Leadership Is Failing Everywhere

Today’s Agenda

Do the Wrong Thing

(Bloomberg Opinion) -- There is no shortage of global crises that cry out for effective political leadership. But faced with hard decisions about hard problems, government officials in many countries are opting for easy rhetoric or actions that might make them popular in the short term but do little to help their citizens in the long run.

Look no further than South Africa, Bloomberg’s editors write, for government officials that are hurting the very people they’re claiming to help. There, the administration of President Cyril Ramaphosa is proposing a constitutional amendment that panders to populists by permitting some private land to be seized by the government without compensation. The editors say it’s the wrong prescription for the country’s serious problems of widespread unemployment, unequal distribution of agricultural land between whites and blacks, and political corruption.

David Fickling also blames political pandering in Australia, where prime ministers tend to have the short tenures of Spinal Tap drummers. He says the tumultuous ouster of Malcolm Turnbull is particularly ominous because it reflects a policy realignment among Australia’s right-of-center politicians toward inflammatory views on immigration and race, and a disregard for climate policy realities. 

The risk of short-term thinking has financial as well as human consequences. Lionel Laurent writes that the prevalence of world leaders promising quick fixes to score political points is eroding investor confidence and pushing up market volatility in countries already at risk. 

Again in the category of failing leadership, Cuba risks squandering a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for economic and social change by “betting on policies to relax government constraints on the market just enough to goose growth but not so much as to jeopardize the command economy,” Mac Margolis says. Further north in the U.S., President Donald Trump is treating the rule of law like a dog’s chew toy, Jonathan Bernstein laments. And so is the president’s criminal lawyer, according to Noah Feldman

Bonus Trump reading: The revelation that Allen Weisselberg, the financial chief for the Trump Organization, cooperated with federal prosecutors in the recent case against Trump’s fixer Michael Cohen “is a potentially momentous turn of events for the president,” writes Tim O’Brien. Weisselberg’s knowledge of the Trump Organization may lead special prosecutor Robert Mueller straight into the heart of the president’s business and financial dealings, Tim says. 

Do the Wrong Thing (Redux)

If you’re looking for institutions that fail to uphold their values, major U.S. collegiate sports are a good place to start. Joe Nocera excoriates the light punishment meted out to Ohio State University’s head football coach, who ignored allegations of domestic violence against one of his assistant coaches, failed to tell university officials about it, lied about what he knew and tried to cover up his lie. Ohio State compounded this leadership failure, Joe writes, with a university investigation that exonerated or excused the head coach’s actions. 

Slime of a Different Sort

Would you pay $120 for a bottle of snail mucus to slather on your face? What if I told you that South Korean soldiers love it?

The military conscripts are among the hordes buying snail extract and other products that promise to make skin smoother, better hydrated and less blotchy. Andrea Felsted and Sarah Halzack write that interest in skin-care products among both the affluent and mass-market shoppers has been a lift for makers of personal-care products at the end of a long bull market for makeup. 

The origin of the skin-care mania was first South Korea and more recently Japan. In both countries, tourists from China — the world's biggest market for skin-care products, as for many other things — are snapping up items like pore-cleansing face masks to bring home. (Bonus: The face masks make you look like the villain in a horror film.)

Chart Attack

Italy should tread carefully as it hunts for patrons to buy the country’s debt, Marcus Ashworth advises. Even the suggestion that the U.S. might be that patron could alienate Italy’s best friend, the European central bank.

Leadership Is Failing Everywhere

Quick Hits

The Federal Reserve chairman channeled Alan Greenspan to defend a gradual approach to raising borrowing costs. – Daniel Moss 

China’s smaller banks are courting risk by offering gambling-like products to attract savers. – Andy Mukherjee and Nisha Gopalan

There’s a reason German workers have equal representation on corporate boards. – Justin Fox

It’s misguided to oppose a congressional proposal that would let Americans finance parental leave by delaying or reducing their Social Security benefits. – Ramesh Ponnuru

The hype is fading for IBM’s Watson artificial intelligence technology, but AI still should have an important role in medicine. – Faye Flam

Swiss industrial giant ABB Ltd. made a stunning flip-flop. – Chris Hughes

Social networks are enabling U.S. election interference. – Leonid Bershidsky

Two lawyers, one working for Trump and the other for Trump’s former attorney, “are now facing off in the Super Bowl of publicity hounds.” – Albert Hunt

The composer Leonard Bernstein offers lessons for contemporary America. – Scott Duke Kominers

Venezuela isn’t proof that free-market governments are best. – Noah Smith

U.S. stock markets tend to shrug off semi-anticipated events including presidential impeachments. – Barry Ritholtz

ICYMI

The U.S. called off upcoming nuclear talks with North Korea. Senator John McCain discontinued medical treatment for his brain cancer. Shorting Tesla isn’t cheap. 

Kickers

People in the technology industry are altered

Blockchain comes to the bathroom

“Florida candidate says alien abduction doesn't define her.” 

Comedian Conan O’Brien is obsessed with the biographer-historian Robert Caro. It is unrequited love

A changing of the guard, for apples

Lovers of fleece vests don’t care that it’s August. 

Note: It’s been fun sitting in for Mark Gongloff this week. Please send escargot ooze, suggestions and kicker ideas to Shira Ovide at sovide@bloomberg.net.

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This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Shira Ovide is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering technology. She previously was a reporter for the Wall Street Journal.

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