3 ways to make American politicians better at their jobs

This might sound crazy, but hear it out: What if we paid politicians higher salaries with bonus incentives?

Dambisa Moyo: I am an eternal optimist about how and why we should continue to innovate every aspect of our lives, whether that’s science and technology imbuing more efficiencies in how we run businesses, but also how we deliver healthcare and education, so as far as I’m concerned I’ve adopted this same lens as we think about the political process.

So just to give you some flavor for some of the proposals, on the politician side I consider the argument that we should perhaps increase the pay of politicians and actually force them to justify their compensation. Singapore is a great example of this model. In Singapore, the head of state, the prime minister, earns over $1.4 million a year in compensation. But, to me, what’s even more interesting is that the ministers who are responsible for education and healthcare and infrastructure, et cetera, earn 30 to 40 percent bonuses based on certain metrics and outcomes—how GDP performs, whether life expectancy increases, whether inflation declines.

I think that that is a very interesting model for us to explore because I think it could impose discipline. By the way, a discipline around reward for performance which we already see, and it applies to many of us as we work in the private sector. So certainly worth consideration. I think that could actually force politicians to think a little bit more long term.

Another proposal on the politician side is to basically think about minimum standards for politicians. And this is an idea that really, for me, stuck out as I thought about how the British Parliament looked back in the 1950s and 60s.

In that period the average age was higher, on average about 60 years old, but also the skill set was incredibly varied. They had teachers, lawyers, doctors, farmers. People had had other careers and had a better understanding of how the economy works because they came to become parliamentarians having experienced different sectors of the economy. Today, some of the citations that I reference in the book, the average age is closer to 40 years old and many politicians actually have no experience except having been professional politicians, and I think that can be quite a disservice in terms of not really understanding the complexity of how an economy works.

A third—I’ll just very quickly give you one more example of what we might consider in terms of politicians, is we might think about extending the terms of political office.

This is essentially to get away from this idea of having elections every two years as we do in the United States. Mexico is an example of a country where the president is in office only once for six years. And so I think you get away from this desire of politicians to constantly court or tempt and try to seduce voters with policies that may be short-term appealing but over the long term are incredibly damaging for the economy and ultimately for generations to come.

In Brazil, the senators have eight- to nine-year terms. Again, it’s really picking on this theme of extending the thinking to better match the economic challenges and economic headwinds that the global economy faces.

When was the last time the U.S. saw meaningful innovation in its political system? Economist and author Dambisa Moyo thinks politics needs to keep up with every other industry and evolve. She outlines three proposals that would help American politicians be better at their jobs, drawing on examples from Singapore, the U.K., Mexico and Brazil. First up, Moyo suggests—brace yourself—that American politicians earn higher salaries and receive bonuses based on metrics like increased life expectancy and GDP growth. The U.S. president earns $400,000 a year. In comparison, the prime minister of Singapore earns $1.4 million. Moyo's second recommendation is to set minimum standards for entry into politics: experience in sectors beyond politics should be more heavily valued. And lastly, she recommends longer terms in office to avoid the perils of short-term thinking and counterproductive voter appeasement. Edge of Chaos: Why Democracy Is Failing to Deliver Economic Growth�and How to Fix It

China's "artificial sun" sets new record for fusion power

China has reached a new record for nuclear fusion at 120 million degrees Celsius.

Credit: STR via Getty Images
Technology & Innovation

This article was originally published on our sister site, Freethink.

China wants to build a mini-star on Earth and house it in a reactor. Many teams across the globe have this same bold goal --- which would create unlimited clean energy via nuclear fusion.

But according to Chinese state media, New Atlas reports, the team at the Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) has set a new world record: temperatures of 120 million degrees Celsius for 101 seconds.

Yeah, that's hot. So what? Nuclear fusion reactions require an insane amount of heat and pressure --- a temperature environment similar to the sun, which is approximately 150 million degrees C.

If scientists can essentially build a sun on Earth, they can create endless energy by mimicking how the sun does it.

If scientists can essentially build a sun on Earth, they can create endless energy by mimicking how the sun does it. In nuclear fusion, the extreme heat and pressure create a plasma. Then, within that plasma, two or more hydrogen nuclei crash together, merge into a heavier atom, and release a ton of energy in the process.

Nuclear fusion milestones: The team at EAST built a giant metal torus (similar in shape to a giant donut) with a series of magnetic coils. The coils hold hot plasma where the reactions occur. They've reached many milestones along the way.

According to New Atlas, in 2016, the scientists at EAST could heat hydrogen plasma to roughly 50 million degrees C for 102 seconds. Two years later, they reached 100 million degrees for 10 seconds.

The temperatures are impressive, but the short reaction times, and lack of pressure are another obstacle. Fusion is simple for the sun, because stars are massive and gravity provides even pressure all over the surface. The pressure squeezes hydrogen gas in the sun's core so immensely that several nuclei combine to form one atom, releasing energy.

But on Earth, we have to supply all of the pressure to keep the reaction going, and it has to be perfectly even. It's hard to do this for any length of time, and it uses a ton of energy. So the reactions usually fizzle out in minutes or seconds.

Still, the latest record of 120 million degrees and 101 seconds is one more step toward sustaining longer and hotter reactions.

Why does this matter? No one denies that humankind needs a clean, unlimited source of energy.

We all recognize that oil and gas are limited resources. But even wind and solar power --- renewable energies --- are fundamentally limited. They are dependent upon a breezy day or a cloudless sky, which we can't always count on.

Nuclear fusion is clean, safe, and environmentally sustainable --- its fuel is a nearly limitless resource since it is simply hydrogen (which can be easily made from water).

With each new milestone, we are creeping closer and closer to a breakthrough for unlimited, clean energy.

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