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Daron Acemoglu



Articles by Daron Acemoglu

Minding the Perils of Progress

8 days ago

The COVID-19 crisis has been a brutal reminder that, for all of our wealth and technological mastery, we are still vulnerable to catastrophic tail risks. To ensure future prosperity, we must adopt a growth strategy that places collective risks front and center, rather than treating them as an afterthought.

CAMBRIDGE – It is always worth remembering that in the grand sweep of history, we are the fortunate ones. Thomas Hobbes’s description of life as “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short” was apt for most of human history. Not anymore. Famines and hunger have become rarer, living standards for most people have risen, and extreme poverty has been reduced substantially over the past few decades. Average life

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What We Owe Essential Workers

July 6, 2020

The praise in America for low-paid essential workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic is long overdue, but it should be followed with meaningful reforms. Beyond raising the federal minimum wage, the United States desperately needs to overhaul its approach to technological innovation.

BOSTON – The low-wage workers who make up nearly half of the US workforce have long been neglected, steadily falling behind highly educated workers in expanding industries such as technology, finance, and entertainment. Since the 1970s, real (inflation-adjusted) wages have stagnated for prime-age men with less than a college education, and declined significantly for those with a high-school education or less.

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The Great Debt Cleanup

June 23, 2020

Now that the COVID-19 pandemic has ushered in a steep economic downturn, highly indebted emerging markets and developing countries are facing potentially ruinous fiscal crises, the costs of which will fall on ordinary citizens. Fortunately, there is a way to address the problem that is both practical and just.

BOSTON – With more than $7.5 trillion owed to external creditors, emerging economies’ debt-service costs are becoming increasingly onerous just when they need as much fiscal space as possible to confront the COVID-19 crisis. While there is a strong case for canceling much of this debt, many key players oppose doing so, arguing that it would limit these countries’ access to international markets in the future,

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The Post-COVID State

June 5, 2020

CAMBRIDGE – The world is experiencing one of the most transformative moments of the last 75 years. The social, economic, and political consequences of the COVID-19 crisis have already been truly momentous, and they have most likely only just begun to be felt. In the United States, more than 40 million workers have filed unemployment claims since mid-March, and more and more families are being pushed to the brink of poverty. Around the world, millions more are facing even more precarious conditions, with 40-60 million people expected to fall below the extreme poverty line of less than $1.90 per day.

Rage Against the Pandemic

Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

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How the Other Half Automates

April 24, 2020

As the COVID-19 pandemic escalates, and its effects reverberate around the world, Project Syndicate is delivering the expert scientific, economic, and political insights that people need. For more than 25 years, we have been guided by a simple credo: All people deserve access to a broad range of views by the world’s foremost leaders and thinkers on the issues, events, and forces shaping their lives. In this crisis, that mission is more important than ever – and we remain committed to fulfilling it.
But there is no doubt that the intensifying crisis puts us, like so many other organizations, under growing strain. If you are in a position to support us, please subscribe now.
As a subscriber, you will enjoy unlimited access to our On Point suite of long reads and book

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The Post-Trump Agenda

March 16, 2020

The stakes in November’s US presidential election are high, given how much damage to America and the world a second Trump term could cause. But even if Trump is defeated, Americans must address the deeper problems that made his presidency possible.

CAMBRIDGE – The experience of the past three years has shattered the myth that the US Constitution on its own can protect American democracy from a narcissistic, unpredictable, polarizing, and authoritarian president. But the country’s problems are not limited to the menace in the White House. All Americans also bear responsibility for the current state of affairs, because we have neglected critical institutions and ignored the intensifying structural weaknesses that

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Social Democracy Beats Democratic Socialism

February 17, 2020

Now that US Senator Bernie Sanders has emerged as a leading contender for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, his brand of democratic socialism warrants closer scrutiny. Simply put, it is neither a close approximation of the "Nordic model" that Sanders often invokes nor a solution to what ails the American economy.

CAMBRIDGE – It used to be an unwritten rule of US politics that a socialist could never qualify for high national office. But now a self-proclaimed “democratic socialist,” US Senator Bernie Sanders, is the leading candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination. Should America embrace the change?
The White Swans of 2020

Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

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Is America Going Fascist?

January 15, 2020

Given US President Donald Trump’s propensity for racist, divisive rhetoric, it is easy to see why so many of his opponents would describe him as a modern-day Benito Mussolini or Adolf Hitler. But by implying that all Trump supporters are irredeemable extremists, such rhetoric merely plays into his hands.

CAMBRIDGE – White nationalism is on the rise in the United States. According to the Anti-Defamation League, there were 6,768 incidents of extremism and anti-Semitism (mostly from the right) in the US in 2018 and 2019. That figure is significantly higher than in previous years, leading many to conclude that President Donald Trump is to blame for the uptick in domestic extremism.
Financial Markets’ Iran

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Elizabeth Warren’s Bold Ideas Don’t Go Far Enough

December 18, 2019

For decades, US median household wages have barely budged, and politicians on both the left and right have lost sight of what drives a modern economy. What America needs are policies to shape the direction of technological development and restore workers’ bargaining power.

CAMBRIDGE – Forget the stock market and the low unemployment rate: the US economy isn’t working. Productivity growth, a key gauge of economic health, remains historically low. Median wages, an indicator of middle-class living standards, have barely grown in four decades. Inequality is high, and market power is increasingly concentrated in the hands of just a few companies. Americans used to dismiss Europe as the land of government-protected,

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The Fall of the Berlin Wall and Social Democracy

November 13, 2019

The fall of the Berlin Wall heralded not only the collapse of communism in Europe, but also the destruction of a broader – and far more constructive – social-democratic compact. To prevent a return to extremism and instability, that compact must be refashioned for the twenty-first century.

CAMBRIDGE – It was already clear 30 years ago that the fall of the Berlin Wall would change everything. But precisely what that change will mean for world politics in the twenty-first century still remains to be seen.
Abolish the Billionaires?

PS OnPoint

Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images

Is Economic Winter Coming?

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Are the Climate Kids Right?

November 5, 2019

The young activists leading school strikes and mass protests around the world have been highly effective in sounding the alarm about climate change. But if the movement is going to be anything more than a flash in the pan, it must adopt realistic policy objectives that the broader public can support.

CAMBRIDGE – The increase of greenhouse-gas emissions (GHGs) in the atmosphere has caused average global surface temperatures to rise by almost 1°C over the past century. There is no doubt in the scientific community that these changes are a direct consequence of human activity. Yet it seems increasingly unlikely that we will be able to reduce GHG emissions sufficiently to halt and then reverse global warming.

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How to Stem Ukraine’s Corruption

October 14, 2019

In terms of economic growth, the Polish and Ukrainian experiences in the decades since the fall of communism have been a portrait in contrasts. Whereas Poland embraced the power of democratic civil society and grew wealthier, Ukraine remained trapped by kleptocratic institutions that bred a culture of corruption and destroyed public trust.

CAMBRIDGE – In the euphoric moment immediately following the collapse of the Soviet Union, few would have guessed that Ukraine – an industrialized country with an educated workforce and vast natural resources – would suffer stagnation for the next 28 years. Neighboring Poland, which was poorer than Ukraine in 1991, managed almost to triple its per capita GDP (in purchasing power

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The Constitution Won’t Save American Democracy

September 24, 2019

The US Constitution will not save American democracy from the depredations of President Donald Trump. Only American society, which has always been more democratic than the country’s founders, can do that.

CAMBRIDGE – Revelations that a whistleblower from the intelligence community has accused US President Donald Trump of making inappropriate promises to a foreign leader have reignited the hopes that recently hung on the report of Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Many of those exasperated with Trump’s norm-violating, truth-bending, and polarizing presidency had believed that the system would somehow discipline, restrain, or remove him. Yet these hopes were misguided then, and they are misguided now.

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Big Tech’s Harvest of Sorrow?

August 7, 2019

At the same time that science and technology have vastly improved human lives, they have also given certain visionaries the means to transform entire societies from above. Ominously, what was true of Soviet central planners is true of Big Tech today: namely, the assumption that society can be improved through pure "rationality."

CAMBRIDGE – Digital technology has transformed how we communicate, commute, shop, learn, and entertain ourselves. Soon enough, technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), Big Data, and the Internet of Things (IoT), could remake health care, energy, transportation, agriculture, the public sector, the natural environment, and even our minds and bodies.

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Istanbul Shows How Democracy Is Won

June 25, 2019

For months, the world looked on as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan attempted to reverse the outcome of the city’s municipal election. But now that Erdoğan’s party has been defeated once again, his fundamental weakness has been exposed – as has that of populist authoritarians everywhere.

ISTANBUL – When the Turkish High Election Council, dominated by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s appointees, annulled Istanbul’s all-important municipal election on May 6, the world was right to be concerned. But now that another vote has been held, it is Erdoğan who should be worried.
The Coming Sino-American Bust-Up

PS OnPoint

Getty Images

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Why Universal Basic Income Is a Bad Idea

June 7, 2019

One should always be wary of simple solutions to complex problems, and universal basic income is no exception. The fact that this answer to automation and globalization has been met with such enthusiasm indicates a breakdown not in the economic system, but in democratic politics and civic life.

BOSTON – Owing to the inadequacy of the social safety net in the United States and other developed countries, proposals for a universal basic income (UBI) are gaining in popularity. The gap between the rich and everyone else has expanded significantly in recent years, and many fear that automation and globalization will widen it further.
Europe’s Silent Majority Speaks Out

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How Do Populists Win?

May 31, 2019

At first blush, a populist message of "us vs. them" might seem less effective than a message of "all of us together," given that elections are won with broad coalitions. But under conditions of widespread alienation and distrust, the political gamble of an exclusionary, anti-pluralist message can pay off big.

CHICAGO – In the Middle Ages, Italian city-states led the European “commercial revolution” with innovations in finance, trade, and technology. Then something strange happened. In 1264, to take one example, the people of Ferrara decreed that, “The magnificent and illustrious Lord Obizzo … is to be Governor and Ruler and General and permanent Lord of the City.” Suddenly, a democratic

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Where Do Good Jobs Come From?

April 26, 2019

Many regard the falloff in the creation of high-wage jobs as the inevitable result of advances in artificial intelligence and robotics. It isn’t. Technology can be used either to displace labor or to enhance worker productivity.

CAMBRIDGE – Around the world this May Day, policy proposals that would have appeared radical just a few years ago are now on the agenda. In the United States, for example, high marginal tax rates, wealth taxes, and single-payer health care have become mainstream ideas. Yet unless policymakers get their priorities right, the opportunity for meaningful reform could be squandered, leading to even deeper social and political divisions.
Capitalism’s Great Reckoning

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The Revolution Need Not Be Automated

March 29, 2019

For centuries after the Industrial Revolution, automation did not hinder wage and employment growth, because it was accompanied by new technologies geared toward maintaining the role of human labor in value creation. But in the era of artificial intelligence, it will be up to policymakers to ensure that the pattern continues.

BOSTON – Artificial intelligence is transforming every aspect of our lives, not least the economy. As a general-purpose technology, AI’s applications are potentially endless. While it can be used to automate tasks previously performed by people, it can also make human labor more productive, thereby increasing labor demand.

Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/Getty Images

Wojtek

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