By Fareed Zakaria
“Debates over what kind of social welfare system the United States ought to have are always polarizing, from the creation of the Great Society in the 1960s to the Clinton welfare reforms of the 1990s to the Paul Ryan budgets of this era. Conservatives tend to attribute the persistence of poverty, even amid economic growth, to the perverse incentives that a welfare state creates against working,” writes Neil Irwin in the New York Times.
“But the reality is that low-income workers are putting in more hours on the job than they did a generation ago – and the financial rewards for doing so just haven’t increased. That’s the real lesson of the data: If you want to address poverty in the United States, it’s not enough to say that you need to create better incentives for lower-income people to work. You also have to devise strategies that make the benefits of a stronger economy show up in the wages of the people on the edge of poverty, who need it most desperately.”
“Fusion power, they say, is 30 years away…and always will be. Scientists figured out long ago that duplicating the power of the sun would provide us with almost limitless energy. But again and again, we’ve thrown our best brains at the problem and they’ve bounced off it like ping pong balls,” writes Noah Smith for Bloomberg.
“Macroeconomics is a little like fusion power. When the Great Depression hit, economists finally started taking booms and busts seriously. There’s no denying that something weird happens when a country slips into recession – all the same factories and offices and people and ideas are there, but suddenly people aren’t producing as much stuff. Why? John Maynard Keynes, Friedrich Hayek and Irving Fisher wrestled with this question in the 1930s, and their work kicked off a decades-long quest to understand what we now call the business cycle. But almost a century later, despite sending some of our best brains up against the problem, we’ve made frustratingly little progress.”
“The European Union has always been an elitist project. That didn’t matter very much when the union was little more than a western European trade club. But now that it has taken on many of the trappings of a sovereign state – with its own currency, border police, and power to tinker with national budgets – its policies will affect the lives of its citizens much more,” writes Gareth Harding in Foreign Affairs. “Without their support and involvement, the union will wilt like a plant starved of water. To prevent this, the EU needs to be less intrusive and more democratic. But above all it has to show how it changes people’s lives for the better.”