Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

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BHS is back

wrote recently of the demise of department store retailer BHS as a high street presence in the UK. It is a moot point whether some of the pains that ultimately led to the demise of the business were self-inflicted. But what cannot be doubted is that the disappearance of BHS from high streets and shopping centres is a very salutary example f the huge structural shifts which are reshaping the retail industry today.

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The news media and the election

How does an avowedly nonpartisan news organization like the New York Times cover an outrageous but media-savvy and factuality-challenged candidate like Donald Trump? In a recent interview, Times’ executive editor Dean Baquet explained that the press was at first flustered by Trump, that “everybody went in a little bit shell-shocked in the beginning, about how you cover a guy who makes news constantly.

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The World Bank: India’s development partner

Donald John Trump, the Republican Party candidate for the 2016 US presidential election, vowed a largely Indian origin gathering at glitzy event in Edison, New Jersey, by declaring, “I am a big fan of Hindus and a big fan of India. If elected, the Indian and Hindu community would have a true friend at the White House… I look forward to working with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.” That was an endorsement that India matters in world politics.

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The rise of passive-aggressive investing

Some good ideas take a long time to gain acceptance. When Adam Smith argued forcefully against tariffs in his 1776 classic The Wealth of Nations, he was very much in the minority among thinkers and policy-makers. Today, the vast majority of economists agree with Smith and most countries officially support free trade. Index investing, sometimes called “passive investing,” has taken somewhat less time to gain acceptance.

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Hiding Politics in Plain Sight

It’s beginning to look a lot like October: Breast Cancer Awareness Month & policymaking

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and pink is everywhere. Corporate-connected activists have branded breast cancer as pink—feminine, hopeful, and uncontroversial. They worked with businesses to sponsor walks and runs and to create cause-marketing products (like the bagels) to raise awareness of and money for breast cancer. These messages have changed the way Americans think about breast cancer.

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Brexit wrecks it? Prospects for post-EU retailing

The UK’s retail sector is going to be a particularly sensitive indicator of the effects of the Brexit referendum decision. Retailers, whether they are store-based, online or both, are intermediaries at the end of the value chain – and as such are very close to both consumers and suppliers – so they’ll be at the receiving end of Brexit effects in other sectors ranging from agriculture to car production to financial services.

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What exactly is ‘contract theory’?

At first glance, it may seem a dizzyingly impenetrable subject matter, but Oliver Hart and Bengt Holmström’s contributions to ‘contract theory’ have revolutionized the study of economics. They have recently been awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences, with the presentation committee noting how their pioneering analysis laid the “intellectual foundation for designing policies and institutions in many areas, from bankruptcy legislation to political constitutions.”

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Australia in three words, part 3 — “Public servant”

‘Public Servant’ — in the sense of ‘government employee’ — is a term that originated in the earliest days of the European settlement of Australia. This coinage is surely emblematic of how large bureaucracy looms in Australia. Bureaucracy, it has been well said, is Australia’s great ‘talent,’ and “the gift is exercised on a massive scale” (Australian Democracy, A.F. Davies 1958). This may surprise you. It surprises visitors, and excruciates them.

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The transition of China into an innovation nation

The writing is on the wall: China is the world second largest economy and the growth rate has slowed sharply. The wages are rising, so that the fabled army of Chinese cheap labor is now among the most costly in Asian emerging economies. China, in the last thirty years has brought hundreds of millions of people out of poverty, but this miracle would stall unless China can undertake another transformation of becoming an innovation nation.

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Brexit: the UK’s different options

The UK’s vote to leave the EU has resulted in a tremendous amount of uncertainty regarding the UK’s future relationship with the EU. Yet, predicting what type of new relationship the UK will have with the EU and its 27 other Member States post-‘Brexit’ is very difficult, mainly because it is the first time an EU member state prepares to leave. We can expect either one, or a mixture, of the following options.

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The power of volunteering: you make me happy and I make you happy

Millions of people across the world work for voluntary organisations and invest their abundant energies into helping their communities. Historically, establishments of voluntary organisations date back to at least the nineteenth century, when some of the world’s largest voluntary organisations, such as the Red Cross, were established to help people in need for free. To date, volunteer work remains a popular activity among the public worldwide.

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5 things you always wanted to know about interest groups

Virtually no government policy gets enacted without some organized societal interests trying to shape the outcome. In fact, interest groups – a term that encompasses such diverse actors as business associations, labour unions, professional associations, and citizen groups that defend broad interests such as environmental protection or development aid – are active at each stage of the policy cycle.

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How to write a grant proposal

Whatever its scale or ambition, a grant proposal aims to do two things: to show that a particular project needs to be supported by a funder and to show why some individual, group or organization is the right one—the best one—to carry out the project. Showing the “need” is largely an exercise in argumentative writing. It’s argumentative not in the hostile, red-faced, fist-shaking sense but in the classical sense of establishing a claim

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Brexit and Article 50 negotiations: why the smart money might be on no deal

David Cameron famously got precious little from his pre-referendum attempts to negotiate a special position for the UK in relation to existing EU treaty obligations. This was despite almost certainly having held many more cards back then than UK negotiators will do when Article 50 is eventually invoked. In particular, he was still able to threaten that he would lead the Out campaign if he did not get what he wanted, whereas now that the vote to leave has happened that argument has been entirely neutralised.

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wrong

One concerned economist

A few weeks ago, I received an e-mail inviting me to sign a statement drafted by a group calling itself “Economists Concerned by Hillary Clinton’s Economic Agenda.” The statement, a vaguely worded five paragraph denunciation of Democratic policies (and proposed policies) is unremarkable — as are the authors, a collection of reliably conservative policy makers and commentators whose support for Donald Trump appear with some regularity in the media.

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New York City’s housing crisis

New York City is the midst of a housing affordability crisis. Over the last decade, average rents have climbed 15% while the income of renters has increased only 2%. The city’s renaissance since the 1990’s has drawn thousands of new residents; today, the population of 8.5 million people is the highest it has ever been. But New Yorkers are finding that the benefits of city living are not without its costs. The demand for housing has outstripped the real estate community’s ability to supply it; as a result, prices have been rising.

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