Please see the first post [A-I] for more info about this post. Unfortunately, post character limit is 40k, so I will have to break this into multiple posts linked here:
1944 – Present Born: United States Resides: United States
· Professor in Economics at the University of Chicago. Professor at the Harris Graduate School of Public Policy Studies. Director of the Center for the Economics of Human Development (CEHD). Co-Director of Human Capital and Economic Opportunity (HCEO) Global Working Group. Heckman is also a Professor of Law at ‘the Law School’, a senior research fellow at the American Bar Foundation, and a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research.
· In 2000, Heckman shared the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences with Daniel McFadden, for his pioneering work in econometrics and microeconomics.
· As of February 2019 (according to RePEc), he is the next most influential economist in the world behind Daniel McFadden.
· Heckman has received numerous awards for his work, including the John Bates Clark Medal of the American Economic Association in 1983, the 2005 and 2007 Dennis Aigner Award for Applied Econometrics from the Journal of Econometrics, the 2005 Jacob Mincer Award for Lifetime Achievement in Labor Economics, the 2005 Ulysses Medal from the University College Dublin, the 2007 Theodore W. Schultz Award from the American Agricultural Economics Association, the Gold Medal of the President of the Italian Republic awarded by the International Scientific Committee of the Pio Manzú Centre in 2008, the Distinguished Contributions to Public Policy for Children Award from the Society for Research in Child Development in 2009, the 2014 Frisch Medal from the Econometric Society, the 2014 Spirit of Erikson Award from the Erikson Institute, and the 2016 Dan David Prize for Combating Poverty from Tel Aviv University. “The best way to improve the American workforce in the 21st century is to invest in early childhood education, to ensure that even the most disadvantaged children have the opportunity to succeed alongside their more advantaged peers”
1945 – Present Born: United States Resides: United States
· Successor to Ben Bernanke, serving as the Chair of the Federal Reserve from 2014 to 2018, and as Vice Chair from 2010 to 2014, following her position as President and Chief Executive Officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. Yellen was also Chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers under President Bill Clinton.
· Yellen is a Keynesian economist and advocates the use of monetary policy in stabilizing economic activity over the business cycle. She believes in the modern version of the Phillips curve, which originally was an observation about an inverse relationship between unemployment and inflation. In her 2010 nomination hearing for Vice Chair of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, Yellen said, “The modern version of the Phillips curve model—relating movements in inflation to the degree of slack in the economy—has solid theoretical and empirical support.”
· Yellen is married to George Akerlof, another notable economist, Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences laureate, professor at Georgetown University and the University of California, Berkeley..
· In 2014, Yellen was named by Forbes as the second most powerful woman in the world. She was the highest ranking American on the list. In October 2015, Bloomberg Markets ranked her first in their annual list of the 50 most influential economists and policymakers. In October 2015, Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute ranked Yellen #1 in the Public Investor 100 list. In October 2010, she received the Adam Smith Award from the National Association for Business Economics (NABE). “In the long run, outsourcing is another form of trade that benefits the U.S. economy by giving us cheaper ways to do things.” “I'm just opposed to a pure inflation-only mandate in which the only thing a central bank cares about is inflation and not unemployment.”
1975 – Present Born: United States Resides: United States
· 43rd governor of Colorado since January 2019. Polis served on the Colorado State Board of Education from 2001 to 2007 and was the United States Representative for Colorado's 2nd congressional district from 2009 to 2019.
· Polis is the first openly gay person and second openly LGBT person (after Kate Brown of Oregon) to be elected governor in the United States.
· In 2000 Polis founded the Jared Polis Foundation, whose mission is to “create opportunities for success by supporting educators, increasing access to technology, and strengthening our community.” Polis has also founded two charter schools.
· Polis was named Outstanding Philanthropist for the 2006 National Philanthropy Day in Colorado. He has received many awards, including the Boulder Daily Camera's 2007 Pacesetter Award in Education; the Kauffman Foundation Community Award; the Denver consul general of Mexico “Ohtli”; the Martin Luther King Jr. Colorado Humanitarian Award; and the Anti-Defamation League's inaugural Boulder Community Builder Award. “Having alternative currencies is great, right, because, historically, government's had a monopoly on currency. … At the end of the day, why should only politicians—either directly or indirectly—control the currency? We can reduce transaction cost, provide an alternative, and—look, I don't know whether it'll be Bitcoin or not—but I think the concept of digital currencies is here to stay, and the fact that a politician would write to try to ban them in their infancy is just the wrong way to go about it. Let the market determine whether there's any value there or not.”
1964 – Present Born: United States Resides: United States
· Best known as the founder, CEO, and president of Amazon, Bezos is an American internet and aerospace entrepreneur, media proprietor, and investor. The first centi-billionaire on the Forbes wealth index, Bezos was named the “richest man in modern history” after his net worth increased to $150 billion in July 2018. In September 2018, Forbes described him as “far richer than anyone else on the planet” as he added $1.8 billion to his net worth when Amazon became the second company in history to reach a market cap of $1 trillion.
· Bezos supported the electoral campaigns of U.S. senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, two Democratic U.S. senators from Washington. He has also supported U.S. representative John Conyers, as well as Patrick Leahy and Spencer Abraham, U.S. senators serving on committees dealing with Internet-related issues.
· Bezos has supported the legalization of same-sex marriage, and in 2012 contributed $2.5 million to a group supporting a yes vote on Washington Referendum 74, which affirmed same-sex marriage.
· After the 2016 presidential election, Bezos was invited to join Donald Trump's Defense Innovation Advisory Board, an advisory council to improve the technology used by the Defense Department. Bezos declined the offer without further comment.
· In September 2018, Business Insider reported that Bezos was the only one of the top five billionaires in the world who had not signed the Giving Pledge, an initiative created by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett that encourage wealthy people to give away their wealth. “Percentage margins don't matter. What matters always is dollar margins: the actual dollar amount. Companies are valued not on their percentage margins, but on how many dollars they actually make, and a multiple of that.” “We have the resources to build room for a trillion humans in this solar system, and when we have a trillion humans, we'll have a thousand Einsteins and a thousand Mozarts. It will be a way more interesting place to live.”
1968 – Present Born: Germany Resides: Germany
· German economist and president of the Deutsche Bundesbank. Chairman of the Board of the Bank for International Settlements. From 1997 to 1999, Weidmann worked at the International Monetary Fund. In 2006, he began serving as Head of Division IV (Economic and Financial Policy) in the Federal Chancellery. He was the chief negotiator of the Federal Republic of Germany for both the summits of the G8 and the G20. He was given the 2016 Medal for Extraordinary Merits for Bavaria in a United Europe.
· Weidmann was involved in a series of major decisions in response to the financial crisis in Germany and Europe: preventing the meltdown of the bank Hypo Real Estate, guaranteeing German deposits and implementing a rescue programme for the banking system, piecing together two fiscal-stimulus programmes, and setting up the Greek bail-out package and the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF).
· In a 2011 speech, Weidmann criticized the errors and “many years of wrong developments” of the European Monetary Union (EMU) peripheral states, particularly the wasted opportunity represented by their “disproportionate investment in private home-building, high government spending or private consumption”. In May, 2012, Weidmann's stance was characterized by US economist and columnist Paul Krugman as amounting to wanting to destroy the Euro. In 2016, Weidmann dismissed deflation in light of the European Central Bank's current stimulus program, pointing out the healthy condition of the German economy and that the euro area is not that bad off. “I share the concerns regarding monetary policy that is too loose for too long. … As you know I have concerns about granting emergency liquidity on account of the fact that the banks are not doing everything to improve their liquidity situation.”
1953 – Present Born: United States Resides: United States
· Current Chair of the Federal Reserve, nominated by Trump. Powell has faced substantial and repeated criticism from Trump after his confirmation. The Senate Banking Committee approved Powell's nomination in a 22–1 vote, with Senator Elizabeth Warren casting the lone dissenting vote.
· Powell briefly served as Under Secretary of the Treasury for Domestic Finance under George H. W. Bush in 1992. He has served as a member of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors since 2012. He is the first Chair of the Federal Reserve since 1987 not to hold a Ph.D. degree in Economics.
· Powell has described the Fed's role as nonpartisan and apolitical. Trump has criticized Powell for not massively lowering federal interest rates and instituting quantitative easing.
· The Bloomberg Intelligence Fed Spectrometer rated Powell as neutral (not dove nor hawk). Powell has been a skeptic of round 3 of quantitative easing, initiated in 2012, although he did vote in favor of implementation.
· Powell stated that higher capital and liquidity requirements and stress tests have made the financial system safer and must be preserved. However, he also stated that the Volcker Rule should be re-written to exclude smaller banks. Powell supports ample amounts of private capital to support housing finance activities. “The Fed's organization reflects a long-standing desire in American history to ensure that power over our nation's monetary policy and financial system is not concentrated in a few hands, whether in Washington or in high finance or in any single group or constituency.”
1957 – Present Born: United States Resides: United States
· Senior Fellow of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and economist, specializing in financial economics and macroeconomics.
· The central idea of Cochrane's research is that macroeconomics and finance should be linked, and a comprehensive theory needs to explain both 1.) how, given the observed prices and financial returns, households and firms decide on consumption, investment, and financing; and 2.) how, in equilibrium, prices and financial returns are determined by households and firms decisions.
· Cochrane is the author of ‘Asset Pricing,’ a widely used textbook in graduate courses on asset pricing. According to his own words, the organizing principle of the book is that everything can be traced back to specializations of a single equation: the basic pricing equation. Cochrane received the TIAA-CREF Institute Paul A. Samuelson Award for this book. “Regulators and politicians aren’t nitwits. The libertarian argument that regulation is so dumb — which it surely is — misses the point that it is enacted by really smart people. The fact that the regulatory state is an ideal tool for the entrenchment of political power was surely not missed by its architects.”
John Keynes (John Maynard Keynes, 1st Baron Keynes)
1883 – 1946 Born: England Died: England
· British economist, whose ideas fundamentally changed the theory and practice of macroeconomics and the economic policies of governments. Originally trained in mathematics, he built on and greatly refined earlier work on the causes of business cycles, and was one of the most influential economists of the 20th century. Widely considered the founder of modern macroeconomics, his ideas are the basis for the school of thought known as Keynesian economics, and its various offshoots. Keynes was a lifelong member of the Liberal Party, which until the 1920s had been one of the two main political parties in the United Kingdom.
· During the 1930s Great Depression, Keynes challenged the ideas of neoclassical economics that held that free markets would, in the short to medium term, automatically provide full employment, as long as workers were flexible in their wage demands. He argued that aggregate demand (total spending in the economy) determined the overall level of economic activity, and that inadequate aggregate demand could lead to prolonged periods of high unemployment. Keynes advocated the use of fiscal and monetary policies to mitigate the adverse effects of economic recessions and depressions.
· Keynes's influence started to wane in the 1970s, his ideas challenged by those who disputed the ability of government to favorably regulate the business cycle with fiscal policy. However, the advent of the global financial crisis of 2007–2008 sparked a resurgence in Keynesian thought. Keynesian economics provided the theoretical underpinning for economic policies undertaken in response to the crisis by President Barack Obama of the United States, Prime Minister Gordon Brown of the United Kingdom, and other heads of governments.
· Keynes was vice-chairman of the Marie Stopes Society which provided birth control education and campaigned against job discrimination against women and unequal pay. He was an outspoken critic of laws against homosexuality. Keynes thought that the pursuit of money for its own sake was a pathological condition, and that the proper aim of work is to provide leisure. He wanted shorter working hours and longer holidays for all. Keynes was ultimately a successful investor, building up a private fortune. “How can I accept the Communist doctrine, which sets up as its bible, above and beyond criticism, an obsolete textbook which I know not only to be scientifically erroneous but without interest or application to the modern world? How can I adopt a creed which, preferring the mud to the fish, exalts the boorish proletariat above the bourgeoisie and the intelligentsia, who with all their faults, are the quality of life and surely carry the seeds of all human achievement? Even if we need a religion, how can we find it in the turbid rubbish of the red bookshop? It is hard for an educated, decent, intelligent son of Western Europe to find his ideals here, unless he has first suffered some strange and horrid process of conversion which has changed all his values.”
1632 – 1704 Born: England Died: England
· Known as the “Father of Liberalism,” Locke was an English philosopher and physician, widely regarded as one of the most influential of Enlightenment thinkers. His work greatly affected the development of epistemology and political philosophy. His writings influenced Voltaire and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, many Scottish Enlightenment thinkers, as well as the American revolutionaries. His contributions to classical republicanism and liberal theory are reflected in the United States Declaration of Independence.
· Locke's political theory was founded on social contract theory. Social contract arguments typically posit that individuals have consented, either explicitly or tacitly, to surrender some of their freedoms and submit to the authority (of the ruler, or to the decision of a majority) in exchange for protection of their remaining rights or maintenance of the social order.
· Locke advocated for governmental separation of powers and believed that revolution is not only a right but an obligation in some circumstances. Locke was vehemently opposed to slavery, calling it “vile and miserable … directly opposite to the generous Temper and Courage of our Nation.”
· Locke uses the word “property” in both broad and narrow senses. In a broad sense, it covers a wide range of human interests and aspirations; more narrowly, it refers to material goods. He argues that property is a natural right and it is derived from labour aand that the individual ownership of goods and property is justified by the labour exerted to produce those goods
· According to Locke, unused property is wasteful and an offence against nature, but, with the introduction of “durable” goods, men could exchange their excessive perishable goods for goods that would last longer and thus not offend the natural law. In his view, the introduction of money marks the culmination of this process, making possible the unlimited accumulation of property without causing waste through spoilage. “The power of the legislative, being derived from the people by a positive voluntary grant and institution, can be no other than what that positive grant conveyed, which being only to make laws, and not to make legislators, the legislative can have no power to transfer their authority of making laws, and place it in other hands.” “No man in civil society can be exempted from the laws of it: for if any man may do what he thinks fit, and there be no appeal on earth, for redress or security against any harm he shall do; I ask, whether he be not perfectly still in the state of nature, and so can be no part or member of that civil society; unless any one will say, the state of nature and civil society are one and the same thing, which I have never yet found any one so great a patron of anarchy as to affirm.”
John Mill (John Stuart Mill a.k.a. J. S. Mill)
1806 – 1873 Born: England Died: France
· John Stuart Mill was arguably the most influential English speaking philosopher of the nineteenth century. He was a naturalist, a utilitarian, and a liberal, whose work explores the consequences of a thoroughgoing empiricist outlook. In doing so, he sought to combine the best of eighteenth-century Enlightenment thinking with newly emerging currents of nineteenth-century Romantic and historical philosophy. His most important works include System of Logic (1843), On Liberty (1859), Utilitarianism (1861) and An Examination of Sir William Hamilton’s Philosophy (1865).
· Mill's conception of liberty justified the freedom of the individual in opposition to unlimited state and social control. A member of the Liberal Party and author of the early feminist work The Subjection of Women (in which he also condemned slavery), he was also the second Member of Parliament to call for women's suffrage after Henry Hunt in 1832.
· Mill, an employee for the British East India Company from 1823 to 1858, argued in support of what he called a “benevolent despotism” with regard to the colonies. Mill argued that “To suppose that the same international customs, and the same rules of international morality, can obtain between one civilized nation and another, and between civilized nations and barbarians, is a grave error. ... To characterize any conduct whatever towards a barbarous people as a violation of the law of nations, only shows that he who so speaks has never considered the subject.”
· John Stuart Mill believed in the philosophy of Utilitarianism, which he described as the principle that holds “that actions are right in the proportion as they tend to promote happiness [intended pleasure, and the absence of pain], wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness [pain, and the privation of pleasure].” Mill asserts that even when we value virtues for selfish reasons we are in fact cherishing them as a part of our happiness.
· Mill's early economic philosophy was one of free markets. However, he accepted interventions in the economy, such as a tax on alcohol, if there were sufficient utilitarian grounds. Mill originally believed that “equality of taxation” meant “equality of sacrifice” and that progressive taxation penalized those who worked harder and saved more. Given an equal tax rate regardless of income, Mill agreed that inheritance should be taxed.
· His main objection of socialism was on that of what he saw its destruction of competition. According to Mill, a socialist society would only be attainable through the provision of basic education for all, promoting economic democracy instead of capitalism, in the manner of substituting capitalist businesses with worker cooperatives.
· Mill's major work on political democracy defends two fundamental principles at slight odds with each other: extensive participation by citizens and enlightened competence of rulers. He believed that the incompetence of the masses could eventually be overcome if they were given a chance to take part in politics, especially at the local level.
· Mill is one of the few political philosophers ever to serve in government as an elected official. In his three years in Parliament, he was more willing to compromise than the “radical” principles expressed in his writing would lead one to expect. “He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them. But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion... Nor is it enough that he should hear the opinions of adversaries from his own teachers, presented as they state them, and accompanied by what they offer as refutations. He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them...he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.” “The only freedom which deserves the name is that of pursuing our own good in our own way, so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs, or impede their efforts to obtain it. Each is the proper guardian of his own health, whether bodily, or mental or spiritual. Mankind are greater gainers by suffering each other to live as seems good to themselves, than by compelling each to live as seems good to the rest.”
1921 – 2002 Born: United States Died: United States
· Liberal American moral and political philosopher who received both the Schock Prize for Logic and Philosophy and the National Humanities Medal in 1999, the latter presented by President Bill Clinton, who acclaimed Rawls for having “helped a whole generation of learned Americans revive their faith in democracy itself.”
He is frequently cited by the courts of law in the United States and Canada.
· Rawls's most discussed work is his theory of a just liberal society, called justice as fairness
. Rawls first wrote about this theory in his book A Theory of Justice. Rawls spoke much about the desire for a well-ordered society; a society of free and equal persons cooperating on fair terms of social cooperation.
· Rawls’s most important principle (the Liberty Principal) states that every individual has an equal right to basic liberties. Rawls believes that “personal property” constitutes a basic liberty, but an absolute right to unlimited private property is not.
· Rawls's argument for his principles of social justice uses a thought experiment called the “original position”, in which people select what kind of society they would choose to live under if they did not know which social position they would personally occupy. “Justice is the first virtue of social institutions, as truth is of systems of thought. A theory however elegant and economical must be rejected or revised if it is untrue; likewise laws and institutions no matter how efficient and well-arranged must be reformed or abolished if they are unjust. Each person possesses an inviolability founded on justice that even the welfare of society as a whole cannot override. For this reason justice denies that the loss of freedom for some is made right by a greater good shared by others. It does not allow that the sacrifices imposed on a few are outweighed by the larger sum of advantages enjoyed by many. Therefore in a just society the liberties of equal citizenship are taken as settled; the rights secured by justice are not subject to political bargaining or to the calculus of social interests.”
1937 – Present Born: United States Resides: United States
· American political scientist and co-founder of the international relations theory of neoliberalism (a theory concerned first and foremost with absolute gains rather than relative gains to other states), developed in the 1977 book Power and Interdependence. He is noted for his notion of “smart power” (“the ability to combine hard and soft power into a successful strategy”), which became a popular phrase with the Clinton and Obama Administrations.
· Secretary of State John Kerry appointed Nye to the Foreign Affairs Policy Board in 2014. In 2014, Nye was awarded the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star in recognition of his “contribution to the development of studies on Japan-U.S. security and to the promotion of the mutual understanding between Japan and the United States.”
· From 1977 to 1979, Nye was Deputy to the Undersecretary of State for Security Assistance, Science, and Technology and chaired the National Security Council Group on Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons. In recognition of his service, he was awarded the State Department's Distinguished Honor Award in 1979. In 1993 and 1994, he was Chairman of the National Intelligence Council, which coordinates intelligence estimates for the President, and was awarded the Intelligence Community's Distinguished Service Medal. In the Clinton Administration from 1994 to 1995, Nye served as Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, and was awarded the Department's Distinguished Service Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster. Nye was considered by many to be the preferred choice for National Security Advisor in the 2004 presidential campaign of John Kerry.
· Nye has been a member of the Harvard faculty since 1964. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences and a foreign fellow of The British Academy. Nye is also a member of the American Academy of Diplomacy. The 2011 TRIP survey of over 1700 international relations scholars ranks Joe Nye as the sixth most influential scholar in the field of international relations in the past twenty years. He was also ranked as most influential in American foreign policy. In 2011, Foreign Policy magazine named him to its list of top global thinkers. In September 2014, Foreign Policy reported that the international relations scholars and policymakers both ranked Nye as one of the most influential scholars. “When you can get others to admire your ideals and to want what you want, you do not have to spend as much on sticks and carrots to move them in your direction. Seduction is always more effective than coercion, and many values like democracy, human rights, and individual opportunities are deeply seductive.”
1902 – 1994 Born: Austria-Hungary Died: England
· Karl Popper is generally regarded as one of the greatest philosophers of science of the 20th century. He was a self-professed critical-rationalist, a dedicated opponent of all forms of scepticism, conventionalism, and relativism in science and in human affairs generally and a committed advocate and staunch defender of the ‘Open Society’.
· In ‘The Open Society and Its Enemies’ and ‘The Poverty of Historicism’, Popper developed a critique of historicism and a defense of the “Open Society”. Popper considered historicism to be the theory that history develops inexorably and necessarily according to knowable general laws towards a determinate end. He argued that this view is the principal theoretical presupposition underpinning most forms of authoritarianism and totalitarianism. He argued that historicism is founded upon mistaken assumptions regarding the nature of scientific law and prediction. Since the growth of human knowledge is a causal factor in the evolution of human history, and since “no society can predict, scientifically, its own future states of knowledge”
, it follows, he argued, that there can be no predictive science of human history. For Popper, metaphysical and historical indeterminism go hand in hand.
· Popper is known for his vigorous defense of liberal democracy and the principles of social criticism that he believed made a flourishing open society possible. His political philosophy embraced ideas from major democratic political ideologies, including socialism/social democracy, libertarianism/classical liberalism and conservatism, and attempted to reconcile them. “Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them. In this formulation, I do not imply, for instance, that we should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies; as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion, suppression would certainly be most unwise. But we should claim the right to suppress them if necessary even by force; for it may easily turn out that they are not prepared to meet us on the level of rational argument, but begin by denouncing all argument; they may forbid their followers to listen to rational argument, because it is deceptive, and teach them to answer arguments by the use of their fists or pistols. We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant. We should claim that any movement preaching intolerance places itself outside the law, and we should consider incitement to intolerance and persecution as criminal, in the same way as we should consider incitement to murder, or to kidnapping, or to the revival of the slave trade, as criminal.”
1954 – Present Born: United States Resides: United States
· American economist, former Vice President of Development Economics and Chief Economist of the World Bank, senior U.S. Treasury Department official throughout President Clinton's administration, Treasury Secretary 1999–2001, and former director of the National Economic Council for President Obama (2009–2010). Summers served as the 27th President of Harvard University from 2001 to 2006. Current professor and director of the Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.
· As a researcher, Summers has made important contributions in many areas of economics, primarily public finance, labor economics, financial economics, and macroeconomics. Summers has also worked in international economics, economic demography, economic history and development economics.[ He received the John Bates Clark Medal in 1993 from the American Economic Association. In 1987, he was the first social scientist to win the Alan T. Waterman Award from the National Science Foundation. Summers is also a member of the National Academy of Sciences.
· In 1983, at age 28, Summers became one of the youngest tenured professors in Harvard's history. In 2006, Summers resigned as Harvard's president in the wake of a no-confidence vote by Harvard faculty. Summers viewed his beliefs on why science and engineering had an under-representation of women to be a large part in the vote, saying, “There is a great deal of absurd political correctness. Now, I'm somebody who believes very strongly in diversity, who resists racism in all of its many incarnations, who thinks that there is a great deal that's unjust in American society that needs to be combated, but it seems to be that there is a kind of creeping totalitarianism in terms of what kind of ideas are acceptable and are debatable on college campuses.”
· As the World Bank's Vice President of Development Economics and Chief Economist, Summers played a role in designing strategies to aid developing countries, worked on the bank's loan committee, guided the bank's research and statistics operations, and guided external training programs. The World Bank's official site reports that Summer's research included an “influential” report that demonstrated a very high return from investments in educating girls in developing nations. According to The Economist, Summers was “often at the centre of heated debates” about economic policy, to an extent exceptional for the history of the World Bank in recent decades.
· In 1999 Summers endorsed the Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act which removed the separation between investment and commercial banks. In February 2009, Summers quoted John Maynard Keynes, saying “When circumstances change, I change my opinion”, reflecting both on the failures of Wall Street deregulation and his new leadership role in the government bailout.
Although my heart is racing and my fingers are trembling as I type, I feel like you will only be able to understand the situation and some of the decisions I have made if I start from the very beginning. The whole sorry tale began a few weeks ago when I was browsing the dark side of the internet as people occasionally do on a grey and miserable Sunday. I stumbled onto a website where you could only purchase things with bitcoins to give you some context. As I clicked on one of the links, an annoying pop up window appeared. I usually close these down straight away, I don’t really need to know about a lonely mom looking for fun or somebody selling the secrets to eternal youth, but something stopped me before I pressed that little red x. Now when I look back on the situation, I wish I had just closed it down before I had the chance to read it. Maybe everything would be different if I had and I wouldn’t be sitting in the house with the lights off and the blinds closed, frightened for my life. I guess that is something I can never know because I didn’t close that damn pop up.
In bold font, the first line on the screen screamed ‘Help me with a social experiment’. As a psychology student this grabbed my interest, I immediately wanted to know what the experiment was and more importantly, whether they were doing it properly. Below the title, the text read ‘Please look at the following faces and vote for the one you find least attractive.’ Although I suspected it would turn out to be an advert for a dating website or something similar, I scrolled down to look at the portrait style photographs under the text. Each picture had a red vote button next to it. The first featured a woman who appeared to be a similar age to my mom, with a cloud of wispy grey hair and wire rimmed glasses. Next was a young blonde girl who looked like she would usually be found on the front cover of cosmo magazine. The third photo showed a middle-aged man with a bald head and large bushy beard. He appeared slightly overweight, with beads of sweat speckled over his forehead. Finally there was an American pretty boy with pearly white teeth and dimples. I briefly considered voting for Barbie or Ken to skew the results, but in the nature of science I clicked the vote button next to the middle-aged man.
After a brief pause, the man’s face filled the screen. Letter by letter words were spelt out - ‘Remember this face because the person with the least votes will DIE.’ An animated knife appeared and ran across the man’s throat, blood spurting out. I angrily closed the window. I had been well and truly fooled by what I thought at the time was simply a joke. I put the pop up and the man’s face out of my mind. Well I believed I had, until I received that email.
Now I am someone who receives a lot of junk emails. Usually covering topics such as diet pills, male enhancement aids and occasionally a prophet from Burkina Faso who wants to share his ill-gotten millions with me. Usually I’ll read them and select the best ones to forward to my sister for a chuckle. The specific email in question found its way into my junk folder a few days after the pop up incident. While the subject header ‘I got your vote’ didn’t raise any alarm bells, the content certainly did. First was a link to a news article titled ‘Man dies in tragic smash with lorry…’ The writing underneath the link chilled me to the bone. ‘Thank you for voting, mission accomplished. Now for round two lets try something less superficial. All you have to go on is their name, age and occupation. Same rules as before, most votes dies.’ Here I will use fake names because I have started to believe that those might have been the names of real people. The list read ‘Thomas Harvey, 48, Builder; Faye Warren, 55, Math Teacher; Lily Robinson, 33, HR Manager; Dave Smith, 24, Unemployed’. Again each name had a vote button next to it.
I decided that I needed to check out the news article, the link was probably attached to some kind of computer virus but for my own sanity I needed to confirm that it was just some psychopath playing a sick joke on me and it wasn’t the same man from the pop up. The article described the death of a 42 year old man when his car collided with a lorry. His wife had been travelling with him in the car but had survived with minor injuries. Police investigations had concluded that no one was at fault and it was simply a tragic accident. The featured picture was of the couple, possibly on a recent holiday, both looking tanned and happy. I zoomed in on the man’s face. While there where undeniable similarities, the same bald head and bushy beard, I couldn’t swear to you that this was the same man from the pop up.
Though I could feel panic starting to bubble up in my stomach, I forced myself to think things through rationally. I checked the date on the article. The crash had happened the day before the email was sent, so it would have been roughly two days after the pop up. It couldn’t be the same man and even if it was, it didn’t prove that someone had murdered him. How could somebody arrange a road accident in just two days, staged well enough to convince the police it was an accident. I took the decision to just delete the email and pretend it had never happened.
Although it had freaked me out that whoever sent the email had my email address and therefore my full name, a quick google search revealed that it was easy enough to get an email address using someone’s IP address. So the email was scrubbed from my junk folder never to be seen again and life continued mostly as it had before. I still felt fairly distant from the situation and then the game was taken to the next level with a facebook message.
The message came from one of my closest friends. Usually we text but we have been known to send the odd facebook message with an amusing video link so I thought nothing of it when the message first appeared. ‘Everyone hates a math teacher’, a promising start so I gamely followed the link. The website was for a high school in a city I hadn’t even heard of. Puzzled I searched the page, trying to figure out why she would send it to me. A name stood out to me, dragging up a faint memory that I had tried to bury deeply. ‘Faye Warren’. Where had I heard that name before? I read the full paragraph hoping it would give me a clue. ‘It is with deepest regret that we must inform all students and parents of the recent passing of Faye Warren, a well liked and respected math teacher. She has been with us for nearly 20 years and is considered to be a dear friend by both staff and pupils. A memorial service will be held at the school on Friday during morning assembly.’ Realisation dawned on me suddenly, as if somebody had tipped icy water over me. I actually struggled to draw in my breath. It was the name from the email. How could this be?
I needed to find out more about Faye Warren. I needed to know when and exactly how she died. Had she been murdered? Because if she had I would need to go to the police. I didn’t think for a second my best friend was capable of murder but maybe she had got herself mixed up in something really dark. I trawled through various combinations of ‘Faye Warren death’ and ‘Faye Warren math teacher’ until I finally found a chat-room thread where students of the school were discussing her death. One remembered her having lots of time off and wondered if she had been ill, another claimed that she had walked out in the middle of a lesson on the day she died. Finally I found what I needed, one student explained that his father was a police officer and had been involved when the body was found. Apparently the teacher had experienced a long history of mental illness and had committed suicide. Well that must rule out murder, surely this was all just a strange string of coincidences. Perhaps the person behind this just had the unfortunate ability of selecting people who were about to die, or perhaps they purposely selected vulnerable people.
As I was trying to get a grip of my racing thoughts, the facebook message notification chimed. This time it was from someone I had met at university and hadn’t spoken to in years. I feel like the text is burned into my mind. ‘It’s time for a moral dilemma. Firstly let me introduce you to Stanley, he is in his 80s and lives alone with no surviving family or friends. He has lived a quiet life, working as a postman and playing chess in his spare time. Next up is Mark, he is only 30 and already has 4 children by different women. He drinks excessively and has been violent toward his partners. He has also spent time in jail for robbery. I know my descriptions seem biased but I’m hoping you will all make the right choice. I suppose nobody would miss Stanley and I might be doing him a favour freeing him from his lonely existence. I promise I would make it quick and painless. While Mark would be mourned, but some may think he deserves to die for his behaviour. The decision is once again down to you. Vote wisely.’
As I had decided that it couldn’t be murder and my friend was coming over to mine later that day, I wanted to wait until we were together to try and discuss this situation delicately. I spent the time before she came pacing the house, trying to fit the pieces of this twisted jigsaw puzzle together in my mind. When she arrived I didn’t tell her the contents of the message but I let her know that the gig was up and I knew, well hoped, it was all a joke. She looked at me like I was a raving lunatic and offered to log into her facebook to prove that she hadn’t sent me any messages for a while. Logging me out, she attempted to access her account multiple times but kept getting an incorrect password error message. She swore to me it was the right password and she hadn’t changed it in years. She even looked pretty stressed about not being able to access her account and I don’t consider her to be a great actress. She asked to see the messages so I logged back in to my account and pulled up my inbox. The last message from her was a link to a video of a dog dressed as a spider sent a few weeks earlier. The message had vanished. I didn’t understand how it could just disappear. She asked about the content of message but I decided to lie and brush her off. Either she would have thought I was crazy and accusing her of murder or if she did believe me, she would have made me go to the police. All I had was my story and the articles relating to a road accident and a suicide. The pop up, email and facebook messages were all long gone. I was also sure that if this person could hack a facebook account then he would be capable of hiding his tracks online. Going to the police would probably just land me with charges for wasting their time.
Now I know you probably think I’m naïve for continuing to ignore all the mounting evidence that something wasn’t right, but I was still desperately clinging to the faint hope that someone was messing with me. While I decided that my friend, who once ruined my surprise party by calling me the second she heard, couldn’t be involved, there were one or two other people I knew who might be capable of something so elaborate. Although it was like their names were on repeat in my head, I told myself that Stanley and Mark couldn’t be real and if they were, then they were continuing to live their lives as normal. I told myself that there was no serial killer in the shadows waiting for the results of some online vote.
Even though I was suppressing the thoughts, everyone started to comment about how on edge I seemed. All it would take was someone brushing past me to have my jumping out of my skin. I even started to convince myself that there was someone following me. This evening as I got off the bus and made my way to my house, I was sure that I could hear faint footsteps on the street behind me. I paused my music but kept my headphones in so they didn’t realise I had heard them. I heard the faint rustle of leaves and whipped my head round but the dark street was deserted. I picked up my pace, my breath creating clouds of fog around me. The footsteps started again, light but swift, matching my pace. Again I looked back and in my panic I could see people everywhere, looming out of the darkness. I broke into a run, letting out a muffled scream when it felt like someone tapped me on the shoulder. I didn’t stop until I had reached my house, fumbling with my keys before tumbling inside and slamming the door.
I collapsed in the hallway panting, relief spreading through me. I was safe. Why had I let this spook me so much? I lived in a quiet, leafy suburb. Nothing ever happened here. Once I had recovered, I started to sort the post on the mat. Two bills joined the pile on the counter, I binned a takeaway menu and then froze as I reached a white envelope with just my name on the front. There was no address or stamp so it must have been hand delivered. With shaking hand I tore into the envelope, spilling the contents on the floor. I picked up the small note and unfolded it.
‘I noticed that you haven’t really been enjoying my game. You only took part in one vote so far, I’m disappointed in you. I think you might find our final vote a lot more interesting. You will find us all at this address: www.vte2die.com
Also for anyone who still has doubts, I’ve put more proof in all your envelopes.’
I reached for the green pamphlet on the floor. It was a funeral service for Mark. One of the pages featured a quote from the Mark’s brother. It read ‘Mark lived by demon drink and that demon took him away. I hope that now he may finally find peace.’ I ran to the toilet and retched over and over. Once my stomach was finally empty I slumped down, resting my head on the cold porcelain. This can’t be happening I repeated to myself over and over. After quickly splashing my face, I retrieved the letter and grabbed my laptop. The only option was to face this thing head on. As I opened up my laptop to visit the link, emails started pinging through. ‘Amanda voted for you.’ ‘John voted for you.’ ‘Stephen voted for you.’ I frantically pulled up google and typed in the address on the note.
‘This time you will be voting each other. Think logically because you only get one vote and it could make all the difference. I’ll be seeing one of you very soon.’
Underneath this the page was teeming with pictures of people with vote buttons. There were roughly 50 to 100 people on there. Each time someone voted, a notification sound would ring out. I quickly worked out that the pictures would move further up the page the more votes the person received. I found myself about 5 people down. The photo had been lifted from my facebook profile, it was from a night out and I was looking decidedly worse for wear. The text next to my photo stated that I had only taken part in one vote so far. It also informed my fellow voters that I was training to become a psychologist, I never gave money to charity and I had once been unfaithful to someone I was dating. How could this psychopath know all these things about me? And why had they only chosen all the negative things, it was like they were setting me up to fail. The votes kept ringing in and my picture was slowly moving upwards. I checked out number one on the list. It was a defense lawyer who had helped some vicious criminals avoid jail time and had once injured a child in a hit and run. He had voted all three times. Surely I didn’t deserve to die more than this person? I seemed to be the only one on the list who had only voted once. I can only guess that people saw me as a threat because I might expose the whole game.
Soon my picture was second on the list. My mouse hovered over the button for the defense lawyer. I could either maintain my dignity and avoid responsibility for another person’s death or I could try to save myself. I took a deep breath and clicked vote. I hope you will try to understand my decision before you judge me too harshly. It didn’t seem to make a difference as my picture nudged its way to the top of the list.
I needed to tell this story so that if anything happens to me there is some kind of proof about what happened, although no doubt the police will decide that it is some kind of accident. There’s a reason I’m hiding in my closest in a dark house, ears straining for any noises outside. All the votes are in… and I lost.
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