The Lost Continent

Home to one-sixth of the world’s people, but contributing only one-fortieth of world GDP, Africa is the most conspicuous victim of the global recession. After a half-decade of 5% growth, the continent’s growth rate is expected to halve in 2009. Some countries, like Angola, are contracting. Elsewhere, the crisis has swept away the benefits of several years of economic reform. Many Africans will fall back into desperate poverty.

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Anatomy of Thatcherism

Thirty years ago this month, Margaret Thatcher came to power. Although precipitated by local conditions, the Thatcher (or more broadly the Thatcher-Reagan) revolution became an instantly recognizable global brand for a set of ideas that inspired policies to free markets from government interference. Three decades later, the world is in a slump, and many people attribute the global crisis to these very ideas.

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The Treason of the Economists

All epoch-defining events are the result of conjunctures – the correlation of normally unconnected events that jolt humanity out of a rut. Such conjunctures create what the author Nassim Nicholas Taleb calls “Black Swans” – unpredictable events with a vast impact. A small number of Black Swans, Taleb believes, “explain almost everything in our world.”

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Shaky Social Contracts

“Enrich yourselves,” China’s Deng Xiaoping told his fellow countrymen when he started dismantling Mao Zedong’s failed socialist model. In fact, elites everywhere have always lived by this injunction, and ordinary people have not minded very much, provided that the elites fulfill their part of the bargain: protect the country against its enemies and improve living conditions. It is this implied social contract that is now endangered by economic collapse.

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