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U s KANNST ! * Ais – of 7 The . ‘ i, Vf ‘ht Uf, i i } ’ Wy Fy ay J iyi j ji f Abe yf if a Ra ieee Abt) AP , y, , Ay CALL OR SMS 03336042057 @eoyeee + Holiday specials 27 End-of-year newsletters 31 Solitude in France 34 How malaria Shaped history 36 An East London siege 39 Digital humanities 42 An economics heroine 44 The allure of pebbles 56 Essay: Girlhood 62 In praise of Erasmus 65 Hiking in South Korea 67 Crossword and cheer 69 Leo Abse’s legacy 72 Travels in Zululand 101 A trip to Mars 105 The history of home-working 107 Tales of aCEO monk 109 The legacy of Reconstruction 113, Military deception 115 Prophet of permafrost ~ We are working hard to ensure that there is no dis- ruption to print copies of The Economist as a result of the coronavirus. But if you have digital access as part of your subscription, then acti- vating it will ensure that you can always read the digital version of the newspaper as well as all of our daily jour- nalism. To do so, visit economist.com/activate 10 15 16 16 17 18 22 The world this year A summary of political and business events Leaders Covid-19 in 2020 The plague year Targeting big tech Credibility gap Children Getting girlhood right The Arab world Ten years after the spring Country of the year Admiration nation Letters On farming, books, aerial combat, Latin, Machiavelli, diversity, Ireland, the turkey Bagehot Dickens is not just for Christmas, but for life, page 90 47 48 48 49 50 51 Eo 53 54 35 75 76 77 78 79 79 80 The Economist December 19th 2020 fi; United States Georgia’s Senate races New York’s covid-19 shop The SolarWinds hack Covid-19 in schools Lexington Good neighbours The Americas Brazil’s spending choices Cuba’s currency reform Asia Expatriates quit Asia Preserving Yangon Banyan India’s farmers China #MeToo in court A UN proxy battle Middle East & Africa The Arab spring at ten Iran hangs a dissident Clashes in Western Sahara Nigeria’s lost boys Congo’s gold-rush towns >> Contents continues overleaf 8 Beenie The Economist December 19th 2020 Finance & economics 97 Quantum computing and Wall Street 98 Frothy markets 99 The gold standard 100 Free exchange Reshoring supply chains Europe 81 The Vatican’s finances 82 EU graft 83 Balkan doctors 83 Azerbaijan’s ghost towns 86 Charlemagne Tories and Christian Democrats Science & technology 118 The highest fidelity 119 Wheat and desert dust 120 Tape’s promising future Britain 87 Negotiations with the EU 88 Brexit-related disruption 89 Heathrow expansion 89 Animal-welfare arms race 90 Bagehot Scrooge Books & arts 121 Poetry on the Tube 122 A history of snow International 91 Waste-picking in the pandemic Business Economic & financial indicators 93 Big oil’s diverging bets 94 Streaming v cinemas 124 Statistics on 42 economies Graphic detail 95 Bartleby Memo, minus pni the faff 96 Schumpeter The parable of Ryanair 125 Covid-19’s share of the news Obituary 126 John le Carré, master of the spy novel Bite ait: erste aihed Volume 437 Number 9225 Published since September 1843 Subscription service to take part in ‘a severe contest between For our full range of subscription offers, including The best way to contact our Customer Service Please intelligence, which presses forward, digital only or print and digital bundled, visit: team is via phone or live chat. You can contact us ‘ a ‘ . | – P . F z Ca a Poms ee – r . a endo : if a Sa rece PEN ee ee outre 0) (1) oo we OM ge f. ” – >. r pie ‘iinet 10) a4: 1 (oe i, – ee 9 See ae ae | z yas a a vale.com/carbonneutral Mite Mer ntey enna The plague year This will be remembered as a moment when everything changed ARREN HARDING built a campaign for the presidential / election in1920 around his new word “normalcy”. It was an appeal to Americans’ supposed urge to forget the horrors of the first world war and the Spanish flu and turn back to the certain- ties of the Golden Age. And yet, instead of embracing Harding’s normalcy, the Roaring Twenties became a ferment of forward- looking, risk-taking social, industrial and artistic novelty. War had something to do with the Jazz Age’s lack of inhibi- tion. So did the flu pandemic, which killed six times as many Americans and left survivors with an appetite to live the 1920s at speed. That spirit will also animate the 2020s. The sheer scale of the suffering from covid-19, the injustices and dangers the pan- demic has revealed, and the promise of innovation mean that it will be remembered as the year when everything changed. The pandemic has been a once-in-a-century event (see Graphic detail). SARS-Cov-2 has been found in over 70m people and possibly infected another 500m or more who were never di- agnosed. It has caused 1.6m recorded deaths; many hundreds of thousands have gone unrecorded. Millions of survivors are liv- ing with the exhaustion and infirmities of “long covid”. World economic output is at least 7% lower than it would otherwise have been, the biggest slump since the second world war. Out of the ashes of all that suffering will emerge the sense that life is not to be hoarded, but lived. Another reason to expect change—or, at least, to wish for it—is that covid-19 has served aS a warning. The 80bn animals slaughtered for food and fur each year are Petri dishes for the vi- ) ( ruses and bacteria that evolve into a lethal hu- man pathogen every decade or so. This year the bill came due and it was astronomical. The clear blue skies that appeared as the economy went into lockdown were a powerful symbol of how covid-19 is a fast- moving crisis within a slow-moving one that it in some ways re- sembles. Like the pandemic, climate change is impervious to populist denials, global in the disruption it causes and will be far more costly to deal with in the future if it is neglected now. And a third reason to expect change is that the pandemic has highlighted injustice. Children have fallen behind in their les- sons—and too often gone hungry. School leavers and graduates have once again seen their prospects recede. People of all ages have endured loneliness or violence at home. Migrant workers have been cast adrift, or sent back to their villages, taking the dis- ease with them. The suffering has been skewed by race. A 40- year-old Hispanic-American is 12 times more likely to die from covid-i9 than a white American of the same age. In Sao Paulo black Brazilians under 20 are twice as likely to die as whites. As the world has adapted some of these iniquities have got worse. Studies suggest that about 60% of jobs in America paying over $100,000 can be done from home, compared with 10% of jobs paying under $40,000. As unemployment has soared this year, the MSCI index of world stockmarkets has risen by 11%. In the worst case, the UN reckons, the pandemic could force over 200m people into extreme poverty. Their plight will be exacer- bated by authoritarians and would-be tyrants who have exploit- ed the virus to tighten their stranglehold on power. Perhaps that is why pandemics have led to social upheaval in the past. The IMF looked at 133 countries in 2001-18 and found that unrest surged about 14 months after the onset of disease, peaking after 24 months. The more unequal a society, the more upheaval. Indeed, the fund warns of a vicious circle in which protest further increases hardship which, in turn, feeds protest. Fortunately, covid-19 has not just brought about the need for change, it also points a way forward. That is partly because it has Served as an engine of innovation. Under lockdown, e-com- merce as a Share of American retail sales increased as much in eight weeks as it had in the previous five years. As people worked from home, travel on the New York subway fell by over 90%. Al- most overnight, businesses like this newspaper began to be run from spare rooms and kitchen tables—an experiment that would otherwise have taken years to unfold, if ever. This disruption is in its infancy. The pandemic is proof that change is possible even in conservative industries like health care. Fuelled by cheap capital and new technology, including ar- tificial intelligence and, possibly, quantum computing (see Fi- nance section), innovation will burn through industry after in- dustry. For example, costs at American colleges and universities have increased almost five times faster than consumer prices in the past 40 years, even as teaching has barely changed, making it tempting to disrupters. Fur- ther technological progress in renewable sources of energy, smart grids and battery stor- age are all vital steps on the path to replacing fossil fuels. The coronavirus has also revealed something profound about the way societies should treat knowledge. Consider how Chinese scientists se- quenced the genome of SARS-cov-2 within weeks and shared it with the world. The new vaccines that resulted are just one stop in the light-speed progress that has elucidated where the virus came from, whom it affects, how it kills, and what might treat it. It is aremarkable demonstration of what science can achieve. At a time when conspiracies run wild, this research stands as a rebuke to the know-nothings and zealots in dictatorships and democracies who behave as if the evidence for a claim is as noth- ing next to the identity of the person asserting it. And the pandemic has led to a burst of innovative govern- ment. Those which can afford it—and some, like Brazil’s, that cannot (see Americas section)—have suppressed inequality by spending over $10trn on covid-19, three times more in real terms than in the financial crisis. That will dramatically reset citizen’s expectations about what governments can do for them. Many people under lockdown have asked themselves what matters most in life. Governments should take that as their in- Spiration, focusing on policies that promote individual dignity, self-reliance and civic pride. They should recast welfare and edu- cation and take on concentrations of entrenched power so as to open up new thresholds for their citizens. Something good can come from the misery of the plague year. It should include a new social contract fit for the 21st century. @ Leaders 15 16 Leaders The Economist December 19th 2020 Targeting big tech Credibility gap Trustbusters say they are going after the tech giants. Markets don’t take them seriously IVE YEARS ago antitrust was a backwater. In America compla- EF eent trustbusters had failed to spot the rise of big tech firms. In the European Union they noticed it, but didn’t do much. But the competition cops have at last sprung. On December 15th the EU unveiled two draft digital-services laws that would create a Sweeping supervisory apparatus to control Silicon Valley. In America the federal government has just launched antitrust cases against Google and Facebook. These moves mark the big- gest shift in competition policy in a generation, so you might ex- pect investors to be worried that big tech firms are under serious threat. Instead, their reaction has been Olympian indifference. The market value of the five biggest Silicon Valley firms has risen by 46% in 2020, to reach $7.2trn. Antitrust’s credibility deficit re- flects a lack of transatlantic unity and the flaws of two very different strategies. In America the chances of new laws being passed are low because of a gridlocked Congress and because some politicians think that having dominant American tech firms is a strategic ad- vantage in the contest with China. Instead, trustbusters have to demonstrate in court that 2019 the tech firms have broken existing laws. The case against Google is more likely to succeed—it focuses on a web of $10bn or more in annual payments made by Google to Ap- ple and manufacturing firms to ensure that its services got prominence on device screens. The case against Facebook ar- gues that it illegally acquired WhatsApp and Instagram to kill off competition; this is more of a stretch, because both were small firms at the time. Do not expect any decisions soon. Microsoft’s antitrust case began in 1998 and took six years to resolve. Recent- ly the courts have been sceptical of big antitrust suits, including those against American Express and AT&T Time Warner. If America’s strategy is narrow and backward-looking, the EU’S is broad and forward-looking. It tends to put more faith in regulation—and does not have any home-grown tech giants to Market capitalisation, $trn , ae 1) Alphabet worry about. Big tech firms will be designated as systemically important, andin some cases as “gatekeepers” too, and face obli- gations over data, content and the treatment of other firms which use their platforms. The danger is that an ill-defined and sprawling regime muffles dynamism and entrenches incum- bents. Yet even if the EU eventually passes new laws, it may have problems enforcing them. The five biggest tech firms make 25% of their sales in Europe, versus 51% in America, and may prefer to run their European arms under local rules, rather than adopt EU policy globally. The maximum fine the EU is contemplating is just1% of big tech’s market value. It is hard to imagine how the EU could break up an American company on its own. On paper it is possible to pick the best of both approaches. The goal should be to catalyse competition, rather than accept monopolies and mitigate their cost through regulation. Prising open closed mar- kets should be the priority: America’s trustbust- ers are right to focus on the ways in which Goo- gle and others have locked out competitors. Taking a sceptical line on future acquisitions by Facebook _ Amazon Microsoft Apple oO WH se Foo. Fo 2020 big tech firms is essential, too. America should copy the EU’s effort to give individuals power over their data, which could also help unlock competition. Last, both sides should agree that policing content—for example, fake news—is a matter for media policy, not trustbusters. Yet transatlantic agreement is far off. And, complicating things further, parts of the industry are getting more competitive even amid the howls to tame “big tech”. Trustbusters should wor- ry about products where market shares are high, profits are sus- piciously plump and new entrants are thin on the ground. Search and online advertising fit this description, but large areas of tech look increasingly contested, including streaming, e-commerce and the cloud—and often the competition is coming from other big tech firms. They, not the transatlantic trustbusters, are more likely to change the weather. @ Children Getting girlhood right Girls are doing better than ever. Don’t let the pandemic stymie them Fo MUCH of human history and in many places, girls were considered property. Or, at best, subordinate people, required to obey their fathers until the day they had to start obeying their husbands. Few people thought it worthwhile to educate them. Even fewer imagined that a girl could grow up to govern Ger- many, run the IMF or invent a vaccine. In most of the world that vision of girlhood now seems not merely old-fashioned but unimaginably remote. In much of the rich world parents now treat their daughters as well as they do their sons, and invest as much in their future (see Essay). In field after field girls have caught up with boys. Globally, young wom- en now outnumber young men at university. The speed of change has been blistering. Fifty years ago only 49% of primary- school-age girls in lower-middle-income countries were in school, compared with 71% of boys; today the share of both is about 90%. In 1998 only half the world’s secondary-school-age girls were enrolled; today two-thirds are. Over the same period rates of illiteracy fell from one in five young women aged 15-24 to one in ten, bringing them roughly ona par with young men. Girl babies are more wanted than ever before. Parents in some countries prefer them. Even in places, such as China, where the sex-selective abortion of girl fetuses has been rife, it is often be- >> The Economist December 19th 2020 >» coming less so. Girls are also less likely to be married off in child- hood. In 1995 almost six in ten girls in South Asia were hitched before reaching 18; that ratio has fallen by half. Around the world, it has fallen from one in four to one in five. Girls are healthier, too. Compared with the mid-1990s, they become sexually active later and are more likely to use contra- ception. Rates of teenage pregnancy have fallen by a quarter globally and by two-thirds in South Asia and North America. Girls are less likely to suffer female genital mutilation—and ob- ject to this horrific tradition more vocally. Whereas in 2000 just 27% of women and girls in the most-affected regions said it should be banned, today 54% do. When societies handle girlhood well, the knock-on effects are astounding. A girl who fin- ishes secondary school is less likely to becomea child bride or a teenage mother. Education boosts earning power and widens choices, so She is less likely to be poor or to suffer domestic abuse. She will earn almost twice as muchasa girl without schooling. And she will pass ona smorgasbord of advan- tages to her offspring. She will have fewer children, and invest more in them. They will be less likely to die in infancy, or to grow up stunted physically or mentally. She will read to them more, and help them with their homework. All this means they will learn more, and earn more as adults. A recent study by Citigroup and Plan International estimated that, if a group of emerging economies ensured that100% of their girls completed secondary school, it could lead to a lasting boost to their GDP of 10% by 2030. Because the benefits of nurturing girls are so large, itisascan- dal that some countries have still failed to grasp them. Less than half the girls in South Asia, the Middle East or Africa have access to the contraception that they may want. Only one girl in three Leaders south of the Sahara finishes her secondary education. And al- though rates of child marriage have fallen by half in South Asia, they have fallen by less than that in Africa (which now has the highest rate in the world) and have remained stagnant in Latin America and the Caribbean. The covid-19 pandemic could hobble progress for girls in poor countries, or even reverse it. During previous disasters, they have often suffered most. When Ebola forced west African schools to close in 2014, many girls dropped out, never went back and ended up pregnant or as child labourers. UNICEF warns that something similar could happen with covid-19—but on a larger scale. Studies suggest that in the next decade13m child marriages that would have been averted may go ahead, and an extra 2m girls may have their genitals cut. The risk of regression is real. So it is crucial that, even if governments of poor countries have to tighten their belts, they prioritise spend- ing on education and girls. Donors should help, too. And policies should be joined up. Persuad- ing girls to stay in school longer is not only a way to teach them maths; it is also a chance to vac- cinate them and teach them about birth control, consent and Self-assertion. It can even be an opportunity to advise parents about the downsides of child marriage. Adolescence is a crucial juncture for girls. It is when many health problems emerge or are averted; and many social ones, too, from truancy to self-harm. Only recently has this phase been recognised as the most important for brain development after infancy. Get it right and billions of girls will have a better shot at fulfilling their potential. Get it wrong and they will live poorer, Shorter lives, less able to stand up for themselves, more vulner- able to coercion, and more likely to pass these disadvantages on to the next generation. So, get girlhood right. @ The Arab world Ten years after the spring Why democracy doesn’t yet spread in the Middle East and north Africa (( HAT KIND of repression do you imagine it takes fora young man to do this?” So asked Leila Bouazizi after her brother, Muhammad, set himself on fire ten years ago. Local offi- cials in Tunisia had confiscated his fruit cart, ostensibly because he did not havea permit but really because they wanted to extort money from him. It was the final indignity for the young man. “How do you expect me to make a living?” he shouted before dousing himself with petrol in front of the governor’s office. His actions would resonate across the region, where millions of others had reached breaking-point, too. Their rage against op- pressive leaders and corrupt states came bursting forth as the Arab spring. Uprisings toppled the dictators of four countries— Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Yemen. For a moment it seemed as if democracy had arrived in the Arab world at last. A decade later, though, no celebrations are planned (see Mid- dle East & Africa section). Only one of those democratic experi- ments yielded a durable result—fittingly, in Bouazizi’s Tunisia. Egypt’s failed miserably, ending ina military coup. Libya, Yemen and, worst of all, Syria descended into bloody civil wars that drew in foreign powers. The Arab spring turned to bitter winter So quickly that many people now despair of the region. Much has changed there since, but not for the better. The Arab world’s despots are far from secure. With oil prices low, even petro-potentates can no longer afford to buy their subjects off with fat subsidies and cushy government jobs. Many leaders have grown more paranoid and oppressive. Muhammad bin Sal- man of Saudi Arabia locks up his own relatives. Egypt’s Abdel- Fattah al-Sisi has stifled the press and crushed civil society. One lesson autocrats learned from the Arab spring is that any flicker of dissent must be snuffed out fast, lest it spread. The region is less free than it was in 2010—and perhaps more angry. It has been shaken by wars, jihad, refugees and covid-19. Activists contend that Arabs are no longer willing to put up with the same old misery, and say they are more confident that they can bring about change. The Arab spring’s flame never complete- ly went out, says one. No fancy name was given to the swathe of protests that engulfed Arab countries in 2019, yet they pushed out as many leaders as those of the Arab spring. Unfortunately, the states that were jolted in 2019—Algeria, 17 Iraq, Lebanon and Sudan—are faring only a little better than >> 18 Leaders » those convulsed by the Arab spring. Could it be true, as some ar- gue, that Arabs simply cannot abide democracy? Some lament that the region’s generals are too politically entrenched to allow a real opening. Others say that austere local strains of Islam are incompatible with pluralism. Is Tunisia, blessed with pragmatic Islamists and generals who have apparently learned to obey elected politicians, the exception that proves the rule? It is too early to say. The seeds of modern democracy have yet to be properly sown in the Arab world. The thirst among Arab citizens to choose their own rulers is as strong as it is elsewhere. What they need most is for independent institutions—universi- ties, the media, civic groups, above all the courts and the mosques—to evolve without being in thrall to government. Only then can space be found for an engaged and informed citizenry. Only then are people likely to accept that political disputes can be resolved peacefully. It would help if Arabs had more freedom to debate. Schools in the region tend to emphasise rote learning over critical thinking. The Economist December 19th 2020 The media and the mosques tend to parrot the government line. Autocrats seek to co-opt social media, too. All this breeds dis- trust in information itself. Conspiracy theories abound. Arabs tend to mistrust not only their governments but also each other, thanks in part to asystem that requires bribes and wasta, or con- nections, to accomplish even the most mundane tasks. Corrup- tion undermines confidence in the state. Few expect it to provide forthe common good. Despots encourage people to think of poli- tics in zero-sum terms: if another group wins power, they will grab all the money and public jobs. Opponents are portrayed as extremists who wish their fellow countrymen dead. In such parched soil, it is unsurprising that democracy failed to take root. But there are ways, in the long run, to fertilise it. Pro- moting education is vital. Democracies should welcome more Arab students. They should also speak up for Arab journalists, human-rights campaigners and NGos. A culture of pluralism takes time to grow. But the status quo is unstable and unsustain- able, as a frustrated fruit-seller tragically demonstrated. @ Country of the year Admiration nation The Economist’s annual award for most-improved country N MOST YEARS most countries improve in various ways. In Lovo, however, premature death and economic contraction became the new normal, and most countries aspired only to dodge the worst of it. Inevitably, our shortlist of most-improved countries includes some that merely avoided regressing much. Few people would argue that life in New Zealand was better in 2020 than in 2019. But the virus has been contained. When only100 cases had been detected, the prime minister, Jacinda Ar- dern, closed the borders, locked down the country and urged its “team of 5m” (ie, the whole population) to be kind to each other. Only 25 Kiwis have died and life has more or less returned to nor- mal. Rugby stadiums finished the season packed with fans. The amiable Ms Ardern was re-elected with a majority in a country where such things are almost unheard of. Taiwan has done even better, with only sev- en deaths and a far stronger economic perform- ance. Leave aside whether Taiwan is a country or merely a contender for “de facto self-governing territory of the year”. It kept the virus at bay without closing schools, shops or restaurants, much less imposing lockdowns. Its economy is one of the few expected to have grown in 2020. It also showed courage, refusing to back down despite relentless threats from Beijing. China’s government often says that Taiwan must be reunited with the mainland. It has been sending war- ships and fighter jets ever closer to the island, ever more often. Yet in January Taiwanese voters spurned a presidential candi- date who favoured warmer ties with China and re-elected Tsai Ing-wen, whose government has been sheltering democracy ac- tivists from Hong Kong. Taiwan is a constant reminder that Chi- nese culture is perfectly compatible with liberal democracy. These achievements are impressive. However, the pandemic is not yet over and to judge a country on its covid-fighting record is to focus on specific forms of good governance when circum- Stances of geography and genes make comparisons hard. Being an island helps. Some populations may have immunity to coro- naviruses. So it is worth considering other candidates. The United States did almost as badly as Britain, Italy and Spain in its response to covid-19, but its Operation Warp Speed was central to bringing about a vaccine in record time. And by re- jecting President Donald Trump in November, American voters did their bit to curb the spread of populism—another global scourge. Mr Trump’s efforts to overturn the will of those voters were unprecedented for a sitting president, but the judges he ap- pointed were loyal to the law, not the man who picked them. Voters in Bolivia, too, restored a measure of normality. Aftera fraud-tainted election, the overthrow of a socialist president, violent protests and the vengeful, incompetent rule of an inter- im president, the Andean nation held a peaceful re-run ballot in October and picked a techno- crat, Luis Arce. But this year’s prize goes to a country in southern Africa. Democracy and respect for hu- man rights regressed in 80 countries between the start of the pandemic and September, reck- ons Freedom House, a think-tank. The only place where they improved was Malawi. To appreciate its progress, consider what came before. In 2012 a president died, his death was covered up and his corpse flown to South Africa for “medical treatment”, to buy time so that his brother could take over. That brother, Peter Mutharika, failed to grab power then but was elected two years later and ran for re- election. The vote-count was rigged with correction fluid on the tally sheets. Foreign observers cynically approved it anyway. Ma- lawians launched mass protests against the “Tipp-Ex election”. Malawian judges turned down suitcases of bribes and annulled it. A fair re-run in June booted out Mr Mutharika and installed the people’s choice, Lazarus Chakwera. Malawi is still poor, but its people are citizens, not subjects. For reviving democracy inan authoritarian region, itis our country of the year. In an interconnected world like ours, even seemingly small changes can have outsized effects. Our research shows the most resilient companies are those that understand the downstream butterfly effect” of their business practices on the environment, their customers and — their employees. We see current market volatility as a wake-up call eC for investors to value such foresight to help reduce long-term risks. OT -egepeerics jt = “a 4 , as 7 we Ta en sala © 7 4 > – » de e a ADVERTISEMENT Hyundai’s green revolution in truck transport ~ Hydrogen-powered Hyundai Xcient heavy-duty trucks will change the future of transport for the better The hydrogen-powered truck—Hyundai XCIENT Fuel Cell When automobiles gained widespread adoption in the early 20th century, one result was a radical change In streetscapes. From New York to Zurich, photographs show the horse-drawn carriages and streetcars of 1900 giving way to motor transport a mere two decades later. Today, a less visible revolution is underway, as new technology replaces old beneath vehicle hoods. Europe reached an inflection point in the move towards clean mobility this July, when the EU announced a new hydrogen strategy as part of a green recovery from the economic effects of the covid-19 crisis. Plans to massively increase the production of green hydrogen fuel, which is made without carbon-dioxide emissions by using renewable electricity to separate the hydrogen and oxygen In water, will enable a corresponding increase in the use of zero-emissions transport. CLEAN TRANSPORT NEEDS NEW INFRASTRUCTURE Enthusiasm for zero-emissions vehicles often focuses on iconic electric car models. But moving commercial vehicles to zero- emissions technology Is an important part of the fight against climate change. In Switzerland, the shift is already underway. Deliveries of the first ten hydrogen- powered Hyundai Xcient heavy-duty trucks reached customers this October. And a further 36 of these new fuel-cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) are due to hit Swiss roads by the end of December. As the world’s first mass-produced heavy-duty fuel-cell truck, the Xcient needs new infrastructure to function. This a drove Hyundai in 2019 to form Hyundai M Hydrogen Mobility (HHM), a joint venture with Swiss company H2 Energy that will help build capacity for hydrogen production and refuelling. HHM is also partnering with Hydrospider, a joint venture between H2 Energy, Alpiq and Linde. “A sustainable hydrogen economy needs a designated ecosystem for hydrogen,” says Rolf Huber, Chairman of H2 Energy. Roll-out of this ecosystem will need to be swift, with 1,600 hydrogen- powered trucks due to be operating In Switzerland by 2025. a; GOING THE DISTANCE ON ZERO- EMISSIONS FUEL Hydrogen FCEVs suit commercial transport because of their ability to cover long distances and still refuel quickly. The 190kW fuel cell at the Xcient’s heart can haul a 36-ton truck- trailer combination up to 400km ona single refill of its high-pressure hydrogen tanks, which can take as little as eight minutes depending on surrounding temperatures. In Switzerland, 56% of electricity already comes from environmentally friendly hydropower, so the country Is ideally positioned to “Hydrogen fuel cell-powered trucks generate absolutely zero emissions. This clean technology is going to transform our cities, our roads, and the way we live and drive.” In Cheol Lee, Executive Vice President, Hyundai Motor Company provide a plentiful supply of zero-emissions green hydrogen. Running on green fuel will help make the business case for buyers of the Xcient, as Switzerland waives heavy duty road taxes on zero-emission commercial vehicles. LOCAL ALLIANCES EASE BOTTLENECKS The international partnerships Hyundai is forging are crucial to rapidly electrifying transport. While analysts are bullish about growth prospects for heavy-duty trucks powered by hydrogen, the lack of refuelling infrastructure has been a bottleneck. ADVERTISEMENT Petrol-station companies within the H2 Mobility Switzerland Association, of which Hyundai Hydrogen Mobility is a partner, are helping to build a network to supply renewable hydrogen by operating hydrogen refuelling stations. This task is made easier by commercial vehicles’ tendency to operate along well-defined transport corridors. Hyundai will offer a pay-per-use business model to commercial operators of the Xcient trucks so they can employ zero-emissions vehicles without an initial investment. This will also mitigate technological uncertainties for customers. Another key European partnership, with Auto AG Truck, will handle technical and service support for the Xcient FCEV fleet, giving users further confidence and helping to speed the reduction of transport-based emissions. “Trucks are the perfect lever to sustainably build up the refuelling infrastructure and are thus the basis for a stable hydrogen ecosystem.” Mark Freymueller, CEO, Hyundai Hydrogen Mobility FROM K-WAVE TO CLEAN WAVE Hyundai’s leadership in promoting hydrogen-powered transport puts a new spin on Korea’s global influence. Since the 2010s, the worldwide popularity of Korean fashion, pop music, movies and television surged in what Is known as the “K-Wave”. Now the firm is turning this into the “Clean Wave” by leading the effort to make and market electric vehicles. By 2025, Hyundai aims to sell 670,000 units each year worldwide, including 110,000 powered by hydrogen. This goal has united the K-Wave and Clean Wave through a partnership with K-Pop sensation BTS. In an inspiring Hydrogen power Is making gains around the world European Union €470 billion to be invested In clean hydrogen production marketing campaign, the chart-topping band promoted Hyundai’s Nexo hydrogen-powered SUV to consumers by evoking the health and beauty of nature—which clean transport may help to restore. PULLING THE WORLD INTO A CLEANER FUTURE Building on the work done to create Hyundai’s existing FCEVs, the Xcient heavy-duty truck is the next step in the company’s drive to build a hydrogen society fuelled by renewable, zero-emissions energy. Bringing its FCEV technology to the commercial vehicle market Is a critical achievement that will contribute to the greening of industry. Among Hyundail’s next plans are a truck tractor with an enhanced fuel system that has more hauling power and can travel 1,000km ona single refill. This would be especially attractive to the North American market, where trucking distances are typically longer than in Europe. With these two major industrial markets covered, Hyundai’s hydrogen-powered trucks will help pull the world into a cleaner and more sustainable future. GP HYUNDAI TRUCK & BUS EEE EE NE ee ee Scan this code and discover how Hyundai’s hydrogen-powered vehicles are driving progress for humanity. Fuel economy and CO, results for the Hyundai XCIENT Fuel Cell: mpg (L/100km): Not applicable. CO, emissions: Og/km. Electric range: 248 miles. There is a new test for fuel consumption, CO, and electric range figures. The range shown was achieved using the new test procedure. This was developed with an optimal balance between the specific requirements from the potential commercial fleet customers and the charging infrastructure in Switzerland. Korea Hyundai Motor Group Germany €9 billion invested IN promoting hydrogen and suppliers to invest 7.6 trillion won in R&D and facilities by 2030, creating 51,000 jobs production and use United States Californian regulation mandates 30% of heavy-duty truck sales to be zero-emissions by 2030 Saudi Arabia Hydrogen production facility China Government aims to supply 1 million hydrogen vehicles by 2030 in Neom to harness more than AGW of solar and wind power 22 Letters Brexit lays an egg Your leader on British farming and food standards after Brexit underplayed the role of international agritrade policy (“Ploughing its own furrow’, November 28th). Take your example of free-range eggs. British consumers can buy them in confidence now be- cause of high EU and British Standards. A tariff on eggs and egg products protects the market from imports that are marked as free range but are of a lower standard. In America, forexample, an egg can be marketed as free-range as long as the hen house has one pophole; there is no definition as to what counts fora “range” or outside area for the hens, drastically reducing the cost. A British hen house will have, Say, 20 popholes depending on the size ofa flock. Withouta tariff, lower-priced American imports would bankrupt Brit- ish free-range egg farmers. Your supposition that British consumers would prefer to buy the more expen- Sive British free-range eggs over cheap imported ones has already been disproved in the example of pig meat. In the 1990s Britain banned sow stalls ahead of the rest of the EU, adding considerable cost to the production of domestic pig meat products. The govern- ment thought consumers would favour more expensive, higher welfare British pork, but instead they turned to cheaper pork from Denmark and the Netherlands. Half the British pig industry was exported overnight, aloss to the econ- omy, and pig welfare. ROBERT GOOCH Chief executive British Free Range Egg Producers Association Saxmundham, Suffolk The plot thickens With all due respect, Simon & Schuster (“Book-binding’, November 28th) was not even close to representing Scott F. Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and Thomas (not Tom) Wolfe. That honour belonged to Scribner’s. Simon & Schuster merely acquired Scribner’s when it bought Macmillan in 1994 (Macmillan had merged with Scribner’s). Fitzgerald, Hemingway and Wolfe died decades before. BOB POWELL Birmingham, Michigan Life in the old dogfight yet A dogfight in aerial combat is known as “basic fighter manoeuvring’, Or BFM, within the profession (“Virtual mavericks”, November 21st). Guns are no longer used, buta missile shot within visual range after the point at which two fighters pass each other and the manoeuvring that follows is in facta dogfight. Throughout the history of combat aviation many have said that the dogfight is dead, and have been proved wrong. In Vietnam it was because the missiles were unreliable. In the future it may be stealth, elec- tronic warfare, or strict rules of engagement that preventa shot beyond visual range against a target. America’s shooting down ofa Syrian SU-22 1N 2017 may not beatrue dogfight to some, but it was conducted within visual range with extensive manoeuvring. The pilot, a graduate of the us Navy S TOPGUN, employed his BFM Skills that day. You also noted that an autonomous aircraft cannot explain what it did and why. The role of briefing and debriefing in combat aviation cannot be understated, and until this gap is addressed it limits what we can expect from robot wingmen. BRIAN ROLLER Honolulu Latin lesson Very clever to take Christopher Wren’’s epitaph and repurpose it for the Arecibo radio tele- scope (“Simonumentum requiris respicite’, November 28th), inviting us to look back, respicere, rather than around, circumspicere. And very astute to modify the imperative to address a presumed plurality of readers (respicite) instead of the original’s solitary visitor to The Economist December 19th 2020 St Paul’s (circumspice). But perplexing that you failed to address the other verb (requiris) to all your readers as well (requiritis). The Economist’s wordplay department risks being seen as too clever by exactly half. BOB LADD Edinburgh If you want my advice Bagehot’s search of amodern Machiavelli for Boris Johnson is timely (November 21st). Machiavelli’s “The Prince” advises a leader how to act. Machiavelli, who suffered two turns on the rack for his guid- ance, compares Fortune toa violent river that causes havoc when enraged. When the river is quiet, a leader needs to protect himself by building embankments, dykes and canals. A leader who does not take these precautions is at the mercy of Fortune, but if he prepares and adapts, he prosp- ers. Mr Johnson did not pre- pare for the pandemic, has not built defences against the potential havoc of Brexit, and the protections against climate change are as yet just words. DUNCAN STEPHENSON Leeds Bagehot’s list of Boris John- son’s traits inadvertently places him alongside such familiar British characters as Mr Micawber, Derek Trotter and Arthur Daley. ANDY CHEW Little Gaddesden, Hertfordshire Sitting in South Asia I feel obliged to point out that Kautilya, the Indian Machia- velli, wrote “Arthashastra”, his science of politics, around 1,800 years before “The Prince’. As Roger Boesche noted in the preface to “The First Great Political Realist”, Kautilya makes Machiavelli seem mild. For example, whereas Machia- velli only cursorily examines the topic of assassination and gives no advice about spies, arrest On suspicion, and torture, Kautilya discusses all these issues at length. JOHN CROCKER Colombo, Sri Lanka Employ more conservatives America’s State Department has an obvious diversity pro- blem by employing too many white males (“Altered state”, November 21st). But the not so obvious problem is a lack of diverse political opinion. One would be hard-pressed to find any significant percentage of Republicans in its ranks, let alone a number like 48%, which more accurately repre- sents the politics of America. This blind spot has left the department vulnerable to changing administrations and ineffective in implementing policy that is often at odds with its staff’s core beliefs. RICHARD WALKER Dubuque, Iowa Spuds they like Ireland’s cuisine is heavy on potatoes, explains Charle- magne (November 21st). That is understating it. Where else in Europe, nay, the world, can you find a theme park based on the potato chip? ALAN FINLAYSON Dusseldorf Talking turkey There is avery intriguing bit of etymological happenstance for the word “turkey” (Worldina dish, 1843, November 18th). In Arabic, a turkey, deek rumi, is the literal translation of “roman chicken”. The turkey made its way into the Arab lexicon and kitchens long after the Roman Empire had met its end. What the literal transla- tion misses is that “Roman” throughout various Arab and Muslim empires had generally become a lexical stand in for Christian, the implication being that a turkey is achicken from some Christian parts of the world. TIMOTHY PATTEN Chicago Letters are welcome and should be addressed to the Editor at The Economist, The Adelphi Building, 1-11 John Adam Street, London wc2n 6HT Email: letters@economist.com More letters are available at: Economist.com/letters Cale REC FOW do You recycle CO to make ie Concrete is the most used man-made material on earth.’ But stele as can be used, it Bale first be cured. . We’ve developed a new curing method, storing up to 200kg of CO; in every ton of cement. Making it as strong as regular concrete in 3 days instead of 28, for faster, more efficient construction. If the whole precast concrete industry switched to our technology, we could recycle up to 246 million tons of CO, a year’ — equivalent to removing emissions from 53 million cars.? See how we continue innovating for a better future at aramco.com/betterfuture-carbon-curing Source: Global Cement and Concrete Association 2 Annual global cement production in 2019: 4.1 billion tons. Precast industry is 30% of total. Source: IEA. 3 Typical passenger vehicle emits around 4.6 metric tons of CO, per year. Source: EPA. 24 o JLIFAD Investing in rural people lhe International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) is an international financial institution and a United Nations specialized agency dedicated to eradicating rural poverty and hunger. IFAD finances programmes and projects that increase agricultural productivity and raise rural incomes, and advocates at the local, national and international level for polices that contribute to rural transformation IFAD is looking for qualified professionals and leaders with strategic vision, a solid team orientation, proven capacity to generate results, and a deep understanding of and commitment to development to fill the following Director positions Director, Near East, North Africa and Europe Division, grade D-1 Director, West and Central Africa Division, grade D-1 Under the overall guidance and supervision of the Associate Vice-President of the Programme Management Department, each Director will lead a diverse, multidisciplinary and decentralized team to drive IFAD’s business and engagement with partners. He or she should have good leadership and management skills and appropriate language proficiencics. IFAD offers a competitive remuneration and benetits package that includes tax-free salary, dependency allowance, education grant up to university level, medical and group life insurance, home leave and pension plan IFAD is committed to achieving diversity and is seeking a balanced workforce from its Member States. Women are particularly encouraged to apply For detailed information, visit our website www.ifad.org/en/ careers. Please submit your application through the IFAD online system by 4 January 2021. = 200s ns rg | EvToier I fl”! Sess Aastha r 4, Lu ‘ha & biel VACANCY NOTICE CHAIRPERSON REF. 202029TAAD15 EIOPA, the insurance and occupational pensions supervisor for Europe, is currently accepting applications for the post of Chairperson to steer the organisation in achieving its tasks and fulfilling its mandate. The Chairperson is accountable to the Board of Supervisors The selected candidate will be a full-time independent professional, a member of EIOPA’s staff, based in Frankfurt am Main. The appointment is for a five-year term which may be extended once Further information and procedure Mi melt le elem tele a mec) lee gm er mae how to apply, please visit EIOPA’s website www. eiopa.europa.eu Closing date: 23:59 CET on 18 January 2021 A New Challenge? — _ Unique Access to Confidential Opportunities InterExec is the global leader in enabling Top Executives to access $200k to $2m+ unadvertised vacancies worldwide. We act discreetly through a 15,000 strong international network. Inter Exec UNIQUE NETWORK # OUTSTANDING TALENT london@interexec.net www.interexec.net +44(0)20 7256 5085 The 2030 Agenda is the world’s collective commitment to ending poverty, achieving equality and laying the foundations for sustainable development – for people and the planet. To meet this aspirational goal, we need both proven and innovative solutions. UNOPS is committed tc finding, nurturing and scaling up these solutions. The Sustainable Infrastructure Impact Investments (S31) initiative breaks down barriers and creates step-c shen opportunities for stakeholders to generate healthy f ee returns, with positive social, environmental and economic impacts. We share risks by taking equity and debt positions, alongside other investors. We’ve already daar cae one a the baler A lal ele leer housing portfolios in the world – currently ership with governments and the private sector. We Beas source ara age aaa pay wa Rhee energy and health. Our projects will improve millions of lives, provide hundreds of thousands of local jobs and spur sustainable growth of local economies. ahs VF] al are. heh ct rls a Pa epee to pes digs ages hh to Pil sp dali diayoM (ALLO re Leh = * impactful investments in renewable energy, * Deal sourcing and portfolio management * Equity and debt investing in greenfield, * Financial modelling and valuation methods brownfield and operating assets : ee 6 * Governance and compliance @ Infrastructure Investments 26 Executive focus eis: 88) > The OECD’s mission – Batter Policies for Better Lives – is to promote policies that will improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world. Director – OECD Development Centre www.oecd.org A Paris based position with attractive remuneration package The OECD Development Centre (DEV) is a key player for OECD’s work on sustainable development in non-member economies and within the OECD Development Cluster for the OECD’s work on international development. DEV works to support developing countries and emerging economies find innovative policy solutions to promote sustainable development, reduce poverty and inequalities, address gender equality and improve people’s lives. The Centre brings together 56 member countries and facilitates policy dialogue between governments, involving public, private and philanthropic actors, Countries from Africa, Asia and Latin America participate as full members in the Centre, where they interact on an equal footing with OECD members. The OECD js looking for a visionary and innovative, Director, with proven experience In working with and in developing countries as well as with a sound knowledge of the Development Centre’s areas of work. As a key member of the Organisation’s Senior Management team, s/he will provide strategic management and onentation and will advance the Centre’s work programme, Svhe will support the Governing Board of the Centre (GB) to carry out its mandate to help its members in sharing | their experience of economic and social development policies and to help decision makers find policy solutions to improve living conditions in developing and emerging economies. The ideal candidate will provide intellectual leadership and will demonstrate innovative strategic thinking, strong communication skills and a track record of managing international tearmns This position requires fluency in one of the two OECD official languages (English and French) and a good working knowledge of, or willingness to learn, the other Full details of the position are available at www.oecd.org/careers/vacancies (ref. 14028). Applications from OECD or DEV member country nationals should be submitted online by cob 17 January 2021. ARE YOU READY FOR Come back to school nowteach.org.uk INVEST U.P. 12—C, MALL AVENUE LUCKNOW-226 001 (U.P.), INDIA RECRUITMENT NOTIFICATION Advt. No.: 1IUP/10523/278/COO/20-21/RD Exciting opportunity to be a part of Team Uttar Pradesh — Powering New India! In India, the State of Uttar Pradesh is fast transforming itself into one of the most favourable investment destinations. To foster the investor friendly environment in the State, the Government of Uttar Pradesh (GoUP) has established INVEST U.P. — the Investment Promotion & Facilitation Agency of the State. INVEST U.P. provides support across the life cycle of investors interested in investing in Uttar Pradesh and acts as the interface between various departments of GoUP and the investor community. The first of its kind agency in the State seamlessly integrating investment promotion and facilitation process, INVEST U.P. aims to be at the forefront of economic development of Uttar Pradesh while driving the objective of ‘Make in India’. INVEST U.P. is on the lookout for energetic and qualified personne! for the position of Chief Operating Officer (COO) with Post- Graduate Management Degree from Tier-1 Indian/ Global institute and 15+ years of experience in Tier-1 Management Consulting/ Investment Banking domain. For detailed terms & conditions kindly visit http~//i up interested candidates may send their siiaheuiinne 2 ond mma by e-mail on info@udyogbandhu.com on or before 19th January 2021. Chief Executive Officer INVEST U.P. Date: 10.12.2020 SHELTER AFRIQUE SHELTER AFRIQUE: Seeking an independent board director 1.0 ABOUT SHELTER AFRIQUE Shelter Afrique is the only pan-African finance institution that exclusively supports the development of the housing and real estate sector in Africa. By meeting the needs of the continent’s rapidly growing urban population, our work has a direct and positive impact on the lives of many. 2.0 ROLE SPECIFICATION Shelter Afrique is seeking to appoint an Independent Non-Executive Director who will be expected to among others: Contribute towards the Board’s responsibility in ensuring that the Company’s portfolio is properly invested and managed in accordance with the investment objective. Maintain and enhance the range of the Board’s skills, expertise, experience and knowledge. Maintain, through Board integrity, the reputation and profile of the Company. 3.0 PERSON SPECIFICATION The successful candidate will have a combination of the following characteristics: Required: e Diversity of thought: The successful candidate will bring diversity of thought to the board. e A background in managing NPLs or restructuring, fund/capital raising. e Experience of project finance is essential and specifically residential real estate investing would be an advantage. Applicants are invited to send a cover letter illustrating their suitability against the listed qualifications and detailed curriculum vitae as well as names and addresses of the referees to hr@shelterafrique.org. The deadline for submission is 31st January 2021. Only short-listed applicants meeting the above requirements will be contacted. We invite you to learn more about Shelter-Afrique and about this role by accessing our web site: http://www.shelterafrique.org. * Holiday specials The Economist December 19th 2020 | Season’s greetings! N CHRISTMAS DAY in 1948, Marie Harris published the mid-century equivalent of a status update. In June that year, “lying on the beach watching the waves of the Pacific roll in”, she and her husband Bob had de- cided they needed more space for their young family. Through an ad in the local paper they found just the place: a rambling old farmhouse with green shutters in rural Shedd, Oregon. They swapped their crowded city digs for a retreat worthy of Instagram: five acres of land, thick with boysenberries, apple, pear and walnut trees. But apart from the 17 chickens, three geese, two cats, a cow, a duck and a collie called Mac, Shedd was notasociable sort of place. So Marie’s three-page bulle- tin ended with something akin to a friend request: “We have lots of animals,’ typed the 28-year-old, “but would like company of a more human sort—and mail.” So concluded the first edition of the Harris Herald, a newsletter which Marie would publish every Christ- mas for the rest of her life. Usually typed on a side or two of letter paper and sometimes embellished with stick-man drawings, maps and photos, the Herald pro- vided friends and family with news of high-school wrestling triumphs, tonsillectomies, hunting hauls and river voyages on a home-made cruiser, Noah’s Place (later renamed PITA, short for Pain In The Ass, after it overheated and broke down halfway up the Co- lumbia river). Over 54 editions Marie chronicled the Surprise birth of twins, the premature death of Bob, her return to college, remarriage (at which point the Harris Dispatches from the days when the newsfeed was refreshed once a year, by post Herald became the Bussard-Harris Christmas Annual), promotion to college professor and the arrivals of 18 grandchildren, as well as more great-grandchildren than most readers could keep track of. The Herald is the oldest archived example of a Christmas newsletter, a medium that, long before the internet, allowed the sharing (and over-sharing) of carefully curated news and photos toa wide network of friends and family. Most Christmas letters linger fora few weeks above the fireplace before being thrown away in the New Year clear-out. But historians are in- creasingly interested in the few that are kept. Like modern social media, the bulletins offer a window into everyday domestic life—or at least the version of it that the authors presented to the world. Marie Harris was among the pioneers of a medium that emerged on both sides of the Atlantic after the sec- ond world war. People had exchanged Christmas cards with loved ones since Victorian times, when a well- chosen card was considered a present in itself. As in- comes rose in the second half of the 20th century, peo- ple sent more cards; by the1970s it was common to buy them by the box. The more cards people posted, the more of a pain it became to hand-write long messages. So when technology allowed an insert to be copied, people did so. Marie’s first Heralds were printed by mimeograph, a contraption that used a rotating drum to force blueish ink through a stencil made of waxed paper. Few people had access to such a thing (Marie 28 Christmas newsletters > used one at Oregon State College, where Bob worked as a lecturer). From the 1960s, photocopiers began pop- ping up in offices. The smart new look of the Bussard- Harris Christmas Annual in 1961 was courtesy of the Xe- rox machine in the office of David Bussard, Marie’s sec- ond husband. In the 1980s home computers and print- ers made it easier still to make newsletters; Marie’s 1988 bulletin describes a “rash” of such missives. As these letters became more common, people found ways to make them stand out. Photos began to appear (we first see the Harris-Bussards 1n 1975: Marie, in flares, reclining in an armchair as David perches by the fireplace). The 1990s brought an outbreak of Christ- massy clip-art, with cheerful Santas sometimes incon- gruously placed next to reports of deceased pets. Around the same time, stationers began to sell Christ- mas-themed paper aimed at newsletter scribes. Some authors expressed themselves in verse. A col- lection of newsletters held by Ann Burnett of North Da- kota State University includes one written in 14 just- about-rhyming stanzas: We travelled to Normandy Where the Allies did land And thenonto London Where we stayed at the Strand Others extracted contributions from their children. When the novelty of that wore off some wrote imagi- nary missives from their pets. A letter in Ms Burnett’s collection reads normally enough—one son is off to Yale, a grandchild is on the way, and so on—except that the notional authors are the family’s cat and dog, both long dead and stuffed. A haunting photograph of the glass-eyed pair rounds off the bulletin. A timeline of the years As well as laughs, intentional and otherwise, letters like these provide a rich social history. In the 1990s pa- per sources began to disappear beneath a flood of e- mails and text messages. Susan B. Strange, an archivist at the Smithsonian Museum of American History, identified Christmas letters as an exception to this rule. In 1998 she began to collect them from friends, family and anyone else who had back issues to offload. The resulting haul of 1,500 missives, from about 100 families, ended up at Harvard’s Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America. Women write about three-quarters of newsletters, Ms Strange estimates, providing an alternative historical perspective—albeit one that remains largely white and middle-class. Health, work and travel are the enduring themes, and the archives illustrate how all three changed for Americans in the 20th century. In 1948 Marie recount- ed a brush with polio in which first her son, and then she herself, were forced to isolate in hospital. Inamore recent letter from a different family, a70-year-old mar- vels at her new prosthetic foot: “A super duper, space age, technological marvel that will never hurt, nor fail nor any other thing.” In1948 Bob Harris took ona Satur- day job as a mechanic, which “saved us from the very unpleasant effects of inflation’, running at nearly 10% that summer. Sixty years on the global financial crisis made its way into people’s Christmas reflections. “We are going to change our name to AIG-Chrysler in the hopes that the federal government will provide us with a bail-out,’ joked one American family in 2008. As the Women write about three- quarters of newsletters, providing an alternative historical perspective The Economist December 19th 2020 jet age arrived, tales of holidays made more frequent appearances. “The trip to San Francisco takes less time than driving to the airport to catch the plane,’ mar- velled Marie in1962. Her vacations branched out froma trip to Palm Beach to tours of Australia, Fiji and South Africa in the1990s. A new preoccupation is with busyness. As one newsletter in Ms Burnett’s collection puts it: ‘I’m not sure whether writing a Christmas letter when I’m working at the speed of light is a good idea, but given the amount of time I have to devote to any single project, it’s the only choice I have. We start every day at 4.45am, launch our- selves through the day at breakneck speed (the experience is much like sticking your head in a blender), only to land ina crumpled heap at 8.30pm…wondering how we made it through the day.” More than two-thirds of newsletters mention time, usually the lack of it, Ms Burnett finds. She attributes this to the quickening pace of modern life. But it is dif- ficult to resist the suspicion that there is a hint of showing off in some authors’ complaints about their action-packed lives. The Christmas letter is, after all, the native environment of the humblebrag. “While I would like to take credit for this, in truth it was more the Lord,’ writes a serial offender from Massachusetts. The next year he remarks: “I like to think they gave me this award for the great job I did, but it is more likely they gave it to me so I would finally go away!” Readers may wonder if that was indeed the case. Comments like this explain why Christmas letters do not always spread good cheer. In 1954 an article in the Atlantic Monthly sent up the “campy humour and covert bragging” of the Christmas circular. By 1987 Ma- rie felt the need to explain that “although we read about people who don’t like to receive Christmas letters, it is so hard to break old habits, especially one that started 39 years ago’. Debrett’s, a British etiquette guide, ad- vises that such newsletters are “best avoided. They are impersonal and can seem boastful, especially if they are a rambling litany of the family’s achievements.” Those who love to hate the “brag and gag” variety of letter have found innovative ways to get their revenge. Christmas Letter Swap, a website, organises an annual >> ADVERTISEMENT The right place at the right time: MALAYSIA’S ROLE IN THE NEW GLOBAL ECONOMY The nation’s pro-business policies, advanced infrastructure and highly skilled workforce provide new opportunities for overseas manufacturers ! and service companies Globally, supply chains are being redrawn. Disruption due to trade tensions and the covid-19 pandemic is prompting multinational corporations (MNCs) to re-evaluate their Asia operations. MNCs need a dependable, secure and stable location from which to run their regional operations. Malaysia is such a market. Strategically located in South-East Asia, Malaysia lies in one of the fastest-growing economic regions in the world. It isa member of the recently signed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, which presently encompasses 30% of the world’s population and around 30% of global trade. While many markets continue to grapple with the health and economic fallout of covid-19, Malaysia is moving forward. The World Health Organization recently praised the nation for its handling of the pandemic, and the International Monetary Fund predicts Malaysia’s economy will grow by 7.8% in 2021. Politically stable, Malaysia boasts a robust legal system, including intellectual property protection, and a well-developed financial sector. The country’s telecoms and internet capabilities are among Asia’s most sophisticated. Seven international airports connect Malaysia to regional and global commercial hubs, while its seven seaports facilitate the rapid movement of goods. A modern highway system spans most of Peninsular Malaysia, and over 500 business parks are scattered across the country. The DHL Global Connectedness Index ranks Malaysia second in South-East Asia and 12th highest globally for trade connectivity. Malaysia’s young, educated workforce makes it one of the most competitive in Asia. The nation boasts over 500,000 students enrolled in roughly 500 colleges and 73 universities. Vocational and technical schools, polytechnics and industrial training institutions prepare young people for employment in various industrial trades. Most Malaysians are fluent in English. Dato’ Azman Mahmud, CEO, Malaysian Investment Development Authority (MIDA) Malaysia’s industry 4.0 capabilities are noteworthy. The 11th Malaysian Plan (2016 to 2020) places an emphasis on the “3+2” catalytic and high potential growth sub-sectors— namely the electrical and electronics (E&E), chemicals, machinery and equipment, medical devices, and aerospace industries. These are greatly benefiting from use of loT, artificial intelligence (Al), robotic process automation and wearables to manufacture items used in wide range of consumer and industrial technologies and products. Malaysia is also placing greater importance on sustainable industries. During 2019, 350 renewable energy projects worth RM3.78 billion (US$900 million) were approved. Malaysia’s state-of-the-art healthcare system is too a focus. With modern facilities, skilled practitioners and affordable prices, medical tourism is thriving. During 2019, 1.3 million overseas patients travelled to Malaysia to receive healthcare. Malaysia ranked 1st in ‘Bloomberg‘s Emerging Market Scorecard’ in 2018 Opportunities abound for overseas investors. The Malaysian Investment Development Authority (MIDA) supports MNCs from a wide range of industries, as they seek to capitalise on the many openings the country presents. “AS partners to investors, MIDA prioritises the push for strategic collaborations between foreign and local companies to propel mutually-beneficial outcomes such as the transfer of knowledge and expertise across industries as well as the development of resilient supply chains and support network,’ enthuses Dato’ Azman Mahmud, CEO, MIDA.“These are stepping stones to nurture Malaysian companies to become truly global champions. This is MIDA‘s commitment to ensure the sustainability of the business entities in the country, not only in the present but for the future.’ To learn more about doing business in Malaysia, visit mida.gov.my alt? a4 2 jay = ’ Pes se Mil 30 Christmas newsletters » exchange of fictitious newsletters, as an antidote to the “seasonal plague”. Simon Hoggart, a Guardian journal- ist, asked readers to send in their most-hated letters and received several hundred each year, from the sick- ening (“The cutest, cleverest and most advanced baby ly came on January uth. They were supposed to come at the beginning of December’). Some recipients were so infuriated that they had ripped their letters up, and taped them back together to send him. And unlike so- cial media, which offer a variety of ways to block show- offs and bores, mailed letters offer no escape. Weariness with the format, and the growth of alter- native ways to keep in touch, mean the newsletter is in decline. People are sending less Christmas post in gen- eral: the average American household received ten Christmas cards in 2019, compared with about 30 at the end of the 1980s. In 2017 Ms Burnett surveyed 200 newsletter senders and found that two-thirds no lon- ger planned to write one. The main reasons cited for giving up, besides busyness, were the alternative of so- cial media and the fear of being considered boastful. Carlos Llanso of America’s Greeting Card Association says that his own company, Legacy, stopped selling Christmas-themed newsletter paper about five years ago, for lack of demand. “Maybe people started think- ing it was too much,’ he wonders. Slow social media The move from annual printed bulletins to daily elec- tronic updates means that people are documenting more of their everyday life than ever before. But arch- ivists worry that today’s tweets and instant messages may prove harder to preserve than the stashes of news- letters. Even if the electronic musings survive, they re- corda different sort of history: a “daily dribble’ of com- mentary, says Ms Strange, rather than the considered reflection on what mattered most that year. Perhaps the bigger loss is not to posterity but to the authors themselves. Ms Burnett describes newsletter- writing as an opportunity for “retrospective sense- making”. As Marie scribbled to a friend in the margin of The Christmas newsletter isn’t quite ready to fold. This year, in particular, may inspire reflection The Economist December 19th 2020 her circular of 1988, “For me it is a sort of ‘closure’ for each year.’ In the same way that Christmas itself in- vites reminiscence and reflection—a year almost done, memories of past Christmases jogged by each bauble unwrapped from the tissue paper—composing a news- letter requires contemplation of the year just past. One result of that reflection is an awareness of life’s finiteness. Whereas online posts are unlimited, life is capped at a few score annual letters. After launching the Herald when she was 28, Marie’s life spanned 54 more issues; she was determined to make each count. In 1968, the year she turned 48, became a grandmother, hosted a Japanese exchange student and helped David build a new headquarters for the family business, she reflected on how much more there was to do: “Possibly Marie’s chief troubles is that she wants to be out- side, wants to teach, wants to keep a good house, and be a good wife and mother. Life is too full of wonderful things to do, places to go, and people to know.” The last Christmas letter of her life reflected on the couple’s long marriage and the companionship of grandchildren and great-grandchildren, concluding: “One could ask for little more than this.” Marie died on December 17th 2003, shortly after it was posted. The Christmas newsletter isn’t quite ready to fold. This year, in particular, may inspire reflection: jour- nal-writing is sometimes prescribed to manage stress, points out Ms Burnett, who wonders if more people will want to record their thoughts this Christmas. Lockdowns have encouraged people to stay in touch by different means: the us Postal Service sold more Stamps than usual over the summer, and in the au- tumn Christmas-card manufacturers reported higher Sales than usual. Newsletter content may be a bit thin, with fewer weddings or glamorous holidays to relate. But the weeks trapped at home have got people into weird hobbies that they want to tell the world about, if social media are a guide. Even before the lockdowns, signs were emerging that young people were getting back into hand-written media. In America millennials recently began to out- spend baby-boomers on greeting cards, chiefly be- cause they go in for pricey individual ones for special occasions, rather than the $10 boxes designed for mass mailing. Electronic communication is so effortless that it makes it hard to convey thoughtfulness. “If you re having a bad time at work, or a much-loved pet has died, another text doesn’t cut it,’ says Amanda Fer- gusson, head of the British Greeting Card Association, who says British millennials are also spending more on cards than they did a generation ago. Two of Marie’s children, as well as some of her grandchildren, now send Christmas newsletters of their own. And the first editions of the Herald continue to give pleasure. Robert Harris, the “big healthy boy” of Six 1n1949, recently re-read the back issues and saw his own early life through different eyes. “It seems to be that my mother found a major voice for facing her life that comes through in her letters,’ he says. In that nar- rator, “I didn’t discover a different mother. I discovered a bigger mother.’ Meanwhile, Marie’s newsletter lives on. Seventeen years after her death, and nearly three- quarters of a century on from the mimeograph and the green-shuttered farmhouse, Marie’s surviving hus- band David will this year send out its 72nd issue. * The Economist December 19th 2020 Rural France Fragments from a forgotten valley BENIVAY-OLLON HE ROAD to Bénivay-Ollon leads to nowhere else. It Twinas up the valley along the course of the shallow Ayguemarse river, between craggy limestone outcrops and emerald-green forest, to a village of 66 souls. In Summer the cicadas are insistent and the warm air is infused with the scent of wild rosemary. In winter morning dew gathers on the grass, and Mediterranean pines gleam defiantly in the watery light. The village boasts no café, no shop, no post office, no boulangerie. Nobody passes through it by chance or even design. A visiting priest arrives up the road to celebrate mass at the church just twice a year. Once through the village, the road twists up toa ford over the water, and thenceforth turns into a dirt track that dis- appears into the forest. Perched improbably on a sheer-edged rock, accessible only by foot, the tiny 13th- century stone chapel of Saint Jean watches over the val- ley like a sentinel. Ona bright June morning, Daniel Charrasse is to be found outside the mairie, or town hall. Aged 73, aslight figure with thinning silver hair, he is a retired apricot farmer who was born down the road and grew up in the Holiday specials 31 Three months in the life of a French village reveals that isolation can mean solace as well as hardship village. He is now the mayor, arole treated locally more as an elder than a politician. At the most recent munic- ipal election, 39 voters dropped his name into the bal- lot box. That was 87% of those cast. For much of the post-war period, Monsieur Charrasse’s father Ger- main, who also grew apricots in the valley, was mayor. And in the 1920s so was Germain’s uncle, Camille. Tradition and loss are baked into the land in this isolated corner of France, which lies in the folds of mountains between the foothills of the Alps and the Mediterranean hinterland. Five years before the first world war broke out, Monsieur Charrasse’s great- grandfather Florent, born in the village in 1837, died, leaving his wife to run the farm with their four boys. When Germany declared war on France, all four sons were sent from the orchards and olive groves of the Ay- guemarse valley to the mud and horror of the front, nearly 1,000km (621 miles) away. Paul, their second son, never made it back. Paul was killed on the battlefield in the Vosges mountains in August 1914, during the first bloody weeks of war. He was one of six villagers who lost their lives, their names engraved in stone on the wall next to the town hall. Albert, Daniel’s grandfather, and his two other brothers, Elie and Camille, all returned home to the valley, married and settled there. Albert’s veteran’s card shows a dapper young man with neat hair, ina wool jacket and waistcoat. Today their graves lie in Charrasse family plots in the square walled cemetery, a quiet spot up on the hillside, lined by cypress trees. In remote villages and valleys across France, there are still communities like Bénivay, where the same family names can be found on the gravestones and the letterboxes. Craftmanship—the pressing of olives, the maturing of cheese, the training of vines—is passed on through the generations. France counts 8,780 com- munes with fewer than 200 inhabitants. To the metro- politan eye they are either places of community, tran- quillity and tradition, or they are isolated and neglected parts of la France périphérique (peripheral France), constrained by narrowing options and a loss of population, living distrustfully on the margins. Bé- nivay suggests that neither view tells the full story. The Charrasse family and the Bénivay valley are as intertwined as the farmers of this land are with the sea- sons and disasters they can bring. It doesn’t take long in a conversation for a villager to raise the devastating winter that descended on the valley over 60 years ago. “Until the frost of 1956, we produced a lot of olives and tilleuls (lime trees),’ says Monsieur Charrasse. “But the frost hit the olive trees badly. For ten years, we pro- duced no olives at all. That’s when my father decided to plant apricot orchards and vineyards.” The olive trees eventually recovered. When the mistral blows in from the Rhone valley, their feathery ash-green leaves catch the sunlight. But today, for bet- ter and for worse, the farm is centred on apricots. Pests attack the fire-orange fruit. Wild boar—an estimated 150 of them roam the surrounding forests—yank down >> 32 * Rural France » the branches to shake the apricots to the ground, breaking open the stones so that their young can feed on the kernels. They leave the flesh to rot in the ground. Nature dictates the orchards’ fortune, just as the sea- sons do the working rhythms. In summer, when apri- cots ripen, the farmers are on the upper slopes of the Ayguemarse valley shortly after dawn and finish as the sun sets late in the evening, breaking in the sweltering heat of the day only for lunch. The smallholding farmer, wrote Gaston Roupnel in his “Histoire de la Campagne Francaise’, a history of the French countryside from 1932, is one whom “the si- lent earth has disciplined with quiet tasks, endowed with the peace of the fields and the calm of the strong.” He might have been writing about the Bénivay valley. Beauty collides with hardship. Farmers do what they can to make ends meet. The Charrasse family rents out rooms to guests. Another runs acampsite farther down the valley. Other farms struggle, their backyards filled with the odd discarded mattress, rubber tyre, broken washing rack and dusty toys. It is not an existence for everybody. Bénivay, like much of rural France for over a century, has seen its young pack up and leave. In 1911 the village counted 120 people. When Monsieur Charrasse was growing up, it was home toa dozen farming families. Today just three remain. As achild, he went to primary school in Béni- vay, sitting ata wooden desk ina single class for pupils of all ages. In the 1970s the school closed. Two of his adult children have moved away. “Their going is the most painful rejection”, wrote Daniel Halévy of the loss of the young from French villages, in his study of 1935, “Visites aux paysans du Centre.” As Monsieur Charrasse reflects on these changes, a tractor clatters past, pulling a trailer filled with plastic fruit crates. The young man at the wheel waves. Mon- sieur Charrasse smiles. Itis his younger son, Florian. It turns out that he, like his father and grandfather before him, has become a farmer, taking over the family hold- ing and becoming the third generation Charrasse to tend apricots in the valley. The call of the wild What keeps the 33-year-old Florian on the land? On an early morning in June, in a red baseball cap and bright blue T-shirt, he is to be found with his tractor up a dirt track on the hillside orchard for the cueillette, or fruit- picking. Daniel recalls that, in his time, the season used to last until late July or even into August. These days, warmer springs have brought the harvest for- ward. Every ripe apricot, creamy orange and tinged blush-red, is plucked by hand, and placed in a black plastic bucket suspended from a branch. “Do you hear the sound of the leaves?” asks Florian, as he gently twists a fruit to test its maturity. Just the right rustle indicates a judicious choice. “It’s very del- icate, you just pull a little bit. If there are two on the branch you must always pick them both, or the second will fall to the ground. Choosing a ripe fruit is about the position on the branch, not necessarily the colour. The ones on the end of the branch are the ripest, so you Start at the extremity. If they are ripe, you move to- wards the middle of the tree.” Daniel watches his son quietly. The orchard he is tending is over half a century old. The elder Monsieur Charrasse is a man of few words. The French village, Life under lockdown was traumatic for those in the city. In Benivay it barely changed daily life The Economist December 19th 2020 wrote Roupnel, is a place of conviviality, but “over there, in the fields, the individual converses with si- lence, fed by dreams and solitude.” Yet he will say that he is “proud” his son has taken over. Florian always wanted to farm. “I started helping my grandfather, Pépé, pick apricots when I was eight,” he says. “When I was about 13, he let me drive the tractor up here. I’ve al- ways known this is what I want to do.” The roots of belonging “It’s more of a commune than a village,’ reflects Si- mone Charrasse, the mayor’s wife, one hot afternoon in July when the bugs are out. She is sweeping the front porch of the farmhouse through a multicoloured cat- tail fly curtain, awaiting two friends from a neighbour- ing farm. Madame Charrasse, who is 64, grew up ona farm in Bourdeaux, a bigger village farther north. Béni- vay, She thinks, which lacks a main street or square, is more of a hamlet or collection of farms, “although everyone here still knows each other.” Does the word solitude speak to her? “A bit,” reflects Simone. “There are moments, especially during the fruit harvest, when everyone keeps to themselves on their own land. It’s the nature of the work.” Her friend and neighbour Edith Blanchard, who comes by fora cool drink, disagrees. “I would call it zenitude, not sol- itude,’ she says. “There are no people here that we don’t talk to.” Neighbours drop in on each other. The town hall has a committee just for organising fétes, or parties. Each year in June there is a village celebration when the lime trees are in flower. Edith and her hus- band, Jean-Claude, meet friends to play cards, or bou- les in the shade beside the ford over the river. “We don’t miss restaurants, or the cinema,’ she says. Life under lockdown was traumatic for those in the city. In Béni- vay it barely changed daily life. Later on in the day, Florian arrives. “My impression is that there is less solitude in the country than in the city,’ he ventures. “In the city, there are lots of people, but you speak to nobody you pass by.” Often, “the city”, or “Paris”, are thrown into conversation as abstract concepts: the incomprehensible source of rules, pa- perwork and condescension. Nobody ever spontane- ously names the prime minister or the president. It emerges that for Florian, though, Paris is part of his routine. Roughly 30 times a year, he drives his van down out of the valley to sell his freshly picked apri- cots—at three times the local retail price—at markets in the capital. Since the fruit-picking in June, he has done the1,40o0km round trip four times. “People say we live in a pays perdu (forgotten land),”’ comments Simone. “But forgotten by whom?” In Janu- ary a4G-transmitter was built on the hilltop, supplying reliable mobile connection to the valley for the first time. Fibre-optic cable is on its way. Florian, who works with a farm-to-fork producers’ network, is con- Stantly on his smartphone to clients—a technology that his father wryly describes as “a form of servitude”. Real isolation, suggests Jean-Claude Blanchard, Edith’s husband, a retired farmer and former mayor of the village, was that experienced by his parents’ gener- ation. Until a dirt road was dug up the valley in 1900, farmers would follow the river downstream, clamber- ing in their leather boots over any rocks in their way. To take his produce to market, Monsieur Blanchard’s grandfather would head up the steep hills on foot, or >» The Economist December 19th 2020 Rural France >» with a horse and cart, via a mountain pass. Today the road up to Bénivay is tarmacked, shrinking the 10okm- drive to the nearest shops to15 minutes. In recent times the road has brought new travellers: walkers, campers, even second-homeowners. They bring novel requests to the town hall, says Simone, such as better signposts for hiking trails. “They have come here for the calm,’ she says, “but the countryside is also noises, cockerels, tractors. We’re working. Noises are everywhere.” One asked if the ringing of the church bell, which then began at 7am, could start a lit- tle later, she recalls. “It’s two different worlds.” Apricots and ancestry August, and Florian is sitting in the shade outside the farmhouse, rolling a cigarette and looking glum. The season turned out to be dreadful—he lost 85% of the apricot harvest due to winter frost—and not for the first time. Living off the land is unpredictable, and wearying. The more he converts to organic, the more rules he has to respect. The more the apricots disap- point, the more he turns to cherries, grapes and olives, jams, juices and tapenade. But he cannot imagine an- other life. A farmer, Florian reflects, doesn’t count in years. Time moves to a different beat. After the frost of 1956, his grandfather planted 1,000 olive trees. He talks of this grove as acustodian might of an heirloom. “We’ve had apricot orchards here for only about 60 years; to be attached to them would be weird,” Florian says. “But the olive trees, they will be here for centuries.” The people of Bénivay wear the weight of history ca- Sually. It lies all around them, in the fields, the grave- yards, even on their bookshelves. When the mayor opens the archives one morning it yields treasures: re- cords of births, marriages and deaths, handwritten in cursive script and organised in leather-bound vol- umes, reaching back to 1733—more than half a century before the French revolution. The village registers reveal no fewer than nine gen- erations of the Charrasse family. The records from the Napoleonic years show Daniel Charrasse’s great-great- grandfather to be Jean-Baptiste Florent (born in the vil- lage in 1806). The brittle pre-revolutionary parish reg- isters, which bear the royal seal of the Dauphiné prov- ince, identify his father as Jean-Baptiste (born in the village in1774), alsoa farmer. He was the son of Jean-Jo- seph (born in the village in 1740), whose parents were Joseph Charrasse and Marie Martel. Married 1n 1733, Jo- seph is listed as “from Entrechaux”, a town all of 15km away—the original Charrasse newcomer to Bénivay. Monsieur Charrasse seems only half-surprised to find his ancestors sitting silently at his side. Cest comme ca. It’s just the way it is. Family legend, he says, is that the Charrasse family came over from Italy dur- ing the Avignon papacy of 1309-76. There is a book about them, he says. A copy, it turns out, lies in the Avi- enon public library, housed ina14th-century cardinal’s palace. Published in 1947, “Histoire des Familles Char- rasse’, co-written by one Alain Charrasse, traces the family back to Antonio de Carrassa, a cardinal’s neph- ew, who settled nearby in around 1360. Despite the many Josephs, Jeans and Baptistes in the study, how- ever, none matches the records for Daniel’s family. The news prompts neither surprise nor disappointment. The centuries-long continuity of the Charrasse The more the apricots disappoint, the more he turns to cherries, grapes and olives, jams, juices and tapenade family in this valley, resistant to the forces of revolu- tion, war, poor harvest and pests, is not unique. The Meége, Gras, Reynier and Blanchard families too are all still in the village, with ties to the past—and the future. One day Monsieur Blanchard mentions that his 23- year-old grandson, Ludo, is expecting a baby. Having grown up in Bénivay, where his father and grandfather still live, he has now settled there with his partner, Alexia Rousseau. Ludo went to what his grandmother calls “shepherd school”: an agricultural lycée, where he specialised in sheep-rearing. His dream is to buy a flock of his own—“beautiful ones”’—and keep them near the mountain ridge. “In the holidays, from the age of about seven or eight, Iused to mind my great-grandfather’s sheep, and I would bring them in at night by myself,” explains Ludo, with his thick shock of black curly hair and beard. He is sitting with Alexia in their first-floor flat next to the mairie. Behind him, a pastoral scene of Sheep inavalley is pinned to the wall. Ludo shudders at the evocation of city life: “Things go so fast.” Bénivay, he observes, is where he feels at home. “You can see people, but you can also go home and be alone.” What does Alexia, who grew up in the city of Nantes on the Atlantic coast and used to enjoy hanging out in cafés, make of upland village life? The hunting, she confesses, has taken some getting used to. But the only thing she really misses, she says, is the sea. Could they imagine living anywhere else? Alexia laughs: “We looked around a bit, but he said he couldn’t live even in the next village down the valley.” Ludo concurs: “I’m used to this landscape. I need to see the mountains in the morning.” A few weeks later, Ludo and Alexia have a baby boy, named Mistral. He becomes the fourth generation of Blanchards living in the village today. New life has come to the valley, and with ita comforting stability of the sort that villagers also draw from the gnarled olive trees that defy the seasons and the clear edge of the un- changing mountain ridge at dawn. Bénivay bears the scars of ache, disappointment and loss. But itis alsoa place of belonging, serenity and survival. Lost, solitary, forgotten, perhaps; but still defiantly alive. * 34 x Holiday specials Bloodsuckers GOREE ISLAND, SENEGAL History, written by the vectors WO CENTURIES ago, at Anna Pépin’s house on Gorée Island, off the coast of Senegal, ladies with fashion- ably pointed hats sashayed up the stairs to sip fine wines in an airy salon with a stupendous view of the Atlantic. Under the staircase was a windowless pun- ishment cell for recalcitrant slaves. Young, fertile women were separated from the other slaves, for rea- sons as obvious as they are odious. Pépin, an Afro-French trafficker, must have heard her captives rattling their shackles as she shared cana- pés with her guests. If she looked down from her bal- cony, she must have seen them being pushed througha narrow opening—the “door of no return” —and loaded onto ships bound for the Americas. History is partly shaped by human choices. An evil institution cannot exist without evildoers. But history is also shaped by non-human forces. Why did planta- tion owners in the New World specifically want Afri- can slaves, rather than, say, Native Americans? One reason is malaria, notes Eloi Coly, the curator of the museum of slavery that Pépin’s house has become. The Economist December 19th 2020 How malaria has shaped humanity Malaria was introduced to the Americas as part of the 16th-century Columbian exchange. Parasites crossed the ocean in the blood of slaves and settlers. Local Anopheles mosquitoes spread them. Soon, na- tives and Europeans were dying in huge numbers. But Africans tended to survive, even when forced to work in mosquito-infested sugar plantations, because of an inherited resistance to malaria. Planters in the West Indies would pay three times more for an African than for an indentured European, notes Sonia Shah in “The Fever’. The mosquito, which also transmits other dis- eases, “has played a greater role in shaping our story than any other animal,’ writes Timothy Winegard in “The Mosquito”. Stand again on Gorée Island and look in a different direction. Look past the children cooling in the surf, and the masked shopkeepers waiting for the covid-de- terred tourists to come back. Stare towards the African mainland. Today the view is of skyscrapers and con- tainer ships—Dakar, Senegal’s capital, is a thriving port. Back in1805, when Mungo Park, a Scottish explor- er, looked across this same narrow strait, he would have seen a Small settlement and a vast expanse of for- est. He spent a few weeks on Gorée before setting off for the continent’s interior. It is not Known whether he met Pépin, who would have been around 18 at the time. He trekked inland, with tons of baggage loaded on donkeys, and then down the Niger River. Of the 40-odd men on his expedition, all but one died, many of fever. Park himself avoided death by malaria by leaping out of a canoe to escape a hail of arrows and drowning in rap- ids in what is now Nigeria. Park’s troubles illustrate a crucial fact about colo- nial history. Africa was—and remains—the continent where malaria is most virulent. European settlers tended to die of it. So they settled in large numbers only in the least malarial places: South Africa, with its cold winter nights that kill mosquitoes; the highlands of Kenya and Zimbabwe; and the Mediterranean coast of North Africa. In parts of west Africa, by contrast, set- tlers had a50-50 chance of dying each year. In the highly malarial parts of Africa, imperialists ruled indirectly, through local potentates, who were persuaded with threats and bribes to throw in their lot with the French or British empires. In non-malarial zones Europeans settled en masse, creating institu- tions, many of which last to this day, along with racial injustices that caused centuries of grievances. Malaria helps explain why modern South Africa, with 4.7m white citizens, is so different from Nigeria, which has only a handful of white expatriates. South Africa gave the world a universally recognisable euphemism for white supremacy. A quarter-century after apartheid ended, its scars still linger. Nigerian politics has differ- ent faultlines: Muslim versus Christian, and soon. Malaria has shaped other continents, too. It was once widespread in Europe. One reason why ancient Rome was so hard to conquer was that it was protected by the Pontine marshes. The Romans thought the fe- >> The Economist December 19th 2020 »>vers people caught there were caused by noxious fumes. Hence the name malaria, from “bad air”. In 218BC Hannibal crossed the Alps. He routed the Romans at the Trebia, Trasimene and Cannae, but full conquest eluded him because of malaria, which cost the Carthaginian general his right eye, his wife, his son and much of his army. Later invasions by assorted bar- barians met a similar doom. “The world still lives among the mosquito-haunted shadows of the Roman Empire,’ notes Mr Winegard—many countries speaka Latin-based language, while several political systems – have adapted Roman law. Indeed “the Roman Empire first martyred and then eased the passage of Christian- ity across Europe’. Malaria shielded Rome for centuries. But nature does not stand still. Some time around the fifth cen- tury, a new breed of mosquito brought a new and dead- lier parasite to Rome: Plasmodium falciparum, the ma- larial strain that blights Africa today. Unlike P. vivax, to which the Romans were inured, P. falciparum could have demoralised and destabilised an empire that was already under barbarian siege, speculates Ms Shah. The theory that it contributed to Rome’s decline and fall, as well as its rise, is unproven, but plausible. Parasites and people A millennium later, malaria buffeted and then empow- ered another Roman institution: the Catholic church. Five popes probably died of it between 1492 and 1623. After it killed Pope Gregory XV, cardinals came to Rome to choose his successor. Six died of malaria. Eventual- ly, the ailing head of one faction, Cardinal Scipione Borghese, was so desperate to go home that he backeda compromise candidate just to end the conclave. Thus, a mosquito helped elect Pope Urban VIII, as Fiammetta Rocco, an Economist writer, describes in “The Miracu- lous Fever-Tree’”. Then, around 1630, Jesuit missionaries found a cure. In the mountains of Peru, they noticed that na- tives ingested the powdered bark of the cinchona tree when they were shivering with cold. They wondered if it might also treat malarial shivers. It did. The active in- gredient was quinine. Soon it was known that the Jesu- its could treat malaria—for a price. They jealously guarded their secret, and parlayed it into influence by healing kings and lords whose favour they desired. In Britain, malaria may have ended a Protestant dic- tatorship. Oliver Cromwell, the man who had King Charles I beheaded, ruled as Lord Protector from 1653- 1658. His puritanical decrees sucked the joy out of life as surely as mosquitoes suck blood. He closed theatres and banned make-up and Christmas decorations. He hated Catholics, which may be why he angrily refused an offer of “Jesuits’ powder’ to cure his malaria. The fe- ver killed him, and merriment was re-legalised. For centuries, there was never enough cinchona bark. Gradually, however, technology improved. In 1820 French chemists discovered how to extract qui- nine from cinchona. In 1865 a native braved execution to slip Bolivian cinchona seeds to a British trader. The Dutch government got hold of them and, after 30 years, figured out how to grow them in what is now Indone- Sia. By1900 the Dutch were producing more than 5,000 tonnes of quinine a year. When the second world war broke out, the Germans invaded the Netherlands and seized the Dutch stock- Malaria ps 35 piles of quinine. The Japanese invaded Indonesia and seized the cinchona plantations. Suddenly the Axis powers had 95% of the world’s quinine. This gave them a huge military advantage. Japanese forces occupied China, their much larger, mosquito-ridden neighbour, armed with malaria pills. (They also hired old ladies to tuck in sleeping soldiers’ bednets.) Allied troops had far less protection. Malaria afflicted 60% of them in South-East Asia. On the island of Bataan, 85% of Ameri- can and Filipino troops were malaria-struck when they surrendered to the Japanese. It was the largest surren- der to a foreign power in American history. The New York Times noted that the battle was lost not for want of bullets, “but because the quinine tablets gave out”. Wartime demand spurred a race to invent a good substitute. German scientists got there first, with chlo- roquine. After the war, chloroquine was so widely used that parasites grew resistant to it. The race between Sci- ence and evolution continues today. The post-war period saw a big push to exterminate the Anopheles mosquito itself, by spraying its habitat with DDT, an insecticide so effective that America’s Centres for Disease Control called it “the atomic bomb of the insect world”. Prolific spraying caused mosquito populations to crash. By 1951 malaria had vanished from the United States. By 1964 the number of cases in India had fallen from 75m a year to fewer than100,000. But DDT also had side-effects. It persisted in the en- vironment, and moved up the food chain. In America DDT was found in milk, after cows munched insecti- cide-laced grass. And mosquitoes evolved that could resist the chemical. In 1962 Rachel Carson published “Silent Spring’, a book on the dangers of using pesti- cides without understanding their long-term effects. It led to a ban on DDT and helped kick-start the modern environmental movement. It is intriguing to speculate how the world might look, had malaria never existed. If Hannibal had con- quered Rome, would Europeans today speak languages derived from Punic instead of Latin? If the transatlan- tic slave trade had not been so lucrative, would Amer- ica have avoided civil war and segregation? If the qui- nine-fortified Japanese army had not battered the Chinese nationalists so badly, would Mao Zedong’s communists have been able to seize power? Such questions are unanswerable. But humankind may one day discover what a world without malaria is like. The annual global death toll has roughly halved Since 2000, to around 400,000. Rich countries have eliminated the disease: by draining swamps, spraying insecticide and sleeping in air-conditioned rooms. In Africa malaria still kills multitudes of children and sickens adults, making it harder for them to work and obstructing the continent’s path to prosperity. Yet it can be beaten. Senegal has all but conquered the dis- ease in some regions and hopes to wipe it out nation- wide by 2030. Despite the disruption of covid-19, that is feasible, thanks to a combination of bednets, pills and genomic technology. An short drive from Dakar, in a district called Ma- dina Fall, wide puddles fester on an unpaved road. Mal- aria has ravaged the area for thousands of years, but now it has all but gone. “My older brother died of it. My younger sister died of it. I nearly died of it, too,” says Bada Niang, alocal worthy. “Now, we have bednets, and it practically doesn’t exist here any more.’ * 36 x Holiday specials Sidney Street The one that got away The Economist December 19th 2020 Lives were lost and legends collided in a tumultuous stand-off that still echoes today URN OFF the Mile End Road in London’s East End, walk a hundred metres and go back in time. It is January 3rd 1911, and in place of the block of flats with black railings stands a redbrick Victorian terrace. Just after dawn, policemen throw pebbles at a second-floor window. From inside comes a volley of bullets—the opening shots in six hours of mayhem. A sergeant col- lapses, struck in the chest. So began the Siege of Sidney Street, a pyrotechnic Showdown that sparked headlines and manhunts around the world. The anxieties it dramatised—over immigrants, extremism and the welcome both receive in London—remain acute today. So do the questions it raised about violence by and against the police, and over the perils of political grandstanding, in this case by Winston Churchill, then home secretary in Britain’s Liberal government. In one of history’s arbitrary ricochets, the events paired Churchill with another figure destined to be- come a legend: a revolutionary known as Peter the Painter, once notorious from Canada to Australia yet so Shadowy and elusive that some doubt he ever existed. Unfolding over a chilly Christmas season, the episode Shows how villains can turn into heroes, flaws become virtues, and the past morph into myth. In an urban landscape transformed by slum clear- ances and the Luftwaffe, you have to look hard for traces of this sensational affair. But they are there. A mile to the west of Sidney Street in Devonshire Square is a plaque honouring Robert Bentley, Charles Tucker and Walter Choate, police officers slain in the line of duty. This is where the story begins. Their killers included veterans of prison breaks and guerrilla warfare in modern-day Latvia, victims of tsar- ist torture who expected the same treatment if they were caught again. In London they inhabited a milieu of radical ideas and exiles (including, a few years earli- er, Lenin, Stalin and Trotsky). In their correspondence, obtained by police and Kept in the London Metropoli- tan Archives (LMA), the desperadoes come alive. They aver love and loyalty, defy death and solicit patience and money—in pursuit of which they planned “expro- priations”’, otherwise known as robberies. In 1909 some of their number perpetrated the “Tottenham Outrage’, a payroll heist that left four people dead. On the night of December 16th 1910 the target was a jeweller’s in Houndsditch, a commercial thoroughfare delineating the City from the East End, since remade in >> The Economist December 19th 2020 » glass and steel. The gang rented premises behind the shop and set about breaking in. But they chose a Friday night, and the largely Jewish neighbourhood was qui- et. Reports of suspicious noises attracted a policeman, then several, all unarmed. As well as the three fatal- ities, two officers were hurt when the criminals opened fire, in what was the worst-ever peacetime loss for British police. One robber, George Gardstein, alias Morountzeff, alias Milowitz, was hit in the melee. As he was dragged away, a passer-by took him for a drunk—until his comrades brandished their guns. Follow the gang’s getaway route, and for all the brash new towers you find that some things haven’t changed. There is still a vertiginous drop in wealth as you head east from the City; the textile business still flourishes, albeit in South Asian rather than Jewish hands, the street markets offering kebabs instead of pickled herrings. Gardstein was left in squalid lodg- ings, where he was found, dead, the next day, along with weaponry and a membership card for an anar- chist group named Leesma, meaning “The Flame’. In British public opinion and newspapers, the crime reinforced the link between immigrants and revolutionaries, who, as some are now, were organised into slippery cells and cherished a transnational cause. Thousands lined the streets for the victims’ funeral at St Paul’s Cathedral. The police posted a reward for the alleged kingpins in English, Russian and Yiddish— among them Peter the Painter. In wanted posters bear- ing that name, a moustachioed man poses insouciant- ly for an elegant studio portrait. Blood and death This “dashingly handsome’ figure, says Nadia Valman of Queen Mary University of London, would enter the city’s mythology, straddling the border between felon and icon. According to the posters, Peter went by the Surnames Piatkow and Schtern. He was “a native of Russia, an anarchist”. If the conspiracy was interna- tional, so was the chase. French police claimed Peter had lived in Marseilles. The Russians implicated him ina bomb plot in Crimea. A source placed him atanan- archist club in Paris, for which the password was “Blood and death”. He spoke several languages and played the violin. He corresponded with subversives in Baku; a sweetheart pined for him in Kyiv. That alliterative nickname contributed to his mys- tery. What did he paint—houses or portraits? (The sets for amateur dramatics, some suggested.) Was he an artist or a working man, ordinary or exceptional—or one disguised as the other? In a stroke of catchy brand- ing, his moniker echoed that of the monster who had haunted London a generation earlier: Jack the Ripper. The East End had a penumbra of informers, double agents and provocateurs. On New Year’s Day an ac- quaintance tipped off police that the fugitives were hiding at 100 Sidney Street. Two days later Peter the Painter—the idea, if not the man—collided with Chur- chill and his own, carefully cultivated image. He was in the bath when he got the call. Before dawn the police had evacuated the many other tenants of number 100; in the archives you can see a scrawled map they used to plan their ambush. But it was soon clear that their antiquated service weapons were no match for the brigands’ pistols, and Churchill’s author- ity was needed to summon a detachment of Scots The crime reinforced the link between immigrants and revolutionaries Sel ate acl a aat=ls ps 37 Guards from the Tower of London. Today, to imagine the carnage that ensued, you have to substitute the crack of bullets for the noise of the construction site across Sidney Street—occupied, in 1911, by a brewery, from the windows of which marksmen fired as others took aim from doorways, be- hind chimney pots or crouching in the slush. Inside the house the doomed men rushed between floors and windows to shoot back. Though only 36, Churchill was a veteran of combat, with (like Peter the Painter) an adventurous and em- broidered past. He had ridden into battle atOmdurman and helped relieve the siege of Malakand. He had been captured on an armoured train and broken out of a Boer prison. He dressed, hurried to the Home Office and was quickly on the scene, impelled by both “con- victions of duty” and “a strong sense of curiosity which perhaps it would have been well to keep in check”. His cameo is preserved on jerky newsreel footage that played in cinemas almost immediately: the cam- eras made the siege “the first breaking news story in history’, says Andrew Roberts, Churchill’s most recent biographer. You can See the soldiers marching in, hors- es drawing up artillery, the puff of gun smoke and jour- nalists huddling on the roof of the Rising Sun pub (since demolished, along with the Three Nuns, the an- archists’ local). Police struggle to restrain the huge crowds that gathered—rooftop Seats were going for ten Shillings. And there, sheltering around a corner, is a youthful Churchill, expostulating theatrically in a top hat and an astrakhan-collared coat. One story has it that Churchill’s topper took a bul- let—unlikely, says Mr Roberts, since “if it had, he’d have kept it’. His presence was controversial, first among the spectators, some of whom lambasted his liberal approach to immigration, later in Parliament. “I understand what the photographer was doing,’ chided Arthur Balfour, leader of the Conservative Party, which Churchill left in 1904 and would later rejoin. “But what was the right-honourable gentleman doing?” The answer, according to a newsreel caption, is that he was “directing operations’. He suggested seeking metal plates in preparation for storming the house. When, in the lurid finale, the building caught fire—no- body knows how—Churchill approved the decision to keep the fire brigade away. “I thought it better to let the house burn down, than spend good British lives in res- cuing these ferocious rascals,’ he told Herbert Asquith, the prime minister. Newsreels show gallant firemen rushing in after the roof collapsed. One, Charles Pear- son, died after being hit by falling masonry. (The po- liceman shot at daybreak survived.) Two charred corpses, identified as William Sokoloff and Fritz Svaars, were found inside. One had been shot in the head; the other succumbed to the smoke. “Every- body knows he must die some time,’ Svaars had writ- ten to relatives in Latvia on the eve of the siege. “I know that if they catch me they will hang me.” There was no trace of Peter the Painter. As shocking crimes can, the siege opened eyes. The police were given better weapons (Churchill oversaw the test firing). The chief constable of Sheffield sent down abullet-proof shield, “which may be of use when you find ‘Peter the Painter’.” The investigation re-alert- ed the public to the overcrowded slumlands of the East End; Russia appealed for unity against the anarchist >» 38 x Tela) a at-18 » peril. Yet, as can also be true of such spectaculars, pre- cisely what had happened was and remains unclear. In May 1911 four members of the gang were tried at the Old Bailey in connection with the Houndsditch murders: Peter the Painter was not among them. The judge sank the charges by asserting that the three chief culprits had already “met their doom”. Blaming Gard- stein, Svaars and Sokoloff was certainly convenient for their comrades in the dock, and, after the extravaganza of Sidney Street, for the government. In fact, the role and whereabouts of the last two during the fatal rob- bery are still disputed. Only Nina Vassileva, a Russian whose glamour and love-life inspired much comment, was convicted. Fin- gerprint evidence earned her a two-year sentence for conspiracy to rob—but even that was soon quashed. The others walked, including Jacob Peters, a cousin of Svaars who had been collared before the siege. He be- camea much-feared official in the Cheka, the Soviet se- cret police, before meeting a sticky end in1938. Donald Rumbelow, a former policeman and author of a book about the case, reckons Peters and Gardstein did the shooting in Houndsditch. Angleshot Flavorum Enomotarch “Don’t be cross,” Churchill implored a colleague after the siege, “it was such fun.” But his rush to Sidney Street was among the misjudgments held against him until he became prime minister—whereupon, notes Mr Roberts, Churchill’s “almost obsessive need to be at the scene of the action” became an asset. His direct ob- servation of battles bolstered his grasp of the second world war (he would have joined the flotilla on D-Day had the king not intervened). His visits to districts Shattered by the Blitz, during which he watched bomb- ing raids from the roof of Downing Street, were “ex- traordinarily good for morale”. In retrospect the siege, Identifying the “real” Peter the Painter is akin to finding the real Robin Hood, or perhaps King Arthur The Economist December 19th 2020 says Mr Roberts, was “vintage Churchill”. Peter the Painter evaporated. Exchanges with their foreign counterparts indicate that, lacking “conclusive proof” to tie him to the crimes, British detectives quiet- ly stopped looking for him. Police forces from Naples to Winnipeg thought they had him. He was said to be working as a chef in Melbourne, “posing as a French- man” yet “an excellent hand at throwing a knife or us- ing arevolver’. The coded reply to Australia is stored in the LMA. “Angleshot Flavorum Enomotarch’, the police telegrammed from London: “not to be arrested”, as there was “not sufficient evidence” for an extradition. It was too late: the fascination stirred by the wanted poster and sustained by rumour could not be stifled. Peter was widely held to have been in the burning house but somehow escaped. He was spotted in Den- mark. He had moved to America. A police informer all along, his handlers had spirited him away. Soon the saga was transfigured by art. Alfred Hitch- cock grew up near Sidney Street, and in his original version of “The Man Who Knew Too Much” (1934), as- Sassins hole up ina London house, spectators gather, a brave policeman knocks… In “The Siege of Sidney Street” (1960) Peter is a Suave fanatic trailed by an un- dercover Donald Sinden. Trapped in the siege, Peter sets the fire, breaks through the walls and melts into the crowd. “I wonder who it was that got away,’ Sin- den’s character muses when the bodies don’t tally. Ina TV drama of 2012 Peter leads an uprising of third-class passengers on the Titanic. In Emanuel Litvinoff’s novel “A Death out of Season” (1973), he is sent by the tsarist secret police to plot the king’s assassination, and so curtail Britain’s tolerance of political refugees. But his heart is with the renegades. Amid the hearsay and embellishments, records the “Dictionary of National Biography’, doubts arose “as to whether he existed at all”. Nothing about his life “is al- together reliable”. In his book “A Towering Flame’, Phil- ip Ruff insists Peter was real. Citing tsarist files and un- published memoirs, Mr Ruff says he is “100% certain” that the man in the poster was Janis Zhaklis. A social- democrat-turned-anarchist, Zhaklis had ledaraidona prison in Riga, robbed a bank in Helsinki and started a radical journal in America. Only peripherally involved in London, he fled to Brussels before, thinks Mr Ruff, becoming a businessman in Australia. Maybe. But at this distance, identifying the “real” Peter the Painter is akin to finding the real Robin Hood, or perhaps King Arthur, both of whom his quicksilver image resembles—an indomitable will-o’-the-wisp who lives to fight another day. The fable spread: Irish insurgents called the type of pistol used by the anar- chists a Peter the Painter. The flesh-and-blood man was subsumed by legend. All this happened “many moons ago’, Says a resi- dent of the flats in Sidney Street. But it is not entirely forgotten. Another plaque commemorates the fireman who perished. Walk away from the corner where Chur- chill huddled, passing women in headscarves who are heirs to the Edwardian immigrants, and you find two more blocks of flats: Siege House—and Painter House. Justifying that name, the local housing body said there was no evidence Peter had killed anyone. “There is some doubtas to whether he existed,’ it stated, “but his is the name that East Enders associate with the siege.” The man who wasn’t there now always will be. * The Economist December 19th 2020 Digital humanities The book of numbers T ALL STARTED with a preposition. In 1941 Father Ro- berto Busa, a Roman Catholic priest, started noting down as many uses of the word “in” as he could find in the Latin work of Thomas Aquinas, a medieval theolo- gian and saint. Eight years and 10,000 handwritten cards later he completed his linguistic analysis of Aquinas’s “interiority’—his introspective faith—at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University. By then he had a Suspicion that his work could be done far more effi- ciently. He started hunting for “some type of machin- ery’ to speed up his new project, recording the context of all1om words written by Aquinas. Father Busa’s zeal took him to the office of Thomas Watson, IBM’s chairman. Soon he had switched from handwritten cards to IBM’s punch-card machines, be- fore adopting magnetic tape in the 1950s. In the 1960s dozens of full-time typists were involved. By 1980, when his team finally printed the “Index Thomisticus” in 56 volumes, they had spooled through1,500km (930 miles) of tape. ACD-ROM containing1.4GB of datacame out in 1992, with a website following in 2005. The 97- year-old priest died in 2011. But not before he had initi- ated a new quest, to annotate the syntax of every sen- tence in the Index Thomisticus database. Such is the creation story of the digital humanities, a broad academic field including all sorts of crossovers between computing and the arts. The advances since its punch-card genesis have been “enormously greater and better than I could then imagine,’ remarked Father Busa in his old age. “Digitus Dei est hic! [The finger of + The rise in the share of “hard words’ in British novels 1785-1895, % of all words in novel What are “hard words’? Action verbs: “see”, “come,” “go” Physical adjectives: “round, “hard”, “low” Locative prepositions: “out’, “up”, “over” plus body parts, colours and numbers The Mysteries of Udolpho Ivanhoe Ann Radcliffe Sir Walter Scotts o Frankenstein & Mary Shelley Lady Susan Jane Austen Holiday specials ps How data analysis can enrich the liberal arts God is here!]” Almost every humanistic composition imaginable has been rendered in bytes. Aquinas’s works are a speck in the corpus of Google Books, which contains at least 25m volumes and perhaps two trillion words. Naxos, a music service, has annotated 2.4m classical pieces with authorial biographies and instru- mentation. Spotify, a streaming service, has 60m tunes, each with metadata about tempo, time signa- tures and timbre. What started as a niche pursuit is growing rapidly. Google Scholar now contains about 75,000 academic articles and essays that mention “digital humanities”. That total is already bigger than for “Napoleon Bona- parte” (57,000) or “Romeo and Juliet” (66,000). Nearly half of the 75,000 articles were published since 2016. Time and the machine Digitisation’s clearest benefits are speed and scale. Be- cause of decades of exponential growth in computing sophistication, projects that once lasted a lifetime— literally, for Father Busa—now require a fraction of it. Take the work of Barbara McGillivray at the Alan Turing Institute, Britain’s national centre for data science. Having done her phD in computational linguistics on the “Index Thomisticus”, she wanted to create a similar resource for ancient Greek. After starting as the insti- tute’s first humanist in 2017, she and a colleague need- ed just three months to convert 12 centuries of classics into an annotated corpus of 10m words. The final pro- duct compresses Homer, Socrates and Plato into 2.5GB 10 Treasure Island Robert Louis Stevenson The Time o Machine H.G. Wells 8 Great Expectations Charles Dickens ° e The. Sign of the Four E . Arthur Gonan Doyle Jane Eyre Far from the 6 Charlotte Bronte Madding Crowd Thomas Hafdy) ~ Wuthering Heights Pe eee Emily Bronte et TT eat” o ° New Grub Street Middlemarch George Gissing 4 George Eliot o Coningsby 5 Benjamin Disraeli 0 Oa 90 1800 10 20 30 50 60 70 80 S0smr oS Source: Ryan Heuser and Long Le-Khac 39 40 Digital humanities > of tidy Extensible Markup Language (XML), complete with the grammatical properties of each word. Curating such enormous archives is just the start- ing-point. The trick is to turn the data into interesting findings. Researchers have been trying to do that from almost the time when Father Busa began punching cards. From the late 1950s Frederick Mosteller and Da- vid Wallace, two statisticians, spent several years using a desk-sized IBM 7090 to calculate the frequency of words in the Federalist papers, written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay. They inferred that 12 anonymous essays were probably written by Madison, based on certain tics. He rarely used “upon’, forexample, whereas Hamilton often did. Advances in machine learning have given Ms McGillivray a far shinier array of tools. Along with four co-authors, she tested whether an algorithm could track the meaning of Greek words over time. They manually translated 1,400 instances of the noun kos- mos, which initially tended to denote “order”, then lat- er Shifted to “world” (a celestial meaning that survives in the English “cosmos’”). Encouragingly, the machine agreed. A statistical model reckoned that in 700BC kos- mos was frequently surrounded by “man”, “call” and “marketplace”, a cluster suggesting “order”. By100AD a second cluster emerged, suggesting “world”: “god”, “appear” and “space”. The thrill of getting “a computer to blindly agree with us”, explains Ms McGillivray, is that she could now apply it easily to the 64,000 other distinct words in the corpus. She has already spotted that paradeisos, a Persian loan-word for “garden”, took on its theological context of “woman”, “god” and “eat” around 300BC, when the Old Testament was first translated into Greek. At a few keystrokes, the algorithm tapped into one of history’s great intellectual exchanges, between Judaistic theology and Greek literature. Take a byte The most compelling number-crunching of this sort has focused on English writing from 1750-1900, thanks to that era’s rapid expansion of printed texts. Such Vic- torian data-mining has mostly taken place in America. The Stanford Literary Lab was established in 2010. In contrast to “close reading”, by which humans spot nu- ances on a couple of pages, the lab’s 60-odd contribu- tors have pioneered “distant reading’, by getting com- puters to detect undercurrents in oceans of text. An early project dredged through nearly 3,000 Brit- ish novels from 1785-1900, to examine which types of language had gone in and out of style. The authors, Ryan Heuser and Long Le-Khac, developed a tool called “the Correlator’, which calculates how frequently a given word appeared in each decade, and which other words experienced similar fluctuations. Though the maths was crude, it provided some surprisingly coher- ent clusters: “elm”, “beech” and “branch” closely tracked “tree”, for example. In order to detect broader trends, the authors then hunted for clusters that dem- onstrated sustained rises or falls in popularity. First they took the words “integrity”, “modesty’, “sensibility”, and “reason”, and built a cohort of 326 ab- Stract words correlated with them. These sentimental and moralistic terms fell increasingly out of fashion, from providing roughly 1% of all words in 1785 to half that in1900. To provide a contrast, they then looked for At a few keystrokes, the algorithm tapped into one of history’s great intellectual exchanges The Economist December 19th 2020 Of maths and men English-language fiction, female share of total, % 80 60 Characters 40 20 Authors @ ——> Ta SEV UL ae the biggest Internet portal, providing you various content: Ge obrand new books, trending movies, fresh magazines, hot games, recent software, latest music releases. Unlimited satisfaction one low price Cheap constant access to piping hot media Protect your downloadings from Big brother Safer, than torrent-trackers 18 years of seamless operation and our users’ satisfaction All languages Brand new content One site NPS AvaxHome – Your End Place = “. Fai es – es Ped : – – b *, Ak 3 ; – we ~ , . , 4 » > ort e , er ¥ 7 i ; ” Xe DO SS Eee & * We have everything for all of your needs. Just open https://avxlive.icu The Economist December 19th 2020 » tion remained around 40% in 2010. Some of Mr Underwood’s investigations require lLit- tle modelling and a lot of counting, such as an article that examined a sweeping literary claim by Thomas Pi- ketty, an economist. Mr Piketty reckoned that wide- spread inflation after 1914 made people warier of wealth, and so “money—at least in the form of specific amounts—virtually disappeared from literature”. Instinctively, Mr Piketty’s claim may feel true. Vic- torian characters often agonised over inheritance or debt, such as reckless Fred Vincy in “Middlemarch’, who constantly counts the pounds and shillings he has gambled away. By contrast “The Great Gatsby”, a mod- ernist meditation on the “young and rich and wild’, mentions dollars just ten times. However, after comb- ing through 7,700 novels from 1750-1950, Mr Under- wood and his co-authors found that these were outli- ers. The rate at which authors referenced specific amounts of cash nearly doubled in that period (see chart 3). One explanation is that their characters tend- ed to use pocket change more often. The median amount mentioned fell from nearly 60% of annual in- come to less than 5%. Because e-books are abundant and computational linguistics dates back to the dawn of the digital age, most humanistic number-crunching so far has been literary in nature. But other subjects are starting to pro- duce peer-reviewed quantitative studies, too. In his- tory, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published a paper in 2018 that found Maximilien Robespierre was the most influential rhetorician of the French revolution. The authors judged this by how of- ten members of the National Constituent Assembly copied his innovations during 40,000 speeches. In an- thropology, a team of researchers published an article in Nature in 2019 that examined how religions devel- oped, using a 10,000-year dataset of 414 civilisations. They found that societies tended to adopt moralising gods after they had already created complex hierar- chies and infrastructure. This challenges the idea that humans needed divine rules in order to band together. Similarly, a study on painting from 2018 found that Piet Mondrian, a Dutch modernist, dabbled with a much wider range of colour contrasts during his career than his European contemporaries. And a paper from ss as To coin a phrase English-language fiction, references to money per 10,000 words Smoothed trend of annual averages ve The Big Money John Dos Passos @ 6 Middlemarch George Eliot.@ 5 The Sun Also Rises > Ernest Hemingway _«* 4 Cecilia _s&anen”” 2 Frances Burney rs The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald 2 Mansfield Park – . Aust Jane Music North and South Elizabeth Gaskell 0 1750 1800 1850 1900 1950 Source: Ted Underwood, Hoyt Long and Richard Jean So Despite data science’s exciting possibilities, plenty of other academics object to it Digital humanities ps A1 2020 calculated that Sergei Rachmaninoff composed the most distinctive piano pieces relative to his peers, using a Similar measure of innovation to the one inthe Robespierre paper (but judging by groups of notes, rather than words). Despite data science’s exciting possibilities, plenty of academics object to it. The number-crunchers are not always specialists in the arts, they point out. Their results can be predictable, and the maths is reductive and sometimes sketchy. So too are the perspectives of- ten white, male and Western. Many also fear that fund- ing for computer-based projects could impoverish tra- ditional scholarship. Three academics complained in the Los Angeles Review of Books in 2016 that this “unpar- alleled level of material support” is part of the “corpo- ratist restructuring of the humanities”, fostered by an obsession with measurable results. Brave new world The arts can indeed seem as if they are under threat. Australia’s education ministry is doubling fees for his- tory and philosophy while cutting those for STEM sub- jects. Since 2017 America’s Republican Party has tried to close down the National Endowment for the Hu- manities (NEH), a federal agency, only to be thwarted in Congress. In Britain, Dominic Cummings—who until November 2020 worked as the chief adviser to Boris Johnson, the prime minister—advocates for greater numeracy while decrying the prominence of bluffing “Oxbridge humanities graduates”. (Both men studied arts subjects at Oxford.) However, little evidence yet exists that the bur- geoning field of digital humanities is bankrupting the world of ink-stained books. Since the NEH Set up an of- fice for the discipline in 2008, it has received just $60m of its $1.6bn kitty. Indeed, reuniting the humanities with sciences might protect their future. Dame Marina Warner, president of the Royal Society of Literature in London, points out that part of the problem is that “we’ve driven a great barrier” between the arts and STEM Subjects. This separation risks portraying the hu- manities as a trivial pursuit, rather than a necessary complement to scientific learning. Until comparatively recently, no such division ex- isted. Omar Khayyam wrote verse and cubic equations, Ada Lovelace believed science was poetical and Ber- trand Russell won the Nobel prize for literature. In that tradition, Dame Marina proposes that all undergradu- ates take at least one course in both humanities and sciences, ideally with a language and computing. In- troducing such a system in Britain would be “a cause for optimism’, she thinks. Most American universities already offer that breadth, which may explain why quantitative literary criticism thrived there. The sci- ences could benefit, too. Studies of junior doctors in America have found that those who engage with the arts score higher on tests of empathy. Ms McGillivray says she has witnessed a “genera- tional shift” since she was an undergraduate in the late 1990S. Mixing her love of mathematics and classics was not an option, so she spent seven years getting degrees in both. Now she sees lots of humanities students “who are really keen to learn about programming and Statistics”. A recent paper she co-wrote suggested that British arts courses could offer basic coding lessons. One day, she reckons, “It’s going to happen.’ * @ Holiday specials The Alexander technique N THE GOLDEN age of comic books, American chil- dren devoured stories about fantastical superheroes. The National Urban League, an organisation devoted to racial justice, published a comic of its own, Negro He- roes, filled with inspirational black people it had no need to invent. Its 1948 issue featured Jackie Robinson, who had recently broken baseball’s colour bar, on the cover. But it also celebrated a less obvious figure: Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander, one of the league’s leading lights and the first African-American to earn a PhD in economics. “You will get a real thrill as you read about these people,” it promised. Economists are reviving Alexander, born in Phila- delphia in 1898, as a heroine for today. In 2018 a pair of young black women formed the Sadie Collective to help others pursue careers in the field. In 2021 the Na- tional Economic Association, a group supporting mi- norities, will celebrate the centenary of Alexander’s The Economist December 19th 2020 Economists are rediscovering a lost heroine PhD award at their annual gathering. Nina Banks, au- thor of a forthcoming biography, notes that econo- mists have donea poor job of including women or Afri- can-Americans in the history of economic thought. Alexander’s career Shows what they are missing. Like many comic-book heroes, she combined an il- lustrious lineage with early adversity. Her grandfather was a much-published bishop, her uncle was a fre- nowned painter, her father was the first black Ameri- can to graduate in law from the University of Pennsyl- vania and her aunt was the first black woman certified to practise medicine in Alabama. She attended the prestigious M Street High School, which often hosted the country’s leading black intellectuals. “We studied Negro history from living exhibits—not history books,” she said. But her father ran off when she was only a year old, vanishing so completely from her life that she assumed he was dead until her teenage years. Starting as an undergraduate in Penn’s School of Education in 1916, she faced disdain for her ambitions, followed by resentment at her achievements. No one told her how to find the right classroom or the right books. Her first-year classmates barely spoke to her— except one, who befriended her, then tried to copy her exams. A fellowship to pursue graduate work was ini- tially denied to her after a librarian accused her of med- dling with another student’s books. He had mistaken her for another black woman on campus. “Such cir- cumstances madea student either a dropout ora survi- vor so strong that she could not be overcome, regard- less of the indignities,’ Alexander later said. Her heroism was of the quiet sort. She responded to slights with an almost militant courtesy. At a regular tea organised by the students, she was not trusted to contribute sandwiches but asked to bring olives in- Stead. In response, she asked her grandfather’s cook (who had previously worked at the governor’s mansion in Bermuda) to prepare something special. When she unwrapped the beautiful sandwiches, “all eyes were agog and mouths watering’. Alexander was awarded her PhD ina blaze of public- ity. She recalled marching down Broad Street with pho- tographers “shooting her from every side”. She and the press initially thought she was the first black American woman to get a PhD in any subject—a misconception she was not always careful to correct. (Georgiana Simp- son, a teacher at M Street High School, received her php a day earlier.) Alexander’s elation faded quickly when she tried to get a job worthy of her talents. She spent two lonely years with an insurance firm in North Caro- lina, then another year as a housewife (“I…almost lost my mind”) before returning to Penn to geta law degree. Her subsequent career as a lawyer and activist was full of zap and pow. After joining her husband’s law firm in1927, the pair helped desegregate Philadelphia’s hotels, theatres and cinemas, offering to represent, without charge, any victim of segregation prepared to show up in court. They had the manager of the cinema opposite their law office arrested so often he eventual- The Economist December 19th 2020 » ly appeared before them waving a handkerchief in sur- render. In 1947 she was appointed to President Harry Truman’s committee on civil rights, alongside Charles Wilson, the boss of General Electric, and Franklin Roo- sevelt, son of the previous president. (Even so, the Ho- tel Statler in Washington, Dc would not seat her for lunch until Mr Wilson intervened.) It is tempting to see Alexander’s exit from econom- ics as an early example of the discipline’s particular difficulty in retaining black scholars. That would bea mistake, argues Ms Banks. Alexander’s years as an eco- nomics PhD student were her happiest at Penn. “I was the pet, the darling of the faculty,” she recalled. The head of the university’s insurance department was in- censed that he could not find her a better job. The ob- Stacles she faced were imposed by society at large. The two black women who received PhDs in the same year in other subjects took years to find university jobs. Although she had to leave academic economics, the discipline never left her. Her many speeches and writ- ings show that she continued to think of herself as an economist. She cited statistics more often than legal cases. She believed that steady, productive employ- ment was both an index of racial justice and a means of attaining it. And her ideas evolved in response to the economic trends of the day. A neglected stream Her dissertation was prompted by the migration of 40,000 southern blacks to Philadelphia’s factories during the first world war. Alexander wanted to know whether the mostly “untrained, illiterate” newcomers would adapt to an industrial economy or drag down Philadelphia’s existing black population, acommunity “of culture, education and some financial means”. As a black woman, she won intimate access to the financial lives of 100 migrant households, document- ing their spending on everything from kerosene to vaudeville tickets. The migrants were corralled into overcrowded, overpriced homes. Alexander noted fall- ing plaster, broken floorboards and the “vile” odour from toilets in disrepair. But the households did not rely on charity. And 64% earned enough to afford a fair Standard of living, as she calculated it, provided they could rent housing on the same terms as white fam- ilies and avoid “unwise” spending decisions, such as buying things in smaller quantities than necessary. Her foray into field work and her eye for behaviour- al quirks fit surprisingly well with today’s fashions in economics. The discipline has moved on from arm- chair theorising about rationally optimising agents. But fashions can be circular, and her dissertation was in keeping with its own times as well as today’s. The distinction between economics and sociology was fuzzier than it became after the second world war. Sim- ilar surveys had been carried out by black scholars like W.E.B. Du Bois, who published “The Philadelphia Ne- gro’ in 1899. If Alexander’s work now seems novel it may be only because economists have lost sight of this tradition. Perhaps not coincidentally, the work was of- ten carried out by scholars—black, female or both— who were themselves marginalised, says Dan Hirsch- man of Brown University. After leaving university, Alexander wove her eco- nomic ideas into her speeches and articles. She argued that factory jobs were more dignified than household Her eye for behavioural quirks fits surprisingly well with today’s fashions in economics A lost heroine ps 43 drudgery, which was priceless and therefore thankless. She welcomed the fact that many black women worked outside their homes, but complained that they were of- ten employed “unproductively”. Two-thirds earned a pittance as servants, she reported during the Great De- pression. The remainder were mostly farmhands. “We still find barefoot Negro women hoeing, planting and picking the crops. Theirs is not even an existence; itisa fight for…survival.” Some policies designed to relieve the Depression neglected black workers. New pensions and unem- ployment insurance introduced in 1935 left out both servants and farm labourers. “It is clear that in his years of planning for Social Security of the common man, Mr Roosevelt never had in mind the security of the American Negro,’ she said. Other policies made things worse. Many blacks in the South could get only jobs that whites did not want at pay they would not ac- cept. When the National Industrial Recovery Act lifted the wages and prestige of these jobs, blacks lost them. Roosevelt’s national recovery act, she thought, might as Well be called the “Negro Reduction Act”. In adownturn, when people are reluctant to spend, there are only so many jobs to go round. White workers vie with blacks—one source of racial friction between them. But mobilisation for the second world war showed that another economy was possible. The huge increase in wartime spending created 10m jobs, vindi- cating the Keynesian ideas that Alexander also em- braced. To maintain full employment in peacetime, she argued that the government should tax idle profits (Spending the proceeds on public investment) and bol- ster the purchasing power of idled workers. This spending would contribute to high employment and high employment would sustain liberal spending. The need for full employment featured prominent- ly in the National Urban League’s annual conference in 1944. Black workers were “the last to be hired and the first to be fired” when employment was anything less than full, as Alexander pointed out. With steady jobs, blacks could acquire seniority, skills and the solidarity of union membership. By removing white workers’ “fears of economic rivalry’, full employment would also ease racial prejudice and repair American democ- racy. Economic insecurity, on the other hand, would encourage people to support demagogic leaders, lured by the “vain promises of a self-proclaimed messiah”. Her warning, Ms Banks says, “speaks to our time’. As the country prepared to demobilisein1945, Alex- ander urged black workers to act with a “deep sense of responsibility” to each other. She worried that “absen- teeism, lateness, loafing on the job” by any black work- er would harm the prospects of all. She felt the same heavy burden of responsibility in her own professional life. Her grades were as eye-catching as her sand- wiches. Her court petitions were fastidious. Her pro- posal to Philadelphia fora civil-rights commission was accepted “without removing a comma’. After becom- ing pregnant, she stayed at her legal post for as long as possible, “both for myself and for all women”. Her response to the unreasonable demands placed on her was not to reject them but to exceed them. “ felt the burdens of the world on my shoulders,’ she once Said. Alexander is being rightly revived as an inspira- tional hero for today. But few could follow her exam- ple. And none should have to. * @ Holiday specials A universe of stones The Economist December 19th 2020 What ts the lure of pebbles for a man who lives surrounded by them? BRIGHTON T AROUND HALF past eight on a warm late-summer morning, Rory McCormack trudges across the shingle of Brighton beach. He is a short, solid figure in baggy clothes and walking boots, with a duffel bag on his shoulder. Everything about him is weathered, tanned and worn, but livened with an air of indepen- dence. His greying brown hair blows round his face, which is as weathered as a fisherman’s would be. Anda fisherman heis, the last still working from the beach in a city that long since gave itself over to pleasure rather than fish. But to folk in Brighton—few of whom have ever seen him—he is the Pebble Sculpture man. He is making for his compound, a rusty wire-mesh enclosure perhaps 25 metres square, crammed with what seem to be lively stalagmites but are, in fact, tall Statues made of stones. On the way he pauses to picka pebble up. It is something almost everyone does in- stinctively, drawn by their contours, their colour, or the way they catch the light. But some people do it ob- sessively, with purpose, in quantity, and he is one. As he says, it’s very hard to stop looking. Pebbles, as opposed to stones, have certain quali- ties. They are smoothed by wind or water, and mostly ofasize that fits the hollow of the palm ofa hand. There are plenty here—614,600,600, pub-quizzers say— graded as the beach descends. The largest, those offer- ing the best grip to the waves, are flung above the high- tide line; the smallest congregate and chorus at the edge of the sand. A shingle beach is a transient thing, edged continually sideways by longshore drift that fol- lows the wind. Each pebble is also a work in progress, from commanding cliff to silt, being to nothingness. Most beach pebbles, like this specimen, are the size of a new potato. Rory appraises it carefully, then dis- cards it. At the wire gate, barred with several windings of heavily rusted chains, he pauses again to kick away the accumulated shingle that stops it opening. The fas- cination of pebbles is balanced by the nuisance of them. He loves them and hates them and, either way, they fill his life. He opens the gate only as far as is needed to graba Spade. Then he walks back across the shingle to the The Economist December 19th 2020 » ridge that marks the drop to the tideline, and starts fu- riously digging. The ridge, like others along the beach, has been thrown up by exceptional tides and storms; the bigger the storm, the higher the ridge, and the deeper the load of stones that can bury wrecks, founda- tions of houses or the stumps of ancient forests. The Space between each ridge marks an interval of time. It is history itself that Rory is digging through. A passing cyclist watches him in awe. But what he is also doing is restoring the slipway from his compound to the sea, to get his boat out. Covid-19 stopped him fishing, but fora couple of months now he has presumed he can go. His family came down to Brighton in the 1960s; he took up fishing and gota concrete standing for his boat on the beach. Gradually all the other fishermen died or departed, but he stayed, with his flotsam of gear ex- panding round him. And, surrounded by pebbles as he was, he began to give them his consideration—or, as he usually puts it, play around with them. Arranging nothingness Not many would bother. A shingle beach appears to have no features at all, and to sustain nothing living. The “Observer’s Book of Sea and Seashore” dismisses these beaches as “the nearest approach to a desert our islands can show”. Rory disagrees with that. It may be nothingness but, as he puts it, “Nothingness can be re- arranged.’ It can grow things, for a start. Just outside his fence there are sizeable clumps of sea-kale and sil- ver ragwort. (Blanched sea-kale stems, according to Richard Mabey, doyen of foraging, are very good with sauce hollandaise.) Inside he has a vegetable bed with more kale, sea-beet and horseradish. He admits that he has cheated here, importing some topsoil from munic- ipal flower-beds to help. But he didn’t have to, for the long taproots of these plants can reach three feet or more through the shingle to fresh water. And a mulch of seaweed, as much as you can get, will do instead of soil. There are places right out on the Kemp Town shin- gle, the deepest part of Brighton beach, where dande- lions grow. He Knows some spots, towards Hove, where there are wild tomatoes. The desert can flower. Is it good for anything else? At first, he thought he might build a house. He had done dry-stone walling for a spell. Primitive coal, full of sulphur, stinking as it burns, is sometimes brought in on the tide; he could mix coal-ash, sand and chalk together to make mortar. Most of the pebbles are rugged, durable nodules of flint washed out of the local chalk cliffs. But they are still too slippery and smooth for house-building. Plenty were incorporated, with other rubbishy ingredients, into the speculative Regency builds that became the grand terraces of Kemp Town; this blend, called “bunga- roosh”, was so unstable that much of Brighton, it is said, could be demolished with a well-aimed hose. A pebble house, then, was not a good idea. Even his pebble sculptures seemed unfeasible at first, just an insecure mound of stones. But once he had cracked the flints open with a hammer, to get a flat face with more angular edges, he could build an outside frame and pack it with pebbles into big, durable shapes. He began about eight years ago, ina bad winter, by making a sim- ple workbench to clean his fish on. Then he thought he might make it prettier with pebbles of different sorts. And so the enterprise has gone on, and on. His compound is now crammed as tightly as it can Each pebble Is a work in progress, from commanding cliff to silt, being to nothingness Pebbles ps 45 be with sculptures of every size and shape. Monumen- tal figures of flint and brick pebbles alternate with smaller, friskier humanoids who dance among them. He has to turn sideways in places, ducking under a heavily decorated arch and along a pathway of flints in- laid with medallions of seagulls. Flint is naturally the dominant theme, ranging through black, blue and grey; red brick comes next; but then everything is picked out with the other hues the beach has to offer. Shingle seems merely brown from a distance, or at best an array of pointillist browns and greys. But Rory knows where to get pure yellows, purples, greens (and, for whites, the ubiquitous stone-like shells of slipper- limpets). He has found mysterious chunks of pink marble, stones with crystal in them, and a greenish flint that looks like obsidian. Anything you want, he SayS, is just sitting there waiting. In Victorian times collectors combed this beach, looking for—and finding—amethyst, chalcedony, car- nelian, jasper and onyx. A national craze began as they broke these semi-precious stones open with small hammers, polished them and put them in cabinets to display. The Bible of pebble-picking, Clarence Ellis’s “The Pebbles on the Beach” of 1954, was reissued in 2018 as if, with the growth of green consciousness, the pastime might be fashionable again. But Ellis already expected to find nothing of great interest left in Brigh- ton. The Crystal Shop in the city’s North Laine, round which the smell of joss-sticks lingers thick, sells azur- ite from Morocco and amethyst from Brazil, but adver- tises nothing local. When local pebbles find their way to the city’s boutiques they have been strangely dena- tured, painted with flowers and birds, or mounted ina collage as the bodies of dogs and cats. Rory has no time for this “jewellery”. He likes them as they are. Besides, his inspiration is quite different. It is an- cient civilisations, figures from the distant past: fig- ures, in other words, as ancient as the pebbles are. Most of his statues are modelled on figurines from the Bronze Age, sometimes from the Stone Age, and scaled up. To these he has added gods and goddesses from pre-Classical Greece, with excursions into the Incas, the Sumerians and the Egyptians. He never learned any of this at school, which he left at16 to fish; but between his trips to get bass, mackerel or spider crabs he has read deeply in these subjects. His towering Pan-pipe player, ten feet tall, is a Cycladic figure of the Bronze Age. The Venus of Willendorflooms along the path, her ample backside supported by a bone-chewing dog. A Cycladic harpist plays by the fence, and beside his rick- ety shed a Sumerian goddess cradles her child. From the midst of the figures a stone seagull peers out, a por- trait of a persistent friend. He is wearing the double crown of Horus, the Egyptian falcon-god. For Rory these close-packed gods seem alive. If he deviates just a bit in his copying of their forms, they lose their power. Seen by the light of a full moon, espe- cially, he finds “an air of mystique” about them. He is not inclined to get much more philosophical than that. The idea that a pebble with a hole through it represents the Buddhist idea of sunyata, the emptiness from which anything may come, earns only a grunt. He would not keep a pebble on his desk, as some folk do, to represent stillness or silence or the near-infinite com- pression of vast time. For him a pebble has to have a practical, if artistic, use. But he likes the thought that in >» The Economist December 19th 2020 >» cave-tombs collections of pebbles that look like faces, horses or hearts are often buried with the dead, be- cause that is how modern humans sort them, too. Now, however, he has work to do before the beach gets fuller. In an average year aS many as 11m people pour onto it. The shingle does not put them off. Many, indeed, prefer it to sand: less intrusive, and (though painful to feet) quickly moulding to the form of a re- clining body. People spend hours on it, losing things more easily than they lose them on sand, leaving trea- sure for the detectorists who swing slowly over in the mornings. What they leave behind—spoons, earrings, rope, broken toys—works its way into Rory’s statues, too. As the trippers sit and chat, their hands instinc- tively find pebbles, caress them, knead them, and ulti- mately throw them—as if the only use of pebbles is to hit a target, and occasionally to fell giants. Marking time, stone by stone Rory sometimes thinks even less of them. They makea rotten beach to fish from, wearing out the bottom of his boat and obstructing its passage. He thinks ruefully of tractors, even oxen, that do the job on other shores. Much of his dogged digging today seems to have gone for naught; his slipway is almost obliterated already by the ever-shifting stones. But there is a shapely, appre- ciable dip in the ridge. So, fetching from a rusty biscuit box the key to a separate section of his compound, he hauls his boat out. It is battered, but a beauty: an aluminium rowing boat with a brown hull and a bright blue, red and yel- low trim, big enough for one man only or two ata Squeeze. Inside, it’s a bit of a mess of gear and needs a bail-out. But outside he has painted it with scenes from Greek history and mythology, black figures on red, just as they appear on ancient vases. Again he found his ref- erences in books, especially Jane Ellen Harrison’s “Pro- legomena to Greek Religion” (14908), which he picked up second-hand in Hove. The siege of Troy is his prin- cipal theme. The hull dances with warriors in crested helmets, hunters, Harpies with their bird-bodies and women’s heads, wrestlers and lovers. On the starboard side Priam’s daughter is sacrificed to the flames; snake- haired Medusa glares from the prow, and on the stern is the motto “IEXYE’” (Be Strong): the prayer, he says, of an early Christian martyr as he was thrown to the lions. He goes back now to fetch a great weight of ropes and five-foot lengths of plastic pipe, and walks off towards the sea. The burden unspools: an extra slipway, joined with ropes, to make a boat-path across the shingle. Again comes the sense of the nuisance of all those peb- bles, the inhospitable place. The ropes tangle; pains- takingly he unknots them. Then, when all is straight, he walks down the line applying grease to every pipe, to make the journey smoother. Only then will the shingle let him pass. Like his erstwhile colleagues, he could go off to the marina at the eastern end of town, to a berth by a quay in amaze of modern apartments. It doesn’t appeal. The fishing boats seem to be barely tolerated there, crammed in the farthest corner where their pungent, Shabby presence will not offend the bronzed weekend- ers on their yachts. The nets are spread neatly, the crab- pots stacked, the ropes properly coiled. His com- pound, by contrast, celebrates serendipity and sprawl; and he can find anything if he needs to. As the trippers sit and chat, their hands instinctively find pebbles, caress them Besides, he needs to stay close to guard it. After 15 years of the wire enclosure standing, with perhaps 2,500 beach patrols passing nonchalantly by, the City Council in 2015 ordered him to take it down, because it had been built without consent. As for the sculptures inside it, those too had to be cleared away as a hazard to health and safety. Then things went quiet, and he clung on. Because he is on the static section of the beach, above the high-tide line, he is gloomily aware that he is perching on a big bit of real estate which the council, at any point, might sell. But he hopes, because it is “very unpredictable’, that it will forget about him. After all, the shingle causes far bigger headaches. Every year, obedient to the west-east drag of the Eng- lish Channel, thousands of tonnes of it are worn away from Shoreham Port, six miles west along the coast, and deposited at Kemp Town, at the eastern extremity of the beach by the Western Breakwater. For decades every spring and autumn have seen the ceremony of “recycling and bypassing’, when—at a cost of around £1m a year—about 10,000 cubic metres of pebbles are scooped from the east and dumped in the west. For around two weeks, loaded lorries drive past Rory’s compound and rattle, emptied, back again. Since Shoreham’s beach is steadily eroding, and Kemp Town’s increasing, there is no reason why this Sisyphe- an task should ever end; unless either the sea, or the shingle, simply rises to overwhelm everything. The boat is by the shore. Its prow is in the waves, and he is knocking away with an oar the last pebbles that obstruct it. It will be the only rowing boat among the trawlers, about a mile out, which have already Started fishing. But he isin no rush. He heaves the nets in, then the fish-boxes, then the oars. Next he pulls on waterproof trousers and an orange life-jacket. Then he loops the prow-rope round his shoulders and, like a human ox, pulls the boat far- ther into the sea. A final push or two from the stern, and he can jump in and start rowing. His route takes him across the tide, which is unusu- ally flowing east-west today; but the surface is com- pletely calm. He pulls strongly, the boat’s only motor, and is soon almost lost to view. A small boat, smallasa pebble, in the huge blue sea. * a : oe | hl * rT =] a 7 = ee Rl — ee eT he * — jee ET Pers eae | ve oe = The decider CONYERS AND HARTWELL Control of the Senate, and Donald Trump’s future, hang in the balance in Georgia OVID-19 HAS led to many innovations. In America one has been the drive-in political rally. On December 5th the two Democratic Senate candidates in Georgia, Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, held one such event in Rockdale County, a fast- growing suburb of Atlanta where Joe Biden won almost 70% of the vote. Most of those attending listened to the speeches from their cars, honking enthusiastically rather than clapping. Despite the protection of their windscreens, almost everyone in the multiracial crowd wore masks. The candi- dates discussed health care, jobs, justice and, of course, what to do about the virus. Republicans have not embraced this in- novation. Four days later David Perdue, Mr Ossoff’s Republican opponent, held his event in Hartwell, the seat of a small rural county on the South Carolina border where Donald Trump won almost 75% of the vote. Mr Perdue’s rally was indoors, and al- though most of the crowd was elderly and covid-19 has ravaged the county, few wore masks. The crowd, which was entirely white, sat quietly as Mr Perdue warned that he was the bulwark against Democrats con- trolling government and implementing a “socialist agenda’ that included “open bor- ders” and “defund|[ing] the police”. In November, Mr Biden became the first Democratic presidential candidate to win Georgia since 1992. On December 14th, after a month of ever more ludicrous lawsuits by Mr Trump’s allies, the electoral college con- firmed Mr Biden’s victory nationwide. But his ability to govern effectively hinges on the state’s two Senate seats. Both are up for grabs on January 5th in two run-off elec- tions, which Georgia holds when no candi- date reaches 50% in the first round. If the Democrats can win both, they will have 50 Senate seats—enough, with the vice-presi- dent as the tie-breaker, to hold a majority. In November Mr Perdue, first elected to the Senate six years ago, fell o.3% short, but still finished nearly two points ahead of Mr Ossoff. In the other race—a special election to fill two years remaining in the term of Johnny Isakson, who retired for health rea- sons—Mr Warnock finished top of a crowd- ed pack, but with just 32.9%. He faces Kelly Loeffler, appointed by Georgia’s governor, Brian Kemp, in December 2019, who came 47 48 Virus-free Christmas shopping 48 The SolarWinds hack 49 The pandemics effect on learning 50 Lexington: Good neighbours top out of six Republicans. Early voting be- gan on December 14th. In both races, one candidate is clearly stronger. In the main election Mr Perdue has the advantages of incumbency, staunch loyalty to Mr Trump, a folksy man- ner and a famous name—his cousin Sonny was Georgia’s first Republican governor since Reconstruction. He is the only one of the four candidates who has ever won a general election. Mr Ossoff is a rousing Speaker, but he often sounds like a Barack Obama impersonator. He runs a media firm and, at the age of just 30, ran unsuc- cessfully for Congress three years ago. In the special election, by contrast, it is Mr Warnock who has the more compelling story. Brought up in public housing in Sa- vannah, he earned a doctorate in theology, and in 2005 became the youngest-ever se- nior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Martin Luther King junior and se- nior preached. Decades in the pulpit have made him practised on the stump, whereas his opponent, Ms Loeffler, is awkward, ro- botic even. She has spent the campaign attacking Mr Warnock as a “radical liberal” (a phrase she repeated at least a dozen times during a debate on December 6th). Polls show that both races are tight. But Democrats like their chances. Atlanta and its surrounding area have been growing— thanks in part to migration, particularly of African-American professionals, from oth- er parts of America—as Georgia’s more conservative rural population has de- clined. Activists led by Stacey Abrams, the 48 United States » former state House minority leader, have spent the past decade registering young and non-white voters. And the Republicans are at each other’s throats. Mr Trump reckons Mr Kemp is a “fool” who let the election be stolen. Ms Loeffler and Mr Perdue have called on the Republican secretary of state to resign, ap- parently for not throwing out the vote. Two hard-right lawyers, Lin Wood and Sidney Powell, have been urging Trump suppor- ters not to “vote in another rigged election” on “another machine made by China”. If some of Mr Trump’s most enthusiastic sup- porters stay away, it will hurt Mr Perdue’s and Ms Loeffler’s chances. The two also face scandals of their own. Both have been investigated by the Justice Department over allegations that they profited from insider information gleaned from congressional briefings (neither was charged and both deny wrongdoing). Yet it may not be enough for the Demo- crats. Republicans rarely lose run-off races, because Democrats are less likely to turn out in non-presidential elections than Re- The Holly and the UV NEW YORK A Manhattan boutique peddles pandemic presents AST YEAR New Yorkers might have found a pair of headphones or per- haps some woolly socks in their Christ- mas stockings. Some lucky ducks might have found tickets to a Broadway show. This year’s most popular stocking-stuffer may be the portable ultraviolet-light Sanitiser wand, which comes witha handy bag. It is one of the big sellers, says Valerie Zirema, who works in cvig9 Essen- tial, New York City’s first dedicated coro- navirus-prevention shop. The urban-survivalist shop, near Macy’s department store, looks likea cross between an Apple Store and a phar- macy. It has everything a tech-minded, fashion-conscious New Yorker could want to navigate a pandemic. Disposable masks in fun patterns and colours are especially popular. “People want fashion and function,’ says Benjamin Hu, the shop’s manager. And they love the gad- gets, many of them touchless technol- ogy. As well as cheaper goodies like the masks and Uv wands, the shop also sells a $10,000 system which scans people’s temperature as they enter a shop. Anoth- er device can detect if someone is not wearing a mask and sound an alarm. Midtown Manhattan Is quiet now. Most office workers are working from home and tourists have disappeared. The city has seen an alarming jump in co- vid-19 cases, which have more than tripled since the start of November. Hospitalisations and intubations are increasing, too. Restaurants have closed their dining rooms again. On December 14th Bill de Blasio, the city’s mayor, warned New Yorkers “to be ready now for a full shutdown, a pause like we had back at the end of the spring”. But the covid-19 shop, which also provides rapid testing and PCR testing for the virus, is seeing an increase in footfall. Cvi19 Essential was founded by Tony Park, the owner of Samwon Garden, a Korean BBQ restaurant. After he fitted it out with uv light systems, anti-microbial film and a facial thermal scanner, other firms came looking for advice. Seeing a business opportunity, in September Mr Park opened his first covid-19 shopina space where he originally intended to have another restaurant. He has since opened asecond branch. Opening safety boutiques and testing centres geared towards anxious New Yorkers is clever. “T like to think people are taking [prepping] more seriously,’ Says Jason Charles, head of the New York City Prepper’s Network, a survivalist group, who has seen more interest in his talks. Yet with luck business may not be brisk for long. On December 14th, even as New York prepared to shut down again, health-care workers began adminis- tering the first doses of the Pfizer-BioN- Tech vaccine in the borough of Queens. If the roll-out goes to plan, those sanitising wands might soon end up ina drawer, along with other forgotten gifts. The Economist December 19th 2020 publicans. Though he failed to break 50%, Mr Perdue gota slightly higher share of the vote than Mr Trump in November. The combined share of the Republicans in Ms Loeffler’s race was only slightly lower. Messrs Ossoff and Warnock have been pitching their victories as essential to Mr Biden’s success. But that will succeed only if a critical mass of the suburban voters who propelled Mr Biden to victory are now reliable Democrats who want to see his agenda enacted, rather than Republicans who voted against Mr Trump but would prefer divided government. As well as control of the Senate, the out- come may determine Mr Trump’s status in the Republican Party. Both Republicans have stuck fast to the president despite his loss, and in defiance of the state’s other elected Republican officials. If they win, it will show the enduring appeal of Trum- pism to Republican voters. A win for two unabashedly progressive Democrats, how- ever—particularly if Republicans cannot win back some suburban voters—will show Trumpism’s limits and usher its pro- genitor out of office, having lost and en- dorsed a pair of losers. Motivation, then, for both parties. & Cyber-security Bear hunt Hackers have vaulted into the heart of America’s government N SEPTEMBER 25TH Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, warned that a “large- scale confrontation in the digital sphere” was looming. He offered a solution. Russia and America would “exchange guarantees of non-interference in each other’s inter- nal affairs, including electoral processes, including using IcT’—in short, a cyber- truce. Even as he spoke, his hackers were apparently deep inside some of America’s most sensitive networks. American Officials claim that a group of hackers known as APT29, or more evoca- tively as Cozy Bear, thought to be part of the SVR, Russia’s foreign intelligence service, penetrated several American government bodies—the list so far includes the Trea- Sury, Commerce, State and Homeland Se- curity Departments, along with the Nation- al Institutes of Health—where they could read emails at will. It appears to be one of the largest-ever acts of digital espionage against America. The intrusion took a circuitous route. Between March and June, SolarWinds, a Texan company, pushed out updates to its Orion software, which is widely used to >» The Economist December 19th 2020 >help organisations monitor their net- works. The malware hitched aride on those updates. Once downloaded, it allowed hackers to impersonate an organisation’s system administrators, who typically have the run of the entire network. It cleverly funnelled out data by disguising it as legiti- mate traffic while parrying anti-virus tools. Once inside, intruders can remain present even if Orion is disconnected. The campaign showed “top-tier opera- tional tradecraft’, says FireEye, a cyber-se- curity firm that was itself a victim. Orion’s ubiquity explains why so many organisa- tions were affected. SolarWinds says that “fewer than 18,000” customers may have been struck, though most would have been collateral damage. America’s ability to muster a response is unlikely to be helped by President Do- nald Trump’s dismissal, on November17th, of Chris Krebs, the head of the Cyber-secu- rity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), for publicly affirming the integrity of the presidential election. CISA has strug- gled to cope with the onslaught. Over the past decade, America has tend- ed to categorise and respond to cyber-at- tacks according to their aims. It regarded intrusions intended to steal secrets—in other words, old-fashioned espionage—as fair game, not least because its own Na- tional Security Agency (NSA) is a prolific thief. After China stole 22m security-clear- ance records from America’s Office of Per- sonnel Management (OPM) in 2015, Mi- chael Hayden, a former NSA _ chief, conceded that it was “honourable espio- nage work”. In contrast, attacks intended to cause harm, like North Korea’s assault on Sony Pictures in 2014, or those with com- mercial aims, like China’s theft of industri- al secrets, were thought to cross a line. America has accordingly indicted and im- posed sanctions on scores of Russian, Chi- nese, North Korean and Iranian hackers. Yet this effort to stamp norms ontoaco- vert and chaotic arena of competition has been unsuccessful. For one thing, it is not always simple to define what is “honour- able”, in Mr Hayden’s parlance, and what is not. If stealing a policy document is kosher, why not a vaccine? The line between espio- nage and subversion is also blurred: is Rus- Sia stealing emails to understand Ameri- can policy, orto publish them later? Itis not always clear until after the fact. Most so-called cyber-attacks are simply espionage. But espionage conducted over computer networks has enabled intelli- gence gathering on a scale that was previ- ously impossible. Though America has been as much a beneficiary of this intelli- gence revolution as it has been a victim, it has grown less tolerant in recent years. American views of “what’s allowed in cy- berspace” have changed since the OPM breach five years ago, says Max Smeets of the Centre for Security Studies in Zurich. Such large-scale espionage “would be now at the top of the list of operations that they would deem as unacceptable,’ he suggests. Yet forbidding something is different from stopping it. “Deterrence is mostly ir- relevant in an intelligence contest,’ writes Joshua Rovner of the American University in Washington, a scholar-in-residence at the NSA in 2018-19. “No combination of threats and promises will stop a rival intel- ligence service from collecting informa- tion.” Sturdier defences are needed. @ Schools and covid-19 Lesson learned WASHINGTON, DC Shutting schools has hit poor children’s learning in America, too LOSED SCHOOLS are bad for all children, but especially bad for poor and disad- vantaged pupils. This basic pattern recurs wherever and whenever researchers look for it—in the wake of an epidemic of polio in America in 1916, after teachers’ strikes in Argentina since the 1980s, and after a dev- aStating earthquake in Pakistani-con- trolled Kashmir in 2005. Most natural experiments in school dis- ruption come after isolated natural disas- ters. The covid-19 pandemic is leading toa simultaneous global experiment, however. In America, where schools have been sig- nificantly disrupted for the better part of a year, the first batches of reliable data are being gathered to assess how bad the dam- age has actually been. Sorting through them shows that sadly, America has not de- fied the gloomy predictions. A recent analysis of standardised tests In the slow lane United States carried out by McKinsey, a consulting firm, found that pupils examined in the autumn had learned 33% less maths and 13% less reading than expected. For schools that are majority non-white, the learning losses were much steeper: pupils there had learned 41% less maths and 23% less read- ing. NWEA, a producer and administrator of Standardised exams used in primary and secondary schools, published its own fre- view of autumn scores that was less worry- ing. Pupils slid back substantially in maths, but not reading, with few detectable differences along racial or socioeconomic lines. But a substantial share of students, disproportionately poor and non-white, Simply did not take the tests this year— which may have flattered the results. In Washington, DC, 73% of white chil- dren in kindergarten and 45% of black chil- dren typically show adequate reading pro- gress. When examined this year, white children showed a modest drop in ade- quate literacy, to 67%, while black children experienced a much larger one—to 31%. The gaps are also showing up in course- work, not just exams. Teachers in Los An- geles are reporting a Stark increase in the number of failing grades—with the great- est increase in poor neighbourhoods. Re- searchers from Brown and Harvard univer- sities examining data from Zearn, an online maths-teaching platform, found that pupils in high-income schools are ac- tually performing 12% better in their cour- sework than in January 2020. But for low- income schools, scores fell by 17%. The results suggest that the fears of worsening achievement gaps at the start of the pandemic were justified. There are enormous racial gaps in the kinds of in- struction being received: 70% of black and Hispanic children are receiving fully re- mote education, compared with 50% of white pupils. Parents with the means to do SO appear to be pulling their children out of public education altogether. There are 31,000 fewer pupils in the New York City public school system than in 2019; the ros- ter in Austin, Texas, is 6% smaller. Instead, parents are hiring private tutors to teach their children in person. Thatis almost cer- tain to widen the achievement gap. Standardised exams are far from per- fect. They do not measure the learning of impatient children well. More meaningful measures of lost learning, such as wages in adulthood, will not be known for years. Yet tests are not all bad. Given third-grade maths scores, researchers can quite accu- rately pick out which children will go on to become patent-holding inventors. They need not be a counsel of despair. Learning loss is remediable. But it requires the sort of serious investment that only Congress could provide and, so far, the gridlocked House and Senate have not seemed espe- cially interested in providing it. & 49 50 United States Lexington | Good neighbours The Economist December 19th 2020 The spread of mutual-aid groups has been a positive development in a ghastly year = _ OR MAURICE COOK, acommunity organiser in Washington, DC, the covid-19 pandemic has brought mostly the worst of times— but in some ways the best. The poor black neighbourhoods where the burly Washingto- nian has spent 20 years trying to improve educational opportunity are among the most ravaged in the country. Plagued by generations of poverty and ill-health, black residents of the capital city have Succumbed to the virus at six times the rate of whites. And with government-support programmes running dry, even as many of Washington’s restaurants and other businesses remain shut, years of steady poverty alleviation in the city are unravelling. “The effects of covid-19 look like this,” said Mr Cook, gesturing grimly, while handing out masks in an encampment of homeless people one wet and icy day this week. Huddled beneath an under- pass, a Short walk from Capitol Hill, its rows of dowdy tents had doubled since he began distributing basic supplies there early this year. Yet he has at least had unprecedented backup in that effort. “The incomers, the gentrifiers, they really stepped up,’ he said. Having refocused his education efforts on disaster relief as soon as the pandemic hit, Mr Cook emerged as a local leader of a distinctive form of civic engagement, known as mutual aid. Hark- ing back to hardscrabble times, before the passage of the New Deal, its advocates preach the virtues of neighbourly “solidarity” over “charity”, which left-wingers such as Mr Cook consider paternalis- tic and obnoxious. The origins of the phrase “mutual aid” make that seem even more Utopian. It was the title of a book published in 1902 by an aristocratic Russian anarchist, Peter Kropotkin, in which he promulgated a vi- sion of communal harmony drawn from his observations of birds and beavers co-existing on the harsh Siberian tundra. The term was then dusted off by the Black Panthers to describe a multi-city programme of free breakfasts for children launched by the radical group 1n 1969. With at least nodding bipartisan support, nonethe- less, the mutual-aid networks that have mushroomed in most American cities this year area rare bright spot in the crisis. Mr Cook was inundated by offers of help, mostly from local white professionals. A tweeted call-to-arms from one of his early supporters, Allison McGill, a social worker at a largely white evan- gelical church, elicited 3,600 offers. There were perhaps few true Kropotkinites among these volunteers (though that is another ver- boten word for mutual-aiders such as Mr Cook; they prefer “mem- bers”). “Mutual aid is not reducible to one political valance,’ says Benjamin Soskis, a historian of philanthropy at the Urban Insti- tute—who, coincidentally, also does a food run every other week for Mr Cook’s Ward 6 Mutual Aid. Yet at least some of the original leftist vision is still evident in their efforts. The Facebook page of Ward 6 Mutual Aid presents a heart- warming exchange of offers and requests for English language tu- ition, flat-pack-furniture assembly and Christmas presents for children. The group’s fundraising and distribution of basic goods—including face-masks, food and clothing for several hun- dred poor Washingtonians—is more recognisably Tocquevillian. Though there are no reliable national data on the phenomenon, a multitude of similarly engaged new mutual-aid groups have Sprung up across the country. Julia Ho, a leader of St Louis Mutual Aid, describes its 1,700 “members’—and also the network’s origins in the racial justice protests that roiled nearby Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014-15. Kristen Gonzalez of Mutual Aid Nyc points to that huge network’s slick da- tabase, which she helped compile. It lists 131 groups across the city, ranging from “ LI Face Masks for the People” on Long Island, to “The End is Queer’, a citywide endeavour. The evidence of Lexing- ton’s own neighbourhood, which has launched quieter schemes to shop for elderly residents or feed the families of poor classmates, suggests the phenomenon may be more common still. It speaks to America’s volunteering tradition. And to the paradoxical sense of reciprocity inherent in an infectious-disease crisis in which sud- denly everyone has a stake in everyone else’s health. Set against the enormity of the crisis—and the more than $3trn that Congress threw at it in April and May—the social impact of this do-gooding will be marginal. Contrary to a recurring fantasy on the right, notably pushed by George W. Bush and Paul Ryan among others, charity is never a substitute for the government ac- tion required to alleviate poverty or a crisis of this magnitude. As the effects of the stimulus have worn off, the poverty rate has duly soared. Figures released this month suggest that it has grown by al- most a quarter in the past five months, easily the fastest pace in half a century. There are meanwhile indications from Ward 6 and elsewhere that, as expectations of a successful vaccine roll-out climb and the temperature drops, the zeal for volunteering (or membering) is tailing off. Yet it could leave a lasting mark, in poli- tics as well as philanthropy. Leftier than thou That could in theory be on the right. One of the Panthers’ unwitting contributions, notes Joanna Wuest of Princeton, was to spur Ron- ald Reagan, as governor of California, to boost the state’s food-as- sistance programme as a retaliatory measure. Yet, given the do- nothing mentality of today’s Republican Party, it is much easier to imagine the mutual-aid groups augmenting the rise of left-wing activism. Decentralised and tech-savvy, they are part-modelled on leftist campaign groups such as Indivisible. They have in turn championed those groups’ politics. A striking feature of this year’s Black Lives Matter protests in Washington was the mutual-aid Stalls handing out free face masks, food and water. Thus have prot- est, campaigning and volunteering become dynamically reinforc- ing on the American left. For good orill, this may turn out to be one of the major legacies of the Trump era. @ 3 | | | | — Awaiting their fate SAO GONCALO The hard-up received huge welfare payments during the pandemic. These may soon dry up N THE FINAL days of a tight mayoral race Lin November in Sao Goncalo, an unglam- orous city across the bay from Rio de Janei- ro, one of the candidates, a retired police officer known as Capitao Nelson, made his way down a Street lined with supporters. The mood was euphoric. A maskless man with a bottle of sanitiser on a string around his neck stomped his feet to funk music and squirted the gel into the air “to kill the germs’ of the rival party. Humberto Perez, a handyman, likes the captain “because he cares about poor people, just like the presi- dent”, Jair Bolsonaro. After work dried up in March a monthly payment from the fed- eral government kept him from going hun- ery. “And the campaign gave me a free lunch,’ he said, witha toothy grin. The fact that some Brazilians are cele- brating during a pandemic that has killed 180,000 of their fellow citizens is among covid-19’s many paradoxes. So is the reason for their cheer: that a right-wing, pro-mar- ket government has rolled out the biggest welfare programme in Brazil’s history. Be- fore the pandemic, extreme poverty was on the rise. Nearly 1m families were on the waiting list for Bolsa Familia, a conditional cash-transfer programme that the govern- ment had cut back after a recession in 2014-16. In March 2020 widespread hunger seemed imminent. Paulo Guedes, the economy minister, proposed to spend no more than 5bn reais ($1bn), 0.2% of the budget, to fight the pandemic. But momentum began to build in Bra- zZil’s Congress to provide a basic income to poor people. Realising that it risked look- ing miserly, the government announced that it would give monthly payments of 600 reais to 68m Brazilians, a third of the population. Single mothers got twice that. In September the government halved the benefit, called auxilio emergencial (emer- gency aid), but extended it until the end of 2020. Brazil’s fiscal response to the pan- demic, which also includes job-retention schemes, adds up to more than 8% of GDP, 52 Cuba’s currency reform — Bello is away among the highest for G2o countries and twice the average for emerging markets. Congress declared a “state of calamity” to allow the government to bypass a constitu- tional ceiling on spending. But with public debt approaching 100% of GDP, the government now faces a mo- ment of truth. The state of calamity ends on December 31st, and with it the auxilio. Bra- zil can do one of three things: chop welfare Spending to pre-pandemic levels, breach the ceiling or enact fiscal reforms that would allow it to maintain both. The third choice is the best, but itis also the most dif- ficult. Since a landmark pension reform in 2019, the government has done little to cut Spending or improve its effectiveness. The auxilio has been a remarkable suc- cess. For more than 7m informal workers who lost their jobs, it was a crucial safety- net. It tripled payments to 14m families who had received an average of 190 reais a month from Bolsa Familia. The auxilio lift- ed 1m people out of extreme poverty (see chart on next page) and kept another 15m from becoming poor. Fundacao Getulio Vargas (FGV), a university, found that Bra- Z1l’s Gini coefficient, a measure of inequali- ty, swiftly dropped from 0.55 too.49, which is alot. Poverty and inequality are the low- est since FGv began tracking them 1n 1970. Brazilians whose pockets were empty after years of low growth bought televi- sions and ovens. Millions opened their first bank accounts. The poor north-east experienced a construction boom. After a 9.7% contraction in the second quarter, the 51 52 The Americas >economy grew 7.7% in the third. It will Shrink in 2020 by half as much as many economists had predicted. Mr _ Bolsonaro’s approval ratings climbed, smoothing the way for an alliance with the centrao (big centre), a bloc of op- portunistic centre-right parties in Con- gress. “The expectation of victory and pow- er brings us together,” says Ricardo Barros, now the government’s whip. Centrdo can- didates were the biggest winners in the lo- cal elections. They included Capitao Nel- son, who won an upset victory against his left-wing rival. He promised money for new clinics and more police. That will be a hard promise to keep. The Stimulus was a “huge dose of anaesthesia that numbed the pain of the pandemic’, says Marcelo Neri of FGv. On January 1st “it will wear off”. The unemployment rate of 14.6% is the highest it has ever been. People in the poorest half of households have lost 28% of their earnings. “Unwinding all the extraordinary support in the coming months could risk derailing the incipient recovery, warns the IMF. Millions could fall into poverty. If Brazil tapers spending gradually, as other countries plan to do, it will breach the ceiling, which was enacted in 2016 to control rising debt. It limits growth in most federal expenditure to the previous year’s rate of inflation. Because 94% of the budget is eaten up by mandatory spending (chiefly pensions and salaries), little is left for in- vestment and social programmes. In 2019 the government spent 30bn reais, or 0.4% of GDP, on Bolsa Familia. The auxilio cost ten times that. Some Brazilians think the ceiling is es- sential to prevent an eventual default. But Brazil’s debt is largely denominated in its own currency, which reduces that risk. If interest rates were to rise uncontrollably, the Central Bank could buy government debt. The cap matters more as a Sign of commitment to reforms, says Arthur Car- valho of Truxt Investimentos, a hedge fund. “If you can’t cut anything in a mam- moth state to fund an important social pro- gramme, you can’t make choices,’ he says. The IMF urges Brazil to keep the ceiling and make space for a more targeted benefit in | Money well spent Brazil, people living in extreme poverty* 2020, m % of total population (Cie o en One samen 20) ee Pre-covid 4.2 Post-covid without aidt – Post-covid with Bay emergency aid *Less than $1.90 a day, at 2011 purchasing- Sources: IBGE; IMF power parity ‘Hypothetical The Economist December 19th 2020 From distortion to disruption The government finally ends its dual-currency system FTER YEARS of dithering, Cuba is finally about to take the plunge. On December 1oth the country’s president, Miguel Diaz-Canel, announced that on the first day of the new year it would abolish one of its two currencies. That is a big step towards ridding the socialist economy of distortions that thwart production, drain the treasury and keep people poor. But it leaves in place many enterprise-crushing rules and creates new problems that the government will struggle to overcome. It set up the dual-currency system in 1994, when the country was reeling from the loss of subsidies from the Soviet Union, on which it had relied during the cold war. Alongside the Cuban peso it created the CUC, aconvertible currency pegged to the dollar at one to one. It hoped this would prevent Cubans from dumping pesos in favour of dollars. Importers, which are state-owned, use cuC to obtain dollars on favourable terms, which makes imports cheap. Most Cubans, who work for the state, are paid in pesos. It takes 24 pesos to buy a cuc at the official exchange rate. Workers in the country’s growing private sector, most of whom are paid in CUC, earn seven times what state employees make. The abolition of the CUC is meant to 2021 by “swiftly” passing money-saving re- forms. Brazil risks hyperinflation if it Scraps the spending ceiling, warned Mr Guedes in an interview with The Economist. Neither big reforms nor a change in the Spending cap is in prospect, which means welfare spending is set to fall. The damage to the poor will be modest, Mr Guedes thinks. The beneficiaries of the auxilio “were alive before the pandemic’, he said. “They had informal jobs” cleaning houses or selling sweets on the beach. “If the econ- omy recovers they’ll be back.” Mr Guedes is bullish about that. “We will end this year with zero net jobs lost in the formal labour market,’ he predicts. “I challenge any country to beat our record.” His boss is less relaxed. Mr Bolsonaro wants to launch a new programme, Renda Cidada (Citizens’ Income), which would help more families than Bolsa Familia, al- though fewer than the auxilio. But he has rejected proposals for how to pay for it. “I can’t take away from the poor to give to the poorer,’ he said when Mr Guedes suggested trimming other programmes. There are other ideas. Congress is con- make the public sector behave more like the private one, and give private firmsa better chance to compete. Firms and consumers will now use just pesos, initially at the official rate (though the dollar will remain important). State pensions and salaries are to rise five- fold. But inflation, already high, will increase. Subsidies for water, transport and electricity are being diminished. To cope with these stresses, the gov- ernment has introduced new distortions. Besides keeping controls on prices for some goods (many of which are scarce) at new higher levels, it has imposed them on such services as hair cuts and shoe repairs. Firms that profited from access to cheap dollars will get government help fora year to delay mass lay-offs. Cuba will enter the single-currency era with an overvalued exchange rate. On the black market the dollar sells for 35-40 pesos. Mr Diaz-Canel’s big-bang reform does not let farmers decide what to grow or at what price to sell. Nor does it allow entre- preneurs, who create most new jobs, to incorporate. These needed changes and others may be coming. The government has said that some small firms, like restaurants, will be privatised. Cuba’s communist regime has sped up its reluc- tant conversion to market economics. sidering an “emergency” constitutional re- form that would curb public-sector pay and tax exemptions. This would free a bit of cash for welfare. More would be available if that reform were coupled with an amend- ment to make the spending limit more flex- ible during crises, suggests Monica de Bolle of the Peterson Institute for Interna- tional Economics, a think-tank in Wash- ington. “You could do this without spook- ing markets,’ she says. But Congress signalled last week that it will discuss the emergency measures only in February at the earliest. Mr Guedes promptly said he would take a holiday. The government and Congress could put off a reckoning by extending the state of calamity, using a second wave of co- vid-19 as its justification. Mr Guedes has hinted he might endorse that. It would merely postpone the choice between fiscal reform and welfare cuts. The auxilio “can’t last for ever’, Says Carlos Jordy, a congres- sional ally of Mr Bolsonaro who attended Capitao Nelson’s rally. Mr Perez, the handy- man, may learn painfully that there is no such thing asafreelunch. @ Shipping out Workers from rich countries are returning home HEN JAKARTA went into lockdown in April Asian Tigers Group, a moving company, received a flurry of business from wealthy expatriates who had fled overnight. Removal teams were led into de- serted homes by maids or colleagues. Without the owners on hand to sort be- longings, they found themselves stripping beds and packing dirty sheets into boxes alongside broken toys and other junk. All the expats who want to move away have now done so and there are few new ar- rivals. Asian Tigers is laying off staff for the first time in its 35-year history. “Unless the tap turns back on we’re in a tough spot,’ says Bill Lloyd, head of the group’s Indone- Sian operations. Asian metropolises have long attracted migrants from the rich world. Fast-grow- ing businesses, vast natural resources and unfamiliar commercial environments make for interesting work. Meanwhile, liv- ing costs are low, so expats can afford maids and big houses that would be out of reach back home. Around 3m migrants from the OECD were living in Asia last year, according to data from the club, which is composed mostly of rich countries, up from 2.3m in 1990. But the pandemic has underlined the drawbacks of living abroad, including distance from family and (in some places) a lack of good medical facili- ties. Unlike most immigrants, these are a well-off lot for whom relocation is a choice. Many have raced home rather than weather the pandemic ina foreign country. That is a loss for both their home and host countries. People moving from the de- veloped world to emerging markets make up a tiny portion of the world’s 270m inter- national migrants. But they play an out- sized role in the global economy, bringing 54 Preserving Yangon 55 Banyan: India’s angry farmers new ideas and cosmopolitan connections wherever they go. A study in Canada found that a10% increase in migrants from a giv- en country is associated with a1% increase in exports to that country and a3% increase in imports from it. There is no reason why migration to developing economies should not produce similar benefits, says Amanda Klekowski von Koppenfels of the Universi- ty of Kent. “We rarely think of the global North as a region that gains from emigra- tion but it absolutely does,’ she says. “This isasmall but powerful movement.” However, covid-i9 has diminished the appeal of living abroad for many in the rich world. Inigo Lumbreras de Mazarredo spent much of his 20s working his way up the ranks at a food-delivery firm in Asia. The best thing about expat life, he says, was the opportunity to travel widely and meet new people. After a stressful couple of weeks trying to pack up and go home, in- cluding four cancelled flights, the 29-year- old returned from Cambodia to Spain in April. “The main point of going abroad is to have an experience,’ he explains. “Now that isn’t an option.” Data are patchy on migration in Asia, but all the evidence points to a mass exo- dus. By June America had repatriated more than 15,000 of its citizens from the conti- nent, including both tourists and mi- grants. Knight Frank, a multinational es- tate agent, has seen a big rise in expats 53 > looking to buy a base in their home coun- try, particularly among those with elderly parents or children at boarding school back home. In a survey in June roughly 30% of the group’s agents said these clients were planning to move permanently and 60% Said they wanted to split their time be- tween their original and adoptive homes. For employers, the pandemic has ac- centuated the disadvantages of hiring pric- ey Westerners in Asia. Most countries have introduced quarantine rules and stalled visa applications, making it difficult to get people where they are supposed to be go- ing. Eliminating expensive foreign post- ings is an easy way to Save money in a re- cession. Meanwhile, the need to work from home has shown that colleagues can col- laborate reasonably well at a great distance using video-calling. More than 50% of businesses have repatriated employees on long-term assignments abroad and only half of them expect to move them back within a year, according to a survey by ECA International, which helps firms relocate Staff. Almost all the companies surveyed also said they were allowing expats to work from other places if they wanted to. Covid-19 is accelerating a trend that was already under way, says Toby Fowlston of Robert Walters, a recruiting firm. Educa- tion and language skills across the region have improved markedly in recent years. There is much less need to fly in expats to get ajob done. In Hong Kong, Mr Fowlston says, the growing influence of mainland China means that employers are looking for Mandarin-speakers. He estimates that expats occupy just a fifth of client-facing roles at investment banks in the city, down from a third five years ago. Host governments are also obstructing the hiring of expats, imagining that this might reduce unemployment. In Malaysia firms can employ foreigners only if they cannot find a local applicant who fits the bill. Employers have to advertise jobs through a central portal, interview candi- dates within 30 days and report back to the authorities afterwards. In August the Sin- gaporean government raised the mini- mum wage businesses have to pay foreign- ers to secure a visa. It also launched an investigation into 47 firms that, it suspects, have not given local applicants a fair shot. In a similar vein, several Asian countries say they will cancel the residence permits of foreigners who leave the country with- out obtaining special permission first. Whether businesses and governments want them or not, there will always be Westerners eager to live in Asia. Most peo- ple move either for love or for work. The first group is not that flighty. For the sec- ond, the appeal of expatriate life is likely to return when borders reopen and social- distancing rules fall away. Hector Drake and his wife recently moved to London to have their first child after a decade in Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai. If anything, Mr Drake says, the pandemic has revealed what a desirable place to live Asia is. The governments of Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan and Viet- nam have done a far better job than most in the West of keeping the virus under con- trol. The couple caught covid-i9 shortly after returning to Britain. Mr Drake may put more thought into his health insurance next time, but he hopes to work abroad again. “People will chase opportunities if they are there,’ he says. @ Preserving Yangon In with the old YANGON Conservationists are racing to save crumbling colonial buildings INCE MYANMAR began to reverse de- S cades of isolationism in 20u, it has em- braced modernity with a zeal befitting a country deprived of it for so long. Students tap smartphones, food-delivery jockeys zip down the streets and cash machines are everywhere. But while the people of Yan- gon, the country’s biggest city and com- mercial capital, are rushing into the pre- sent, much of the urban fabric remains firmly in the past. Most buildings in the city centre were built in the colonial era, when Rangoon, as the city was then known, was the biggest commercial hub of the British empire between Singapore and Calcutta (as it was). Indian merchants, Ar- menian hoteliers, Filipino barbers and Saudi tobacco-dealers set up shop or took up residence in stately Victorian, Edward- ian and Art Deco buildings. x | ee re aE | Fy , St : pi = – Full of period charm, roof a bit leaky The Economist December 19th 2020 Myanmar’s subsequent economic stag- nation left Yangon with more colonial buildings than any other city in South-East Asia. But the grand edifices were neglected during the long years of military rule, and most are now streaked with mould. Red signs affixed to rotting doors mark many out as unfit for habitation. They are not be- yond repair: a stone’s throw from the shim- mering Sule Pagoda in the centre of the city Stands the Tourist Burma building, a for- mer Office and department store spattered with pediments and pilasters. Once dere- lict, it was renovated by Burmese and Brit- ish NGOs and reopened as a community centre 1n 2019. One of the NGos involved was the Yan- gon Heritage Trust (YHT), founded by Thant Myint-U in 2012. As the military regime be- gan to reform the economy a decade ago, Mr Thant, a historian, worried that the gov- ernment would raze Yangon’s architectural inheritance in the name of progress, as has happened in so many other booming Asian cities. So he began to advocate for the pres- ervation of colonial Yangon, arguing that the spruced-up buildings would not only draw tourists but also make Yangon more appealing for its residents. The municipal government quickly saw the light, perhaps because Mr Thant was friendly with the president. In 2012 it im- posed a 50-year moratorium on the demo- lition of buildings more than 50 years old. Although Mr Thant worries that the city has yet to develop “a coherent vision and plan for what Yangon should be’, it does see the value in conservation, he says. More- over, it is “in pretty much daily contact” with YHT, which has helped with some 350 conservation projects. Several other orga- nisations also provide expertise or funding for renovations, among them Turquoise Mountain, a British charity which worked on the Tourist Burma building. But finding wealthy foreigners to help >> The Economist December 19th 2020 >» renovate urban landmarks Is one thing; fix- ing up crumbling private residences is quite another. Many of the15,o00 buildings in Yangon that YHT wants preserved are residential, and in serious disrepair. Moe Thida, a shopkeeper and lifelong resident of downtown Yangon, has no qualms about demolition. By all means preserve Bagan, the site of an ancient Burman kingdom and Myanmar’s most famous tourist destina- tion, she says, but in a residential neigh- bourhood houses should not be “danger- ous to live in”. She is far more comfortable living in her newish apartment building than she was in her parents’ 1940s wreck. But even if new buildings are nice at first, Mr Thant argues, they do not remain so for long. In Myanmar most are poorly constructed and weather badly. Colonial stock tends to be better designed and stur- dier, says Nathalie Paarlberg of Turquoise Mountain. The lime-mortar walls of the Tourism Burma building withstand tropi- cal heat and moisture better than concrete, which is more commonly used today. Renovations are costly, but financing is available for home-owners. Doh Eain, a charitable enterprise, renovates homes in A lonely furrow India’s government is undermining its own reforms HEN IT COMES to voicing demands, India’s 150m farmers are not shy. Recent protests have seen throngs of them descend on the national capital to express desperation by, among other things, stripping naked, being buried alive, displaying skulls (allegedly of fellow farmers who have killed them- selves in despair), and even by eating rats and human faeces. This year’s biggest agitation has relied on numbers and grit, not telegenic an- tics. Since late November tens of thou- sands of farmers have camped at Delhi’s northern gates, bringing tractors, ani- mals, bedding and industrial-scale soup kitchens. Having failed to disperse this horde with tear-gas and water cannon, police, too, have settled in behinda defence of trenches, iron railings and rows of shipping containers. The prot- esters have asimple demand: repeal three farm laws that Narendra Modi, the prime minister, rushed through parlia- ment in September. Agronomists and economists gener- ally welcome those reforms. Many farm- ers, too, agree that laws dating from the 1950S and 1960s, an era of scarcity and State socialism, need updating if Indian agriculture is to compete in an age of global markets. Mr Modi’s measures end the monopoly enjoyed by state-con- trolled wholesale markets, axe “anti- hoarding” rules that scare off investment in, forexample, cold storage, and ease, among other things, long-term contracts between farmers and customers. But the musty laws and institutions so disliked by experts have, in fact, served one constituency rather well. Growers across much of India have tend- ed to vary crops and rely little on govern- ment, but farmers in its grain belt, which happens to stretch across the plains north and west of Delhi, have grown ever more dependent. Pumping unlimited groundwater using free government- supplied electricity, planting subsidised seeds and spreading subsidised fertiliser, farmers in the states of Punjab and Harya- na produce the bulk of the rice and wheat that the government spends around $25bn every year buying at a guaranteed price for the sake of “food security”. They grow so much that, although India exports more rice than any other country, and the gov- ernment sells it on the cheap to some 810m ofits own citizens, by June it had accumu- lated a massive 97m-tonne mountain of the stuff. Such policies are plainly not sustain- able, yet the risk-free farming cycle has proved addictive to the growers who profit most. In the1970s rice and wheat took up less than half of Punjab’s farmland. They now swallow four-fifths. As with any addiction, this one comes with unhealthy disadvantages, including depleted groundwater, poisoned soil and toxic air from the burning of rice stubble. After huge gains in living standards Asia 55 return fora cut of the revenue generated by renting out the refurbished property, typi- cally for five to ten years. “Owners Say to us, ‘We didn’t realise that we owned some- thing that is valuable,” says Emilie Roell, Doh Eain’s founder. “We help them see that.” Not everyone needs to be told. For ev- ery Moe Thida, there is a Sithu Maung. A young MP, he lives in a late 19th-century building that the government has deemed dangerous. But he hopes his house will be preserved. “Old buildings have their un- ique beauty’, he says, “and that makes the city also unique.” @ IM from the 1960s to the1990s, when the “green revolution” tripled or quadrupled grain yields, growth has stagnated. Farm- ers worry about job prospects for their children, who are better educated than they are. They fear aloss in status as earnings from their land—Punjabi farms are bigger than elsewhere in India, but still average less than four hectares—fail to keep pace with urban wages. Yet much as Punjabi farmers dream of change, they also fear any shiftin the policies that sustain them. They know the government will some day lose its penchant for dishing out subsidies, and itis not illogical to suspect that day may be now, amid a raging pandemic and economic crash. Mr Modi, who has pledged to double farmers’ incomes in five years, failed to take this doubt into account. Rather than consult powerful farming unions, or build support for the bills in parliament, his government used its majority to ram them into law without discussion. When the protests erupted, his ministers made things worse, sneer- ing that the angry farmers were stupid, swayed by “anti-national” leftists or, Since many are Sikhs, were dangerous separatists, perhaps terrorists. Mr Modi’s government has offered minor concessions, to no avail. Itcan still save face by temporarily suspending the laws. As with countless other prot- ests in India, this one may also simply dissolve. Divine intervention ended last year’s nationwide protests againsta discriminatory citizenship law, which petered out with the arrival of covid-19. However the siege of Delhi ends, India’s rulers would be wise to learn its lessons: in sucha diverse and noisy country, you cannot make one rule for all, and you cannot make rules at all without first winning people to your cause. 56 Hol Ter, essay The Economist December 19th 2020 The Economist December 19th 2020 Girlhood AMSTERDAM, BOULDER, DENVER, LONDON, ROTTERDAM AND ZOOM Awesome, weird and everything else N THE ROOF of a derelict building in a Dutch city Frankie and Dora sip Taiwanese bubble tea as they bask in the summer sun. “People have parties here all the time,’ Frankie says knowingly, nodding to broken bottles and rolling her eyes at a loud group farther along. The two girls are dressed in vintage jeans, self- decorated sneakers—they prefer “customised” —and T- shirts with a message. Frankie’s celebrates an art exhi- bition, Dora’s Billie Eilish, a singer whom she likes be- cause she speaks her mind “on things like Black Lives Matter and justice and stuff.” The girls discovered this spot through TikTok, an app which they think should be banned because “there’s so much bad stuff on it now, like rape.” They learned about the tooth-achingly sweet bubble tea— popular with teenage girls from Chengdu to Califor- nia—from “Insta” (Instagram). The naughtiest thing they have done recently is sneak out to a BLM protest their parents said they could not go to because of lock- down. They do not think there is anything they cannot do because they are girls. “I think that’s from another time,’ says Dora. Frankie, Dora and their tens of millions of u- to 16- year-old peers in the rich world are having a girlhood like none before. Their mothers have been far closer to social and economic equality with their fathers than in previous generations; they have a bewildering online world of social media to navigate; and they are exposed to a world changing, politically and climatologically, in a way that provokes and resonates with all manner of emotional uncertainties. Like all adolescence, this new girlhood is both intensely personal and universal. Talking to dozens of these girls in Europe and America over the past year, in person in some cases and over a lockdown Zoom in others, sometimes one-to-one and sometimes in loud joyful groups, The Economist heard of TikTok and bubble tea, anger and activism, make-up tutorials and trampolining, anxiety (both theirs and their parents) and big plans for the future (ditto). What came out most strongly was the girls’ sense of shared identity and shared potential. One of the changes is that being a girl is now seen as a thing in itself. For centuries, much of girlhood was defined in opposition to boyhood; being nice when they were nasty, quiet when they were loud, social when they were sullen, pretty when they had personal- ities. Briefly, late last century, things went the other way, with girls increasingly encouraged to be sporty, loud and assertive. One of the ways you can see that boyhood has now become increasingly irrelevant to girlhood is that girl- hood is changing in ways that boyhood is not. Girls are allowed, and allow themselves, a range of interests, be- haviours and attitudes that is broad, varied and flexi- ble. Boyhood remains more narrowly defined both by society at large and by boys themselves. Those who sell things to children and parents have noticed the change. Debi Clark from Bizzykidz, a child modelling agency, says advertisers demand a broader Girlhood ps 57 Being a girl is special, difficult and better than it used to be Spectrum of “types” than they used to when looking for girls; for boys one size still fits all. Axel Dammler of iconkids & youth, aGerman research firm, says, “There is almost no point in advertising to girls because they now have such wide-ranging interests and identities.” Most boys can be sold football and a handful of popular video games, but “today’s girls are into everything’, he Says with a mix of exasperation and admiration. The girls we talked to confirmed what researchers have found: that, by and large, this broadening is work- ing out well for them. This does not mean everything is awesome. Girls in most rich countries consistently re- port being slightly sadder than boys do, particularly from puberty onwards. They can be mean to each oth- er, and to themselves. Frankie says she sometimes “just suddenly feel[s] so ugly that I break down.” Things can be made harder by a world that does not yet know quite what to make of these new girls. The re- sponse to their still frequent exploitation is often to treat them simply as innocents in need of protection against bad men, social-media manipulation and, of course, their naive selves. At the same time they are celebrated as an empowered army of Greta Thunbergs on which the world can pin its hopes for the future. Being liberated from a specific girl “mould” or a boy “anchor” does not mean girls do not assign them- Selves, or have forced on them, a large range of some- times contradictory roles. They are friends; daughters; possessors of bodies; activists; and tomorrow’s wom- en. Each role provides a glimpse of their future—anda feeling for the richness of their present. Friends The friendships between girls have provided rich sub- ject matter for female artists from Jane Austen to the Spice Girls to Elena Ferrante. The intensity and close- ness of girl-friendships is an experience that many women feel shapes their lives. It is also one of the first things girls mention when asked what they like about being a girl. What makes Frankie and Dora friends is trust. The two girls (whose names, like those of all the other girls in this piece, have been changed to preserve their pri- vacy) have been friends since they became buurmeisjes (neighbour-girls) at the age of two. They “just know” that they can count on each other when life, and other relationships, get complicated. Dora tells Frankie everything “because she’s Frankie. She’s like my diary.” Confiding in each other is a Key part of girl-friend- ship. That said, anyone who has—or once was—an ad- olescent daughter knows that this girlish intimacy is not an unmitigated blessing. Girls are more likely than boys to be the object of nasty rumours and to be exclud- ed by their peers. Yet girls’ closeness arms them with invaluable support. “It reassures them that they are likeable,” says Julia Cuba Lewis, from Girls Empower- >» 58 Girlhood >» ment Network, an American non-profit. “A strong friendship helps create a stronger girl.” For many girls their first proper friend is their first introduction to love beyond their family. Even if “Tlove Gary” eventually takes over, girls often start with scrib- bling “Sharon and Lina, best friends forever” on note- books and bathroom-stall doors. Where previous gen- erations were tied to the landline, even if they stretched its cord as far away from prying parents as they could, the mobile phone has freed friendship from all shackles of distance and time. Frankie once spent an entire night FaceTiming a friend (her parents now confiscate her phone every evening, “to protect me against myself”). Almost all the girls we spoke with Said that not seeing their friends was the hardest part of lockdown. A survey by Britain’s Children’s Society confirms this was the case across British 10- to 17-year- olds, and that girls struggled more than boys. Where boys’ friendships are typically formed “side by side” around shared activities, girl-friendships tend to form “face to face” around emotional self-disclo- Sure: hence the increased drama, hence the increased importance. Hence, also, durability. Many studies in various countries have confirmed that female friendships are more intimate and supportive. There is a reason why, at least in America, grown women still refer to their “girlfriends”. Boys in close friendships often drift apart in their teens even though, when asked, older boys of- ten express an unmet need for close fellowship. At the Same age girls tend to come closer together than ever. “We fully understand each other, we can rely on The Economist December 19th 2020 each other. If we have a bad day we help each other,” Says Cyrene, a15-year-old in the break room ofa Denver high school. “Boys just don’t do that.” Her friends Kya, Grace and Orenda agree vigorously. They are sharing a pizza as they discuss what makes them friends. They laugh a lot. They enjoy “being weird” together—a phrase girls across countries and backgrounds use to denote an unconstrained silliness they prize. Many formative experiences were shared: their first trip to the cinema, their first visit to an Asian restaurant, and, as they reveal a few months later over Zoom, their first online activism. The word “support” comes up a lot. When they discuss tough subjects they rub each other’s Shoulders, squeeze each other’s hands, whisper reas- suringly and hug liberally. Daughters All four Denver girls list their mums as their role mod- els, and say they always have. How parents treat their daughters, and how those daughters respond, is per- haps the thing which most clearly sets this generation of girls apart from those who came before. For many girls home is now the place they feel least likely to en- counter sexism. In 2018 a survey found that over half of American girls between 10 and 19 felt that they were treated differently in sports, and around a third in school and online. Just one in eight said that happened at home. In 2014 a household survey found only 6% of adult American respondents disagreed with the state- ment that “Parents should encourage just as much in- dependence in their daughters as in their sons.” In the 1970s American parents who had only boys Spent significantly more on their children than par- ents who had only girls. By 2017 the difference had dis- appeared, according to Sabino Kornrich of Nyu-Abu Dhabi. Girls today enjoy more parental spending on things like tutoring, art supplies and music lessons than boys. In China parents of children in high school are more likely to hire a tutor for daughters than sons and to expect them to go to university. “Because girls often perform better than boys, parents start to have higher expectations and invest more in girls than boys,’ explains Jean Yeung Wei-Jun, a researcher at the National University of Singapore. Ironically, some old gender stereotypes may now be helping girls. When girls are toddlers they are read to more than boys. Their fathers are five times more likely to sing or whistle to them and are more likely to speak to them about emotions, including sadness. Their mothers are more likely to use complex vocabulary with them. Most of this gives girls a leg up in a world that increasingly prizes “soft skills”. Girls still have less leisure time than boys, but nowadays that is primarily because they spend more time on homework and grooming, rather than an unfair division of chores. And in the time left for themselves they have far more freedom. Girls are also brought up by single mothers at a his- torically unprecedented rate. Most of the Denver girls have a (step) father somewhere in the picture, but they call their mothers their “reason to be good” and “the man of the house”. Kya says that when she was born her mother was only a year older than Kya is now; she >> The Economist December 19th 2020 >» beams when she says she now runs her own car-body repair shop. Like Cyrene’s mother, also a mother in her teens, she has been to night school, too, a further source of daughterly pride. “She is just unbelievably strong.’ The mother-daughter relationship is formative whether or not a father is present. Young girls whose mums reject gender stereotypes about maths do better at maths (dads’ opinions on the matter appear to have no effect). Girls whose mothers speak openly with them about periods and Sex are significantly less likely to engage in risky sexual behaviour. But when there are two parents both matter. Re- search suggests that girls may be more sensitive to pa- rental encouragement than boys; those whose parents built up their confidence were significantly less likely to feel tense about school, more likely to perform well, less likely to drop out of sports and less likely to have body-image issues. Sarah, a 12-year-old, wants to become a surgeon. She dials in from her purple bedroom surrounded by pillows with pictures of dogs. She loves rock climbing (“the adrenalin is amazing’), baking cookies and “dis- secting stuff”. Her proudest accomplishments include a frog,asquid and adogfish. Her dad helped fuel her in- terest in the cookies and the corpses. Her mum makes challah with her every Friday. Her favourite thing about being a girl: “Surprising people”. She cannot think of anything she does not like. Daughters can change parents’ values too, particu- larly fathers’. Researchers at the London School of Eco- nomics have found that having school-age daughters decreases fathers’ likelihood of holding traditional at- titudes on gender roles and makes them more likely to pull their weight at home. Separate studies have shown that having daughters affects decisions by politicians, judges and CEOs. Men with daughters are more likely to hire women for their boards. One thing most girls agree on is that their parents take too one-sided an approach to technology. “My par- ents think it’s alla bunch of drama and distraction and that we’re all addicted to social media,’ complains Ida, “but it can be really inspiring, too. There are lots of women…standing up for things.” Ofcom, Britain’s communications regulator, has found parents increasingly worried that the risks of the internet outweigh its benefits. Unrealistic beauty standards, self-harm, eating disorders, celebrities who glorify plastic surgery, porn, sexting and predatory men all keep them up at night. They are more likely to restrict girls’ phone use than they are boys’, and they are more likely to wander in and check on their daugh- ters while they are online (with sons they prefer to check their internet history afterwards). One American mother imposes similar rules on her son as on her daughter, but worries more about the ex- posure her 14-year-old daughter gets. “She’s far more mature and curious than heis,’ she says; sinceshe gota phone a year ago she has used the internet for “won- derful art projects” but, confronted with “Fifty Shades of Grey”, also learned a bit about bondage. Another makes a point of trying all the apps her daughter gets into, “including dancing on TikTok”. She is amazed by the breadth of information. “We just had magazines,’ She says of her childhood in India. “They have access to everything, everything.” She loves rock climbing, baking cookies and “dissecting stuff” Girlhood ps 59 Bodies Despite all the liberation and broadening identities, there is one thing that girls still feel narrowly judged on: their bodies. More than half of 10- to 19-year-old girls in America think attractiveness is the trait that society values most in girls. Seven in ten of those be- tween 14 and 19 feel judged as a sex object. Random men have shouted “pornoblondje’” (little porno blonde) at Frankie when she passed on her bike. “T’ve been called all sorts of things while walking down the street just because of what I was wearing,’ Says 13- year-old Ana from New York, who never knows what to say even though it makes her angry inside. Amy, 14, was sent “something bad” by a man on Instagram. She did not tell her parents and does not want to talk about it. The number one reason American girls give for sexual comments going unreported is a fear of being less liked (“kindness” is second only to attractiveness in what they think society values most in them). When asked what they like least about being a girl, most of the girls we spoke to mention their bodies: “pe- riods, blegh”, “my thighs, yuck’, “crazy emotions”. But even more mention how they are perceived; “being looked at ina certain way’, “having to be ladylike’”, “be- ing told to smile”. That girls have issues both with their bodies and the way those bodies are perceived is not new. In 1950 a study titled “Adolescent concerns with physique’ not- ed widespread worries among girls over “fatness, thin- ness, tallness, shortness, lack of development, excep- tionally early development, blackheads, pimples, bad eyes, irregular teeth, ugly noses and receding chins.” Girls in Britain have consistently been unhappier with their appearance than with any other aspect of their lives, according to the Children’s Society. In the1990s a series of panic books, led by Naomi Wolf’s bestseller “The Beauty Myth’, claimed consumer culture’s obses- sion with the female form was causing an “epidemic” of anorexia among girls and women. A study in the journal Eating Disorders found that Ms Wolf’s statistics were on average inflated by a factor of eight. That worries are exaggerated and sensationalised, though, does not mean they lack foundation. Girls very rarely kill themselves; they are less likely to do so than older women or boys and men of any age in many rich countries. But the number of 10- to 14-year-olds who have done so in America has more than tripled since 1999. In England hospitalisations due to self-harm by girls have risen by nearly two-thirds over the past 12 years. The rate of girls reporting depressive symptoms has increased. Researchers disagree about how much of the documented rise in mental-health problems among girls is down to symptoms being more readily recognised than they used to be and how much is down to girls’ lives having changed. “There are lots of reasons to be hopeful about this generation of teen girls,’ says Candice Odgers, a researcher at Uc Irvine. But “they are sadder. Maybe that’s because of the world we’ve built.” Some changes to the world, though, offer respite. Take sports: more than a century after the reinventor of the Olympic games, Pierre de Coubertin, deemed in- cluding females “impractical, uninteresting, unaes- thetic and improper’, more girls are playing sports than ever before. Those who do have fewer mental- >> 60 Girlhood » health problems and are happier about their bodies. Girls can and do feel good about themselves online, too. Where a negative relationship between social-me- dia use and girls’ well-being has been found, it was small, about the same as the impact of wearing glasses, says Amy Orben, at the University of Cambridge. And the direction of the relationship is unclear. A recent Canadian study found that early mental-health pro- blems in young girls can bea predictor of social-media use later, but not the other way around. Social media may make things worse for girls experiencing prob- lems already, but for most they are fine. And they are valued. Girls balk at the idea that there is anything wrong with taking selfies and are keen to show how creative TikTok and Tumblr can be. They are clear that “my body, my choice” extends to being al- lowed to care about their looks. Ziggy, in London, says some people have an attitude that “you can either be Instagram-famous or smart but not both.” She rejects it. “You can be like the male-fantasy version of a girl and you can be interesting and have depth…Posting pictures of yourself does not take away your depth.” Nor do the images need to be of a particular type. “Be- ing a girl means Ican be as girlie as I want to be or not,” says Alyssa, a13-year-old from California. The known negative impact of traditional media— long home to airbrush and photoshop—is greater than that of social media, well stocked with “normies”. The idea that photo-editing tools on phones are inciting a plastic-surgery boom is baseless. “I think my parents think I’m some idiot who believes everything I see on- line,” says Isla, from Brighton, with an eye-roll. In gen- eral, girls don’t. (A pertinent example, if one from a Small study: whereas one in five older boys think on- line porn is a realistic portrayal of sex, only 4% of girls do.) When a class of girls in another school in Denver is asked to respond to a set of statements about social media, none of them agrees with “I think all depictions on social media are realistic.” Most assent to “Social media has impacted how I feel about myself.” All sup- port “I’ve complimented someone else on social me- dia.” The online world is a place to act, not just absorb. Activists The annual “We Are Girls” conference, held at a high school in Austin, Texas, offers sessions such as “Robot- ics and You”, “My Changing Body” and “Divas and Div- ersity’; the girls who attend have the opportunity to be taught football tackles in full gear and to decorate wands with glitter while discussing Disney princesses. But first they must get their girl power on. At the opening rally 1,000 girls stamp their feet in the high school’s gym as a woman in 1970s fitness gear spurs them on with Tigger-like energy. Some girls take out phones to film, others look embarrassed and cling to friends or hide in their hoodies. Latecomers look Startled. But soon the bleachers are rattling as the ma- jority shouts and whoops and jumps. “Who run the world?” the keynote speaker asks. “Girls,” roars the crowd. “Who?” “GIRLS!” A little boy in soccer kit—taken along by his mother “I know boys are biologically stronger, but no one cares about farms anymore.” The Economist December 19th 2020 because practice was cancelled—covers his ears. Girls are increasingly told—and increasingly feel— that they wield power. And if they do not, in truth, be- lieve that they run the world, they certainly want to im- prove it. Ask them about role models and their mothers tie with Greta Thunberg and Malala Yousafzai, cam- paigners for climate action and education. No one else comes close. Most of those we talked to call themselves activists, even if they are not all pushing petitions to set up recy- cling schemes or exploring the application of AI to the environment (both activities we came across). Sexism, racism, LGBT discrimination, poverty, animal cruelty, homelessness, climate change, littering, universal health care, environmental destruction, beauty stan- dards and inequality all get them riled up. Many are liv- id about “idiots” not following covid-19 rules and caus- ing unnecessary death and suffering. “The one good thing about covid is that it’s good for nature and the en- vironment and dolphins,’ says Sarah, “but I wish it wouldn’t kill so many people in the process.” Carol Gilligan, a psychologist, points out that young girls have long been seen as voices of outspo- kenness and honesty, from Iphigenia in Euripides’ tragedy to Claudia in Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye” to Jane Eyre. As they hit their teens, though, they used to have a tendency to stop speaking up, pressured as they were to become “likeable” young women. Today’s girls still care about being liked. “What’s changed,’ says Ms Gilligan, “is the enormous reso- nance their voices now have.” Strong currents in soci- ety are telling them that, now they have the tools need- ed to speak louder—from education to the internet to freedom to leave the house—their voices will be heard. That makes continuing to speak out both a duty anda thrill: a bold new way to be a “good girl”. Some of their concerns are close to home. In early March the Denver girls told us that they felt more judged by their race than their sex. “I think girls are more understood than black people,’ says Grace. “They instantly think I’m ghetto, I’m loud, I have no intelli- gence because that’s how we’re seen.” Like several teens we spoke to during lockdown, she and her friends were frustrated at not being able to join BLM protests. But they have been “signing petitions, read- ing articles, sharing information and calling for and demanding justice,’ Kya says inanemail. The internet is both a resource for their activism and avenue for it. Jo, a12-year-old from London, com- plains that being “only allowed a Nokia—it doesn’t even have emojis” makes it hard to gather signatures for her online petition about period poverty. (She un- derstands why her parents worry but still says “it’s real- ly annoying’.) The other key venue is school. In Califor- nia Naomi, who is 14, says the racism she witnessed during the response to covid and the killing of George Floyd moved her to collect experiences from other stu- dents and write a letter to her school asking for classes to cover racism from fourth grade, that is around the age of nine or ten. Martha, Ana’s 15-year-old sister in New York, has moved from pushing teachers at her school to include climate change in the curriculum to lobbying for climate education nationwide. Whenever She and her friends talk to someone powerful, they posta picture on social media, tagging itand “thanking them for agreeing to whatever they agreed to do. It’s a >> The Economist December 19th 2020 > good way to hold them accountable.” Some, like Jo, fight for issues related to their gender. All the girls are angry about the gender pay gap and sex- ual harassment. This does not mean they see them- selves as feminists, a term which only 28% of 10- to 19- year-old-girls in America use to describe themselves, according to a Plan International survey. “The word [feminism] tends to elicit really negative responses,’ says Mies, an 11-year-old from Amsterdam. “Especially from boys.” They much prefer to talk about gender equality—or more-than-equality. “Women are supe- rior,’ Cyrene says matter-of-factly. “They just are. You know, you rea woman. “I Know boys are biologically stronger,’ she adds thoughtfully. “But no one cares about farms anymore.” Tomorrow s women Girls’ adolescence does not just offer a wider range of possibilities than it used to. It also lasts longer. In the West girls now start puberty around the age of ten. The age has dropped mostly, it appears, because of better diet. For black girls, who typically have a higher body- mass index and lower birth weight, things come even earlier. Nearly one in four African-American girls has Started puberty by the age of seven, compared with15% of Latina and10% of Caucasian girls. The onset of sexual activity, though, is getting later (and being handled better: teen-pregnancy rates are falling across the world). And education is lasting lon- ger. There is thus room for girlhood to stretch out. But not indefinitely. In1972 a group of working-class girls in Ealing, Lon- don, were asked to rank their life priorities. They ticked love, ahusband and a career in that order. When the same survey was repeated in1994 the outcome had more or less reversed. We asked the girls we talked with to rank their priorities for the future on a form. “Inter- esting job’, “Change the world” and “Financial inde- pendence’ were reliably found near the top. “Love” was Girlhood * 61 in the middle; “Marriage”, “Get rich” and “Have chil- dren” were low—and sometimes crossed out. A capacity for self-reliance is seen as crucial. “I want a good education and a good plan for the future,” Says 11-year-old Ela in California, before adding that She also really wants two dogs. “I definitely want enough money to support myself and however many kids I have,” says Martha in New York. The girls in Den- ver need any families they have to be financially inde- pendent more than they need them to includea man. “I could get the fancy dessert, butI don’t need it,’ declares Cyrene. Kya agrees: “If Ido end up alone, I’ll just have my best friends.” An hour’s drive north, in Boulder, a group of girls who had just pulled an all-nighter for an extra-credit maths class is equally lukewarm about love and mar- rlage—but clear about other aspects of their future. Jennie plans to major in chemistry and piano, then go to med-school and become a surgeon or a medical pro- fessor (teen girls in the OECD are nearly three times as likely as boys to say they want to be doctors). Lou says She will double-major in computer science and engi- neering and then work in aerospace engineering “on AI stuff”, perhaps at NASA. Like the Denver girls, several imagine adopting one day, with or without a partner. Personal goals and aspirations for the world are closely bound up. Girls in America are more likely than boys to say that they want to make the world a better place; they are also more likely to say they want to bea leader. Jo, in London, says she hopes that when she leaves university ten years from now the world will be more equal—“and also that it hasn’t exploded.” Asked if this worries her she frowns: “Well yeah, because of global warming. Greta Thunberg says there’s quite a real chance of some ginormous catastrophe that we’re never going to be able to solve.” Her government’s han- dling of covid has made her “very angry’; she is consid- ering a career in politics, though, she confides, “I’m not sure I’ll manage as I have quite alot on my to-do list.” High expectations are undoubtedly a risk. “Society still tends to see girls as either in crisis or as superhe- roes. We’re still looking for a happy medium where girls can just be human and are allowed to make mis- takes,” says Angelica Puzio, a doctoral candidate at NYU. Deborah Tolman, an author who has studied girls for decades, notes that girls often cannot see the scaf- folding and support behind “sheroes” like Greta and Malala, and worries that “if they are not saving the world they’ll feel bad for letting people down.” When you ask girls what makes them anxious, many indeed mention pressure: pressure to do good, look good and be good. “There’s a constant pressure to be polite and kind and out there and confident,” says Ziggy: in reali- ty, she feels at best “confident-ish”. Telling girls they need to develop more confidence is just code for an- other thing they need to fix and be better at, writes Ra- chel Simmons, an educator, in “Enough as She Is”. But that is not to say that they cannot find confi- dence in themselves, or bring it out in each other. When she is asked “Do you think you can change the world?” Sarah looks panicked. “By myself? Oh God no. What ifI can’t fix all the problems?” Then she realises the “you” is plural, which changes everything. “Oh, you mean all girls,” she says with a sigh of re- lief. “Of course we can.’ * 62 x Holiday specials Erasmus Citizen of the world . s oe anetata eho cecm, tLe ESIDERIUS ERASMUS was the last great intellectual D ofa united Christian Europe: a scholar of universal renown, a friend to kings and tutor to princes, anda self-proclaimed “citizen of the world”. He produced a translation of the New Testament that changed the way Christians think about their faith. He also shaped pop- ular culture. His dictionary rescued phrases such as “breaking the ice”, “teaching an old dog newtricks” and “leaving no stone unturned” from obscurity. His “In Praise of Folly” (1511) was hailed as acomic masterpiece. In an age when birth was generally destiny, he was a self-made man. Born in the small provincial town of Rotterdam in 1466, the illegitimate son of a priest, he was dumped in alocal monastery at the earliest oppor- tunity. He grew up far from the centre of the Renais- Sance in northern Italy. His subsequent stardom was purely the result of his extraordinary intellectual gifts. Unlike so many other great thinkers, in his time and since, Erasmus never fell prey to extremism. He be- lieved in the healing power of moderation and reason, and in the civilising power of wine and conversation. The Economist December 19th 2020 A champion of moderation who had the misfortune to live in a revolutionary era This was partly a matter of personal style. He craved a life of scholarly comfort: “He lived in his study and died in his bed,’ as the historian Hugh Trevor-Roper put it. Confronted with a king—and potential pa- tron—he bent the knee; challenged by a bully, he changed the subject. It was also a matter of conviction. Erasmus loathed the certitude of ideologues and worried about the ten- dency of extremists to goad one another into greater acts of fanaticism. In place of revolutionary certainty, he preached the Middle Way. The best way to reform the establishment was from within, he argued. The Catholic church should be reinvigorated by calling it back to its original purpose; society should be re- formed by educating princes in the art of government. But this moderate champion had the great bad luck to live ina zealous era. Soon after climbing to the intel- lectual and social pinnacle of Europe, Erasmus was thrown down and condemned. Only after his death was he given his due. His story is a warning to modern moderates, but also an inspiration. When Erasmus left his monastery and began to ex- plore the world, he was astonished by the sorry state of the church. Nepotism was rife. Popes fathered children and advanced them, disguised as nephews, into well- paid jobs. The largest businesses in Rome were the wine trade and prostitution. The papacy preyed on the credulity of the laity by selling indulgences—“forged pardons for real sins’, in Erasmus’s words. Leo X, pope during Erasmus’s glory years, was the spirit of corrup- tion made pudgy and pampered flesh. The church’s material self-indulgence was equalled by its intellectual desiccation. Universities were self- perpetuating oligarchies of obscurantists and suck- ups. A doctorate in theology at the Sorbonne took a minimum of eight years to complete and an average of 18. Erasmus described his teachers there as “quasi theo- logians” whose “brains are the most addled, tongues the most uncultured, wits the dullest, teachings the thorniest, characters the least attractive, lives the most hypocritical, talk the most slanderous, and hearts the blackest on Earth.” How could the church be rescued from its torpor? Erasmus believed that the answer lay in rediscovering the spirit of Christ. He did not believe, as some Chris- tians did, that it was necessary to get rid of your proper- ty and devote yourself to the poor. Rather, for Erasmus it meant producing a perfect translation of the Bible based on the best texts available, assembled from li- braries across Europe. For how could you hope to imi- tate Christ unless you Knew exactly what he had said and how he had lived? Renaissance scholars in Italy had provided a model of how to revive classical studies by producing improved classical texts. Erasmus’’s great scholarly achievement was to import these techniques to northern Europe and apply them to biblical texts. This inaugurated one of the great love affairs of his life, with ancient Greek. At the age of 30 he determined to make his Greek as good as his Latin (which was re- >> The Economist December 19th 2020 » garded as the best in Europe). He was astonished by what he found as he read classical Greek texts as well as fragments of the Bible. Whereas “we Latins have but a few small streams, a few muddy pools,’ he wrote, “the Greeks possess crystal-clear springs and rivers that run with gold.” His “Novum Instrumentum’” was the first Greek New Testament ever published. He put the Greek text next to the Latin Vulgate and his own “pure” Latin translation, which extirpated what he saw as linguistic corruptions in the church’s approved text. Like the Protestants who would soon convulse Eu- rope, Erasmus believed that Christ’s message should be taught by and to everybody. Forget the waffling of the theologians: a “few truths are enough.” And forget the superstructure of the church: what really matters is the Word. “I would have women read the Gospels and the Epistles of St Paul…I would have the ploughman and the craftsman sing them at work; I would have the trav- eller recite them to forget the weariness of his journey .. [rue theology is possessed by every man who is pos- sessed of the spirit of Christ, be he digger or weaver.” Erasmus’s scholarly distinction brought him suc- cess in the secular world as well as the religious one. His admirers included almost all the crowned heads of Europe—the kings of France and Portugal were cor- respondents and the king of Scotland a pupil. He was a particular favourite of the ruler of his native state, Archduke Charles, who, as Charles V, went on to be- come Holy Roman Emperor and the most powerful man in Europe. Hans Holbein the younger, whom Eras- mus supported, painted several portraits of him. Though he enjoyed the flattery, Erasmus used his con- nections to pursue a higher goal—to persuade the rul- ers of Europe to lead their people into an era of Chris- tian enlightenment. What better way to reform government in an age of royal power, he calculated, than to educate the royals themselves? His “Education of a Christian Prince” (1516) was written as practical advice to Archduke Charles. Eras- mus argued that the king is a servant of the people and must rule according to the principles of honour and sincerity, a revolutionary notion disguised as flattery. In “The Prince”, published three years earlier, Machia- velli had argued that it was better fora ruler to be feared than loved. Erasmus argued, on the contrary, that it was better to be loved than feared, and suggested that the way to create a lovable prince was to give him a well-rounded humanist education. A ruler should be learned (“man unless he has experienced the influence of learning and philosophy is at the mercy of impulses that are worse than those of a wild beast’) and should cultivate the habits of gentleness and public service. He proceeded to dish out advice to the class of edu- cated Europeans who operated the machinery of the State. “Enchiridion Militis Christiani” (“Handbook of a Christian Soldier’) argued that Christianity was above all an ethical system of charity, love and generosity. A succession of school textbooks were designed to show that classical learning was a joy rather than a chore. In place of mechanical grammar books he produced se- lections of the great classical authors. Technology helped spread his fame. The printing press had been invented a quarter of a century before his birth and the great printers of his day (Thierry Martens of Lausanne, Jose Badius of Paris and Aldus Manutius of Venice) had established international distribution networks. “In He believed in the healing power of moderation and reason, and in the civilising power of wine and conversation Erasmus ps 63 Praise of Folly” was one of the first secular bestsellers, with more than 30 Latin editions appearing during Erasmus’s lifetime. He thus embodied a new social ideal: the humanist scholar who rejected monkish asceticism and the arid scholasticism of the university professors. He was ge- nial and civilised: after books, he liked nothing more than good food, good wine and good conversation. He had a gift for friendship, enjoying an intellectual ro- mance with the English humanist Thomas More. But he also had a talent for mockery, which he wielded against the pompous, pedantic and closed-minded. “In Praise of Folly” attacked everyone from doctors (quacks and flatterers, in his eyes) to monks (donkeys braying out psalms that they had memorised because they could not read). This earned him a legion of fans: the Erasmians who thrived in courts across Europe and who pored over his every pronouncement. Bulldozing the Middle Way Erasmus’s happy world began to crumble in October 1517, when Martin Luther, his junior by 17 years, nailed 95 theses to the door of the Wittenberg Castle church. Erasmus sympathised with many of the young monk’s criticisms of the church. But he disliked Luther’s dog- matic temperament and feared the consequences of smashing the institution that, for all its faults, sat at the heart of European civilisation. Surely Luther’s ex- tremism would provoke counter-extremism? And surely the battle would destroy the Christian human- ism that Erasmus had spent his life cultivating? Both sides of the emerging schism initially tried to win the great man’s approval. This put him into an im- possible bind. He could not repudiate Luther without repudiating some of his own criticisms of the church. But he could not support the pope wholeheartedly without endorsing corruption. Reluctantly, Erasmus stuck with the Catholic church on the grounds that in- stitutions are easier to reform than fanatical mobs in- spired by a charismatic preacher. That soon seemed like bad judgment. Rather than taking Erasmus’s Mid- dle Way, the church embraced religious orthodoxy, empowering the most reactionary elements in the hi- >> —— as | 64 x Erasmus » erarchy and stretching every sinew to destroy heresy. Erasmus was reduced from hero to bogeyman. “My popularity, if I had any, has either cooled off so far that it scarcely exists, or has quite evaporated, or even has turned into hatred,’ he wrote in 1523. Luther de- nounced him as an “enraged reptile’, “vainglorious beast” and “instrument of Satan”. The Catholic church denounced him as a proto-Luther. “Erasmus laid the eggs,’ a monk from Cologne wrote; “Luther hatched them. God grant that we may smash the eggs and stifle the chicks.” One of his translators was burned at the Stake. In 1546, ten years after Erasmus’s death, the Council of Trent exploded his life’s work by declaring that the Vulgate was the only acceptable translation of the Bible. In 1559 the Index of Prohibited Books banned his entire oeuvre, along with the works of 550 other writers. The edict was not withdrawn until 1966. As Michael Massing shows vividly in “Fatal Discord: Erasmus, Luther and the Fight for the Western Mind” (2018), the growing religious battle destroyed Erasmi- anism as a movement. Princes had no choice but to choose sides in the 16th-century equivalent of the cold war. Some of Erasmus’s followers reinvented them- selves as champions of orthodoxy. The “citizen of the world” could no longer roam across Europe, pouring honeyed words into the ears of kings. He spent his final years holed up in the free city of Basel. The champion of the Middle Way looked like a ditherer who was inca- pable of making up his mind, or a coward who was un- willing to stand up to Luther (if you were Catholic) or the pope (if you were Protestant). Yet the next hundred years of European history bloodily confirmed Erasmus’s warnings about the dan- gers of religious extremism. Luther denounced the pope as the Antichrist while comparing Rome to So- dom and Gomorrah; the pope called Luther a “roaring sow’. Then came the book-burning and the statue- smashing. Finally, the fanatics graduated to burning their fellow human beings at the stake. The cycle of in- tolerance was matched by a cycle of self-righteous- ness. Protestants competed with their fellow Protes- tants, and Catholics with their fellow Catholics, to see who possessed the purest heart and the fiercest faith. The Economist December 19th 2020 The test of being a good Christian ceased to be decent behaviour. It became fanaticism: who could shout most loudly? Or persecute heresy most vigorously? Or apply fuel to the flames most enthusiastically? Erasmus had predicted that Luther’s theological complaint would lead to war. In time, he wrote, “the long war of words and pamphlets” would be waged “with halberds and cannons”. He was proved right many times over as fanatical passions fired terrible conflicts. The Thirty Years War killed more than a third of the German population and featured every imagin- able atrocity, from torched villages to mass rapes to widespread torture, including waterboarding. But great ideas are harder to kill than people. At first Erasmian ideas went underground—an astonishing fate for a philosophy that had thrived on the patronage of princes. Intellectuals preserved Erasmianism in private and talked about it in whispers. Then it began to resurface. The Jesuits smuggled elements of Erasmi- anism into their Catholic philosophy: Ignatius of Loy- ola based his “Spiritual Exercises” on Erasmus’s “En- chiridion”. Supporters of a more tolerant style of Protestant Christianity, such as the one that emerged in Britain after the Puritan revolution, dusted off their Erasmus. The most intellectually accomplished reviv- er of the Erasmian tradition was arguably a Jew, Spino- Za, Who put the notion of scepticism at the heart of his great treatise, the “Tractatus Theologico-Politicus”. A world of folly Erasmus is now celebrated by people of all religious in- clinations and none. In his native city of Rotterdam a university, a grammar school and a subway station have been named in his honour. The European Union’s ambitious student-exchange programme, from which more than 10m have benefited, bears his name. The University of Toronto has produced an 89-volume edi- tion of Erasmus’s collected works, one of the greatest scholarly projects of our time. Fittingly, one of the edi- tors, James McConica, is a Roman Catholic priest who embodies Erasmus’s learned, epicurean style. The spirit of the Middle Way has not conquered all—far from it. The West is now in the grip of rival ex- tremisms that mock every principle that the great man held dear. Everywhere ideologues are breaking eggs and murdering chicks. In Britain, Brexiteers denounce “citizens of the world” as “citizens of nowhere” and cast out moderate politicians with more talent than they possess, while anti-Brexiteers are blind to the ex- cesses of establishment liberalism. In America “woke” extremists try to get people sacked for slips of the ton- gue or campaign against the thought crimes of “uncon- scious bias”. Intellectuals who refuse to join one camp or another must stand by, as mediocrities are rewarded with university chairs and editorial thrones. But the 16th-century humanist should give hope to those who resist competing bigotries. Erasmus shows that moderates are right to warn about the awful con- sequences of extremism and intolerance. He also proves that you can triumph in the long term even if you are crushed in the short term. Modern advocates of the Middle Way may not be rewarded with an 89-Vvol- ume edition of their collected works. But they at least have the comfort that they were on the right side of his- tory when their fellow intellectuals were taking the line of least resistance or maximum fanaticism. * The Economist December 19th 2020 South Korean Race to the top mountains SEORAKSAN TYPICAL DAY on a South Korean mountain starts much like a typical day in a South Korean Office: with a subway journey. At a station in southern Seoul, scores of people emerge into the crisp dawn air carry- ing backpacks and hiking sticks, and walk towards a long row of coaches. Kim Sun-hui, an efficient woman in wire-rimmed glasses and a red woolly hat, checks names against a list next to the bus chartered by “Wan- derung”, aclub named after the German word for hike. Soon Mr Park, the driver, closes the doors. The bus trundles past high-rise apartment blocks before turn- ing east towards Seoraksan, the country’s favourite na- tional park, some 200km (124 miles) away. Hiking is South Korea’s most popular pastime. Two- thirds of its citizens own a pair of hiking boots and tackle a mountain at least once a year; nearly a third go once a month. In 2018 they spent $2.3bn on hiking gear, more than on cinema tickets or cosmetics. The coun- try’s 22 national parks welcome around 45m visitors every year. During holidays, newspapers print pictures of long queues of people waiting to take photographs next to the national flag that marks many peaks. Ask a South Korean about the allure of mountains and you are soon deep into nationalist mysticism. “We like to think of ourselves as descendants of the moun- tain god,” says Choi Won-suk, who directs the centre for mountains and culture at Gyeongsang National Holiday specials 65 The country’s hiking culture reflects its social pressures—and offers a reprieve from them University in Jinju. Dangun, the mythical founder of Korea, is Said to have been born on the slopes of Mount Paektu, on the border between China and North Korea. He was the son of the sky god and a bear who became a woman after subsisting for weeks on garlic in a cave. The mountain features in the national anthems of both North and South Korea. A simpler explanation is that going hiking is easy. South Korean mountains are not too high: the tallest peak, Hallasan, is just short of 2,000 metres. And they are everywhere. Unlike in Europe or America, few peo- ple live more than an hour or two from one of the 18 “mountainous” national parks. Seoul, where half the population lives, contains several mountains that can be conquered during along lunch break. “It’s just a very obvious thing to do in your spare time,” says Park Mi- suk, who teaches at a mountaineering school on the slopes of Bukhansan, just north of the capital. The country got its national parks in a hurry. The first, in Jirisan, was designated only in 1967. By the end of the 1980s South Korea had protected more than 6,000 square km, amounting to 6% of its land area. It was inspired by America’s national parks, and advised by American experts. The two countries continue to co-operate on signage, nature preservation and safety. But South Korea has developed a hiking culture quite unlike the American (or the European) one. 66 * Hiking in Korea The coach that Ms Kim and Mr Park are piloting to Seoraksan (Snow mountain) hints at some of the dif- ferences. The mostly middle-aged men and women snoring lightly on board have signed up through an on- line forum, where hikers swap tips on logistics, equip- ment and routes. Many South Koreans are members of hiking clubs, or book places on coach tours to get to the mountains. On the footpaths, you see large groups of people more often than families or lone hikers. That could be a legacy of military rule. Park Chung- hee, the strongman who ruled South Korea in the1960s and 1970s, encouraged conglomerates to push their employees out onto the trails as a community-build- ing activity. He also insisted on military drills not un- like those still practised north of the border. Corporate culture has become a little more relaxed since then, al- though an ambitious executive may still find it expedi- ent to scale the occasional mountain with the boss. A culture of long working hours and short holidays encourages efficient hiking. Mountain paths tend to head directly for the summit, and rarely feature the Switchback turns seen in other countries. South Korea has a whole infrastructure designed to get stressed lei- Sure-seekers to, up and back down the mountains as speedily as possible. The plan on Ms Kim’s bus, which sounds distinctly ambitious to anyone used to a more leisurely pace, is for the hikers to tackle Seoraksan’s highest peak before it gets dark and return to Seoul well before the last subway train heads for the suburbs. Some mountain enthusiasts disapprove of this ap- proach. “A lot of people only care about getting to the top and down again as quickly as possible,” says Ms Park, the hiking instructor. “That’s not really the point.” Ms Park, who abandoned a career as a nursery teacher to teach people about mountains, thinks that people should pause to take in the surroundings. “For me, mountains are about contentment—lI’ve had so many hobbies, but whenever I look back at pictures of myself ona mountain I justlook happy.’ Stairway to heaven Mr Choi, the geographer, concurs that the focus on reaching the top is misguided. “It’s a very modern thing, this haste and competitiveness,’ he told your correspondent on another, more gentle hike upa small mountain overlooking Jinju. “Mountains are inter- twined with life, including at the end,” he explained, as he pointed out small mounds of graves lining the path. Mr Choi argues that the desire to rush uphill was im- ported to South Korea by Japanese colonisers—who, in turn, got it from the West. He harks back to centuries-old conceptions of the hills as spiritual places, home to hermits and moun- tain spirits. To him, they are places to work towards pungsu, a traditional Korean system of thought close to the Chinese idea of feng shui, which stresses har- monising people with their environment. In the past, he says, climbing mountains was about finding har- mony with nature and reflecting on your own short- comings. “It’s not about getting up to the top and win- ning but about looking up to the top thinking, I’m not there yet. I need to grow more.” More than four hours and several traffic jams into the journey to Seoraksan, some of the passengers on Ms Kim’s bus seem to be reaching similar conclusions. As midday approaches, the plan to reach the summit An ambitious executive may still find it expedient to scale the occasional mountain with the boss The Economist December 19th 2020 and return to the bus before sunset is beginning to seem foolhardy. The mood on board has darkened. Voices are raised. But the delay does not prompt any- one to reconsider. When Mr Park at last pulls up at the pass where the hike begins, people rush for the door and jog towards the stairs that lead up the mountain. The stairs hint at what is to come. For the first cou- ple of hours, the path climbs steeply towards a granite ridge, now hidden in clouds, now gleaming in the sun- shine. A stiff breeze blows, prompting hikers to zip up their jackets. The leaves on the trees have begun to turn deep shades of red and orange. The higher the path climbs, the easier it becomes to forget how steep it is. With every turn, the views over the peaks grow more spectacular. It was views like this, along with his dislike of the rat race, that prompted 65-year-old Cho Myung-hwan to quit his job as a computer salesman to spend his time hiking and taking pictures of mountains, trees and flowers. “You know that feeling when you’re tired and restless and there are all of these people in front of you—and then you catch sight of the view,” he says. After quitting his job, Mr Cho lost touch with many friends. His wife, who disapproved of his decision, has grown fed up with accompanying him on his hikes. He says he does not mind: “T’ve never been very sociable, and I enjoy just being with the mountain.” As the hikers climb Seoraksan, the crush of people disperses. Soon whole stretches of the trail are desert- ed. “It opens my heart coming up here,’ says Go Eun-mi, an accountant from Suwon whois hiking with her husband. “You can forget things in the mountains, particularly now during the pandemic.” Farther up on the ridge, a group of men are sitting under a tree eating lunch. They have brought minia- ture folding chairs, beef jerky and tangerines, which they offer around. Lee Jun-gyu, a video editor, aims to climb as many peaks as possible in the Paektu moun- tain range that runs through the Koreas like a spine. “Hiking the range is bound up with my hopes for reuni- fication,’ he says. As the afternoon wears on and the wind picks up, it becomes clear that the plan to reach the peak was in- deed overambitious for many of Mr Park’s passengers. Having turned around at various points along the ridge, they trickle back down the mountain in the wan- ing light. Your correspondent calls time on her ascent at a jagged rock about halfway to the peak (she later re- turned to conquer it). She catches a glimpse of the sea, the dome of an observatory and what look like radio towers—a reminder of the other Korea just a few miles to the north. On the way down, the sweeping views are obscured by fog. She stumbles down the final set of Stairs to the car park as darkness falls. Along, cold hour later, Mr Park’s bus appears, carry- ing the hardy souls who managed to rush all the way to the top of the mountain. On the way back to Seoul the mood is jolly, helped along by swigs of makgeolli, a lo- cal rice wine that some hikers are sipping surrepti- tiously. When a suspicious whiff of orange peel begins to mingle with the smell of sweaty boots, Ms Kim inter- venes: “Stop eating, and put your masks back on.” A typical day on a South Korean mountain ends much like a typical day at a South Korean office: witha bleary-eyed late-night subway ride. But Ms Go is right: the head feels clear, and the heart remarkably open. * The Economist December 19th 2020 Crossword, etc Cryptic and coniferous Create your own data-driven tree ornament > Colour in the land mass Crossword/Fun chart ps 67 This year our Christmas quiz ts online-only. It can be found at economist.com/quiz2020 according to the key and i cut out the whole shape. Fold dashed lines, apply glue to the tabs and construct your bauble > Tape a loop of string to the North Pole to attach Sources: FAO; MCPFE; UNECE the ornament to your tree Christmas cryptic crossword Pee PP tT Te HH a ee : 9 i || ! | Wa ee | i ; | a ” 14 is | 14 — iN__| | | 18 | || 10 12 18 | | 19 20 23 21 22 23 | | | 24 a | el | | | 25 et} | | tT et Tt > Answers, tips and explanations at economist.com/crossword2020 26 27 Across Fat Man gets bamboo mat without a scramble (4,4) Might pick up shellfish (6) Fiery pits? Check bra-size radius (8) Peter’s in a jam (6) Hear about bower in shrine (5) Designed to withstand high taxes? (5,4) Doctor knifes tanner (12) We write the leader on crime involving head of Enron and Tory spin doctor (3,9) Don’t look the other way: survive European drugs (3,2,4) One Roma wotried indigenous people (5) Feller messes up an exam (3,3) Checking top in high-pitched sound (8) Alarm and insult former PM (6) Farm building is bathed in light for effect (8) Coniferous trees as share of forest cover, by latitude, 2010, % A B C D E Bees 0-9: 10-19 20-29 50-59 70-79 Down 1 ASurprise morning scrub (6) 11 15 16 17 19 20 22 Indecipherable sounds like Catholic suffering, but not at first! (6) Taxi and car reverse after inflatable crashes: stuff happens (4-1-4) Ships marc then smokes Senior Service (8,4) Posh county not of too much interest (5) Begged felon to cut prison term and stop (8) All of them at any time, over there, note (8) Anorak melted unfortunate rodent (5,4,3) Does it open up Asian flavours? (6,3) Supposedly, by word of mouth (2,2,4) Sparkles on radio like British bandleader (8) Strip and shave my rent-a-crowd? (6) Arranged plant, from top to bottom and bottom to top (6) Building OK as a place to live (5) Will America heal? : | The fight for equality. Econom The green recovery? ba sa ahi The said in Buy it now in print at shop.economist.com or on newsstands. Available digitally to subscribers at economist.com/worldin21 The Economist December 19th 2020 Holiday specials A queer old tale LITTLE AFTER10pm on Monday July 3rd 1967, justas most sensible Britons were turning in for the night, the member for Pontypool was warming up. Leo Abse (pronounced Ab-zee) had been working the tea rooms of the House of Commons all day, charming and cajoling his fellow MPs in his rococo tones—a little flattery here, a white lie there. Now he slipped into the chamber, turning heads as always in spite of his short frame. Settling in his usual perch on the Labour gov- ernment’s benches, his mischievous eyes darted about the place, searching out both his “stout fellows” and his foes. If his bill were ever to get through, tonight was surely the night. The House had already been sitting for 12 hours. It had found time to note the teacher shortage in Scot- land, the need for better provision for heroin addicts and the lack of geriatric hospital beds in the Hull area. It had mused on the sorry state of the river whose wa- ters sploshed against the Palace of Westminster. The lack of moorings and amenities on “Old Father Thames” was a disgrace. At last Big Ben, that parlia- mentary alarm clock, struck ten, and it was Abse’s turn. His bill, printed on the green pages each MP clutched, was plain enough: that, in England and Wales, “a homosexual act in private shall not be an of- Sometimes history ts made circuitously fence provided that the parties consent thereto and have attained the age of twenty-one years”. Beside him on those green-leather benches sat his staunch sup- porters, a new generation of youngish, whipsmart La- bour MPs more familiar with cloisters than coal mines. There was Dick Taverne, a 38-year-old barrister, and Shirley Williams, a passionate liberal who had run the Fabian Society, a leftish think-tank. And Roy Jenkins, home secretary and fellow Welshman, who cherished the idea of Britain as a “civilised society”. The benches opposite were sparser, but their occu- pants no less determined. There was Ray Mawby, a moralising drinker not yet unmasked as a communist spy, Harold Gurden, a dairyman before his election 12 years earlier, and Ian Percival, who promised—or threatened—“to speak through the night if necessary”. To them, gay sex remained “the abominable crime’; le- galising it after 434 years would be yet more damning evidence that England was becoming not a civilised society buta permissive one. They intended to propose amendment after amendment, and to greet each in turn with another lengthy, digressive speech. All they had to do was keep talking. To make any progress, the proposers had to calla “closure motion” —a proposal to curtail discussion and move to a vote—on each amendment. But Parliament’s rule book dictates that such motions can pass only if they are supported by at least 100 MPs. So Abse had to keep enough of his supporters in the chamber not just for the final vote but to see off each amendment in turn. As the night wore on, his enemy was not so much those on the opposite benches as sleep: “It only needed one or two people to go home…to say ‘To hell with this, Ican’t stay until the dawn, and we were undone.” It would hardly have been the first defeat. Craning over from the Commons gallery to get a better view of the chamber below were a band of men well used to having their hopes dashed. They were no strangers to Parliament. They had awaited eagerly its debate 1n1958 on the Wolfenden Report, an official review that rec- ommended nixing the ban on gay sex that had held since the Buggery Act of 1533. Nothing came of that. Harold Wilson, the Labour prime minister, told col- leagues that loosening the law would lose their party 6m votes. Few men were successfully prosecuted for sex in priv- ate, but the threat ensured that blackmail flourished and the closet door remained firmly closed. Some formed loveless marriages; others sought medical help. As Abse worked on his bill, John Wells, a 27-year- old phonetician at University College London, began attending weekly psychotherapy sessions to deal with the “problem” of his homosexuality. The year before he had split up with his first boyfriend, who—under pres- sure from his family—had then married a woman. Into this vacuum came the House of Lords, Parlia- ment’s unelected second chamber. Stuffed with crusty 69 70 – Leo Abse » aristocrats who had inherited their fathers’ titles (and voting rights), it was an unlikely crucible of social re- form. Yet, virtually irremovable as they were, there was little to stop their lordships speaking their minds. The eighth Earl of Arran (“Boofy” to his chums) had per- Suaded his fellow peers to vote for reform in 1965. He never told them his likeliest motivation. His older brother, whom he succeeded to the earldom, took his own life at the age of 55. Years later, Abse met a man who claimed to have been the seventh earl’s lover. In public, Lord Arran’s rationale was more pragmatic, and characteristically Wodehousian. “It simply needed someone to grasp the nettle. Anda damned prickly net- tle it was, too.” Most MPs still feared its sting. The Lords provided momentum, but support in the Commons was neces- sary for a bill to become law. No government would risk backing such a contentious measure, so it could reach the statute book only via a private member’s bill, a mechanism that allows MPs to put forward their own laws. Such bills rarely pass, since little time is allotted to them. By 1967, Abse and Humphry Berkley, a Tory parliamentarian, had already proposed some measure of liberalisation three times without success. One more try Still, this time might be different. After all, Abse had friends in high places. Jenkins was one of a new breed of Labour MP who wanted the party to marry bread- and-butter leftism with social liberalism. As one wag had it, Labour should be the party of “full enjoyment” as well as full employment. Each time ADse’s bill was frustrated, Jenkins persuaded the government to lend it some of its own time in the Commons, albeit some- times at ungodly hours. Which is why the gas lamps outside the Palace of Westminster were burning, cast- ing shadows along its Gothic facade, as, inside, the Speaker finally called the House to order that night. Big Ben was about to sound the next hour by the “It simply needed some- one to grasp the nettle. And a damned prickly nettle it was, too’ The Economist December 19th 2020 time Abse got to his feet for the first time. His oppo- nents had already made the running for three-quarters ofan hour and he was anxious to get on. “IfIam briefin speaking to this amendment,’ he began, “Iam sure that it will be appreciated that it is out of no discourtesy to the House but because we are dealing with a matter which has been well canvassed.” Abse was not normally so ready to pass up achance to expound. The limelight was, ifanything, alittle dark for his liking. He embraced the old Commons tradition of dressing up for Budget day. Out came the top hat and cane, a fresh bloom in his buttonhole. The rest of the year, he favoured a dark green jacket over a mustard waistcoat and maroon trousers. He would stick one thumb in his waistcoat pocket during his lengthy and ornate speeches, enveloping the House in his lyrical, somehow religious, embrace. The Welsh have a pretty word for such oratorical magnetism: hwyl. Abse had bags of the stuff. His interests, too, were colourful, stretching far be- yond Pontypool, the mining town in south Wales that he had represented since 1958. He was a successful criminal solicitor, relishing representing suspected murderers, and a keen amateur psychoanalyst, emu- lating his hero Sigmund Freud. He would go on to pub- lish a slew of eccentric “psycho-biographies’, attribut- ing John Maynard Keynes’s “bold economic theorising” to his affairs with men, and Margaret Thatcher’s steely resolve to the “deprivation she felt at [her mother’s] breast”. The title of one of his later books indicated the range of his interests: “Fellatio, Mas- ochism, Politics and Love”. Given the need to overcome opposition from sober- Suited moralisers, Jenkins was understandably wary of Abse’s involvement: “He wasn’t exactly the person I would have chosen to be the sponsor of the bill.” Yet it proved a profitable partnership. Jenkins squared the cabinet and spoke publicly in favour of the bill, all the time claiming that the government remained neutral. Meanwhile, Abse put his self-avowed guile to work, en- listing his allies and circumventing his opponents. He contrived an argument with himself over whether to exclude the merchant navy from the bill, whipping up the issue in the press. As he hoped, his op- ponents seized on this. So confident were they that it would take up the first few hours of the bill’s consider- ation by a parliamentary committee that they did not plan to turn up and table their own amendments until the next session. In the event, Abse swiftly agreed to that amendment—as he had always planned to do— and the committee stage was over within an hour. Be- fore this final debate, he had spent the day circling the tea rooms and bars of the Commons, bestowing wide smiles, witticisms and promises of future support. “It’s not just house-to-house fighting,” he liked to say. “It’s room-to-room.” Praying for time The night wore on. Again and again, that great clock tolled. Still, the diehards spoke on, each digression pootling along until chancing upon another. First came the member for Bromsgrove: “When we last discussed this unpleasant subject, I raised the his- tory of two young people who were taken from this country to the south of France…” MR SPEAKER: “Order. I hope that the honourable gen- >» The Economist December 19th 2020 » tleman is not going to repeat the story. We have a long debate ahead of us.” The member for Birmingham, Selly Oak, chipped in: “Iam not clear on what my honourable friend is say- ing about this sentence. He referred to it as a sentence for five years…” MR SPEAKER: “Order. When an honourable member is trying to get back into order, an intervention should not encourage him to go out of order again.” Then the member for Southport, anxious lest his long and rambling speech be misinterpreted: “I hope that we shall have no more of the nonsense that we have had in the House and the press that if someone dares to have a different point of view—on detail, for I am keeping to the amendment—and dares deploy an argument about it, that is filibustering. I am sorry to see those, self-styled, of enlightened opinion being so intolerant of the opinions of others. That was, in fact, my last but one general observation…” MR SPEAKER: Order.” How am I gonna get through? One by one, Abse’s supporters were shuffling off to bed. Fatigue was winning. On the first motion to halt dis- cussion and move to a vote on an amendment, at 1.37pm, Abse had 135 supporters, comfortably more than the threshold of 100. By the second, at 1.25am, he had only 116. It was, he said, “ona razor’s edge”. And still the opposition went on talking. Every ar- gument was advanced. Any possibility to run down the clock was seized. Since the bill would decriminalise gay sex only in private, what would happen, the mem- ber for Bromsgrove wanted to know, if two men were spotted through their hotel window? The member for Birmingham, Selly Oak speculated on the motivations of the bill’s supporters. “According to the figures we have heard and seen published, there is quite a percentage of people who practise homosex- ual acts. It would be strange indeed, in a place of 600 Abse wanted to be remem- bered as “the member for happiness” Leo Abse ps 71 members, if there were not some here…” (Lord Arran, whose other great cause was badgers, reached the same conclusion. Asked why his badger-cruelty bill failed, he replied: “Not many badgers in the House of Lords.”) Big Ben was about to ring out again by the time the member for Bromsgrove turned his attention to the matter of sleeper trains: “Two passengers who occupy adjoining sleepers after boarding a train at Euston are committing no breach of British Railways by-laws if they indulge in this practice, but as soon as the train crosses the border and goes into Scotland they are committing an offence. Is this the right way to leave a bill? Are British Railways sleeping-car staff to receive instructions to blow a whistle at the border?” At length, seven and a half hours into the night, the bill’s opponents had exhausted all their arguments. Or perhaps they were just exhausted. In the end, there was no need for another closure motion. The member for St Albans made one last attempt to stall. Now that the amendments had been considered, he argued, the de- bate should be adjourned to another day. The Speaker refused, and a substantive vote was finally called, at 5.44am. Fourteen diehards had lasted all night, voting against the bill to the bitter end. Across the lobby, there were 99 “Ayes”. Abse had won, by attrition. It had been a long road. For Jenkins, who would have little sleep before Independence Day drinks at the American Embassy and an afternoon at the Wimble- don tennis championships. (Full enjoyment, indeed.) For Lord Arran who, under such strain for so long, had been “permanently if slightly pickled” for more thana year. Once, when someone scrawled “Arran homo” on the walls of his club, he “hardly dared to hold my head high. Indeed I thought of resigning from my club until I woke up and said to myself “Why the bloody hell Should I?’” And, of course, for Abse, who went on to champion more private members’ bills than any other parliamentarian of his generation. He wanted to be re- membered as “the member for happiness”. With many a winding turn His bill was imperfect. Since it made a specific offence of sex in public toilets, prosecutions rose in the decade after the bill was passed. By modern standards, the ar- guments he and Lord Arran deployed were themselves prejudiced: homosexuality was a “condition” to be pit- ied and not to be “flaunted”. And gay sex remained ille- gal in Scotland until1980 and in Northern Ireland until 1982. It is still outlawed in 68 countries. Still, that night those stout fellows—men and women—loosened the Shackles a little. Blackmail grew rarer; the closet door was left ajar. As Abse, shattered, triumphant, emerged into Westminster Palace Yard, the gas lamps were still burning. Collapsing into his second-hand Rolls-Royce, he drove home to his wife, Marjorie, “who was in bed, still awake, anxiously awaiting me and my news. She took me into her arms.” It was a year before Mr Wells, the phonetician, met another man, Gabriel. They moved in three weeks later. With Gabriel’s support, he stopped going to psychotherapy; he realised it was society, not him, that had a problem. Today, 52 years on, they are still together. In 2006, as soon as they were able to, they signed a civil partnership. That long night was at an end. At long last, daylight was coming. * JOZINI Holiday specials Trust deficit T THE AGE Of 74, with barely enough feet and inches to peer over the steering wheel, Sizani Ngubane makes for an unlikely racer. Yet one afternoon in Octo- ber she hurtles up the N2 motorway, which hugs the east coast of South Africa before heading inland through the heart of the former Zulu kingdom, swerv- ing past trucks and errant cattle. Not for the first time, Ms Ngubane (pictured above) is on a mission. She and your frazzled correspondent arrive in the town of Jozini as the sun wanes behind hills dotted with fever trees. We are just in time to meet applicants ina court case co-led by Ms Ngubane’s orga- nisation, the Rural Women’s Movement, that could strike a blow against one of the most controversial in- stitutions in South Africa. The Ingonyama Trust Act was enacted three days before the election in April1994 that brought apartheid toaclose and Nelson Mandela to power. The act madea special case out of the ancestral lands of the Zulus, the largest ethnic group in South Africa. The law vested trusteeship of the land in the Zulu king, currently Goodwill Zwelithini, and established the Ingonyama Trust to manage it. According to the act the trust must The Economist December 19th 2020 How a deal struck in the dying days of apartheid afflicts modern South Africa serve the people who live on the land—a population of more than 5m across an area about the size of Belgium. But its critics allege that the trust acts more like a puni- tive feudal landlord. In the case brought by Ms Ngubane, which was heard on December 9th and oth, lawyers for the appli- cants argued that the trust acted unconstitutionally by undermining residents’ property rights. During apart- heid many black South Africans in rural areas were giv- en “permission to occupy’ (PTO) certificates: an infor- mal right less secure than a freehold but that a post-apartheid law said could not be withdrawn with- out the holder’s consent. By allegedly cancelling pTos and requiring residents to sign leases instead, the trust acted unlawfully, according to the applicants’ lawyers. They want the leases of their clients—and anyone else affected—cancelled and PTOs reinstated. The trust denies that it coerced anyone into signing leases, which it claims are entirely lawful. It says they are in fact more secure than PTos. But if the judges dis- agree with the trust when they return a verdict early in 2021, the decision could change the lives of some of South Africa’s poorest people for the better. It could also provoke a fierce backlash among powerful figures who benefit from the status quo. The unlikely epicentre for this potential upheaval is a sparsely populated settlement a few minutes’ drive from the centre of Jozini. Getting out of her car, Ms Ngubane shuffles into a one-room concrete house to greet the applicants in the case. At the threshold a young boy spritzes hand-sanitiser into our hands; be- hind him an older girl squeezes past with a few coins to buy electricity credit to illuminate the room. Ms Ngubane introduces the grandmother of the children, Hluphekile Mabuyakhulu, who is recovering from a stroke (pictured on final page). She sits upright in bed, framed by a red velour headboard. She explains that her family moved to the plot in the mid-198o0s, when the induna, or headman, allocated them the land. Though water is scarce she has done her best to make do, planting fruit and vegetables in her yard. According to her affidavit, in 201 she was sum- moned to a meeting at which residents were told they must sign leases for their properties “or we would not be recognised by the king as being part of this commu- nity”. The contracts were in English, which she cannot speak fluently. Only afterwards did she discover that she had to pay 1,500 rand ($95) per month, more than her monthly pension, to live in a house she considers hers. “I feel like Iwas scammed by the trust,” she says. By her bedside is Linah Nkosi, a neighbour and fel- low applicant. She has lived in the same house in Jozini Since 1974. In 2012 she was informed that she, too, would have to sign a 40-year lease and pay rent. And the lease had to be in her then-boyfriend’s name, as he was deemed the head of the household. (The trust in- sists that no applicant was duped.) “In Zulu culture The Economist December 19th 2020 100 k ; = Maputo IU KM Mbabane p Johannesburg Dede d s MOZAMBIQUE ‘ ESWATINI N2 motorway ~ eae 5 Land held by the AFRICA Ingonyama Trust NDIAN EA a Maseru PES Om O Pretoria eu Cape Town . >» women are Kept down, down, down,’ she says. That reality has gnawed at Ms Ngubane since she was a girl. In 1956, when she was nine years old, her mother was evicted by her uncle. The incident led her to dedicate her life to campaigning for the rights of poor rural Zulus, especially women. It is a job that has not got easier since apartheid ended. “It’s very sad,’ she Says. “We’ve really dropped the ball as a country.” In the early1800s the Zulus were one of many cattle- herding clans in the south-east corner of the conti- nent. But under King Shaka they conquered surround- ing groups to form a political entity unusual in its size, sophistication and military prowess. By the time of his death at the hands of his half-brothers in 1828, the Zulu kingdom encompassed around 30,000 square km (12,000 square miles). During the rest of the 19th cen- tury fratricidal rivalries weakened the empire from within. The expansion of the Boers and the British de- stroyed it from without. After many battles the king- dom became part of Natal, one of the two British colo- nies that in 1910 joined with two Boer-run territories to form the basis of modern South Africa. As in other parts of Africa the British colonists in- troduced a system of indirect rule, in this case by the Zulu king and his inkozi, or chiefs. This provided the foundation for later policies, including the apartheid- era “homelands”: ten ethnically homogenous pseudo- States used to confine, disenfranchise and impoverish black South Africans. When KwaZulu, the semi-auto- nomous homeland of the Zulus, was formally hewn from Natal in 1977, it drew on deep institutional roots. In KwaZulu the government was effectively a one- party state, sponsored by the apartheid regime and led by the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP). Under Prince Man- gosuthu Buthelezi, the uncle of the current king, the IFP promoted a conservative Zulu nationalism with the monarch as a figurehead. As apartheid neared its end in 1993, Human Rights Watch, an NGO, described “J wasa KwaZulu’s political arrangements as “dictatorial”. bad child.” Growing up, Ms Ngubane felt under a double layer ; of oppression—that of apartheid and the petty chiefly she sayS, dictatorships. Over coffee she recalls how she was witha grin Zululand ps 73 Shaped by these experiences. “I was a bad child,’ she says, with a grin. During the day she would eavesdrop on elders’ conversations about village iniquities. At night she would clutch a radio to her ear and hear about the atrocities of white rule. When she was 16 she took a job as an assistant ina dress-material shop, where she had to hide behind the changing-room curtain until any Zulu-speakers en- tered. Other aspects of apartheid were less farcical. The proximate cause of her father’s suicide, 1n1959, was the breakdown of his marriage. But Ms Ngubane cannot Shake the idea that apartheid contributed indirectly. Like millions of black South Africans, in order to find work, he spent most of his time far from his family. This land was made for you and me “I knew something had to be done to stop the oppres- sion of black people,’ says Ms Ngubane. She grew up in a family affiliated with the African National Congress (ANC), ultimately becoming a recruiter for the party. Since the ANC was banned until 1990, she had to oper- ate stealthily. IFP saw the ANC aS an existential threat to its hold on KwaZulu—a state of affairs that suited the apartheid regime, which gave it money and guns. In the decade after 1985 the ANC and IFP fought a low-in- tensity civil war. Approximately 15,000 people, includ- ing one of Ms Ngubane’s brothers, were killed. The spectre of further violence, and Mr Buthelezi’s threat to boycott the 1994 elections, led to the last-minute deal that created the Ingonyama Trust. (The national gov- ernment became the custodian of the land of the nine other homelands.) Since 1994, to stay on the right side of rural power- brokers, ANC-led governments have strengthened “tra- ditional leadership” in the former homelands, includ- ing KwaZulu. Several laws have underscored the old systems of indirect rule, for example by creating “Tra- ditional Councils”. These institutions, which have roles in allocating land and delivering services, have 60% of their members appointed by chiefs. The arrangement seems out of place in democratic South Africa. But defenders of such laws argue that they are necessary to protect traditional cultures, such as that of the Zulus. To explain what that means, in an areaa couple of hours from Jozini, Bonga Mdletshe, the local chief, has convened a meeting of his headmen. Those with an imperial imagination may imagine Mr Mdletshe in traditional garb—cow-hide shield, Spear, headband, and so on. But that is like expecting the leader of Edinburgh City Council to go to work everyday ina kilt. Instead Mr Mdletshe has the get-up of a beleaguered provincial civil servant. He is dressed in jeans, a checked shirt—and drives a lurid orange pick-up truck. After one of his induna says a prayer, he begins to describe his role. “T’m an extension of his majesty, the king”, he says. “I administer the tribe on his behalf and protect the Zulu culture.” That means Keeping track of the family trees that make up the canopy of surrounding clans and telling stories of battles won and lost. Military cul- ture is central to much of Zulu culture. Indlamu, a war- rior dance, is performed at weddings. Rural boys still learn the art of stick-fighting. Also important is “pro- tecting the structure of our community’—the hierar- chy that descends from the king to chiefs and headmen to the paterfamilias. For critics this is a smokescreen >> 74 * Zululand >» behind which women are kept second-class citizens, for instance in polygamous marriages. No data exist on how many Zulu men still marry multiple wives but it remains relatively common among chiefs. One induna argues that it is part of Zulu history: when many men died in battle it ensured women could still get hitched. Another says it reflectsa belief that when a woman has her period she is “dirty” and should refrain from work. Rather than chip in, goes the logic, aman needs another wife to fill the gap. Travelling around the former homeland it is possi- ble to find women who are happy with such arrange- ments. Boneni Maphanga was one of six wives of a lo- cal businessman; he gave each spouse her own grocery shop. There was no jealousy, she says, or at least no more than in a monogamous marriage. “We were like sisters.” Mr Mdletshe insists that women are “greatly respected” in Zulu culture. “Anyone who visits my mother”, he adds, “will crawl across the floor to greet her.’ Ms Ngubane scoffs at such talk. She points to en- during customs such as virginity testing, and the an- nual reed-dance where thousands of bare-breasted girls parade before the king ina celebration of chastity. It would strengthen the case of traditional authori- ties if they were any good at administration. But the former homelands are among the worst-run parts of the country, with devastating effects for the one-third of South Africans who live there. South Africa’s ten poorest municipalities are all in former homelands. Analysis published in January 2020 estimated that 62% of working-age adults in ex-homelands have no job, versus 38% in the rest of the country. A paper published in 2019 by Dieter von Fintel and Johan Fourie explains why destitution has persisted. The economists from Stellenbosch University argue that after the arrival of Europeans, Africans “were at the mercy of two extractive regimes”. The first were systems of white rule culminating in apartheid. The second were the homelands and their antecedents. Both had narrow elites—one white, the other black. The pillars of apartheid have crumbled but those of the homelands remain. In KwaZulu, the trust must administer the land “for the benefit, material welfare and social well-being of the members of the tribes and communities” of the former homeland. Yet in village after village there is lit- tle sign of it doing that. Conditions are often squalid. This is not all the fault of traditional institutions—mu- nicipalities are failing, too—but they share the blame. An hour from Jozini, near the town of Mkuze, B.F. Mgwenya, another chief, shelters inside his makeshift headquarters: a dilapidated farm long abandoned bya white landowner. He says that the main challenge is getting clean water. Droughts have worsened, but nei- ther the local municipality nor the trust has offered any help, he says. “We used to rely on God,’ he says, re- calling when nearby mountain streams gushed. “Now we rely on government.” Mr Malinga argues that chiefs can be suspicious of development. An induna in his village, he says, once claimed that the arrival of electricity would damage cows eyes. “If you want to resist change it makes sense to pretend it undermines your culture.” These views are not universal, however. On more than one occasion your correspondent was asked by chiefs or headmen whether he could help bring investment to the area. She has faced multiple death threats and has had to go into hiding on several occasions The Economist December 19th 2020 They wanted the best for their kith and kin, but they did not know how to go about it. “We’re the poorest of the poor,” says one of Mr Mdletshe’s aides. It would help if the trust lived up to its mandate. Under statute 10% of its proceeds can go to its board for administration, but the rest should benefit local com- munities. Yet the public does not know what it owns, spends and earns. It is unclear whether any of this money goes to the king himself. He receives a taxpay- er-funded stipend of more than 70m rand. Occasional- ly there are glimpses of the trust’s finances via reports of the trust board to parliament. In 2018 the board re- ported that, in the latter half of the previous year, 96% of the board’s budget went on “administration”, versus 0.16% for “rural development”. Yet, according to the court papers lodged by the ap- plicants’s lawyers, the trust’s rental income soared from 8m rand in 2008-09 to 107m rand in 2016-17. Meanwhile the national government is investigating the trust board amid allegations of bribing chiefs and Mr Ngwenya for alleged self-enrichment, and is con- ducting an audit of the board’s finances. (Mr Ngwenya says the probe “lacks the necessary legal foundation”.) Reformists worry, though, that the ANC will not take on the trust. In a major review of the nation’s ills pub- lished in 2017, Kgalema Motlanthe, a former president, concluded that the trust should be repealed or amend- ed. He later called chiefs “village tin-pot dictators”. But when he became president a year later, Cyril Rama- phosa swiftly visited the king to assure him that Kwa- Zulu would not be touched. Because of Ms Ngubane’s campaigning work, she has faced multiple death threats and has had to go into hiding on several occasions. “Don’t be surprised if you come back in more than one piece,’ she recalls an in- duna telling her when she visited his community inthe 2000S. Not that such words scare her. Since she was a child she had a preternatural sense that taking on in- justice is her life’s mission. She has been told countless times that her work undermines the culture of the Zu- lus. To that argument, she has a bracing reply: “What they’re doing is not our culture—it’s greed.” * r a “Care aor r « ikiemen dy a Refusing to be silent Despite efforts to suppress it, China’s #MeToo campaign still enjoys support IANZI WAS an intern at China’s national television network when she visited the dressing room of Zhu Jun, a presenter, in 2014. She wanted to interview him to gather information for a project at her uni- versity. Once they were alone, she says, he groped and kissed her. When she later complained to the police, they told her not to sue him because it would reflect badly on the Communist Party. Mr Zhu is a household name. His jobs have included hosting China’s annual new-year gala, the world’s most-watched television show. Four years later the #MeToo campaign, which had been spreading elsewhere in the world, began to inspire women in China to publicise their experiences of sexual ha- rassment. Xianzi (a pseudonym by which She is always known in China) wrote about her alleged mistreatment and became the movement’s best-known face in the coun- try. Mr Zhu denied the accusation and sued Xianzi for defamation. She counter-sued, demanding an apology and payment of 50,000 yuan ($7,600) in damages. The government is wary of #MeToo ac- tivism, fearful that it might morph into po- litical dissent. It suppressed media cover- age of the dispute. On December 2nd, however, the first court hearing into Xianzi’s suit thrust her back into the lime- light. It produced no new insights—Mr Zhu failed to appear and the case was ad- journed, probably until 2021. But on Weibo, a social-media platform, posts with a hash- tag related to the launch of the court pro- ceedings attracted more than 17m views and thousands of comments. That the #MeToo cause is still alive in China was also evident outside the court in Beijing. Despite the presence of numerous police, and a political climate that discour- 76 Abattle in the UN — Chaguan is away ages all but the brave or foolhardy from de- monstrating in public, more than 100 peo- ple gathered in support of Xianzi (a few are pictured, with the plaintiff in the fore- ground). Some waved pictures of rice and rabbits, the Mandarin for which sounds like the English words “me too”. A slogan displayed by one group Said: “Together we demand an answer from history.” Since Xianzi went public with her alle- gation, she says she has received tens of thousands of messages from women across the country sharing their own expe- riences of being sexually harassed and as- saulted. Many women in China have also made public allegations of sexual assault against powerful men. The accused in- clude academics, media personalities, charity bosses and religious figures (few have dared to point fingers at officials). In 2018 China’s highest court made it clear for the first time that sexual harass- ment could be grounds for suing. But it is remarkable that Xianzi’s case has got this far. Women who are victims of sexual as- sault in China face tremendous obstacles to fighting in court. Financial costs are high. Most lawyers and NGos in China lack expertise in this rarely explored area of law. Victims who go public are often subjected to online abuse by men who oppose femi- nism and #MeToo. As Xianzi puts it, they face an “extremely hostile system”. Many aspects of the system in China are 76 China » heavily skewed in favour of men, not least in employment and family matters. The World Economic Forum places China above South Korea and Japan in its ranking of countries by gender equality. But since Xi Jinping became China’s leader in 2012 his country has fallen from 69th to106th on that list, below Malaysia and Sri Lanka. De- Spite this, more women than ever in China are gaining degrees. In 2009, for the first time, the number of female undergradu- ates surpassed those who were male. Since then women have retained this majority. Young highly educated women have been at the forefront of China’s #MeToo move- ment. Their demands for rights as women are “very difficult to suppress”, says Wang Zheng of the University of Michigan. The Communist Party accuses “hostile foreign forces” of stoking such advocacy. In 2015 police arrested a group of women merely for planning to hand out stickers about sexual harassment on public trans- port. The “feminist five”, as they became known, were released only after weeks in prison, and after news of their plight had Sparked outrage in China and abroad. When visiting the state-backed All-China Women’s Federation in 2018, President Xi Said the organisation “absolutely must not become one of those organisations like they have in other countries for feminists or posh women”. Though stifled by the government, campaigning has made some impact. “Pri- or to #MeToo, discussions about women and gender in mainstream media and on social media were quite limited,’ says Zhang Zhiai, the host of a podcast popular among feminists in China. “There’s now a lot more awareness about gender equality and I think that’s due to #MeToo.” A new civil code, which will take effect on January ist, requires employers to pre- vent sexual harassment at work. Many feminists call this a success for their efforts to publicise the problem. “We’ve seen some real progress made in recent years in Chi- na’s legal sphere to better protect women’s rights, although it is becoming extremely difficult for feminist NGOs to operate,’ says Feng Yuan of Equality, a Beijing-based group promoting women’s rights. Xianzi is not optimistic that she will win her case (and Mr Zhu’s against her is still pending). But she says even defeat would be “victory” because her suit has helped to raise awareness of sexual assault. As night fell outside the court and the tem- perature dropped below freezing, people following her case online began sending anonymous donations of bubble tea, ham- burgers, fried chicken, noodles, hand san- itiser, gloves and taxi money to supporters still gathered there. When couriers arrived with the deliveries, they read out the in- tended recipient, asking “Who is “Xianzi’s friend’?” The crowd replied: “We allare.” @ Human rights Proxy war NEW YORK Sensing change in Washington, China is mustering allies at the UN HEN AMERICA withdrew from the UN Human Rights Council in 2018, China expressed regret. No one bought it. The fo- rum deals with a topic that is a huge poten- tial embarrassment for China. The absence of the world’s most powerful democracy from its deliberations made it likelier that China’s abuses would escape censure. But with Joe Biden preparing to take over as America’s president, China fears trouble ahead. It is girding its loins in the council. Evidence of this can be detected in a Shadowy feud over who should lead the Ge- neva-based body. It involves an attempt by China—backed by Russia and Saudi Ara- bia—to nobble the presumed front-runner for control of the presidency, the tiny Pacif- ic island nation of Fiji, and manoeuvre a country more to its liking into that posi- tion. (China and Russia were not on the council in 2020, but will be from January ist.) Democratic members of the council, hoping that Mr Biden will soon send Amer- ica to rejoin them, see this as an important battle. They are supporting Fiji. The question of who leads the council may seem trifling. After all, it is the body’s 47 members, not its president, who set the agenda. And members have been loth to challenge China. The council has yet even to introduce a resolution, much less pass one, on China’s mass internment of Uygh- urs in Xinjiang or its stripping of Hong Kong’s freedoms. The Trump administra- tion pulled America out after failing to per- The Economist December 19th 2020 Suade the UN to impose standards for membership of the council. But the president does have leeway in the appointment of special rapporteurs, who have much autonomy and can be thorns in the side of authoritarian regimes. In June more than 50 special rapporteurs and experts appointed by the council signed a statement chiding China for vio- lating rights in Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kong. China was furious. It accused the sig- natories of breaching the UN charter. The council’s next leader will also playa big role in a five-year review of its work by the UN General Assembly. This could result in reforms wanted by America, such as set- ting criteria for membership. Crucially, the appointment of a presi- dent from a country with an appalling hu- man-rights reputation could cause even greater damage to the council’s already underwhelming image in the West. In 2003 the council’s predecessor body, the UN Commission on Human Rights, elected Libya to its chairmanship. This contributed to its dissolution three years later. Were something similar to happen again, it may become difficult for Mr Biden to endorse America’s return to the council. That would be a victory for China, which sees the organisation as a beachhead in its campaign to redefine global norms. It has used it to secure resolutions that weak- en the language of human rights, empha- sising state-led development over the rights of individuals, and respectful “dia- logue’ between states rather than holding countries to account when they commit abuses. It has also vigorously opposed res- olutions against specific states, arguing that countries should not interfere in oth- ers’ affairs. China’s voice in the council, whether as an observer or a member, helps it to counter its growing band of critics. In October, 39 UN members signed a state- ment condemning the horrors in Xinjiang, up from 23 who did so a year earlier. The number who signed a statement defending China fell from more than 50to 45. In 2021 the presidency is supposed to be held by a member of the UN’s Asia-Pacific group, to which Fiji and China belong (the regions take turns). Fiji’s representative is widely respected for her stance on human rights. She had been running unopposed. But in November Bahrain formally made a bid for the job. Syria then objected to Fiji’s candidacy. Diplomats say these moves were encouraged by China and its friends. Later a third contender, also acceptable to China, emerged: Uzbekistan. Fiji and its Pacific-island neighbours felt bullied. But Asia-Pacific countries have failed to agree on a choice. So the council’s full membership may pick a president in Janu- ary. That could work in Fiji’s favour, and, Western envoys hope, to the betterment of the UN’s human-rights efforts. @ No cause for celebration DUBAI A decade ago Arabs rose up. Why haven’t things improved? T IS AN anniversary no one is eager to mark. The numbers boggle the mind: half a million people dead; another 16m dis- placed from states no longer recognisable. There are the individual stories too, of dreams dashed and hopes shattered. One former activist, who long since gave up on the politics of his native Egypt, scrolls through the contacts on his phone, stop- ping now and then to list his friends’ fates: exiled, disappeared, dead. Ten years have passed since Muham- mad Bouazizi, a Tunisian street peddler, set himself ablaze to protest against the corrupt police who confiscated his wares. His self-immolation, on December 17th, is widely seen as the spark that ignited the Arab spring, a wave of revolutionary prot- est that swept across the region. Those ear- ly days were atime of unbridled optimism. Dictators who had looked invulnerable fell, one after the other—in Tunisia, Egypt and, later, Libya and Yemen. But revolution soon gave way to a sort of Thermidorian reaction. Egypt’s brief ex- periment with democracy failed. Libya, Syria and Yemen plunged into civil war and became playgrounds for foreign powers. Wealthy Gulf states spent heavily to placate their own people and bolster anti-demo- cratic forces elsewhere. The region is less free than it was in 2010—and worse off by most other measures, too. Much has been said and written about what went wrong. In the West, pundits and policymakers tend to talk about them- selves, what they could have done to help the revolutions succeed. There is a solip- sism to these debates, which relegate Arabs 78 Iran hangs a dissident 79 Clashes in Western Sahara 79 The lost boys of Nigeria 80 Congo’s gold-rush towns to a secondary role in their own story. And counterfactuals are hard. It is plausible to argue that Syria would be less of a charnel house had America destroyed Bashar al-As- sad’s air force 1n 2012; far less to claim it would have become stable or prosperous or democratic. The no-fly zone over Libya in 2011 helped overthrow Muammar Qaddafi but did not prevent his country’s ruin. Cynics suggest that the Middle East is simply not suited for democracy. Yet Tuni- Sia emerged from its revolt with a fragile but genuine republic, of which its citizens are justly proud. There is no one answer to why things went wrong for the other countries that took part in the Arab spring. Blame foreign powers, from Iran and Russia to the impo- tent, incoherent West. Blame Islamists, who often stoked division in cynical bids for power. Most of all, though, blame the men who ruled Arab states after they gained independence in the 2oth century. Though few were democrats, they under- stood something about democracy. It re- quires more than elections to succeed. It also needs engaged and informed citizens, a common set of rules and a shared belief that political disagreements do not pose an existential threat. Dictatorships, by design, lack these qualities—and prevent them from emerging. Anyone who has spent time in the Mid- dle East knows the region crackles with 78 | Middle East & Africa >» conspiracy theories. A non-trivial number of Egyptians believe that America put the Muslim Brotherhood in power (in fact, Egyptian voters did) or that Hillary Clinton created Islamic State. The popularity of such ideas is perhaps understandable. Schools in Egypt teach by rote; the govern- ment prefers placid subjects to engaged citizens. The media read from a script; a wayward word in a café or a Facebook post can land anyone in jail. It is hard to havea Say in how you are governed in a system that tries to prevent it. Itcan also seem futile ina system where governance is so poor. Arabs loathe the bribes and wasta, or connections, required to navigate daily life in much of the region. Yet to survive in such a system requires the tacit acceptance of its terms. Every act of graft, no matter how petty, undermines confidence in the state, in the very idea ofa common good. Corruption makes every- one complicit. Mr Bouazizi struck a nerve because so many of his countrymen had been in his place. Beyond futile, it can seem dangerous: people who think their countrymen wish them dead will not wish those countrymen to gain power. Mr Assad convinced many of his supporters that the Syrian uprising was the work of extremists. This was not pre- Science but self-fulfilling prophecy. Re- lease enough jihadists from prison, mur- der enough moderates, starve the populace for long enough, and sooner or later a peaceful movement will become radical. None of this is unique to the Middle East. America has an alarming level of po- larisation and an outgoing president who lies reflexively. But robust institutions and centuries of democratic tradition make it virtually impossible for any American president to become a dictator. The Middle East has no such safeguards. For decades it has been ruled by visionless autocrats who promised only stability for stability’s sake. Today’s crop of dictators, those who sur- vived 2011 and those who emerged from it, speak a subtly different language, one that posits development, not democracy, as the region’s most dire deficit. In their telling the focus on political change is misguided. What Arabs truly need is better governance MOROCCO aay | NISIA 6.72 MAURITANIA 3.92 The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index* 2019, selected Arab countries, 10=most democratic 0 Z 3 4 5 6 7 8 Source: The Economist Intelligence Unit Med. Sea Authoritarian Hybrid Flawed Full | regimes regimes democracies democracies 9 10 *167 countries scored on 60 indicators A long winter The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index*, 10=most democratic qArab spring Tunisia _ Bahrain | Libya — lf. rsypt – Sy Yemen Syria 0 DO0G) nd oil OnNn | ae en CRC Source: The Economist *167 countries scored on 60 indicators Intelligence Unit TNo data and more job opportunities. Yet even on their own terms many rulers are failing. Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi talks of developing Egypt; most Egyptians have seen their stan- dards of living deteriorate on his watch. And like his counterparts, Mr Sisi is ea- gerly salting the earth lest any other revolu- tionary shoots take root. The tight political space of Hosni Mubarak’s Egypt looks posi- tively freewheeling compared with today’s. In Algeria, a new army-backed regime is less interested in stamping out corruption than in wielding corruption charges as a cudgel against its foes. Bahrain’s monarchy portrays criticism of its rule as an Iranian plot to colonise the island. This is no era of authoritarian stability, though. With few exceptions the region is miserable, a mix of failed states and stag- nant ones that offer meagre prospects for their young populations. Even in the Gulf States, which mostly dodged serious unrest in 20u, rulers are nervous about their fu- ture in the twilight of the oil age. Their old social contract offered material comfort in exchange for political quiescence. If they can no longer provide the former, they can- not long expect the latter. History is not linear. Revolutions fail; bad guys sometimes win. There is no rea- son to expect that the next round of Arab uprisings will produce happier results than the previous one. Equally, though, there is no reason to believe the autocrats when they say they can preventit. 1,000 km == = LEBANON 4.36 ~ IRAQ | Palestinian ral) ee territories . eS . JO KUWAIT 3.93 Gulf it EGYPT 3.06 E 2.76 =? ; The Economist December 19th 2020 Go hang The regime is as merciless as ever VEN BY IRAN’S Standards the justice was rough. Four days after sentence was passed, Ruhollah Zam was hanged. The judge said he had spied, incited violence and “sown corruption on earth”. Most Iranians took that to mean that he had simply disagreed with the right of the ayatollahs to rule. Mr Zam had been a remarkable dissident. In 2011 he went to Paris to escape the regime and, four years later, launched Amad, a news channel on Telegram, a messaging app. At its peak Amad had more subscribers than the BBC’s Persian Service, which many Iranians rely on. He exposed the sexual and financial peccadilloes of the re- gime’s top turbans. The son of an influ- ential cleric and an alumnus ofa school in Tehran, the capital, favoured by the elite, he had a wide web of contacts. When nationwide protests erupted three years ago, he posted the place and time of rallies and was often first to get videos from the scene. He issued a manual for making petrol bombs. He called for regime change: “Ruhollah began the revolution, Ruhollah will end it,’ he said, referring first to Ruhol- lah Khomeini, father of the Islamic revolution, then to himself. The regime blocked Telegram but failed to silence him. Then last year its agents lured him to Iraq, apparently with a honey trap, kidnapped him and took him home. Mr Zam’s treatment shows yet again that the regime will stop at nothing to crush civil society. Snipers shoot de- monstrators. In September a promi- nent wrestler was hanged for joininga protest. The hardliners control parlia- ment and the courts, so they can rig next year’s presidential election. Human-rights outfits in Europe warn Iranian dissidents abroad against travelling home. “Zam is just the begin- ning,’ read a social-media message to an anchor at the BBC’s Persian service in London. “I always look over my shoul- der when leaving the office,” she says. “Horrifying, tweeted Jake Sullivan, Joe Biden’s choice for national security adviser. Yet the new administration’s eagerness to curb Iran’s enrichment of uranium may outweigh human rights. On December 16th the parties to the nuclear deal with Iran met on schedule. President Donald Trump pulled Ameri- ca out of the agreement. Mr Biden says he will rejoin it. The Economist December 19th 2020 Western Sahara Heat in the desert A peace deal between Morocco and Israel could lead to conflict elsewhere SRAEL’S FORMAL ties with the Arab world die extend from the United Arab Emir- ates (UAE) in the east to Morocco in the west. On December 10th President Donald Trump announced the latest breakthrough in his diplomatic push on behalf of the Jew- ish state. Morocco, the Arab world’s oldest monarchy, will become the fourth Arab State in as many months to establish dip- lomatic relations with Israel (following the UAE, Bahrain and Sudan). The agreement is a win for Israel, and also for Morocco. As part of the deal, Mr Trump recognised Morocco’s annexation of Western Sahara. The territory, slightly larger than Britain, is also claimed by the Polisario Front, a nationalist movement backed by Algeria. Mr Trump’s interven- tion comes amid provocations by both sides that risk restarting a war that ended three decades ago. That old conflict kicked off in 1975, when Morocco annexed Western Sahara after Spain, the colonial power, pulled out. Polisario, which the UN considers the le- gitimate representative of the Sahrawi peo- ple, resisted—but was outgunned. With Morocco in control of about two-thirds of the territory, and Polisario controlling the other third, the UN brokered a ceasefire deal in 1991 that promised the Sahrawis a referendum on independence. Morocco, though, stands in the way. Morocco’s treatment of the Sahrawis is in some ways like Israel’s treatment of the Polisario at play PORTUGAL | cpain ATLANTIC Madeira Rabat af =. : (Portugal) we y MOROCCO — Canary Islands Occupied : (Spain) by Morocco / zt eel, ALGERIA LaayOune @ eee WESTERN ;* 500 km SAHARA Sand berm, G _, .™=-—=Polisario-held uerguerat © aes MAURITANIA Palestinians. Over the years Morocco has used subsidies and tax breaks to convince thousands of its people to move to Western Sahara in an effort to cement its control. Sahrawi protests are suppressed; activists talk of torture by the security services. But the kingdom has also spent billions of dol- lars fixing up the territory. Once of primarily symbolic value, West- ern Sahara’s strategic value has been grow- ing. The side held by Polisario has little in the way of resources. But the portion con- trolled by Morocco is rich in phosphates and fish. Large reserves of oil may lie off- shore. The kingdom also sees Western Sa- hara as its gateway to west Africa, which buys up Moroccan exports. So the kingdom is working hard to transform its de facto control of Western Sahara into something more legitimate. Over the past year it has convinced around 20 African and Arab states to recognise its claim. The UN seems to have all but given up on overseeing the referendum. A UN Se- curity Council resolution in October ex- tending the mandate of the UN’s peace- keeping mission did not mention the vote, though it is called the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara. “Morocco’s serious, credible and realis- tic autonomy proposal is the ONLY basis for a just and lasting solution for enduring peace and prosperity!” tweeted Mr Trump, referring to a proposal Polisario does not feel is serious or credible. “Morocco recog- nized the United States in 1777. Itis thus fit- ting we recognize their sovereignty over the Western Sahara.” Indeed, both acts ne- glected the opinion of the indigenous pop- ulation. President-elect Joe Biden could adopt a more even-handed approach. Inside Morocco, the king’s decision to normalise relations with Israel is contro- versial. Many Islamists and leftists oppose the move. But most Moroccans seem to consider America’s recognition of the king- dom’s claim over Western Sahara more im- portant than the kingdom’s recognition of Israel. They have long called for putting their needs before those of the Palestin- Middle East & Africa ians. A popular slogan, “Taza before Gaza’, refers to cities in Morocco and Palestine. The Sahrawis pose a bigger risk. In Octo- ber Sahrawi protesters closed the UN-pa- trolled border crossing at Guerguerat (see map). The area is meant to act as a buffer zone, but Morocco sent in troops to quell the unrest. That enraged Brahim Ghali, leader of Polisario. In November he aban- doned the ceasefire and claimed a series of attacks around the 2,700km (1,700-mile) sand berm, built by the Moroccan army, that separates the two sides. Whether things escalate further de- pends, in part, on Algeria. It competes with Morocco for access to markets and may see a benefit in the trouble around Guerguerat. But Mr Trump’s deal has it worried. Ameri- can and Israeli support, warn Algerian gen- erals, might embolden Morocco at a time when Algeria is economically weak and po- litically unstable. Algeria’s prime minister, Abdelaziz Djerad, warns ofa “real threat on our borders, reached by the Zionist entity”. Some of this may be an effort by Algeri- an leaders to divert attention from pro- blems at home. But they have the backing of Russia, which criticised America for act- ing unilaterally on Western Sahara. The manoeuvring of local players and foreign powers is pushing the situation into dan- gerous territory. Whether or not Mr Trump’s deal lowers tensions in the Holy Land, itis raising them in the Sahara. @ Kidnapping in Nigeria The lost boys of Kankara ABUJA Another mass abduction, this time near the president’s holiday home N DECEMBER 11TH Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari, flew off to take a holiday at his country home in Daura, an ancient seat of Islamic learning in the northern state of Katsina. That night hun- dreds of gunmen riding on motorbikes stormed a boarding school in Kankara, also in Katsina state. Some schoolboys jumped over a fence and ran away when they heard gunshots. But more than 300 were rounded up and herded into the surrounding forest. One who later escaped told the BBc they were beaten, threatened and forced to walk through the night. It was not immediately clear who the culprits were. Nigeria’s government says that the children were taken by bandits who have demanded a ransom for their re- lease. But Boko Haram, a jihadist group, Said it was behind the kidnapping. Both ex- planations are plausible. 79 Criminal gangs in Nigeria have long >> 80 Middle East & Africa Reported abductions or forced disappearances of civilians ©2019 © 2020* Source: ACLED *To December 3rd 200 km re | ef ** CAMEROON Guinea >» been experts at “express kidnaps”, in which wealthy locals and foreigners are grabbed at gunpoint and held until cash is handed over or their bank accounts are emptied through ATMS. In the past few years such gangs have become less discriminating, grabbing thousands of poor folk, including travellers on buses or people living in vil- lages (See map). In some places they have demanded levies from farmers before they allow them to harvest their crops. Moreover, this is not the first mass ab- duction by bandits in the president’s home State. Twenty-six girls kidnapped in Octo- ber in another town in Katsina were freed after a ransom was paid. They said the kid- nappers raped and beat them. Even so, the latest attack would suggest a hitherto un- seen level of brazenness by bandits. The leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, offered no proof that his group was behind the kidnapping when he claimed responsibility on December 15th. (After earlier mass kidnappings Boko Haram pro- vided photos or videos of the victims.) Some security experts therefore wondered if this was just a publicity stunt. In 2014 Boko Haram gained the world’s attention by kidnapping nearly 300 school- girls from the town of Chibok in the north- eastern state of Borno, which is at the heart of Nigeria’s jihadist insurgency. In 2018 it Snatched more than 100 girls from a board- ing school in Dapchi, in neighbouring Yobe State, a move that intelligence officials said demonstrated its ability to mount sophisti- cated raids over long distances. If the jihadists carried out the latest out- rage, it would mark a big extension of the group’s reach and a deterioration of securi- ty across northern Nigeria, because Kan- kara is more than 700km by road from Mai- duguri, the capital of Borno, where Boko Haram emerged. It is also just a few hours’ drive from Mr Buhari’s home in Daura. Yet days after the attack the president had not seen fit to interrupt his holiday and make the short journey to the school, where par- ents of the kidnapped boys have been camped, anxiously waiting for news. @ Congo’s gold rush The Economist December 19th 2020 Beer, brothels and broken dreams LUHIHI The real money is in selling services to miners T IS NOT yet noon but the streets of Lu- hihi, a tiny town in eastern Congo, are al- ready full of revellers. Men fall about out- side bars filled with prostitutes. Gamblers hover over draughtboards. Music blares from a makeshift club near the river where miners sift through mud for gold. The precious metal was found in Luhihi in May. Artisan miners came rushing in from far and wide. A street of pop-up bars, brothels, shops and gambling dens has Sprung up to cater to them. Many of the en- trepreneurs running such businesses rove from mine to mine, moving on when the minerals dry up or rebels march into town. For two decades dozens of militias have fought over gold, tin and coltan mines in eastern Congo. Bertun Mupenda, who runs a nightclub in Luhihi, first set up a bar at a gold-rush town elsewhere in South Kivu province. He left when it was plundered by rebels fora second time. “Seven of them came in the night with guns,” he says. “They beat up my workers, stole my beers and asked us for all the money we had.” Mr Mupenda had to hand over more than $2,000. Luhihi is fairly safe, partly because it does not seem to have a huge gold deposit. The hill that looms over the town is pock- marked with tunnels. Frustrated men wearing head torches climb out of them, dragging sacks of mud and mumbling that they have not seen gold in weeks. Still, the miners seem keen to spend whatever earn- The gold’s in bars ings they have in town. “The money is good,” says Jeanette Al- bertine, who runs a bar selling local brews made from fermented bananas and maize. “But I do not feel comfortable here.” Drunk clients try to grope her. They also get into brawls in her bar. She often has to call for help from local policemen, who then de- mand cash for chasing disorderly custom- ers away. But Ms Albertine is used to such problems: she has spent the past decade moving between gold and coltan mines across North and South Kivu provinces. She earns about $10 a day, far more than she used to make as a farmer. Luhihi also boasts a string of new hotels made from wood and tarpaulins where lo- cal gold traders stay. One miner grumbles that they do not give fair prices and that their scales are weighted to make the gold seem lighter than it really is. He adds that he does not know where the traders take the gold. Much probably goes to Uganda. Gold worth $300m-600m is smuggled out of Congo each year, estimates the Sentry, an American watchdog. Many miners risk their lives in shaky tunnels because there are few other ways to earn a living. Most of them are still ex- tremely poor. Luhihi’s makeshift bars may heave with clients, but many are there to drown their sorrows rather than celebrate. “Life in the mines is tough,” explains Ms Al- bertine, forgivingly. “People drink to help them relax.” H 5 . . i. ; Falling on hard times ROME Even the pontiff faces the pinch of the pandemic S NATIVITY SCENES go, the one in St Pe- ter’s Square unveiled on December 11th is a Startling departure from tradition. Sev- eral of the 54 giant ceramic figures would not look out of place on a Star Wars set. “Ugly and demonic-looking,’ one appalled Catholic called them on Twitter. But the crib, apparently inspired by Greek, Egyp- tian and Sumerian art, is of a piece witha year that has been as exceptional for Eu- rope’s smallest state and its ruler, Pope Francis, as for the rest of the world. Like most other countries, the Vatican City State will end 2020 with its public fi- nances in a precarious condition. Just how precarious is hard to know, since the latest figures date from 2015 when it had a budget surplus of almost €60m ($73m). But what is known is that the city-state depends large- ly on revenues from the Vatican Museums to stay in the black. The Catholic News Agency rcently estimated that ticket sales alone bring in just over €100m. And, be- cause of the pandemic, the museums have been closed for months. Even when they have been open, because of restrictions on the number of visitors and the scarcity of tourists in Rome, they have sold far fewer tickets than normal. All this means that the city-state could well end up with a deficit of €15m or more for 2020. And unlike its bigger neighbours, it does not issue bonds to cover its deDts. Nor can it rely on the Ev to bail it out. But it doubtless has reserves. The city-state’s surpluses have till now 82 Anew weapon against graft 83 Why Balkan doctors emigrate 83 Azerbaijan’s ghost towns 86 Charlemagne: Tories and Christian Democrats been used to help fund the spending of the other half of the Vatican: the Holy See, the central administration of the world’s big- gest Christian church. Even after contribu- tions from the city-state’s governorate, a dividend from the Vatican Bank and dona- tions from the faithful, the Holy See ended 2019 €11m in the red. The Vatican’s “finance minister’, the prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, Father Juan Antonio Guerre- ro Alves, said that, had it not been for ex- traordinary items, the deficit would have been twice as big. The Holy See can count on a much in- creased dividend from the Vatican Bank, which made a profit of €38m in 2019. But, in reaction to the pandemic, Pope Francis has halved the rent on the properties that the Holy See owns and on which it depends for abouta third ofits revenue. It will also have lost much of its income from commercial activities, such as the sale of publications. And contributions from the Catholic church’s dioceses are likely to be lower too, since fewer worshippers have been able to attend church services. II Sole-24 Ore, a fi- nancial daily, reported in June that the Holy See was bracing itself for a €53m defi- cit. With Italy now in the grip of a second wave of infection, that could prove to be an underestimate. The Vatican’s financial difficulties are entangled with two other interconnected 82 Europe >issues awaiting Francis in 2021, a year in which he will undertake a potentially haz- ardous visit to Iraq. The first is the outcome of a judicial investigation into a deal worth €200m involving the purchase of a proper- ty in London. Prosecutors are investigating whether the Holy See was swindled. The second is a report on the Vatican’s finances by Moneyval, the European anti-money- laundering watchdog, expected in April. Though the investigation, which has dragged on for14 months without charges being laid, appears to show a determina- tion to clamp down on anything that might give rise to suspicions of jiggery-pokery in the Vatican’s notoriously opaque financial dealings, it has also cast doubt on the papa- cys capacity to regulate them. It has prompted the removal of the director of the Vatican’s financial regulator, who denies any wrongdoing, and turned the spotlight on a third, hitherto virtually unknown sphere of financial activity. This consists of funds running to hundreds of millions of euros that are managed by individual Vati- can departments. (The property in London was bought not by the papacy’s sovereign- wealth fund, the Administration of the Pat- rimony of the Holy See, or APSA, but by the Secretariat of State, which combines the roles of a foreign and interior ministry.) Management of the secretariat’s pot of gold has since been transferred to APSA, but the confusion and secrecy that still enve- lope the Vatican’s finances are symptom- atic of an administration that is in many re- spects highly efficient, yet patently in need of modernisation more than 50 years after the last big reform, under Paul VI. Francis was elected in 2013 as the candi- date of cardinals who were urging a shake-up of the Holy See. One of his earliest moves was to delegate the job to a council of advisers drawn mostly from outside Rome and notably short on Vatican big- wigs—a sign of his preference for decentra- lising the church’s bureaucracy. That alone made him deeply suspect to many in the Holy See and is part of the explanation fora resistance to Francis’s papacy that often manifests itself as opposition to his theo- logical ideas. After seven years of effort, the pontiff’s advisers are currently working on the final draft that is expected to form the basis in 2021 for an Apostolic Constitution, the most solemn kind of papal edict. Its pro- mulgation is likely to be the high point of the Vatican’s year. A draft of the edict that was circulated in Rome and sent to nation- al bishops’ conferences in 2019 would di- minish the status of the Vatican’s feared doctrinal enforcement body, once known as the Holy Office. Revolutionary? Certain- ly. But perhaps the message of those bizarre figures in St Peter’s Square this Christmas is that, under Pope Francis, nothing should be taken for granted. @ The European Union budget Locked and loaded BERLIN The EU gives itself a weapon to contest rule-of-law violations. Will it use it? NGELA MERKEL, Germany’s chancellor, has long applied two operating princi- ples in Europe: to keep the club united, and to postpone resolving crises until the last possible moment. Both were evident in an eleventh-hour deal struck on December 10th in Brussels between the European Un- ion’s 27 heads of government. With a fiscal crunch looming, the leaders at last gave the green light toaseven-year EU budget worth €1.1trn ($1.3trn) as well as a one-off €750bn fund, financed by joint borrowing, to speed recovery from the covid-19 crisis. The sticking-point was a problem that has long bedevilled the Eu: how to tackle corruption and other skulduggery in coun- tries that benefit from EU transfers. At a gruelling four-day summit in July, the lead- ers backed the principle of attaching rule- of-law conditions to the vast EU spending they had approved. But Hungary and Po- land, unhappy with the proposed legal reg- ulations that followed in November, threatened to veto both the budget and the recovery fund. (Both countries are already facing EU rule-of-law probes over their government’s interference with national judiciaries and other matters.) Faced with drastic cuts that would have applied had the EU begun 2021 without a budget in place, the European Commission considered the radical step of rebuilding the recovery fund outside EU structures, excluding the hold-outs. That threat, say | | | | . : % =-. a a me po ; = 7 i VW / ‘ J Ursula von der Leyen pulls it off } M 7 | ‘ _. ” The Economist December 19th 2020 diplomats, concentrated minds in Warsaw and Budapest. In a late flurry of diplomacy the German government, which holds the rotating presidency of the EU Council, is- sued a supplementary proposal. Viktor Or- ban, Hungary’s prime minister, flew to Po- land to persuade his allies to sign on. Satisfied with Mrs Merkel’s work, the rest of the EU assented in Brussels. Under the German proposal, the text of the rule-of-law regulation remains un- touched. That enables the European Com- mission to block disbursements of EU money, including from the recovery fund, if it suspects recipient governments of cor- ruption or other foul play, so long as a qual- ified majority of EU governments agree. That could pose a threat to the system of authoritarian cronyism Mr Orban has as- sembled on the back of EU funds amount- ing to around 3% of annual GDP. Poland’s system is cleaner but, notes Piotr Buras at the European Council on Foreign Relations in Warsaw, the government’s court-stack- ing could fall foul of the regulation’s refer- ences to judicial independence, if the com- mission thinks it interferes with the management of EU funds. The biggest concession to the hold-outs was an agreement that no action would be taken under the mechanism until the Eu’s top court had ruled on its legality, a process that could take up to two years (but which is likely to be accelerated). Critics, such as George Soros, a financier and Mr Orban’s béte noire, see this and smaller concessions as a Sell-out to the rogues. Indeed, after the Summit Mr Orban declared victory with typical bombast. But both his and Poland’s government had vowed to see off the regu- lation. Their failure even to water it down shows where the burden of compromise really fell. Poland’s hardline justice minis- ter, who said the deal violated the constitu- tion, even threatened to bring down his government, before backing down. The EU’s previous attempts to tackle rule-of-law abuses in member states have signally failed. This one may have teeth— Should the Eu decide to apply them. That remains an open question: wary of shunt- ing governments into an outer orbit, Mrs Merkel has long proved tolerant of Hungar- ian and, more recently, Polish excesses. (Mr Orban’s Fidesz party sits with the chan- cellor’s in the European Parliament.) That instinct remains intact, as her scramble to conclude Germany’s presidency with a budget deal demonstrates. Yet other politi- cians who have built careers opposing chi- canery and money-grubbing are cautiously optimistic. Slovakia’s president, Zuzana Caputova, who was elected ona rule-of-law ticket in 2019, says she is glad that the prin- ciple is now legally binding at Eu level. But, She adds, “having the mechanism to de- fend the rule of law in place is just the first step. Now we need to make it work.” The Economist December 19th 2020 Health care Flight of the white coats Why Balkan doctors emigrate EALTH-CARE systems everywhere are buckling because of covid-19. In south- east Europe, rising infection rates are ham- mering systems that were already run- down. Balkan doctors and nurses have been emigrating for years. The main reason is that conditions at home are poor. Pay is low, graft is rife and hospitals are often run by venal political appointees. Jobs in west- ern Europe seem cushy by comparison. In Bucharest, Romania’s capital, 27 peo- ple died when a nightclub caught fire in 2015, but four months later the toll had ris- en to 64. Many had been killed by hospital infections attributable to corruption. Dis- infectants had been so diluted that they had virtually turned to water. In a new doc- umentary about the scandal, Vlad Voicu- lescu, briefly Romania’s minister of health, says that since taking the top job he has re- alised that everything underneath him “is rotten…corrupt, demotivated. They don’t give a fuck about anything out there.” One consequence is that nearly 5,000 Romanians now work for England’s Na- tional Health Service. But Mr Voiculescu could have been speaking for the entire re- gion. In 2019 there were 50,000 citizens of the six non-EU Balkan countries working in Germany’s health-care system, two- thirds of them Bosnians and Serbs. In Spring, when the pandemic struck and bor- ders closed, Austria laid on special trans- port to bring in hundreds of Bulgarian, Cro- atian and Romanian health workers. Balkan tabloids sometimes claim there will soon be no more doctors and nurses leftin their countries. But the story is notas simple as that. Romania actually has 21% more doctors than it did a decade ago, while in Bulgaria the numbers are stable. Since 2013 almost 6,000 Bosnian nurses have gone to work in Germany on just one official scheme, yet more than 7,500 nurses back home are unemployed. In the past few decades more people in the Balkans have been studying medicine than ever before, not least because it is a good way to land a well-paid job abroad. There are not enough jobs for those who stay behind, however, and those that exist are often unattractive. In Romania few doc- tors want to work in remote regions or be general practitioners, who are badly paid. Some local medical training is poor. Serbian colleges churn out nurses with patchy knowledge. Gorica Djokic, a leader of Serbia’s doctors’ union, says that some who “can’t tell if a patient is asleep or ina coma” are employed in hospitals to make up for those who have gone abroad. As for doctors, she identifies two problems that are common across the region. Those most likely to emigrate do so at the beginning of their careers or are sought-after specialists. The average age of doctors who stay in Ser- bia, she says, 1S 55. To stanch the flow of emigrants, health services have raised doctors’ wages. In Ro- mania they have tripled in the past few years. Alexandru Radu, aged 22, is a fourth- year medical student. When he thought he would be paid only a couple of hundred eu- ros a month in his first job, he “100%” planned to go abroad. Now, with a chance to earn €1,000 amonth in his home country when he graduates, he says: “I really want to stay here.” @ Azerbaijan’s ghost towns Bitterness prevails BAKU It will be hard to soften the hatred between Azeris and Armenians HERE IS PLENTY of farmland in Fuzuli, Tone of Azerbaijan’s districts that ring the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh. But there is nothing to harvest. Where wheat and grapes once grew, unexploded rockets sprout from the ground at odd an- gles, reminders of the vicious fighting that tore through the area in the autumn. The charred hulks of tanks remain. A cratered road snakes through a wasteland of villages and towns abandoned after an earlier bout of violence three decades ago. Thousands of landmines lurk underground. Europe 83 Farther north in Agdam, once an Azeri city of 40,000 people, Aide Huseynova, a pensioner, snaps photos of a ruined 19th- century mosque. She escaped from Agdam in 1993, during the first Nagorno-Karabakh wart, fleeing before an Armenian offensive. Aboutim people, most of them Azeris, were displaced in the fighting. Now, for the first time since then, she is back. Yet there is nothing left for her to see, bar a sea of rub- ble and crumbling walls that stretches for miles in every direction, looking like the aftermath of a nuclear attack. The mosque is the only building left standing. “My heart aches,’ says Mrs Huseynova. “I don’t want tosee itatall.” In acampaign that lasted over six weeks and ended with a ceasefire on November goth, Azerbaijan recovered the seven dis- tricts, including Fuzuli and Agdam, that Armenian forces had occupied since the 1990s. (Most of Nagorno-Karabakh, still populated almost exclusively by Arme- nians, remains in the separatists’ hands.) At least 5,000 people were killed in the re- cent fighting. Human-rights groups have called on both sides to investigate reports of war crimes, including videos that appear to show executions and other atrocities committed by Azerbaijani troops. The devastation inflicted on Azeri towns during the 27 years under Armenian control will be hard to undo. The Armenian Separatists who ran Nagorno-Karabakh used the districts once occupied by Azeris as a buffer zone and a future bargaining chip, making many of them uninhabitable. Buildings were bulldozed. Looters took anything the former residents had left be- hind. Some put the cost of reviving these ghost cities at as much as $15bn, though Azerbaijan’s government has yet to make an estimate. It could take seven years to de- mine the districts, says Hikmet Hajiyev, an aide of Azerbaijan’s president. Many Azeri refugees from the disputed enclave are destitute, while Azerbaijan’s upper class prospers because of plentiful oil. Ina shabby block of flats on the edge of Baku, the capital, Aliyev Karim Hasimoglu, a former metal-worker from Fuzuli, shares a single room with four relations. He says he wants to live long enough to rebury a brother, who died in the first Karabakh war, in their ancestral village. He has spent the past 25 years in the same room; 20 other refugee families live on the same floor. Three communal bathrooms serve about 100 people. Paint peels from the walls, pipes leak and cigarette butts litter the Staircases. Mr Hajiyev says his government spends $1bn a year on the refugees, but many say that is not enough. Mrs Huseynova says she had Armenian neighbours before the war, but would curse them if she saw them again. “As an Azerbai- jan citizen from Agdam, I don’t want to live nexttothem.” # Google Helping job seekers start new careers In high-growth fields G google.com/grow – Grow with Google Google IT Professional Certificates Learn job Skills in high-growth career fields Get started Find tools and resources to grow your career at google.com/grow Working nights kept Daniel Anderson from spending time with his family, so when a friend encouraged him to check out the Google IT Support Professional Certificate, he jumpedat the opportunity to advance his career. — ——d a cs _ ~. _ Daniel enrolled, earning his certificate = = in just five months. Now, he has a job AT-M CoN(-SE-EE- LAM MMsLoo) oles aes) ol-volc |e and has more free time at home with =~ his loved ones. a ora F a Ws ite 86 Europe The Economist December 19th 2020 Charlemagne | Sprechen Sie Tory? Why Conservatives and Christian Democrats never understood each other QUINT A LITTLE, and Boris Johnson and Ursula von der Leyen look rather alike. The British prime minister and the president of the European Commission were both children of Eurocrats, partly brought up in Brussels. Both were written off in domestic politics, only to be catapulted into the biggest jobs of their lives. Both have enough children to fill a minibus. Open your eyes fully, however, and the differences become clear. Whereas Mrs von der Leyen speaks like a technocrat, Mr Johnson speaks like a bloke telling jokes in a pub. Mrs von der Leyen is overseeing a much-needed deepening of the EU. Under Mr Johnson, Britain has left it. Mrs von der Leyen boasts of her seven children; Mr Johnson refuses to specify how many he has (Wikipe- dia opts for “at least six”). The political traditions from which the two leaders come are also less alike than you might expect. Mr Johnson is a Conserva- tive; Mrs von der Leyen is a Christian Democrat. These two philos- ophies have much in common. They both sit on the centre-right as natural parties of government, with reputations for fiscal pru- dence. Their ideologies are mushy. Each abhors big thinkers: there is no equivalent of Marx or Mill when it comes to either outlook. Pragmatism is a point of pride for both; generally, keeping lefties out of power—or at least constrained—is enough of a purpose. But it is their differences that help explain why Britain never sat easily in the bloc. After all, the EU was a Christian Democratic invention. Its founding fathers—Alcide De Gasperi of Italy, Konrad Adenauer of Germany and Robert Schuman of France—were Christian Demo- crats, as were all six foreign ministers who signed its original trea- ties. Although no longer hegemonic, Christian Democratic parties still shape the EU. They bestride the European People’s Party (EPP), the group of centre-right parties, which carves up EU jobs, such as Mrs von der Leyen’s. Angela Merkel, Germany’s Christian Demo- cratic Union chancellor, is comfortably the continent’s most pow- erful politician. Christian Democrats built Europe and they still, more or less, run it. To understand Europe, one must understand Christian Democracy. Unfortunately for Britain, the Conserva- tives—their closest cousins across the Channel—never have. Sometimes these misunderstandings resulted in strategic er- rors. When running for the leadership of the Conservatives, David Cameron pledged to leave the EpP, the club of the mainstream right. For Mr Cameron, it was a simple decision. In general, the Christian Democrats who dominated the group wanted more European integration, whereas Mr Cameron and his Conservative party did not. The promise was meat for a hungry Eurosceptic membership, and helped Mr Cameron win. But to Mrs Merkel, it was an insult. The EPP was a broad church with a deeper purpose that has dominated Christian Democracy: to stop the socialists from running the show. Quitting was akin to desertion. Individualism is either a goal or a horror, depending on wheth- er one is speaking to a Conservative or a Christian Democrat. Mar- garet Thatcher once declared that there is “no such thing as soci- ety’, only individuals and families. Jacques Maritain, one of the few examples of a Christian Democratic political philosopher, put rampant individualism in the same breath as totalitarianism, sug- gesting that any form of Christian Democracy must be “opposed to both the idea of the totalitarian state and the sovereignty of the in- dividual”. In this view, there is nothing but society. Even the preferred methods of politics clash. The slow, grind- ing consensus-building at the heart of Christian Democracy and consequently the Eu itselfis anathema to Conservatives, for whom the term sounds too much like capitulation. Compared with the winner-takes-all system of British politics, the workings of the EU seem slow and unresponsive to Conservative eyes and just the ticket to Christian Democrat ones. “Merkel is not a Thatcher,” wrote Mr Cameron in his autobiography, not altogether approv- ingly. “Her favourite expression is ‘step by step’.” By contrast, the Conservative Party has a distinctly unconservative lust for creative destruction. Brexit, a project that radically overhauls the state, is simply the latest example. Rather than proceeding step by step, Brexit means taking a giant leap. Even the presentation of these policies is different. Dullness is a virtue for Christian Democrats. For Conservatives, it is a sin. Angela Merkel is far from the first Christian Democrat leader to revel in anti-charisma. For Mr John- son, charisma is his main weapon. Not just the narcissism of small differences The fundamental split in the Christian Democratic and Conserva- tive worldview has dogged Brexit negotiations. Ultimately, Brexit is a project that puts the nation-state back at the centre of politics. By contrast, Christian Democracy is built on deep suspicion of it. Partly this stems from an analysis of the 20th century as either the triumph of the nation-state (the British view) or its tragedy (that of much of western Europe). In the Christian Democratic worldview, power should be diffuse, spread across local, regional and national levels. Adding another layer in the form of Europe was no big deal. “It was easy to give up parts of what was feared in the first place,” writes Jan-Werner Mueller of Princeton University. To Conserva- tives, however, a Supranational layer of authority was an affront. Arguments over “level playing-field” arrangements in Brexit may seem like technical wrangling. In fact, they are a clash be- tween the Conservative and Christian Democratic view of the state. Conservatives want power yanked back; Christian Demo- crats struggle to understand why. Mutual incomprehension is a poor basis for a relationship. Yet that was the foundation of Brit- ain’s relationship with the Eu: the dominant ideology of both pol- ities was unable to understand the other side. Like Mr Johnson and Mrs von der Leyen, Britain and its EU peers may look similar, but they are far from the same. Unless you squint. & sail Negotiations with the EU An extra mile, a narrow path Lying behind the most contentious issues in the Brexit trade talks is a lack of trust ORIS JOHNSON has often claimed that a Bstory he wrote as a journalist in May 1992 entitled “Delors plan to rule Europe” helped swing Danish voters towards a nar- row rejection of the European Union’s Maastricht treaty. That the article, like much that he wrote about the EU, bore little relationship to the truth has never ap- peared to trouble him much; yet the suspi- cions around his character which his cov- erage of Brussels engendered in the European Commission are now coming back to bite him, for they threaten to un- dermine his chance of doing a last-minute trade deal with the Eu. Britain’s year-long transition out of the EU ends on December 31st, and several deadlines for the two parties to complete a trade deal have already passed. On Decem- ber 13th Mr Johnson marked another sup- posedly final deadline by agreeing with Ur- sula von der Leyen, the Commission’s president, that negotiations should con- tinue for an “extra mile”. This deadline ex- tension raised hopes that the two sides may be shifting from their entrenched po- sitions. Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief nego- tiator, reportedly detected a narrow path to a deal. Yet Mr Johnson insisted that no-deal was still the most likely outcome, and both sides repeated that the gaps over the two toughest issues remained wide. The highest-profile one is the EU’s de- sire to retain access to British fishing wa- ters. This has prompted hysterical chatter about gunboat diplomacy in the channel. Yet the industry’s economic insignificance (it is worth barely 0.1% of GDP) and the fact that both sides sell much of their fish to each other means that fisheries were never likely to be a deal-breaker on their own. The other big issue, the “level playing field” for competition, could be. Right from the start, the EU made clear that granting Britain tariff- and quota-free access to its single market (a more generous deal than Canada’s) required measures to guarantee a level playing field for social, environ- mental, labour and state-subsidy stan- dards. Yet Britain insisted on its sovereign > Also in this section 88 Brexit-related disruption 89 Heathrow expansion 89 Animal-welfare arms race 90 Bagehot: The wisdom of Scrooge right, as a third country, to diverge from EU rules if it chose. The political declaration appended to the withdrawal treaty duly promised “robust commitments to ensure a level playing field”. But soon after its rat- ification, David Frost, Mr Johnson’s Brexit negotiator, declared in Brussels that the right to diverge from EU rules was the whole point of the Brexit project. In effect, Mr Johnson’s government is saying that the pain and dislocation it will entail is worth- while in large part because of the future benefits of no longer being bound by the EU’s hidebound and inflexible regulations. On the other side the EU sees unfettered ac- cess to its single market as a prize that can safely be awarded only to those willing broadly to comply with its rules. Despite such differences, it should be possible to find a compromise that ac- knowledges the trade-off that exists be- tween full sovereignty on one side and un- fettered access to the single market on the other. Early on Britain conceded the princi- ple of “non-regression”, Meaning a pro- mise not to dilute existing regulatory stan- dards. For its part, the EU backed away from its initial tough negotiating position that Britain must adhere strictly to any future changes to its rules against excessive state subsidies. But differences have persisted over the consequences of future di- vergence, over a mechanism to settle dis- putes and over the right of either side to re- taliate swiftly if it deems the other to be >> The Economist December 19th 2020 BRsy; 88 _ Britain » stealing an unfair competitive advantage. That’s where the trust problem comes in. An agreement over these issues de- pends on a degree of trust, which is essen- tial for any comprehensive trade deal that relies not just on legal enforcement mech- anisms but also on its signatories showing good faith in the commitments they have made. EU leaders believe they have every reason to distrust Mr Johnson, and not just because of his journalistic past. They think the Brexit referendum was won on the back of acampaign of untruths, and their confi- dence in him has been further undermined by this autumn’s saga of the internal-mar- kets bill, in which Mr Johnson proposed unilaterally to amend the Northern Irish provisions that were part of the withdrawal treaty. Although he has now dropped this plan, the damage to the relationship lin- gers. It was little surprise that Mrs von der Leyen was moved recently to declare that “trust is good, but law is better”. Britain is more vulnerable to the conse- Brexit-related disruption Lorrypolitik quences of no-deal than is the EU, soifa deal is to be done it is Mr Johnson who will have to make concessions. But he is under pressure from hardliners in his own party not to concede anything on the principle of full sovereignty. And he knows that, even if a trade agreement is struck, disruption will be inevitable. It would be a lot easier to blame this on the malevolent Eu if there were no deal than if he had acquiesced to one at the last minute. Yet business is piling pressure on the government to avoid no-deal, which would mean not just disruption (see next story) and broken supply chains but also tariffs that could bankrupt farmers and carmak- ers (who would be subject to tariffs of up to 40% and10% respectively) and send unem- ployment rocketing. The distance between the two sides remains considerable and the path narrow. But the smart money is on Mr Johnson conceding just enough over retali- ation under the level-playing-field provi- sions to securea deal. & To minimise disruption, rules will be waived. Good times ahead for smugglers INCE THE European Union’s single mar- ket took effect in 1992, goods have flowed freely across Britain’s border with the EU without the suite of checks normal- ly carried out at a country’s frontier. When Britain leaves the union at 1pm on Decem- ber 31st, this arrangement will end. Pol Sweeney of Descartes, a supply-chain tech- nology company, estimates that Britain’s A monster problem departure will create a requirement to in- spect a volume of goods some five to ten times larger than are checked at present. Those checks will be required with or with- out a deal, but will have to be more detailed if no agreement is in place. Such a sharp increase threatens to over- whelm British ports’ infrastructure. Three decades of freedom mean that most of Brit- ™ The Economist December 19th 2020 ain’s trade with the EU now takes place via “roll-on-roll-off” ferry ports, many of which, because they have never needed it, have no space to carry out newly required physical checks. In preparation, lorry parks have been built around the port of Dover, which accounts for 69% of all goods-vehi- cle movement between Britain and the EU. The tax office, HMRC, is building a new computer system, the Goods Vehicle Move- ment Service, to try to minimise disrup- tion. In principle, instead of stopping lor- ries at the border to inspect their contents, the system allows for checks to be done digitally while they are on the move. The system is not finished, with Britain’s de- parture days away. Britain has already said it will fudge its own enforcement on inbound goods for the first six months of 2021, a hedge against disruption. So, barring perhaps protest and other unpredictable outcomes that may arise in the event of no deal, there will be few changes for trade coming into Britain from the EU. A freshly Brexited Britain has the autonomy to continue that situation as long as it needs in the name of minimising disruption, although Mark Clough of Den- tons, a law firm, notes that such leniency will probably violate World Trade Organi- sation rules. Mr Clough says Britain’s view appears to be that by the time any country complains about the lax treatment EU im- ports are receiving, it will have sorted out any problems and be operating under the rules. Tony McDonach of Hill Dickinson, a maritime law firm, calls the proposal to wave through goods in the name of min- imising disruption a “smuggler’s charter”. Goods moving from Britain to Europe are more vulnerable. France, Belgium and the Netherlands, the European countries into which British goods primarily flow, do not have Britain’s freedom to fudge. As EU members they are all bound by the Union Customs Code, which means, says Brian Mulier of Bird and Bird, a law firm, that 4% of all goods must be physically inspected. Europe’s Court of Auditors will be hovering over the proceedings to ensure that EU rules are followed. If Kent’s lorry parks fill up with outbound vehicles, backed up from the point where they gain entry to the EU, that may have a knock-on effect on in- bound traffic, for European hauliers may refuse to take goods into Britain for fear of getting embroiled in the mess. EU States already have some flexibility on the application of tariffs on pandemic- related supplies, as well as the power to suspend duties in the name of disaster re- lief. Given that existing flexibility, if disas- ter looms post-Brexit, Mr Clough sees no reason why the European countries might not also wave goods through to avert a cri- sis. Sadly for residents of Kent, the Garden of England’s transformation into a lorry park is unlikely to count. & The Economist December 19th 2020 Heathrow expansion Cleared for take-off Heathrow is allowed to build a third runway, but may no longer need one HE SAGA Of the potential third runway at Heathrow, Britain’s largest airport, has been called the longest take-off in history. A commission in 1993 recommended ex- pansion, and the government first en- dorsed the plan in 2003. But it was not until 2018 that the transport secretary finally gave the project the go-ahead. A Court of Appeal ruling in February 2020 that the runway was not compatible with Britain’s obligations under the Paris climate agree- ment of 2015 appeared to have finally scup- pered the plans. But on December 16th the Supreme Court overturned that judgment and once more green-lit the project. The initial Court of Appeal judgment found that the government’s decision to al- low the expansion to go ahead was unlaw- ful because Chris Grayling, then transport secretary, had failed to take the Paris agree- ment into account. While that was a blow to Heathrow, it helped get Boris Johnson’s government out of a tight spot. Mr John- son, whose own constituency is near the airport, has been a fierce critic of the ex- pansion plans, famously pledging to prot- esters that he would “lie down with you in front of those bulldozers and…stop the construction”. The government chose not to appeal, but Heathrow did; and the Su- preme Court decided that the government had taken Paris into account, and the Court of Appeal was therefore wrong. Even so, the expansion may not go ahead. While the airline industry has long championed a third runway, much has changed since February 2020. British Air- ways, Heathrow’s largest customer, has be- come sceptical about the plans. Earlier this year Willie Walsh, the chief executive of BA’s parent company, argued that “it was a Herculean task before covid and I think it’s impossible now’. Although air travel will almost certainly rebound as social-dis- tancing restrictions are eased in 2021, the industry is not expecting a quick recovery. The International Air Travel Association, a lobby group, expects that global spending on air travel will be about half of 2019 levels in 2021. Short-haul flights from Britain are expected to rise sharply as the vaccine is rolled out and consumers dash off to sun- nier climes, but the outlook for longer- haul flights remains highly uncertain. Analysts reckon the big unknown Is the future of business travel. Firms that have grown accustomed to Zoom meetings may well be less keen to splash out on high- The unfriendly skies priced tickets from London to New York. Although business flyers account for only around 10% of transatlantic custom they pay ten to 12 times as much per ticket as economy passengers. A substantial fall in their numbers would mean large rises in ticket prices for the rest, which in turn would dent demand. If long-haul flight vol- umes remain depressed, then the business case for a third runway at Heathrow starts to look ropy. Boris Johnson is unlikely to have to prostrate himself in front of those bulldozers soon, ifever. @ Animal welfare The pet offensive Politicians are competing in an animal-welfare arms race ICHAEL JACKSON had Bubbles, a chim- My panzee Justin Bieber had 0G Mally, a capuchin, until it was seized by German customs Officials and put ina zoo. Rihanna has been photographed bottle-feeding a baby monkey on holiday. The trio of stars would find few fans in the British govern- ment, which on December 12th proposed new restrictions on keeping primates as pets. Somewhere between 1,000 and 5,000 marmosets, lemurs, tamarins and other lit- tle species are kept in private ownership in Britain, the government reckons, often bored to misery. One of the benefits of cutting loose from the horse-eating continent is that Britain can give full rein to its passion for animals. Politicians are only too happy to oblige, for pet-friendly policies are cheap and popu- lar. In last year’s election, the Tories prom- ised to help councils reunite strays with their owners by making it mandatory to Britain 89 microchip cats and to tackle puppy-smug- gling. (Sir Roger Gale, an MP, says bootleg- gers should have their cars crushed at Do- ver and be made to walk home.) It will end the live export of farm animals, a symbol for eurosceptics of EU inflexibility. Labour promised to ban the live-boiling of lobsters in restaurants, and to review the use of whips by racing jockeys. Yet Britain’s animal-welfare laws are al- ready among the most comprehensive in the world, according to the Animal Protec- tion Index, a league table. The Animal Wel- fare Act of 2006, which imposed obliga- tions on keepers to properly feed, house and stimulate animals, and to protect them from pain, disease and suffering, could be used to tackle monkey-keeping. The gov- ernment is increasing the maximum pen- alty for abuse to five years in prison. But new laws offer more political mileage. Wild animals in travelling circuses were banned by law last year, but a dwin- dling public appetite for parades of ele- phants and tigers balanced on stools had already put an end to the business. By the time the ban was imposed, only two li- censed animal circuses were left in Britain, comprising a sad menagerie of six rein- deer, four camels, four zebras, two racoons, azebu, a macaw and a fox. Private members’ bills are popular vehi- cles for pro-pet signalling. A bill proposed by Bill Wiggin, a Tory MP, last year would have criminalised the eating of dog meat. Selling dog meat is already illegal. Mr Wig- gin conceded there was “no evidence” that people eat dogs in Britain, but said it would set a good example to China, where they do. MPS are moved by the traumatic loss of pets to motor accidents. James Daly, the Tory MP for the ultra-marginal seat of Bury North, has proposed “Gizmo’s Law”, named after a constituent’s cat, the victim of a hit- and-run accident, which was cremated without its owner’s knowledge. The law would oblige councils that retrieve dead animals from the roadside to scan them for microchips, so that they can be reunited with their grieving owners rather than be- ing anonymously incinerated. A draft bill in 2018 proposed criminalising drivers who failed to stop after striking a cat. (Hit-and- runs on dogs, pigs, goats and humans are already illegal.) One of the most popular proposals, judging by two petitions to Parliament which have secured more than 250,000 Sig- natures between them, is a new offence of pet theft, which would recognise that for owners, dognapping feels more like the ab- duction of a child than the purloining of a television. Stealing a pet is already punish- able by up to seven years in prison under the Theft Act, and judges can already ac- count for the emotional distress when passing sentence. Still, it could be just the thing for the next manifesto. & 90 _—«sBritain The Economist December 19th 2020 Bagehot | The wisdom of Scrooge Dickens ts not just for Christmas, but for life BRITISH CHRISTMAS Is inseparable not just froma jolly fat man Ain a red suit but also froma grumpy, thin “squeezing, wrench- ing, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner”. Charles Dickens’s novella “A Christmas Carol” was an instant hit. Within two months of its publication in 1843 there were 12 adaptations on the London stage. Nearly two centuries on, its anti-hero retains his hold on the popular imagination. The internet offers a dancing Scrooge, a Singing Scrooge, a woke Scrooge, a Scrooge with Mup- pets, and a Scrooge with Freudian “daddy issues”. By all means enjoy “A Christmas Carol” in this season—better read aloud to the children, in Victorian fashion, than on the screen. William Thackeray, Dickens’s contemporary and rival, de- scribed it as a “national benefit and, to every man or woman who reads it, a personal kindness”. But don’t stop there: Dickens is an inexhaustible source of pleasure and instruction all year round. He was, after Shakespeare, Britain’s most creative generator of characters, with more than a thousand listed in Wikipedia. That they are as relevant today as they were in his time is testament not only to his ability to capture essential human traits but also to the parallels between the Victorian age and ours. So many Dickens characters summon up the peculiar spirit of 2020 that it is hard to choose between them. In “Bleak House”, Old Krook spontaneously combusts, which feels like a fitting end to the year. In “Hard Times”, Mr Gradgrind tries to “weigh and mea- Sure any parcel of human nature’, neatly encapsulating modern officialdom’s obsession with targets and algorithms. In “Little Dor- rit’, the Barnacle family controls the business of the Circumlocu- tion Office much as well-connected Tories enjoy the benefits of government outsourcing today. But three characters tower over their rivals as embodiments of 2020. John Podsnap, from “Our Mutual Friend”, is Brexit Britain made flesh. A pompous philistine of the narrowest kind—“particularly well satisfied with most things, and, above all other things, with himself’—he considers other countries “a mistake’, foreigners “unfortunately born”, and the British constitution the best in the world, “bestowed upon us by providence’. In sum, “no other coun- try” is as “favoured as this country’. Podsnap’s views reverberate around the Tory world. Gavin Wil- liamson, the education secretary, told a radio audience that, among various nations under discussion, Britain is “a much better country than every single one of them”. Its speed in licensing the covid-19 vaccine was, he said, evidence that “we’ve got the very best people in this country and we’ve obviously got the best medical regulators”. It was Podsnappery that led Michael Gove to claim that Britain would “hold all the cards” when it left the European Union, and Podsnappery that persuaded Liam Fox that a trade deal with the EU should be “the easiest in human history”. If Podsnap personifies nationalistic complacency, Madame De- farge in “A Tale of Two Cities” embodies revolutionary fervour, with her compelling mix of the monstrous and the mundane. She runs a wine shop while plotting against her enemies, and knits while watching one aristocrat after another going to the guillotine. Her victims’ individual humanity means nothing to her; they are mere representatives of asystem that must be destroyed. “She saw not him but them,” as Dickens puts it. The Knitting is more than an idle distraction from the work of vengeance. She knits the names of her victims in an act of revolutionary piety. Today’s culture wars reprise these themes. Vengeance-ob- sessed revolutionaries dehumanise their opponents by hounding them off the stage in public meetings (“deplatforming”) or mob- bing them on social media (“cancelling”). They get people sacked from their jobs, often rendering them unemployable, for digres- sions from an ever-changing orthodoxy. A veteran columnist, Su- Zanne Moore, left the Guardian newspaper because of a furore about an article she wrote on women and trans rights. An Oxford historian, Selina Todd, was disinvited from giving a lecture and forced to hire security guards because she offended some activists. People stay silent about newly sensitive issues because they fear the sound of today’s equivalent of Madame Defarge’s knitting nee- dles clicking away as the professional guillotine comes down on their necks. And what about Scrooge himself? It is unfortunate that, in por- traying this upstanding citizen, Dickens allowed his most irritat- ing vice, sentimentality, to get the better of him. “A Christmas Car- ol” degenerates. In its feelgood ending, a reformed Scrooge makes amends to those he has wronged and sucks up to all and sundry. Before his lamentable decline, however, he is one of the wisest fig- ures in literature, blessed with a great insight: that the world is ad- dicted to humbug. This powerful perception is even truer now than it was in the 1840s. Today almost everything is the opposite of what it pretends to be. Companies claim that they are devoted to advancing gay rights, promoting multiculturalism or uniting the world in a Kumbaya sing-along, when they are in fact singlemindedly maximising pro- fits. Chief executives claim that they are ever-so-humble “team leaders”—in homage to another great Dickens invention, the unc- tuous Uriah Heep—when they are actually creaming off an un- precedented share of corporate cash. Private schools such as Eton claim that they are in the business of promoting “diversity” and “inclusivity” even as they charge £42,000 a year. Future historians seeking to Sum up our era may well call it “the age of humbug”. Whether the purveyors of this sanctimonious guff actually be- lieve it, or whether it is cynical doublespeak, is immaterial. Either way, Spin doctors, sycophants and so-called thought leaders pump noxious quantities of it into the atmosphere. The nation is in des- perate need of a modern-day Dickens to clear the air. Until one emerges, Britons should repeat his great creation’s Christmas mantra in every season: “Bah, humbug!” @ ha , “ae Down in the dumps KAMPALA, LUSAKA, MUMBAI, SAO PAULO AND YANGON The covid-19 pandemic has hit waste-pickers in various ways; those who are better organised have done best T THE NORTHERN edge of Lusaka, in Zambia, the 24-hectare Chunga landfill smoulders in the midday sun, its sour smoke scalding the nose and throat. Wes- ley Kambizi works nine-hour days on the dump with just a beanie and mismatched sneakers for protection: one slip-on, one lace-up, both caked in mud. Local authori- ties intermittently threaten to bar waste- pickers like him from the site. Worsening poverty in the city means both that more people are scavenging at the landfill and that fewer valuable scraps make it there in the first place. The world’s cities produce over 2bn tonnes of solid waste every year. Even be- fore the covid-19 pandemic local govern- ments in poor countries struggled to keep their streets clean, clearing less than half the rubbish in urban areas and around a quarter in the countryside. Informal work- ers, who make up around 80% of the 19m-24m workers in the waste industry, have helped plug that gap. They both haul rubbish and scour municipal dumps and public spaces for things which can be re- used or sold, normally through middle- men, to recycling companies. In India waste-pickers divert over 40m tonnes of refuse away from landfills and into recy- cling every year, a task that would cost mu- nicipalities 15-20% of their annual budget. In South Africa they are responsible for re- covering 80-90% of packaging. Some, like Mr Kambizi, do the job full- time; others resort to waste-picking only when times are hard. The pandemic has enlarged their ranks. Birungi Hidaya lost her job as a teacher in Kampala, the capital of Uganda, soon after the pandemic struck. Now she works the Kiteezi landfill. She turns her nose up at the other scavengers on the dump, labelling them “ignorant” and “not civilised at all”. The lay-offs that have come with the pandemic have seen more people like Ms Birungi eking out a living by collecting, sorting and selling rubbish. But the pan- a demic has also created new problems for waste-pickers. The first is getting to the waste. South Africa failed to classify waste-picking as an essential service during this year’s lock- downs, leaving thousands stuck at home at risk of starvation. In Accra and Kumasi, cit- ies in Ghana, those who live off the land- fills worry that local governments will use the pandemic as an excuse to decommis- sion the dumps, something they have long aspired to do. Panicked citizens make matters worse. In Yangon, Myanmar’s commercial capital, Thiha used to make 500,000 kyat ($370) ev- ery month as an independent waste-collec- tor in a working-class area. When a second wave of covid-19 hit in early September people began erecting makeshift barri- cades around their neighbourhoods, deny- ing him access. His earnings fell by a third. It is not just the people who are keeping Mr Thiha from the rubbish. The pandemic is producing alot more medical waste. The amount of it produced in China’s Hubei province increased by 370% after the out- break began. Manila and Jakarta are expect- ed to produce an extra 280 and 210 tonnes every day, respectively. The Yangon City Development Committee (YCDC) is strug- gling to keep this sort of dangerous refuse away from the public in general and people like Mr Thiha in particular. It has been tasked with collecting, separating and International >» burning the 50 tonnes of rubbish produced by hospitals and quarantine centres every day. (The sad duty of cremating victims of covid-19 has also fallen to the ycDc. “That’s a different job and also a stressful job for my people,’ sighs Aung Myint Maw, deputy director of the sanitation department.) Such care reflects a genuine concern. Some of the proliferation of pandemic-as- sociated waste has been a benefit to litter- pickers—think of all those tiddly little bot- tles of hand sanitiser. Butin poor cities that lack the infrastructure to segregate medi- cal waste it can bea real problem. Scientists believe covid-19 is transmit- ted via tiny droplets that people exhale as they breathe, talk and cough. These virus particles can remain infective after a day Spent on cardboard, at least two days on steel and three on plastic. Rifling through rubbish is never particularly safe from a health point of view; this year’s influx of in- fected material makes the business even riskier, particularly for those without per- sonal protective equipment (PPE) and little understanding of how the disease spreads. The falling price of recyclables presents a third problem. The formal recycling in- dustry ground to a halt when countries closed their borders, making it impossible to ferry waste to the big plants which pro- cess it. There are fewer end-buyers for the plastic, paper and metal that scavengers collect. Data from the city of Pune in India show the price of polyethylene terephthal- ate, the plastic used to make water bottles, has dropped to as little as 10 rupees ($0.01) per kilogram from 22 rupees before the pandemic (see chart). Cardboard is two ru- pees per kilogram, half what it was. That has been devastating for Rani Shiv- Sharan, who has been collecting waste in Pune for over 25 years. Despite Prime Min- Sao Paulo has it sorted — Deflation on the dump Pune, India, purchase price from waste-pickers By material, rupees per kg I Post-covid-19 lockdown (June 2020, minimum estimate) 5 KG sy A) ) Pre-covid-19 (Jan-Feb 2020) Polyethylene terephthalate (Water bottles, clear) Polypropylene (Margarine tubs) High-density polyethylene (Milk bottles, white) Low-density polyethylene (Cling-film, bags) Cardboard Source: SWACH }—— sats tls }——+ HH ister Narendra Modi’s signature Swacch Bharat, or Clean India, mission, the local authority does not recognise her work. Ms Shivsharan has not received any cash transfers or food rations since covid struck. There are days when she survives on tea. “I am scared, but what canI do?” she asks. Brothers and sisters Organised waste-pickers are better off on all three counts. A survey of 140 waste- picking associations in Brazil found that after serious disruption in the first weeks and months of the pandemic, three-quar- ters were back in operation by May. Almost all of them were using PPE, almost 80% had sent vulnerable members into isolation and 45% were quarantining scrap before sorting it. In Belo Horizonte, in south-east- ern Brazil, a waste-pickers’ co-operative successfully lobbied the mayor’s office for food baskets and hygiene kits to see them The Economist December 19th 2020 through the pandemic. The Belo Horizonte association had learned to fight for its members well before the pandemic. It has been almost 20 years since a group of single mothers in the city Started collecting plastic bottles. The co- operative has since won a contract with the local authorities, which pays 265 reais ($52) for each tonne of material they sort. Simi- lar stories can be told all round the conti- nent. Waste-workers in Latin American cit- ies like Buenos Aires, Bogota and Sao Paulo often operate in co-operatives. The fact that Latin America’s litter-pickers are bet- ter organised and better treated is notjusta by-product of increased regional prosper- ity. It is also the result of pressure brought by the waste-pickers themselves and a strong social-justice movement supported by the Roman Catholic church. This has seen waste-pickers achieve a formal recognition they lackin many cities in Africa. Brazil has been gathering data on the sector for almost 20 years, from the time when waste-picking became an occu- pation listed in the national registry. Ar- gentina legalised waste-picking in 2002 and has since created a government agency dedicated to the sector: it has a multi- million-dollar budget. Working together, waste-pickers can lobby for contracts or in- vest in sheds where they sort the day’s har- vest and store it until traders offer a good price. The many local names for collectors reflect a sometimes sophisticated division of labour. Cirujas, cartoneros, recicladores and chatarreros may each differ in respon- sibility and status city by city. By no means all of those who work on the dumps are in associations. But the successes of those who are often help those who are not, too. None of this has been easy, says Martha Chen, a Harvard lecturer who advises Wiego, a non-profit focused on women in informal work. “Someone from the public or the government doesn’t wake up one morning and think: ‘Let’s think about the waste-pickers’,’ she says. “These gains come from years and years of struggle.” Other regions aren’t going to integrate informal workers into their waste-man- agement systems overnight. But there is one way in which covid-19 might help them do their work and do it safely. In the midst of a public-health emergency, city folk across the globe have begun to appreciate those who put themselves at risk to keep the streets clean. India, with its entrenched caste system, has treated its waste-workers particularly badly in the past. But this year households in Pune have been handing out food packages and cash bonuses to the peo- ple who collect their rubbish. It is the same story on the streets of London, where chil- dren have adorned their windows with notes of thanks. Rainbows, hearts and smi- ley faces are dedicated to doctors, postal workers and binmen. @ Sth eee Big oil Brown v broad NEW YORK American and European oil giants are making divergent strategic bets on the future of energy. Neither approach is foolproof XXONMOBIL, ONCE the world’s most E valuable publicly traded oil company, is not easily swayed. As green investors urged it to develop cleaner energy, it planned in- stead to pump 25% more oil and gas by 2025. AS rivals wrote down billions of dol- lars in assets, it said its own reserves were unaffected. But in the maelstrom of 2020 even mighty Exxon had to budge. On No- vember 30th it announced a write-down of between $17bn and $20bn, and cuts to capi- tal spending of up toa third in 2022-25, im- plicitly scrapping its production goal. On December 14th it pledged to cut carbon emissions from operations, if only per unit of energy produced, by as much as 20% within five years. These declarations are a sign that pres- Sure on ExxonMobil is mounting. It lost half its market value between January and November. Investors have gripes beyond covid-19. In May BlackRock, the world’s biggest asset manager, supported a motion to relieve Darren Woods, ExxonMobil’s chief executive, of his duties as chairman. In December D.E. Shaw, a hedge fund, sent the firm a letter demanding capital disci- pline to protect its dividend. New York’s State pension fund, America’s third-larg- est, is considering divesting from the riski- est fossil-fuel firms. California State Teach- ers Retirement System (CalstTrs), the second-largest public pension fund, backs a campaign to replace nearly half of Exxon- Mobil’s board. “It’s critical to their survival that they change,’ says Christopher Ail- man, Calstrs’ chief investment officer. Still, Mr Woods hangs on to both jobs. And, for all its latest pronouncements, his firm is betting on its old business, even as => Also in this section 94 Big bets on the small screen 95 Bartleby: Straight talking 96 Schumpeter: The parable of Ryanair European rivals seek to reinvent them- selves for a climate-friendlier era. This points to a widening transatlantic rift, as the world’s oil giants try to win back inves- tors after a year when demand for crude collapsed and its future became murkier. Each approach ts riddled with risk. Supermajors’ returns have mostly been middling for years. In the decade to 2014 they overspent, furiously chasing produc- tion growth. As shale transformed the oil market from one of assumed scarcity to one of obvious abundance, many struggled to adapt. The return on capital employed for the top five Western firms—Exxon- Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron, BP and Total—sank by an average of three-quarters between 2008 and 2019. In 2019 energy was the worst-performing sector in the S&P 500 index of big American firms, as it had been IN 2014, 2015 and 2018. The past 12 months brought new indig- nities. All told, the big five have lost $350bn in stockmarket value. They talk of slashing jobs, by up to 15%, and capital spending. Shell cut its dividend for the first time since the second world war. BP Said it would sell its posh headquarters in London’s Mayfair. In August ExxonMobil was knocked out of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, after nearly a century in the index. Energy firms’ share of the S&P 500 fell below 3%, from a high-water mark of13% in 2011. In 2021a covid-19 vaccine will eventual- >> The Economist December 19th 2020 ex! 94 Business » ly support demand for petrol and jet fuel— but no one knows how quickly. Leaders of the world’s two biggest oil markets, China and America, have made it clear they want to curb emissions, but not when or by how much. Petrostates such as Russia and the United Arab Emirates are keen to defend their market share and wary of sustained production cuts that may boost American Shale by inflating prices. The Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries agreed in December to raise output mod- estly in January, but declined to promise further price support. Further out, expectations vary hugely. Legal & General Investment Management, an asset manager, reckons that keeping global warming within 2°C of preindustrial temperatures may halve oil demand in ten years. That is unlikely, but highlights risks to oil firms. While BP thinks demand may already have peaked, ExxonMobil has ex- pected it to climb until at least 2040, sup- ported by rising incomes and population. Given all the uncertainty and under- performance, the question is not why in- vestors would flee big oil. It is why they wouldn’t. The answer, for now, is divi- dends. Morgan Stanley, a bank, reckons the ability to cover payouts explains some 80% of the variation in firms’ valuations. That is a reason why those in America, which have resisted dividend cuts, are valued more highly relative to cashflow than European ones, which succumbed (see chart). Well-laid plans Shareholder returns in the next 5-10 years will be determined by two factors, reckons Michele Della Vigna of Goldman Sachs, an- other bank: cost-cutting and the manage- ment of the old business. Take Chevron, ExxonMobil’s American rival. It has some low-carbon investments but no pretence of becoming a green giant. “We have been pretty clear that we are not going to diver- Sify away or divest from our core business,” Pierre Breber, its finance chief, affirmed in October. Its low-cost oilfields pump out cash. A $5bn takeover of Noble Energy, a Shale firm, will help it consolidate hold- ings in the Permian basin, which sprawls from west Texas to New Mexico. Morgan Stanley expects Chevron to generate $4.7bn of free cashflow in 2020. This path is not risk-free. If oil demand declines more rapidly than the companies anticipate, they might struggle with a ris- ing cost of capital and stiff competition from the likes of Saudi Aramco, Saudi Ara- bia’s oil colossus, or its Emirati counter- parts. ExxonMobil shows the danger of Spending too much on fossil fuels and los- ing sight of returns. Its free cashflow in 2020 is already negative. The alternative, embraced by European firms, is to increase the efficiency of the legacy business while venturing into new areas. Transatlantic differences Selected oil majors, enterprise value to debt-adjusted cashflow Chevron 15 4 Total BP | i ExxonMobil NMG, f . = Fl = * 6 PSD ~ a Shell . 3 —_ , | 0 DOO Sa OF OO ete | ll meee ened ueeliy 20* Source: Bloomberg =O3 The challenge for that model, says Muq- sit Ashraf of Accenture, a consultancy, is proving they can generate strong returns from their green businesses—and outdo incumbents. Europe’s utilities are already renewables giants. Investors have doubts. When BP vowed in September to ramp up investment in clean energy tenfold and re- duce production of oil and gas by at least 40% by 2030, the market saw not a bold leap buta belly-flop. BP’s market capitalisa- tion kept sliding, to a 26-year low in Octo- ber, until successful vaccine trials pepped up the oil price—and with it energy stocks. Even in Europe incentives remain mud- dled. According to CarbonTracker, a watch- dog, as of 2019 Shell and BP continued to re- ward executives for increasing oil and gas output. Shell and Total have set emissions targets that let them increase total produc- tion of oil provided their output from re- newables and cleaner (though still pollut- ing) natural gas rises faster. Shell sees gas as crucial to efforts to reduce its products’ carbon intensity, and a complement to in- termittent power from the wind and sun. In the third quarter its integrated gas busi- ness accounted for 22% of cashflow from operations. Total also views the fuel as stra- tegic, with plans to nearly double its sales of liquefied natural gas by 2030. Goldman Sachs calculates that in 2019 low-carbon power accounted for just 3% of BP’s capital spending, 4% of Shell’s and 8% of Total’s. These figures are rising—even in Amer- ica, though at a slower clip. Mr Della Vigna predicts that renewable power might ac- count for 43% of capital spending by 2030 for BP and generate 17% of revenues. By 2025 Total plans to increase its installed so- lar and wind capacity from 5 to 35 giga- watts. On December 15th Norway’s govern- ment approved funding for a big project to capture and store carbon that Shell will de- velop with Total and Equinor, Norway’s State oil company. The prize for gaining Scale in green energy is bigger than merely maintaining it in the dirty sort, says one seasoned investor. “But”, he adds, “the risk is also bigger.” @ The Economist December 19th 2020 Cinema and streaming Big bets on the Small screen Hollywood is pivoting to home entertainment F ANY INDUSTRY could use help from Wonder Woman, it iS cinemas. Lock- downs and a dearth of new releases have re- duced worldwide box-office takings by about 70% in 2020. Thankfully for theatre owners, the corseted crusader will charge to the rescue on Christmas Day, giving au- diences a reason to go back to the movies. Yet in a plot twist, AT&T, the telecoms giant that owns the film’s producer, Warner Bros, has announced that “Wonder Woman 1984” and the 17 feature films on Warner’s release slate for 2021 will be made available on its HBO Max streaming service on the day they are released in cinemas, which historically have had an exclusive run of a few months. Purists are aghast. “The future of cinema will be on the big screen, no mat- ter what any Wall Street dilettante says,’ declared Denis Villeneuve, whose sci-fi epic, ‘Dune’, is among the affected films. Warner is not the only studio shifting its focus to the small screen. In July Univer- Sal Pictures, part of Comcast, a cable com- pany, did a deal with AMC, the world’s larg- est cinema chain, to give theatres just 17 days before its films are made available on- line (AMC will get a cut of streaming rev- enues). Paramount Pictures, owned by Via- comcss, has sold several films to Netflix this year rather than release them to empty auditoriums. And on December 1oth Dis- ney, Hollywood’s biggest studio, signalled that it, too, sees its future in streaming. In a presentation to investors the studio announced a blitz of new content for its Disney+ streaming service: ten “Star Wars” series, ten more based on Marvel comic books, 15 other new original series and 15 >> = Disney+ streaming = dollars Disney, market capitalisation, $bn Unveils new streaming strategy » Reports $700m quarterly loss, +f 300 73m Disney+ subscribers | 200 Reports $4.7bn quarterly loss ¥ US theme parks closed 100 Disney+ launched + Details of Disney+ announced 0 2018 19 126 Source: Refinitiv Datastream The Economist December 19th 2020 > feature films. By 2024 Disney+ will be spending $8bn-9bn annually on content, up from $2bn in 2020. Add ESPN+, which shows sports, and Hulu, another Disney streaming channel, and the company will splurge $14bn-16bn a year, nearly as much as the $17bn that Netflix, which pioneered streaming, earmarked to spend in 2020. Disney’s “content tsunami’ is “frighten- ing to any sub-scale company thinking about competing in the scripted entertain- ment space’, wrote Michael Nathanson of MoffattNathanson, a media-research firm. The Wall Street dilettantes swooned: Dis- ney’s share price leapt by almost 14% the day after its presentation, reaching an all- time high and adding $38bn to its stock- market value (see chart on previous page). Disney now expects 230m-260m Dis- ney+ subscribers by 2024—more than tre- ble its previous target. The extra viewers, and a planned price rise, put the service on track to break even in 2024, despite more content spending. Across all its streaming channels Disney expects more than 300m subscribers by 2024—maybe enough to overtake Netflix, currently on195m. Disney will take Netflix on more directly via a new Straight talking What if executive memos were clear and honest? OLLOWING THE tragic yachting acci- dent that killed my predecessor, Buck Passer, the board decided ona change of direction at Multinational United Sub- Sidiary Holdings (MUSH). As the new chief executive, I would like to live up to my nickname, “Honest Harry” Hunter and tell it to you straight. We had a dreadful 2020. To be fair, nobody could have reasonably expected the executive team to predict a global pandemic which resulted in widespread economic shutdowns. But by the same token, if managers aren’t at least partly responsible during the bad times, they shouldn’t take full credit for the good times. Most executives are riding on the backs of central bankers who have Slashed the cost of capital and on tech- nology pioneers who have made it easier to transact and communicate. So, given that my fellow executives took bonuses in the boom years, we are Slashing their salaries by half. That will give us more money to save jobs in the rest of the group. This may upset people in the c-suite and prompt some of them to leave. We will miss them—and wish them well finding a new job in the cur- rent labour market. We also know that many of you had to keep coming into our factories and warehouses during the pandemic while most of the office staff have been able to work from home. So as budgets are tight, we are making sure that the salaries of those essential work- ers keep pace with inflation this year. For everyone else, there will bea pay freeze. Another cost-saving measure will be the elimination of my predecessor’s use of management consultants. I have nothing against the profession, which is full of bright people. But if my executive team needs advice on how to do their jobs, that raises the question of why they were hired in the first place. What about 2021? There is no point in making economic predictions; the best approach is to clear up the mistakes made in the past. First of all, my predecessor bought too many companies without considering whether they would fit well with the rest of the group. Chief executives like acquisitions: to expand their empires and give them news to announce when they are talking to investors. Time the purchase right and you can boost both earnings and the share price. But all too often these are vanity pur- chases, like the middle-aged man who buys a Porsche to reclaim his lost youth. When combining companies, it is possible to make savings in areas like procurement but these are often more than offset by the loss of morale that occurs when managers try to mesh organisations with completely different cultures. So we are not going to make any acquisitions in 2021. Instead, we are going to see if some of our subsidiaries can be spun off as stand-alone organisa- tions. They can probably manage their businesses far better than we can. Business 95 service, Star, with a wider range of pro- gramming, including a new show Starring the indefatigable Kardashian clan. Two months ago Disney began a cor- porate restructuring to increase its focus on streaming. Since then it has trimmed jobs at ABC News and announced the wind- ing up of its radio business. The plans for Disney+ imply that by 2024 streaming will be the company’s single largest business by revenues, notes Benjamin Swinburne of Morgan Stanley, a bank. Whatever some di- rectors may think, “made for Tv’ is no lon- geraslurin Hollywood. & Speaking of management changes, too much staff time is taken up by meet- ings. From now on, team leaders will have a15-minute catch-up every morn- ing; if there is important news, they can message employees directly. Most of the staff should not be expected to attend an internal meeting more than oncea month. That should give them more time to meet the important people, our sup- pliers and customers, or just to geton with their jobs. Other changes are required to end the gobbledygook that plagued the previous regime. We will no longer have a “human resources” department: our employees are people, not resources. That section has been renamed personnel. Similarly, the whole concept of a “thought leader- ship” division is both pretentious and Orwellian; clients are not impressed by this waffle and in order to save money I will shut our unit down. Finally, there is alot of talk about corporate purpose, and alot of grandiose language tends to be used by other exec- utives. So let me tell you the purpose of this business under my leadership. It is to create a company that provides pro- ducts and services that customers are eager to buy. In turn, that depends on ensuring that ouremployees are both well-rewarded and committed to their tasks. If we can achieve those goals, then the returns to shareholders will look after themselves. So enjoy your holiday break—you have earned it. Ican’t promise you that things will be better in 2021. But if they aren’t, it won’t be for lack of effort from me or the rest of the management team. Thanks for all you have done this year. Best wishes, Harry Hunter 96 Business The Economist December 19th 2020 Schumpeter | The parable of Ryanair When David becomes Goliath OMETHING HAS changed since your columnist first met Michael O’Leary, boss of Ryanair, over a no-frills sandwich lunch almost two decades ago. He still talks blarney at supersonic speed. He still rails against an unholy trinity of flag-carriers, governments and regulators. But his tone is different: less cursing (only three “fucks” in an hour) and even a moment of half-joking humility (‘T would like to think I have emerged like Scrooge on Christmas morning realising the error of my ways’). Most notably, his views have mellowed about three constituencies which for decades he would reliably berate, if chiefly for publicity purposes: customers (“usually wrong’), unions (“busted flushes”) and environmental- ists (“shoot them’). The reason for this newfound magnanimity, as he explains it, is Ryanair’s size. Bad-mouthing everyone was fine when he led a Scrappy upstart fighting flag-carriers lavished with state aid. But now Ryanair is Europe’s biggest airline, worth almost as much as the owners of British Airways, Lufthansa, Air France and EasyJet combined. In 2019 it carried 152m people, comfortably ahead of Southwest Airlines, the American low-cost carrier on which it is modelled. “We have to be more sensible,’ Mr O’Leary says. “Sensible” is a broad term. Ryanair has just put in a huge order for Boeing’s 737 MAX jets, which are only beginning to come back into service after being grounded in the wake of two tragic crashes in 2018 and 2019. It may be one of the rashest moves of Mr O’Leary’s career. Or it could signal that, like any insurgent-turned-incum- bent, Ryanair now has a huge stake in maintaining the system it helped create. In effect, by increasing its MAX order from 135 to 210 (admittedly at a hefty discount from Boeing), the airline is betting that within afew years aviation will return to just the way it was be- fore the covid-19 pandemic bludgeoned travel. It is a wager on the preservation of the status quo. Itis not the first time Mr O’Leary has thrown the dice ata time of historic convulsion. The sandwich lunch in 2002 followed Ryan- airs order of 100 Boeing 737-800 jets just four months after the 9/1 terrorist attacks in America. It was a lifeline for Boeing—and made Mr O’Leary a hero in Seattle, the aeroplane-maker’s hometown. It was a roaring success for Ryanair, thrusting it into the big leagues in Europe. In two ways, he is hoping history will repeat itself. The first is that, if you offer people low-enough fares, not even Safety concerns will keep them from travelling. The threat of terro- rism did not put off passengers for long. Mr O’Leary is sure the Same will happen again following the recertification of the 737 MAX by America’s Federal Aviation Administration in November, and draft approval by European regulators the same month. Ryan- air calls the MAx “the most audited, most regulated [aircraft] in history’. Its more numerous Seats and lower fuel costs allow Ryan- air to make tickets ultra-cheap. Anyone who does not want to board it will be put on a later flight on another aircraft, Mr O’Leary promises. But, he says, “€9.99 [$12] fares will cure an awful lot of customer apprehension.” Mr O’Leary’s second assumption is that the need to restore Eu- rope’s battered tourism industry, combined with pent-up demand for travel, will mean fewer curbs on airlines, as they did after 9/11. This Christmas and new year Ryanair plans to bombard Europeans with adverts enticing them to fly abroad next summer, capitalising on hopes for the covid-19 vaccine. It assumes that other large carri- ers, such as British Airways and Lufthansa, will continue to suffer from subdued long-haul and business-class travel, a big source of revenue, reducing their ability to subsidise cheaper flights within Europe for a few years. With hotels, bars and beaches empty, Mr O’Leary thinks that European regulators will be reluctant to push more “anti-aircraft” environmental taxes. As Ryanair takes deliv- ery of more 737 MAxes, by the summer of 2026 it expects to have al- most 150 more aircraft flying than it did in 2019. In the meantime, its boss predicts, some European carriers will go bust or be ac- quired, further consolidating the industry—with Ryanair at the front of the pack. Not everything will be the same as before. Mr O’Leary admits he was “much too cavalier” in his treatment of customers. These days he is more respectful. He is proud of deals he has struck with pilot and cabin-crew unions, with which he once picked fights. In the pandemic they have mostly taken pay cuts in exchange for keeping their jobs. And he notes that the MAx emits less carbon and less noise than its forerunners, which he hopes will ease concerns among green-minded passengers and people living near runways. Be leery The danger for Ryanair is that a supreme leader who thinks he has seen it all before fails to see that some things may have fundamen- tally changed—especially on climate change. Asked about the move by Airbus, Boeing’s European arch-rival, to develop zero-car- bon hydrogen planes by 2035, Mr O’Leary is unimpressed. He loses interest over such engineering matters, he admits. He adds that Europe does not have the luxury of constraining air travel anyway; its lack of industrial competitiveness means services, especially tourism, are more important than ever and need low-cost flights. He may be right. In the battle between Europe’s “flight-sham- ing” ecowatriors and those wanting cheap holidays abroad, the second lot may prevail. Over the next decade orso Europe’s priority may be to curb car emissions more than those from aviation. But Mr O’Leary may also be complacent. He risks locking Ryanairintoa dirty technology—and a partnership with Boeing—that may be out of step with the times. He may underestimate the EU’s desire to crack down on carbon. And he may overlook the greener alterna- tives that could support tourism in Europe: trains, buses and in- creasingly electrified cars. Once Ryanair was a David, wielding its slingshot with deadly accuracy against industry Goliaths. The dan- ger is that it may now be the one with the blind spot. @ Quantum for quants Wall Street’s latest shiny new thing: quantum computing HE FINANCE industry has had a long Tiana profitable relationship with com- puting. It was an early adopter of every- thing from mainframe computers to artifi- cial intelligence (see timeline on next page). For most of the past decade more trades have been done at high frequency by complex algorithms than by humans. Now big banks have their eyes on quantum com- puting, another cutting-edge technology. This is the idea, developed by physicists in the 1980s, that the counter-intuitive properties of quantum mechanics might allow for the construction of computers that could perform mathematical feats that no non-quantum machine would ever be capable of. The promise is now starting to be realised. Computing giants like Google and IBM, as well as a flock of smaller com- petitors, are building and refining quan- tum hardware. Quantum computers will not beat their classical counterparts at everything. But much of the maths at which they will excel is of interest to bankers. Ata conference on December ioth William Zeng, head of quantum research at Goldman Sachs told the audience that quantum computing could have a “revolutionary” impact on the bank, and on finance more broadly. Many financial calculations boil down to optimisation problems, a known strength of quantum computers, says Mar- co Pistoia, the head of a research unit at JPMorgan Chase, who spent many years at IBM before that. Quantum quants hope their machines will boost profits by speed- ing up asset pricing, digging up better-per- forming portfolios and making machine- learning algorithms more accurate. A study by BBVA, a Spanish bank, concluded in July that quantum computers could boost cred- it-scoring, spot arbitrage opportunities and accelerate so-called “Monte Carlo” simulations, which are commonly used in finance to try to model the likely behaviour of markets. Finance is not the only industry looking for a way to profit from even the small, un- Stable quantum computers that mark the current state of the art; sectors from aero- Space to pharmaceuticals are also hunting 97 98 Market moves—froth or substance? 99 Revisiting the gold standard 100 Free exchange: Supply chains and reshoring for a “quantum advantage”. But there are reasons to think finance may be among the first to find it. Mike Biercuk of Q-CTRL, a Startup that makes control software for quantum computers, points out that anew financial algorithm can be deployed faster than a new industrial process. The size of financial markets means that even a small advance would be worth a lot of money. Banks are also buying in expertise. Firms including BBVA, Citigroup, JPMorgan and Standard Chartered have set up re- Search teams and signed deals with com- puting firms. The Boston Consulting Group reckons that, as ofJune, banks and insurers in America and Europe had hired more than 115 experts—a big number for what re- mains, even in academia, a small special- ism. “We have more physics and maths PhDs than some big universities,’ jokes Alexei Kondratyev, head of data analytics at Standard Chartered. Startups are exploring possibilities too. Enrique Lizaso of Multiverse Computing reckons his firm’s quantum-enhanced al- gorithms can spot fraud more effectively, and around a hundred times faster, than existing ones. The firm has also experi- mented with portfolio optimisation, in which analysts seek well-performing in- vestment strategies. Multiverse re-ran de- cisions made by real traders at a bank. The job was to choose, over the course of a year, the most profitable mix from a group of 50 assets, subject to restrictions, such as how often trades could be made. 98 Finance & economics == New toys Finance, adoption of selected technologies 1959 = Bank of America first to use computers to automate book-keeping 1960 Quotron allows stockmarket quotes to be shown on a screen 1967 First ATM transaction 1971 Nasdaq, an automated stock exchange, founded 1979 1982 First spreadsheet software, VisiCalc, released Bloomberg terminals launched Renaissance Technologies, a quantitative- algorithmic-trading fund, founded 1991 ‘First Al-based fraud detection 1994 Python, now the dominant financial- programming language, released 2001 = Citadel Securities, a high-frequency marketmaker, founded 2008 High-frequency trading makes up the majority of equity trading in America 2011 ‘First fully functioning mobile-banking app released 2016 Quant-investor trading volumes exceed hedge-fund volumes in America Source: The Economist The result was a problem with around 1013°° possible solutions, a number that far outstrips the number of atoms in the visi- ble universe. In reality, the bank’s traders, assisted by models running on classical computers, managed an annual return of 19%. Depending on the amount of volatility investors were prepared to put up with, Multiverse’s algorithm generated returns of 20-80% —though it stops short of claim- ing a definitive quantum advantage. Not all potential uses are so glamorous. Monte Carlo simulations are often used in regulatory stress tests. Christopher Savoie of Zapata, a quantum-computing firm based in Boston, recalls one bank executive telling him: “Don’t bring me trading algo- rithms, bring me a solution to CCAR [an American stress-test regulation]. That stuff eats up half my computing budget.” All this is promising. But quantum fl- nanciers acknowledge that, for now, hard- ware is a limitation. “We’re not yet able to perform these calculations at a scale where a quantum machine offers a real-world ad- vantage over a classical one,’ says Mr Bier- cuk. One rough way to measure a quantum computer’s capability is its number of “qu- bits’, the analogue of classical computing’s 1-or-o bits. For many problems a quantum computer with thousands of stable qubits is provably far faster than any non-quan- tum machine that could ever be built—it just does not exist yet. For now, the field must make do with Small, unstable devices, which can per- form calculations for only tiny fractions of a second before their delicate quantum states break down. John Preskill of the Cali- fornia Institute of Technology has dubbed these “NISQs’—“Noisy, Intermediate-Scale Quantum computers’. Bankers are working on ways to con- duct computations on such machines. Mr Zeng of Goldman pointed out that the com- putational resources needed to run quan- tum algorithms have fallen as program- mers have tweaked their methods. Mr Pistoia points to papers his team has writ- ten exploring ways to scale useful financial calculations into even small machines. And at some point those programmers will meet hardware-makers coming the other way. In 2019 Google was the first to demonstrate “quantum supremacy’, using a 53-qubit NISQ machine to perform in minutes a calculation that would have tak- en the world’s fastest supercomputer more than 10,000 years. IBM, which has invested heavily in quantum computing, reckons it can build a 1,000-qubit machine by 2023. Both it and Google have talked of a million qubits by the end of the decade. When might the financial revolution come? Mr Savoie thinks simple algorithms could be in use within 18 months, with credit-scoring a plausible early applica- tion. Mr Kondratyev says three to five years is more realistic. But the crucial point, says one observer, is that no one wants to be late to the party. One common worry is that whoever makes a breakthrough first may choose to reap the rewards in obscurity, rather than broadcast the fact to the world. After all, says Mr Biercuk, “that is how high-frequency trading got started”. Market mania Froth or fundamentals? There may be more sense to recent market movements than you think VEN IN NORMAL times, there is an ele- ment of drama to the markets. The oil price may spike or slump in reaction toa geopolitical wobble; bond yields may leap on strong jobs figures; and shareholders may pump up astock that posted juicy pro- fits. But 2020 has taken the drama to an ex- treme (see chart 1). The equity sell-off in March was unmatched in its swiftness: stocks lost 30% of their value in a month. The yield on ten-year American Treasuries, the most important asset worldwide, fell by half between January and the middle of March and then by half again in a matter of days, before seizing up and yo-yoing. The contract for imminently delivered barrels of American oil briefly went negative. Over the course of 2020 timber prices have fall- The Economist December 19th 2020 Whiplash 2020, % change ~ March 20th- I November 6th- November 6th December 14th Ce CO nS OU mmol ! January 1st- March 20th Container- freight rates Gold price Cocoa price Copper price S&P 500 S&P 500 cyclicals Treasury yields* Brent crude-oil price Source: Bloomberg *Ten-year en by half, doubled, doubled again, fallen by half once more and then doubled again (overall, they have doubled in 2020). If the plunge in asset prices as countries locked down terrified asset managers, then recovery—led by a fierce bull run in tech stocks over the summer—has made them uneasy. It was only in 2018 that a public company, Apple, first became valued at more than $:1trn. In net terms, Apple has gained around $750bn this year. Tesla has increased in value six-fold this year, to a market capitalisation of more than $600bn, roughly the value of the other sev- en most valuable carmakers combined. Even stocks that were unloved earlier in the year, like banks and energy firms, have rebounded of late, on a spate of good news—of an effective vaccine, and of a clear victory for Joe Biden in America’s presidential elections. When Airbnb, a platform for booking overnight stays, made its public debut on December 10th— after a year in which no-one travelled any- where—its share price leapt by 115%. On De- cember 5th the value of global stocks crossed $10o0trn for the first time. Financial markets reflect investors’ ex- pectations about the future, so it is hardly Surprising that they have been chaotic in 2020. But the rebound in risky assets amid fragile economic conditions prompts the question of whether bubbles have formed in certain assets, or whether the ups and downs can be explained by rapidly shifting fundamental factors. Consider first the evidence for froth. Even as profits slumped, investors in the S&P 500 benchmark index earned 14.3% (excluding dividends) in 2020, about dou- ble the typical return over the past 20 years. The gains have pumped up measures of stockmarket valuations. One such gauge is the cyclically adjusted price-to-earnings, Or “CAPE’, ratio, devised by Robert Shiller, a Nobel-prizewinning economist. This looks at inflation-adjusted share prices rel- ative to the ten-year average of real earn- ings per share. When the ratio is high, stocks are dear relative to their earnings; >> The Economist December 19th 2020 » such periods have tended to be followed by low long-term returns over the next de- cade. In America the ratio in November 2020 was 33, above its level earlier in the year (see chart 2). Only twice before has the ratio exceeded 30 in America—the late 1920s and the early 2000s. The big tech firms, many of which were expected to benefit from online shopping and home working, have played a dispro- portionate role in the broader rally. They account for two-thirds of the total returns from holding the S&P 500. At the start of 2020 Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft were worth around $5trn and made up17.5% of the value of the index. The five are now worth more than $7trn, and their share has risen to 22%. Further evidence of froth is the frenzy around initial public offerings of firms such as Airbnb, and the revival in retail trading. Retail investors accounted for 20% of the volume of stock trading, up from15% in 2019. In the summer small buyers of call options—bets on share prices rising—were responsible for more derivatives trading than large ones. The circumstantial evidence, then, looks bubbly. But a cross-examination of fundamental factors suggests that these can explain more than a fair chunk of what is going on. Cyclical assets, like stocks in restaurants and retailers, or commodities, like oil and copper, tend to rally as business booms. These fell quickly in value in Febru- ary and March, followed by slow recoveries as the world reopened. But since November gth, when news of an effective vaccine broke, they have surged. Container-freight rates have risen to all-time highs. Brent crude oil rose above $50 a barrel for the first time since March on December ioth. Moreover, the move in interest rates ap- pears to more than explain the behaviour of equity prices. In isolation, the CAPE ratio ignores the impact of discount rates on val- uations. The value of a firm, to its share- holders, is the present value of a firm’s fu- ture profits—meaning share prices tend to be sensitive to changing expectations of =a CAPE crusader S&P 500 CAPE* ratio 50 40 30 20 10 0 I. iF foe. a: nf ky i. oF mh Th Gf of 1900 20 40 60 80 2000 20 Source: Robert Shiller, Yale University future profits, but also to the discount rate used to calculate what those are worth to- day. There have been enormous changes in this discount rate for stocks. At the start of 2020 the yield on ten-year Treasuries was 1.8%; by the middle of March it was just 0.6%. Since the vaccine news yields have risen once more, to around 0.9%. To account for this, on November 30th Mr Shiller published “excess CAPE yield” numbers, which are calculated by invert- ing the CAPE ratio, to give an indication of the expected yield on equities, and then subtracting the expected real returns on holding bonds (which, thanks to low rates and modest inflation expectations over the next decade, are negative). The excess yield is actually higher than in January (see chart 3). In other words, equities have become more attractive than bonds—at first proba- bly because bond yields fell so quickly, boosting the relative appeal of stocks, but lately thanks to the vaccine heralding the return of growth and profits, which a mod- est increase in yields has not offset. The rise in share prices alone, then, is probably not enough to indicate a mania, given the shift in discount rates. This may not dispel investors’ disquiet, in part be- cause they are surrounded by evidence of exuberance. But the case fora bubble, at the very least, is notopenand shut. & Excess CAPE* yieldt, % 2000 05 10 15 20 *Cyclically adjusted price-to-earnings ‘The inverse of CAPE, minus real bond yields Finance & economics 99 ~ Counterfactual economics I N THE AFTERMATH Of the first world wart, the gold standard inspired near- ly religious fervour from central bank- ers. European officials dutifully re- pegged their war-battered currencies to gold at great cost to their citizens. A hundred years on, it has lost its lustre. Judy Shelton’s past support for it may have derailed her nomination to the Federal Reserve’s board. A recent paper” shows why the gold standard’s tar- nished reputation is well deserved. The authors calculate the impact of a gold standard, had it been in place in 2000-20. This would have required the Fed to set interest rates to maintaina fixed dollar price of gold, rather than to target inflation. The central bank’s policy rate would have become a func- tion of gold supply—the amount of metal mined—and gold demand from investors and households. Fluctuating gold demand can make monetary policy procyclical. In bad times, people stop spending and in- crease their demand for gold, so central banks must raise interest rates to make other assets more attractive and stabil- ise gold’s price. In good times the re- verse happens, and central banks have to cut rates. The pace at which gold is mined also introduces some random- ness to monetary policy. Whenever gold floods the market, interest rates must fall to keep its price stable. Gold shortages force interest rates up. Itis up to fate whether or not the movements in rates are good for the economy. It requires Herculean assumptions for the gold standard to beat today’s regime, judged by gauges suchas the volatility of inflation. The authors show this would be so if the only forces buffeting the economy were fluctua- tions in productivity growth and in labour supply, and if the supply of gold tracked productivity. Those assumptions, though, do not Survive contact with reality. To adhere to the gold standard the Fed would have had to maintain high interest rates even during the global financial crisis, and beyond, with disastrous effects; in the first quarter of 2020, output would have been 10% lower than otherwise. Gold’s lost shine is no bad thing. *”Bury the gold standard? A quantitative exploration’ by Anthony Diercks, Jonathan Rawls and Eric Sims, NBER Working Paper. 100 Finance & economics The Economist December 19th 2020 Free exchange | Location, location, location Is a wave of reshoring around the corner? UPPLY-CHAIN managers have had a stressful few years. From Sino-American trade wars and Brexit to covid-induced restric- tions on medical exports and travel, there has been a lot to deal with. At the worst of the pandemic company bosses inevitably wondered if bringing production closer to consumers might help. In April a survey conducted by Ey, an accounting firm, found that as many as 83% of multinational executives were contemplating so-called “reshoring” or “nearshoring”. Recent history shows how Sticky supply chains can be, but might this time be different? Politicians have long angled for companies to shift production to their shores because they want jobs for their constituents. There can bea business case for it too, in order to cut transport costs, say, or reduce inventories. The Reshoring Initiative, which advocates for more manufacturing in America, cites the allure of “Made in USA” branding for older Midwesterners. Some reckon technology might encourage reshoring. In 2017 a report by ING, a bank, pre- dicted that 3D printing could wipe out 40% of trade flows by 2040. Yet the experience of the past decade suggests that for every company reshoring production, there may be more doing the op- posite. A survey of German manufacturers found that 2% brought production home between 2010 and mid-2012. Four times as many shifted operations abroad during that time. A study published in 2016 by the OECD, aclub of mostly rich countries, found that the ef- fects of reshoring on national economies were “(still) limited”. Nor does recent history suggest that new technologies will can- nibalise trade. Take 3D printing. A study by Caroline Freund, Alen Mulabdic and Michele Ruta of the World Bank found that its use in the hearing-aid industry increased trade by 58% over nearly a de- cade, compared with what it might have been expected to be oth- erwise. As the technology was useful for only part of the manufac- turing process and hearing aids are cheap to transport, supply chains did not retreat. Gary Gereffi of Duke University cites the failure of Adidas to print shoes in America and Germany as evi- dence of the importance of highly orchestrated production net- works. He found that a lack of locally available components meant the shoes had to be simplified so much they lost their consumer appeal. The adoption of other technologies can make importing, rather than reshoring, more attractive. Katherine Stapleton of the World Bank and Michael Webb of Stanford University found that Spanish firms using robots were more likely to increase their im- ports from low-income countries, or open affiliates there. Produc- tivity-enhancing automation led firms to expand output, and so import more parts. The rise in tariffs in America and elsewhere over the past four years could, in theory, have been a game-changer, encouraging companies to move supply chains nearer consumers. But evidence of a great shift towards “Made in USA” following President Donald Trump’s tariffs on Chinese imports is scant. Although American manufacturing imports from 14 Asian countries fell in 2019, there was no Offsetting increase in gross domestic manufacturing pro- duction. A study by Ben Charoenwong of the National University of Singapore and Miaozhe Han and Jing Wu of the Chinese Univer- sity of Hong Kong suggests that, while trade-policy uncertainty was associated with a reduction in the number of foreign suppliers to American companies serving the home market, on average these acquired no more domestic suppliers. Might the pandemic prompt a shifting of supply chains? So far signs of reshoring are limited. In America import growth is out- pacing domestic manufacturing production. Medical companies may be scarred by their experience of the swine-flu outbreak in 2009. At a hearing held by the United States International Trade Commission in September this year, one speaker recalled that companies ramped up production after the swine-flu pandemic, only to be driven to the verge of bankruptcy when demand fell back to normal. Sebastien Miroudot of the OEcD finds that the evidence in favour of diversifying across many suppliers is shaky; experi- ence suggests that firms with fewer, longer relationships recover from shocks more quickly. Rather than relocation, he has written, the research seems to argue for ensuring that production can be flexibly moved from place to place in an emergency. The call of home After their initial scare at the start of the pandemic, many compa- nies now seem to have lost their urge to rush back home. A fol- low-up survey by EY in October found that just 37% of executives were still considering reshoring; a recent survey of firms in Ameri- ca and Europe by Euler Hermes, a trade-credit insurer, found that less than 15% were contemplating reshoring because of covid-19. Some caution is in order, though. The pandemic is not over, and shifting production can be a slow business. There is some sign of movement in specialist industries: Biju Mohan of GEP, a supply- chain consultancy, reports increased interest from life-sciences firms in moving production from China to America. And industri- al policy is back in vogue, and only just gathering steam in Europe and America. Both have plans to subsidise chipmaking, for exam- ple, and to make home-grown renewable-energy investments. The economic plan of America’s president-elect, Joe Biden, talks of firms being “dangerously dependent on foreign suppliers”. The resilience of supply chains so far may come down to a Vir- tuous circle created when globalisation accelerated in the 1990s. When production networks stretch across several countries, trade restrictions can backfire, hurting both the exporter and the im- porter. That gave governments a big incentive to co-operate, and in turn meant companies were comfortable building or relying on far-flung factories. But, as Brexit, the trade war and a hobbled World Trade Organisation show, that trust is eroding, and compa- nies’ sense of security with it. Companies do not want to hunker down behind borders. But they could yet be forced todoso. @ * Holiday specials THE SOUTHERN HIGHLANDS OF MARS A Short walk in Gale crater Ow YOU came to be on this flat desert plain at this time does not matter. What matters is the land- SCape around you. To the north there is what appears to be a rim around the world, brightened by morning-lit dust at its base, darker as it rises into the sky. In some places itisa disordered, stepping-stone staircase of hummocky hills; in some it has a steep, solid face. However they are reached, though, its heights are strangely continu- ous and peculiarly even in stature: ascarp, nota moun- tain range, one that curves as it stretches to the left and right, the east and west. You turn and face the mountain, broad and daunt- ing. Itis both nearer than the rim which encircles itand higher—taller and more wide-shouldered than Mont Blanc, Mount Rainier or Mount Fuji. Around its base, dunes sweep past flat-topped mesas. Behind and above them, a layered reddish rock rises a kilometre or more, its sturdy ridges casting stripes of shadow in the oblique light. The slopes immediately above are brighter and more chaotic, like a soft wood savagely chiselled. Higher still, towards the snowless peak, you think you pick out layers again, perhaps, of some sort. But it is hard to say: the air, though thin, is dusty, and the heights are far away. You adjust your straps, square your shoulders, and Start to walk towards it. The encircling scarp to the north of you is the rim of The Economist December 19th 2020 Following the tracks of NASA’s Curiosity rover ——” — – Gale crater, a circular basin 150km in diameter which, though only five degrees from the Martian equator, is part of what scientists call the southern highlands. It was formed by the impact of an asteroid between 3.8bn and 3.5bn years ago. The crater-bottom plain over which you are walking is Aeolis Palus; the mountain towards which you are headed is known officially as Aeolis Mons, but colloquially as Mount Sharp. The heights of Mount Sharp are unlike those of any Earthly mountain. Its roots are older than any Earthly continent. The rocks under your feet, though, have no such strangeness to them. Only an expert geochemist could distinguish them from the rocks of some Earthly desert. The mountain-in-a-crater landscape has been Shaped by forces never expressed this way on Earth. But the details and textures that meet your eyes are en- tirely familiar. Indeed, the rocks are doubly familiar: familiar from analogues on the Earth; familiar from prior inspection. Everything you see here in Gale crater has already been examined and appreciated through eyes from Earth. Just not through human ones. It is not its height which makes Mount Sharp spe- cial. Olympus Mons rises almost 25km above the low- lands of Amazonis, three times the height of Everest. The great peaks of Tharsis and Elysium rise consider- ably higher than Hawaii’s Mauna Loa does above the abyssal plains of the Pacific. Mount Sharp is modest by comparison. But unlike Mars’s highest heights, it was 101 102 * Travelogue of Mars » created in a uniquely Martian way. Earth’s mountains come in two forms. There are chains like the Alps and Himalayas, pushed up when two tectonic plates collide, and there are volcanoes, built up by hot rock rising from below. But both types, like empires, go through arise and fall. The forces that drive them into the sky eventually abate; erosion takes care of what is left behind. Mars’s greatest mountains, and many of its smaller ones, are volcanoes of a particular type—built up by flow after flow of dark, basaltic lava driven to the sur- face by heat from the mantle far below. They can be higher than Earth’s because, perhaps ironically, Mars is a smaller planet. Being small, it started off with less in- ternal heat than Earth; it has lower gravity; and it has been unable to hang on to the thick atmosphere it once seems to have had: that is all good news from the point of view of mega-mountains. A lack of internal heat means that the planet’s stiff, cold crust is thicker than Earth’s, and not divided into jostling tectonic plates. On Earth a hotspot in the man- tle can feed magma to a mountain on the surface above for only a few million years before the movements of the crust sever the link. On Mars the crust stays put, so a mantle hotspot can feed the growth of a single volca- no fora billion years, maybe more. On Earth, the crust would buckle under such loads. On Mars, where the crust is thicker and basalt weighs less, it supports them. And the thin, dry atmosphere means their heights see hardly any erosion. Ice and running water quickly erode away Earth’s proudest peaks. Troubled only by the thinnest of winds, Mars’s great volcanoes suffer no such levelling. They stood as high as they do today when the rocks of Everest first Started their rise from the bottom of the Indian Ocean: they will be all but unchanged when erosion has re- turned the Himalayas to the plains and seas below. At lower altitudes, though, the weak but insistent wind can have its way with softer rocks, and that is the unearthly way in which Mount Sharp was made. When Gale crater was formed, Mars had not yet become the cold, dry, all-but-airless world it is today. Looking at pictures taken from orbit in the 20th century, scien- tists saw that soon after Gale’s formation its rim, then considerably higher than the remnant away from which you are walking, was ground down in the way that mountains on Earth are, with rivers and streams Spreading its remains over the crater’s floor. When the water and ice ran out, wind-blown sedi- ments were piled on top of these water-borne ones. Not long after the planet’s comparatively warm, wet youth was fully spent, Gale’s great basin was filled, per- haps to the brim, with sediments hardened into rock—as, it appears, were craters across the Southern Highlands. Mars boasts the only such sedimentary rocks yet seen anywhere beyond Earth. Having given, the wind then began to take away. For geologists interested in wind-shaped landscapes Mars is very heaven. For billions of years its thin winds have been building dunes, carving yardangs, polishing des- ert pavements and endlessly redistributing dust. All these processes take place on Earth. But on Earth the rain raineth, if not every day, at least every century, and deserts bloom or vanish as climates and continents shift. None of that happens on Mars. The wind has world enough and time to do all that it could wish. A mountain created by subtraction from above The Economist December 19th 2020 At Gale, and in other filled-in craters, it excavated. But it did so unevenly, scouring harder near the rim, paying less attention to the middle. Consequently the central sediments began to stand proud. The presence of this protuberance encouraged the wind to pass around it, reinforcing its tendency to dig more deeply closer to the rim, hollowing out a doughnut trench. And so, over aeons, Mount Sharp was cut out of the once-even plain, a mountain not added to the surface from below like those of Earth, but created by subtrac- tion from above. In carving out Mount Sharp, the winds laid bare the planet’s history. Its higher slopes are all but certainly made of compacted dust, and maybe some volcanic ash. Its lower strata are part of the original sedimentary infilling, washed into place from the eroding rim. So are the lowlands. You are walking on a lake bed that dates to a time when the Sun was but a quarter of its current age. The thought makes you both proud and slightly uneasy as you scuttle across the silent floor. At the dawn of the 21st century, when the sedimen- tary deep past of Mars was first beginning to be appre- ciated, geologists realised that the aeolian landscape of Gale crater offered a pair of attributes that made ita particularly promising site for study. The sedimentary Strata of lower Mount Sharp might record both the planet’s early environment and the chemical changes that accompanied its subsequent desiccation. And the adjacent crater floor offered a nice big patch of smooth terrain on which a spacecraft could land. So on August 6th 2012 a hovering “sky crane” that had parachuted down through the Martian sky lowered a rover called Curiosity onto the surface. The sediments that had been hoped for were there in abundance. “I’d expected mudstones,’ said one geologist. “I hadn’t ex- pected to spend most of the mission looking at them.” Within a couple of years Curiosity had confirmed that the inside of Gale crater really had been a lake, one with a rich history of its own. It had emptied and filled up again. There were coarser rocks closer to where the sediments had washed down from the rim; there were what seemed to be stream beds filled in by later muds, their rocks preserving ripples created by the gentle flow of water aeons ago. It was the best evidence ever seen ofa habitable environment beyond Earth. Daring to disturb Curiosity crept forward a few metres at a time. It took years to reach the mountain. You are covering the dis- tance a thousand times faster. But your walk is still rather slow. This is not due to dawdling or awe, though maybe it should be. It is a matter of physics. The lower gravity of Mars slows things down. When you walk ata natural pace, the leg that is off the ground swings for- ward like a pendulum: that is what makes walking so energy-efficient. Pendulums swing slower under the low gravity of Mars, and thus so do legs; your walking pace is about two-thirds what it is on Earth. But other gaits are available. One involves pushing your lighter-than-it-should-be body into the air with your forward foot so that both legs are out of contact with the ground as the trailing foot swings forwards. When you land on the same foot with which you pushed off, the other foot comes down ahead of it, giv- ing you a Split second of doubly-footed steadiness be- fore you push off again with that second, now forward, >> The Economist December 19th 2020 Travelogue of Mars foot. This is a gait that comes naturally to five-year- olds but which adults on Earth forsake; it takes up more energy than walking. On Mars it is both speedy and practical. And also rather fun. To reach the moun- tain faster, you Start to skip. As the land begins to rise, it also begins to break up. When the wind’s scouring reaches a particularly tough layer of sediment, it deepens cracks within that layer and eventually gets to work on softer rocks beneath, undermining the overlying stratum. The land takes on a shattered look. Some bits collapse sooner than oth- ers, the hold-outs balancing, for a while, on plinths of softer rock below. The most dramatic such forms on Earth look like petrified pseudo-mushrooms: broad, tough caps on thin stems. Curiosity never saw such pedestal formations. But you are not following directly in its tracks—they are protected as part of Martian heritage. And you can clamber over obstacles the rover would have had to cir- cumnavigate. The ease with which you can jump up is the strongest reminder that this landscape is not an Earthly desert. That, and the lack of detritus. “The only way you know that you’re not in the American West’, said one of the Curiosity scientists, “is that there are no old cars that have been used for target practice.” When you come to the dunes, though, they add some otherworldly strangeness. Mars’s nearly omni- present, iron-oxide-rich, wind-blown dust imposes a palette of tan and reddish browns on almost all the planet’s landscapes, not to mention its skies. The thin line of dunes around the mountain’s base is an inter- vention of near perfect black, its slopes and crests like calligraphy in India ink. This is because the dunes, unlike almost every oth- er aspect of the Martian surface, are active. They are composed of sand from outside the crater blown against the mountain’s base, accumulating in drifts which are flowing around to the west. And those roll- ing sand grains gather no dust. They maintain the col- our of the basalt that makes up most of the Martian crust: tarmac black. Curiosity had to look carefully for a safe passage through this Stygian flow. Active sands are no friends to rovers; one of its predecessors, Spirit, lost contact with Earth after it got stuck in a sand trap in Gusev cra- ter. With the benefit of legs as opposed to wheels, and with muscles much stronger than is necessary in this weak gravity, you have no such fears. You can clamber up the dunes’ shallow stoss sides and slide down their Steep slipfaces. You can lie down and make sand angels that sharp-eyed satellites can see from space. The pervasive out-of-placeness engendered by Mars tends to inhibit such frolics. Being alive in this barren, alien landscape is a triumphant achievement, but it is also an incipient pollution: matter out of place should know its place. But in the dunes it is different. Here Mars moves, and Mars forgets. The sands’ journey around the flanks of Mount Sharp will erase all trace of your passing. And so to the harder, steeper rock of Mount Sharp’s slopes. They are still sedimentary, but geochemically distinct from the rocks below. Curiosity spent the early years of the 2020s making sense of those distinctions as it headed towards the intriguing gully of Gediz Val- lis. You are content simply to climb them, headed up towards the wind-formed, wind-shaped strangeness of the higher reaches, your steps passing over unwit- nessed and unmeasured spans of time. Late in the morning, you come to a sandstone ledge and pause; almost a kilometre above the dunes, you look around again. The rim, now lit evenly from the south, looks more uniform than it did earlier. The tex- tures of the plain are richer looked down on than they were when you stood amid them. You can no longer look up at the peak without looking directly at the Sun, and so you don’t. But it still beckons. Curiosity’s diligent explorations did not exhaust hu- man curiosity about this place, nor dent the wonder to be felt here; in fact they whetted both. Mysteries re- mained, and still remain, spread out through the silent rocks and over all the planet’s strange history. So much remains unknown. But the rock you stand on and the slopes ahead: they are real and present, as solid beneath your feet as they were clear in Curiosity’s cameras. The weak wind at your back, you continue the climb. == ‘we. = 103 Free Financial Tools Wealth Management personal ee Be a eee CAPITAL abundance in your A oPANy thoughts and focus on financial well-being.” -Deepak Chopra™, MD Founder, Chopra Global Author Deepak Chopra has a mission to empower personal transformation. A healthy, abundance-filled life begins with healthy habits. That’s why he’s working with Personal Capital to help people reduce stress and find financial confidence. Start today by using our powertul, free financial tools to see where you stand—now, and for your retirement. fo aes sy Pp Pecos This new year, find financial peace of mind. FREE FINANCIAL TOOLS AVAILABLE ON WEB & MOBILE Download free financial tools today at personalcapital.com/econ Featured individuals are paid spokespeople and not clients of PCAC and do not make any endorsements or recommendations about securities offerings or investment strategy. 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The Economist December 19th 2020 Holiday specials * Economies past Factories and families Working from home had its advantages, even in the 18th and 19th centuries ALLY BROWN, who was born in Vermont in the early S 1800s, had a typically varied schedule for a working woman of the time. As her diary shows, one day she is finishing stockings; another she is milking a cow; an- other she is refining wool. All of her jobs were done from home. The shift from offices to kitchen tables among white-collar workers in 2020 seems unprecedented, and only possible with Slack and Zoom. But it is noth- ing new. Indeed, the history of home-working suggests some surprising parallels with today. The emergence of capitalism in Britain and else- where from the 1600s to the mid-i9th century did not take place primarily in factories, but in people’s houses. Workers made everything from dresses to Shoes to matchboxes in their kitchens or bedrooms. When Adam Smith wrote “The Wealth of Nations” in 1776, it was perfectly common to work from home. Smith famously described the operation of the divi- sion of labour in pin-making, but not ina dark, satanic mill. He was describing a “small manufactory” of per- haps ten people—which could well have been in or at- tached to somebody’s house. It is not easy to put exact numbers on how many people have worked from home during different his- torical periods. Even in Britain, where economic data reach farther back than in any other country, little reli- able labour-force data exist until the mid-1800s. Other sources left clues, however. One relates to the meaning of the word “house”. Today it connotes domesticity. But up until the 19th century it had a much broader de- finition, with the suffix “-house” encompassing eco- nomic production, too. In “A Christmas Carol”, Scrooge works in a “counting-house’”. Architecture offers other hints. In Britain, many 18th-century houses still have unusually large upstairs windows; cloth-weavers, who worked there, needed as much light as they could get. Around 1900 French administrators took the lead in asking people about their place of work, not only what they did. They found that one-third of France’s manu- facturing workforce worked from home. Danish sur- veys around the same time found that a tenth of the to- tal workforce did so full-time at home. These research efforts took place at the high point of the factory-based system of production; in previous decades the share of home-working would have been far higher. According to one estimate for America, using official data, in the early 1800s more than 40% of the total workforce la- boured from home. Only by 1914 did the majority of the labour force work in an office or factory. The emergence of an at-home industrial workforce had two main causes. The growth of global trade and the rise in per-person income from the 1600s onwards raised demand for manufactured goods such as wool- lens and watches. But the emerging new technology was more suited to small-scale working than large- >» 106 * Working from home » scale factories (the spinning jenny, the machine which kickstarted the industrial revolution, was notinvented until the 1760s). Homes were the obvious place to be. What emerged was called the “putting-out system”. Workers would collect raw materials, and sometimes equipment, from a central depot. They would return home and make the goods for a few days, before giving back the finished articles and getting paid. Workers were independent contractors: they were paid by the piece, not by the hour, and they had little if any guaran- tee of work week to week. Accounts of what it was actually like to work from home in the 18th and 19th centuries are few and far be- tween. Many putting-out workers were women, who were less likely to write autobiographies (women’s dominance in the putting-out system also explains why generations of historians have not paid it much at- tention). Some characteristics nonetheless emerge from the archives. Average working hours were longer (see chart). Unlike today, where most people have one job, people flitted from one task to another, depending on where money could be made, like Sally Brown. With fingers weary and worn Some economic historians suggest that workers were mercilessly exploited under the putting-out system. Those who owned the machines and raw materials en- joyed enormous power over those they employed. With workers dispersed across acounty, it was difficult for them to team up against exploitative bosses to de- mand better pay, let alone form trade unions. Bosses “could easily gang up against the rural spinner who faced a take-it-or-leave-it offer of work,’ argue Jane Humphries and Ben Schneider of Oxford University, in a paper from 2019. Some workers truly struggled. Thomas Hood’s poem “The Song of the Shirt” evokes a home-working woman labouring in poverty. As a result, some historians welcome the develop- ment of the factory system from the late 18th century onwards. Workers moved from a place where domestic life intermingled freely with economic production toa place solely dedicated to the pursuit of efficiency. It is hardly surprising that labour productivity was higher in the factory, nor that the factory system gradually outperformed the putting-out system and came to re- place it. Crammed together in a factory, workers could more easily club together to ask for higher wages; trade Some home- workers resisted the shift to the factory system, most notably by joining the Luddites — OO… Oe A brief history of time Britain, average weekly hours worked* First world war First industrial revolution Combination Act suppresses trade unions First piece of factory legislation to improve conditions in cotton mills strikes Coal 1600 Source: Bank of England 1700 1800 1900 Selected General strike Second 80 world war 60 Equal Pay Act 40 Winter of Public 20 discontent sector Miners | Miners 2016 *Adjusted for part-time work, sickness, holidays and stoppages The Economist December 19th 2020 unions started to grow from the 1850s onwards. Ac- cording to English data, factory workers were paid 10-20% more than home-workers. But is that the whole story? Some home-workers re- sisted the shift to the factory system—most notably by joining the Luddites, a society of English textile work- ers in the 19th century who smashed up machines which they perceived were putting them out of a job. Another explanation is that factory owners, at least in the short term, had little option but to offer higher wages in order to entice workers from their homes. That suggests that home-working had its advantages. One such advantage was economic. Home-workers may have been poorly paid relative to factory folk, but they could earn income by other means. Wool-indus- try home-workers would receive a given quantity of material and were then supposed to return the same weight of material fashioned into stockings. But by ex- posing the wool to steam, it would weigh more, allow- ing the workers to keep some of the raw materials. That was not the only advantage. Home-workers in rural or semi-rural areas could forage for fuel and food, and so boost their meagre incomes. One observer in 1813 noted sniffily that women in Surrey, acounty close to London, were making three shillings a week from cutting down heath to make brooms—“miserable pro- ductions and trifling employments”, in his view. But three shillings a week was not far off average female earnings at the time. Home-workers also had more control over their time. So long as the work was done to the required Standard and on time, they were not told exactly when or how to do it. That was in sharp contrast to the fac- tory, where every aspect of life was planned in advance and workers were closely monitored. And home-work- ers could decide on the exact mix between work and leisure—in contrast to factory workers, who either worked the 12- or14-hour days stipulated by the factory owner or none atall. Average working hours in the 18th century were shorter than they became in the 19th. After drinking heavily on Sunday evening, home- workers often took the day off before they went “reluc- tantly back to work Tuesday, warmed to the task Wednesday, and laboured furiously Thursday and Fri- day’, as David Landes, an economic historian at Har- vard University, put it. People also got more sleep. This greater autonomy was especially important for mothers. Ina world where men did little by way of fam- ily work, women could combine child care with con- tributing to the family income. It was far from easy. Sometimes women would give their infants “Godfrey’s Cordial”, a mixture of sugar syrup and laudanum, to knock them out for a while. But home-working al- lowed for the combination of paid work and family work in a way that the factory system did not. As fac- tories spread, female labour-force participation fell. In 1920 Max Weber, a German sociologist, argued that the separation of the worker’s place of work from their home had “extraordinarily far-reaching” conse- quences. The factory was more efficient than the home-based system which had preceded it—but it was also a space in which workers had less control over their lives, and where they had much less fun. Depend- ing on how permanent it proves to be, today’s pandem- ic-induced shift back to the home could have similarly far-reaching effects. * The Economist December 19th 2020 Shaolin monastery The profession of DENGFENG renunciation OR NEARLY two hours the monks sit folded in the lo- tus position, motionless and silent. All are robed in grey apart from the cherubic man in Saffron, their leader. When the last joss-stick burns down, he glides out of the room without a word, later offering a brief explanation of the meditation: “True wisdom emerges not from a calculating mind but from the wellspring of your heart.” It is the kind of line that might appearona motivational poster. Voiced by this man, Shi Yongxin, the words sound heavier, weighed down by scandal. Mr Shi is abbot of Shaolin Monastery, one of the world’s best-known Buddhist shrines. Tourists flock there to see its warrior monks, impossibly flexible young men who fell imaginary foes with flying kicks beneath the craggy peaks of Mount Song. Founded 1,500 years ago, it is the cradle of kung fu and Zen Bud- dhism. But in recent years it has had more infamy than honour. Mr Shi has been criticised for transforming hallowed ground into a crass business venture. “CEO monk’ is his moniker, appearing in headlines again and again. Who could resist it? Under Mr Shi, a monk with an MBA, the monastery has expanded abroad and made plans to list on the stockmarket. In 2015 the extent of his hypocrisy seemed to be re- vealed. Police opened an investigation after an accuser claimed that Mr Shi had enriched himself and violated Holiday specials How tales of a “CEO monk” obscure the more complex business of faith in China his vows of celibacy. It was easy to dismiss the abbot as a Sham, avenal man cloaked in religious garb. But Bud- dhist parables are rarely so straightforward. Five years on, Mr Shi is still at Shaolin, cleared of all charges. He lives in a windowless room in its centre, looking less like a cunning mastermind than a quiet man of faith—one who may have renounced earthly desires but remains at the mercy of earthly forces. Reli- gious institutions everywhere must negotiate between the articles of their belief and the realities of the world. In China that negotiation can get especially fraught. When Mr Shi arrived at Shaolin at the age of 16, life there was much harsher. It was 1981, not long after the Cultural Revolution, when Mao Zedong had sup- pressed Buddhism and Red Guards had destroyed tem- ples. Mr Shi found itin partial ruin. Just 20 monks lived there, subsisting on two steamed buns a day. Soon he had established himself as a lieutenant to its aged, nearly blind abbot. They trekked to government offices in Dengfeng, the monastery’s home county, seeking permission to rebuild temple halls, to perform Bud- dhist rites and, crucially, to sell tickets. In a remarkable twist of karma, Shaolin became a hot destination. In 1982 “Shaolin Temple”, Jet Li’s de- but, hit the cinemas, depicting a foundational story: how 13 monks, supposedly skilled in kung fu, saved a future Tang dynasty emperor in battle. The monastery went from 50,000 visitors a year to 2m 1n1984. Kung fu is just one aspect of Shaolin—a physical discipline that accompanies chanting and medita- tion—but easily the most distinctive. Tales of its war- rior monks have been popular since the 16th century. Knowing that kung fu was Shaolin’s best hope for ap- pealing to secular society, Mr Shi helped create a per- forming troupe in 1987. From the outset, cross-cutting interests complicat- ed matters. The main conflict was between the monks and the Dengfeng officials. For the monks, tourism was a financial lifeline to restore their monastery. For the officials, overseeing a poor county with half a million people, it was a kick-start for development. They squabbled over ticket sales. When the monks sold tick- ets at the temple’s entrance, the officials erected a new gateikm up the road, controlling access. Shaolin also became a magnet for profiteers. People flooded in from nearby villages to open guesthouses, Shops and karaoke parlours outside its walls. In the 1990s the streets around it turned intoa small city, with 20,000 residents. Dozens of kung fu schools, claiming to be the heirs of its fighting tradition, sprung up. Com- panies around China used the monastery for branding: with “Shaolin” cigarettes, cars and, most gallingly for the vegetarian monks, ham and beer. “We did not seek commercialisation. It was thrust upon us,’ says Mr Shi. He sought advice from officials in Henan, Shaolin’s province, about how to safeguard the monastery’s im- age. The only answer, they concluded, was for Shaolin to lay claim to its name. In 1998 it established the He- 107 nan Shaolin Industrial Development Co as a vehicle to >> 108 x Shaolin monastery » file for trademarks—for tea, furniture, hardware and more. Today, Shaolin owns nearly 700 trademarks. Having swatted away the impostors, Shaolin emu- lated some of their techniques. The monastery pro- duced a kung fu teaching mobile app, backed a fight- ing-monk movie and launched a line of traditional Chinese medicine. Mr Shi also joined a dozen monks ona short MBA, a publicly funded course to hone their managerial skills. To its detractors Shaolin embodied the worst of modern China, an ancient religious order debased on the altar of riches. For Mr Shi the logic was—and remains—undeniable. “This is how to make Buddhism relevant.’ If the pope can televise daily mass, why can’t a Shaolin monk seek publicity? Karmic cycle For a time Mr Shi was riding high. He was officially named abbotin1999. The monastery grew to more than 200 monks. He worked out an agreement with Deng- feng county: 70% of ticket sales to the government, the rest to the monastery. Officials razed the streets around the temple, relocating the residents in town—a move that solidified Shaolin’s bid for UNESCO world-heritage status, obtained in 2010. Shaolin became a weapon in China’s soft-power arsenal. Mr Shi met Queen Eliza- beth and Nelson Mandela. He was also skilled at align- ing the monastery with the Communist Party. He made the case that Shaolin was not a religious threat but the government’s humble servant, promoting Chinese culture. From 1998 to 2018 he was a deputy to the Na- tional People’s Congress, the first representative of China’s Buddhists in the rubber-stamp legislature. Yet trouble was brewing. Dengfeng county officials wanted greater economic dividends from Shaolin. In 2009 they formed a joint venture with China National Travel Service (CNTS), a big state-owned company. Dengfeng would inject its share of Shaolin ticket rev- enues into the venture; CNTs would invest in local tou- rism infrastructure. Pointedly, the abbot did not show up at the company’s inauguration ceremony. Word soon spread that Shaolin wanted to list on the stock- market, raising as much as1bn yuan ($150m). Media re- ported it as another extravagant example of the abbot’s worship of mammon. There was just one problem: he was adamantly opposed, fearing it would make Shao- lin a for-profit business. He asked questions that reached Beijing. Wen Jiabao, then China’s prime min- ister, quashed the listing, saying it would harm Shao- lin’s identity. The Dengfeng officials were furious. They saw Mr Shias “amonk who won’tobey authority’, according to one intermediary. They started building a rival temple, to lessen their reliance on Shaolin. In May 2015 nation- al authorities halted the project over concerns that it might damage the area’s cultural heritage. Local media reported that it was the abbot who had again foiled the plans, though he denied that. Three months later, sala- cious accusations surfaced online. They were posted by “Shi Zhengy1’, a self-described Shaolin monk whose pseudonym meant “justice”. He accused the abbot of raping a businesswoman, having two children and em- bezzling millions. The Henan government investigated Mr Shi but in 2017 exonerated him of all the main accusations. Evi- dence in the public domain had always been thin. Pa- ternity tests revealed that neither child was Mr Shi’s. For Mr Shi the logic was— and remains— undeniable. “This is how to make Buddhism relevant” The Economist December 19th 2020 Being China, though, doubts persisted about the inves- tigation’s credibility. Perhaps the abbot had mighty backers. Or perhaps China did not want to sully Shao- lin’s image. Yet those doubts were hard to square with the government’s zest for corruption prosecutions in recent years. Xi Jinping, China’s leader, has repeatedly shown that he believes that institutions matter more than any person (with the notable exception of him- Self). Surely, the same logic could apply to Shaolin. With the abbot’s name officially cleared, the obvi- ous question was whether someone had framed him. Local police told him that they had identified suspects and asked whether they should pursue them. It was as if they were looking for his blessing to let the conspira- tors off the hook. Mr Shi obliged. “What couldI doasa monk? So long as I’m fine, I hope everyone is fine.” For all the controversy about Shaolin, its most strik- ing feature is its smallness. On an autumn afternoon, yellow leaves swirling around, a woman prostrates herself outside its gate, howling inconsolably. Inside, several buildings have warped roofs. The monks uri- nate in an open trough before entering the Chan Tem- ple, its holiest site. “Jing’an [a gold-trimmed temple in Shanghai] is worth ten Shaolins,” says one. And for all the headlines about Mr Shi’s business acumen, there exist many examples of his restrained, even naive, approach to commerce. Shaolin’s most no- torious project was a $300m temple-and-hotel com- plex in Australia, including a 27-hole golf course. Mr Shi had thought the temple would bring Shaolin more followers. Instead, the golf plans—pushed, the abbot says, by local partners—brought scorn. Moreover, Shaolin never had the money to complete the project. It lent its name and seed funds, trusting its partners to raise the rest. Construction has yet to start. There is money to be made in all the kung fu schools near Shaolin. One has more than 30,000 students. But Shaolin has no involvement in the big schools. They offer no Buddhism instruction and their graduates go on to serve in the armed forces or as bodyguards. Some members of the much smaller Shaolin fighting troupe have left to found their own schools. Mr Shi has limited Sway over them. Occasionally he asks for donations— more supplicant than master. CNTS put its stake up for sale in October. It has lost money on Shaolin this year, with tourism hurt by the pandemic. But a dearth of bidders so far points to a deeper reason for the sale: the abbot has outmanoeu- vred the investors. He has also read the changing polit- ical winds in Xi Jinping’s China. In 2018, for the first time in its history, monks raised the national flag over Shaolin. At the ceremony Mr Shi pledged to do more to fuse Buddhism and Chinese culture, a message per- fectly aligned with Mr Xi1’s prescriptions for religion. At lunch the monks gather in a hall, sitting in neat rows. Mr Shiis alone on a raised platform, witha paint- ing of a lion, jaws agape, on the wall behind him. Fora second or two he looks fearsome. Then young monks come by with pots of rice and vegetable stew, slopping some into his bowl. Head down, he eats silently and quickly. In the afternoon a line-up of locals want to see him, to discuss personal problems and matters of faith. Some bring sweet potatoes as gifts; others apples or tea. Visitor numbers may be down, but those enter- ing the monastery are, the abbot says, more serious about their Buddhism. “This is what we want to see.” * The Economist December 19th 2020 Holiday specials * Reconstruction Revolutionary embers N APRIL13TH 1873 a group of armed white men rode O into Colfax, Louisiana, a town around 200 miles north-west of New Orleans. Included in their number were members of the Ku Klux Klan and Knights of the White Camelia, both terrorist groups devoted to main- taining white rule across the American South. They were coming to seize the courthouse, then occupied by black and white Republicans who claimed victory ina disputed election the year before (Republicans were the party of Abraham Lincoln and emancipation). Re- publicans called on their supporters, most of whom in Colfax were black, to defend them. The invaders were better armed, and laid down an enfilade of cannon fire. Some of the defenders fled. They were pursued and shot to death. Around 70 re- treated into the courthouse, which the whites set ablaze. The courthouse’s defenders extended from a window the sleeve of a shirt as a white flag. Emerging unarmed, 37 were taken prisoner. After dark, they and other prisoners were marched two-by-two away from the courthouse, told they were going to be set free. They too were shot, and left unburied for days. As many as 150 black Louisianans died that day. The Colfax Massacre, as it came to be known, was not an isolated incident. In the late 1860s and early 1870S, racist terrorism swept across the South, target- ing newly freed black Southerners and the whites be- lieved to be helping them. This violence hastened the end of Reconstruction. Most historians define the per- How 14 years in America’s history reshaped the country along lines still contested today iod as beginning with the enactment of the Emancipa- tion Proclamation in 1863, before the end of the civil war, and ending when Rutherford Hayes withdrew fed- eral support in 1877 as part of a political bargain that put him in the White House. Southern trees bear a strange fruit Reconstruction began with unbridled enthusiasm among those who saw, in the defeat of the Confederacy and the end of slavery, a chance to remake the South, and compel America to live up to the promise of its founding documents. It ended in cowardice and com- promise. Hayes’s decision led to almost a century of white-supremacist rule across the South, which only began to crumble in the mid-2oth century, as civil- rights activists won court cases and pressured Con- gress and the president to pass and enforce legislation. Reconstruction tends to get less attention than oth- er foundational periods in American history, such as the founding and the civil war. Perhaps that is because, as an attempt to create an enduring multiracial democ- racy, it failed. But in the three Reconstruction amend- ments, and more broadly in the idea that the federal government should actas a guarantor of individual lib- erties, it planted the seeds of such a democracy. For that reason it remains central to American politics. Reconstruction was a deeply contested undertak- ing. For lawmakers and elected officials, it was an at- tempt to answer a question that neither the constitu- >» 110 * Reconstruction » tion nor American history had encompassed. Eleven states—in order of their secession, South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina and Tennes- see—seceded from and waged war against the United States. They were defeated. On what terms, how and when should they be readmitted to the Union? Moderate Republicans favoured a quick reconcilia- tion. Though Lincoln himself had a personal aversion to slavery, his principal interest as president was not ensuring equal rights for all Americans; it was winning the civil war and keeping the United States together. As he wrote to Horace Greeley, a publisher, in 1862, “If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it.. What I do about slavery, and the coloured race, Ido because I believe it helps to save the Union.” Many abolitionists—among them Frederick Doug- lass, born enslaved in Maryland and by the1860s one of America’s most celebrated authors and orators—recog- nised this position as untenable. To Douglass, “the very stomach of this rebellion is the Negro in the condition of a slave.’ He wanted enslaved Americans not just freed, but armed and trained to fight for the Union. Blood on the leaves and blood at the root But Lincoln came to emancipation slowly, led by events more than principle. The border states (Dela- ware, Maryland, Kentucky, Missouri and West Virginia after its creation 1n1863) declined his entreaties for gra- dual emancipation backed by compensation to slave owners. His push to send African-Americans to Libe- ria, the Caribbean or Central America found few takers. As the war progressed, the Union’s need for soldiers grew. Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation not only freed the enslaved, it also welcomed them into the army. Abolitionists recruited free African-Americans in the North, and in the South the Union’s fighting forces included the formerly enslaved. According to Eric Foner, a historian, by the war’s end 180,000 Afri- can-Americans had served in the Union Army. Emancipation also bound the Union’s success to Slavery’s demise. It seems obvious today that the two were always linked. After all, Alexander Stephens, the Confederacy’s vice-president, called slavery the “natu- ral and normal condition” of “the Negro,” who “is not equal to the white man”. But, as Lincoln’s vacillation +> The Reconstruction era American civil war Robert E. Lee surrenders —” Emancipation Proclamation The Freedmen’s Bureau established Civil Rights Act of 1866 Ku Klux Klan founded in Tennessee To Frederick Douglass, “the very stomach of this rebellion is the Negro in the condition of a slave’ President Lincoln begins Reconstruction in Louisiana Reconstruction Acts The Economist December 19th 2020 demonstrates, it was then not so clear, and many hoped for some sort of political reconciliation be- tween northern and southern states under which slav- ery would somehow naturally die out. Almost a year after the Emancipation Proclamation took effect, Lincoln released his Proclamation of Am- nesty and Reconstruction. This moderate plan prom- ised readmission to Confederate states once 10% of their voters accepted abolition and swore loyalty to the Union. Once readmitted, states could draft new consti- tutions, form new governments and send federal rep- resentatives to Washington, DC. The radical wing of Lincoln’s party abhorred the plan. Wendell Phillips, an abolitionist, said that it “frees the slave and ignores the Negro’, meaning that it made no provisions to aid the formerly enslaved, and Said nothing about suffrage. But the border states also bristled; as Mr Foner notes, some Marylanders “felt compelled to deny that voting for abolition implied ‘any sympathy with Negro equality’. This was not un- usual; for many, abolition did not entail a belief in ac- tual racial equality, just opposition to slavery. Radical Republicans hoped that Andrew Johnson, who ascended to the presidency after Lincoln’s assassi- nation in 1865, would hew more closely to their view that Reconstruction required more than just emanci- pation. They were disappointed. Johnson, a Democrat whom Lincoln made his running-mate on a unity tick- et, disliked “slaveocracy’”. He was also a bigot and a poor politician, and led his party to defeat in the elec- tions of 1866 and 1867. Though Radicals never made up a congressional majority, they held strong convictions and voted to- gether while others wavered. They demanded full civil rights for freedmen, which few moderate Republicans did, and opposed compensating slaveholders. They also opposed any accommodation to slavery, such as the measures that would have preserved the Union at the cost of allowing slavery in newly admitted states. After the 1867 elections, with Johnson weakened and Republicans holding a congressional majority, the Radicals’ solidarity put them in charge of Reconstruc- tion policy. The most prominent among them was Thaddeus Stevens, a congressman from Pennsylvania. He saw the former Confederacy as conquered territory and believed “the whole fabric of southern society must be changed, and never can it be done if this op- >> Reconstruction ends o Colfax Massacre Constitutional amendments. _ ——————— 13th Aboolishes slavery ————# 14th Guarantees —# 15th Extends vote to all male citizens Confederate states readmitted to Union Presidents AbrahamLincoln assassinated ~. Andrew Johnson .18614F 62 ‘% 63 & 64 of 65 whl 66 & O67 68 equal protection to all citizens TN @———— AR, LA, FL, @—— VA, MS, TX @—@ GA NC, SC, AL Ulysses S. Grant 69 70 Rutherford B. Hayes WOR 2 at 75 OW TA WS OS IG a a4 The Economist December 19th 2020 Reconstruction * > portunity is lost.” The Radicals divided the South into five military districts. They required the states to write new constitutions; ratify the 14th amendment, which granted citizenship to anyone born on American soil or naturalised in the United States; and allow black men to vote. In the South, black political mobilisation was al- ready under way, having begun before the war’s end. During Reconstruction, black electoral turnout often approached 90%. Former Confederate states elected over 2,000 black state and local officials and 185 black federal elected officials, including two senators from Mississippi (Hiram Revels and Blanche Bruce) and 14 members of Congress, with the largest number coming from South Carolina. Louisiana’s first and still only black governor, P.B.S. Pinchback, took office in 1872. African-Americans in the South did not only vote for and seek office. Alongside white Republicans, they also rewrote their state constitutions, which as well as doing away with racially discriminatory laws also ex- panded state responsibility and civil liberties. Some established the South’s first state-funded schools and made attendance compulsory. Others opened state- run orphanages and asylums, reduced the number of crimes punishable by death, recognised a wife’s prop- erty rights independent of her husband and, in one state, authorised divorce. The constitutional conventions and sizeable num- ber of black elected officials were the fruits of rising black political mobilisation. Much like the civil-rights activists of the mid-2oth century, they advocated for equal rights, and called on America to live up to its stat- edideals. Asone Alabama convention proclaimed, “We claim exactly the same rights, privileges and immuni- ties as are enjoyed by white men…The law no longer knows white nor black, but simply men.” Pastoral scene of the gallant South Northerners, both black and white, came south to or- ganise, teach and help. Many of the newly emancipated joined branches of the Union League, a Republican-af- filiated organisation. Others formed and joined orga- nisations of their own. They built schools and churches, and advocated for land reform. As W.E.B. Du Bois, asociologist and civil-rights activist, noted in his magisterial “Black Reconstruction in America’, “Black folk wanted two things—first, land which they could own and work for their own crops…In addition to that, they wanted to know…They were consumed with curli- osity at the meaning of the world.” Freedmen’s desire for land made sense. They and their families had cleared and worked it without rec- ompense, giving them a moral claim, and there was plenty of it. Much of the South was sparsely populated, and the war left many planters devastated and without the free labour that built their wealth. Mississippi and Louisiana auctioned off land in small parcels. But most States did little. The new constitutions did not resolve every ques- tion that they raised. Most took no position on whether state-run schools should be integrated, though in ev- ery state, African-Americans opposed separating black and white pupils into different schools. Some used ra- cially neutral language to facilitate discrimination. Georgia required jurors to be “worthy and intelli- gent’”—subjective terms that permitted local officials “They were consumed with curiosity at the meaning of the world” to bar African-Americans from juries. This pattern— broad agreement on principles, but backsliding over implementation—was a hint of the problems to come. Recalcitrant white Southerners also fought against Reconstruction in three main ways. First, they aligned with moderate Republicans, who were less insistent on sweeping social changes than the Radicals. This cleaved southern Republicans in two camps, leaving the Radicals isolated, and brought Democrat-backed moderates into power across much of the South in the 1860s. And then, in the aftermath of the war, southern legislatures passed an array of “Black Codes” that cur- tailed freedom for the newly emancipated. These codes authorised arrest and forced labour for pseudo- crimes such as “vagrancy” and “malicious mischief”. Mississippi required African-Americans to hold written proof of employment for the year. Any worker who left his employer before year’s end would forfeit wages and be subject to arrest. South Carolina barred African-Americans from any job other than farmer or servant unless they paid a “tax” of up to $100 (over $1,600 today). In both cases these Black Codes did not take effect—the robust federal presence imposed by the Radicals and protests from Congress prevented it. But they indicated the depth of southern white opposi- tion to racial equality, presaging the practices that came to be known as “Jim Crow’ laws. White Southerners also embarked on acampaign of racist terrorism, led by groups such as the Ku Klux Klan. Nowhere in the South did African-Americans es- cape terror’s shadow. The terrorists were not, as legend maintained for decades, poor, uneducated whites, but as a newspaper editor from North Carolina remarked, “men of property [and] respectable citizens”. State and local governments did little to stop the violence, which made them look weak and ineffective—a shared goal of the terrorists and the Democrats. 112 > Reconstruction The elections of 1872 returned Republicans to pow- er in the White House and across much of the South. But Radical power was waning. Soon after winning re- election, President Ulysses Grant’s support for their policies grew tepid. In the next presidential election, Reconstruction was not part of Republicans’ platform; their candidate, Rutherford Hayes, promised to restore “honest and capable local self-government” to the South if elected. The threat of terrorism left many southern Republicans, as one from Mississippi com- plained, feeling “helpless and unable to organise”. Hayes’s opponent was Samuel Tilden, the Demo- cratic governor of New York, who like Hayes was not terribly popular. The election’s results were disputed, marred by widespread violence and accusations of cor- ruption. While Congress set up a commission to settle the dispute, Hayes’s moderate Republican allies began negotiations with Southern Democrats. The two sides struck a bargain, the terms of which remain unknown, but which resulted in Hayes’s inauguration, and an end to federal support for Reconstruction. This left the South, asa black Louisianan noted, in “the hands of the very men that held us as slaves”. Here is a strange and bitter crop Many black Southerners feared that “Redemption”, as whites called the end of Reconstruction, would lead to their re-enslavement. The 13th amendment, which outlawed slavery, prevented that—but only just. Men convicted of the flimsiest of crimes were leased to agri- cultural and industrial projects and forced to work without pay. Debt peonage kept rural African-Amer- ican families bound to planters and merchants. The 15th amendment barred explicitly denying black people the right to vote. Yet literacy require- ments or poll taxes were often imposed in a racist way. An African-American could be deemed unfit to vote, for instance, if he failed to tell a white county clerk how many bubbles were in a bar of soap. When such tests failed, whites could always resort to violence without fear of conviction by all-white juries. By the mid-2oth century, just 7% of Mississippi’s black adult popula- tion was registered to vote. Denial of the franchise led to a decline in the num- ber of black officials. By the turn of the 20th century, Congress had just one black member: George Henry White of North Carolina, who left office 1n1901 after his State, like the rest of the South, enacted laws restricting black suffrage. After Blanche Bruce of Mississippi left office in 1881, 86 years would pass before the next Afri- can-American—Edward Brooke of Massachusetts— served in the Senate. Not until 2013 would two elected African-Americans (Tim Scott of South Carolina and Cory Booker of New Jersey) serve in the Senate togeth- er. After John Lynch lost in 1882, it took almost a cen- tury for Mississippi, America’s blackest state by share of population, to elect another black congressman, Mike Espy. After P.B.S. Pinchback left office in 1873, America would not see another black governor until 1990 when Virginians elected Douglas Wilder. For years, the prevailing historical interpretation of Reconstruction—known as the Dunning School, after William Dunning, a professor who propounded it in the early 20th century—argued that it failed because black Southerners, in his words, “exercised an influ- ence in political affairs out of all relation to their intel- By the mid-2oth century, just 7% of Mississippi’s black adult population was registered to vote The Economist December 19th 2020 ligence”. In this view, slavery was not an inexcusable evil and a betrayal of America’s founding ideals, but “a modus vivendi through which social life was possible- …[ between] two races so distinct in their characteris- tics as to render coalescence impossible.” By placing the blame for Reconstruction’s failureon African-Americans, the Dunning School justified Jim Crow and legal segregation. It also undergirded the “Lost Cause” mythology propounded by the defeated South, which argued that it waged a defensive struggle against a tyrannical invader rather than an offensive war (the South fired the civil war’s first shot) for the right to enslave others. Part of the cost of reconcilia- tion was that in the decades immediately following Re- construction’s end, the civil war came to be seen as a battle between equally brave soldiers now at peace with each other, rather than, as Douglass wrote, “a con- test of civilisation against barbarism”. Du Bois’s study of Reconstruction, published in 1935, took aim at the Dunning School. Du Bois argued that Republicans and black Southerners laid the groundwork for a new and more activist conception of the state. They were the principal agents, politically and intellectually, of their own liberation. It was not their corruption or unpreparedness that condemned Reconstruction; it was implacable white opposition to democracy and devotion to racist rule backed by vio- lence. That view, built upon by Mr Foner and others, now predominates. Even so, some of the battle lines drawn by Recon- struction remain. President Donald Trump’s exploita- tion of white racial grievance echoes that of the Re- deemers, as does his fondness for Confederate iconography. Some on the right, including Mr Trump, oppose birthright citizenship. Revanchist white Southerners spent a century keeping African-Ameri- cans from voting, in defiance of the 15th amendment; as recently as 2013, Republicans in North Carolina tried to pass a voter ID law that “target[ed] African-Ameri- cans with almost surgical precision”, in the words of the judge who struck it down. Although Reconstruction was a failure, it shaped the country in positive ways. After the civil war ended, the newly emancipated formed their own political or- ganisations and churches—the latter of which would come to play a central role in the civil-rights move- ment of the mid-2o0th century and beyond. States such as Georgia, which had no state-funded school system before Reconstruction, would retain it after Redemp- tion, though not until 1954 would the Supreme Court bar racial segregation in schools. The 14th amend- ment’s Equal Protection Clause—which forbids “any State [from denying] to any person within its jurisdic- tion equal protection of the laws”—has been used to abolish segregated schools, anti-miscegenation rules and other racist laws. Still, anyone who believes in American ideals will find it difficult to ponder Reconstruction’s unfulfilled promise without grief and anger. The lament with which Du Bois ends his masterpiece remains sadly true today: “If the Reconstruction of the Southern states, from slavery to free labour, from aristocracy to indus- trial democracy, had been conceived as a major nation- al programme of America, whose accomplishment at any price was well worth the effort, we should be living today ina different world.” * The Economist December 19th 2020 Bodyguard of lies IVE HUNDRED dummies descended on the French FE coast on the night of June 5thi944. The crack of gun- fire sounded from each one, courtesy of a small pyro- technic device. As they thumped to the ground, explo- Sive charges mimicked paratroopers setting their parachutes ablaze. The hessian invaders were the van- guard of a phantom army, the most ambitious conjur- ing trick in military history. The Allied powers wanted to invade France, but did not want Germany to know where or when. So they put George Patton, a real general, in charge of the First Un- ited States Army Group, a made-up unit. The deception campaign was named Bodyguard, a sly reference to Winston Churchill’s remark that: “In wartime, truth is SO precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies.” Wooden landing craft, inflatable tanks and fake ra- dio traffic hinted at a landing in Pas-de-Calais, some 300km (186 miles) from the Normandy beaches where the real troops would land. Set designers constructed a mock fuel depot in Dover, lent an air of authenticity by visits from King George and Dwight Eisenhower. An actor resembling General Bernard Montgomery, com- mander of the Allied land forces, was sent to North Af- rica to show that nothing was afoot. The trickery worked. Germany was taken by surprise on D-Day. Weeks later it still believed that Patton’s imaginary force was poised to strike elsewhere. Deception is still practised in war. In its conflict Holiday specials Democracies need to re-learn the art of deception with Azerbaijan, Armenia has bamboozled drones with dummy missiles. During a stand-off with India, China published images of missile launchers that, on closer inspection, turned out to be wobbly inflatables. Indian and Chinese forces alike covered equipment with multispectral nets, which block visible light and other electromagnetic emissions. Engineers keep working on new gadgets. BAE Systems, a defence firm, boasts that its Adaptiv camouflage—a set of thermo- electric tiles that change temperature to match their Surroundings—amounts to a “cloak of invisibility”. But the operatic legerdemain of D-Day seems un- likely to be repeated. “Deception in the West has be- come something of a lost art,’ laments General Sir Richard Barrons, who commanded Britain’s joint forces until 2016. “We’ve done some of these things in the past, like in World War II for example,” reflected General Charles Q. Brown, the head of America’s air force, in December 2019, “but it’s not something that we think about as much anymore.’ The last major American effort was in the first Gulf war, when Ameri- ca tricked Saddam Hussein (and its own sailors) into expecting an attack from the sea. That comparatively simple feint involved showy amphibious exercises and the use of agents to spread misleading stories. Although countries continue to spy, propagandise and sabotage, military deception—meaning fooling adversaries into doing things that harm their inter- ests—appears to be declining. Three developments are 113 114 x Military deception >» to blame. Material factors have trumped human ones in war, technology has improved, and liberal democra- cies have become squeamish. Modern war is a profession, waged by complex ma- chines and officers capable of wielding them. By con- trast, deception is closer to an artistic enterprise. It was zoologists, equipped with the lessons of animal colou- ration, and artists, inspired by Cubism and its shatter- ing of perspective, who developed the avant-garde pat- terns of early camouflage. The most striking was the zebra-like dazzle applied to warships during and after the first world war, which obscured their speed and heading. Pablo Picasso claimed credit for the French army’s adoption of camouflage. During the second world war, Britain’s Camouflage Development and Training Centre gathered what Peter Forbes, author of “Dazzled and Deceived: Mimicry and Camouflage’, calls “a strange medley of characters”, in- cluding architects, naturalists, Surrealist painters and a magician. In America, a “Ghost Army”, whose work was classified until 1996, hired actors and artists to generate special effects on the battlefield, such as speakers to simulate the sound of approaching tanks. Many went on to careers in art and fashion, says Jenni- fer McArdle of the Centre for a New American Security, a think-tank in Washington, Dc. But melding such madcap experimentation with the discipline and order of military culture is difficult. The ending of national service and conscription in most large Western armies has deepened the fissure between military and civilian life. And America’s sheer power has led it to a direct way of war. “The us has the tendency to use technology and brute force in the ab- sence of creativity,’ says Ms McArdle. At the same time, technology has made grand ruses harder to sustain. Warfare is increasingly “a competi- tion between hiding and finding’, noted Britain’s chief of defence staff in September. The ability to find has advanced considerably. Satellites and drones gaze down, antennae-laden soldiers and vehicles hoover up electronic emissions and amateur plane-spotters track military movements on social media. Had today’s commercial satellite industry existed 30 years ago, Saddam could have purchased high-reso- lution images that would have revealed American troops massing on his border. And today’s sensors see details that human eyes miss. A thermal infrared cam- era ona drone can easily tell a cool rubber decoy froma hot metal tank; long-wavelength infrared sensors can detect buried weapons by the different reflectance of disturbed soil. Even sophisticated decoys could be- come vulnerable to machine-learning algorithms that, fed with sufficient examples, tease out anomalies too subtle fora human analyst to spot. Anda deceiver must successfully deceive in more ways. Conjuring a pho- ney battalion now requires generating not only fake ra- dio traffic but also social-media activity. Would-be deceivers can also invest in technology, perhaps by putting temperature-changing tiles on tanks. But human errors are a perennial problem. “Ifa soldier gets bored and walks out from their position with thermal screens to go to the toilet, an enemy will find it very amusing to suddenly have someone appear from nowhere,’ says Jack Watling of the Royal United Services Institute, another think-tank. Western armies are particularly dependent on radio communications, Modern war is a profession. By contrast, deception is closer to an artistic enterprise The Economist December 19th 2020 he says, leaving a tell-tale map of electronic signatures. Yet some of the old ruses still work. As late as 1999, during the war over Kosovo, when NATO jets flew at high altitudes to avoid being shot down, Serbia showed that they could be fooled into wasting bombs on fake tanks. Russia’s forces have platoons that spray smoke and aerosols designed to block ultraviolet, infrared and radar. And as BAE’s Adaptiv shows, active camou- flage is improving. Instead of achieving security through obscurity, the best hope for modern deceivers may be to drown their pursuers in noise, forcing them to waste expensive precision weapons on cheap decoys. Flocks of drones and ground robots might spew forth electromagnetic emissions, challenging enemy sensors to pick the wheat from the chaff. Armies might even seek to ex- ploit what is called “adversarial” artificial intelligence to generate camouflage patterns and designs that con- found object-detection algorithms. Little green men The biggest problem is not that brute force is supplant- ing artistry, or that technology is denuding secrecy. The complaint heard most often in Western armies is simply that rivals have more of a stomach for decep- tion. Perhaps, they suggest, open societies that prize the rule of law and transparency at home are inherent- ly less good at trickery. European and American military officials describe Russian and Chinese practices with a mixture of dis- taste and envy. Whereas America’s use of decoys “is currently at a low after two decades of neglect’, notes Walker Mills, an officer in the US Marine Corps, China has invested in them, including a 35kg tank that fits in a backpack and inflates in four minutes. One report by America’s army says that Chinese forces “have the highest fidelity decoys seen to date”. The laws of armed conflict are fairly clear about bat- tlefield deception. Whereas “perfidy” (such as faking Surrender to lure an enemy into anambush, or disguis- ing a tank as a Red Cross ambulance) is forbidden, “ruses” like decoys, feints and ambushes are fair game. But other laws can be bent or bypassed. Russia snatched Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 by cleverly us- ing unmarked personnel—the so-called little green men—and asynchronised blitz of disinformation. The entire campaign was a deception: an invasion mas- querading as a nationalist uprising. Western armies want to catch up, in some ways at least. “We’ll re-learn deception,’ promises General Da- vid Berger, head of America’s Marine Corps, who is re- forming his force to better evade Chinese sensors in the Pacific. But this cuts against the grain. “There’s a cultural problem here,’ says a veteran CIA officer who Specialised in deception. “I do think you’ll find gener- als who would feel that it’s fundamentally notavery re- spectable activity.” Such anxieties point to a deeper fear that despotic rule-breakers will steal an edge. In 1943 Britain tricked Germany into believing that the Allies would invade Greece by dressing a dead homeless man as a Royal Ma- rines officer and releasing the corpse, stuffed with mis- leading orders, onto the coast of neutral Spain. “We’d still be prepared to use a dead enemy soldier,’ says a NATO Officer. “But the Russians and Chinese would be prepared to kill him to doit.” * The Economist December 19th 2020 Pleistocene Park CHERSKY The prophet of permafrost ERCHED ON top of a cliff on the northern edge of Russia, Sergei Zimov doffs his beret, letting his long grey hair tumble down his back. His eyes glow as he leans his weathered face toward the frozen ground. Under the haze of never-ending northern days, he looks like a figure lifted from the golden background of a Russian Orthodox icon. Mr Zimov, whose name comes from the Russian word for “winter”, lives with his wife Galinainasimple wooden house outside Chersky, an outpost in Russia’s outer reaches, farther north than Reykjavik and farther east than Tokyo. Inside their home, woolly-mammoth tusks lie scattered across the bedroom floor. The Koly- ma river beckons from the window. This is a land un- suited for human life, where temperatures dip below minus 50°C in winter and where mosquitoes blacken the skies in summer. “To bea prophet, you must live in the desert,’ says Mr Zimov. In the Soviet era, few travelled down the Kolyma of their own volition. The region had a reputation as one of the harshest, iciest corners of the gulag. By the time the Zimovs moved there in 1980, the camps had shut down but the frost remained. For the first few years, they lived without electricity, using kerosene lamps and drawing water from the river. Chersky’s remote- ness had its benefits. “We felt very free here,” Galina Says, away from the eyes of the Communist Party. Drawing on a degree in geophysics and a contrarian Holiday specials ps 115 One Russian scientist’s ambitious plan to slow the thawing of the Arctic Spirit, Mr Zimov co-founded the Northeast Science Sta- tion (NESS) for Arctic research, and began a lifetime of studying the far north. In the mid-1980s, he predicted that the Soviet Union would collapse. He stocked up on supplies. “When there’s a drought, the farthest branches dry up first,” he explains. He boasts of other premonitions, suchas the oil-price crash in 2014. He tells anyone who will listen to invest in gold. Kolyma tales But it is the ecological apocalypse that worries Mr Z1- mov most. For more than 20 years, he and his son, Nik- ita, have been populating a stretch of 160 square km (62 Square miles) that they call Pleistocene Park with yaks, horses, sheep, oxen and other grazing animals. Mr Z1- mov reckons the beasts will uproot and trample the shrubs, moss and larch trees that cover the area, clear- ing the way for grasslands of the kind that spread dur- ing the Pleistocene epoch, the glacial geological period that began 2.6m years ago and ended 12,000 years ago. He argues that this will slow the thawing of perma- frost, a process that leads to the release of greenhouse gases that could accelerate climate change. “Iam build- ing an ark,’ he says, describing his project in grand metaphorical terms—and without a hint of irony. Nearly one-quarter of the Northern Hemisphere, an area twice the size of America, sits on top of ground >» 116 Permafrost >» made up of soil that remains frozen for at least two years at a time. One 18th-century explorer described iron spades breaking when they hit it. Mikhail Sumgin, a Soviet-era scientist who pioneered the study of the frozen earth, often referred to it as “the Russian sphinx”. The technical term for it, permafrost, is a translation of Sumgin’s Russian turn of phrase, vech- naya merzlota, or the eternal frost. Itis notas permanent as once believed. While Earth is warming at an alarming speed, the Arctic is warming more than twice as fast. Across the region, the ground is beginning to give way, warping roads, buildings, pipelines, coastlines and river banks. The damage to infrastructure and livelihoods above ground is worrying enough. But another danger lies below the surface: rich deposits of organic material, such as old plant roots and animal carcasses, which have been preserved in the ice over millions of years. When permafrost thaws, that organic material turns into food for microbes, which convert it into carbon di- oxide and methane. Those gases accelerate the planet’s warming, which speeds the thawing of permafrost, a feedback loop with potentially disastrous conse- quences. “We can get off fossil fuels, we can stop chop- ping down trees, but with permafrost it’s a secondary effect,’ says Robert Max Holmes, deputy director of the Woodwell Climate Research Centre, an American think-tank. “It’s not anything we’re doing directly, and that makes it far harder to control.” Cold as ice Northern permafrost contains as much as 1,6o0obn tonnes of carbon, or twice as much carbon as is cur- rently found in the atmosphere and three times as much as is locked in the world’s forests. That carbon pool is often referred to as a “bomb”, but permafrost be- haves more like a leaky pipe. How much and how fast the pipe will leak depends on myriad factors—not least humankind’s willingness to reduce its own green- house-gas emissions. Estimates vary widely. Some argue that if climate- change mitigation efforts succeed, permafrost could sequester more carbon than it releases; others see per- mafrost becoming a net emitter, albeit a tiny one com- pared with human beings. But if humans continue Spewing greenhouse gases at current rates, widely ac- cepted models predict that 5-15% of the permafrost’s carbon reserves could be released this century, in- creasing global warming by as much as 0.27°C. To even have achance of limiting global warming to1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a UN body, gives society a carbon “budget” of 580bn tonnes; the emissions from perma- frost could use up roughly one-quarter of that amount. Even the best estimates struggle to capture the complexity of how permafrost thaws, a process re- searchers are only beginning to understand. Most cli- mate scientists’ models assume that it will thaw even- ly, afew centimetres at a time over decades across vast areas, a process known as “gradual thaw”. But perma- frost experts also worry about melting pockets of ice causing rapid erosion, or “abrupt thaw”. Landscapes collapse and sinkholes open up, exposing layers of per- mafrost with richer stores of carbon to ever warmer temperatures. Water can also pool in those collapsed areas, forming “thermokarst” lakes above layers of un- He hails from a scientific tradition in Russia that tends towards grand, sweep- ing theories that span disciplinary boundaries The Economist December 19th 2020 frozen soil. Such environments tend to attract mi- crobes that produce methane. The more permafrost is Studied, the more scientists find “surprises out there that we don’t know enough about”, says Ted Schuur of Northern Arizona University. Along the river south of Chersky, Mr Zimov demon- Strates how different some parts of permafrost are from one another. The permafrost’s structure here is more honeycomb than layer-cake. Rather than melting evenly across a flat service, water drips between and forms ice around polygon-shaped cores. When the ice begins to thaw, it exposes the gaps between the pylons, leaving the ground looking like a mogul course onaski Slope. Mr Zimov compares the process to “cracks Spreading in clay, or on the canvases of Old Masters”. Few people have done more to unravel the riddles of the Russian sphinx. “Every scientist now appreciates the importance of the carbon in the permafrost,” says Mr Holmes. “A lot of that can be traced to Zimov.” In 1993 Mr Zimov and a group of Russian co-authors published a paper in the American Geophysical Un- ion’s Journal of Geophysical Research, arguing that car- bon was escaping from Arctic permafrost’s active layer in the winter, not just in the summer, as previously be- lieved. Scientists began travelling to Chersky to con- duct their own research. Together with a group of American collaborators, Mr Zimov published a series of papers showing that permafrost contained far larger Stores of greenhouse gases than previously thought. “Every time we talked to Sergei about something that just seemed off the wall, sooner or later he’d convince us,’ Says F. Stuart Chapin, an ecologist at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and one of his co-authors. Mr Zimov also privatised the NEss and builtitintoa global hub. Managing an international research sta- tion in the Arctic presents a logistical challenge in the best of circumstances. In post-Soviet Russia, it re- quired acombination of resourcefulness and wiliness. Bruce Forbes of the Arctic Centre at the University of Lapland recalls “post-apocalyptic scenes of kids set- ting fire to abandoned buildings for fun” during a visit to Chersky in the 1990s. “At the time he went to that place, it was the end of the world,” says Vladimir Roma- novsky, head of the Permafrost Laboratory at the Uni- versity of Alaska Fairbanks. “He turned it into one of the best research stations in the permafrost area.” Nonetheless, Mr Zimov remains a polarising figure. His brusque demeanour has alienated many. “My fa- ther is not a very diplomatic man,’ Nikita sighs, with the weight of experience. His brash persona and wild theories about the wider world can overshadow his sci- entific insights. Mr Zimov hails from a scientific tradi- tion in Russia that tends towards grand, sweeping the- ories that span disciplinary boundaries. He evokes early 20th-century Russian polymaths, such as Vladi- mir Vernadsky, who made pioneering advances in geo- chemistry, developed the concept of the biosphere and embraced Russian Cosmism, a movement that sought to cure death and conquer the stars. Mr Zimov tends to begin from his ideas and to measure only enough to persuade himself that he was right. “He’d be fine witha Sample size of one,’ says Mr Chapin. That can unsettle Western scientists, who place a premium on data and who operate within hyper-specialised fields. What Mr Zimov lacks in rigorous data, he just about makes up for with a deep engagement in the environ- >> The Economist December 19th 2020 >» ment. At one of his test sites downriver, he taps the earth with along metal pole to show where permafrost begins. He can tell what state the ground is in by the sound it makes. In 2018 the Zimovs observed that the active layer of permafrost was no longer freezing over in the winter. The average temperature at their test sites was eight degrees warmer than just a decade ago, rising from -6°C to +2°C. Across the Bering Strait in Alaska, Mr Romanovsky has been observing similar phenomenaat dozens of sites. To peek underneath the active layer, Mr Zimov tra- vels afew hours downriver toa site called Duvanny Yar. A sulphurous stench fills the air. Millions of years of geological history stand exposed along the river. Mr Zi- mov picks upa bone: “Mammoth.” Back when woolly mammoths roamed Earth, the far north resembled a modern-day African Savannah. Thick grasslands stretched across Siberia, Alaska and the Canadian Yukon, where herds of herbivores grazed. Along with mammoth, there were bison, hors- es, elk and reindeer. Wolves and cave lions kept the populations in check. Yet as the Pleistocene gave way to the Holocene, the large herbivores died out. And as they disappeared, the landscape was transformed. The dry grasses turned into wet, mossy tundra. One long-standing explanation for the mass extinc- tion holds that the warming climate was the culprit. Mr Zimov, however, believes that the milder climate only facilitated the arrival of the true villains. Writing in American Naturalist in 1995, he argued that human hunting led to the extinction of the megafauna throughout the far north. As Mr Zimov sees it, reversing that process and re- viving the grasslands could be the key to preserving permafrost. Doing so would mean reintroducing large mammals that could tamp down moss, knock down trees, and churn up the soil, allowing the grass to flour- ish again. Grass could reflect more light and reduce the amount of heat absorbed by the soil; it could also cap- Permafrost ps ture more carbon in its roots than today’s flora. That logic underlies Pleistocene Park. Mr Zimov wants to extend the park through Alaska to Canada. He and his son even dream of hosting woolly mammoths one day, and have formed a partnership with George Church, of Harvard University, who hopes to revive the ancient beasts using CRISPR gene-editing technology. Several aspects of Mr Zimov’s theories seem to hold up, though they may appear paradoxical. Take the trees he wants to eradicate. In temperate regions, trees se- quester carbon, and cutting them down releases it into the atmosphere. In the far north, more carbon is stored below ground than in the sparse forests. Removing trees there could have a net positive effect by keeping permafrost cooler and preventing the organic material trapped in it from breaking down. So, too, with the warming effects of snow, which Mr Romanovsky calls “a huge insulator”. At his test sites around Fairbanks, thick winter snow can raise ground temperatures by between three and five degrees. Mr Zimov reckons the animals could also help to pack down the snow in the winter, reducing that effect. The ark of history Results from Pleistocene Park are promising. The cur- rent mixture of Yakutian horses, bison, musk oxen, elk, reindeer, sheep, yak and Kalmyk cattle have helped grasslands re-emerge. Average annual soil tempera- tures are 2.2°C cooler in grazed areas. More carbon is also being sequestered in the upper layer of soil in those areas, too. For advocates of radical rewilding, the Zimovs sug- gesta tantalising sense of possibility. “The issue now is scaling,’ says Mr Forbes of the University of Lapland. “How many animals would you actually need?” A group of researchers from the University of Oxford, working with Nikita, published a study in 2020 that concluded that rewilding the Arctic to a degree that would have a major impact on emissions would be a “mammoth task”. It would mean reintroducing thou- sands of animals and would need support from gov- ernments and residents. A ten-year feasibility study involving roughly 3,000 animals would cost $14m. Some see all this effort and expense as a distraction from the focus on reducing overall emissions, the sur- est way to keep the planet—and permafrost—from warming. Sceptics wonder whether grasslands will work to preserve permafrost, or whether the grazing animals will not have other side-effects, too. The Zimovs remain determined to continue. Their operations depend largely on their sheer force of will. Nikita once raised more than $100,000 through crowd- funding to bring a herd of 12 bison to the park, driving them himself from Denmark to Chersky, where they ar- rived on a barge just after midnight one night in mid- June 2019, when your correspondent was visiting. After the bison were released, the Zimovs retreated to the mess hall of the research station to celebrate. They poured a round of samogon, a potent Russian ho- mebrew, and toasted the animals’ health. (All the bison survived their first winter.) Mr Zimov stepped outside to smoke, taking a seat below the giant satellite dish that has crowned the station since Soviet times. “Be- fore it was for connecting with the Party, now it’s for connecting with God,” he laughs, pointing to the dish. “God is sending us signals: gather the animals.” * 117 ne Pte: technology ™ The highest fidelity An auricular spectacular Tricking the brain about where a recorded sound is coming from can enrich the listener’s experience UMAN BEINGS are good at locating the Hcurces of sounds. Even when blind- folded, most people can point to within ten degrees of the true direction of a sound’s origin. This is a useful knack for evading danger. It is also an extraordinary cerebral feat. Partly, it is a matter of detecting mi- nute differences of volume in each ear. Partly, it comes from tiny disparities in the time it takes a sound to reach two ears that are not equidistant from its source. The heavy lifting of sound-location, however, involves something else entirely. Audio buffs call it the head-related transfer function. A sound is modulated by the body parts it encounters before it reaches the eardrums. In particular, the va- rious tissues of the head attenuate higher frequencies, weakening the top notes of sound waves that have passed to an ear- drum through the skull compared with those from the same source that have ar- rived directly through the air. The cartilagi- nous ridges, troughs and protuberances of the outer ear also alter sound before it is transduced into nerve signals. Sounds ar- riving from different angles are therefore modified in consistent ways that the brain learns to recognise. For all of their acoustic spatial aware- ness, however, brains can still be fooled by appropriate technology into believing a sound is coming from somewhere that it is not. That sounds like the basis of a big busi- ness. And itis. Sounds good One way to simulate the “immersive” sound of reality through a pair of earbuds is by using a pair of recordings made with mi- crophones embedded in the ear canals ofa special dummy head. These heads are made to have the same shape and density as those of their flesh-and-blood counter- > Also inthis section 119 Wheat, phosphorus and desert dust 120 Magnetic tape’s promising future The Economist December 19th 2020 parts. That means they modulate sound waves passing through them in a realistic manner. Recordings made using them therefore log what would arrive at the ear canals of someone listening to the sound in question for real. When they are played back, what a user hears recapitulates that experience, including the apparent direc- tions from which the sounds are coming. Dummy-based binaural recordings of this sort have been around for a while. But making them is clunky. It is also expensive. A good dummy head can cost $10,000, and time in a professional recording studio is hardly cheap. These days, though, the pro- cess can be emulated inside a computer. And that is leading to a creative explosion. The trick that the emulator must master is a process called phase modulation. This involves retarding asound’s high, medium and low frequencies by the slight but vary- ing fractions of a second by which those frequencies would be delayed by different parts of the ears and head in reality. So writ- ing the appropriate software starts by col- lecting alot of data on how sound waves in- teract with a human head, and that means going back to the studio to conduct special binaural recordings, often using people in- stead of dummies. The resulting signals can then be decomposed into their compo- nent frequencies, which yields an under- standing of how to modulate a given fre- quency to make it seem as if it is arriving from a particular location. The Economist December 19th 2020 Demand for software to mix sound in this way has shot up says Lars Isaksson of Dirac Research, a firm in Uppsala, Sweden. Dirac developed its own version of such software, known as Dirac 3D Audio, by us- ing a year’s worth of recordings it made that encompassed each degree of rotation, both side to side and up and down, around a listener’s head. This panaudicon provid- ed, Mr Isaksson says, notable smoothness in the simulated movement of sound sources. Makers of video games are a big market for such stuff. Dirac is not alone. Half a dozen other firms, including Dolby Laboratories of America and Sennheiser of Germany, also now make immersive software. To use it, a sound engineer employs a graphic inter- face that includes a representation of a sphere surrounding an icon representing the listener. The engineer uses a mouse to move sound channels—vocals, percussion and so on, if the product is music—to the points in the sphere from which their out- puts are intended to originate. Software of this sort provides a way to take any record- ing and “project it in 3D’, says Véronique Larcher, co-director of Sennheiser’s divi- sion for immersive audio. Sennheiser’s product is called AMBEO. Dolby’s is called Atmos. This has generated the soundtracks of more than 20 video games and 2,500 films and television shows, as well as many pieces of music. Immersive sound may even come to video- conferencing. Dirac is promoting software that makes the voices of participants seem to emerge from the spots on the screen where their images appear. The software uses a laptop’s camera to track listeners’ heads. To those who look, say, left, it will sound as though their interlocutors are off to the right. Dirac is in talks with videocon- ferencing firms including BlueJeans, Life- size and Zoom. Facebook, a social-media company, is also designing “spatialised audio” for vid- eo calls that use its Oculus virtual-reality headsets. Ravish Mehra, head of audio re- search at Facebook Reality Labs, is coy about how long it will take his team to per- fect the aural illusion that this is intended to create. But he says software the firm has in development can modify the frequen- cies and volumes of sounds so that they match the virtual surroundings chosen for a call, as well as the speaker’s perceived po- sition. The acoustics of a beach, he notes, are unlike those of a room. Tin pan alley Such stuff is forthe professionals. Butama- teurs can play too. For the man or woman in the street who wants to jazz up a record collection, many simpler programs now permit people to give a more immersive feeling to their existing recordings by run- ning them through software that modu- lates the sounds of those recordings to achieve that end. Programs of this sort cannot handle dif- ferent parts of a recording differently in the way that studio-based systems manage, but they do create an illusion of sonic space around the listener. Isak Olsson of Stock- holm, who has put together two such pack- ages, 8D Audio and Audioalter, describes them as seeming to increase the size of the room. This helps to overcome a phenome- non known as the “in-the-head experi- ence”. And, as Michael Kelly, head of engi- neering at Xperi, an immersive-software firm based in California, observes, sounds that appear to come from outside the head are more comfortable. At the other end of the technological scale from such do-it-yourself kits, anum- ber of firms, Dirac, Dolby, Facebook, Sony and Xperi among them, are working ona Evolution and agriculture Good catch Science & technology bespoke approach to sonic immersion. They are tailoring it, in other words, to an individual listener’s anatomy. One method, that being used by Sony, is to ask potential customers to upload pho- tographs of their ears. Another, which may be adopted by Xperi, is to repurpose data from the face-recognition systems that now unlock many people’s smartphones. If this way of thinking works, it will bring with it the ultimate in high fidelity. This isa recognition that, in the real world, even if what they are hearing is the same set of sound waves, every listener’s experience is different—and that this needs to be repli- cated in the world of recorded sound, too. With that realisation, acknowledgment of the head-related transfer function’s impor- tance has reached its logical conclusion. And the term “headbanging” may takeona new and positive meaning. & Some crops can absorb phosphorus from dust HEAT WAS among the first plants to be domesticated and is now the most widespread crop in the world. It thus sounds unlikely there would be much left to learn about what makes it thrive. Yet, some 12,000 years after relations between people and wheat began, a wheat plant has been caught doing something unexpected. It helped itself to a dose of much-needed phosphorus when its leaves received a coating of desert dust. The plant (or, rather, plants) in question Phosphorescent! were in the care of Avner Gross of the Ben Gurion University of the Negev, in Israel. As Dr Gross told this year’s meeting of the American Geophysical Union, which took place online during the first half of Decem- ber, his study was prompted by hikes he had taken near Neve Shalom, his home vil- lage in the Judean Hills. On these, he often noticed plant leaves completely covered in dust that had been carried there by sand storms from the Sahara desert. 119 It occurred to him that this dust might >» 120 Science & technology The Economist December 19th 2020 >» not be the light-blocking nuisance it ap- data that need to be looked at only infre- peared at first sight. It could, on the con- trary, be beneficial because of the growth- enhancing elements such as phosphorus which it contained. Until then, botanists had assumed that phosphorus in dust landing on a plant was of little value, be- cause it is locked up in an insoluble miner- al called apatite. This makes it unavailable for absorption. Dr Gross, however, rea- soned that plants which had evolved near deserts, the source of almost all naturally occurring dust in the atmosphere, might well have evolved a way to exploit it. He and two colleagues, Sudeep Tiwari, also at Ben Gurion, and Ran Erel of the Gilat Research Centre, therefore started experi- menting with a pair of species, wheat and chickpeas (the world’s 17th most planted crop), that both came originally from the Middle East. As a control, they also raised some maize, a plant from the Americas that evolved in far less dusty surroundings. First, having established them as seed- lings, they starved their charges of phos- phorus until signs of deficiency such as yellow leaves appeared. Then they scat- tered desert dust on the leaves of half of the Specimens of each species, while taking steps to stop any of it reaching the soil. After this, though the dust-dosed maize continued to suffer from phosphorus defi- ciency, the wheat and chickpea plants perked up and grew to more than double the size of their undusted lab-mates. What is more, these species were clearly ready for the dust’s arrival. As soon as a lack of phosphorus announced itself, two things happened. Their leaves became hairier, and therefore better at capturing dust. And those leaves also started secreting acid flu- ids that could dissolve any incoming apa- tite, assisting phosphorus’s absorption. That plants can take up phosphorus through their leaves is not, of itself, news to farmers—for this was established in the 1950s. But until now the practical conse- quence of such knowledge has been that crops are sprayed with liquid fertiliser de- rived, in turn, from apatite-containing rocks which have been treated with acid. Dusting leaves could, Dr Gross suggests, be an alternative and more efficient way of providing desert-derived crop species with the phosphorus they need. And maybe not just those. His next plan is to look at avoca- do and cocoa trees, which evolved in trop- ical regions of the Americas that regularly get a helpful transatlantic dose of Saharan dust carried westward by the trade winds. It will be interesting to see if they are up to the same tricks as wheat and chickpeas. @ Correction In “An injection of urgency” (December 5th) we said that mammalian cells have no mechanism for transcribing RNA into DNA. In fact, One is provided by quasiparasitic pieces of DNA called retrotransposons that the chromosomes of such cells play host to. Sorry for the mistake. Data storage Re-record, not fade away Magnetic tape is an old-fashioned technology with a promising future HE WHIRR Of spooling magnetic tape is more likely to evoke feelings of nostal- gia than technological awe. Yet tape re- mains important for data Storage, with mil- lions of kilometres of the stuff coiled up in the world’s data centres. Indirectly, says Mark Lantz of IBM, most computer users thus rely on tape every day. Though tape may seem archaic, it is still getting better. In 2015 Dr Lantz’s team un- veiled a version capable of squirrelling away 123 gigabytes per square inch (19Gb per square centimetre, but tapemakers still use Imperial units). In 2017 they reached 201Gb/in?. And on December 15th they re- vealed a design that has a density of 317Gb/in?. That rate of growth is un- matched by any of tape’s competitors. Tape’s heyday as a data-storage medium for computers was in the1950s. Hard disks, introduced in 1956, were quickly seen as Superior because they required no time- consuming spooling. Decades of selective investment mean they now also have a bet- ter density of information storage than tape. The best can manage more than 1,000GD/in?. As a result they are in high de- mand—2018 saw the sale of more than 8o0obn gigabytes-worth, which is eight times the figure for tape. But disks have drawbacks. They are costlier than tape, have shorter lifespans and their spinning platters generate far more unwanted heat. This leads to tape being the medium of choice for the so-called “cold” storage of quently. And disks’ advantages elsewhere may be slipping. In the 1990s hard-disk storage densities doubled every year. Over the past decade that rate of growth has dropped to 7.6%, as manufacturers run out of headroom. Smaller magnetic particles need more energy to Keep them in line, and the magnets which provide this are ap- proaching the theoretical limits of their strength. The storage density of magnetic tape, by contrast, has been increasing Steadily, by 34% a year for nearly three de- cades. AS aconsequence, tape may catch up with hard disks within five years. To maintain this blistering rate of growth, Dr Lantz’s team concentrated on three matters. First, they reduced the size of the magnetic grains that form a tape’s re- cording surface, by substituting strontium ferrite for the current industry standard of barium ferrite. Second, they shrank the size of the read heads by a factor of 30, per- mitting data to be packed onto narrower tracks. Third, they developed systems able to track and correct the position of the tape with nanometre accuracy as it flowed un- der the smaller heads, stopping it going off- track and distorting the signal. Though it may take a decade for these technological improvements to make their way into pro- ducts, this sort of progress bolsters confi- dence in tape’s long-term utility. Other innovations may be coming, too. Ohkoshi Shin-ichi of the University of Tokyo, for example, advocates using parti- cles of epsilon iron oxide. This material is particularly magnetically stable, meaning its grain-size can be reduced (and thus stor- age density increased) without any risk of the field flipping randomly and thus changing what is encoded. Taped up Demand for more storage will certainly be there. Estimates suggest that four times more data will be generated in 2025 than in 2019. In the part of the data-storage market where tape currently reigns supreme, it is likely to remain so fora while. The biggest threat to tape comes from the flash-drive technology used in sD cards and USB sticks. Flash relies on a flow of electrons through transistors, rather than on magnetised particles read by mechani- cal components, so it is capable of better data densities even than hard disks. Lack of moving parts also makes such solid-state devices faster at writing and retrieving in- formation. Flash drives are, however, more costly than magnetic storage and do not last as long. This makes them ten times more expensive per byte per year of storage than hard disks, and nearly 50 times more expensive than tape. They are therefore too dear to use for anything but the most im- portant jewels in the data vault. Until that changes, the reel is likely to continue. & Tunnels of love The mysterious poets of the London Underground drop their masks T WAS MARCH 2017 and fans were stream- Line out of a concert by Craig David at the O2 Arena in London and into North Green- wich Tube station. As they jovially belted out their favourite tunes, an ode to the pop Star, crammed with song titles and catchy rhymes, appeared on a whiteboard in the ticket hall. A crowd soon surrounded the board, giggling and taking selfies. Hundreds of rhymes have since been posted mysteriously around London’s Un- derground network, each signed “@allon- theboard”. The poems—written, it tran- Spires, by two Tube workers—range from life lessons to dad jokes. A ditty tackling men’s mental-health problems is dedicat- ed to “sad lads, broken blokes, unhappy chappies”. A “Fruit & Veg Guide to Life” urges: “Don’t be bananas, give peas a chance, we can turnip around.” In their day jobs, the two subterranean poets usher people through turnstiles and control crowds. But even before turning to verse, they confide in an interview, they All on the Board. Yellow Kite; 288 pages; £14.99 sought ways to add a flicker of fun to their shifts, for instance challenging one anoth- er to drop pop-song titles into responses to customers’ inquiries. A request for direc- tions could be met with a hand cupped be- hind an ear and “Hit me baby one more time?” After the night of the concert, they realised that they could lift commuters’ Spirits with their poems. They began wheeling spare whiteboards into quiet tunnels to write. To maintain their ano- nymity they donned masks, long before those became mandatory on public tran- sport because of covid-19. And to cultivate mystique, they adopted 122 Ahistory of snow the noms de plume Niand F1, a play on Lon- don’s system of postcodes and shorthand for “No one” and “Everyone”. Referring to the feted street artist, N1 explains that they “quite liked the idea of being like the Bank- sys of the Underground”. First they needed permission to display their poems on spare boards where passen- gers could see them. The city’s transport authority previously had tight rules for the use of its whiteboards: only service mes- Sages, no underlining, justa handful of reg- ulation coloured pens. But managers were persuaded to make an exception, and be- fore long station bosses began asking the men to brighten up ticket halls with a poem. Supportive colleagues juggle shifts to make sure they are on duty together. They are best-known for their tributes to celebrities, especially those appearing at the O2, which they pack with song and film titles, puns and quotes. Looking on the bright side Less than four years after their debut, they have more than 500,000 followers on In- Stagram. Fans include a young woman in Turkey who reads the poems online to practise her English, an Iranian girl seeking positivity as she battles suicidal thoughts, Brits abroad who crave a taste of home, and assorted stars. A poem studded with quotes from Michelle Obama was spotted by her Staff during a book tour in London; the for- 121 122 Books & arts >» mer First Lady posted a picture of the board on Instagram. Performing in the city, Katy Perry, a singer, put on a baseball cap and dark glasses and rode the Tube to snap a photo with a board dedicated to her. “You know you ve made it once you re on one of those boards,’ Nisays. In November the pair finally discarded their masks (metaphorically, at least) and revealed their true identities when they published an anthology of their writing, also called “All on the Board”. N1is a former train driver named Jan Redpath; E1 is his pal, Jeremy Chopra. One reason they are so good at cheering up commuters, they re- veal, is that they have sometimes needed cheering up themselves. Their sympathy for health problems such as tinnitus and colitis derives from personal experience. In a harrowing recollection, for in- Stance, Mr Redpath tells of the day a wom- an threw herself in front of his train, leav- ing him with post-traumatic. stress disorder that ended his career as a driver. “When she jumped, our eyes connected, and she smiled just before the train hit her,” he remembers. “I was scared of the dark for ages. I was scared of seeing her face in my dreams.” Sharp-elbowed Londoners tend to spare little thought for the harried staff on the Tube; this poignant anthology hu- manises them. The pandemic is an eerie time for both the rhymesters and their normally teeming workplace. At the moment there may be more mice in Tube stations than there are passengers; ridership sank to just 4% of normal levels in April and May, during Lon- don’s first full lockdown, and it remains low. But All on the Board think their mis- sion to boost morale is as important as ever. The duo have continued to put up po- ems throughout the year, writing sonnets to thank doctors, congratulate people cele- brating lonely birthdays and reminisce about the forbidden joys of hugging. “Life isajourney, one board reflects, “and at the moment/the train we are all on is ina tun- nel,/But, one day we will see the light.” Some of these pandemic-themed offer- ings feature in the book, rhyming “alive” with “survive” and “friends” with “ends”. But the best parts of the anthology involve the simplest British humour, which will raise a smile whether readers are hunker- ing down at home or negotiating a desolate commute. Take one poem called “The Beauty of Tea”: Put the kettle on and make acuppa, It’s the perfect lifter upper; Do you risk it with your biscuits And dunk them far too long? Do you prefer your tea with sugar? Do you like it weak or strong? A nice brew can make things better And can also quench your thirst, Are you one of those Who put the milkin first? @ Winter weather The white stuff Snow. By Anthony Wood. Prometheus Books; 272 pages; $24.95 and £19.99 NTHONY WOOD remembers sitting in the classroom one snowy morning as his teacher eyed the “saucer-size flakes” Swirling outside the window. “Please boys and girls”, she implored, “pray that it stops snowing.’ How little she grasped the mind of children, Mr Wood observes: “We were praying, alright—praying that it would snow until June.” Everyone knows children love snow. Mr Wood’s new book is meant for adults who remain infatuated. It is less a systematic history than a meander through assorted snow-related subjects—beginning with the snowflake itself, which the author de- scribes poetically as “the DNA of God”. These miniature ice crystals were once neglected by scientists, who saw little prac- tical benefit in studying them. Their dis- dain, however, was not shared by Wilson Bentley, a farm boy in Vermont who was given a microscope on his 15th birthday in 1880; later he acquired a bellows-camera, which he adapted to take the first-ever pho- tomicrographs of snowflakes, being care- ful not to breathe on his evanescent sub- jects before tripping the shutter. Inspired by Bentley’s ethereal images, in 1936 Nakaya Ukichiro, a Japanese nuc- lear physicist, became the first person to manufacture snow in the lab. His research on how the crystals form showed that snowflakes develop on the fly, during their sometimes hours-long journey to the ground. The higher the humidity that they i Pure as the driven snow The Economist December 19th 2020 encounter on the way, the more intricate their architecture becomes. Monster snowstorms interest Mr Wood, too, such as the great white hurricane of 1888, during which hundreds of people in the north-eastern United States died of hy- pothermia. Paralysing winter storms were disasters for cities like New York and Phila- delphia, which initiated their own local “arms race against nature’, experimenting with crude ploughs to clear streets and with substances from cinders to grape ex- tract and salt to de-ice them. Snow also spurred the development of subway sys- tems that burrowed beyond the reach of winter weather. The atmospheric forces that created such blizzards remained unknown until Ooishi Wasaburo, another Japanese scien- tist, discovered chaotic eddies in the upper atmosphere, now known as the jet stream, in the 1920s. When the frigid jet stream bumps hard against humid air generated by the Gulf Stream in the Atlantic, meteoro- logical mayhem results. Given the com- plexity of the atmosphere—and the spotty nature of the available data on it—snow forecasting will always remain an inexact science, Mr Wood contends. His scattershot chapters touch on the impact of erratic snowfall on the water cri- Sis in California and on winter fun every- where. He offers some frustratingly dis- jointed speculation about how climate change will alter future snowfalls. The short answer is that there will probably be more snow in places where humidity in- creases, and less where temperatures be- come too high to sustain it. And he reflects, if briefly, on snow’s de- lights and peculiar allure. Why do people either love it or hate it? Many long for it, Mr Wood proposes, because of the splendid isolation that it enforces. As with the pan- demic, a white-out can be overwhelming. It can also direct attention inward, and help people return to themselves. @ SU || Rataiene ane Master in Transnational Gover University Piovusancr an Institute e) MAC Dis O1e)}’ i —)| YO rT WOY | (on ree NalAIe lel AY Cuan —VOoGct | BEST HOLIDAT GIFT BOOKS OF 2020 A DELUXE THREE-VOLUME COLLECTOR’S SET $22,000.00 CALLAWAY.COM 124 Economic & financial indicators The Economist December 19th 2020 Economic data Gross domestic product Consumer prices |Unemployment |Current-account Interest rates Currency units % change on year ago % change on yearago |rate balance 10-yr gov’t bonds change on per $ % change latest quarter* 20207 latest 2020T | % % of GDP, 2020T | latest,% year ago, bp _| Dec 15th on year ago United States m3) 33.1 -3.7 1.2 Nov ie 6.7 Nov -2.3 -14.9 0.9 -90.0 – China 49 @3 11.2 ie -0.5 Nov 29 4.2 Q38 ie, -5.6 11.0 6.55 6.6 Japan pgs )§=22.9 5.3 -0.4 Oct 0.1 3.1 Oct ZaS -11.3 nil -8.0 104 a Britain 96 93 780 -113 ie Oct 1.0 49 Septt -1.5 -19.4 0.2 -59.0 O25 nil Canada Meee? §=40.5 -5.8 Bee Oct 0.7 8.5 Nov babi -13.5 Os -85.0 Ea 3,9… Euro area -43 33 60.0 -79 -0.3 Nov U2 8.4 Oct 2.6 -9.1 -0.6 -31.0 0.82 9.8 Austria 40 @3 546 -6.7 ee Oct 1.1 5.4 Oct 1.4 -8.0 -0.5 -38.0 0.82 9.8 Belgium 45 33 542 -79 0.5 Nov 0.4 Dl Ge -1.2 -9.6 -0.4 -45.0 0.82 9.8 France oe 8698.3 -9.2 0.2 Nov 0.5 8.6 Oct -2.3 -11.3 -0.4 -37.0 0.82 9.8 Germany 40 @3 38.5 -5.4 -0.3 Nov 0.4 45 Oct 6.9 -7.0 -0.6 -31.0 0.82 9.8 Greece e329 -9.0 -2.1 Nov -1.4 16.1 Sep -40 -8.2 0.6 -84.0 0.82 9.8 Italy 50 93 80.4 -9.1 -0.2 Nov -0.1 9.8 Oct 2.6 -11.0 0.5 -79.0 0.82 9.8 Netherlands 25 @3 345 -6.0 0.8 Nov 1.1 3.8 Mar 7.0 -6.0 -0.6 -44.0 0.82 9.8 Spain -8./ 3 85.5 -11.4 -0.8 Nov -0.2 16.2 Oct 0.6 -11.0 nil -45.0 0.82 08 | Czech Republic -5.2 Q3 30.7 -7.0 2.7 Nov Si 29 Oct# -0.5 -7,.] lene) -24.0 2 Del. Denmark 42 3 21.1 -5.0 0.5 Nov 0.4 4.6 Oct 9.0 -4.8 -0.5 -23.0 612 9.6 Norway 3 «= «19.7 -1.7 0.7 Nov 1.4 5.2 Sept# a -13 0.9 -60.0 8.74 3 Poland 18 93 35.5 -3.4 3.0 Nov 3.4 6.1 Oct8 2.6 -79 le -75.0 Biles 49 Russia -34 Q3 na -3.8 44 Nov 3.3 6.3 Oct8 ng -43 ow -37.0 73.6 -14.6 Sweden 27 3 21.2 -3.2 0.2 Nov 0.4 78 Oct8 4.2 -3.6 -0.1 -14.0 8.38 Pe Switzerland Ses )§=— 319 -3.0 -0.7 Nov -0.9 3.4 Nov 2 so -0.6 -6.0 0.89 10.1 Turkey oe Q3 na -3.6 14.0 Nov 12a 12.7 Sep -45 5.1 13.0 94.0 7.84 -25.8 Australia -3.8 33 14.0 -4.] 0.7 Q3 ov 7.0 Oct 0.8 -79 1.0 -29.0 Ee 9.0 Hong Kong 35 @ 118 -5.6 -0.1 Oct 0.4 6.4 Oct# BIG -6.0 O77 -97.0 iS 0.7 India mema3 )=—«d125 -79 6.9 Nov 6.7 6.5 Nov 1.0 -7.8 a -84.0 J36 -3.8 Indonesia 3.5 Q3 na -2.2 1.6 Nov 20 Tel 208° -14 -7.1 6.1 -111 14,120 -1.0 Malaysia -2.7 Q3 na -5.3 -1.5 Oct -1.1 47 Oct 48 -7.2 2.8 -69.0 4.05 ZX Pakistan 05 2020 na -2.8 8.3 Nov 9.8 5.8 2018 -0.4 -8.0 99 11 -106 161 -3.4 Philippines oe Q3 «6 336.0 -9.3 3.3 Nov 2.6 8.7 Q4s 05 -7.] Eo -152 48.1 5.4 Singapore 58 93 423 -6.0 -0.2 Oct -0.3 3:6 03 es -13.9 0.9 -87.0 33 ZS South Korea feos «= «8.8 -1.1 0.6 Nov OS 3.4 Nov 39 -5.6 ley -1.0 1,093 He. Taiwan m3 «16.6 2.4 0.1 Nov -0,3 38 Od eRe -1.5 0.3 -40.0 28.1 7.6 Thailand Bee =28.8 -6.1 -0.4 Nov -0.8 2.1 Oct ie Boom re -30.0 30.1 0.5 Argentina 191 Q2 -50.7 ~— -10.7 358 Not 422 13.1 2 2.0 -8.0 na -464 S25 -27.5 Brazil 39 Q@ 346 -5.0 43 Nov 2a 14.6 SepS# -0.8 -15.8 2.0 -250 Bale -19.4 Chile 91 @ 22.6 -5.9 2.7 Nov 3.1 11.6 OctS# iz -8.2 2.8 -58.0 736 338 Colombia 95 3 39.6 -7.3 1.5 Nov 2.6 14.7 Oct8 -4.6 -8.8 Sue. -108 3,419 -1.2 Mexico 8.6 Q3 58.0 -9.0 3.3 Nov 35 3.3. Mar 1.7 -5.3 5.4 -141 20.1 -5.2 Peru ees = 187-120 Nov 1.8 142 = Novs ts FeyTDlClCllrlUr -54.0 tou! -6.1— Egypt ae Q2 na 3.6 5.7 Nov 49 7.3 Q38 -3.3 -8.8 na nil [Sez 2.6 Israel femo3s §8=6379 -4.0 -0.6 Nov -0.6 47 Oct 3.8 -11.1 0.9 7.0 3.26 6.8 Saudi Arabia 0.3 2019 na -4.2 5.8 Nov 35 9.0 Q2 -3.9 -10.9 na nil 35 nil South Africa -60 Q3 66.1 -7.2 3.2 Nov 32. 30.8 Q38 -2.1 -16.0 8.8 45.0 14.9 -2.7 Source: Haver Analytics. *% change on previous quarter, annual rate. The Economist Intelligence Unit estimate/forecast. SNot seasonally adjusted. ¥New series. **Year ending June. TLatest 3 months. #*3-month moving average. §§5-year yield. ™Dollar-denominated bonds. Markets Commodities % change on: % change on: Index one Dec31st index one Dec 31st The Economist commodity-price index % change on In local currency Dec 15th __—— week 2019 Dec 15th week 2019 2015=100 Dec 8th Dec 14th* month year United States S&P 500 3,694.6 -0.2 14.4 Pakistan KSE 43,250.8 OE, 6.2 Dollar Index United States NAScomp 12,595.1 0.1 40.4 Singapore STI 78507 1.1 -11.4 All tems 143.8 147.7 93 ay China Shanghai Comp 35072 -1.3 10.4 South Korea KOSPI ZT SOS 2M 25.4 Food 110.4 Me 0.1 93 China Shenzhen Comp 2,256.4 -1.6 Sk Taiwan TWI 14,068.5 -2.0 Le Industrials Japan Nikkei 225 26,687.8 0.8 12.8 Thailand SET 1,477.2 -0.1 -6.5 All ioe 181.1 75:4 414 Japan Topix 1,782.1 ies 35 Argentina MERV 53;200.2 -2.6 oreo Non-food agriculturals 118.8 123.3 10.7 el Britain FTSE 100 oes -0.7 -13.6 Brazil BVSP 116,148.6 7m 0.4 Metals 191.8 198.3 16.3 459 _ Canada S&P TSX 17,506.5 -0.8 2.6 Mexico IPC 43,543.4 3.4 nil FE eae Euro area EUROSTOXX50 = 3,521.5 -0.1 -6.0 Egypt EGX 30 0576 Os -20.8 ie 1643-1693 9.3 60 France CAC 40 5,030.3 -0.5 -7.5 Israel TA-125 loo 2 1.9 -48 | ; Germany DAX* 13,362.9 0.6 0.9 Saudi Arabia Tadawul 8,659.4 0.5 3.2 Euro Index Italy FTSE/MIB 21,935.1 -0.5 -67 South Africa JSE AS 59,478.3 0.5 42 All items > S25 7.0 17.5 Netherlands AEX els 0.1 Z| World, dev’d MSCI 2,643.7 0.1 al Gold Spain IBEX 35 8,152.4 -0.9 -14.6 Emerging markets MSCI 152502 0S 2 $ per oz 1,867.2 1,827.0 5) IAG Poland — 55,614.0 -0.7 -3.8 7 Russia RTS, $ terms 1,390.5 1.9 -10.2 Switzerland SMI 10,341.2 -0.5 -2.6 US corporate bonds, spread over Treasuries Sperbarel Fs 490 Turkey BIST 1,395.4 4.1 219 Dec 31st Sources: Bloomberg; CME Group; Cotlook; Refinitiv Datastream; Australia All Ord. 68667 -08 09 Basis points latest 2019 ~—~Fastmarkets; FT; ICCO; 1CO; ISO; Live Rice Index; LME; NZ Wool Hong Kong Hang Seng 26,2073 04 70 “Investmnentcrade. a 2a grade 142 14] Services; Thompson Lloyd & Ewart; Urner Barry; WSJ. *Provisional. India BSE 46,263.2 1.4 ipa High-yield 442 449 Indonesia IDX 6,010.1 1 49° Sources: Refinitiv Datastream; Standard & Poor’s Global Fixed Income For more countries and additional data, visit Malaysia KLSE oe 2.6 Dah Research. *Total return index. Economist.com/indicators Graphic detail The media and covid-19 The Economist December 19th 2020 125 > The covid-19 pandemic has dominated news coverage more than any other topic since the second world war Share of articles mentioning keyword in each year in The Economist and the New York Times, % Covid-19 or coronavirus in 2020 War The Economist 47% 50 = : | New York Times 46% —*° Crimean war American civil war Boer war / a | Spanish- | | | American war | Gulfwar = Iraqwarstarts 20 | f } “ A 1 : i” : a) Am WY | a” es , 1 Wwe 10 —_ Le | We] LUA . —— — ese” | | WwW1 WW2 | 0 1840 60 80 1900 20 40 60 80 2000 20 Depression or recession a5 Internet or online Y Great Depression 2008 crash Y2K problem 20) 20 10 10 1840 60 80 2000 20 Communism End of WW2 Berlin Wall falls or communist 1840 60 80 1900 20 40 60 80 2000 20 Climate change or global warming ie “An Inconvenient Truth” released pe A V 0 1840 60 80 1900 20 40 60 80 2000 20 The biggest story ever? Only the world wars have rivalled covid-19’s share of news coverage IVEN HOW much the world has changed Gin 2020, it is hard to fathom that the year was just one leap-day longer than 2019. On January 16th The Economist pub- lished its first article about a novel corona- virus in Wuhan, China, which at that point had been confirmed only as the cause of 42 infections and one death. Two weeks later, covid-19 made its debut on our cover. It re- turned there on February 27th, and held the Slot for ten consecutive issues. The topic has claimed seven more covers since then. Is the pandemic the biggest news story ever? The two world wars and the Spanish flu of 1918 caused far more deaths, as have various famines and genocides. However, covid-i9 has altered people’s daily routines in almost every country, in a way that dead- lier events did not. Moreover, fatality counts cannot quantify developments that 1840 60 80 1900 20 40 60 80 2000 20 Empire India gains independence 10 To ae ek eee 1840 60 80 1900 20 40 60 80 2000 20 Flu or influenza* ‘a | Spanish flu 1840 60 80 1900 20 40 60 80 2000 20 have changed people’s lives for the better. AS an alternative measure, we combed through every article we have published since our founding in 1843, and counted how often we mentioned certain keywords in each year. To diversify this analysis, the New York Times has also granted us access toits archives, which stretch back to1851. In both publications, just under half of arti- cles this year (including January and Feb- ruary, when the disease was mostly limited to China) have included “covid-19” or “coro- navirus’. In late March, four-fifths of our own stories used one of those words. Only two events in modern history have come close to these fractions: the world wars. The share of Economist stories refer- ring to “war” reached 53% in 1915 and 54% in 1941. For the New York Times, it peaked at 39% in 1918 and 37% 1n 1942. This gap may be explained by America’s distance from the battlefronts, which reduced the effect of the fighting on daily life. If newspapers around the world hewed closer to 35% than 55% in their reporting of the wars, then co- vid-19 has probably set a new record. Media coverage is a flawed gauge of im- portance. Many critics worry that journal- ists focus too much on bad news, which of- > Share of articles in each Economist issue mentioning covid-19 or coronavirus, 2020, % 80 60 40 20 Health 30 20 10 a Fe | 0 1840 60 80 1900 20 40 60 80 2000 20 Democracy a A Pie 80 1900 20 40 60 1840 60 80 2000 20 Poverty 1840 60 80 1900 20 40 60 80 2000 20 *Influenza only until1900 Sources: Gale; New York Times; The Economist ten arrives via unexpected catastrophes, and too little on improvements, which tend to accumulate more gradually. None- theless, The Economist’s archive bears traces of life getting better—or at least, we have taken stock of slow-moving changes in welfare more frequently as time has gone on. Even before 2020, mentions of “health” were rising. “Democracy”, though under threat in many countries, grew in popularity in the late 1980s. Articles about “poverty’ became more common after 2000, when the UN listed its eradication as its first goal for the new millennium. The 21st century also brought a surge in Stories referring to the “internet” or being “online”. Before 2020, the biggest change in most people’s daily lives in recent decades was probably the advent of the world wide web and smartphones. If the pandemic makes working from home realistic for many employees, it might have a similarly long-lasting effect. That would be a wel- come Silver lining toalong, gloomy year. @ We’re hiring: The Economist is looking to add both a full-time data journalist and a promising young trainee to our data team. Please visit economist.com/datajobs for details. 126 Obituary John le Carre Fay * a a i Ps i Vi aw > eo) i | ‘ax ‘ 7 | [ed a 4, — y 1 ey? | .. a — : a x L = r ‘ i al ] a a —_ . ‘ “fli = + * an |

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