The Best of The Economist – September 2013

The Best of The Economist – September 2013

 The origins of the financial crisis: Crash course. The effects of the financial crisis are still being felt, five years on. This article, the first of a series of five on the lessons of the upheaval, looks at its causes. The collapse of Lehman Brothers, a sprawling global bank, in September 2008 almost brought down the world’s financial system. It took huge taxpayer-financed bail-outs to shore up the industry. Even so, the ensuing credit crunch turned what was already a nasty downturn into the worst recession in 80 years. Massive monetary and fiscal stimulus prevented a buddy-can-you-spare-a-dime depression, but the recovery remains feeble compared with previous post-war upturns. GDP is still below its pre-crisis peak in many rich countries, especially in Europe, where the financial crisis has evolved into the euro crisis. The effects of the crash are still rippling through the world economy: witness the wobbles in financial markets as America’s Federal Reserve prepares to scale back its effort to pep up growth by buying bonds.

The “Breaking Bad” school. The best show on television is also a first-rate primer on business. There are obvious reasons for watching “Breaking Bad”: for once the Hollywood hype surrounding the television series is justified. But there is also a less obvious reason: it is one of the best studies available of the dynamics of modern business. A Harvard MBA will set you back $90,000 (plus two years’ lost income). You can buy a deluxe edition of all five seasons of “Breaking Bad”, complete with a plastic money barrel, for $209.99, or a regular edition for less than $80.

The other Yalta conference. A global elite gathering in the Crimea. Nearly seventy years ago Joseph Stalin, Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt sat at the round table in Yalta’s Livadia’s palace (pictured) and carved up the map of Europe. Last weekend, their ghosts must have been disturbed by the pow-wow of politicians, thinkers and businessmen who gathered in the same palace for the annual meeting of Yalta European Strategy, trying to reshape Europe one more time.

BlackBerry, Still in a jam. Going private will not solve the company’s problems. It’s turnaround playbook turned out to be just as disappointing as its PlayBook tablet computer, which was supposed to rival Apple’s iPad but never caught on. Having failed to reverse its fortunes as a public company, BlackBerry announced on September 23rd that it had struck a preliminary deal with a group of investors who want to take it private, at a value of $4.7 billion. This is only slightly above its market value just before the bid, and a massive comedown from the $83 billion the company was worth in its heyday in 2008.

Nuclear weapons: Start worryingHow did the world become so complacent about nuclear weapons? Eric Schlosser, an investigative journalist, suspects that rational minds cannot quite grasp the reality of their destructive power. He recalls growing up in the 1970s, amid talk of a nuclear Armageddon, and coming to view such weapons as a terrible fiction.


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