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Stefan Lorant

Stefan Lorant, the pioneering photojournalist, was born at the turn of the twentieth century and died 96 years later, at the century’s end. In between, everywhere Lorant went and everything he did ended up having momentous consequences. Some of those consequences were micro and personal – but memorable – while others were macro and geopolitical. …

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China’s Xi Is Having a Really Bad War

“Putin’s War Is Xi’s Worst Nightmare” — Headline above Craig Singleton’s article in Foreign Policy The term idée fixe refers to a monomania of the brain, a pathology of the mind, an erroneous notion that nonetheless powerfully resists almost any attempt to modify it. When an idée fixe establishes itself in the mind of an all-powerful autocrat, the consequences are always …

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The Fed and Inflation

Editor’s note: Pittsburgh Quarterly has regional financial experts to respond to this question: Inflation has proven to be higher and “stickier: than the Fed expected. Do you think the Fed’s policies are appropriate or is the Fed behind the curve? What is your best estimate for inflation at the end of 2022?   Linda Duessel, Federated …

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U.S. Policy Blunders Helped Provoke Ukraine War

Whose Fault is the Ukraine War? “[Post-Cold War], many American elites embraced a vision of a U.S.-led ‘liberal international order’ which could theoretically integrate the entire world… into a single, globalized whole.” –  Stephen Kotkin, Princeton University Previously in this series: A Coat of Varnish Part V, ESG Investors Need to Wake Up to Reality …

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Rough Ride for Markets

Editor’s note: Pittsburgh Quarterly asked regional financial experts to respond to two questions, one about effects on the economy of the war in Ukraine and the other of the effects Federal Reserve actions (or inaction). Many of their answers to the first question are below, followed by the second question and many of their answers …

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ESG Investors Need to Wake Up to Reality

Will ESG Finally Grow Up? “ESG is a huge, gross gravy train for fund managers, consultants, and marzipan layer technocrats of various flavors. The whole thing is rotten.  If you work in the space, your choices are to be a useless idiot trolling in the trenches for what you think is a good cause, be …

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The Fed’s Failure – and There Goes Climate Change

The Fed Is Having a Bad War “The Fed’s odds [of achieving a soft landing] are now substantially below 50-50.” — Alan Blinder  “The Fed that Failed.” Title of an article in “The Economist” “I have been humbled.”  Fed Chair Jay Powell Previously in this series: A Coat of Varnish Part IV, History’s Lessons and Historic …

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Will Stocks Go Lower this Year?

Editor’s note: Pittsburgh Quarterly asked regional financial experts to respond to this question: “Do you believe U.S. markets have already seen their lowest levels for 2022?  If so, why?  If not, why not?” The question was asked in March with an April deadline. We thank them for giving readers their responses, which follow. Linda Duessel, …

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History’s Lessons and Historic Mistakes

Angela Merkel’s Reputation Is Trashed – But Is America at Fault? Merkel’s reign at the top of Germany’s political apparatus was remarkable, and she stepped down as something of a secular saint with a 77% approval rating. But it’s amazing what six months can do. Previously in this series: A Coat of Varnish Part III, …

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Not Everyone Agrees with Us

Let’s Talk Nukes “If a third world war is such a crippling worry, how can the premise of NATO be credible? Its effectiveness has always depended on the belief that NATO is indeed prepared to run the risk of nuclear war.” — Martin Wolf in the Financial Times Previously in this series: A Coat of Varnish Part …

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Posture of U.S. Weakness Encouraged Ukraine Invasion

What do Caesar’s Wife, Justice, and Military Deterrence Have in Common? “The lure of appeasement – in essence, a return to the policies pursued in many Western capitals for the past two decades – will be strong.” — Thomas de Maizière, former German defense minister Previously in this series: A Coat of Varnish “It is better …

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A Coat of Varnish

C. P. Snow titled his last book, written a few years before he died, A Coat of Varnish. What he meant, as he put it, was that “Civilization is hideously fragile…there’s not much between us and the horrors underneath. Just about a coat of varnish.”  Civilization, that is to say, is like a thin coat of …

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Timely Thoughts on a Free America

“The defense of agency is what individual human rights are meant for.”  James Griffin Previously in this series: On Agency, Part XII, The Complexities of Institutional Racism Last week I pointed out that controversial policies like DEI, microaggressions, safe spaces, trigger warnings and so on shouldn’t be viewed with so much alarm for the simple …

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The Complexities of Institutional Racism

Last week we examined the introduction into American law of so-called “group rights” and the failure of that collective agency movement to improve the lives of African-Americans – America’s most disadvantaged group. Previously in this series: On Agency, Part XI, American Blacks and Agency For roughly 200 years the very high individual human agency of …

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American Blacks and Agency

In my discussion of the extraordinarily high individual human agency in America, I have deliberately omitted – until now – an important caveat: not everyone in the U.S. has historically been, or is today, vouchsafed the same degree of agency. Previously in this series: On Agency, Part X, The Sniping About America is Nothing New …

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The Sniping About America is Nothing New

“Going to America!” Arkady Svidrigailov’s dying words as he commits suicide in Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment Previously in this series: On Agency, Part IX, It Turns Out, the U.S. Really is Exceptional Criticism of the extremely high human agency in America has been constant, starting even before the USA was officially born. For example, if you …

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It Turns Out, the U.S. Really is Exceptional

“America, you are better off than our continent, the old.” – Goethe Previously in this series: On Agency, Part VIII, America – Where Agency Flourishes Last week we observed that the vigorous human agency of the American colonists allowed them to defeat a powerful antagonist – the combined forces of France and numerous Native American …

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America – Where Agency Flourishes

“In the beginning all the world was America.” — John Locke Previously in this series: On Agency Part VII Turning from China to the West Last week we observed human agency as it collapsed in Rome but was championed by the Germanic tribes that would eventually defeat the Roman Empire. The “freedom of the German …

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Turning from China to the West

“Valour begets tranquility, tranquility ease, ease disorder, and disorder ruin.” –Sallust Previously in this series: On Agency Part VI, The Strategy of Xi’s China Earlier in this series of essays I noted that, broadly speaking, the history of Western Civilization has mainly been one of ever-increasing human agency. In the West, human agency has meant individual agency, …

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The Strategy of China’s Xi

From the beginning of Deng Xiaoping’s economic reforms in the early 1980s right up through the first decade of the twenty-first century, China’s socialist-capitalist hybrid society worked remarkably well. Previously in this series: On Agency Part V, Deng’s Accidental Revolution The Chinese economy grew rapidly and the Chinese people – post Tiananmen Square, anyway – …

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Deng’s Accidental Revolution

“Deng Xiaoping knew what he did not know!” — Deng Xiaoping Previously in this series: On Agency Part IV, The Rise of Deng in China Since the Mao Dynasty was launched in 1949 there have been five “emperors” – what the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) calls “paramount leaders” – but only three have mattered. Mao, of …

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The Rise of Deng in China

“It doesn’t matter if a cat is black or white, so long as it catches mice.” — Deng Xiaoping Previously in this series: On Agency Part III, The Rise of the Individual in Ancient China The current Chinese dynasty was established by Mao Zedong in 1949, following his victory over Chiang Kai-shek and the Nationalists. The …

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