This was the year when it became clear that much of Eastern Europe probably won’t end up as free societies. It’s not just semi-fascism in Hungary. Poland and Slovakia, arguably the two most successful economies and societies in Eastern Europe, took big steps backward toward illiberal governance. How can one be optimistic about the Balkans? I imagine a future where African and North African refugees are bottled up there, and Balkan politics becomes slowly worse. As for Ukraine, a mix of Russia and an “own goal” has made the place ungovernable. Where is the bright spot in this part of the world?
Nothing good happened in China’s economy, although more fingers have been inserted into more dikes. I am not hopeful on the cyclical side, though longer term I remain optimistic, due to their investments in human capital and the growing importance of scale.
I have grown accustomed to the idea that Asian mega-cities represent the future of the world — have you?
Syria won’t recover.
This was the year of the rise of Ted Cruz.
It was an awful year for movies, decent but unpredictable for books. The idea that Facebook and social media rob the rest of our culture of its centrality, or its ability to find traction, is the default status quo. Not even that idea has gained much traction. Cable TV started to receive its financial comeuppance. Yet on the aesthetic side, television is at an all-time peak, with lots of experimentation and independent content provision, all for the better. I suspect this is one reason why movies are worse, namely brain drain, but I am hoping for longer-run elasticities of adjustment into the broader talent pool.
Against all odds, Homeland was excellent in its fifth season.
I became even more afraid to move my cursor around a web page, and in terms of content, more MSM sites became worse than better. Banning photos would solve twenty percent of this problem.
Stephen Curry and Magnus Carlsen were the two (public) individuals I thought about the most and followed the most closely. Each has a unique talent which no one had come close to before. For Curry it is three point shooting at great range and with little warning; for Carlsen it is a deep understanding of the endgame as the true tactical phase of chess, and how to use the middlegame as prep to get there. It wasn’t long ago Curry’s weapons were “trick” shots, perhaps suitable for the Harlem Globetrotters; similarly, players such as Aronian thought Carlsen’s “grind ’em down” style could not succeed at a top five level. Everyone was wrong.
But here’s what I am wondering. Standard theory claims that with a thicker market, the #2 talents, or for that matter the #5s, will move ever closer to the #1s. That is not what we are seeing in basketball or chess. So what feature of the problem is the standard model missing? And how general is this phenomenon of a truly special #1 who breaks some of the old rules? Does Mark Zuckerberg count too?
I realized Western China is the best part of the world to visit right now. The food trends where I live were Filipino and Yemeni, which I found welcome. Virginia now has a Uighur restaurant in Crystal City, and the aging San Antonio Spurs continue to defy all expectations. Kobe Bryant, who “ranks among the league’s top 5 percent of shot-takers and its bottom 5 percent of shot-makers,” has redefined the retirement announcement, among other things.