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Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review May 9, 2006 / 11 Iyar, 5766

Many commentators are missing dangerous political shift

By Niall Ferguson


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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | First, the reasons to be cheerful. And, though it's hard for a pessimist like me to admit it, there are plenty.


Democracy is on a roll. There have never been so many democracies in the world. More than half the world's people now enjoy at least some measure of political representation.


Peace, too, is breaking out all over. The amount of armed conflict in the world is lower than it's been at any time since the end of the Cold War.


What's more, the world economy is going great guns. For the first time since 1969, there isn't a single major economy around the world that's in a recession. On average, growth rates are above 4%. Stock markets are up in both developed and emerging markets. Inflation is low, despite the recent hike in energy prices. Despite some recent monetary tightening, interest rates are still at historically low levels.


By the standards of my lifetime — the last 42 years — this is surely about as good as it gets. As they say in New York, what's not to like? What, if anything, should we be worried about?


Professional commentators on world events get paid to write about low-probability, high-impact dangers. That's partly because they're interesting to think about (nothing sells newspapers like a war). And it's partly because, if you are lucky enough to predict such events accurately, they can make you some serious dough. Quite apart from the fact that some people can get killed, other people can make a killing if — say — the effect of the high-impact event in question is to double (or cut in half) oil prices.


Right now, the top five potential sources of low-probability, high-impact events are:


1) Iran's nuclear weapons program.

2) Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke's mouth.

3) Iraq's descent into civil war.

4) Gazprom's power to blackmail European gas importers.

5) The hurricane season in the Gulf of Mexico.


The trouble with these are that they are all, as the finance guys like to say, "priced in." In other words, investors and money managers have some sense of the magnitude of risk involved and are hedged accordingly.


Are there any low-probability, high-impact events the markets might be missing? I can think of five big ones that aren't "priced in" as much as they might be:


1) Another 9/11.

2) An avian flu pandemic.

3) A computer virus that shuts down Google.

4) A U.S.-China clash over Taiwan.

5) A worldwide political shift to the left.


It's No. 5 that really interests me because it's actually a high-probability, high-impact event. Indeed, it's not just high probability. It's already happening.


The headline event has been the decision by newly elected Bolivian President Evo Morales — predicted in this column Feb. 13 — to nationalize his country's energy sector.


But the swing to the left is not a purely Latin American story. The left won last month's Italian elections. The French government recently caved in to street protests by trade unions and leftist students. And in the United States, the Democrats are poised to make gains in the November midterm elections.


The reason so many commentators are missing this political shift is that, as relatively high earners, they are mostly cut off from its social drivers.


Driver No. 1 is inequality, which has risen quite markedly within most economies in the last decade, mainly because tax systems have become less progressive and the fruits of the world's rapid growth have been disproportionately distributed to the owners of corporations and the executives who run them.


Income distribution in the U.S. has not been this unequal since before World War II — the last time that the top 1% of earners accounted for more than 14% of all income (excluding capital gains). The average pay for a chief executive in the U.S. increased 27% last year to more than $11 million. By contrast, the average wage earner took home less than $45,000 in 2004, up roughly 3% from the year before.


In 1940, the average top executive's salary was about 68 times the average worker's earnings; now, it's more like 200 times higher.


The second driver of the swing to the left is ethnic conflict. Take the issue of immigration. You might think rising immigration would lead to a backlash on the right, not the left, and you'd be right. But the net effect of xenophobia — which is most likely to be felt by blue-collar, indigenous voters — is often to benefit the left because it tends to split the right.


That's already detectable in North America and continental Europe. It could prove to be true in Britain too.


Granted, last week's front pages in Britain were dominated by Labor's heavy losses in local elections. But the real story was that the far-right British National Party won 11 of the 13 seats it contested in East London.


According to opinion polls, about a third of British voters now regard immigration as the most important issue facing the country. Polls taken before last week's elections revealed that 24% of likely voters had considered, or were considering, voting BNP. If there had been more BNP candidates last week, it seems certain, there would have been more BNP votes. And not all of them would have been taken from Labor.


No trend is ever universal, of course. But history would lead us to expect that a period of widening inequality be followed by a bout of political populism.


There are many reasons to be cheerful these days, as I said. But not everyone is cheerful, especially the further down the income pyramid you go. And that's an opportunity for a new generation of political leaders.


Bolivian gas nationalization may be just the first of many high-impact events the markets haven't priced in.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.


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Niall Ferguson is a professor of history at Harvard University. He is the author of "Empire" (Basic Books, 2003) and "Colossus" (Penguin, 2004). Comment by clicking here.

05/02/06: Put some sugar in your tank
04/25/06: Hu and the dog that didn't bark
04/18/06: Should Americans be less optimistic?
04/11/06: Globalization's second death?
04/04/06: So many ‘special’ friends
03/28/06: Let's get it right about what has gone wrong
03/21/06: Congress is trying to give the world a globotomy
03/14/06: Lame ducks can still bite back
03/07/06: A 19th Century critique of a 21st Century president
02/28/06: The crash of civilizations
02/21/06: Not the president, but close
02/14/06: Want historic trouble? Look south
02/07/06: Greenspan advising Britain? It's housing bubbles, deficits and potential meltdowns all over again
01/31/06: Missing the Cold War
01/24/06: It's a sick, Thick World
01/17/06: Tomorrow's world war today
01/03/06: Scotland, it's over, but keep the accents
12/20/05: History, democracy and Iraq
12/20/05: History, democracy and Iraq
11/22/05: Ghost of Napoleon haunts Tony Blair
11/22/05: Can it happen in Britain too?
11/15/05: Red plus blue equals purple
11/10/05: The fires of disintegration
11/01/05: Triumph of an über-wonk

© 2006, Los Angeles Times Distributed by Los Angeles Times Syndicate

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