5 insightful op-eds or articles to help make sense of today’s world

Mark Gilbert, “Sausages, Cats and the ECB”
(Bloomberg View, August 8, 2014)
In the words of a former governor of the Bank of England, formulating monetary policy at the ECB is like “herding cats”. In this short piece, the Bloomberg columnist explains why he believes that the ABS (asset-backed securities) program of the ECB is doomed to fail, as it’s almost impossible to impose homogeneity on a bundle of loans to achieve the transparency Draghi craves.

Joseph Stiglitz and Martin Guzman, “Argentina’s Griesafault”
(Project Syndicate, August 7, 2014)
Another take on Argentina’s recent default. The two economists argue that US federal judge Thomas Griesa’s ruling prevents Argentina from fulfilling its obligations and simply encourages usurious behavior and threatens the functioning of international financial markets. They also make the point that a “repayment on Griesa’s terms would devastate Argentina’s economy”.

Stephen Walt, “Do No (More) Harm”
(Foreign Policy, August 7, 2014)
Observing that the Middle East, riven by a series of overlapping conflicts along multiple fault lines, goes from bad to worse, the Harvard professor argues that: “every time the US touches the Middle East, it makes things worse”. He therefore recommends “strategic disengagement”, or put differently, that “the US walks away from the region and does not look back”.

Maria Konnikova, “When It’s Bad to Have Good Choices”
(The New Yorker, August 2, 2014)
A very accessible article on why healthy, affluent people are often unhappy and anxious. The “Buridan ass” principle posits that free will could sometimes lead to inaction: an inability to choose due to excess uncertainty and, potentially, excess choice. A quick review of the literature on the “paradox of choice” follows. To sum up: “When you have more good choices, you don’t feel better – You just feel more anxious.”

Carey Goldberg, “Ask A Philosopher: What Does New Brain Science Mean For Free Will?”
(CommonHealth, August 7, 2014)
This is a fascinating conversation with a philosopher (Daniel Dennett) about the relationship between neuroscience (“it’s all biological”) and moral responsibility. In Dennett’s opinion: “although we are born with strengths and weaknesses, we can also change them or others can change them for us”.