Why Brazil Needs to Win the World Cup
Daniel Altman is Big Think's Chief Economist and an adjunct faculty member at New York University's Stern School of Business. Daniel wrote economic commentary for The Economist, The New York Times, and The International Herald Tribune before founding North Yard Economics, a non-profit consulting firm serving developing countries, in 2008. In between, he served as an economic advisor in the British government and wrote four books, most recently Outrageous Fortunes: The Twelve Surprising Trends That Will Reshape the Global Economy.
Daniel Altman: The World Cup of soccer is a phenomenally huge event for the whole world and this year no more so than in Brazil. Brazil though it is the home of some of the world’s best soccer players and has won the World Cup several times hasn’t hosted the World Cup since 1950 when it lost heartbreakingly to Uruguay and never lived that memory down. Well, there have been a lot of protests in Brazil that have suggested that all of the billions of dollars that Brazil is spending on infrastructure and updating its stadiums and security might be better spent on things that would help the Brazilian economy to grow at the grass roots like healthcare and education, worker training, housing. And those protests may yet continue during the World Cup itself. But there have been a lot of dire predictions about how safe people will be, whether the Brazilian World Cup will turn into something of a disaster and an embarrassment and I don’t think they’re likely to turn out to be true because we heard a lot of the same predictions before the World Cup in South Africa four years ago.
Now the World Cup in South Africa was viewed as a big risk because here was a country that had severe problems with crime and there never had been a World Cup in Africa before. So the question was how would the soccer officials and the local officials deal with all of the potential risks and things could go wrong in a country like South Africa. Well it turned out that those fears were broadly exaggerated because it was a fantastic festival of football that went off without a hitch. In fact, there was probably less crime going on during the World Cup than other times of the year because people were enjoying it and watching the soccer wherever they were all over the country. Now in Brazil things are a bit different because Brazil is an enormous country. There are big parts of the country that have not received any investment as a result of the World Cup and Brazil is in a situation where its growth has been lagging.
Brazil can’t necessarily look at the World Cup as something that’s gonna stimulate its economy just as South Africa couldn’t necessarily look for a big payoff from the World Cup in economic terms either. But it was something that put South Africa on the map for a lot of people and perhaps in the long term they would see something out of it in terms of tourism or at least a restoration of faith that South Africa was a place that you could visit safely and have a good time. In Brazil though I think that we’re looking at something a little bit different. Brazil, to me, really needs to win this World Cup to have any economic effect because it is a time where the country has been facing some challenges. Expectations for growth have come down somewhat. The broad progress that we saw during the Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva administration has not necessarily been continued under his successor Dilma Rousseff. And so if Brazil were to win it might add confidence, add consumer confidence that could really get this economy going. In the past we’ve seen a pattern where countries that host the World Cup don’t necessarily make off that much better economically but countries that win the World Cup do seem to get a little boost over the next few years. So this could be just the confidence boost that the Brazilian economy needs. However, to win it they’re gonna need to make it through some really tough teams. So I don’t know if my money’s on Brazil but for the sake of the Brazilian economy it would be great if they came through.
Big Think's resident economist Daniel Altman explains why Brazil needs to not only host the World Cup but win it too if it wants to see an economic boost from the tournament.
Great ideas in philosophy often come in dense packages. Then there is where the work of Marcus Aurelius.
- Meditations is a collection of the philosophical ideas of the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius.
- Written as a series of notes to himself, the book is much more readable than the dry philosophy most people are used to.
- The advice he gave to himself 2,000 years ago is increasingly applicable in our hectic, stressed-out lives.
Can dirt help us fight off stress? Groundbreaking new research shows how.
- New research identifies a bacterium that helps block anxiety.
- Scientists say this can lead to drugs for first responders and soldiers, preventing PTSD and other mental issues.
- The finding builds on the hygiene hypothesis, first proposed in 1989.
Are modern societies trying too hard to be clean, at the detriment to public health? Scientists discovered that a microorganism living in dirt can actually be good for us, potentially helping the body to fight off stress. Harnessing its powers can lead to a "stress vaccine".
Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder found that the fatty 10(Z)-hexadecenoic acid from the soil-residing bacterium Mycobacterium vaccae aids immune cells in blocking pathways that increase inflammation and the ability to combat stress.
The study's senior author and Integrative Physiology Professor Christopher Lowry described this fat as "one of the main ingredients" in the "special sauce" that causes the beneficial effects of the bacterium.
The finding goes hand in hand with the "hygiene hypothesis," initially proposed in 1989 by the British scientist David Strachan. He maintained that our generally sterile modern world prevents children from being exposed to certain microorganisms, resulting in compromised immune systems and greater incidences of asthma and allergies.
Contemporary research fine-tuned the hypothesis, finding that not interacting with so-called "old friends" or helpful microbes in the soil and the environment, rather than the ones that cause illnesses, is what's detrimental. In particular, our mental health could be at stake.
"The idea is that as humans have moved away from farms and an agricultural or hunter-gatherer existence into cities, we have lost contact with organisms that served to regulate our immune system and suppress inappropriate inflammation," explained Lowry. "That has put us at higher risk for inflammatory disease and stress-related psychiatric disorders."
University of Colorado Boulder
This is not the first study on the subject from Lowry, who published previous work showing the connection between being exposed to healthy bacteria and mental health. He found that being raised with animals and dust in a rural environment helps children develop more stress-proof immune systems. Such kids were also likely to be less at risk for mental illnesses than people living in the city without pets.
Lowry's other work also pointed out that the soil-based bacterium Mycobacterium vaccae acts like an antidepressant when injected into rodents. It alters their behavior and has lasting anti-inflammatory effects on the brain, according to the press release from the University of Colorado Boulder. Prolonged inflammation can lead to such stress-related disorders as PTSD.
The new study from Lowry and his team identified why that worked by pinpointing the specific fatty acid responsible. They showed that when the 10(Z)-hexadecenoic acid gets into cells, it works like a lock, attaching itself to the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR). This allows it to block a number of key pathways responsible for inflammation. Pre-treating the cells with the acid (or lipid) made them withstand inflammation better.
Lowry thinks this understanding can lead to creating a "stress vaccine" that can be given to people in high-stress jobs, like first responders or soldiers. The vaccine can prevent the psychological effects of stress.
What's more, this friendly bacterium is not the only potentially helpful organism we can find in soil.
"This is just one strain of one species of one type of bacterium that is found in the soil but there are millions of other strains in soils," said Lowry. "We are just beginning to see the tip of the iceberg in terms of identifying the mechanisms through which they have evolved to keep us healthy. It should inspire awe in all of us."
Check out the study published in the journal Psychopharmacology.
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.