Food for thought: In praise of quinoa | The Economist

PEOPLE are funny about food. Throughout history they have mocked others for eating strange things. In 1755 Samuel Johnson’s dictionary defined oats as “a grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people”. Nineteenth-century Japanese nationalists dismissed Western culture as bata kusai, or “stinking of butter”. Unkind people today deride Brits as “limeys”, Mexicans as “beaners” and French people as “frogs”. And food-related insults often have a political tinge. George Orwell complained that socialism was unpopular because it attracted “every fruit-juice drinker, nudist, sandal-wearer [and] sex-maniac…in England”. In many countries today, politicians who wish to imply that their rivals have lost touch with ordinary voters sneer that they are latte-drinkers, muesli-munchers or partial to quinoa.

This South American grain gets a particularly bad rap. To its fans, it is a superfood. To its detractors, it is like the erotic sci-fi murals found in Saddam Hussein’s palaces—pretentious and tasteless. An advertisement for Big Macs once riffed on this prejudice. “Foodies and gastronauts kindly avert your eyes. You can’t get juiciness like this from soy or quinoa,” it said, adding that “while [a Big Mac] is massive, its ego is not.” Even those who love quinoa sometimes fret that scarfing it may not be ethical. What if rising hipster demand pushes the price up, forcing Andeans to eat less of their beloved grain? Or what if the price falls, making Andean farmers poorer? A headline from Mother Jones, a left-wing magazine, perfectly captured the confusion of well-meaning Western foodies: “Quinoa: good, evil or just really complicated?”

Source: The Economist

Globalisation, Inequality and the “Widening Trust Gap”

The primary focus of an important article at Harvard Business Review is of course, “business”. However, all business operates inside a social context. The context for this analysis, is globalisation. This has been of immense value to richer people in the developed world, and to Asian and other developing world middle classes. One group that has not benefited particularly, and by falling back in relative terms, is the working class in Western developed countries. (This is very clearly shown in the frequently cited “elephant graph”

Source – Washington Examiner

Our global narrative of progress, the implicit case for embracing change in exchange for its fruits, is being increasingly called into question by economically marginalized groups and populist politicians across the globe. This narrative has rested on three propositions: that globalization is a major driver of growth and prosperity; that technological progress enriches our lives; and that shareholder returns reflect businesses’ contributions to societal progress.

Those who question the continued applicability of this narrative have a case. While globalization has increased aggregate prosperity and reduced inequality across nations, it has also created winners and losers within nations

Source: Harvard  Business Review

This uneven distribution of benefits has consequences, for those who have been left behind – and for both business, and for political conditions. In the UK, and the USA, we have seen the result in the rise of Donald Trump, and the June vote against the EU.  Elsewhere in Europe, there’s been a widely reported rise in support for populist parties.

This is sharply illustrated by what the HBR refers to as a “trust gap”.  HBR includes a graph that shows the widening of this trust gap between 2012 and 2016. Note that although it is the USA that has seen the most dramatic impact of this in electoral politics, the widening is even greater in the UK and in France.

Graphic: Harvard Business Review

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Universal Basic Income: Research Fellowship Available

The “Universal Basic Income” or UBI (also known as a “Citizen’s Income”, or CI) is an intriguing idea now attracting increasing attention from both left and right wings of the political spectrum, and from both rich and poorer countries.

Proponents can produce some cogent, immensely attractive arguments in favour – but opponents some equally cogent hard-headed objections that it is simply unworkable, or unaffordable. There is room for a great deal more research – so it is good to know that a Danish university  is offering a grant for a fully funded PhD fellowship financed by Aarhus University Research Foundation (AUFF):

In recent years Basic Income has arisen across the world as a response to such diverse challenges as poverty, ineffective public sectors, structural unemployment, a heralded ecological disaster, and the rise of the robots.

At the heart of Basic Income we see a libertarian dream of individual freedom and creativity united with a socialist dream of fundamental economic redistribution. On the edges of the discussions lurk such issues as border and immigration policy. And a few steps further out; scenarios found in Sci-Fi – take such examples as sea steading, societies free of bureaucracy, or the settlement of Mars.

We invite applicants from anthropology, philosophy, economy, literature studies or history who can formulate an empirically founded project within this broad framework. Independent thinking and quirky projects will be appreciated as much as intellectual flexibility and willingness to work across disciplinary boundaries.

More information here

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