Illustration for  Rana Foroohar's column on comment for Monday August 20 2018

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According to some of its proponents, the so-called gig economy has transformed the relationship between workers and companies. Contractors working for “on-demand” platforms like the ride-sharing firm Uber, the argument runs, enjoy unprecedented independence — and they like it that way.

The reality, argues Rana Foroohar in her column this week, is rather different. Algorithmic management techniques put more power in the hands of platform companies, not less. And the taxi business is not the only sector being disrupted in this way. The same is happening to radiologists, lawyers and accountants.

Hitherto, Uber and other digital insurgents have entered new markets guerilla style, Rana writes, disrupting first and asking questions later. But it is time for platform tech companies to take some responsibility for the dramatic changes they have wreaked.

Barry Eichengreen, an American economist, writes that there are lessons for Donald Trump in the way Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has behaved towards his country’s central bank. Leaders tamper with central bank independence at their peril.

Hakan Samuelsson, president and chief executive of Volvo Cars, calls on China, the US and the EU to reduce tariffs on car imports to zero. Free trade and open markets, he argues, are the drivers of job creation and economic growth.

Blanche Lincoln, a former Democratic senator for the state of Arksansas, argues that liberalising the US online gambling market is a bad idea and that children and addicts need protection.

What you’ve been saying

Rampant consumerism may have had its day: from William Pedder, London, UK
High productivity means consuming more for less effort. That sounds good. However, rampant consumerism may have had its day as we move to a more sharing economy, sharing cars, spare bedrooms and so on. Meanwhile, there is more appreciation of the quality of work as an activity, and a recognition that work can be good for you, and for the community. There is even talk of rationing work as artificial intelligence takes hold. Are we in Britain rebalancing our values to recognise that the productive act has value in itself, and that consumption is not the overarching goal? Marx recognised this; can current economic theory encompass it?

In response to "Genoa bridge collapse exposes a scourge that is not just in Italy", Old School Canuck says:
It is much easier and less costly to provide (and pay for) infrastructure in densely populated regions than in areas where local populations are spread out in low-density suburban districts. In 2013, a Canadian research report suggested that one way to reduce the problems posed by suburban sprawl would be to remove the implicit subsidies to car owners (charging more for road use would be one way to do this). Charges to property developers should also be greatly increased, as should rates paid for utilities such as water, sewerage and electricity in far flung suburban regions.

Faith is still deeply embedded in the Irish: from Bernard Keigher, London, UK
Certainly huge numbers have left the Church, but the Faith is still very deeply embedded in the Irish people. Remember the Soviet Union — in spite of the enormous influence of Stalin the Orthodox Church is sill very much alive in Russia today. Because the people want it. I think we will see a very clear sign of this phenomenon when Pope Francis visits imminently. The numbers who turn out to hear him will be the evidence.

Today's opinion

Children and addicts need protection from online gambling
The DoJ should act to prevent America’s kids from visiting betting sites

Platform companies have to learn to share
The gig economy has not eliminated issues of power between workers and employers

Defuse trade tension by cutting car import tariffs to zero
Volvo Cars chief argues we are losing sight of the broader benefits of low barriers

Investors have the power to tame Erdogan and Trump
Politicians should think carefully before seeking to influence central banks

Kofi Annan, UN leader in difficult times, 1938-2018
‘Secular monk’ stung by failures in Rwanda and Bosnia who never stopped working for peace

FT View

The FT View: India risks reputation if millions are left stateless
Ugly BJP nationalism in Assam could leave 4m without any rights

The FT View: In quarterly earnings reporting, guidance is the real tyranny
Companies should set long-term targets and be judged against them

The Big Read

The Big Read: South Korea: the fear of China’s shadow
Once a model of economic development, the country now worries Chinese competition will cause a long-term slowdown

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