The best of the Economist, September 15th, 2012

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3D printing: Difference Engine: The PC all over again? What could well be the next great technological disruption is fermenting away, out of sight, in small workshops, college labs, garages and basements. Tinkerers with machines that turn binary digits into molecules are pioneering a whole new way of making things—one that could well rewrite the rules of manufacturing in much the same way as the PC trashed the traditional world of computing.

GrowthEverything’s amazing and nobody’s happy. Is growth over? That, amazingly, is the subject of an interesting online discussion prompted by a new Robert Gordon paper on the recent performance of American productivity growth (which my colleague has discussed here and here). Mr Gordon has produced work sceptical of the power of recent innovations for some time now; his research has influenced the work of Tyler Cowen, among others, who has postulated a “Great Stagnation” due to the exhaustion of low-hanging fruit, including big new technologies.

Heard on the trail: The story so far“You might not be ready for diplomacy with Beijing if you can’t visit the Olympics without insulting our closest ally.” Barack Obama points out that Mitt Romney upset the Brits during a visit to London, September 6th.

Japanese politics: The man who would be dictator? Popular frustration with the mainstream boosts a political maverick. In the north-eastern town of Yonezawa, Yoichi Funayama, owner of a photo-printing firm, has pinned signs on his shop window decrying both the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) and the main opposition Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) as past their sell-by dates.

Muslim rage: Why they won’t calm downMischief, not madness, often underlies Muslim anger. To outside eyes it is as bizarre as it is repellent. A single event, book, cartoon, film or teddy bear, which represents nothing but its originator, who may not even be American, sparks lethal outbursts of mass protest. What, to prejudiced Westerners, could better exemplify Muslim backwardness and depravity?

Bach on record: Play it againIn 1955 Glenn Gould, a Canadian keyboard genius noted for his interpretations of Johann Sebastian Bach, made an iconic record of the composer’s “Goldberg Variations”. It was one of the first commercial long-playing discs, the latest technology for capturing and replaying music. Soon afterwards he announced that he was giving up live performance to devote himself entirely to recording, a remarkably bold decision at a time when musicians’ reputations were made principally in the concert hall.

Roger Fisher: Getting to yesRoger Fisher, lawyer, teacher and peacemaker, died on August 25th, aged 90. He might be an academic—40 years on the faculty of Harvard Law School—but Roger Fisher was really a fixer. He would relax by mending the plumbing, or laying brick terraces at the summer house he loved in Martha’s Vineyard. But that was tiddler stuff. At breakfast he would scan the New York Times, looking for bigger problems he could fix: arms control, hostage-taking, the Middle East.


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