April 12th, 2012
03:30 PM ET

The trouble with libertarian paternalism

Editor's Note: Raghuram Rajan, a former chief economist of the IMF, is Professor of Finance at the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business and the author of Fault Lines: How Hidden Fractures Still Threaten the World EconomyFor more, visit Project Syndicate's website, or check it out on Facebook and Twitter.

By Raghuram Rajan, Project Syndicate

There are many arguments against government paternalism: apart from limiting individual choice (for example, the choice to remain uninsured in the current health-care debate in the United States) and preventing individuals from learning, history suggests time and again that the conventional wisdom prevalent in society is wrong. And, since governments typically try to enforce the conventional wisdom, the consequences could be disastrous, because they are magnified by the state’s coordinating – and coercive – power.

A clear example is financial regulation, which in many ways is a form of paternalism. In the US, the low risk assigned to senior tranches of mortgage-backed securities made them attractive instruments for banks to hold, given the relatively high return they offered. But they proved far from safe, despite the prior conventional wisdom. And, because the regulator had pronounced them safe, far too many banks overloaded on them, rendering them even more risky when the banks tried to sell them at the same time. FULL POST

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Topics: Perspectives
America has made the world freer, safer and wealthier
March 14th, 2012
01:54 PM ET

America has made the world freer, safer and wealthier

Editor's note: Robert Kagan is a senior fellow in Foreign Policy at Brookings. His most recent book is "The World America Made." He is the featured speaker at "Election 2012: The Global Challenge for the Next President," which will be streamed live at CNN OpinionThursday, March 15 at 1 p.m. ET.

By Robert Kagan - Special to CNN

We take a lot for granted about the way the world looks today - the widespread freedom, the unprecedented global prosperity (even despite the current economic crisis), and the absence of war among great powers.

In 1941 there were only a dozen democracies in the world. Today there are more than 100. For four centuries prior to 1950, global GDP rose by less than 1 percent a year. Since 1950 it has risen by an average of 4 percent a year, and billions of people have been lifted out of poverty.

The first half of the 20th century saw the two most destructive wars in the history of mankind, and in prior centuries war among great powers was almost constant. But for the past 60 years no great powers have gone to war.

This is the world America made when it assumed global leadership after World War II. Would this world order survive if America declined as a great power? Some American intellectuals insist that a "Post-American" world need not look very different from the American world and that all we need to do is "manage" American decline. But that is wishful thinking. If the balance of power shifts in the direction of other powers, the world order will inevitably change to suit their interests and preferences. FULL POST

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Topics: Foreign Policy • Perspectives • United States
America, quit whining about gas
Cars wait in line in northern England in 2000 after protests over high gas taxes shut down oil refineries and depots.
February 28th, 2012
02:00 PM ET

America, quit whining about gas

Editor's note: James Foxall is an award-winning motoring journalist based in the UK. He was motoring editor for the News of the World between 2004 and 2011 and is a regular contributor to Auto Express, CAR, Shell's V-zine and Diesel Car among others.

By James Foxall - Special to CNN

Petrol prices might have breached the $4 per gallon mark in the US, but there won't be much sympathy for the American plight in Europe. In fact, that US price of £2.52 a gallon looks highly affordable compared to the UK's current average cost of £6.22 ($9.85).

In some places here you'll pay an eye-watering £7.27 ($11.52) for a gallon of super unleaded. And prices throughout the rest of Europe are similarly high. But it is worth sparing a thought for the hard-pressed Norwegians who'll pay £7.28 ($11.54) for a gallon of the regular stuff across their country.

Read on here.

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Topics: Perspectives
February 7th, 2012
08:15 PM ET

Buruma: American funk

Editor's Note: Ian Buruma is Professor of Democracy and Human Rights at Bard College, and the author of Taming the Gods: Religion and Democracy on Three Continents. For more, visit Project Syndicate or follow it on Facebook and Twitter.

By Ian Buruma, Project Syndicate

The eccentric Bengali intellectual Nirad C. Chaudhuri once explained the end of the British Raj in India as a case of “funk,” or loss of nerve. The British had stopped believing in their own empire. They simply lost the will, in Rudyard Kipling’s famous words, to fight “the savage wars of peace.”

In fact, Kipling’s poem, “The White Man’s Burden,” which exhorted the white race to spread its values to the “new-caught sullen peoples, half devil and half child,” was not about the British Empire at all, but about the United States. Subtitled “The United States and the Philippine Islands,” it was published in 1899, just as the US was waging a “savage war of peace” of its own. FULL POST

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Topics: Perspectives • United States
December 25th, 2011
10:30 AM ET

Slaughter: Design your own profession

Princeton professor Anne-Marie Slaughter writes on the Harvard Business School blog:

"The functions of partnering, brokering, aggregating, curating etc. all point to another dimension of global empowerment. For decades the name of the game in policy-making and problem-solving was to launch a new program or initiative — to do something that needed doing. Today the best advice is likely to don't just do something, stand there. Stand there, look around, find out what is already being done, and then connect existing initiatives, programs, projects, and organizations to one another in ways that allow them to be more than the sum of their parts."

"So what does all this mean for job-seekers in this uncertain economy? Forget the titles on the org charts and the advertised positions. Design your own profession and convince employers that you are exactly what they need. In my view, the New York Times and other information hubs ought to be advertising for curators and verifiers, but you shouldn't wait for them to do so. Define the functions you think they need and you can supply, and then apply for a corresponding position, whether or not they've created it yet."

Read the full article here.

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Topics: Innovation • Jobs • Perspectives
December 21st, 2011
10:30 AM ET

El-Erian: The new international economic disorder

Editor's Note: Mohamed El-Erian, CEO and co-CIO of PIMCO, is the author of When Markets Collide. More For more from El-Erian, visit Project Syndicate or follow it on Facebook and Twitter.

By Mohamed El-Erian, Project Syndicate

A new economic order is taking shape before our eyes, and it is one that includes accelerated convergence between the old Western powers and the emerging world’s major new players. But the forces driving this convergence have little to do with what generations of economists envisaged when they pointed out the inadequacy of the old order; and these forces’ implications may be equally unsettling.

For decades, many people lamented the extent to which the West dominated the global economic system. From the governance of multilateral organizations to the design of financial services, the global infrastructure was seen as favoring Western interests. While there was much talk of reform, Western countries repeatedly countered serious efforts that would result in meaningful erosion of their entitlements. FULL POST

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Topics: Economy • Global • Perspectives
Haslam: Free to be fat
(Getty Images)
December 14th, 2011
12:00 PM ET

Haslam: Free to be fat

Editor's Note: David Haslam is a researcher at the UK’s National Obesity Forum. For more from Haslam, visit Project Syndicate or follow it on Facebook and Twitter.

By David Haslam, Project Syndicate

The classic 1981 horror movie The Monster Club, starring Vincent Price, Donald Pleasance, and John Carradine as monsters, included a cast of cannibals, vampires, werewolves, ghouls, and a hybrid creature called a “shadmock.” Among this group of misfits, the only outcast was an ordinary fat girl.

Hollywood did not invent the concept of the fat-monster. In 1770, an English miller named Thomas Wood became the world’s first weight-loss celebrity. Promoting “abstemious warfare,” Wood was known as “Monster Miller.” At 43, he suffered from obesity, along with arthritis, gout, indigestion, and “raging thirst” (possibly diabetes), as well as almost suicidal depression.

But Wood transformed himself “from a monster to a person of moderate size; from the condition of an unhealthy, decrepit, old man, to perfect health, and to the vigor and activity of youth” by following the diet regimen described in Luigi Cornaro’s 1558 book The Life of Cornaro. Wood was highly regarded by his clients, visiting admirers’ homes and regaling them with stories of fat people suffering ghastly deaths. FULL POST

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Topics: Health • Perspectives
Wolf: The people versus the police
Police in Nashville, Tennessee, take an Occupy protester into custody on Monday.
November 1st, 2011
09:38 AM ET

Wolf: The people versus the police

Editor's Note: Naomi Wolf is a political activist and social critic whose most recent book is Give Me Liberty: A Handbook for American Revolutionaries. For more from Wolf, visit Project Syndicate or follow it on Facebook and Twitter.

By Naomi Wolf, Project Syndicate

NEW YORK – America’s politicians, it seems, have had their fill of democracy. Across the country, police, acting under orders from local officials, are breaking up protest encampments set up by supporters of the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement – sometimes with shocking and utterly gratuitous violence.

In the worst incident so far, hundreds of police, dressed in riot gear, surrounded Occupy Oakland’s encampment and fired rubber bullets (which can be fatal), flash grenades, and tear-gas canisters – with some officers taking aim directly at demonstrators. The Occupy Oakland Twitter feed read like a report from Cairo’s Tahrir Square: “they are surrounding us”; “hundreds and hundreds of police”; “there are armored vehicles and Hummers.” There were 170 arrests. FULL POST

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Topics: Perspectives • Protests
Hoping for the best in Iraq
President Obama said Friday that the United States will withdraw almost all its troops from Iraq by year's end.
October 22nd, 2011
08:09 PM ET

Hoping for the best in Iraq

Michael E. O'HanlonEditor's Note: Michael O’Hanlon specializes in national security and defense policy and is senior author of the IraqAfghanistan, and Pakistan Index projects. You can read more from him on the Global Public Square.

By Michael O'Hanlon – Special to CNN

President Obama’s announcement that all, or virtually all, U.S. forces will be out of Iraq by the end of this year is not the ideal outcome. That is in keeping with the accord negotiated in 2008 between Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki and President Bush, though there had been many efforts to extend the relationship beyond the 2011 deadline that earlier accord had imposed. But the American departure is not a horrible outcome, either, and it is not clear that the Obama administration deserves much blame for the decision.

It would have been preferable to keep 10,000 or more American troops in Iraq another couple years. The simplest reason, in broader terms, would have been to help reassure Iraqis about their security as they continue to navigate a treacherous path to stability. Their country is much more stable now than before, but violence remains considerable, extremists still plot more attacks, and renewed sectarian warfare remains a possibility. FULL POST

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Topics: Iraq • Perspectives • President Obama
Americans now say Asia more important than Europe
(Source: Germany Marshall Fund www.gmfus.org)
September 14th, 2011
11:01 AM ET

Americans now say Asia more important than Europe

Editor's Note: Zsolt Nyiri is Director of Transatlantic Trends at the German Marshall Fund of the United States in Washington.

By Zsolt Nyiri, German Marshall Fund

Despite economic worries and domestic political preoccupations, perceptions in the United States and Europe of each other appear to be in better shape now than they were during the presidency of George W. Bush. Americans and Europeans have generally favorable opinions of one another and majorities on both continents believe they share enough common values to be able to cooperate effectively on international problems.

But this year’s annual Transatlantic Trends survey also finds that while many of those polled in 12 member states of the European Union (Bulgaria, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom) still believe the United States is most important for their national interests, Americans see Asia as important. When asked which was more important in terms of their country’s national interests in the most recent Transatlantic Trends survey, 52% of those polled in the European Union picked the United States over the countries of Asia such as China, Japan, and South Korea, while about 51% of Americans polled chose the countries of Asia over the European Union. FULL POST

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Topics: Asia • Europe • Perspectives • Poll • United States • Youth
September 13th, 2011
10:00 AM ET

3 post-9/11 stages to Arab views of America

Editor's Note: Sami Moubayed is a university professor, political analyst and Editor-in-Chief of Forward Magazine in Syria.

By Sami Moubayed – Special to CNN

Over the last decade, there have been three stages to Arab views of America.

Stage 1: Sympathy for the American people

Right after 9-11, the Arab street was divided. Some were gloating that the Americans were now getting a dose of their own medicine, given that 9/11 looked like something that would have happened in Ramallah or Beirut, but not New York City. The majority, however, were horrified by the tragic loss of life, and the atrocity of the terrorist attack. It was sheer madness and brutal, and it contradicted everything that Islam stood for. Those who committed the 9/11 attacks had hijacked Islam, after all, and Osama Bin baden, who claimed to be a Muslim freedom fighter, had actually done Islam the greatest disservice in 1,400 years. 9-11 created sympathy for the American people, but not sympathy for the American government, which at the time was headed by none other than George W. Bush. FULL POST

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Topics: Perspectives • September 11
Listen up, America! What the world is saying about the anniversary of September 11
(Getty Images)
September 9th, 2011
11:30 PM ET

Listen up, America! What the world is saying about the anniversary of September 11

Editor's Note: Every week, the Global Public Square brings you some must-read editorials from around the world addressed to America and Americans. The series is called Listen up, America! This week we look at what papers around the world are saying about the anniversary of September 11 - from conspiracy theories in Saudi Arabia to exasperated calls from China to foreboding messages in Australia.

Australia – “The paradox of 9/11 is that it may yet be overwhelmed by the 2008 global financial crisis as a long-term blow to U.S. power, authority and self-esteem,” writes Paul Kelly, editor-at-large of the Sydney-based Australian.

“The extent of U.S. economic self-harm may exceed the harm from al Qaeda's lethal strike a decade ago. The irony is that Australia, tied to the U.S. in security terms, is divorced from the U.S. in economic terms and has escaped the internal economic crises that plague the U.S. and Europe.”

FULL POST

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Topics: Global • Listen up! • Perspectives • September 11 • United States
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