We’ve been led to assume that the world of our children would be a place of fewer borders and lower barriers to the movement of goods and people. Not long ago, walls were literally brought down, with the promise that global progress and prosperity would henceforth be marked by openness.
That’s not how things are trending now, and the consequence is troubling for those of us who believe that the most powerful cure for war and economic stagnation is direct exchanges between people around trade and ideas.
The latest signal of rising barriers is the European Union considering in the coming days whether to require visas for US and Canadian tourists who currently enter without the extra hassle. It’s a discussion prompted by those countries’ own obstinance about extending the same courtesy to citizens of all EU member states.
An enthusiasm for erecting barriers is evident elsewhere, too. Among the US presidential frontrunners, Donald Trump wants to build a wall along the border with Mexico, and Hillary Clinton came out against a free-trade deal whose formulation she once supported. Government approaches to the Syrian refugee crisis have been disappointingly miserly. And the UK’s future in the EU is perhaps more in doubt now that prime minister David Cameron’s efforts to hold things intact have been undermined by his tie to secret offshore investments.
Openness can be messy. If not accompanied by lucid, compassionate policies that acknowledge its downsides, it can hurt our fellow citizens, such as those who are unable to compete with cheaper labor available elsewhere.
But the benefits of more open borders are significant when you consider the reduction of poverty in countries like Vietnam and China. If managed properly, the free movement of goods should be positive even for high-wage nations, making them more efficient and richer. And research suggests that immigrants provide net benefits to the economies of those welcoming them.
We should address any dislocations that come from the lowering of borders with honesty and generosity. —Kevin J. Delaney
Five things on Quartz we especially liked
The corrupt roots of global extremism. The explosive release of the Panama Papers offers an important opportunity to examine the role of corruption and socioeconomic inequality in the radicalization of terrorists. What do offshore bank accounts of the international elite have to do with violent extremism bred in neighborhoods that know no such affluence? For starters, as Haroon Moghul explains, when people know the system is rigged, some are bound to turn their anger outwards.
Disrupting diamonds. Jenni Avins visits the headquarters of Diamond Foundry, a Silicon Valley startup where engineers are growing diamonds identical to their natural counterparts. Avins takes a loaner “foundry diamond” on a journey through the staggering science, marketing, economics, and romance of the $81 billion diamond industry and asks, “Would you propose with a diamond grown in a lab?”
A future without pot farming? Fifty years of civil war turned the hilly terrain around Toribío, Colombia, into a no-man’s land that government authorities dared not enter. As the fighting raged, locals quietly tended to marijuana plantations that light up the night sky with their growing lamps. Now that a peace deal seems possible, Ana Campoy explains, the pot farmers worry their livelihood is threatened—and their efforts to protect themselves could disrupt the peace process.
Setting up shop in Shenzhen. Katharina Unger and Julia Kaisinger raised enough cash on Kickstarter to start planning mass-production of the Hive, a contraption for raising live worms you can harvest and eat at home. It’s a niche product, yes. But the prospective customers are out there, and so are the Chinese factories capable of building their Hives for them. Josh Horwitz finds out what drew two Austrian entrepreneurs to form their business in Shenzhen, and why fried mealworms go nicely with noodles.
A painfully noticeable void. Zaha Hadid’s death on Mar. 31 robbed female architects—and Arab women—of a much-needed icon. The Pritzker prize-winning “Queen of Curve” drew buildings that no one else could imagine, and often surpassed the limits of what was even technologically possible to build. For rising female architects, writes Anne Quito, her loss is akin to seeing a lone beacon in the field extinguished.
A podcast we like, and think you’ll like too
This week, Actuality explores the race for satellite internet. There’s much at stake both for the providers—who want to avoid the same fate that befell the industry in the 1990s—and for countries desperately in need of cheaper, faster internet.
Five things elsewhere that made us smarter
How Disney and CEO Robert Iger ushered out the hand-picked successor who Wall Street loved. Thomas Staggs is suddenly out at Disney, and investors are perplexed. Writing in the New York Times, James B. Stewart draws on his deep knowledge of executive dysfunction in the house of Mickey Mouse and explains all the drama. The story in a quote? “There’s a long history in business of picking a successor and then discrediting them.”
The finance theory of basketball. When a group of executives bought the NBA’s floundering Golden State Warriors in 2010, they reorganized it around a simple premise: A shot from 23 feet out is worth two points, but take a step back behind the three-point line, and the rate of return is much higher. Ben Cohen in the Wall Street Journal examines how the unprecedented strategy led Stephen Curry and the Warriors to a record-breaking season, and put them in the hunt to be the most successful team in NBA history.
Our emoji marketing future. Social media marketing is hard, especially when there’s no emoji to adequately illustrate your brand. That’s why Guinness hopes the Unicode Consortium will someday add an emoji for stout alongside the existing light beer emoji, and why Unilever developed a separate keyboard app for its Dove brand’s “Love Your Curls” campaign. As Advertising Age’s Jessica Wohl points out, there’s a risk of inducing emoji fatigue. But just try telling that to the people responsible for the nearly 1 million downloads of the “Love Your Curls” keyboard.
A long, wrong wait for the truth about sugar. Public health experts are coming around to the theory that sugar, not fat, is the worst dietary hazard. This could have been established 40 years ago, Ian Leslie writes in the Guardian, if only nutritionists had paid more attention to science than politics. Instead, prominent researchers misled the masses into a sugar-coated, fat-free future—which now includes a massive obesity problem.
Jamie Dimon has a lot on his mind. Skip over the usual corporate platitudes, and Dimon’s annual letter to JPMorgan Chase shareholders (pdf) leaves you with a sharp sense of how a global banking CEO organizes his thoughts about the world. It’s 50 pages this year. Our advice: Go directly to the section on managing geopolitical and country risks (it starts on p. 17); note his concerns about the disappearance of liquidity (p. 19); review your mobile banking app agreements after reading p. 21; and just try predicting how he’ll vote in November after reading what he wrote on p. 50.
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