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By Fareed Zakaria
It's graduation season in the United States, which means the season of commencements speeches – a time for canned jokes and wise words. This year I was asked to do the honors at Sarah Lawrence in New York, a quintessential liberal arts college. So I thought it was worth talking about the idea of a liberal arts education – which is under serious attack these days.
The governors of Texas, Florida and North Carolina have all announced that they do not intended to spend taxpayer money subsidizing the liberal arts.Florida’s Governor, Rick Scott, asks, “Is it a vital interest of the state to have more anthropologists? I don't think so.” Even President Obama recently urged students to keep in mind that a technical training could be more valuable than a degree in art history.
I can well understand the concerns about liberal arts because I grew up in India in the 1960s and ‘70s. A technical training was seen as the key to a good career. If you were bright, you studied science, so that’s what I did.
But when I got to America for college, I quickly saw the immense power of a liberal education.For me, the most important use of it is that it teaches you how to write. In my first year in college, I took an English composition course. My teacher, an elderly Englishman with a sharp wit and an even sharper red pencil, was tough.
Editor's Note: Throughout the week, Ruchir Sharma will be posting thought-provoking questions with answers and explanations on CNN.com/GPS. Be sure to check out his excellent new book Breakout Nations: In Pursuit of the Next Economic Miracles.
By Ruchir Sharma - Special to CNN
Question: There are 15 members in the club of trillion-dollar economies. What are the next two countries that will join the club?
Editor's Note: Peter Singer is professor of bioethics at Princeton University and Laureate Professor at the University of Melbourne. His books include Animal Liberation, Practical Ethics, The Ethics of What We Eat, and The Life You Can Save. For more from Singer, visit Project Syndicate's website, or check it out on Facebook and Twitter.
By Peter Singer, Project Syndicate
We are getting fatter. In Australia, the United States, and many other countries, it has become commonplace to see people so fat that they waddle rather than walk. The rise in obesity is steepest in the developed world, but it is occurring in middle-income and poor countries as well.
Is a person’s weight his or her own business? Should we simply become more accepting of diverse body shapes? I don’t think so. Obesity is an ethical issue, because an increase in weight by some imposes costs on others.
I am writing this at an airport. A slight Asian woman has checked in with, I would guess, about 40 kilograms (88 pounds) of suitcases and boxes. She pays extra for exceeding the weight allowance. A man who must weigh at least 40 kilos more than she does, but whose baggage is under the limit, pays nothing. Yet, in terms of the airplane’s fuel consumption, it is all the same whether the extra weight is baggage or body fat. FULL POST
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: Michael Spence, a Nobel laureate in economics, is author of The Next Convergence. For more, visit Project Syndicate or follow it on Facebook and Twitter.
By Michael Spence, Project Syndicate
In the 66 years since World War II ended, virtually all centrally planned economies have disappeared, largely as a result of inefficiency and low growth. Nowadays, markets, price signals, decentralization, incentives, and return-driven investment characterize resource allocation almost everywhere.
This is not because markets are morally superior, though they do require freedom of choice to function effectively. Markets are tools that, relative to the alternatives, happen to have great strengths with respect to incentives, efficiency, and innovation. But they are not perfect; they underperform in the presence of externalities (the un-priced consequences – for example, air pollution – of individual actions), informational gaps and asymmetries, and coordination problems when there are multiple equilibria, some superior to others. FULL POST
Editor's Note: Harris Mylonas is Assistant Professor of Political Science and International Affairs at George Washington University and Academy Scholar at the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies. Emirhan Yorulmazlar is Fellow at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Harvard University.
By Harris Mylonas and Emirhan Yorulmazlar – Special to CNN
The Cold War and the early post-Cold War periods were relatively easy to define and comprehend. The first was roughly the struggle between two superpowers forming a bipolar system where almost every state had to choose a side. What followed was a period described by Fukuyama as “The End of History” announcing the triumph of liberal ideas. The US was a global hegemon: selecting when to intervene, expanding NATO’s reach, and dominating international institutions. Following the 9/11 attacks unilateralism was exposed and thereafter multilateralism appeared - with its limitations. Today, “regional multilateralism” may be the next paradigm that can bring about peace, cooperation, and stability in global affairs. FULL POST
Editor's Note: Parag Khanna is a senior research fellow at the New America Foundation, visiting senior fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, and author of The Second World and How to Run the World.
By Parag Khanna – Special to CNN
"The city" was one of the great memes of 2011. Most of the world's population now lives in cities, with developing economies featuring the fastest urbanization rates. Especially in these countries, one city (such as the capital) often drives the entire national economy.
It's therefore crucial to develop an index that measures city economic activity rather than just at the national level. Which cities exhibit the most infrastructure investment, are attracting the most firms and are improving public services and educational institutions? Such an index could spur constructive status competition among cities to improve their performance and rankings.
Despite its status as an emerging superpower, India's thriving commercial hub of Mumbai represents approximately one-third of the national economic output. In the feature segment for CNN's new flagship business program "Global Exchange," I tour Mumbai with CNN’s Mallika Kapur to explain the need for such a data-driven cities index, the importance of large-scale infrastructure to alleviate urban congestion and boost productivity and the economic promise of slums such as Mumbai’s Dharavi.
Editor's Note: Anne-Marie Slaughter is the Bert G. Kerstetter ’66 University Professor of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton University. From 2009 to 2011, she was the Director of Policy Planning at the U.S. State Department. Follow her on Twitter at slaughteram.
By Anne-Marie Slaughter – Special to CNN
On Black Friday, the apotheosis of consumerism and the celebration of private enterprise (entrepreneurial on-line marketers are targeting in-line consumers with ads sent to their cell phones while they wait to purchase goods in physical stores), it’s a good time to consider the power of harnessing private incentives to public goals.
Newt Gingrich made this point in the CNN national security debate for Republican presidential candidates on Tuesday night, arguing about how he would shave $500 billion out of the federal budget. “There are lots of things you can do,” he said, including giving foreign aid “in a way that we actually help people even more effectively and at a much lower cost by having public/private partnerships.”
Gingrich was unwittingly signing on to the Obama mantra. The Obama National Security Strategy mentions public-private partnerships over 30 times. Over the past 3 years both the White House and the State Department have set up offices to reach out to the private sector.
Notable successes include the Global Clean Cookstove Alliance, which brings together over 175 government agencies, corporations, NGOs and foundations around the world to secure the adoption of 100 million clean cookstoves by 2020, thereby reducing carbon emission, improving the health of tens of millions of families and increasing the security of millions of women. FULL POST
Editor's Note: Luke Shuffield is a junior at Duke University majoring in political theory. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Luke Shuffield.
By Luke Shuffield – Special to CNN
A full year away from election 2012, America’s two political parties seem to be falling apart. Republicans nationwide are struggling to survive their rollercoaster of a primary. Democrats are finding themselves disillusioned with President Obama and confused about how to appeal to the Occupy Wall Street crowd.
In the midst of all this chaos, an alternative is starting to make some noise.
AmericansElect.org is a new, internet-based, direct-nomination initiative with the potential to put a nonpartisan ticket on the 2012 ballot. If it succeeds, a candidate directly chosen by the people will appear on the presidential ballot nationwide for the first time in our country's history. Although many remain skeptical, I believe Americans Elect is a serious game-changer - one that will have a lasting affect on the political arena.
By setting up a profile and answering political questions, users define their stances and shape the debate. The site recently launched a beta version of its "Candidates" section, in which users can evaluate and choose to support various public figures. Soon, users will even be able to draft their own qualified candidates. In 2012, all the site’s users who are registered voters will serve as “delegates,” voting online in a real national convention that will produce the official Americans Elect ticket. FULL POST
By John Cookson, CNN
Former hedge fund manager George Soros has a 7-point plan to save the Euro Zone. He argues that Europe's main financial mechanism used to stave off collapse must reorient from guaranteeing European government bonds to guaranteeing the European banking system. The European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), otherwise known as the ‘bailout’ fund for countries that use the euro, is too small to guarantee the sovereign debt of larger economies, says Soros. The EFSF was designed for propping up countries like Greece, which accounts for only two percent of the European Union's gross domestic product. But the debt burdens of Italy and Spain - the third and fourth largest economies in the Euro Zone - are simply too large and the EFSF too small, Soros told Reuters editor Chrystia Freeland.
Instead, says Soros, the EFSF should guarantee the European banking system as its lender of last resort. With the EFSF as a backstop, banks could be persuaded to buy treasury bills from the governments of Italy, Spain and other euro nations. This would allow these countries to continue financing their debt at reasonable rates. Meanwhile, banks would then either hold these treasury bills or, if liquidity were needed quickly, sell them to the European Central Bank (ECB) at any time. Key to this plan, says Soros, is that it is within the letter of the law that the ECB cannot directly finance governments.
Much of the detail has yet to be worked out, but, Soros writes in the Financial Times, such “measures would be sufficient to calm markets and bring the acute phase of the crisis to an end.”
What do you think?
Heritage Foundation's 2011 Index of Economic Freedom
Editor's Note: Terry Miller is director of the Center for International Trade and Economics at The Heritage Foundation, a right-leaning think tank.
By Terry Miller - Special to CNN
The U.S. has a lot more in common these days with the struggling economies of Europe than we’d like to admit. High unemployment, stagnant growth and government debt that would take an entire year’s GDP to repay are all symptoms we share - symptoms of massively overloaded governments trying to meet the expanding expectations of our populations. For the U.S., at least, it wasn’t always so.
That a population’s prosperity should depend on the actions of its government is a peculiarly old-fashioned and decidedly un-American idea. The historical precedent goes back to the days of monarchs and warlords, the governments of their day, who claimed ownership of all of their society’s assets, controlled all of the wealth, and dispensed largesse as they saw fit.
The United States was founded on a different idea, that of sovereignty exercised by the people with our personal rights and freedoms carefully preserved by the Constitution. Of course, the exercise of individual sovereignty came with a concomitant responsibility: Self-reliance. The concepts of individual sovereignty and personal responsibility came eventually to Europe, but only in modest measure. The autocratic idea of the state as owner, director, and ultimate arbiter of economic decisions and the distribution of wealth still lingers there. FULL POST
By Peter Singer
U.S. President Barack Obama’s doctor confirmed last month that the president no longer smokes. At the urging of his wife, Michelle Obama, the president first resolved to stop smoking in 2006, and has used nicotine replacement therapy to help him. If it took Obama, a man strong-willed enough to aspire to and achieve the U.S. presidency, five years to kick the habit, it is not surprising that hundreds of millions of smokers find themselves unable to quit.
Although smoking has fallen sharply in the U.S., from about 40% of the population in 1970 to only 20% today, the proportion of smokers stopped dropping around 2004. There are still 46 million American adult smokers, and smoking kills about 443,000 Americans each year. Worldwide, the number of cigarettes sold – six trillion a year, enough to reach the sun and back – is at an all-time high. Six million people die each year from smoking – more than from AIDS, malaria, and traffic accidents combined. Of the 1.3 billion Chinese, more than one in ten will die from smoking. FULL POST
The Global Public Square is where you can make sense of the world every day with insights and explanations from CNN's Fareed Zakaria, leading journalists at CNN, and other international thinkers. Join GPS editor Jason Miks and get informed about global issues, exposed to unique stories, and engaged with diverse and original perspectives.
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Check out all of Fareed's Washington Post columns here:
Obama as a foreign policy president?
Why Snowden should stand trial in U.S.
Hillary Clinton's truly hard choice
China's trapped transition
Obama should rethink Syria strategy
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