By Michael Spence, Project Syndicate
China and the United States are in the grip of major structural changes that both dread will end the Halcyon era when China produced low-cost goods and the US bought them. In particular, many fear that if these changes lead to direct competition between the two countries, only one side can win.
That fear is understandable, but the premise is mistaken. Both sides can and should gain from forging a new relationship that reflects evolving structural realities: China’s growth and size relative to the US; rapid technological change, which automates processes and displaces jobs; and the evolution of global supply chains, driven by developing countries’ rising incomes. But first they must acknowledge that the old pattern of mutually beneficial interdependence really has run its course, and that a new model is needed. FULL POST
Editor's Note: Anne-Marie Slaughter, a former director of policy planning in the US State Department (2009-2011), is Professor of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton University. For more from Slaughter, visit Project Syndicate or follow it on Facebook and Twitter. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Anne-Marie Slaughter.
By Anne-Marie Slaughter, Project Syndicate
The conventional wisdom last week on whether Syria would comply with former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s ceasefire plan was that it was up to Russia. We were reverting to Cold War politics, in which the West was unwilling to use force and Russia was willing to keep arming and supporting its client. Thus, Russia held the trump card: the choice of how much pressure it was willing to put on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to comply with the plan.
If this view were correct, Iran would surely be holding an equally powerful hand. Annan, after all, traveled to Tehran as well. Traditional balance-of-power geopolitics, it seems, is alive and well.
But this is, at best, a partial view that obscures as much as it reveals. In particular, it misses the crucial and growing importance of regional politics and institutions. FULL POST
Editor's Note: Robert Skidelsky, a member of the British House of Lords, is Professor Emeritus of Political Economy at Warwick University. For more from Skidelsky, visit Project Syndicate or follow it on Facebook and Twitter.
By Robert Skidelsky, Project Syndicate
Nearly four years after the start of the global financial crisis, many are wondering why economic recovery is taking so long. Indeed, its sluggishness has confounded even the experts. According to the International Monetary Fund, the world economy should have grown by 4.4% in 2011, and should grow by 4.5% in 2012. In fact, the latest figures from the World Bank indicate that growth reached just 2.7% in 2011, and will slow this year to 2.5% – a figure that may well need to be revised downwards.
There are two possible reasons for the discrepancy between forecast and outcome. Either the damage caused by the financial crisis was more serious than people realized, or the economic medicine prescribed was less efficacious than policymakers believed. FULL POST
Editor's Note: Peter Singer is professor of bioethics at Princeton University and Laureate Professor at the University of Melbourne. Agata Sagan is an independent researcher living in Warsaw. For more , visit Project Syndicate's new website, or check it out on Facebook and Twitter.
By Peter Singer and Agata Sagan, Project Syndicate
Jenna Talackova reached the finals of Miss Universe Canada last month, before being disqualified because she was not a “natural born” female. The tall, beautiful blonde told the media that she had considered herself a female since she was four years old, had begun hormone treatment at 14, and had sex reassignment surgery at 19. Her disqualification raises the question of what it really means to be a “Miss.”
A question of broader significance was raised by the case of an eight-year-old Los Angeles child who is anatomically female, but dresses as, and wants to be considered, a boy. His mother tried unsuccessfully to enroll him in a private school as a boy. Is it really essential that every human being be labeled “male” or “female” in accordance with his or her biological sex? FULL POST
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 Economy. For 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
Editor's Note: Juan Gabriel Tokatlian is Professor of International Relations at the Universidad de Di Tella, Argentina. For more, visit Project Syndicate's great new website, or check it out on Facebook and Twitter.
By Juan Gabriel Tokatlian, Project Syndicate
In January, US President Barack Obama nominated Marine Corps Lieutenant General John F. Kelly to head the United States Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM). Based in Miami, Florida, USSOUTHCOM runs military operations throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and is the key US “drug warrior” in the region. Across the region, the key question, among civilian and military leaders alike, is whether the change in commanders will bring with it a change in focus.
The top priority for USSOUTHCOM is to fight narcotics trafficking from the Andes to the Rio Grande. With the Cold War’s end, fighting communism was no longer the US armed forces main objective; USSOUTHCOM increasingly concentrated on pursuing coercive anti-drug initiatives, and funds to fight the drug war were plentiful. But the change in commanders is an opportunity for the US to revise, at long last, its regional doctrine in order to address other pressing security needs. FULL POST
Editor's Note: Joseph S. Nye, Jr., a former U.S. assistant secretary of defense in the Clinton Administration, is a professor at Harvard and the author of The Future of Power. For more on Nye, visit Project Syndicate or follow it on Facebook and Twitter.
By Joseph S. Nye, Project Syndicate
Two years ago, a piece of faulty computer code infected Iran’s nuclear program and destroyed many of the centrifuges used to enrich uranium. Some observers declared this apparent sabotage to be the harbinger of a new form of warfare, and United States Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has warned Americans of the danger of a “cyber Pearl Harbor” attack on the US. But what do we really know about cyber conflict?
The cyber domain of computers and related electronic activities is a complex man-made environment, and human adversaries are purposeful and intelligent. Mountains and oceans are hard to move, but portions of cyberspace can be turned on and off by throwing a switch. It is far cheaper and quicker to move electrons across the globe than to move large ships long distances. FULL POST
Editor's Note: Shashi Tharoor, a former Indian Minister of State for External Affairs and UN Under-Secretary General, is a member of India’s parliament and the author of a dozen books, including India: From Midnight to the Millennium and Nehru: the Invention of India. For more from Tharoor, visit Project Syndicate's great new website, or check it out on Facebook and Twitter.
By Shashi Tharoor, Project Syndicate
India and Pakistan are enjoying one of the better periods in their turbulent relationship. Recent months have witnessed no terrorist incidents, no escalating rhetoric, and no diplomatic flashpoints. Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari just made a successful, if brief, personal visit to India (mainly to visit a famous shrine, but with a lunch with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh thrown in). Sixteen years after India granted Pakistan most-favored-nation (MFN) trading status, Pakistan is on the verge of reciprocating. The peace process is resuming, and the two sides are talking to each other cordially at all levels. FULL POST
Editor's Note: Jagdish Bhagwati is University Professor of Law and Economics at Columbia University and a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. For more, visit Project Syndicate's excellent new website or follow it on Facebook and Twitter.
By Jagdish Bhagwati, Project Syndicate
The selection of a successor to Robert Zoellick as President of the World Bank was supposed to initiate a new era of open meritocratic competition, breaking the traditional hold that the United States has had on the job. Indeed, Zoellick’s own appointment was widely regarded as “illegitimate” from that perspective. But US President Barack Obama has let the world down even more distressingly with his nomination of Jim Yong Kim for the post.
To begin with, it should have been clear that a most remarkable candidate – Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala – was already at hand. She had impressive credentials: degrees in economics from Harvard and MIT, experience working on a wide variety of development issues as a managing director of the World Bank, and stints as Finance Minister and Foreign Minister of Nigeria. (She also possesses and has amply demonstrated that rarest of qualities: a willingness to fight corruption at the expense of her job.)
Moreover, Okonjo-Iweala is witty, articulate, and no wimp when it comes to taking on shoddy arguments. She is a dream candidate to lead the World Bank. FULL POST
Editor's Note: Laura Tyson, a former chair of the U.S. President's Council of Economic Advisers, is a professor at the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley. For more from Rogoff, visit Project Syndicate's excellent new website or follow it on Facebook and Twitter.
By Laura Tyson, Project Syndicate
At a recent conference in Washington, DC, former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers said that US policymakers should focus on productive activities that take place in the United States and employ American workers, not on corporations that are legally registered in the US but locate production elsewhere. He cited research by former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, who, more than 20 years ago, warned that as US multinational companies shifted employment and production abroad, their interests were diverging from the country’s economic interests.
It is easy to agree with Summers and Reich that national economic policy should concentrate on US competitiveness, not on the well-being of particular companies. But their sharp distinction between the country’s economic interests and the interests of US multinational companies is misleading. 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's excellent new website or follow it on Facebook and Twitter.
By Kenneth Rogoff, Project Syndicate
With youth unemployment touching 50% in eurozone countries such as Spain and Greece, is a generation being sacrificed for the sake of a single currency that encompasses too diverse a group of countries to be sustainable? If so, does enlarging the euro’s membership really serve Europe’s apparent goal of maximizing economic integration without necessarily achieving full political union?
The good news is that economic research does have a few things to say about whether Europe should have a single currency. The bad news is that it has become increasingly clear that, at least for large countries, currency areas will be highly unstable unless they follow national borders. At a minimum, currency unions require a confederation with far more centralized power over taxation and other policies than European leaders envision for the eurozone. FULL POST
By Mohamed El-Erian, Project Syndicate
The international community risks settling for second best on two key issues to be discussed this month at global meetings in Washington, DC: the lingering (if currently somewhat dormant) European debt crisis, and the selection of the World Bank’s next president. It is not too late to change course, but doing so will require the United States and governments in Europe to resist harmful habits, and emerging countries to follow up effectively on recent initiatives.
In the last few days, European leaders, including French President Nicolas Sarkozy and European Central Bank President Mario Draghi, have declared that the worst of the eurozone crisis is over. Others, like French Finance Minister Francois Baroin, have gone even further, claiming that Europe “has done its part,” and that it is now up to other countries to do theirs. FULL POST