[This fragment is available in an audio version.]

As we’ve slogged through Trump and carbon-loading and Covid, I’ve managed to remain more or less un-depressed and find enough gratifications in day-to-day life to keep the black dog of despair at a distance. But this morning I woke up early and, while the household slept, read most of the May 15th issue of The Economist. And folks, with a very few exceptions, it was pretty well all bad news. I feel an obligation to pass this summary along with a plea: As we relax slowly into post-Covid, maybe try to find a bit of extra energy and put it into politics or philanthropy or some other way to mitigate the awfulness. Our children deserve it.

Economist May 15th 2021 issue cover

I’ve highlighted the good news.

Lead articles · Vaccinating the World: The grim death estimates are undercounts. First doses into poorer arms should take priority but aren’t.

IsraPal: Bibi’s strategy of ignoring the Palestine issue can’t work.

Inflation: Might just be supply-chain constipation.

Corporate Tax Dodging: At unforgivable levels; there’s talk but no action.

USA · Next New York Mayor: The city’s started to shrink.

Cyberattacks; The bad guys are many and the defences laughable.

Homelessness: Awful and growing.

Opioids: Awful — in places worse than Covid — and not getting better.

Evictions: A million per year, no consensus on how to address.

Republicans: Lying liars present a deadly threat to democracy.

The Americas · Post-Covid: Latin-American economy in really rough shape.

Brazil: Starvation setting in, government evil and incompetent.

Costa Rica: Good-ish! No working street-address system but they’re trying to fix it.

Asia · Covid in South-East Asia: Looks like the next India.

Indonesia: Privatizing the vaccination process isn’t working.

Taiwan: Its indigenous people are having a tough time.

India: Covid’s hitting the poorest hardest. Grisly stuff.

The Koreas: North-south dialog LOL ha ha.

Maldives: Nasty-Islamist alert.

China · Sports: Corruption and oppression are bad for sports, especially soccer.

Hockey: That too.

Jobs: Xenophobia and autocracy are bad for international business, so young Chinese head for the civil service.

Middle East & Africa · IsraPal: Israel started this round, nobody knows how to stop it.

Saudi: MBS tries playing nice but isn’t good at it.

Lake Victoria: Fishery in big trouble, brutal remedies probably won’t help.

Somali Camels: Good news! More market transparency and women are getting in.

Nigeria: Post-oil corruption, war, crime, and poverty.

Europe · France: FN fascists looking good in the next elections.

Bulgaria: Prime minister’s a crook and an asshole but apparently on the way out.

Sweden: Good news! They’re building a successful green steel business in the north, something that could really move the carbon needle.

Turkey: Tourism’s in the toilet.

The Welfare State: Not terrible: The Euros are good at this and trying to use EU machinery to make things better.

Economic recovery: Good news! Seems EU public finance is less austerity-crazed.

Britain · Boris: Overentitled asswipe trying to do some stuff, probably bad.

Elections: Tories introducing voter ID but it doesn’t look (unlike the USA) like it’ll help them steal elections.

Labour: In big trouble in its blue-collar heartland but making up some middle-class ground.

Belfast: Yes, the British army did casually gun down Catholics fifty years ago. No, amnesties are not in order.

Scotland: Nicola and Boris gonna play referendum chicken for the foreseeable future.

Wales: Anger over English buying second homes in pretty places.

Pubs: Having trouble hiring but claim they can’t pay more.

The Labour Party: It’s all fucked up.

International · Algeria: Truth and Reconciliation thing over the Algerian War (of independence against France) looking dubious.

Business · SpaceX: Doing OK.

Mothers’ work experience: Bad. Used to be worse.

Harley-Davidson: In bad shape.

Eurolobbyists: 25K of them in Brussels. What’s that smell?

Pharma patents: It’s about rent-seeking.

CEO Pay: They used Covid to shovel more money to themselves.

Finance & Economics · US inflation: Nobody knows what’s going on.

Britain: In decline.

China’s population: Has probably peaked; bad for the business model.

David Swenson died: Made rich universities richer.

Corporate tax: Biden wants to do something about global sleaze, probably won’t work.

Corporate tax again: Traditional Economist sophistry against it.

The rest · I’m skipping Science & Technology & Books & Arts, but there’s a nice piece about Stacey Abrams, who turns out to be an accomplished novelist.

Don’t give up! · On every one of these issues, there is a sane path forward if people are willing to bring ethical passion to the table.


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Dirkjan Ochtman (May 17 2021, at 01:40)

While I don't want to detract to much from your point, there are reasons to think that the actual state of the world is not as bad as one might think.

For example, read https://medium.com/de-correspondent/the-problem-with-real-news-and-what-we-can-do-about-it-f29aca95c2ea and follow https://twitter.com/MaxCRoser/.


From: Cosmin Ilie (May 17 2021, at 11:17)

It’s not all gloom and doom -We finally have a good vaccine for malaria which will save almost of lives https://www.bbc.com/news/health-56858158


From: Philip Hume (May 17 2021, at 11:40)

Thanks for writing these headlines and sharing. Nice overview of the scope of the articles in this issue. Punchy and too the point. Breadth over depth is interesting. I wish more headlines read like this.


From: Rob Jaworski (May 19 2021, at 06:20)

Thanks for the synopsis, I seemed to have liked that style. Wanted to say that because of that news summary, I learned that David Swensen died. He made university endowments much richer, yes, but he also contributed to making me a bit richer, too. I ready his 1995 book "Unconventional Success" maybe 15 years ago. Main takeaway was his advocating for index funds, set it and forget it. That's what I've been doing, it has worked well for me.

Feel free to continue such summaries!


From: Michael Feltes (May 19 2021, at 13:21)

I don't have a subscription to the Economist and they likely touch on this subject in the article, but it's worth looking into in greater detail. I read a fascinating book in college called _Darwin's Dreampond_ by Tijs Goldschmidt. Lake Victoria had a population of cichlid fish known locally as "furu" that were actively speciating, fanning out to fill the various ecological niches available. Then someone, most likely the Ugandan Game & Fisheries Department, introduced Nile perch into the lake in the 1950s in order to create a more profitable fishery. The furu had little chance and are undergoing a mass extinction, which is in turn disrupting the ecology of Lake Victoria. Goldschmit lays all this out well, though with a frankly false note of hope at the end.





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