Opinion

Chrystia Freeland

‘Kumbaya’ capitalism collides with self-interest

Chrystia Freeland
Jan 26, 2012 23:11 UTC

DAVOS, Switzerland–George Soros is a traitor to his class. That’s not an insult or a tabloid exaggeration. It is, instead, a direct quote from my conversation with the billionaire investor and philanthropist at the World Economic Forum here.

‘‘I am a traitor to my class,’’ Soros said. ‘‘I think that the income differentials are too wide and ought to be narrowed,’’ he added, which is why he favors a bigger hit on those, like himself, at the very top.

But among his plutocratic peers, he said, that is very much a minority opinion. In fact, Soros, who helped spearhead the muscular Wall Street support for Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election, particularly among hedge fund and private equity investors, believes the president’s call for higher taxes is the reason he has been ditched by the financiers: ‘‘That has led my hedge fund community to abandon Obama in favor of any Republican, because they don’t like to be taxed.’’

Henry Blodget, a former (and formerly disgraced) Wall Street analyst who has been resurrected as one of the smartest writers on business and politics, agrees that the financial class is strongly attached to its tax breaks. After his Wall Street friends have had a few drinks, he said, ‘‘they are cackling that they have fooled everybody into thinking that there’s some justification for this.’’ ‘‘This’’ is the carried interest tax provision, which allows some private equity and hedge fund managers to pay tax at 15 percent.

But the cackling may be coming to an end — and the hostility toward the president mounting — following his State of the Union speech on Tuesday. A centerpiece of that address, and most likely a central theme on the campaign trail over the next nine months, was Obama’s insistence that the 1 percent must pay up.

George Soros on Europe’s future

Chrystia Freeland
Jan 26, 2012 17:44 UTC

Watch George Soros tell Chrystia why he thinks it will take years for Germany to realize that Europe needs additional stimulus and why he would be loading up on Italian government bonds if he were still an active investor.

George Soros: I’m a “traitor to my class”

Chrystia Freeland
Jan 25, 2012 21:21 UTC

Watch as the billionaire investor tells Chrystia why the hedge fund community has abandoned President Obama and why there’s not a huge gap between the views of the president and Republican front-runner Mitt Romney.

The fight over Russia’s future

Chrystia Freeland
Jan 20, 2012 16:04 UTC

Among old Russia hands, the smart thing to say about Mikhail D. Prokhorov, the billionaire who is running for president, is that he is a puppet of the Kremlin. He’s not a real opposition politician, the argument goes, he is merely a liberal-sounding insider who has been given Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin’s blessing to compete to make the race look more legitimate and to split the liberal vote.

All of this is true. But when I interviewed Prokhorov in Moscow a few days ago, I realized that it missed the most important point — what Prokhorov’s candidacy, and the man himself, tells us about the battle raging today inside the Russian governing elite.

When people take to the streets to challenge their regimes, particularly in societies that had been dismissed as apathetic, the most exciting story is the protesters. Many of them are fresh faces, and they can be painted in the idealistic colors of the outsider.

The Freeland File debuts with Mikhail Prokhorov

Peter Rudegeair
Jan 19, 2012 23:03 UTC

As you may have heard, Chrystia has a new talk show on YouTube called the Freeland File. Each week, Chrystia and her guest roster of marquee policymakers, business leaders and thinkers will be providing commentary and analysis that illuminate the world’s most pressing issues.

Thanks to a Christmas miracle, Chrystia’s Russian visa arrived in time for her to travel to Moscow and interview Mikhail Prokhorov for the Freeland File’s debut episode. In the three clips below, watch as the Russian billionaire and presidential candidate tells Chrystia why he would be a better leader than Vladimir Putin; how his political career started with his 2007 arrest over a prostitution ring in France; and what he plans to do with his NBA team if he wins the election in March.

Big data’s big impact

Chrystia Freeland
Jan 12, 2012 23:09 UTC

The Internet is, of course, old hat. We are all getting used to social media, too — your grandmother probably has a Facebook account, and every CEO worth his salt, along with all the world’s would-be revolutionaries, is on Twitter. Mobile, once the new thing, is now taken for granted as part of the world’s hardware. In 2010, more than 4 billion people, or 60 percent of the world’s population, were using mobile phones. Twelve percent of them were smartphones, whose presence is increasing more than 20 percent a year.

But don’t get complacent. A new wave of the technology revolution is cresting and, like its predecessors, will again change the way we work and live. This latest transformation is being called “big data” — a term for the vast amount of digital data we now create and have an increasing ability to store and manipulate.

If wonks were fashionistas, big data would be this season’s hot new color. When I interviewed him before a university audience a few weeks ago, Lawrence H. Summers, the Harvard professor and former Treasury secretary, named big data as one of the three ideas he was most excited about (the others were biology and the rise of the emerging markets). The McKinsey Global Institute, the management consultancy’s research arm and the closest the corporate world comes to having an ivory tower, published a 143-page report last year on big data, trumpeting it as “the next frontier for innovation, competition and productivity.”

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