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The Economist

The Economist December 7, 2019

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United States
The Economist Newspaper Limited
51 Issues

in this issue

8 min.
the world this week

Politics The political leaders of NATO countries gathered in London for a meeting. Donald Trump sparred with both Emmanuel Macron, the president of France, who recently described the military alliance as being in a state of “brain-death”, and with Justin Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister, who was caught on camera mocking the American president. Despite these mini-rows, NATO, at 70 years old, is in better shape than it sometimes looks. Germany expelled two Russian diplomats in retaliation for the killing of a Chechen separatist in Berlin in August. The government has been slow to act over the case. Finland’s prime minister, Antti Rinne, resigned after a key political ally withdrew support. He had been in office for just six months. The prime minister of Malta, Joseph Muscat, said he would stand down, though not until…

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 NATO leaders in Britain…

3 min.
system failure

AS MANY ARAB leaders have fallen in the past year as did during the Arab spring. And still the wave of protests over corruption, unemployment and threadbare public services continues to sweep across the Middle East and north Africa. Turnover at the top has not mollified the masses, because rather than producing real change it has reshuffled entrenched elites. Particularly in Iraq and Lebanon, many of the protesters now want to tear down entire political systems. It is a dangerous moment. Yet the protesters are right to call for change. Both Iraq and Lebanon divvy up power among their religions and sects as a way of keeping the peace between them. Lebanon constructed a sectarian political system long before the civil war of 1975-90, and buttressed it afterwards. Iraq’s system was…

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…