Opinion

Chrystia Freeland

The economy’s ‘China Syndrome’

Chrystia Freeland
Feb 2, 2012 23:00 UTC

Mitt Romney’s thumping victory in the Florida primary this week is bringing us closer to a Romney-Obama face-off in the autumn. While we do not know for sure if Romney will clinch the Republican nomination, if he does, we can already say what the central question in November will be: Is the United States one nation under God, or has it become a country where the government needs to secure a better deal for the 99 percent?

We know Romney’s view. In a television interview last month, he explained: “When you have a president encouraging the idea of dividing America based on the 99 percent versus 1 percent — and those people who have been most successful will be in the 1 percent — you have opened up a whole new wave of approach in this country which is entirely inconsistent with the concept of one nation under God.”

Meanwhile, in his State of the Union address, the president opted explicitly for the 99 percent perspective. Restoring their fortunes is “the defining issue of our time,” he said. “No challenge is more urgent. No debate more important. We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well, while a growing number of Americans barely get by, or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, and everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.”

The Obama analysis gets a lift from “The China Syndrome,” a recent paper on the impact of trade with China by a powerful troika of economists: David H. Autor, David Dorn and Gordon H. Hanson. The empirical study, which was cited in an important speech on inequality a few weeks ago by Alan Krueger, chairman of the president’s Council of Economic Advisers, is particularly significant because it marks a shift in consensus thinking in the academy.

In the debate about the causes of growing income inequality, U.S. economists have tended to opt for technology as the driving force. Indeed, in his remarks, Krueger referred to a survey he did of those economists, who overwhelmingly cited technological change as the most important factor.

Canada’s top central banker on the Volcker Rule

Chrystia Freeland
Feb 1, 2012 20:01 UTC

In an interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney tells Chrystia that the implementation of the Volcker Rule in the U.S. will have unintended consequences in the international bond markets and that JPMorgan Chase chief Jamie Dimon is wrong to say that the Basel Committee’s decision to increase capital requirements is “anti-American.”

 

‘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.’’

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.”

In 2011, the revolution was tweeted

Chrystia Freeland
Dec 29, 2011 21:26 UTC

2011 was a good year for protest and a bad year for government. 2012 will be a good year for both if our political leaders can figure out the connection.

Across the globe, this was a year when people took to the streets, often overthrowing their leaders in the process. That was true in the Arab world, in Russia, in India, in Western Europe, in the United States and even in China.

And everywhere, this year of mass defiance wrong-footed those who were supposed to be in the know. The experts had thought the Arabs were getting richer and were too scared of their autocrats, that the Russians were apathetic and quite liked their neo-czar, that the Indian middle class was politically disengaged, that West Europeans were too old for outrage, that Americans didn’t care about the class divide and that the Chinese comrades were too effective at suppressing dissent.

MIA – U.S. shareholders who care

Chrystia Freeland
Dec 23, 2011 17:54 UTC

Who knew Swedish finance could be so sexy? The late, great Stieg Larsson’s best-selling The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo — the Hollywood version hit North American theaters this week — was the first to tap into a hitherto undiscovered global fascination with Nordic number crunching.

Following gingerly in his footsteps, I’d like to report on a fascinating discussion at the Securities and Exchange Commission in Washington this month, where the Scandinavian story was center stage.

The conference, where I moderated a panel, was organized by the European Corporate Governance Institute and Columbia Law School. The theme was the involvement of shareholders in the companies they own.

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