Opinion

Chrystia Freeland

Technology, the economy and pool cleaning

Chrystia Freeland
Feb 21, 2013 22:28 UTC

One way to divide people is into foxes and hedgehogs. Another is into those who think this time is different and those who believe there is never anything new under the sun.

The latter split can be a matter of temperament, of politics or even of religion. But today it is relevant for another, more urgent reason: It describes how people think about the most critical economic problem in the industrialized world today — the dearth of well- paying middle-class jobs.

The this-time-is-different school attributes a lot of what is happening to the technology revolution. That makes them an intellectually eclectic bunch. On one hand, they include wide-eyed enthusiasts who believe in human progress and in the transformational power of technology. But they also include grim hand-wringers who fear the unprecedented changes may bring unprecedented woes.

That combination of Pollyanna and Cassandra is perfectly embodied in the multifaceted mind of Al Gore. Gore is a longtime fan of the geeks, and in his post-political life he has very nearly become one of them, with his seat on the Apple board and senior partnership with Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, a leading venture capital firm in Silicon Valley.

It thus comes as no surprise that in his new book, “The Future,” Gore foresees a world of “hyper-change” in which the technology revolution is “carrying us with it at a speed beyond our imagining toward ever newer technologically shaped realities that often appear, in the words of Arthur C. Clarke, ‘indistinguishable from magic.’”

Will belief trump facts?

Chrystia Freeland
Sep 2, 2011 14:59 UTC

You might call it the cognitive divide — the split between an evidence-based worldview and one that is rooted in faith or ideology — and it is one of the most important fault lines in the United States today.

President Barack Obama called attention to the cognitive divide, and reminded us which side he comes down on, at the beginning of this week, when he chose the Princeton University economist Alan Krueger to lead his Council of Economic Advisers.

Krueger is a labor economist, and at first blush, that focus may seem the important part of his résumé. Unemployment, after all, is still above 9 percent, and the president has said job creation is his priority. But when you talk to the insiders about Krueger, what they emphasize is his mastery of data and his utter commitment to the truths it can be coaxed to tell.

Davos Today with Chrystia Freeland, January 27th Edition

Chrystia Freeland
Feb 3, 2011 20:09 UTC

On last Thursday’s edition of Davos Today, Chrystia interviewed a top Google executive about the internet giant’s recent management shake-up; chatted with President Obama’s former chief economic adviser about the State of the Union; heard from America’s principal union leader on what lessons Germany and Japan can teach the U.S. economy; and more.  Here’s the video and the guest list:

* Nikesh Arora, Senior Vice President and Chief Business Officer, Google

* Larry Summers, Former Director of the National Economic Council and Former Secretary of the Treasury

* Min Zhu, Special Advisor to the Managing Director, International Monetary Fund

The Sputnik moment and the zero-sum game

Chrystia Freeland
Feb 1, 2011 18:52 UTC

The best line in U.S. President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address was his contention that “this is our generation’s Sputnik moment.”

It was smart because the essence of the idea is obviously true: Just as the Sputnik launching in 1957 terrified Americans with the prospect that they might lose their global scientific supremacy, the rise of the emerging markets, particularly China, has made them worry they could be losing their technological edge.

Mr. Obama’s evocation of NASA and the moon landing was an emotionally powerful reminder that Americans haven’t always viewed government investment – or even government spending – as an unequivocally bad thing.

Summers says currency interventions rarely end well

Chrystia Freeland
Oct 7, 2010 18:28 UTC

“When governments seek to manipulate exchange rates for competitive advantage, it rarely ends well,”  White House economic adviser Larry Summers said at the Yalta European Strategy Annual Meeting this past weekend.

Summers stressed the need for reducing global imbalances, which require both smaller surpluses in surplus countries and smaller deficits in deficit countries. Regarding the U.S. economy, Summers reiterated President Obama’s pledge to double exports in the next five years. He added that growth, “while still clearly unsatisfactory, is positive. The economy is growing. The process of recovery is underway.”

When I asked Summers if he is worried about America’s budget deficit, he said only in the long term. In the short term, Summers says the focus must be on growth:

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