Econintersect: Every day our editors collect the most interesting things they find from around the internet and present a summary "reading list" which will include very brief summaries (and sometimes longer ones) of why each item has gotten our attention. Suggestions from readers for "reading list" items are gratefully reviewed, although sometimes space limits the number included.
- China July exports jump, but domestic economy still a worry (Reuters) China achieved a record trade surplus in July. Exports were up 14.5% year-over-year and the trade balance was +$47.3 billion, aided by a decline in imports from a year ago of 1.6%. And the decline in imports is a concern because it reflects weak domestic demand. Rebalancing its economy toward increased domestic consumption isn't happening if imports are declining.
- North Korea's military is falling apart — is Kim Jong Un's regime next? (Kyle Mizokami, This Week) North Korea's aging military machine has jets falling from the sky, tanks and other armaments so old that parts are no longer made and repairs of 50-year old machines are accomplished with parts cannibalized from other 50-year old machines. It is now appearing that the cannibalized parts are insufficient as three MiG-19 jets have crashed this year.
- Who Stole the 4-Hour Workday? (Nathan Schneider, Vice) In 1930 John Maynard Keynes wrote an essay envisioning the world 100 years on. By 2030 he foresaw almost complete "technological unemployment". He projected 15 hour work weeks and much of that would be make work because technology would provide for all our needs. Well part of that vision sounds correct. And what pathway would get us to the utopia? Keynes said it would be greed that would drive the economic machine. Here is Schneider in the section just before he outlines the pathway over the intervening years that saw greed not delivering us from its evil but entrapping us in it:
With this, he proposed a deal with the devil: Trust in greed for a while more, and it would save us from itself. To illustrate, Keynes made the rather anti-Semitic observation that, just as the Jew Jesus brought access to eternal life into the world, the Jews' genius for compound interest would produce so much plenty as to deliver us all from wage slavery forever. Keynes didn't expect, however, that like most deals with the devil, the devil had the upper hand: Greed managed to suck up most of the benefits of almighty progress for itself.
- Origami self-assembling robot crawls off drawing board (Clive Cookson, Financial Times) We are getting closer and closer to making humans irrelevant to production.
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