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Arthur Charpentier, ENSAE, PhD in Mathematics (KU Leuven), Fellow of the French Institute of Actuaries, professor at UQàM in Actuarial Science. Former professor-assistant at ENSAE Paritech, associate professor at Ecole Polytechnique and professor assistant in economics at Université de Rennes 1. Arthur is a DZone MVB and is not an employee of DZone and has posted 156 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile

Data News: How Profiling Citizens with Big Data Constrains Freedom, and More

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Long time no see. Here are some writings worth reading (in case you missed them)

Detroit was allowed to declare bankruptcy last year. This began a protracted process by which the municipality renegotiated with its creditors, including government worker pensions. This illustrates several characteristics about the American “system”. First, it has de-stigmatized bankruptcies, as we saw with GM and Chrysler. Second, bankruptcy is not failure; it is a process by which the creditors are held at bay while restructuring or reorganization can take place. While economists often focus on the barriers to entry, by removing the stigma from bankruptcy and easing the process, it makes lower the barriers to exit. Bankruptcy does not necessarily mean liquidation, but when it does, it allows, the recycling of people and capital. It is an important, even if under-appreciated, part of the flexibility of the United States. This stands in stark contrast with Europe. Consider Rome. Florence Mayor Renzi has become the new Prime Minister of Italy and one of his first acts was to withdraw the proposal from former Prime Minister Letta to bailout Rome. Letta was offering a program of about 850 mln euros, which required parliamentary approval by the end of February. The Northern League and the 5-Star Movement mounted a filibuster to oppose. [to be continued...]

If you’re a faculty member, do yourself a favor: Google the phrase “professor under fire.” Many if not most of the thousands of hits have something to do with social media—in particular, with Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, or blogging. Social media constitutes the classic Catch-22 for academics: We can’t ignore it or avoid it, nor do most of us want to, yet it gets us into more trouble than anything else. As born pedants and guides, we find the opportunity to reach new audiences and interact with people, including students, irresistible. But there are times when we should resist that impulse. And there are other times when, even if we don’t put our words out there for public consumption, there’s a fair chance one of our students will do it for us. A series of recent incidents involving professors and social media has focused our attention on the politically fraught nature of that relationship. Or at least it should have. Instead, each new episode seems to catch us by surprise, leaving us more troubled and outraged. We appear to have adopted the stance that social “media” is just that—merely an alternative medium—and our words are no different whether spoken in a faculty meeting or tweeted online. We assume the great institutions that have historically afforded us protection on campus—tenure and academic freedom—will likewise protect us when we venture outside the academy onto websites and blogs. That has turned out not to be true in several high-profile cases. Professors have been censured, suspended, and even fired for things they have tweeted, blogged, or posted on Facebook—or things they said that other people have posted. [to be continued...]

Democracy is going through a difficult time. Where autocrats have been driven out of office, their opponents have mostly failed to create viable democratic regimes. Even in established democracies, flaws in the system have become worryingly visible and disillusion with politics is rife. Yet just a few years ago democracy looked as though it would dominate the world. In the second half of the 20th century, democracies had taken root in the most difficult circumstances possible—in Germany, which had been traumatised by Nazism, in India, which had the world’s largest population of poor people, and, in the 1990s, in South Africa, which had been disfigured by apartheid. Decolonialisation created a host of new democracies in Africa and Asia, and autocratic regimes gave way to democracy in Greece (1974), Spain (1975), Argentina (1983), Brazil (1985) and Chile (1989). The collapse of the Soviet Union created many fledgling democracies in central Europe. By 2000 Freedom House, an American think-tank, classified 120 countries, or 63% of the world total, as democracies. Representatives of more than 100 countries gathered at the World Forum on Democracy in Warsaw that year to proclaim that “the will of the people” was “the basis of the authority of government”. A report issued by America’s State Department declared that having seen off “failed experiments” with authoritarian and totalitarian forms of government, “it seems that now, at long last, democracy is triumphant.” Such hubris was surely understandable after such a run of successes. But stand farther back and the triumph of democracy looks rather less inevitable. After the fall of Athens, where it was first developed, the political model had lain dormant until the Enlightenment more than 2,000 years later. In the 18th century only the American revolution produced a sustainable democracy. During the 19th century monarchists fought a prolonged rearguard action against democratic forces. In the first half of the 20th century nascent democracies collapsed in Germany, Spain and Italy. By 1941 there were only 11 democracies left, and Franklin Roosevelt worried that it might not be possible to shield “the great flame of democracy from the blackout of barbarism”. [to be continued...]

Published at DZone with permission of Arthur Charpentier, author and DZone MVB. (source)

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