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Politicians should take citizens’ assemblies seriously

IN 403BC Athens decided to overhaul its institutions. A disastrous war with Sparta had shown that direct democracy, whereby adult male citizens voted on laws, was not enough to stop eloquent demagogues from getting what they wanted, and indeed from subverting democracy altogether. So a new body, chosen by lot, was set up to scrutinise the decisions...

The ECB’s lack of credibility could hamstring Europe’s recovery

AT POINTS IN the past decade the European Central Bank (ECB) was the only institution standing between the euro zone and financial oblivion. Europe’s problem was budgetary inhibition and insufficient risk-sharing. Monetary policymakers were the only game in town. No longer. Earlier this year the European Union agreed to issue joint debt to fund a fiscal...

Will TikTok survive?

ON AUGUST 6TH, when the White House told TikTok that it had 45 days to shut down or find an American buyer, there was a risk that the Chinese-owned video app would disappear from America, infuriating its 100m users there and destroying billions of dollars of investors’ wealth. Now a last-minute fudge seems to have been found. TikTok has said it will...

The pandemic shows a better way to handle abortion

FOR MOST women deciding how or when to give birth, covid-19 has been a nightmare. Fertility treatments have paused, sexual-health clinics closed and partners been banned from delivery rooms. Yet the pandemic has brought one silver lining. It has shown a better way to carry out early-stage abortions. Abortion is legal in most of the world, and relatively...

Is it the end of the oil age?

For more coverage of climate change, register for The Climate Issue, our fortnightly newsletter, or visit our climate-change hub OIL FUELLED the 20th century—its cars, its wars, its economy and its geopolitics. Now the world is in the midst of an energy shock that is speeding up the shift to a new order. As covid-19 struck the global economy earlier...

Why is California burning?

FOR DECADES environmentalists have warned that the world is going to burn. Mostly, they meant it figuratively. But footage of fires sweeping through the Siberian steppe, the Amazon forest, parts of Australia and now, once again, California, make it easy to believe the planet is, literally, on fire. New infernos have been whipped up by strong winds and...

Will Putin save Lukashenko?

“FIRST THEY stole our country. [Now] they are stealing the best of us.” So said Svetlana Alexievich, a Nobel prize-winning writer, of the rulers of her native Belarus. Since mass protests erupted after a blatantly rigged presidential election in August, riot police and plain-clothes goons have been beating up peaceful demonstrators. On September 7th,...

Who owns what?

TWENTY YEARS ago a Peruvian economist made a startling observation. People in poor countries are not as poor as they seem. They have assets—lots of them. But they cannot prove that they own them, so they cannot use them as collateral. Hernando de Soto estimated that the total value of informally owned land, homes and other fixed assets was a whopping...

Is the office finished?

Editor’s note: Some of our covid-19 coverage is free for readers of The Economist Today, our daily newsletter. For more stories and our pandemic tracker, see our hub MOST PEOPLE associate the office with routine and conformity, but it is fast becoming a source of economic uncertainty and heated dispute. Around the world workers, bosses, landlords...

Britain threatens to flout international law

IT IS STAGGERING to see a British minister brazenly admit to Parliament that the government intends to breach international law. Yet that is what Brandon Lewis, the Northern Ireland secretary, did this week—even if he sought to qualify the move as “very specific and limited”. The plan in the proposed internal-market bill is to override parts of the...

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