Democracy Declines Again


Money Quote January 31, 2018

Facebook, Apple stock ride sidecar, Amazon soars on health news

Once again the scholars of democracy are displeased with its march, or perhaps we should say its retreat. Last time we reported on this trend, it was the Freedom House sounding the alarm. Today it’s the Economist. Just five percent of the world lives in a “full democracy” and no, the US ain’t included. We live in a “flawed democracy” and honestly, I am starting to wonder if that’s just a bit too charitable. MQ: “The index, which comprises 60 indicators across five broad categories — electoral process and pluralism, functioning of government, political participation, democratic political culture and civil liberties — concludes that less than 5% of the world’s population currently lives in a “full democracy”.”

We’ll be discussing the decline of democracy with world leaders, governors, mayors, and policy experts, as well as the head of Facebook News Feed and the General Counsel of Google at the Shift Forum next month. Join us!

The response to this was dramatic — many healthcare stocks sunk on the news. And why not — the narrative of “if Amazon is doing it, everyone else will lose” is pretty widespread by now. While I find the news interesting, I also find it distressing — we look to massive corporations to fix healthcare (for those who work there), and we fail to imagine that health should be a human right, not an opportunity for profit. And yes, I know the troika claim their new platform won’t be a for profit company. But tell me it won’t dramatically improve their bottom lines in other ways? Yep. I’ll be writing more about this soon. MQ: “The alliance was a sign of just how frustrated American businesses are with the state of the nation’s health care system and the rapidly spiraling cost of medical treatment. It also caused further turmoil in an industry reeling from attempts by new players to attack a notoriously inefficient, intractable web of doctors, hospitals, insurers and pharmaceutical companies.”

I am starting to think that Facebook’s warnings around societal impact and “time well spent” are possibly a cynical cloak meant to disguise the inevitable demise of its core product, which nearly everyone I know (and all kids I know) is using less compared to a year or more ago. Huh. Case in point: The company is working overtime to try to get folks to come back. MQ: “Facebook reported 1.4 billion daily active users in the quarter, slightly missing a 1.41 billion average estimate from three analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. That amounted to the slowest user growth on record. DAUs in the U.S. and Canada declined from 185 million in the third quarter to 184 million in the latest period, the company also reported. Facebook’s year was marred by challenges that led Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg to rethink the company’s main product, the news feed, and warn the changes could reduce time spent and engagement on the social network. Zuckerberg said the company will focus on “time well spent” and “meaningful interactions” for users — terms Facebook hasn’t said how it will define or measure.”

A more sober look at why Kodak is making the move into blockchain. MQ: “Professional photographers frequently see their work published without payment or permission online, and chasing after that money can be expensive and legally burdensome. But, Kodak has said, the blockchain — a kind of digital public database whose entries can never be faked or forged — could provide a solution that forever links images with their rightful owners.”

Is it possible the “Apple can do no wrong” narrative is hitting its endpoint? Yes, it is possible. MQ: “Apple is trading below its 50-day moving average, a negative technical indicator. Apple has tumbled about 7% since hitting an all-time high of 180.10 on Jan. 18.”

ProPublica is doing some great reporting lately. This one demonstrates the facts behind Trump’s oft-repeated fib about job creation. MQ: “Remember the Carrier deal right after the election? Trump claimed he had saved 1,100 jobs in the company’s Indiana operations from being moved to Mexico. Putting aside the fact that he counted 300 positions that were never at risk, Carrier received $7 million in grants and tax breaks from the state of Indiana, and still laid off more than 500 people.”

I’m not convinced this shift will end up mattering, but I guess we’ll see. MQ: “It’s hard to argue that the tweak will dramatically help local publishers, since it won’t solve the underlying business problems that make local news a very difficult proposition. But more exposure isn’t a bad thing for those publications, or their readers.”

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