China launches own mobile browser, Baidu Explorer, tosses currency into clouds


China’s biggest search engine launches its own mobile browser, Baidu Explorer

China’s biggest search engine launches its own mobile browser, Baidu Explorer Baidu Campus, Beijing, China. Image by hwanghsuhui, via Wikimedia Commons
Chinese-language search engine Baidu has decided to try and capture the massive mobile internet market in China by launching its own mobile browser, Baidu Explorer.

Baidu is already the dominant search engine China, which has 538m online users, but with 388m of these users accessing the internet via mobile phones, the company needs to tap into this vast market.

Other mobile products from Baidu include a mobile operating system that appears on low-cost smartphones the company produces with its manufacturing partners. But, with Baidu Explorer, it hopes to reach other smartphone users. The target, according to Reuters, is to have Baidu Explorer downloaded by 80pc of Android users in China by the end of this year.

Though there is already strong competition in the mobile browser market, Baidu claims its browser is 20pc faster than its rivals based on internal tests. It also has strong HTML5 compatibility and users can run HD video through the browser without having to download additional apps or software.

Hopes for 80 per cent penetration by year-end

China’s search-and-plenty-more giant Baidu has flagged a $US1.6 billion cloud investment. The investment, announced with a minimum of detail by CFO Li Xinzhe, will go towards building data centres and hiring staff.

The Chinese search firm also announced the launch of the Baidu Mobile Browser, which it says is designed to compete with Chrome and Safari. It claims a 20 percent performance boost over its rivals based on internal testing.

Briefing Asian journalists last Friday (August 31), Baidu said its mobile browser can play high-definition video without plugins or extra supporting software, according to Reuters.

The company said it hopes that 80 percent of China’s handsets will run its browser by the end of the year. By some astonishing coincidence, 80 percent is also the search market share the company claims in the Middle Kingdom, in the absence of Google, which has clashed with Chinese authorities over search censorship.

During August, Google’s local partner Qihoo launched its own search service, relegating Google to an “alternative search option”.

The Wall Street Journal says Baidu’s cloud plans include remote online storage, as well as API access to its map service which last month overtook Google Maps in China. ®

By Richard ChirgwinGet more from this author, Newscribe : get free news in real time

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More millionaires nowadays; secret to success and riches


PETALING JAYA: There may be more millionaires in Malaysia now than before but they may not necessarily be feeling rich.

Besides the rising number of successful business owners, many high-salaried people are already millionaires based on the value of their assets and properties.

RAM Holdings Bhd group chief economist Dr Yeah Kim Leng said the term could also apply to those in the middle-class who could have earned the amount but had spent it on necessities such as on costly children’s education and high property prices.

He said although a millionaire was measured by his or her disposable income, those who have made their million would not have the same purchasing power compared to a decade ago, citing inflation as the main reason.

Dr Yeah said many in business had made their millions as a result of savvy investments and the growth of the industries that they were involved in, adding that overall, the rising affluence was due to sustained economic growth.

“We have seen a strong growth in certain sectors, including plantation, oil and gas and property, which have elevated entrepreneurs into the millionaire class,” he said.

Billionaires, however, remain rare. Malaysia now has 30 billionaires, just three more from the 27 on the list last year.

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported last year that Malaysia’s millionaires almost doubled over the previous 18 months.

Citing a report by international financial firm Credit Suisse Group, it said Malaysia added 19,000 new millionaires since early 2010, bringing the total to 39,000 as of October.

The WSJ report attributed the rise to the weakening US dollar and careful spending.

Dr Yeah said those who invested their money wisely had benefited the most.

“In a free market and capitalist economy like Malaysia, people who have capital can generate millions,” he said, noting that many in the upper-income bracket had accumulated wealth past the million-ringgit mark.

Personal financial consultant Carol Yip said the rising cost of living had lessened the feeling of being rich.

“Today, even a small apartment can cost half a million,” she said.

She said careful spending was not a factor for the increase in the numbers of millionaires.

“If we are spending less, we won’t be seeing so many luxury cars on the road,” she said.

She said the rise in millionaires was also due to property prices which have shot up exponentially, adding that the definition should not include the value of the house that one was living in.

“If you still have a million in hand after you convert the value of your other properties, investments and have paid of all your debts, then you are a millionaire,” she added.

Financial adviser Fred Wong said making a million was not a problem these days as long as people were willing to work hard but being self-employed and investing wisely was the better route to riches.

By ISABELLE LAI and P. ARUNA newsdesk@thestar.com.my

Millionaires’ secret to success

PETALING JAYA: Ganesh Kumar Bangah made his first million at the age of 23.

The secret, he said, was as simple as knowing what people needed and delivering it to them.

“I knew what I was good at, which was IT. I used that to come up with something of value to the world.

“I also worked hard and persevered until I reached the goals I had set for myself,” said Ganesh, now 33 and the CEO of MOL Global Bhd, a company worth over RM1bil.

<b>Young and rich:</b> Ganesh (left) and Yap made their first million at the age of 23 and 26 respectively. Young and rich: Ganesh (left) and Yap made their first million at the age of 23 and 26 respectively.

He said that even when he was only 15, he had been using his skills to make money, like repairing his teachers’ computers for a fee.

At the age of 20, he started his own company, which made him a millionaire in three years.

“Be focused and set new goals for yourself to keep climbing higher. Real wealth is the satisfaction you get when you overcome a new challenge that brings rewards. Financial wealth should just be a by-product.”

Feng shui master and multi-millionaire Joey Yap said learning to make good use of time was a key ingredient to achieving financial success.

“In business, time is money, so make sure you use your time to acquire things of good value. Find out what your strengths are, work on your weaknesses and hone your talents,” said Yap, 35, who made his first million at age 26 by selling his first feng shui home study course.

However, having RM1mil does not necessarily make people feel rich, especially for those raising children in the city.

Carol Leong, 57, a mother of three, said it costs more than the amount for an average family to live in the city and raise a child to adulthood.

“There are medical bills, tuition fees, various expenses and their education to pay for. For our family, it has definitely come up to more than RM1mil per child,” she said.

Leong, a lawyer, said she and her businessman husband had placed their money in various investments, which in the long run had helped pay for tertiary education overseas for their three children.

“I would advise young parents living in the city and who are just starting a family to invest to secure some income for the future,” she added.

By YVONNE LIM yvonnelim@thestar.com.my

Libor scandal blows to British banking system


The still-developing Libor scandal is the latest and biggest blow to the credibility of big banks and their regulators, and should catalyse wide-ranging reforms to the financial system.

THE reputation and credibility of banks, regulators and the banking system in Western developed countries, already battered by the twists and turns of the financial crises, have reached new lows with the Libor scandal, which is still evolving and will yet reveal more wrong-doing. Blow … Barclays >>

Besides Barclays Bank, which has paid US$456bil (RM1.45 trillion) in penalties to the British and US authorities, at least another 11 banks that were part of the rigging of Libor face up to US$22bil (almost RM70bil) in penalties and damages to investors and counterparties, according to an article in The Financial Times.

This is likely to be an underestimate because in addition, they may also face fines of billions of dollars or euros from anti-cartel actions. And more than the 12 banks that are publicly named are involved.

The Libor scandal could not have come at a worse time because the banking sector is already mired in many deep crises.

That the biggest banks in the world have been manipulating the revered Libor rates, which the public for so many years considered something that is set objectively and scientifically, is almost unimaginable.

The manipulations were reportedly of two types: to influence Libor rates so that the bank could make profits in its derivatives trades, and to dishonestly portray that its own borrowing costs were lower than what they were, so as to raise the bank’s image.

The scandal hits at the heart of the global banking business, because Libor (the London Interbank Offered Rate), is the benchmark relied upon for many thousands of contracts in the financial world.

This new hit to the banks’ credibility comes at a time when there are new signs of a serious downturn in the global economy.

In particular, the growth rates of many major developing countries have declined significantly in the last three months, signifying that the banking and debt crises in Europe are beginning to have a serious impact on the developing world.

The Libor scandal may contribute to the deteriorating world economic situation.

At the least, the banks involved in the scandal may have a worsened financial position, with less credit to provide to the real economy.

The estimated fines would cut 0.5% off their book value, and each bank may also have to pay an average of US$400mil (RM1.27bil) because of lawsuits, according to a study by Stanley Morgan, as reported in The Financial Times.

This may only be the tip of the iceberg. Regulators in many countries, other than Britain and the United States, are investigating, including Canada, Japan, and Switzerland, while many corporations and lawyers are considering lawsuits against the banks. The credibility of the European and US regulators have also been affected.

Either they did not know about the manipulations of the banks and were thus not doing their job, or they knew about it and allowed the deception to continue for years.

Manipulation in the Libor system was apparently known, at least in the trade, by 2005.

In April 2008, an article in Wall Street Journal raised questions about the way Libor was set.

Last week (on July 13), documents released by the New York Federal Reserve showed that US officials had evidence from April 2008 that Barclays was knowingly posting false reports about the rate at which it could borrow, according to several news reports, including in the Wall Street Journal.

A Barclays employee told a New York Fed analyst on April 11, 2008: “So we know that we’re not posting, um, an honest Libor.”

He said Barclays started under-reporting Libor because graphs showing the relatively high rates at which the bank had to borrow attracted “unwanted attention” and the “share price went down”.

The Fed analyst’s information and concerns were passed on to Tim Geithner, then head of the New York Fed.

In June 2008, Geithner sent a memo to the Governor of the Bank of England, with six proposals to ensure the integrity of Libor, including a call to “eliminate incentive to misreport” by banks.

The documents show that the US authorities knew about irregularities in the Libor interest-rate market and had discussed the need for reforms with the British authorities as far back as mid-2008.

The question being asked is why the regulators did not act until this year.

The Libor scandal may be, or should be, the final straw that forces the developed countries’ political leaders and financial authorities to undertake a thorough and systemic reform.

The financial system has been plagued by one crisis and scandal after another, and of crisis responses.

There needs to be reform of the regulatory framework and enforcement, the hugely excessive leveraging allowed by financial institutions, the laws that permit a combination of commercial banking and proprietary trading in the same institution, the speculative and manipulative activities and instruments of financial institutions, fraudulent practices and the incentive system, including unjustified high pay and bonuses and high rewards to bankers for speculation-based earnings.

A reform of the Libor system or establishing an alternative to it is of course also required.

In the Libor system, a panel of banks will set the borrowing rates for 10 currencies at 15 different maturity periods.

Two types of manipulation emerged in the Barclays case.

The first involved derivatives traders at Barclays and several banks trying to influence the final Libor rate to increase profits (or reduce losses) on their derivative exposures.

The second manipulation involved submissions by Barclays and other banks of estimates of their borrowing costs which were lower than what was actually the case.

Almost all the banks in the Libor panels were submitting rates that may have been 30-40 basis points too low on average, according to The Economist.

GLOBAL TRENDS By MARTIN KHOR newsdesk@thestar.com.my

Related posts:

Four British banks to pay for scandal! 

British rivate banks have failed – need a public solution 

After Barclays, the golden age of finance is dead 

UK Banking Rules Risk Bank’s Future Market Value 

RBS, biggest British stated-owned bank losses of £3.5bn ! 

Cost of bank bailout keeps rising for UK

Underage and on Facebook


Facebook is mulling over letting children below the age of 13 join its network, but with so many signed up already, what difference would it make?

FACEBOOK’S minimum age should be 21. This argument mooted by CNN blogger John D. Sutter will no doubt get the support of many parents who worry about safety and privacy issues on the social media network. That is, those parents who have not secretly signed up, or helped to sign up, their children on Facebook.

Facebook (FB) already has an age limit 13 years old but the reality is that many “underaged” children already have their own profiles on the site, parents’ consent notwithstanding.

In fact, it is estimated that some 7.5 million children below the age of 13 are currently on FB, out of its total 900 million plus users worldwide.

This shows that the minimum age requirement on FB is just a number. Facebook does little, if anything, to enforce it, and one can simply lie about their birth date to circumvent the rule.

So why the charade?

As suggested by the Wall Street Journal, which first broke the news of the social media giant’s plans to open up to tweens and even younger kids, Facebook was feeling the heat from the American authorities in relation to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).

The Act stipulates that online services catering to children below 13 would need to obtain the consent of their parents before collecting data from them. COPPA also requires that parents be given the ability to review, revise and delete their children’s data.

Hence, with the number of pre-teen children registering on the site growing by day, Facebook knows it can no longer turn a blind eye to its minefield. Coming clean is perhaps its only option in defending itself from any potential legal action.

As it acknowledged in a statement: “Enforcing age restriction on the Internet is a difficult issue, especially when many reports have shown that parents want their children to access online content and services.”

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg himself had earlier said he would like to see kids under 13 use FB “more honestly and in compliance with the law”.

“My philosophy is that for education you need to start at a really, really young age… Because of the restrictions, we haven’t even begun this learning process… If they’re lifted then we’d start to learn what works. We’d take a lot of precautions to make sure that they (younger kids) are safe…,” he was quoted.

The conspiracy theorists of course say freeing the shackles is one way for Facebook to recoup its losses after a disappointing debut at the share market. Widening its user base will certainly broaden its revenue-raising opportunities, especially in the mobile apps and ad sector, and add to its market value.

Then there is the brand loyalty factor getting them young is the best way to get users hooked for the future, and guard against any possible defection to “cooler” social media networks to come.

Whatever the motive, the reality remains stark there is a high number of active FB tweens and they can no longer be ignored.

Choy: Many parents of children who are being bullied online feel they can’t do anything about it.

Time to Like

As he sees it, officially opening up to the under-13s can be a positive move, says CyberSecurity Malaysia chief executive officer Lt Col (R) Prof Datuk Husin Jazri.

“By officially allowing children to sign up, Facebook can keep tabs on how many Facebookers below 13 there are,” he opines.

In Malaysia, for instance, it is no secret that many tweens have their own FB accounts, with most having signed up either with the consent and help from their parents, siblings or close relatives; or by “cheating” Facebook, that is, changing their birth date to make the computer system accept them as above 13.

It is not clear how many Malaysian children are now online but with some 12.5 million Malaysian FB users recorded this year, it is safe to say that there are many.

In fact, global social media and digital analytics company Socialbakers estimated that some 2.2% of Malaysian Facebookers were aged 13 and below last August (around 248, 528). That is a rough estimate at best; with our below-18 population totalling up to 11.2 million (approximately 2.87 million children are in primary school), it is difficult to pinpoint how many FB minors are signed up on a fake age.

Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) chairman Datuk Mohamed Sharil Tarmizi agrees that removing the token age restriction is perhaps the most effective way to protect our children on Facebook.

This will create openness among the tweens and their parents, says Sharil.

“Children will not need to hide that they have FB accounts any more and would be encouraged to share their online experiences with their parents. If they do not bypass the protection measures (as kids nowadays are very IT savvy), the children should get the age appropriate online protection they need against the adult world’ of Facebook,” he adds.

However, both agree that this will only be effective if Facebook fulfils its commitment to introduce a new suite of tools for parents to keep their children safe when they register a FB account and interact on the social networking site.

Sharil, who is also vice-chairman of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Council Working Group on Child Online Protection (COP), a specialised organ of the United Nations based in Geneva, Switzerland, reminds parents that children are minors first and foremost.

“Children under 13 are typically in the primary school group and need extra supervision, guidance and care,” he stresses.

Husin proposes that specific accounts for those below 13 be created with suitable contents and safeguards to enable parents and guardians to continually provide assistance as well as monitor the online activities of these young Facebookers.

Sharil: ‘Children need guidance and supervision. Online tools and technologies can never replace the care and guidance that parents can give’

“Facebook for those below 13 should be categorised as a special account, different from the adult Facebook accounts. They should introduce some kind of system to ensure that the children obtain parental consent before they get accepted to sign up, and whenever a child requests for or accepts a new Facebook friend, parents should be alerted,” he adds.

Dangerous playground

Still, as many parents would be deigned to admit, no matter how vigilant you are, it is still a big bad Web out there.

“Parents can only guide and monitor their children, they cannot really change the environment,” says a father-of-three who only wants to be known as Arshavin.

You will still need the help of the policy makers and service providers, among others, to make the Internet, and specifically Facebook, safe for children, he adds.

“No matter how well-trained or educated your children are, some places are just off limits, even if you go there with them.

“I read this one comment that I think captures it well will you let your elementary school child attend a college or adult party?’. You won’t, right?” he poses, warning that some parents might be lulled by a false sense of security for their children on Facebook if the new ruling is implemented.

Social media specialist Jasmin Choy agrees, highlighting cyber-bullying as one danger for young children on FB. The problem is intensified as many parents are not equipped to deal with it, she says.

“Many parents of children who are being bullied online feel they can’t do anything about it. Then there are those who just don’t know what is happening to their kids in cyberspace, or those who are not giving enough guidance to their kids and are becoming bullies online,” she says.

Opposing the social media network’s plans to open up their membership for children under 13, the mother of two relates a recent cyber-bullying case close to her heart.

“It happened to a friend’s child who is sensitive and fragile. She was already being subtly bullied online when the girls ganged up on her and made her feel like she was stupid. The problem was, the mother didn’t know what to do about it. If she intervened, the daughter would be very embarrassed. On the other hand, if the mum didn’t intervene, these girls would go on bullying her daughter.”

Another red flag for children, she warns, is online porn and sexual predators.

“Many parents have no idea how much porn is being served up to the kids online. They think they have some idea but are often shocked when they discover how accessible porn is to their six- to13-year-olds.”

As Choy highlights, one only needs to go to some of the game apps on FB to receive porn advertisements.

“Many pop up even on innocent-looking Facebook games. Besides, curious kids are going to share images and if there’s FB and Twitter they will see it,” she says, advising parents to “prepare” their children by educating them about the birds and the bees at an early age.

“We can’t be prudish about it. They are going to see it anyway, so why not explain to them before trouble brews.”

The main danger she foresees, however, is the breach of privacy.

“Think about all the times we chatted with a young kid on FB. We must have at least mentioned the child’s name, asked them how their day was… things like that. We tend to forget the dangers when we are having fun online. Bad people can easily glean information from the chats the adults have with young kids on FB posts,” she says.

Choy also strongly believes that pre-teens are particularly vulnerable because most do not have the maturity to handle problems related to FB or be aware of the dangers.

“Even if they are aware of the dangers, they can’t often see the danger in front of them. Even adults don’t react fast enough to FB risks, what more children of that age,” she says.

Along with the threat of paedophiles, there is also worry that young children will be subjected to unscrupulous advertisers and marketers on Facebook, or have their personal data sold to advertisers.

Not surprisingly, Zuckerberg has already been lobbied by a coalition of consumer, privacy and child advocacy groups to keep children’s data confidential and the site ad-free for the below-13s in the United States.

For bank officer Aslina, addiction is her big worry.

“Just like adults, kids tend to spend way too much time on Facebook and can get addicted to it. Instead of studying or socialising with friends and playing games or sports, they will be logged on FB.”

And, cautions teacher Mary K, parents might not be able to withstand another pressure should FB open its doors to pre-teens peer pressure.

“Now they will be pressured to join because all their friends are on it. It will be a difficult time for parents, “ she says.

Arshavin agrees.

“I asked my 16-year-old daughter why she is on FB, and she said it was to watch what her friends are up to. But when I asked her to log off, she just whined about what she would be missing,” he says.

Calling FB a “different beast altogether”, Choy who is a proponent of the Internet as a study tool vows to keep her children away from it as long as she can.

“I really believe all young kids should have access to the Internet. My six-year-old can Google search for any information related to his hobbies or studies at any time with the tablet. YouTube has given him access to various documentaries he can watch and learn from. And why not? Technology and the Internet have made learning exciting. It has allowed my children to think out of the box. I just don’t think they should have an FB account at an early age,” she says.

If parents do decide to let the child open a FB account, she adds, they would need to constantly talk to them about the hazards and teach them good cyber habits.

“Explain over and over again why they should not reveal sensitive information like their names, location of the moment and place of residence. And check, check, check their FB settings,” she stresses.

And constantly but silently read their children’s postings to check for trouble, she adds.

This is something Alina does diligently with her two pre-teen children who are registered on FB.

“In the beginning, I was worried that I was making the wrong decision to let them get their own profiles on FB. But I read up on it and made sure that I know what is in store for them. Then I went through all the safety and security features available on FB with them before we registered.”

Most importantly, she adds, she always reminds them to be as cautious online as they would be in the real world.

Sharil agrees children should be taught as early as possible that rules and regulations exist online just as they do offline, and that there are dangerous areas online just as there are dangerous areas or things in the real world.

It is parents’ responsibility to cultivate security awareness in their children and educate them on safe Internet usage, says Husin.

“Parents must be alert of any unusual activities of their children on the Net and take the appropriate action to rectify if their child gets caught in any undesirable activities online.”

Sharil, however, reiterates that parents are the best judge of whether their child is ready for Facebook themselves.

“It all goes back to the basic skills of parenting and instilling good moral values in their children. Children need guidance and supervision. Only parents can do this effectively. Teachers, NGOs and the broader community can help but they can never replace the parent,” he notes.

Crucially, parents are at the frontlines of their children’s defence, says Sharil.

“Parents should continue to monitor their children’s online activities while encouraging appropriate online behaviour. They should not totally depend on Facebook’s parenting’ facilities. Online tools and technologies can never replace the care and guidance that parents can give.”

Ultimately, he adds, it is extremely important for parents and guardians to become good role models for their children when they are online.

By HARIATI AZIZAN sunday@thestar.com.my

FCC Proposes:Fine for Google Wi-Fi snooping ‘obstruction’


By TheStreet Staf

WASHINGTON — The Federal Communications Commission has proposed fining Google(GOOG_) $25,000 for obstructing an investigation into the company’s collection of data from unencrypted Wi-Fi networks in 2010, according to a published media report.

 Although the FCC has decided there was insufficient evidence to conclude that the data collection violated federal rules, the commission said Google deliberately impeded the investigation, The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday.

The probe looked at whether Google broke rules designed to prevent electronic eavesdropping when its Street View service collected and stored the data from the Wi-Fi networks, the newspaper reported.

The FCC proposed the fine late Friday night, the Journal said.

Google may appeal the proposed fine before the commission makes it final, the Journal said. The company has said that it inadvertently collected the data and stopped doing so when it realized what was going on, the newspaper added.

Shares of Google closed Friday down $26.41 at $624.60.

FCC proposes fine for Google Wi-Fi snooping case ‘obstruction’

By Zack Whittaker

Summary: The U.S. FCC has proposed a $25,000 fine after Google “impeded and delayed” an investigation into collecting wireless payload data from unencrypted Wi-Fi networks.

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission is proposing a $25,000 fine against Google for “deliberately impeded and delayed” an ongoing investigation into whether it breached federal laws over its street-mapping service, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The FCC initiated an investigation in 2010 after Google collected and stored payload data from unencrypted wireless networks as part of its Google Maps Street View service. Its intended use, Google says, was to build up a list of Wi-Fi network hotspots to aid geolocation services on mobile devices through ‘assisted-GPS.

The U.S. followed suit after many European countries, including Germany, which has some of the strictest data protection and privacy laws in the world. But the European nation went one step further and told Google to withdraw its Street View cars from the country altogether.

Google also drew fire from the UK’s data protection agency after it was told it committed a “significant breach” of the UK and European data lawswhen it collected wireless data from home networks. It was audited by the regulator and was told it “must do more” to improve its privacy policies. Google said it had taken “reasonable steps” to further protect the data of its users and customers.

But the FCC stopped short of accusing Google of directly violating data interception and wiretapping laws, citing lack of evidence. The federal communications authority did not fine the company under eavesdropping laws, as there is no set precedent for applying the law against ‘fair-game’ unencrypted networks.

The FCC took the action after it believed Google was reluctant to co-operate with the authorities after the scandal emerged. An FCC statement added that a Google engineer thought to have written the code that collected the data invoked his Fifth Amendment rights to prevent self-incrimination.

Google can appeal the fine. Despite the fine being a mere fraction of the company’s U.S. annual turnover, not doing so until its legal avenues are exhausted would almost be an admittance of guilt.

The search giant eventually offered an opt-out mechanism for its location database by adding text to the networks’ router name. But further controversy was drawn after another Silicon Valley company offered an opt-out only solution.

Facebook also drew fire from the regulators after the U.S. Federal Trade Commission allowed the social networking giant to settle, allowing users to opt-in to its sharing privacy settings, rather than opting-out; seen as a major win for U.S. users’ privacy on the site.

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Is The Chinese Economic Model The Way Of The Future?


Ralph BenkoRalph Benko, Forbes Contributor

Economic growth policy, especially the gold standard; and populism.

This writer’s standard stump speech, on the conservative lecture circuit, used to begin “I love Barack Obama.”  (Dramatic pause.  Confusion mounts.)  “Not since the days of the Soviet Union, which I enjoyed a minor but not quite trivial role in helping to bring down, have I had an adversary worthy of my powers.”

In the event, Mr. Obama turned into a disappointment.  He combines a smug, supercilious hectoring with a record of accomplishment somewhere between pathetic and perverse. Not a worthy adversary after all.

Therefore, imagine the excitement of finding, published on the op-ed page of The Wall Street Journal, no less, Andy Stern extolling something very like … well, communism.  Stern, together with its international Vice President Eliseo Medina, grew the SEIU into a behemoth of organized labor, even splitting the AFL-CIO, leaders of the historic stature of Reuther, Lewis and Meany.  Finally, a worthy adversary!

Stern begins with a quotation from former Intel CEO Andy (“Only the Paranoid Survive”) Grove:

Our fundamental economic beliefs, which we have elevated from a conviction based on observation to an unquestioned truism, is that the free market is the best of all economic systems – the freer the better. Our generation has seen the decisive victory of free-market principles over planned economies. So we stick with this belief largely oblivious to emerging evidence that while free markets beat planned economies, there may be room for a modification that is even better.

Referencing a recent trip to China, and extolling its rapid growth, Stern delivers his indictment:

The conservative-preferred, free-market fundamentalist, shareholder-only model-so successful in the 20th century-is being thrown onto the trash heap of history in the 21st century.  In an era when countries need to become economic teams, Team USA’s results – a jobless decade, 30 years of flat median wages, a trade deficit, a shrinking middle class and phenomenal gains in wealth but only for the top 1% – are pathetic.

This should motivate leaders to rethink, rather than double down on an empirically failing free-market extremism. As painful and humbling as it may be, America needs to do what a once-dominant business or sports team would do when the tide turns: study the ingredients of its competitors’ success.

This indictment understandably threw a number of my co-fundamentalists into rage.   The irrepressible Rush Limbaugh:

Folks, just like with the communists in the Soviet Union or the ChiComs, the ultimate goal of the Democrat Party is to discourage anyone from getting anything unless it comes from The Party … Let me sum this up for you: Andy Stern says capitalism and free markets have been shown not to work, they are a fraud; that what we need to do is to become China.  China is communist.  That’s what we need to do.

NRO’s Reihan Salam on Andy Stern’s Peculiar Idea:

To really learn from the Chinese, and to enjoy such staggering growth rates, we should go about things differently: let’s have a Maoist insurrection followed by a civil war that lasts for several years. Then let’s destroy most of the wealth in the country, and drive out millions of our most enterprising and educated citizens by launching systematic terror campaigns during which millions of others will die in violence or of starvation. Next, let’s have a modest economic opening in coastal regions: impoverished citizens will be allowed to launch small-scale township and village enterprises and components will be assembled in a handful of cities by our stunted descendants. Then let’s severely curb those township and village enterprises because they represent a potential political threat and invite large foreign multinationals and state-owned enterprises [let’s not forget those!] to work our population to the bone at artificially suppressed wage rates, threatening those who complain with serious reprisals up to and including death. Let us also initiate a population control policy designed to improve our dependency ratio for a few decades.

Jeffrey Folks in American Thinker: A Stern Vision of America:

State planning has led to inefficient steel mills that have collapsed under the weight of their unsustainable cost structures, oversupply of housing (including those 700,000 units going up in Chongqing annually), high-speed rail networks that have had to be shut down, and state-sponsored banks with opaque balance sheets masking undisclosed losses.  It is not state control and planning that have resulted in economic growth.  That growth has taken place in spite of the state’s efforts to plan and control the economy.

Nor is China the edenic land of income equality that Stern wishes to foster in the U.S.  Under revised guidelines, China has just quadrupled its estimate of the number of its citizens living in poverty.  Political corruption is rampant throughout the party apparatus that governs the economy ….

The American Spectator’s Ross Kaminsky writes, in “Stern Idiocy”:

Stern is at his most aggressively Marxist when he says that the “free-market fundamentalist” economic system “is being thrown onto the trash heap of history in the 21st century.” He says that capitalism is “empirically failing” simply because China and other rapidly developing nations have a higher growth rate than the U.S. does. But there are plenty of poor nations on earth to compare and the real empirical evidence is the incredible correlation between economic liberty and national prosperity.  As Professor Jacques Garello explained in an excellent 2004 speech, “freer countries are always more developed” because more freedom brings more private (especially foreign) investment, more knowledge, more entrepreneurial spirit, and the development of human capital.

Well, it is one of the paradoxes of our epoch that the same hand engineered the policies that led to vibrant economic growth both in America and in China.  Shake the hand of Robert Mundell, a Nobel Laureate in economics who, as prime author of “the Mundell-Laffer Hypothesis” was the chief architect of the Supply Side economics pioneered by Jack Kemp and implemented by Ronald Reagan. It led to the creation of 40 million jobs under Reagan and Clinton. Mundell is so esteemed by the Chinese that he has been made an honorary professor at 30 universities there.  According to Ahead of His Time by Laura Wallace, a profile for the IMF’s F&D:

Bob (says his former student Michael Mussa) has always been an enormously stimulating and unorthodox thinker. So there has been a consistency. His contributions were related partly to his willingness to think outside the box.’ Actually, Mundell doesn’t see himself as a maverick economist, insisting that his work has stayed steadfastly in the tradition of the great economists from Adam Smith through the founders of the IMF, including Keynes, who believed in fixed exchange rates based either on gold or on a world currency.

Stern, whom this writer views as an authentic humanitarian (with whom he has some principled disagreements), now is a senior fellow at Columbia University’s Richman Center.  Columbia is Mundell’s home base.  Of course it is pleasant to gaze at the cranes in the skyline of Chongqing and dream about how it must have been the “streamlined government” of “aggressive and popular Communist Party leader Bo Xilai” that brought this about.

But Andy?  Since Mundell’s your neighbor, now, you might just want to go right to the policy taproot for those skyscrapers and share a glass of wine with the economist whom this writer has elsewhere called the “greatest living humanitarian.” Find out what the grand architect of the present world economy himself thinks is the solution to “a jobless decade, 30 years of flat median wages, a trade deficit, a shrinking middle class and phenomenal gains in wealth but only for the top 1%.”  You might even ask him what Ms. Wallace meant when she summarized his prescription:

[I]f Mundell could have his way, the entire world would be one big optimum currency area, sharing a global currency. But he admits that political rivalries make it difficult for this to happen because a necessary condition for the creation of a monetary union—global or otherwise—is the creation of a security area. He believes that, in a world where war is a possibility, an international monetary system based on a fiat world currency wouldn’t work unless it were backed by one or more of the precious metals.

Stern tells us to “study the ingredients of our competitor’s success.”  Andy?  Yes indeed, please do! You may well find the haute chef of world prosperity-with-equity residing very nearby and generous in sharing with you those ingredients.

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