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Changing the Economics of Renewable Energy

While politicians debate the benefits of using coal to generate electricity, the economics of renewable energy may soon make the debate moot. In a July 2017 research report, Morgan Stanley stated, “Numerous key markets have reached an inflection point...

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Is Political Turmoil Bad for Business?

Conventional wisdom says that business dislikes uncertainty. That places politics in an important position. Political stability gives businesses a degree of confidence to plan and invest for their future. Political stability can come in various forms. While most developed economies tend...

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Global Leadership

The chronology of 2016-2017 elections in Western countries, appearing in a Fifty Year Perspective blog post, reviewed attitudes toward globalization, immigration, and the European Union. Subsequent blog posts examined the internal challenges facing the European Union, shortcomings of...

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New Institutions: Where to Start

In the book by Stephen D. King, Grave New World: The End of Globalization and the Return of History, reviewed in the previous blog post on Fifty Year Perspective, the author asked, “For globalization to work, nation states need...

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Needed: Improved International Institutions

If the institutions designed to maintain peace in Europe – and the world – are transformed or dissolved, what becomes of the peace? This question ended the previous blog post on Fifty Year Perspective. A new book by Stephen D. King,...

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The European Union’s Challenges

Of the ten European elections described in the previous blog post, only one specifically referenced the European Union. The United Kingdom vote in June 2016, known as Brexit, determined that the UK would leave the EU. And yet, the...

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Analyzing Twelve Months of Western Elections

Over the twelve months from June 2016, a series of elections in several Western countries tested their electorates’ approval of their governments’ performance. Moderate political parties surrendered followers to extremes of the right and left. Criticism of globalization and the...

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Highs and Lows of Commodity Dependence

Typically for developing countries, the export of commodities – fossil fuels, metals, chemicals, food stuffs – is the primary source of income and provides the revenue for the import of everything not produced at home. The price of their commodities...

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Job Security and Automation

The popular new movie La La Land opens with a hundred or so Hollywood hopefuls dancing and singing their dreams of becoming the next stars of stage and screen. Ignoring the competition for limited jobs, the poor average pay, and...

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Public Distrust of Science

On February 6, 1897, a bill was passed by the Indiana House of Representatives that would change the value of pi to 3.2. The bill died in the state senate when a senator observed that the legislative body lacked...

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Feast and Famine

A decade ago when droughts were severe in the United States and Russia, countries such as China, which had been a net importer of grain, began encouraging more domestic production. In stark contrast today, the U.S. is looking at its...

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The Bear in the Room

Like the proverbial elephant in the room, the Russian bear is making its presence felt throughout Europe, the Middle East, northern Africa, and the United States. Most notably, Russia’s intervention in Syria has strengthened its status as a...

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A History of Inequality

“In recent decades, income and wealth have become more unevenly distributed in Europe and North America, in the former Soviet bloc, and in China, India, and elsewhere.” This introduction to a new book by Walter Scheidel, titled The Great Leveler:...

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Populism in Democracies

The course taken by populist movements that have arisen from democracies was reviewed in a December 5, 2016 article from Foreign Affairs. The article’s authors, Andrea Kendall-Taylor and Erica Frantz, note that, whereas in the latter half of the...

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Obit: The World’s Foremost Authority

“Professor” Irwin Corey, an actor and comedian known as “The World’s Greatest Authority,” died February 6, 2017 at the age of 102. Professor Corey’s career spanned eight decades. He was described by theater critic Kenneth Tynan as “a cultural clown,...

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Brexit and European Migration

When voters in the United Kingdom (UK) went to the polls on June 23, 2016 and voted to leave the European Union (EU), they created two major questions to be resolved: What policies will govern migration between the UK and...

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2500 Years of Globalization

In his recent book, The Silk Roads: A New History of the World, Peter Frankopan writes a history of civilization from the perspective of trade, from ancient times to the present. As the western world debates the value of international...

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Experimenting with a Universal Basic Income

How should governments address the trend of jobs being eliminated by technological advancements? If close to half of current occupations are projected to be displaced by automation, as put forward in the last blog post, how will families secure the...

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Technology Creates and Destroys Jobs

Populist themes examined in the previous two blog posts expressed opposition to immigration, globalization, and international trade in both the U.S and the U.K. Similar sentiments are heard in several European countries heading into elections in the coming months. A...

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Delivering on Promises

The previous blog post, Lessons of Brexit and Trump (http://fiftyyearperspective.com/lessons-of-brexit-and-trump/), noted similarities in voter behavior in the United Kingdom vote to leave the European Union (EU) and the U.S. presidential election. Those favoring Brexit, the move to leave the...

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Lessons of Brexit and Trump

Three days after the U.S. presidential election of November 8, 2016, the British Broadcasting Corporation published an article by John Curtice comparing the outcome of the election to the vote in the U.K. on remaining in the EU, the so-called...

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China: Two Current Perspectives

Over the last quarter century China has raised hundreds of millions of its citizens from poverty or near-poverty to middle class status. The Communist Party of China (CPC) rewarded its citizens’ loyalty with a dramatic rise in household consumption. Increased...

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Living With Water

When Hurricane Matthew struck Haiti in October 2016 it left a thousand people dead. Some areas suffered 80-90 percent demolished buildings as well as destruction of bridges, roads, and schools. Adding to the misery, sources of livelihood were lost as...

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Urbanization in Sub-Saharan Africa

Population estimates for 2016 and projections to 2050 by the Population Division of the United Nations display the phenomenal growth expected to occur on the African continent. Of the 2.3 billion increase in world population by 2050, 55% is expected...

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Converging Trends in Aging and Employment

The central theme of Fifty Year Perspective is understanding the linkages between trends, decisions, and actions. Even when trends in themselves are positive, together they may paint a future that must be confronted with extreme forethought and preparation. A number...

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The Other European Migration Challenge

War in the Middle East has forced millions of people from their homes. Syria in particular has cities large and small devastated and practically abandoned. Refugees’ attempts to flee to Europe have led to division among potential host countries and...

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September 11, 2001 – 2016

This, the 50th posting to Fifty Year Perspective, coincides with the 15th anniversary of the attack on United States targets in New York and Washington, DC. The nineteen attackers were Islamic terrorists belonging to Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda organization. Fifteen...

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NATO’s Adaptation

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO, is a military alliance formed in 1949 when twelve countries (Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, United Kingdom, and United States) signed the North Atlantic Treaty. Sixteen additional countries...

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Zero Marginal Cost

Is it possible that the slow growth in GDP since the Great Recession could be attributed to something other than economic stagnation? Jeremy Rifkin thinks so. He wrote a book titled The Zero Marginal Cost Society in which he cites...

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Artificial Intelligence Summarized

International trade negotiations, mass migrations, and populist politicians feed fear of unemployment among lesser-skilled workers, despite the fact that technology is a greater threat to jobs. Artificial intelligence (AI) has destroyed both blue and white collar jobs, and is developing...

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Swiss Defeat Basic Income

The movement for a basic income was described in a blogpost on August 2, 2015 (http://fiftyyearperspective.com/a-basic-income-for-all/). The argument for a basic income arises from the prospect that technology will continue to eliminate jobs while replacing only a fraction of...

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Brexit from the Irish Perspective

Surely the ink that has already been spilled analyzing the aftermath of the June 23rd, 2016 United Kingdom vote on exiting the European Union could fill at least one of the U.S. Great Lakes. I was traveling in Ireland on...

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The Promise of 3D Printing

3D printing will cause “the whole business dynamic that makes it a good idea for a lot of U.S. companies to manufacture overseas will go poof…. It is expected to have a mighty impact on jobs, geopolitics and the climate.” “3D...

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Oil Exporters Adjust to Price Decline

Oil’s history in Arab states goes back to 1911 in Iran. Discoveries of commercial quantities occurred much later, in 1932 in Bahrain, 1938 in Saudi Arabia, and then following World War II in Oman, Kuwait, Qatar, and Abu Dhabi. Until...

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Liberal Democracy and Illiberal Democracy

“Democratically elected regimes, often ones that have been reelected or reaffirmed through referenda, are routinely ignoring constitutional limits on their power and depriving their citizens of basic rights and freedoms. From Peru to the Palestinian Authority, from Sierra Leone to...

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Preparing for Industries of the Future

Readers of this blog are familiar with issues surrounding technology and the future of employment. Previous blogposts have dealt with loss of jobs to technology, raising standards of living, guaranteeing basic income, and “new economy” jobs. With technology contributing to the...

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Information Technology’s Impacts on Politics

The internet has combined with other forms of information technology to alter most aspects of modern life. Smart phones, social media, and cloud computing facilitate communication and generate enormous amounts of data. A recent article in The Economist (http://www.economist.com/news/special-report/21695198-ever-easier-communications-and-ever-growing-data-mountains-are-transforming-politics)...

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Turkey: At the Crossroads of Geography and History

“Few countries occupy a geopolitical space of such sensitivity as Turkey, or have played such a range of critical and overlapping international roles.” Turkey lies at the boundary between Europe and Asia; Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city, is in both continents....

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Money and Politics in the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election

The 2016 U.S. presidential election will likely set a new record for campaign expenditures. Fundraisers expect up to $5 billion will be spent, more than double the amount spent in 2012. Other estimates are higher still. The Koch brothers’ network...

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One Strategy for Addressing Food Insecurity

The current world population of 7.4 billion is projected by the United Nations to increase over 30% by 2050 to 9.7 billion, and to 11.2 billion by 2100, over 50 % above the current figure. The UN estimates that about...

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Populist Movements

The characterization of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders as “populist” candidates in the U.S. presidential race mirrors the populist movements that have been growing in Europe since the Great Recession. Populist movements arise from both the left and the right, sometimes...

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Reducing Inequality Benefits Everyone

The 2016 World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland declared inequality as the most significant trend of 2015, to be addressed by 2,500 of the world’s economic elite. Predictably, the skeptics have spoken, assuring us that this concern for the...

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The Peace to End All Peace

What is generally referred to today as World War II was called the Great War in its aftermath. And for good reason. Ten million soldiers died in the war and twenty million were severely wounded. As a proportion of the...

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The Changing Role of Corporations

As the Paris climate summit concluded in December 2015, nearly 200 nations came together on an agreement to reduce carbon emissions and arrest global warming. Significantly, public sector partners in the agreement were joined by business corporations in support of...

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Human Intervention

In terms of geologic time, we are living in the Holocene Epoch, a name which comes from Greek words meaning “entirely new.” Eras and epochs of geologic time are organized according to changes in composition of earth strata which mark...

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Tourists and Terrorists

Terrorists strike. Tourists change destinations. That was the story that unfolded following the October 31, 2015 downing of a Russian airplane carrying 224 tourists and crew after it left Sharm el-Sheikh Egypt. At the time of the downing, about 80,000 Russian...

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International Arms Trade

International trade, U.S. foreign policy, military power, technology, national security, governance, employment, and lobbying intersect at the nexus which is international arms trade.   A 2014 report by the U.S. Department of State valued the arms delivered world-wide in 2011 at $177.8...

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Mamluks in the Arab Spring

A French professor by the name of Jean-Pierre Filiu has written an extremely well-documented history of the rise of dictatorships in Arab countries following their independence from Western colonial powers, covering 1949 up to early 2015. His focus is on...

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Globalization’s Defects

On the home page of this blog (http://fiftyyearperspective.com/) there is a description of what is known as the butterfly effect. It portrays how a harmless event in one location can lead to disastrous effects a great distance away. Ian...

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Competition for Multinational Corporations

McKinsey & Company, a multinational management consulting firm, issued a report in September titled Playing to Win: The New Global Competition for Corporate Profits. The report reveals fascinating statistics and trends that globalization has brought for the world’s multinational corporations,...

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New Economy Jobs

In their 2009 book, Race Against the Machine: How the Digital Revolution Is Accelerating Innovation, Driving Productivity, and Irreversibly Transforming Employment and the Economy, Eric Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee wrote that great job-producing opportunities exist in potential combinations and re-combinations...

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Singapore at 50 Years

As former colonies achieved independence following World War II, Singapore became part of Malaysia. That was in 1963, but just two years later, Singapore was expelled from the Malaysian federation over ideological differences. With few natural resources and less than...

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Visualizing Policy Decisions

There are 51 topics on the “Global Issues” matrix in a format that has a box connecting every issue to every other issue. An interesting exercise is taking one of the global issues and placing Xs in each box where...

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Of Popes and Politics: “Everything Is Connected”

This Fifty Year Perspective blog site identified 51 “global issues” that are profoundly inter-related and challenging to policy-makers, both public and private. (See http://fiftyyearperspective.com/global-issues/) Prominent among the issues are climate change and the many topics related to it.   Pope Francis...

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Reclaiming U.S. Leadership

A March 2011 cover story for Time magazine by Fareed Zakaria asked the question “Are America’s Best Days Behind Us?” In the article, Zakaria asserted, “What we see today is an American economy that has boomed because of policies and...

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A Basic Income for All

Facing the possibility that technology could replace so many jobs that a majority of the work force would remain unemployed, the concept of a basic income has been discussed in various books and periodicals. The basic income is envisioned as...

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“Robots Are Us”

If smart machines replace humans, will “putting people out of work, or at least good work, also put the economy out of business?” That is a question posed by a paper published in February 2015 by the National Bureau of...

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Inequality: Getting Better, Getting Worse

Income inequality is on the minds of everyone from Pope Francis and Ban Ki-moon, to Janet Yellen, Economist Thomas Picketty, the World Economic Forum, and alumni of the Harvard Business School, to name just a few. A slow-moving recovery from...

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Six Months until Paris Climate Conference

With six months to go until the climate change conference in Paris in December, how optimistic are the prospects for scoring real progress toward controlling global warming? (See blog posted October 28, 2014 at http://fiftyyearperspective.com/paris-2015-un-climate-change-conference/.) The expectations are largely...

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Money and Influence

In an April issue of Christian Science Monitor, Robert Reich, a former secretary of the Department of Labor, wrote about his experiences when invited to speak to various groups. In one example he was asked to speak to a religious...

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Disappearing Youth: The World Population in 2050

Could the aging of the world’s population lead to the disappearance of some cultures? One author believes so and he cites the fall of Greek and Roman cultures to support his contention. David P. Goldman analyzed United Nations’ population projections...

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Money and Morals

Harvard political philosopher Michael J. Sandel published a book in 2012 titled What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets. Perhaps counterintuitively, Sandel’s pages describe the expanding range of goods and services that money can buy. And...

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Examining Inequality

Increasing disparity in household wealth has brought the controversial topic of inequality to the forefront. In its Global Wealth Report 2014 (https://publications.credit-suisse.com/tasks/render/file/?fileID=60931FDE-A2D2-F568-B041B58C5EA591A4), Credit Suisse Research records that the ratio of wealth to income has risen to a...

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Global Conflicts: Connecting the Dots

Consider the countries featured in daily news in 2015: Nigeria, Ukraine, Venezuela, Iran, Syria, France, Libya, Afghanistan. Stories of poverty, disease, hunger, despotism, hatred, and injustice abound. Conflicts attributable to these global issues and others persist regardless of international efforts...

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Redefining State Sovereignty

Globalization is but one facet of how the geopolitical landscape is continuing to change. The Global Issues Matrix page of this Fifty Year Perspective Blog (http://fiftyyearperspective.com/global-issues-matrix/) is a view of the breadth of concerns facing the contemporary...

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Technology Is Solving Some Energy Problems in Developing Countries

Sometimes there are benefits to being late to the modern world. Whereas developed countries have had telecommunications lines strung to serve nearly every inhabited location, Africa's land mass was too large and its population too dispersed for that to have...

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Progress in Use of Renewable Energy Sources

As over 190 countries debate alternatives for reaching the goal of replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy sources, success to date is noteworthy in some countries, even as the overall goal is distant. Local geography and climate weigh heavily on...

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Replacing Jobs Lost in Recession

The United States economy added 321,000 jobs in November 2014, pushing employment over 140 million for the first time. Since U.S. employment sank to its recession low in February 2010, a total of 10,390,000 jobs have been added. While these...

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Climate Change, Natural Resources, and Geopolitics in the Arctic

In August of 2007, a Russian mini-submarine dived through the ice to the ocean floor beneath the North Pole and planted a Russian flag, in support of its claim that the ocean off its northern coast was part of its...

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Paris 2015 UN Climate Change Conference

For over two decades, United Nations members have held regular meetings to discuss the effects of pollution on the earth’s climate. Starting in Berlin in 1995, an international environmental treaty known as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change...

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Labor Force Participation Trends

Writing in the 1930s, John Maynard Keynes referred to “technological unemployment . . . unemployment due to our discovery of means of economizing the use of labour outrunning the pace at which we can find new uses of labour.” Whereas...

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A Role for Business

Here is an agenda for an organization committed to achieving several sustainability goals.  

  • Reduce water use to level of 2008 or below
  • Use only sustainably-sourced agricultural raw materials
  • Improve livelihoods of small-scale producers and retailers
  • Expand opportunities for women in management and communities
  • Advance human...

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Investors Concerned Over Climate Change

Environmental activists and energy industry companies are usually not on the same page when it comes to climate change. Energy industry giants like Royal Dutch Shell or Exxon Mobil owe their allegiance to their shareholders, and that is who they...

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Why are they growing tomatoes in Qatar?

  Dr. Ali El Kharbotly, a Ph.D. in Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, is a consultant to the Biotechnology Center in Qatar. In June 2013 he spoke on food security and safety to the Ecosystem for Sustainable Growth Services Workshop in Dublin,...

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Demography As Destiny

There are few predictions that can be made with as much certainty as this: People born in 1950 will be 65 years old in 2015. Combined with life expectancy trends, the implications are enormous for housing, education, medical care, employment,...

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Technology and the Future of Work

While globalization is often blamed for loss of jobs in the developed world, much of the blame must go to technological advances. Reaction against new technologies has occurred for over two hundred years, since the early stages of industrialization. The...

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