pakistan. However, as precision missiles become faster, more accurate and more numerous, these beasts look increasingly like giant floating targets. Although America has by far the world’s largest fleet of carriers—11 of the full-sized sort, plus half a dozen smaller ones—their appeal is global, and growing. China’s first domestically built carrier will be commissioned within months. Britain’s second modern carrier began its sea…

access_time5 min.

Warren’s classical economics The Economist is concerned about Elizabeth Warren’s “dubious…vilification of business” (“A plan for American capitalism”, October 26th). Yet the principles that lie behind the Democratic presidential candidate’s proposals are similar to those found in parts of Adam Smith’s “The Wealth of Nations”. He too argued that wide gaps between the classes are dangerous and thought that the most scrupulous and suspicious attention should be paid to any policy plans coming from businessmen. In recent decades gains from productivity increases have been monopolised by the wealthy, a contrast to Smith’s belief that productivity gains from the division of labour lift the lowest ranks of people. Ms Warren advocates a return to the Glass-Steagall Act; Smith also called for the careful regulation of banking. It is right to be concerned about excessive…