Welcome to Bespoke Brunch Reads — a linkfest of the favorite things we read over the past week.  The links are mostly market related, but there are some other interesting subjects covered as well.  We hope you enjoy the food for thought as a supplement to the research we provide you during the week.

The Big Picture

Some thoughts on the end of economic growth by Timothy B. Lee (Bottom-up)

A round-up and analysis of the argument that economic growth has either slowed or stopped on a permanent basis. [Link]

Stop Crying About the Size of Government. Start Caring About Who Controls It by David Sloan Wilson and Daron Acemoglu (Evonomics)

The title of this piece is a bit melodramatic but we think it makes a good point. Institutions matter, and their structure is often just as important as their size or primacy. [Link]

Did inequality cause the First World War? Contra Hobson-Lenin-Milanovic by Pseudorasmus

Warning: this piece is very, very long, and very, very dense, but it’s a helpful analysis in thinking about the complexity of economic history as well as the tendency to over-simplify and narrativize. [Link]

Learning To Be Who We Are (Thought Economics)

A combined interview on the nature of human consciousness. Very long, very dense, and very worth your time. [Link]

Tech

25 years later, Walt Mossberg says technology is still too hard to use by Eric Johnson (recode)

A wide-ranging interview with veteran tech watcher Mossberg, conducted by his business partner at recode, Kara Swisher. The talk covers a wide range of relevant subjects, belied by the rather bland headline. [Link]

The new 140-character war on India’s caste system by Rama Lakshmi (WaPo)

India’s caste system is deeply engrained, but Twitter is allowing members of its bottom rung (Dalits) to flex their political and social muscles. That movement follows the path of black users in the United States that birthed #BlackLivesMatter. [Link]

New Frontiers

Get Ready for the World to Be Covered in Electronic Ink by David Pierce (Wired)

Electronic ink is under-penetrated and could be on the verge of a big ramp-up in adoption, reducing the use of paper, helping add capacity to smart phones, and reducing the need for physical displays.  [Link]

As consumers shift to non-GMO sugar, farmers may be forced to abandon environmental and social gains by Andrew Kniss (Weed Control Freaks)

Genetically modified crops are out of favor, and that’s created a 15% spread between the price of sugar from sugar beets and the price of sugar cane. This incents beet farmers to plant non-GMO crops which require more herbicide, more labor, and yield fewer plants. [Link]

China

China is buying Canada: Inside the new real estate frenzy by Charlie Gillis, Chris Sorenson, and Nancy Macdonald (Macleans)

Inside the panic buying from mainland China that’s fueled massive price appreciation in some Canadian cities, helping fuel fears that the entire country is caught up in a real estate bubble. [Link]

The great leap upward: China’s Pearl River Delta, then and now by Eric Hilaire and Nick Mead (The Guardian)

A fantastic multi-media view of the economic growth and urbanization in southern China over the last generation. [Link]

CIC Official Trolls Hedge Fund Managers, Short Sellers by Brendan Byrne (ValueWalk)

In an amusing and ironic turn of events, the head of China’s sovereign wealth fund took the axe to the hedge fund industry. [Link]

Facebook

Former Facebook Workers: We Routinely Suppressed Conservative News by Michael Nunez (Gizmodo)

Former employees for a contractor at Facebook claim that human-curated topics that appeared in the “trending topics” frame (thus driving significant web traffic and discussion) were made prominent via a biased process. [Link]

Facebook and Fear by Derek Thompson (The Atlantic)

A wide-ranging follow-up to the story above the other prominent developments in the orbit of Facebook. [Link]

Facebook ‘Live’ Doesn’t Have to be Live by Jack Marshall and Steven Perlberg (WSJ)

Changes to Facebook Live, the video product which features content Facebook pays media companies for, have made it possible for those companies to run pre-recorded content, turning Facebook into something which very much resembles current cable TV. [Link, paywall]

Media Matters

Podcasts Surge, but Producers Fear Apple Isn’t Listening (NYT)

Inside the evolution of the mobile audio medium which has strong growth and a wide audience. [Link, soft paywall]

Fox’s Sports Network Hires an ESPN Veteran for a Reinvention by Richard Sandomir (NYT)

Fox Sports 1 is aiming to load its docket with opinionated, brash programming that draws ratings and negative attention. [Link, soft paywall]

Labor

Uber just agreed to let a labor union represent its drivers in New York by Johana Bhuiyan (recode)

A new agreement creates a little bit of breathing room for the company’s relationship with driver/contractors. But it also opens the door to strikes and more formal negotiation over drivers’ share of the company’s revenues. [Link]

The Six-Hour Workday Works in Europe. What About America? by Rebecca Greenfield (Bloomberg)

Could a 25% reduction in hours worked actually boost output? Recent studies suggest so, but it’s not terribly likely such an idea will catch on in the United States. [Link]

Banking

Marketplace Lending Takeaways by David Schawel (Economic Musings)

New River Investments’ Schawel casts a critical eye to the business model and viability of the marketplace lenders like Lending Club; we had several links covering that space last week. [Link]

Germany’s School for Central Bankers Draws Risk-Averse Crowd by Tom Fairless (WSJ)

The primacy of the Bundesbank in the thinking of the ECB was famously present for years. Even in today’s more dovish and experimental environment, though, Germans are still educating future central bankers in the hawkish conservatism that is German central banking. [Link]

Cheating

Thai student caught using ‘Mission Impossible’ exam spy glasses (France24)

Our only reaction to this story? How on earth is this sort of cheating not more common? [Link]

Exclusive: U.S. investigates market-making operations of Citadel, KCG by Charles Levinson (Reuters)

Federal regulators are in the process of investigating high-frequency market-making operations in US equities. [Link]

Municipal Madness

Voters approve nation’s most expensive high school football stadium (USAToday)

McKinney, Texas has approved a staggering $220 million bond package which supports the construction of a $50 million, 12,000 fan stadium for the local football team. [Link]

LAPD testing Teslas as ‘high-pursuit’ police cruisers by Jeff Daniels (CNBC/Yahoo Finance)

In an amusing twist, the world capital for high-speed car chases is looking to Tesla to fill its need for policing speed. [Link]

C’mon, Man

The World’s Smallest Ukulele by Robert Kolker (Bloomberg)

Three separate interviewees managed to make comparisons to the horrific human toll of Jim Crow laws, the Apartheid, and Nazi Germany in this astounding summary of a property dispute in Hawaii. We don’t have a view on the validity of either side’s point of view, but the rhetoric is some of the most hyperbolic we’ve ever seen. [Link]

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