Shakespeare was wrong. He assured us that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. One reason that is such a beloved line is its comforting message that intrinsic quality, rather than external labels, is what really counts. But recent research from a Harvard Business School professor suggests that, at least when it comes to the written word, labels matter quite a lot.
Americans actually live in Russia, although they think they live in Sweden. And they would like to live on a kibbutz. This isn’t the set-up for some sort of politically incorrect Catskills stand-up joke circa 1960. It is the takeaway from a remarkable study by Michael Norton and Dan Ariely on how Americans think about income inequality.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a dictator who wants to be accepted by polite Western society should look for a charming, glamorous wife. That, at least, is what the world’s autocrats are learning from the example of Bashar al-Assad, the president of Syria.
Warning — unashamedly patriotic Canadian content to follow!!! If you are a member of the “Blame Canada” constituency, or if you share Michael Kinsley’s view that the world’s most boring headline is “Worthwhile Canadian Initiative,” then please read no further ….
Mary Meeker first became famous as Queen of the Net. That is the title Barron’s magazine granted her in 1998, after a 1995 report she wrote for Morgan Stanley predicted the power and shape of the then still exotic World Wide Web. Ms. Meeker, who recently moved to San Francisco to become a partner at the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, continues to be a forward-thinking guide to the global technology revolution: Her recent reports on mobile devices and the Internet in China have joined her 1995 ‘‘Internet bible’’ as instant classics among the digital cognoscenti.
Regular readers of Chrystia’s column will remember that she recently called out the IMF for failing to foresee the destabilizing effects of rising youth unemployment in Egypt. Specifically, in its April 2010 Article IV assessment of Egypt, the IMF concluded the country’s economy was in fact more resistant to external shocks thanks to “sustained and wide-ranging reforms.” Well, it turns out that the IMF has evolved in its thinking. In an exclusive interview today with Chrystia and Reuters IMF correspondent Lesley Wroughton, IMF First Managing Director John Lipsky announced that going forward the Fund will more heavily weight unemployment risks in its annual country assessments. “We think that these are very important issues and need to be looked at, and again, not just in cases where it might result in political turmoil but just as a matter of course in examining economic developments and policies,” Lipsky said.
On the Colbert Report last night, Stephen Colbert took off and ran with the idea from Chrystia’s recent Atlantic essay that the super-elite “are increasingly a nation unto themselves.” “Let the rich start their own country,” Colbert said. “Call it ‘America Plus.’ We already live in gated communities. I say we just connect them all with really long driveways.”
During the depths of the financial crisis, Alcoa announced that it would lay off 13% of its global workforce, or about 13,500 people. Since then, they have built up their presence in China and Russia, finalized a new mine in Brazil, and started construction of the world’s largest aluminum facilities in Saudi Arabia. Alcoa’s rate of job creation in its home country of the United States, however, has been rather tepid in comparison.
It was striking to hear how encouraged both Klaus Kleinfeld and Dominic Barton sounded when Chrystia asked them about the effects of the recent turmoil in the Middle East on the business environment there. Barton believed the regime changes in Tunisia and Egypt were “the dawn of a new good thing that’s occurring” and noted that it is likely that new capital will come into these countries as a new leadership emerges. Kleinfeld, whose company is in the process of building the world’s largest integrated aluminum system in Saudi Arabia, said that Alcoa is still very comfortable in the region and that the only surprises with their Saudi partners have been positive surprises. For Kleinfeld, the most assured way to bring about stability in a region plagued by unrest is to have businesses come in and create jobs: