Editor's Note: Micah Zenko is a fellow for conflict prevention at the Council on Foreign Relations, where he blogs. You can also follow him on Twitter. The following is reprinted with the permission of CFR.org.
By Micah Zenko, CFR.org
On February 15, General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the House Armed Services Committee: “I can’t impress upon you that in my personal military judgment, formed over thirty-eight years, we are living in the most dangerous time in my lifetime, right now.” Two weeks later, during a House Budget Committee hearing, when asked to expand upon his earlier statement, he replied:
“There are a wide variety of nonstate actors, super-empowered individuals, terrorist groups, who have acquired capabilities that heretofore were the monopoly of nation states. And so when I said that it’s the most dangerous period in my military career, thirty-eight years, I really meant it. I wake up every morning waiting for that cyber attack or waiting for that terrorist attack or waiting for that nuclear proliferation, waiting for that proliferation of technologies that makes it an increasingly competitive security environment around the globe.”
Last week I wrote in op-ed in the Yale Daily News in support of Yale's new college at the National University of Singapore. There has been strong disagreement among members of the Yale community over whether Yale should open a campus in Singapore, which has limits on freedom that we in the West strongly disagree with. Here's a portion of my response:
"Singapore is not a liberal democracy, though it is not so different from many Western democracies at earlier stages of development. It is not the caricature one sometimes reads about. Singapore is open to the world, embraces free markets and is routinely ranked as one of the least corrupt countries in the world.
"It has also become more open over the last ten years. In fact, it is to enhance and enrich this process that Singapore has invited Yale to help create a liberal arts college. There will be differences in perspectives among students and faculty, foreigners and locals, but that makes it an ideal place to engage with issues of democracy and liberalism. I can imagine a fascinating seminar on democracy that would be much feistier in Singapore than at Yale precisely because there will be those who take positions quite critical of what is received wisdom in the West. FULL POST
Editor's Note: Dr. James M. Lindsay is a Senior Vice President at the Council on Foreign Relations and co-author of America Unbound: The Bush Revolution in Foreign Policy. Visit his blog here and follow him on Twitter.
By James M. Lindsay, CFR.org
Growing income inequality in the United States has attracted a lot of comment. But figures from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) show that greater income inequality is not a U.S.-only phenomenon. Income inequality is up across rich countries.
Economists use something called the Gini coefficient to measure inequality. It is a scale that runs from zero to one, with zero indicating total equality (everyone makes the same amount) and one indicating total inequality (that is, one person gets all the income and everyone else gets nothing). As the chart above shows, the Gini coefficient rose over the last quarter century in seventeen OECD countries.
What may be most remarkable about the numbers is that income inequality was up not just in traditionally higher income-inequality countries such as Mexico, the United States, and Israel, but also in traditionally lower income-inequality countries such as Germany, Finland, and Sweden.
The fact that income inequality is up almost across the board might seem to suggest that globalization and technology are to blame rather than the specific tax, spending, and regulatory choices that individual countries make. After all, globalization and technology are universal in their impact while countries follow very different national economic policies.
The OECD’s economists, however, say that the jury is still out on the causes of greater income inequality. Which brings to mind something I read once to the effect that if you lay all the world’s economists end to end you will never reach a conclusion. So let the argument continue.
The views expressed in this article are solely those of James M. Lindsay.
Editor’s Note: The following piece, exclusive to GPS, comes from Wikistrat, the world's first massively multiplayer online consultancy. It leverages a global network of subject-matter experts via a crowd-sourcing methodology to provide unique insights.
When Americans are warned that the “era of cheap credit is over,” we’re really being told that the inherent advantage of owning the world’s reserve currency is coming to an end. No, it won’t happen overnight, because China’s renminbi is still far from becoming a serious rival.
But the end is coming all right, and it’ll make all that Thomas Friedman hyperbole about a “flat world” a whole lot more real. America simply won’t have the advantage of being able to float debt - of all kinds - as easily as we did in the past, which means we’ll need to compete more intensely on the price and quality of our goods.
The primary driver here is China’s need to shift from a super-saving economy to a super-consuming economy. It’s gone about as far as it can go with export-driven growth, and now it needs to turn on its domestic consumption big-time, but doing that means China’s willingness to finance the debts of others will decrease - thus the end of cheap credit.
Editor's Note: Sergei A. Karaganov is Dean of the School of World Economics and International Affairs at Russia’s National Research University Higher School of Economics. For more, visit Project Syndicate or follow it on Facebook and Twitter.
By Sergei A. Karaganov, Project Syndicate
The world is currently being shaken by tectonic changes almost too numerous to count: the ongoing economic crisis is accelerating the degradation of international governance and supranational institutions, and both are occurring alongside a massive shift of economic and political power to Asia. Less than a quarter-century after Francis Fukuyama declared “the end of history,” we seem to have arrived at the dawn of a new age of social and geopolitical upheaval.
Dramatically, the Arab world has been swept by a revolutionary spring, though one that is rapidly becoming a chilly winter. Indeed, for the most part, the new regimes are combining the old authoritarianism with Islamism, resulting in further social stagnation, resentment, and instability. FULL POST
Editor's Note: Dr. Frank Ochberg is Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Michigan State University and former Associate Director of the National Institute of Mental Health.
By Frank Ochberg - Special to CNN
Is T. J. Lane, the seventeen year old boy who allegedly killed three classmates in Ohio, mentally ill? We do not know. But this tragedy evokes other recent spree shootings that have ignited a national conversation, sometimes harsh, but generally thoughtful - and urgent: What can prevent murder by someone who is spiraling into serious and deadly illness?
When a mentally ill person is a killer - a rare but terrifying phenomenon - it is hard to empathize. We think of him as alien. We have no basis for identification. We are shocked by the deed. Indeed, some killings are so bizarre as to evoke horror, disgust and disbelief. FULL POST
Editor's Note: Ana Palacio is a former Spanish foreign minister and former Senior Vice President and General Counsel of the World Bank. For more from Palacio, visit Project Syndicate or follow it on Facebook and Twitter.
By Ana Palacio, Project Syndicate
Robert Zoellick’s announcement that he will not seek reelection as President of the World Bank has focused attention on whether the tradition of putting an American in charge will or should endure. But, legitimate as that question is, it is just a minor aspect of the debate that is needed about the World Bank’s role in the twenty-first century.
During its 67 years, the Bank has outgrown its original design with the addition of an arbitration court and three specialist financial institutions: one for the private sector, the International Financial Corporation; another, the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency, to insure against political risks; and the International Development Agency, which funds the poorest countries. The World Bank has become the World Bank Group, though its founding pillar, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), remains at its center. And that is the problem. FULL POST
Editor's Note: The following is an edited transcript of my interview with Sheldon Garon, a professor of history and East Asian studies at Princeton University and author of the new book, Beyond Our Means: Why America Spends While the World Saves.
Why Americans don't save
Amar C. Bakshi: U.S. household saving rates peaked in the 1980s at around 11 percent, and by 2005, they had plummeted to near zero. How did America go from a nation of savers to a nation of consumers?
Sheldon Garon: Well, in fact, before World War II we weren’t a nation of great savers. We were a nation of OK savers. Those who did save, saved a lot. But as late as 1910, most Americans didn’t have a savings account. Unlike Europeans and Japanese, they lacked access to savings institutions that would accept very small deposits—such as savings banks and postal savings banks.
But then in the two World Wars, and particularly in World War II, the federal government intervened to encourage ordinary people to save in ways the Europeans and Japanese were doing at the time.
The U.S. government undertook two innovations. First, it introduced U.S. savings bonds right before World War II, and they became very popular and very accessible during and after the war. So that was one of the ways people saved and became good savers in America. FULL POST
An interesting tidbit from The New York Times:
In 1987, on the Constitution’s bicentennial, Time magazine calculated that “of the 170 countries that exist today, more than 160 have written charters modeled directly or indirectly on the U.S. version.”
A quarter-century later, the picture looks very different. “The U.S. Constitution appears to be losing its appeal as a model for constitutional drafters elsewhere,” according to a new study by David S. Law of Washington University in St. Louis and Mila Versteeg of the University of Virginia. FULL POST
Editor's Note: Be sure to catch GPS every Sunday at 10a.m. and 1p.m. EST. If you miss it, you can buy episodes on iTunes.
By Fareed Zakaria, CNN
Now that Mitt Romney is once again the front-runner, his campaign focus is returning to President Obama. And he's probably going to start repeating a line that he's used often in the past: "This is a president who fundamentally believes that this next century is the post-American century."
Now, I leave it to the president to describe what he believes, but as the author of the book The Post-American World, I'd like to clarify the phrase. At the very beginning of the book, I note: "This is a book not about the decline of America but rather about the rise of everyone else."
Throughout the book, I am optimistic about America, and I'm convinced it can prosper in this new world and remain the most powerful country on the planet. But I argue that the age of America's singular dominance, its unipolarity, has ended. For a quarter-century after the collapse of communism and the Soviet Union, the United States dominated the world with no real political or economic competitors.
Mitt, we are in a different world now. FULL POST
Editor's Note: Kenneth Rogoff is Professor of Economics and Public Policy at Harvard University, and was formerly chief economist at the IMF. For more from Rogoff, visit Project Syndicate or follow it on Facebook and Twitter. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Kenneth Rogoff.
By Kenneth Rogoff, Project Syndicate
A systematic and broad failure of regulation is the elephant in the room when it comes to reforming today’s Western capitalism. Yes, much has been said about the unhealthy political-regulatory-financial dynamic that led to the global economy’s heart attack in 2008 (initiating what Carmen Reinhart and I call “The Second Great Contraction”). But is the problem unique to the financial industry, or does it exemplify a deeper flaw in Western capitalism?
Consider the food industry, particularly its sometimes-malign influence on nutrition and health. Obesity rates are soaring around the entire world, though, among large countries, the problem is perhaps most severe in the United States. According the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly one-third of US adults are obese (indicated by a body mass index above 30). Even more shockingly, more than one in six children and adolescents are obese, a rate that has tripled since 1980. (Full disclosure: my spouse produces a television and Web show, called kickinkitchen.tv, aimed at combating childhood obesity.) FULL POST
By Fareed Zakaria, CNN
The atmosphere at Davos this year was very different than usual. In the many years I've been attending the conference, there has always been a star: A country that was newly reforming and doing well would send its finance minister or prime minister and everyone would be wowed. There would be a year of Turkey or a year of India.
But this year there was no sense of optimism about any model country. Instead, there was uncertainty. People worried about the U.S. economy (even though U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner made a pretty good case that the U.S. was bouncing back in the Davos plenary session, which we aired on GPS and can be seen in the video above). There was uncertainty about how strong the recovery was and whether the U.S. would be able to overcome its medium-term deficit issues.
U.S. concerns were overshadowed by European concerns. Although people thought the Europeans were dealing with the crisis management pretty well, there was deep uncertainty about the long term future of the entire European model. There was a sense that Greece would never be able to pay off its debts and that there’d be a massive restructuring. People asked what Europe would look like after that restructuring. One of the delegates said to me, 'At the end of the day, the Greeks and the Italians will never become Germans. The question is: Can we have a Euro Zone that encompasses both?' FULL POST