The Inescapable Gap

The Inescapable Gap

No. 48, Jul.-Aug. 2024 Much awaited as any other major football tournament, the UEFA Euro 2024 brought along controversies regarding the competition format. Critics (or nostalgic fans) argued over the expansion of the tournament to 24 teams, considering that the old system, with 16 teams divided into groups of 4, would have been simpler and better. Better, meaning, more competitive (?). The current format sees the top two teams from each of the six groups (of four) qualify for the round of 16, joined by the best four third ranked teams of each group. More

“The American Claimants”

“The American Claimants” Biden, Trump, Twain and America’s (Mis)Fortune

No. 48, Jul.-Aug. 2024 We know, the US is short for the USA, in turn an acronym for the United States of America, which could very well stand for The-Somehow-Still-United-Despite-Constant-Divisions-and-Bickering-States-of-America. Race and class, gender and religion, all craftily packed in (debilitating) ideologies, are some of the cruxes for (or rather, causes of) the many fault lines that stubbornly drive wedges within the highly regarded and widely praised “land of the free, home of the brave”. These boundaries date back to the time of pilgrims and pioneers and will endure in an idiosyncratic form of patriotism, just like their political coalescence has become, paradoxically enough, the driver of American society and statehood. The polarity between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party, aka “the left” versus “the right”, aka “liberals” versus “conservatives”, keeps America in motion, even if the image of the debate (debacle?) Biden-Trump on the evening/morning of June 28/29, was one of an American political class that “went to pot” than of candidates “running for POTUS” (President of the United States). More

“The Future of Europe” – To Be Scrutinized by Academics and Practitioners

“The Future of Europe” – To Be Scrutinized by Academics and Practitioners Conference at the Bucharest University of Economic Studies

No. 47, May-Jun. 2024 “The Future of Europe” International Conference, organized by the Faculty of International Business and Economics, of the Bucharest University of Economic Studies, on 24-25 October 2024 and marking this year its 15th edition, aims to bring together academics and practitioners from all over the world to present research papers, share their knowledge and expertise, as well as to debate ideas in a wide range of thematic areas, including but not limited to:- international business, innovation and competitiveness, digital transformation, supply chain resilience, and sustainability challenges;- EU governance and enlargement, business cycles and economic crises, role of the state, mobility and infrastructure development, finance and banking in the EU, circular economy, climate change economics, green energy, and energy security;- multiculturalism & diversity across the European Union, with particular emphasis on business communication and negotiation, leadership, organizational culture, migration issues. More

The Political and Economic Impact of the Conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia

The Political and Economic Impact of the Conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia

No. 47, May-Jun. 2024 The Middle East, a region endowed with vast natural resources, notably oil, has historically been a hotspot of geopolitical tensions. Two of the region’s most influential nations, Iran and Saudi Arabia, have been at the heart of these conflicts. Their rivalry, deeply rooted in political, economic, and religious differences, significantly impacts regional stability and global economic trends. This article examines the historical context, economic influence, geopolitical tensions, international involvement, and the broader implications of the conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia. More

The Budget Deficit in the Last 20 Years. Some Observations

The Budget Deficit in the Last 20 Years. Some Observations

No. 47, May-Jun. 2024 Romania has systematically recorded a negative budget execution result over the last 20 years. Essentially, the idea of the normalcy of the budget deficit has taken root, with the only discussion being about its size. In fact, in the long term, we should aim for a balance between revenues and expenditures. Otherwise, everything we accumulate at specific points, for various reasons (be it justified or not), will translate into systematic interest payments. These payments represented no less than 2.1% of GDP in 2022 (note, 70% of the space allowed by the Maastricht rule of 3%), and in 2023 they represented 1.9% of GDP, one-third of the deficit recorded in public finances. More

Russia and China: The Limits of the Unlimited Partnership Have Not Been Reached Yet

Russia and China: The Limits of the Unlimited Partnership Have Not Been Reached Yet

No. 47, May-Jun. 2024 The relationship between Russia and China is an important subject of debate for the West in the context of the war in Ukraine and of the invaluable support which China gives to Russia in order to hold its ground against the Western sanctions and to continue the fight against Ukraine. The two countries are, also, engaged in an ample project of organising the Global South and the major emerging economies (plus important non-aligned actors such as the United Arab Emirates and nominal US allies like Saudi Arabia) in structures parallel to the ones supposedly dominated by the West, capable of producing alternate governance models which mark the transition towards multipolarity. Under such conditions, could Western commentators hope for a moderate/-ing Chinese influence on Russia’s actions in Ukraine or for an eventual split between these two powers? More

Romania’s Odyssey to OECD Membership: A Journey of Progress and Promise

Romania’s Odyssey to OECD Membership: A Journey of Progress and Promise

No. 47, May-Jun. 2024 Romania’s path to OECD accession and its development are examined in this article, which also presents the stages followed and conformity with the organization’s standards. Romania encountered difficulties throughout the accession process, its enacted reforms and fulfilling the technical requirements for membership. Key stages are highlighted: submission of the initial memorandum, the 2024 economic study, roadmap acquisition, and obtaining the first formal notice. Additionally, the article discusses the benefits of Romania’s OECD accession, reflecting on the ongoing efforts required for successful integration. It focuses on the broader context of the 2022 enlargement wave and emphasizes the significant role of democratic institutions in meeting OECD standards. It underscores the need for improving the educational system and internal challenges within the investment environment. The conclusion highlights how crucial it is to keep an eye on political and economic trends throughout the world in order to adjust plans accordingly, guarantee Romania’s preparation for OECD membership, and integrate Romania into international governance frameworks. More

Extractive Behaviours in Datacracy 4.0

Extractive Behaviours in Datacracy 4.0 New oldies

No. 47, May-Jun. 2024 Planet Earth is both an immense habitat – our cradle – and a gravitational vehicle – with circumsolar motion. With its array of natural (im)balances, the Earth is a venerable 4.54 billion years old; the (industrial) imprint left by the human species on it, deemed not negligible, barely exceeds two centuries; and our digital/IT&C/virtual existence, in what we call cyberspace, makes us feel still too young. This quite new frontier to be conquered is competing with the expansive cosmic imagination (Universe), but inverted into a quantum-ritual dreamscape (Metaverse), somehow simplistically assimilated with the internet. Yet, cyberspace is more than the sum, it is the synergy of computers (and all assimilable devices), servers, routers, and other globally connective digital infrastructures (hardware), “animated” by software, including here the omni-technology of our utopias/dystopias, Artificial Intelligence. In our quest for space and sense we do struggle to understand whether AI is a friend or a foe. More

Preparing Students for the Labour Market: The Role of Theory-Based Economic Judgements Against AI-Supported Decision-Making

Preparing Students for the Labour Market: The Role of Theory-Based Economic Judgements Against AI-Supported Decision-Making Workshop at the Bucharest University of Economic Studies

No. 46, Mar.-Apr. 2024 Artificial Intelligence would not have been possible without the great thinkers – in both “hard” and “soft” sciences – who educated themselves, then developed theories to be tested in practice, and while they may have failed in solving resistant conundrums, they excelled in fighting for their reasoned convictions. More

The Puzzle of Political Trust in Romania

The Puzzle of Political Trust in Romania

No. 46, Mar.-Apr. 2024 In the field of political philosophy, the dynamic interplay between citizens and governance within the framework of a democratic system holds immense significance. The complex bond of trust forms the very foundation of this relationship, encapsulating the core essence of democratic governance. This trust, or its absence, gives rise to what I shall refer to as the "Puzzle of Political Trust in Romania," a puzzle that necessitates our meticulous examination. Romania, positioned in the crucible of historical and ideological transformations, presents a captivating case study for this enigma. As a nation that has experienced the ebb and flow of political systems and ideologies, the citizens of Romania find themselves at a critical juncture where the echoes of historical upheaval looms large over the present. Trust is not simply a theoretical idea; it functions as the essential connection that ties together the hopes of the public with the decisions carried out by their selected leaders. More

High Poverty - Low Education, the Vicious Circle

High Poverty - Low Education, the Vicious Circle

No. 46, Mar.-Apr. 2024 A recent report of the European Commission regarding country analysis on Social Convergence Framework (SCF) points out the problems of Romania, where high poverty - low education constitutes a vicious circle. Therefore, the quality, relevance and inclusiveness of education and training should be strongly tackled by public policies to support labour market and improve poverty rates. More

Sound and Fury, Signifying Nothing, in the US Elections

Sound and Fury, Signifying Nothing, in the US Elections

No. 46, Mar.-Apr. 2024 The 2024 U.S. presidential election will play a pivotal role in determining the strategic direction to be taken by the United States of America. In any event short of a quick decline, the U.S. will remain the most active and multivalent superpower in the world, even in a multipolar paradigm. If for nothing else, then for its willingness and ability to subsidise its key partners’ security, as well as freedom of navigation and the Global Institutions which have, among other things, facilitated China and other revisionist actors’ ascent and development. Combined with the already decades-long ongoing and bipartisan tendency of power accumulation under the “Unified American Executive”, to the detriment of the U.S. Congress, the American elections would have already been of a crucial worldwide importance. Therefore, the Super Tuesday electoral marathon was closely analysed in the hopes that it could signal a “sea change” in the primary elections of the two parties, especially of the Republicans. Instead, the hopeful noises made by the national and global observers have proven to be in vain, as there was neither an out-of-nowhere spoiler contestant nor a consensus by the party camarillas to remove the aging gerontocrats of American politics. The electoral configuration for November 2024 seems to be that of Biden versus Trump, Biden being accompanied by Kamala Harris, while Trump is still keeping the vice-president seat empty in order to negotiate with certain ideological factions or owners of political machines in his favour. Donald Trump’s favourability indexes look very good and he appears to be the leading candidate in the race as long as the sequential legal challenges he faces won’t succeed in creating a precedent leading to the downfall of a favourite presidential candidate. The situation is further complicated by the fact that the apparent persecution of Trump appears to augment his support among the Republicans and independents, not to mention that voters who are motivated by a candidate’s “respectability” have not yet had enough reason to abandon him. From this standpoint, the Democrats who put forward lawfare options for “doing away with a danger to the Republic” appear to be “playing with fire”. More

Models of Historical Interpretation

Models of Historical Interpretation

No. 46, Mar.-Apr. 2024 [Originally serving as two introductory lectures to my history courses, the following article was published at request of the editor in Contra Mundum 11 (Spring 1994): 12-20 under the same title. Long out of print, I hope these observations will prove to be of some value to another generation of readers.] More

Independence through Interdependencies

Independence through Interdependencies Some thoughts on the regional cooperation mechanisms in which Romania is involved

No. 46, Mar.-Apr. 2024 The study titled The role of regional cooperation mechanisms in the current geopolitical context – opportunities and challenges for Romania, authors: Octavian-Dragomir Jora (coord.), Marius-Cristian Neacșu and Cezar Teclean, under the auspices of the European Institute of Romania, attempts to offer a lecture entry-point – one of the many potential ones – regarding Romania’s regional cooperation mechanisms, useful not only to the purveyors of external policies, but to all those who internalize its shortcomings. This approach attempts to make itself useful by signalling the multitude of interpretations of the international reality, which goes from the level of the common citizen all the way to chancelleries and which demands a smart reconciliation and a sage reconnecting at maybe the hardest calculable parameter when it comes to the very existence and functioning of a state: the national interest.The formulated conclusions – out of which a brief excerpt is republished below – emphasise, rather than exhaust, the wide range of possibilities of regional cooperation, in a heterogeneous/eclectic set of catalogued formats/mechanisms, which must be detached, before anything else, from the realm of monotony and rigidity. We are talking about promising, uncharted fields, but also about upsetting redundancies; about lucrative components, but also about bureaucratic laziness; about room for national initiative, but also about convenient conformity. These aspects are further complicated by the upsurge of the contestation of the international rule-based order. Here is a concise inventory of some generic ideas – concentrated in 10 points – which emerged from the research process, while a bit more extensive summary, preceding the study in full (in Romanian) is to be retrieved here. More

Cryonics – Staying Chill

Cryonics – Staying Chill Long live the deep-frozen ones! – MIND(s that filled) THE GAP(s) [XXII]

No. 45, Jan.-Feb. 2024 Hey there, thrill-seekers! Ever wondered about outsmarting the ultimate opponent – death itself? Enter the fascinating realm where science, hope, and the human ambition collide – welcome to the extraordinary world of cheating the Grim Reaper! At some stage in our lives, most of us encountered the science fiction plot when somebody hops into a sealed chamber to freeze their body, envisioning a future revival in an entirely new world. Surprisingly, this scenario isn’t merely an exaggerated tale, as people have actually been undergoing cryopreservation since the 1960s! More

Techno-Socialism: The Illusions of Technology in Search of Utopia

Techno-Socialism: The Illusions of Technology in Search of Utopia

No. 45, Jan.-Feb. 2024 In the history of humanity, few ideologies have incited as much enthusiasm and controversy as socialism—a subject that has captivated the minds and hearts of many, stirring passions and igniting fervent debates. Its proponents proclaim it as the harbinger of a new dawn, promising to rectify perceived injustices and build a (utopian) society based on equality and solidarity. Socialism, in its various forms and iterations, purports to address the flaws of capitalism and create a fairer and more prosperous world. In a socialist society, it is believed that human nature will undergo a transformation; it will be purified of selfishness, and reshaped to create a new type of socialist individual. The desires of this individual will be compatible with the hard work, prosocial behaviors and devotion required to achieve the goals and fulfill the directives set by the socialist state. Socialism advocates for the abolition of private property, collective ownership of the means of production, and the centralization of economic power in the hands of the state, purported to be controlled democratically, but in actuality ruled by a dictator or a committee. Through this reordering of social relations, it is believed that a fair distribution of resources and wealth will be achieved, eradicating poverty, exploitation, and social stratification. More

The Fortune at the Bottom of the Cup

The Fortune at the Bottom of the Cup Coffee unlimited – MIND(s that filled) THE GAP(s) [XXI]

No. 45, Jan.-Feb. 2024 Coffee? What is coffee? A daily ritual enjoyed by billions of people worldwide. For hundreds of years, this magical beverage has forged connections between people, contributing to the exchange and distribution of information. In this era where everything has become digitized, and face-to-face socialization is increasingly rare, coffee inspires people to have discussions, write, read, stimulate their imagination, and encourages people to meet, communicate, have fun, or simply spend time together, becoming a social bond. Cafes have been and continue to be places where people unwind and feel at home, where culture, time, and social barriers merge. And coffee is the second most valuable export of developing countries and an important element of their economies. Its energizing effect has made it the most consumed beverage after water. More

The West’s Own Goal on Energy

The West’s Own Goal on Energy

No. 45, Jan.-Feb. 2024 The various World Economic Forum reports speak of poly-crises and perma-crises, which act as powerful stressors on our societies. Their effect has been visible in the area of energy, which is fundamental for the effective functioning of our economic, social and political lives. The effects of the American invasions in the Middle East and the civil wars that broke out after the so-called Arab Spring (including the emergence of Daesh, the so-called Islamic State) have proven that an increasingly integrated global energy system is also prone to cascading effects as a result of crises in demand, supply or risk perception. In recent years, we have seen the effects of the pandemic, resulting in a shrinking and then increase in energy demand, and the war in Ukraine (and sanctions against Russia) had significant effects on perceptions of security of supply and markets. We may soon see an impact from Houthi rebel attacks on energy shipping traffic through the Gulf of Aden, much of it aimed at Europe. Disturbances in the global energy markets increase the prices of almost all products, implicitly also increase inflation, lower living standards, bury companies, especially in energy-intensive fields or with fossil fuels as inputs and often strategic (metallurgy, petrochemicals, arms industry). However, not all of these effects can be attributed to exogenous shocks. They are also the result of a mix of ideology, special interest groups, civil society organizations, which have pushed many Western countries towards counterproductive energy policies, including for the desired reduction of carbon emissions (decarbonization), which have ended up exacerbating energy insecurity in the West. Especially in the case of Europe, the recurring crises in the field of supply, sustainability, and accessibility of energy for large consumers will sharpen trends of Western deindustrialization. There will be four ripple effects – a reduced competitiveness of Europe on the global stage, the economic stagnation of Western Europe after 2008 (with small exceptions such as the Netherlands or the Nordics) becoming chronic, the vulnerability of the Energy Union (resulting in more frequent blackouts) and an inability of Europe to rise to challenges such as the production of munitions and other war materials. From Romania’s perspective, even if we will not face supply crises, we will suffer secondary effects of the economic weakness of our main economic partners. Also, as we have not yet seen a country that becomes developed in conditions of high energy access costs, we can ask the question whether Romania and other Eastern countries will be able to enter the club of the developed after the limits catch-up growth will be reached, and countries will face middle income traps, which can produce long-term economic stagnation. More

The Soft Power of Manga

The Soft Power of Manga Japanese pop art – MIND(s that filled) THE GAP(s) [XX]

No. 45, Jan.-Feb. 2024 Hayao Miyazaki helped popularize anime (i.e. cartoons drawn in a Japanese style) outside of Japan, playing a significant role in increasing global interest in this genre of animation. Studio Ghibli, his creations, has influenced not just the content of anime, but also the way this industry is perceived and appreciated around the world as a producer of art. And not only the anime industry, it also played an important role for manga, which are Japanese comic books which often inspire anime movies and series.His personality combined with the strict rules of Japanese society gave rise to a unique man. A man who could never be satisfied with his, or with other people’s efforts, someone who would have given everything for his passion and his work.He was always fascinated by this idea of drawing. He was especially drawing planes in the childhood. His family had military involvement, since they owned a company that built parts for fighter planes – Miyazaki Aircraft Company – and this is why he was so interested in them. The Miyazaki family received special treatment because of their company – everyone in the family was exempted from the responsibility of going to war. And they were quite rich. More

Enlightened Minds’ Derby: Oxford vs. Cambridge

Enlightened Minds’ Derby: Oxford vs. Cambridge Rewarding rivalries

No. 45, Jan.-Feb. 2024 In the beginning, there was the… bludgeon – in an episode of the “town vs. gown” saga. The first faction – that of the trueborn townsfolk; the second one – of the academics – alien and politically privileged as opposed to the locals. In 1209, following a harsh clash between the two Oxford factions – NB: a town with academic activity dating as far back as 1096 –, several studious individuals fled to Cambridge and laid the foundation of the university with the same name, yet bringing with them the same social tension. Nicknamed “Oxbridge”, given their common historical and institutional features, the two venerable English universities have developed a mutual condescension over time. Though aristocratic and non-aggressive, it was seemingly even more defiant in its staunch refusal to “name the other”: i.e., to those in Cambridge, Oxford remains, bluntly, “the other place”. Centuries of “grey-matter” warfare, following the original battle of fists, led to these two universities accumulating both intellectual/human and financial capital. Their combined wealth: £21bn! More

Biden Throws His Hat in the Ring

Biden Throws His Hat in the Ring

No. 45, Jan.-Feb. 2024 President Joe Biden recently announced his intention to run for a second term as President. His detractors mocked him for a message that was both alarmist and emotional, as well as for the fact that it had been pre-recorded and scripted, like most of the media appearances of the oldest American leader. However, the Biden Campaign cannot be underestimated. Despite its weaknesses, potential legal hurdles, and questionable performances, the Democratic Party will rally behind him as the only notable candidate capable of defeating Trump or a Trumpist successor like DeSantis. More

Employees Working Abroad, of Great Importance for Romania

Employees Working Abroad, of Great Importance for Romania

No. 45, Jan.-Feb. 2024 For France, Romania and Belgium, the positive net balance of personal transfers and compensation of employees reduces their current account deficits significantly, according to data for 2022 published recently by Eurostat. For some countries, net inflows of personal transfers and compensation of employees are important sources of external funding and contributors to a recipient’s disposable income and GNI.Romania considerably reduced its negative current account balances through these net inflows, with €7.4 billion (see Figure 1). The current account deficit for Romania would have been €33.5 billion instead of €26.1 billion, which includes transactions related to personal transfers and compensation of employees. More

Loneliness as a Disease: A Bird in Its Cage and the Effects of Consumerism

Loneliness as a Disease: A Bird in Its Cage and the Effects of Consumerism

No. 45, Jan.-Feb. 2024 In the fast-paced society we live in, the divide between generations is more pressing than it has ever been. Parents and children have always clashed, but the general saying nowadays is that “things were better in my time”. Whether you translate this phrase in Romanian, put into Japanese hiragana or find its equivalent in Arabic, the general sentiment is the same: degradation is impending and people yearn for better times, as they were before.Where does this sentiment actually come from? Is it some sort of en-masse illusion? Maybe it’s just a stage that every person goes through once they hit their midlife crisis. Is there some sort of truth to it? As humans, we compare every experience we engage in with past situations, in order to find answers. We use these models due to the fact that they are all we know and we thrive on precedents. So, when people go metaphorically back in time, they actually romanticize the sense of comfort that their youth brought them. This is done on micro-levels too. A 70-year-old always remembers his 50s fondly. A 40-year-old yearns to be 25 again. Some would say it is just the nature of man, and I tend to agree.So, where does loneliness come into play? More

Heartland vs. Rimland

Heartland vs. Rimland

No. 45, Jan.-Feb. 2024 The last decade saw more and more thoughts on, opinions, and claims that a new world order is just around the corner and the old system of bipolar and then unipolar world will belong in the history books. The “Pax Americana” period is living its final days, marking the beginning of a not so long interregnum characterized by a vaguely-defined so-called “multipolar world”. Since it is unstable in the longer term, multipolarity will most likely segregate and in the end will lead to a world dominated either by a single power, probably China, or, more likely, by another bipolar world divided on an East-West gradient politically and economically, but, more importantly, on ideology and in terms of the proposed social model. This could mean the end of globalization as we know it in its Anglo-Saxon form, but does not mean that globalization itself will be gone completely. It just may very well take another shape, under a presumable new “Pax Sinica”, or a half-half globalization in case of bipolarity, meaning one type of international system in the Western, democratic and capitalist world and another form in the authoritarian states in Eurasia. Pretty much like in the Cold War, with the main difference that these two global systems can cooperate economically much more than in the previous setting. More

Human Rights and America’s “Empire by Invitation”

Human Rights and America’s “Empire by Invitation”

No. 45, Jan.-Feb. 2024 The idea of universal human rights is part of the borrowed capital the West secularized from its Biblical origins as the eternal kingdom of Christ. Cut off from its source is becomes sentimental, utopian, ideological and sometimes apocalyptic. Most of the damage to the idea of universal human rights was done more than 75 years ago through the ideological twist which was added at the insistence of the Soviet Union after the Second World War.The first twenty-one points of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) are classified as civil and political rights: “freedoms from.” These are best regarded, first of all, as liberties which deserve protection rather than rights which have standing in courts of law. The next seven, which the Soviets insisted upon, are social and economic rights – “obligations to” – various social and economic categories. These might best be characterized as collective rather than individual rights, sometimes as claims upon the government treasury. They are rights other people – ultimately taxpayers – owe to a distinct class of people rather than liberties for all which governments are obliged to protect. More

Unsupported Sport Spirit (International Edition)

Unsupported Sport Spirit (International Edition) [Very short memories of geopolitical and geoeconomic foul play]

No. 45, Jan.-Feb. 2024 “The ball is round” is a statement endowed with immeasurable explanatory power, a veritable theory of general relativity of human life, since it is often used in so many extra-football justifications. It’s a statement that should be a working premise in any setup in the world, whether it’s based on rough elbows and fine ankles or anything else. The ideal of football would be for it to represent the game of the ball, played with the feet, but by people with their heads up whether on the field, the side-lines, the boards of sports clubs or associative structures. Representing a distillate of human passions, football concentrates both humanity and nothingness and it does so regardless of jurisdictions, cultures, histories and horizons. Football, as a common denominator of a huge part of the population of the world map, preserves in high concentrations everything that brings us together and divides us too: solidarity and passion, excellence and mediocrity, justice and crookedness, joy and hatred. The “Copa Mundial”, Brazil 2014, started some time ago, on which occasion we saw once again that football exhibits and exhales planetary virtues and vices. More

FIRST EDITION

SUBSCRIPTION

FOUNDATIONS
The Market For Ideas Association

The Romanian-American Foundation for the Promotion of Education and Culture (RAFPEC)
THE NETWORK
WISEWIDEWEB
OEconomica

Amfiteatru Economic
IN THE AGORA
Agora