Opinion

Public Spheres for the Trump Age

BERKELEY – In many societies, universities are the main bastions of ideological and intellectual independence. We count on them to transmit our values to the young, and to support short- and long-run inquiries into the human condition. In Donald Trump’s America, they are more important than ever.


Unlike universities, for-profit media enterprises have never been up to the task of nurturing a robust “public sphere.” Inevitably, their coverage reflects enormous pressure to please the base – their advertisers or investors – or at least to avoid giving offense. That is why the American writer and political commentator Walter Lippmann – no stranger to journalism – ultimately put his trust in public intellectuals working in universities, think tanks, or other niches.

For most of the post-war era, the for-profit media’s structural deformities were relatively harmless. The far right, having unleashed Nazism and fascism on the world was in political exile. And the far left had its own albatross: “really existing socialism” in the Soviet bloc was murderous and unproductive.

This left only the North Atlantic triptych of political democracy, free markets, and social insurance. Technocratic debates about how to achieve the greatest good for the most people could proceed without the baggage of deranged ideologies. The West was living through the “end of ideology”; or, even more optimistically, the “end of history.”

But now we are confronting what Lawrence Summers calls “the challenges of the Trump era,” and the stakes could not be higher. In a recent commentary for the Financial Times, Summers laments that universities, in particular, have failed to rise to today’s challenges.

For starters, Summers rightly calls for universities to do more to “recruit, admit, and educate economically disadvantaged students.” When universities accept only the well prepared, they are not just being lazy. They are also failing their students, faculty, and the communities they serve. Underprivileged students who are less prepared than their peers should not be blamed for the circumstances into which they were born.

In economic terms, it is a university’s job to maximize its educational “value added,” which means that it should seek out the students who stand to benefit the most from its services. And, once admitted, these students should be afforded what they need to complete their studies.

Summers is also right to find it “terrifying that the US now has its first post-rational president who denies science, proposes arithmetically unsound budgets, and embraces alternative facts.” Universities, Summers points out, should “be bulwarks for honest, open debate as a route towards greater truth.” Indeed, universities are venues for not just expressing but evaluating ideas. We should cultivate intellectual diversity; but we also must reject failed, unsound, or fraudulent ideas.

For this reason, university faculty and students may proffer any argument or idea that they deem worthy of further investigation. And they should be free to invite speakers who share their perspective. Summers is right that a university is no place for “giving a heckler’s veto to those who want to carry the day with the strength of their feeling rather than the force of their argument.”

And yet there is some conflict between rejecting failed ideas and maintaining intellectual diversity. One rule of thumb, offered 70 years ago by the historian Ernst Kantorowicz, is that those who advance an idea have an obligation to “their conscience and their God” to be sincere about it.

Consider the example Summers cites: Charles Murray’s visit to Middlebury College, which resulted in large student demonstrations. I saw Murray discuss his notorious book, The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life, back in the mid-1990s, and I was not impressed. And since then, Murray’s ideas – especially his claims about IQ and race – have not been well received.

So, to my mind, if Murray was invited, he should be allowed to speak. But the Middlebury students who invited him also owe it to their consciences, their God, and the rest of us to explain in good faith why they think his ideas are still worthy of consideration.

One area where I disagree with Summers concerns his defense of meritocracy. Suggesting that meritocracy is an unalloyed good ignores the provenance of the term, which the sociologist Michael Young coined in his 1958 dystopian satire The Rise of the Meritocracy.

Summers laments that college faculty are now being “trained that it is wrong and even racist to say that ‘America is a land of opportunity’ or that ‘meritocracy is a good thing.’” But whether such statements are objectionable depends on the context in which they are uttered. It is fine to encourage promising young people to work hard. But the meritocracy we have is an untrustworthy arbiter of individual worth, given how much it discriminates against those who, through no fault of their own, are not prepared to fulfill its criteria for success.

At this point in discussions about today’s universities, the term “safe space” often crops up. To be sure, universities should be safe spaces for exchanging and judging ideas, and for changing one’s mind in the face of new arguments and evidence. Summers, for his part, is right that “a liberal education that does not cause moments of acute discomfort is a failure.” But he errs in not acknowledging that some students experience acute discomfort by being made to feel as though they do not belong.

As communities of speech and debate, universities are vulnerable to disruption, which is why civility, as Summers rightly emphasizes, must be upheld. Moreover, campus turmoil is often perceived as a sign of societal disorder. Summers cites the historian Rick Perlstein to remind us that Ronald Reagan’s political rise in the 1960s partly reflected his “railing against” the student protests at the University of California, Berkeley, at the time. Summers suspects that campus radicalism is on the rise again, and that “the political effects will be about the same now as they were then.” Donald Trump, one suspects, is counting on it.

J. Bradford DeLong, a former deputy assistant US Treasury secretary, is Professor of Economics at the University of California at Berkeley and a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research.

By J. Bradford DeLong

Should China Deleverage?

BEIJING – China’s mounting debt problem recently moved into the spotlight when Moody’s downgraded the country’s sovereign rating. But was the downgrade really warranted?


Though China’s overall debt-to-GDP ratio is not an outlier among emerging-market economies, and its levels of household and government debt are moderate, its corporate debt-to-GDP ratio, at 170%, is the highest in the world, twice as large as that of the United States. China’s corporate leverage (debt-to-equity) ratio is also very high, and rising.

A high and rising debt-to-GDP ratio, which goes hand in hand with a high and rising leverage ratio, can lead to financial crisis through three channels. The first is the deterioration of the quality of financial institutions’ assets, and the decline in the price of those assets. With institutions forced by mark-to-market accounting to write off an equal amount of equity, the leverage ratio rises, leading to a further deterioration in asset quality and decline in asset prices.

The second channel is refusal by investors, concerned about the rising leverage ratio, to roll over short-term debt. This causes the money market to seize up, forcing banks and other financial institutions to tighten credit and raise interest rates, thereby further weakening borrowers’ debt-service capacity. Defaults proliferate and the volume of nonperforming loans rises.

The third way a high debt-to-GDP ratio can lead to crisis is by driving banks and nonbank financial institutions, unable to secure sufficient capital, into bankruptcy. In this case, the public could panic and withdraw their cash, fueling a run on deposits that could lead to the collapse of the entire financial system.

But none of these scenarios seems like a real risk for China, at least not in the foreseeable future. China is, after all, a highly frugal country, with gross savings totaling 48% of GDP. As a result, loanable funds are abundant, and funding costs can be kept low. Therefore, China has more scope than other countries to maintain a high debt-to-GDP ratio.

Moreover, because China’s debt consists overwhelmingly of loans by state-owned banks to state-owned enterprises, depositors and investors feel confident (rightly or wrongly) that their assets carry an implicit government guarantee. And not only is the government’s fiscal position relatively strong; it also has $3 trillion in foreign-exchange reserves – a sum that far exceeds China’s overseas debts. China’s government could, if it so chose, bail out banks in trouble, preventing contagious bankruptcies.

Mitigating the debt risk further, China’s capital account remains largely closed, enabling the government to block capital flight and gain sufficient time to deal with unexpected financial events. It helps, too, that the People’s Bank of China stands ready to inject liquidity into the money market whenever necessary.

None of this is to say that China’s high level of corporate debt is not a cause for concern. But it does imply that deleveraging may not be as urgent as many seem to think, especially at a time when China has another, more pressing policy imperative to pursue – one that could be undermined by rapid deleveraging.

For years, China has been in the grips of overcapacity-driven deflation. The producer-price index (PPI) has declined in year-on-year terms for 54 consecutive months, while the annual rise in the consumer-price index (CPI) is hovering around 1.5%. In October 2016, PPI growth turned positive, suggesting that the debt-deflationary spiral may have been broken. But, after a few good months, the sequential growth rate of PPI has turned negative again, suggesting that now is no time to test fate on deflation.

This is all the more true at a time when the government is clamping down on runaway real-estate prices – an effort that is likely to deter investment, thereby weakening economic growth in the next six months. In this context, a wrong move could tip China back into a debt-deflationary spiral – which would pose a more acute threat to China’s economic stability than the risks stemming from the debt-to-GDP ratio.

Still, Moody’s points out, China’s debt-to-GDP ratio is a serious problem. Moreover, to justify its downgrade, it argues that the government’s efforts to maintain robust growth will result in sustained policy stimulus, which will contribute to even higher debt throughout the economy.

But this reading fails to distinguish between the long-term trend of the debt-to-GDP ratio when the economy grows at its potential rate and the real-time debt-to-GDP ratio when the economy grows at a below-potential rate. When an economy is growing at roughly its potential rate, as China’s is today, it makes no sense to lower the growth target below that rate.

To be sure, China does have reason to implement economic stimulus. The overcapacity that, until recently, dominated the Chinese economy was rooted partly in a lack of aggregate demand (and partly in wasteful overinvestment).

In an ideal world, China’s government could respond by stimulating household consumption. But, in the absence of further reforms in areas like social security, growth in consumer spending is bound to be slow. In the meantime, the government must rely on an expansionary fiscal policy to encourage infrastructure investment, even if it means raising the debt-to-GDP ratio.

Such an initiative should also entail improved financing opportunities – including lower borrowing costs – for small and medium-size enterprises. Meanwhile, the rise in the corporate debt-to-GDP ratio could be stemmed by efforts to improve capital efficiency, boost enterprise profitability, narrow the difference between credit flows and credit-financed investment, increase the share of equity finance, and align the real interest rate with the natural interest rate.

There is no doubt that China’s debts – especially its corporate debts – are a serious problem, and must be curbed. But China must balance that imperative with the more urgent need to maintain a growth rate more or less in line with potential, and prevent the economy from being tipped back into a debt-deflationary spiral. So far, China has managed to juggle these two imperatives. One hopes that it has time to address the challenges before it drops a ball.

Yu Yongding, a former president of the China Society of World Economics and director of the Institute of World Economics and Politics at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, served on the Monetary Policy Committee of the People’s Bank of China from 2004 to 2006.

By Yu Yongding

The Changing Geopolitics of European Emotion

PARIS – A new triangle of geopolitical emotion has emerged in Europe: Great Britain has ceased feeling superior to France, and France has stopped feeling inferior to Germany. The question is whether this sentimental transformation will ultimately reorder the balance of power in Europe, and possibly the world.


Developments currently underway in Britain and France will prove decisive. It remains to be seen how the British repair the damage they are inflicting upon themselves through the Brexit quagmire. And it is still unclear if the French can harness the strong and positive energy of their new president, Emmanuel Macron, to implement badly needed reforms.

But even as those uncertainties play out, both countries are engaging in a kind of zero-sum transfer of emotions that is impossible to ignore. In the past, traveling to London from Paris, one could easily sense the difference between the two cities. London was bursting with dynamism, and proud to assert itself as the world capital of multiculturalism. Paris, although undeniably more beautiful, was in danger of becoming a new Rome, a prisoner of its past glory, at best a place to visit, but not a place to be.

Today, confidence has been sucked out of Britain by social and political upheaval, terrorism, and uncertainty about the country’s future. According to some opinion polls, while those who voted for Brexit stand by their decision, anti-European Union sentiment has waned, and the will to leave the EU has abated. Voters seem to be wrestling with how their departure will make the United Kingdom safer or address the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable.

In France, by contrast, one feels a new and positive energy. Hope for a better future has returned, reflected in the French public’s overwhelming support for Paris’s bid to host the 2024 Summer Olympics. Hosting the games, a global symbol of positive expectations, lifted the UK’s spirits 12 years ago, in July 2005, when London was awarded the 2012 Summer Olympics. (The celebration was cut short, however, when terrorists attacked the London transport system the following day).

Of course, French optimism does not mean that those defeated at the ballot box will not take to the streets, especially to oppose the implementation of reforms to French labor laws. But the opposition is now a minority in a country where the mood is lighter, even cheerful. That is true even if one takes into consideration the record-low voter turnout in the recent legislative elections.

The current mood reminds me of the atmosphere that briefly prevailed in France in July 1998, after “Les Tricolores” triumphed over Brazil in the final of the soccer World Cup. But this time, the feeling of elation may run deeper and last longer. The economic environment in Europe is more favorable, and the balance of power among French trade unions is shifting in favor of the reform-minded Confédération française démocratique du travail, and away from the more ideological Confédération générale du travail.

A combination of leadership talent and continuing luck means that, for the first time in decades in France, a prudent optimism may be justified. To paraphrase the Italian political theorist Antonio Gramsci, one could speak of a justified “optimism of the intellect” in France.

As a result of Macron’s election, and British Prime Minister Theresa May’s failed bet that the snap general election she called earlier this month would enable her to negotiate Brexit from a position of strength, France is now influencing the direction of Europe far more than Britain is. The only country of the EU’s “Big Three” that has remained stable is Germany, in anticipation of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s reelection in September.

Italy would love to replace the UK in Europe’s power trio. But Italy must get its own act together first. Former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who is trying to push his way back to the top, is not an Italian Macron. Whatever talent and energy Renzi may have, he lacks Macron’s gravitas and understanding of the electorate.

Meanwhile, a new and better balance between Germany and France implies significant progress for European stabilization. Europe’s problem, contrary to what many critics have claimed, has not been “too much Germany.” It has been “too little France.” A “French moment” can therefore mean a “European moment,” if it means reconstituting an effective Franco-German alliance.

Americans, too, must understand the shifts that are taking place in Europe. A few days ago, at an international conference in Venice, a conservative Republican urged Europeans to “stop criticizing the Trump administration the way you do.” Otherwise, he warned, “The only result is that we will become much worse. And do you really want to be left alone with a very strong Germany?”

Disregarding the implied threat, the idea that the alternative to America is to be “left alone” with a “very strong Germany” is amusing. Germany, after all, has never wanted to be alone atop the EU; and now, with Macron’s makeover of French politics, it will not need to be.

Emotions may not be sufficient to explain all political realities. But the shift in national mood in Britain and France is undeniable, and it will play an increasingly important role in defining the politics of Europe.

Dominique Moisi is Senior Counselor at the Institut Montaigne in Paris. He is the author of La Géopolitique des Séries ou le triomphe de la peur.

Who Does Business Represent?

CAMBRIDGE – On whose behalf do business associations speak? Well, business. But who is “business”? It’s an increasingly urgent question, because while firms have radically changed how they think about themselves, business associations have yet to catch up. And the resulting lag is making capitalism less legitimate in many countries.


The traditional view of the firm – shared by both Karl Marx and Milton Friedman – is that it is an organization owned by capitalists (shareholders), on whose behalf it is run. It hires workers and buys other inputs to maximize returns for those who put up the money. According to Friedman, the social responsibility of the firm is to increase profits. Any goal that does not directly benefit shareholders is just another distortionary tax.

But what makes all of a firm’s stakeholders behave in a way that maximizes value? In fact, modern corporations struggle to create a sense of a collaborative community of employees, managers, suppliers, lenders, distributors, service providers, customers, and shareholders, all cooperating to create value by better satisfying customer needs and aspirations.

That’s why United Airlines would prefer that its employees treat passengers with grace. Or why Goldman Sachs wishes its bankers would not aid and abet massive corruption. Apple expects its suppliers to treat their workers humanely. UnitedHealthcare hopes its employees manage reimbursements honestly. Uber’s shareholders worry that misbehavior by senior executives may cause customers to switch service providers and valuable workers to quit.

To create functioning collaborative organizations, humans have evolved a sense of “us,” a feeling of belonging to what the historian and political scientist Benedict Anderson famously called an “imagined community.” We owe such communities our loyalty, and we feel pride in their achievements, pain in their stumbles, and hope for their continued success. We cooperate not just because it is in our cold pecuniary interest to do so, but because a cocktail of moral sentiments – loyalty, pride, guilt, shame, outrage, glee – make us work and root for our team.

Anderson’s focus was the rise of nationalism. But corporations try to create an analogous sense of allegiance by specifying their mission, vision, and values in lofty terms. When Chase Manhattan Bank bought J.P. Morgan in 2000, its managers assumed that they had also acquired the right to rename the organization. They soon discovered that J.P. Morgan was a more prestigious imagined community than Chase in the eyes of its customers and employees.

It is easy to see why the vision of the firm as a collaborative community is winning out in business schools and the most successful companies. One reason is that in most publicly traded corporations, shareholders are passive investors who just want to know enough about the firm to decide whether to buy or sell; they do not want to get involved in decisions.

At the same time, creating a sense of allegiance and trust by stakeholders facilitates running the show. A narrow focus on shareholders’ interests would impel all other stakeholders to pursue their narrow interests as well, increasing strife and transaction costs. The CEO may be appointed by a board of directors whose members are chosen by the shareholders, but he or she is supposed to represent and motivate the network of stakeholders that underpin the corporation’s success. The Fellows of the Harvard Corporation appoint my employer’s president, but they try to choose someone who will make us stakeholders proud.

And yet the social and political representation of business more closely resembles Friedman’s archetype. Business associations too frequently speak only on behalf of the narrow interest of the capitalist owners. In country after country – whether in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, France, Mexico, or the United Kingdom – business organizations give political voice to employers, not to the network of stakeholders.

Political representation of business per se, if well conceived, is invaluable for society. After all, economic progress requires that the invisible hand of the market be coordinated with the visible hand of the state. The cellphone industry requires the creation of property rights on the spectrum. The real estate industry needs to convince customers that their apartment building will not burn down. The IT industry would benefit if kids learned to code in school.

As these and many other examples show, business can become more efficient if governments provide the right combination of a diverse, relatively specific, and evolving set of public goods. Business associations need to interact with government in order to identify those public goods that would make economic ecosystems more productive, so that they can create more value for stakeholders.

But that task is burdened by the perception that those at the table are there to represent employers’ narrow interests, as their policy agenda – often focused on shifting the burden of taxation onto others – clearly suggests. As a consequence, governments often require that they meet in the presence of labor associations, so that employees also get a voice.

Setting the table in this tripartite way dramatically changes the nature of the conversation, by focusing it on labor and other distributive issues that could be resolved within the business network, at the expense of addressing how to supply productivity-enhancing public goods that could benefit all stakeholders. And it happens because the transformation in the conception of what a business is has yet to be reflected in the conception of what a business association should be.

Naturally, this lag leads to confrontation with other stakeholders, who must respond with their respective organizations. But if business associations could transform themselves so that they represented and gave voice to the network of stakeholders on which businesses are actually built, they could contribute enormously to the creation of a much more collaborative and inclusive society.

Ricardo Hausmann, a former minister of planning of Venezuela and former Chief Economist of the Inter-American Development Bank, is Director of the Center for International Development at Harvard University and a professor of economics at the Harvard Kennedy School.

By Ricardo Hausmann

House passes Financing Agreement

The House of Representatives on Tuesday, 27 June passed into law the Financing Agreement for the Third Poverty Reduction Support Development Policy Operation (PRSDPIII) to help government realize its goals and objectives in the effective implementation of the Economic Stabilization Recovery Plan.

A communication from President Ellen Johnson - Sirleaf says the Financing Agreement was entered into between the Government of Liberia and the International Development Association.

The Liberian chief executive says the purpose of this Financing Agreement is to help government realize its goals and objectives in the effective implementation of the Economic Stabilization Recovery Plan that was adopted after the Ebola Virus Disease outbreak and mitigation of the fiscal gap for fiscal year 2016/2017.

She notes that this financing when ratified into law will enable the government achieve these adjectives and improve the economic conditions that will help to alleviate poverty and make citizens self - efficient.

After President Sirleaf sent the bill to the House of Representatives for ratification, it was overwhelmingly passed by majority members of the House.
--Edited by Winston W. Parley

Youth advocate blasts politicians

A youth advocate Alexander Richards Martin has blasted Liberian politicians, suggesting that they should not be trusted with state power because of their inconsistency. He made the assertions on Monday, 26 June when he addressed the 44th graduation exercise of the Sister Henry Dennis Memorial Institute in Lower Johnsonville Township, outside Monrovia.


Basing his speech on “Four Reasons Why You Not Trust Politicians”, Mr. Martin claims that politicians here are not development oriented and lack the ability to change the people’s living standards in term of job creation, poverty reduction and education enhancement.

Mr. Martin alleges that those seeking state power are associated with “human blood”, expressing hope that God will prevent them from becoming president of the country.
He strongly warns the graduates, most of whom appear to be potential first time voters for the October elections not to be carried away by the lies and deceptions of so-called politicians who only want to be president at the detriment of the suffering and poverty - striking population.

He blames politicians for the bad state of the country’s economy due to their alleged continuous greed and selfish interest, saying they want everything for themselves while leaving the people in acute poverty and disease.
Mr. Martin uses the occasion to caution parents here not to compel their children to vote for failed politicians on grounds that they have nothing in them that the country and its people can depend on.
Meanwhile, the Chairman of the School Board Mrs. Winifred Jackson - Cooper says the time has come for the youthful population of the country to make maximum use of the 2017 president and representative elections to weed out individuals she refers to as “Pocket Politicians.”
57 students of the institution were awarded certificates while few were given special honors for their academic excellence during the school year.
--Edited by Winston W. Parley

Supporting the Developing World’s Health Innovators

DHAKA – In 2012, the London Declaration on Neglected Tropical Diseases signaled a bold new vision for international cooperation, in which networking and globalization could underpin efforts in the global South to eradicate deadly diseases that disproportionately affect the poorest communities. The London Declaration – the largest global public-health collaboration to date – helped to foster trust in the rules-based global order that emerged after World War II.


But this hard-earned trust is now in grave danger as populist forces across the Western world take aim at their countries’ foreign-aid commitments. In particular, President Donald Trump has announced sweeping cuts to the United States’ international aid budget, in order to appease economically frustrated US voters who want their tax money spent at home. What this approach fails to recognize is that the long-term rewards of supporting medical research in the global South far outweigh the short-term costs.

As a Bangladeshi researcher at the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (icddr,b), I have been intimately involved in local efforts to eradicate visceral leishmaniasis (VL, also known as kala-azar), one of the diseases covered by the London Declaration. Thanks to generous support from international donors, I have been able to conduct path-breaking research in the field.

Back in 2006, through research funded by the World Health Organization’s Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (TDR), I found virtually no sandfly-control initiatives in place in districts where VL – spread by a single species of sandfly – was endemic. That realization was a wake-up call to policymakers and led to the initiation of sandfly-control efforts throughout the country.

Years later, as part of UBS Optimus Foundation-funded research into household-level insect-control methods, my team found that a novel technology – durable wall linings soaked with the insecticide deltamethrin – was effective at killing sandflies for up to a year after application. We are currently testing other durable insect-control solutions, including wall paints blended with three different insecticides.

This work has implications beyond VL – and beyond Bangladesh. Indoor spraying remains the most widely used method of household insect control worldwide. But in isolated rural communities, the solutions that we are researching may be more robust, convenient, and effective against not just sandflies, but also other kinds of disease-carrying insects, such as Zika-infected mosquitos.

I have also been engaged in research on novel types of VL transmission. After recovering from VL, many patients in Bangladesh go on to develop a condition known as macular post-kala-azar dermal leishmaniasis. In order to find out whether PKDL patients can act as a reservoir for VL – and therefore boost our capacity to eradicate the disease – my team and I have set up an insectarium to breed sterile sandflies.

Our insectarium – funded by the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative and the Spanish Foundation for International Cooperation – is one of just seven in the world (with the majority located in developed countries). It amounts to a permanent and valuable resource for research into vector control and disease transmission in Bangladesh.

Already, the insectarium has facilitated important progress. Recent pilot experiments showed that macular PKDL can act as a source of infection, with the results published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases. We are also using the insectarium to test insecticide resistance and susceptibility in captive sandflies – research that will support the optimization of sandfly-control strategies throughout the Indian subcontinent.

Of course, a key element of any strategy to eradicate disease is early and effective diagnosis. When it comes to VL, standard diagnoses rely on the detection of circulating antibodies in blood or urine. But, because antibodies persist in the blood even after recovery, this method falsely identifies healthy, non-contagious patients as needing treatment. While a DNA-based diagnostic test provides more accurate results, the methods currently used rely on expensive equipment like thermal cyclers and functioning cold chains.

So my team went to work to develop a system for enabling DNA-based diagnosis in low-resource settings. Using an isothermal DNA amplification method, called recombinase polymerase amplification, we developed a cold-chain-independent method for detecting VL, which we then incorporated into a solar-powered mobile “lab suitcase” that can be used easily in rural settings.

We are now trying to repurpose that suitcase, so that it can also enable the diagnosis of typhoid fever and tuberculosis, further revolutionizing disease surveillance in poor and rural communities. In other words, the development of cold-chain-independent disease detection, like the rest of our research and innovations, has far-reaching implications for global health.

Yet all of the success we have achieved over the last two decades is now at risk. Donor agencies, facing reduced aid from major players like the US, could be forced to withdraw funding for the kind of research described here. With Bangladesh unable to pick up the slack, life-saving projects like ours will collapse; the long-term resources we have developed, from the insectarium to new diagnostic devices, will have to be abandoned; and the developing world’s poorest communities will suffer.

More is at stake than generosity. Aid donors accrue important benefits from financing scientific research in the global South, beginning with reinforcement of the trust that underpins the fragile international order on which we all depend. More directly, supporting the development of low-cost health innovations could play a vital role in reducing the now-colossal health-care expenditure of advanced countries like the US. Those savings could, in the long term, easily offset the cost of supporting the life-saving work of organizations like icddr,b. Dinesh Mondal is a senior scientist in the Nutrition and Infection Interaction Research Unit at icddr,b.

By Dinesh Mondal

The Underside of Uber

LONDON – The car-hailing app Uber’s board members and investors have received an outpouring of praise in recent days for forcing CEO Travis Kalanick to resign. They don’t deserve it. On the contrary, while Kalanick did indeed need to go, the move was long overdue – and it was delayed for all the wrong reasons.


Founded in 2009 as “UberCab” in San Francisco, Uber has grown from an innovative startup to a $68 billion global behemoth at an astonishing rate. With the help of multiple rounds of financing from major investors, including Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and Goldman Sachs, it has emerged as a massive industry disruptor, operating in 570 cities worldwide, in less than a decade.

But the company’s rapid ascent has been accompanied by a steady stream of revelations of dubious behavior, from violating customers’ privacy and deceiving local government regulators to mistreating drivers. When guests at its Chicago launch party in 2011 were entertained by the company’s “God View” system, which allowed them to see the whereabouts of all current drivers and riders, it was a clear privacy violation, but the demonstration at least kept its subjects anonymous.

The next one, at the same event, did not: it showed in real time the location and movements of 30 named people in Uber cars in New York City. It was a breathtaking – and breathtakingly casual – breach of trust. Yet the company faced only negligible repercussions: after a little bad press, it was back to business as usual.

In 2014, an Uber executive used the God View system to track a reporter without her permission. Another noted that he could dig up dirt on a reporter who had criticized the company. Again, after a flurry of news reports, Uber continued its forward march unchanged and undeterred, its investors silent.

The same year, a woman in India was raped by her driver. Uber had failed to conduct a proper background check on the driver, and then proceeded to violate the woman again, by obtaining and distributing her medical records internally.

These events are illustrative of a larger pattern and attitude. From the outset, Uber has tried, time and again, to railroad lawmakers in cities around the world, arrogantly ignoring safety rules and regulations. More recently, it was revealed that Uber may have been tracking and profiling individual drivers, as part of a so-called “Hell” program aimed at determining, among other things, the status of competitors’ drivers, including whether its own drivers also worked for its competitors.

Kalanick, who declared in 2012, “I like pissing people off,” was the most directly responsible for these decisions, and recent news coverage of Uber has rightly held him up as a poster child for leadership gone wrong. But Kalanick was no Übermensch, unbound by rules intended for mere mortals. He could not have continued on his destructive path if not for the investors and board members who – hungry for profits and full of excuses – allowed misogyny, disregard for ethics, and poor judgment to become entwined in the company’s managerial fabric.

In fact, until recently, neither Uber’s board nor its other investors treated Kalanick’s attitudes toward privacy, workers’ rights, and women as serious issues, much less fireable offenses. They were too busy buying into – and, indeed, encouraging – Kalanick, who was often described in nod-and-wink terms like “brash” and “disruptive.” And each time an ethical misstep amounted to nothing, Kalanick’s – and, by extension, the company’s – sense of impunity intensified, enabling him and others to continue to push the boundaries of business ethics and human decency.

Even now that Uber has been forced to confront its failings, there are doubts about its commitment to change. Yes, Kalanick is out. And Uber’s board hired former Attorney General Eric Holder to review concerns surrounding the company. But will Holder’s recommendations – more than 40 in all – be implemented?

During a company meeting on the day Holder’s report was released, Uber board member David Bonderman equated the addition of more women board members with “more talking.” For a company facing sexual harassment claims, the comment displayed more than poor taste; it showed an appalling failure to grasp the gravity of the situation. The good news is that Bonderman resigned shortly after the meeting, suggesting that the company’s leadership may finally be ready to clean house.

Uber’s experience should serve as a cautionary tale for boards and investors far beyond Silicon Valley. Innovation and disruption are not the problem – far from it. But they must be linked to a sense of responsibility and corporate governance that ensures accountability.

For board members, this means recognizing the importance of a firm hand, beginning in the startup phase. For investors, it means looking beyond short-term returns, in order to avoid the damage to a company’s long-term health and wellbeing that can result when relationships with customers, suppliers, employees, and the communities in which it operates are not properly maintained. A company that allows disregard for ethics to become entrenched risks paying a steep price – as do its investors.

As for Uber itself, it may not be too late, though the company faces a long and difficult road ahead. The company needs root-and-branch change, accompanied by a genuine and concerted effort to rebuild trust with customers, drivers, partners, and lawmakers. Only then can it move past not just the lawsuits it faces, but also the public mistrust that could irreparably harm its future performance.

If Uber’s leaders fully commit to such a transformation, they could achieve one of the great turnaround stories of our time. If they don’t, Uber will become an acquisition target or, worse, a zombie company, unable to compete with more vital competitors that learn from it what not to do. Lucy P. Marcus is CEO of Marcus Venture Consulting.

By Lucy Marcus

Who Will Fill America’s Shoes?

NEW YORK – It is increasingly clear that US President Donald Trump represents a departure when it comes to America’s global outlook and behavior. As a result, the United States will no longer play the leading international role that has defined its foreign policy for three quarters of a century, under Democratic and Republican presidents alike.


We have already seen many examples of this change. The traditional US commitment to global organizations has been superseded by the idea of “America first.” Alliances and security guarantees once regarded as a given are increasingly conditioned on how much allies spend on defense and whether they are seen to derive unfair advantage from trade with the US.

More broadly, foreign trade is viewed with suspicion – supposedly a source of job loss rather than an engine of investment, job creation, growth, and stability. Immigration and refugee policies have become more restrictive. Less emphasis is being placed on promoting democracy and human rights. More dollars are going to defense, but fewer resources are being devoted to supporting global health or development.

This is not to be confused with isolationism. Even Trump’s America will continue to play a meaningful role in the world. It is using military force in the Middle East and Afghanistan, increasing diplomatic pressure on North Korea to rein in its nuclear and missile programs, and renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico. And the policies of states, cities, and companies will translate into an American commitment to climate change, despite Trump’s decision to abandon the Paris agreement.

Still, a shift away from a US-dominated world of structured relationships and standing institutions and toward something else is under way. What this alternative will be, however, remains largely unknowable. What we do know is that there is no alternative great power willing and able to step in and assume what had been the US role.

China is a frequently mentioned candidate, but its leadership is focused mostly on consolidating domestic order and maintaining artificially high economic-growth rates to stave off popular unrest. China’s interest in regional and global institutions seems designed mostly to bolster its economy and geopolitical influence, rather than to help set rules and create broadly beneficial arrangements.

Likewise, Russia is a country with a narrowly-based economy led by a government focused on retaining power at home and re-establishing Russian influence in the Middle East and Europe. India is preoccupied with the challenge of economic development and is tied down by its problematic relationship with Pakistan. Japan is held back by its declining population, domestic political and economic constraints, and its neighbors’ suspicions.

Europe, for its part, is distracted by questions surrounding the relationship between member states and the European Union. As a result, the whole of the continent is less than the sum of its parts – none of which is large enough to succeed America on the world stage.

But the absence of a single successor to the US does not mean that what awaits is chaos. At least in principle, the world’s most powerful countries could come together to fill America’s shoes. In practice, though, this will not happen, as these countries lack the capabilities, experience, and, above all, a consensus on what needs doing and who needs to do it.

A more likely development is the emergence of a mix of order and disorder at both the regional and global level. China will promote various trade, infrastructure, and security mechanisms in Asia. The 11 remaining members of the Trans-Pacific Partnership may launch their trade pact without the US.

Less clear is whether China is prepared to use its influence to restrain North Korea, how India and Pakistan will avoid conflict, and the resolution of Asia’s many territorial disputes. It is all too easy to imagine an Asian and Pacific future characterized by higher spending on arms of all types – and thus more susceptible to violent conflict.

The Middle East is already suffering unprecedented instability, the result of local rivalries and realities, and of 15 years during which the US arguably first did too much and then too little to shape the region’s future. The immediate danger is not just further deterioration in failed states such as Yemen, Syria, and Libya, but also direct conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Europe may be something of an exception to such trends, as the election of President Emmanuel Macron in France has given rise to a government that is committed to reforming the EU. But the EU itself faces an uncertain future, given Brexit and slow-motion crises in Italy and Greece, not to mention the potential for additional Russian mischief or worse.

To all of this, one could add the meltdown in Venezuela and the all-too-familiar horrors in South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. And then there is the growing gap between global challenges such as how to govern cyberspace, and the willingness of governments to work together to address them.

There is no little irony in this global turn of events. For decades, many countries criticized US policy, both for what it was and what it was not. These same countries now face the prospect of a world in which American leadership is likely to be less of a factor. It is far from clear that they are prepared for such a world, or that they will find themselves better off in it. Richard N. Haass is the president of the Council on Foreign Relations and the author of A World in Disarray: American Foreign Policy and the Crisis of the Old Order.

By Richard N. Haass

The Dark Side of Voting Technology

NEW YORK – According to an unpublished “kitchen table survey,” conducted before last November’s presidential election in the United States, approximately 95% of the predominantly Hispanic members of one of America’s largest domestic unions preferred the Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton to her Republican opponent Donald Trump. Yet less than 3% of that union’s members actually planned to vote. The reason came down to economics.


For most of the people surveyed, the costs of voting – including lost wages from time off work, transport to the polling station, and the need to secure proper identification (such as a driver’s license or passport) – were simply too large. This reflects a broader trend in the US, with poor Americans often unable to participate fully in their country’s democracy.

According to the US Census Bureau, fewer than half of eligible adults with family incomes of less than $20,000 per year voted in the 2012 presidential election, whereas voter participation among households with incomes of more than $75,000 was 77%. In the 2014 midterm election, the think tank Demos reports, 68.5% of people in households earning less than $30,000 per year didn’t vote.

This is a serious problem. But the proposals most often put forward to address it have serious drawbacks.

The proposed solutions typically focus on digital technology, which many claim would boost voter participation, by lowering the costs of voting. For example, mobile apps have been touted as a means to boost voter turnout: people could vote at their convenience, whether in the break-room at work or from the comfort of their own home.

The idea certainly sounds appealing. In Estonia, which is widely considered to be a leader in the use of voting technology, almost one-quarter of all votes in the 2011 parliamentary election were cast online.

Yet the actual impact of such technology on voter participation remains dubious. Although the rate of online voting in Estonia increased by nearly 20% between the 2007 and 2011 elections there, overall voter turnout increased by fewer than two percentage points (from 61.9% to 63.5%). This suggests that online voting may simply encourage regular voters to change how they cast their ballots, rather than encouraging additional voters to participate.

But voting technology may not just be ineffective; it could actually be damaging. Such technology doesn’t reduce costs only for voters; it also reduces costs for the state, making it easier than ever to conduct elections. The risk is that lower costs would encourage more frequent elections and referenda, thereby undermining the efficiency of government.

At a time of lackluster global economic growth and deteriorating living standards for many, efficient government could not be more important. According to the US Millennium Challenge Corporation, more efficient government helps to reduce poverty, improve education and health care, slow environmental degradation, and combat corruption.

A key feature of an efficient government is long-term thinking. Policymakers must work toward the policy goals that got them elected. But they must also be given enough political room to adjust to new developments, even if it means altering policy timelines.

Amid constant elections and referenda, that isn’t really an option. Instead, policymakers face strong pressure to deliver short-term, voter-pleasing results – or get punished at the polls. The likely result is a shortsighted agenda prone to sudden politically motivated reversals. Beyond hurting political credibility and market confidence, such volatility could create friction between elected politicians and civil-service technocrats, damaging a relationship that is critical to efficient, forward-looking, and fact-based decision-making.

Proponents of referenda hold them up as the epitome of democracy, giving ordinary citizens a direct say over specific policy decisions. But, in a representative democracy, referenda undermine the relationship between the voters and their political leaders, who have been entrusted to make policy on citizens’ behalf.

Ominously, referenda are already becoming an increasingly common – and consequential – feature of policymaking in the Western world. The United Kingdom has held just three referenda in its entire history; but two have been carried out just in the last six years (plus another in Scotland). François Fillon, a candidate for the French presidency, promised two referenda if he won the recent election – and suggested that France needs as many as five.

Elections, too, are becoming more frequent. The average tenure of a G20 political leader has fallen to a record low of 3.7 years, compared to six years in 1946 – a shift that, no doubt, is contributing to a rise in short-term thinking by governments.

It is not yet clear whether voting technology actually does spur greater voter participation. What is clear is that, if it is adopted widely, it could exacerbate trends that are undermining public policy, including governments’ ability to boost economic growth and improve social outcomes.

Reducing barriers to democratic participation for the poorest citizens is a worthy goal. But what good will achieving it do if those citizens’ interests are harmed as a result?

Dambisa Moyo, an economist and author, sits on the board of directors of a number of global corporations.

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