It’s time to found a new republic – Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson

MIT Sloan Professor Simon Johnson

MIT Professor Daron Acemoglu

From Foreign Policy

Most Americans tend to believe that they’ve lived under the same form of government, more or less, since the country was founded in late 1700s. They’re mistaken.

It’s true that there have been important continuities. The American conception of what government should and should not do is deeply rooted in clear thinking at the start of the republic; the country has long preferred limited government and effective constraints on capricious executive action. But this persistence of core ideas (and the consistent use of the same buildings in Washington, D.C.) obscures the dramatic changes that have taken place within the governing institutions themselves.

In fact, formidable challenges at the end of the 19th century were met by fashioning a transformation so thorough it could effectively be deemed a “Second Republic.” This new republic came with significantly different economic and political rules — and, as a result, enabled the American system to survive and even thrive for another century. Today, faced with serious economic and political dysfunction, we are in need of another round of deep institutional renewal: a Third Republic.

The conditions that brought about the first transformation of American society are strikingly similar to those we see today. At the root of the problems confronting the United States by 1900 was a wave of innovation that sped up growth. The direct benefits of these new technologies accrued to a few, while many others became more uncertain about their economic future.

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Most violence in the world is motivated by personal morality — Tage Rai

MIT Sloan Lecturer Tage Rai

MIT Sloan Lecturer Tage Rai

From Quartz

What motivates someone to be violent? This is a question many people are asking in the wake of the recent mass shootings in California. Most explanations tend to revolve around the core assumption that violence is wrong. If someone is violent, something must be broken in their moral psychology—they are intrinsically evil, they lack self-control, they are selfish, or they fail to understand the pain they cause. However, it turns out that this fundamental assumption is mistaken. It is not the breakdown of their morality at all, but rather the working of their moral psychology. Most violence in the world is motivated by moral sentiments.

I began studying this issue by asking why people disagree when and if violence is appropriate. Intergenerationally, I looked at why spanking children was more acceptable 50 years ago than today, and why it is still more acceptable in certain parts of the country. Cross-culturally, I looked at why it is incomprehensible to Westerners to kill women for sexual infidelity, yet other parts of the world encourage this practice.

Read the full post at Quartz.

Tage Rai is a lecturer at MIT Sloan.

Keystone Pipeline Foes Should Face Reality — Chris Knittel

MIT Sloan Prof. Christopher Knittel

From Bloomberg

Opponents of the Keystone XL oil pipeline warn of its potentially catastrophic consequences. Building it, climate scientist James Hansen says, would mean “game over” for the climate.

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman hopes that, if it’s given a green light, “Bill McKibben and his 350.org coalition go crazy.” And he means “chain-themselves-to-the-White-House-fence-stop-traffic-at-the-Capitol kind of crazy.”

Are they all just crying wolf and using Keystone XL as a proxy battle against oil?

I hope so, because the economics behind laying a pipeline from Alberta, Canada, to the U.S. Gulf Coast would make it difficult for the pipeline to have any effect on greenhouse-gas emissions. I trust that if opponents dug a little deeper into the issues and the market for oil, they would agree — at least privately.

Three things would need to be true for Keystone to lead to more emissions. Otherwise, the pipeline could actually reduce them. Read More »

Brady, Patriots & NFL come out on top — Ben Shields

MIT Sloan Lecturer Ben Shields

MIT Sloan Lecturer Ben Shields

From USA TODAY

It may seem unlikely today, but when all is said and done with Deflategate and Tom Brady returns to the field, the Patriots, the NFL and even Brady all stand to emerge as winners in business over the long-term.

To be sure, the Deflategate crisis has been fraught with controversial questions. Was the “more probable than not” evidence cited in the Wells Report strong enough to convict Tom Brady? If so, what is a reasonable punishment?  How serious of an offense is deflating footballs? How should Brady’s cooperation (or alleged lack thereof) in the investigation, including the recent revelation of his destroyed cell phone, factor into the punishment and appeal process?  Fans and the media have been deliberating these and other issues with the same fervor as ranking the greatest quarterbacks of all-time (which, naturally, has been complicated by the allegations against Brady).

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How Bob McDonald can (really) fix the VA’s health care system — Steven Spear

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Steven Spear

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Steven Spear

From Fortune , August 8, 2014

The former Procter & Gamble CEO recently confirmed to head the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs must go beyond government reforms that Congress recently struck and address how the troubled agency measures performance.

On Thursday, President Obama signed into law a $16.3 billion measure to help overhaul the Department of Veterans Affairs, an agency that in recent months has been plagued with criticisms for long wait times for health care and manipulation of records. While the extra funds are substantial and may be necessary for a system that serves some 8.5 million veterans each year, it won’t be enough to fix the problems at one of the nation’s largest health providers.

Newly-confirmed Veterans Secretary Bob McDonald, a former CEO of Procter & Gamble, must create a new dynamic if the reforms are to succeed; he has to go beyond Congresses’ prescriptions and change the agency’s internal dynamics by focusing on what is measured, why it is measured, and what is done in response to the results.

One of the reasons for the VA’s current crop of problems has to do with the way the VA measures performance. The metrics that former administrators focused on pushed people in the direction of highlighting (sometimes exaggerating) what was going right and playing down what was going wrong.

Consequently, systemic problems — which might have been addressed early on before they caused harm — built up until they caused a crisis. It didn’t help that many of the metrics, such as wait times, were beyond the control and influence of the managers being evaluated, so there was even more incentive to game the system.

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