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Economic recovery will put the theory of “secular stagnation” to the test

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Borrowed time

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Free exchange

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Quantum leaps

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Free exchange

IN PERIODS of economic stress all sorts of theories are entertained about the nature of the problem. When better times return, some theories fade from memory. Others linger, however. During the economic mess of the past decade, economists frightened themselves with tales of “secular stagnation”: a nasty condition that dooms its victims to chronically weak growth. Now that the economic outlook is brightening a bit—deflation has been dispatched, and for most advanced economies 2017 is forecast to bring a third consecutive year of economic growth—it is tempting to laugh off the idea of secular stagnation as a bit of crisis-induced hysteria. Tempting, but also premature.
In a time of …

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The end of a mining boom leaves the economy surprisingly intact

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On a chiko roll

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Australia’s economy

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Quantum leaps

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On a chiko roll

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CHARTERS TOWERS

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A GOLD rush in the late 19th century so enriched Charters Towers, an outback town in the state of Queensland, that it opened its own stock exchange. Trading ceased long ago. But the grand building still stands, its barrel-vaulted portico supported by eight slim pillars. Over a century later, Queensland is reeling from the demise of another mining boom. “There was a perception it would go on forever,” says Liz Schmidt, mayor of Charters Towers. But unlike so many other booms, this one has not …

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Two books examine American society. One analyses its growing complacency and another (see following page) the importance of serendipity in social discourse

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Bland comfort

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The future of America

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Quantum leaps

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The future of America

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The Complacent Class: The Self-Defeating Quest for the American Dream. By Tyler Cowen. St Martin’s Press; 241 pages; $28.99.

AMERICA is the land of opportunity, they say. Inspired by the ambition of its Founding Fathers, its people revel in their dynamism. Diversity is their strength, as captured in the national motto—E pluribus unum (“Out of many, one”). Americans embrace change and reinvention, and this, they like to think, sets their country apart from Europe or Asia.
Tyler Cowen, an …

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British banks are doing better, but the taxpayer is not off the hook yet

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Better does not mean good

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British banks

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France’s next revolution

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Better does not mean good

THE day after last June’s Brexit referendum, shares in British banks tanked. Most economists feared financial instability and recession, and few investors wanted to be associated with a sector that had been so badly damaged by the financial crisis (see chart). But eight months on the banks are doing better than expected. By recent standards, at least, their results have not been that bad. In 2016 Barclays avoided making a loss. And on February 22nd Lloyds, now almost exclusively a Britain-focused bank, posted its highest pre-tax profits for a decade. As in other countries, since the referendum banks’ share prices have outperformed the rest of the …

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Only catastrophic events really reduce inequality, according to a historical survey

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Apocalypse then

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Violence and inequality

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France’s next revolution

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Apocalypse then

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The Great Leveller: Violence and the History of Inequality from the Stone Age to the Twenty-First Century By Walter Scheidel. Princeton University Press; 504 pages; $35 and £27.95.
AS A supplier of momentary relief, the Great Depression seems an unlikely candidate. But when it turns up on page 363 of Walter Scheidel’s “The Great Leveler” it feels oddly welcome. For once—and it is only once, for no other recession in American history boasts the same achievement—real wages rise and the incomes of the most affluent fall to a degree that has a “powerful …

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Investors in America’s housing-finance giants have a bad day in court

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Still possessed

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Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac

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Wind and solar power are disrupting electricity systems

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Still possessed

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ONE unresolved issue from the financial crisis is the future of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two firms that stand behind much of America’s housing market. Fannie and Freddie purchase mortgages, bundle them into securities and sell them on to investors with a guarantee. When America’s housing market collapsed a decade ago, the government had to bail them out. Its treatment of the firms since then has created a titanic legal struggle. Shareholders have cried foul. On February 21st, a federal appeals court upheld a ruling in the government’s …

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A typical meal in the Democratic Republic of Congo consists of greens, fufu - a starchy ball made from cassava flour - and meat, such as freshwater fish.

Some African countries have long witnessed mysterious outbreaks of paralysis. Affected regions are poor and conflict-ridden, where people’s main food is a bitter, poisonous variety of cassava.

(Image credit: Amy Maxmen for NPR)

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