Well researched and reasoned Economist piece on the failures of democracy — and what can be done to support it worldwide. Also take note of its beautiful web-friendly, multimedia layout:
"All this has demonstrated that building the institutions needed to sustain democracy is very slow work indeed, and has dispelled the once-popular notion that democracy will blossom rapidly and spontaneously once the seed is planted. Although democracy may be a “universal aspiration”, as Mr Bush and Tony Blair insisted, it is a culturally rooted practice. Western countries almost all extended the right to vote long after the establishment of sophisticated political systems, with powerful civil services and entrenched constitutional rights, in societies that cherished the notions of individual rights and independent judiciaries."
From the Economist Intelligence Unit’s “Hot Spots 2025” report on the future of city competitiveness: “1) New York is the most competitive city today and will remain so in 2025. The city makes gains in almost all major categories. It tops the ranking in terms of ﬁnancial maturity and is among the most competitive on institutional character (2nd) and economic strength (3rd). While building on its strength as the world’s ﬁnancial capital and a magnet of opportunity for people from America and beyond, the city owes its competitive edge in 2025 to improvements in other areas. New York environmental governance still lags behind other cities, but its NYC 2030 plan sets out a credible blueprint for improvement. The quality of healthcare, although not among the best globally, improves in 2025, pushing up the city’s ranking in the human capital category by 20 places to 27th”
The Economist tweeted a link to a wonderful archival article this morning. “The week, to which we are all enslaved, has a strange and erotic history”, which first appeared in print in 2001, recounts the origin of our 7-day week.
Why does The Economist appear every seventh day? The answer is because we, like you, still regulate our lives by a septimal law that Mesopotamian star-gazers framed, and local warlords imposed, more than 40 centuries ago.
The article is a fascinating look into aspects of our lives — time, calendars, weeks, hours, months — so commonplace that we often take them for granted.
And the archival Tweet itself is a great way for publications help readers discover older, yet still relevant, content. Love it.
Here’s an interesting video on how high-frequency, real-time data can be used to take the pulse of the economy. For example, Google noticed that an increase in Google search queries for “coupons” or “discounts” was highly correlated with the onset of the 2008 recession. As Hal Varian, Google’s chief economist explains, Google is now working to uncover more of these correlations and monitor economic shifts as they happen.
I’d love to see more of these instantaneous relationships used for social good. How might digital data predict food shortages or unrest in a community? See the UN’s Global Pulse initiative for further possibilities on how data can be harnessed for social good.
As has been suggested on the blog before, we’re witnessing a flourishing of the “mass intelligent.” Podcast lovers, computer science devotees and people who thrive on big ideas are coming out of the closet, proudly proclaiming their allegiance to all things a little nerdy. And now a new YouTube channel, THNKR, has come along, designed to set the hearts of the mass intelligent aflutter.
As The Economist notes, “Interestingly, the correlation between food security and EIU’s Democracy Index was only 0.77, a much weaker link than with women’s labour equality. This suggests that what happens in the political sphere is a bit less important than what happens on the social sphere, in terms of food.”