With the holiday season upon us we are launching our summer reading list. All are available free and on-line. You can save these articles on your iPhone or iPad's reading list by opening the links on Safari and tapping on the share icon (the box with an arrow). To print these articles please use the print icons, where available, on the webpages to ensure proper formatting.
Political developments over the last few years, among them the Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump, have led to increasing criticism of the democratic process. Some venture that ‘epistocracy’ – rule by experts – might be a better alternative. This article explores the practicalities and potential pitfalls of a system where only ‘those who know best’ make political decisions. (9 pages)
The passports-for-cash market is booming. Up to 40 countries now run active economic-citizenship or residence programmes which allow people to purchase citizenship or residence rights in return for investing in the national economy. In an era of globalisation and mobility citizenship has become a commodity – at least for the well-heeled. This article from 1843 magazine examines the motives of those buying passports and the incentives for the nations selling them. (7 pages)
The Chinese government is developing a ‘Social Credit System’ to rate the trustworthiness of its 1.3 billion citizens. The system, now being tested by volunteers and expected to become mandatory by 2020, tracks a wide range of activities – from shopping habits, to health, to social media activity – to produce a ‘Citizen Score’ which gauges trustworthiness. People with low scores will be penalised, with plans including restrictions on internet speeds, access to restaurants and the removal of the right to travel. This Wired article analyses an unsettling experiment in monitoring and controlling human behaviour. (9 pages)
In recent years the use of big data and statistics has transformed the world of sport for players and spectators. It has also transformed the sports betting industry; once mainly the preserve of amateur sleuths, industry insiders and hobbyists. In this Bloomberg article, Kit Catchell provides a riveting account of how a young American physics student managed to apply new techniques to ‘crack’ the code for one of the world’s oldest sports, horse racing, and may have made close to a billion dollars in the process. (18 pages)
The idea of a universal basic income (UBI) – where the state provides all adults with a sum of money to cover their basic needs, allowing them to earn whatever they wanted in addition – goes back at least 500 years. It is an alluring idea and one that has gained renewed attention in the post-financial crisis era. In this Naked Capitalism article, Darren Baxter, a researcher at IPPR, takes a look at what a UBI policy may mean in practical terms. (3 pages)
Japan’s mastery of rail travel is world-renowned. While new train timetables introduced in the UK have resulted in delays and chaos, the punctuality of Japanese trains is the stuff of legend. In May, a Japanese rail operator issued an apology after one of its commuter trains left the station 25 seconds early. This article shows how ingenious behavioural tricks or ‘nudges’ help ensure the efficiency of Japan’s famed railways. (8 pages)