Monthly Archives: May 2004

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10 years 

I’ll be away from my weblog for the next couple of days, celebrating my tenth wedding anniversary here.

Three for one 

Via Steve Bowbrick, I’ve discovered the three weblogs by Russell Davies. I agree with Steve that Egg, Bacon, Chips and Beans is an all-time classic, closely followed by A Good Place for a Cup of Tea and a Think. The conventional weblog is also well worth a read. Among the odd observations, Davies points to this explanation of the fabulous Honda Cog ad.

Just ask and it shall be granted 

I didn’t realise that Brad DeLong had such instantaneous power. Yesterday he commented that the Financial Times’s Martin Wolf “needs to talk more about the necessity of getting the Bush administration out of the White House”.

Lo and behold, today’s FT brings this from Martin (subscribers only):

“So what is wrong with this administration? Put simply, it fails to understand the basis of US power, mis-specifies US objectives and is incompetent in executing its intentions…

“Crafting a foreign policy for a new era is hard. The last time this had to be done was in the time of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Harry Truman more than half a century ago. The institutions they established and the values they upheld were the foundation of the successful US foreign policy of the postwar era. Now, a task even more complex has fallen on this president. He is not up to the job. This is not a moral judgment, but a practical one. The world is too complex and dangerous for the pious simplicities and arrogant unilateralism of George W. Bush.”

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Even Robert Dudley 

Brad DeLong provides a valuable history lesson:

“Now it appears that Lt. Gen. Sanchez, commander of Coalition Joint Task Force 7, has less control over his own logistics train than did John Churchill: Churchill’s supply depots and the wagon trains were commanded by officers and manned by soldiers. And Sanchez certainly has less control over the how many — 20,000? — armed contractors in Iraq than John Churchill under Anne or even Robert Dudley under Elizabeth had over any part of the British forces in the Netherlands… Things that were known in the reign of Anne the Protestant should not be forgotten in the reign of George the Feckless.”

Opposed readings 

Felix Salmon takes me to task for approving of Martin Wolf’s ten commandments.

I read Wolf’s points very differently to Felix. For example, to my mind when Wolf calls for trade negotiations to be confined to the major trading nations in some instances, it isn’t to stitch up a deal to impose on smaller or weaker nations. It is to agree standards that might be appropriate for Europe and the US, but are irrelevant and potentially harmful for sub-Saharan Africa.

Wolf precisely wants to avoid “the sort of thing which gave globalisation such a bad name to begin with”. I have to wait until the book comes out, but having discussed some of these issues with Martin I’m reasonably confident of my interpretation.

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The Ten Commandments 

Martin Wolf has a new book out, Why Globalization Works. The Financial Times is serialising parts (and as is its wont, hiding the material behind a subscription firewall — a great way to encourage book purchases, not). Today’s instalment includes his ten commandments of globalisation. They aren’t as pithy as the original ten, but as always with Wolf, they make great good sense:

  1. The market economy is the only arrangement capable of generating sustained increases in prosperity, providing the underpinnings of liberal democracy and giving individual human beings the opportunity to strive for what they desire in life.
  2. Individual states remain the locus of political debate and legitimacy. Supranational institutions gain their legitimacy and authority from the states that belong to them.
  3. It is in the interest of both states and their citizens to participate in international treaty- based regimes and institutions that deliver global public goods, including open markets, environmental protection, health and international security.
  4. Such regimes need to be specific and focused. But they also need means of enforcement.
  5. The World Trade Organisation has been enormously successful. But it has already strayed too far from its primary function of promoting trade liberalisation. The arguments for a single undertaking binding all members also need to be reconsidered, since that brings into the negotiations a large number of small countries with negligible impact on world trade.
  6. The case for regimes covering investment and global competition is strong. But such regimes do not need to be imposed on all the world’s countries. It would be better to create regimes that include fewer countries, but contain higher standards.
  7. It is in the long-term interest of countries to integrate into global financial markets. But they need to understand the need for an appropriate exchange rate regime, often a floating rate, and a sound and well-regulated financial system.
  8. In the absence of a global lender of last resort, it is necessary to accept standstills and renegotiation of sovereign debt. A particularly strong case can be made for developing ways to write off ‘odious debt’ – debt contracted by politically illegitimate regimes.
  9. Official development assistance is very far indeed from a guarantee of successful development. But the sums now provided are so small, a mere 0.22 per cent of the gross domestic product of the donor countries in 2001, that more should help, if used wisely. Aid should go to countries with sound policy regimes, but it should never be large enough to free a government from the need to raise most of its money from its own people.
  10. Countries should normally be allowed to learn from their own mistakes, even if that means that some make no progress. But the global community also needs the capacity and will to intervene effectively where states fail altogether.

Disappearing manhole covers and China 

A number of commentators have pointed out the potential link between increasing Chinese demand and rising oil prices.

Edward Hugh makes the more novel connection between disappearing manhole covers and the rising price of scrap metal — thanks to increasing Chinese demand.

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Poland: the world’s fourth ranking blog country? 

In the midst of an interesting post on simplistic economic arguments, Edward Hugh on A Fistful of Euros drops the factoid that new EU member Poland may well have 100,000 weblogs. He points to OnetBlog and I’m not sure how he reckons that makes Poland the fourth ranking blog country, but I appreciated his analysis: “This may not be entirely devoid of significance when thinking about Poland’s future.”

Maybe Dave should spend his summer in Poland?

The Beijing Consensus 

Josh Ramo, the former foreign editor of Time, has an original piece in today’s Financial Times (subscribers only).

His thesis is that the Washington Consensus — free capital flows, transparency, privatisation, liberalisation — is being replaced with the Beijing Consensus — “a development approach driven not by a desire to make bankers happy, but by the more fundamental urge for equitable, high-quality growth — because no other formula can keep China from exploding”.

Ramo sees countries like India, Brazil and Vietnam now studying the lessons of China’s rise.

I’m slightly more sceptical of his idea that part of the development of the Beijing Consensus is extended to what prime minister Wen Jiabao calls “coordinated development”, in Ramo’s terms “growth that is both environmentally friendly and corruption-free”.

Ramo now spends most his time in China so I defer to his expertise. But from a distance I don’t see a lot of evidence that there are true moves towards green growth, and I’m dubious how far rooting out corruption will go in the near term.

Ramo’s thesis is being published soon by the Foreign Policy Centre, who generally have a good policy about making material available on the Web.

The CEO in the Oval Office 

Kevin Drum has been widely cited for his comparison of president Bush to those CEOs “who have goals they would dearly love to attain but who lack either the skill or the fortitude to make them happen”.

Mark Schmitt takes the comparison and runs with it to brilliant effect in A Bad CEO.

“If you think of Bush as the Bad CEO, you don’t hesitate to call it what it is: a failure of leadership. Leaders persuade others, and leaders also absorb information and other points of view. They change direction in order to find the smoothest path to their goals. They react quickly to changes, to get ahead of them.”

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One place I don’t look for acuity (see below) is the opinion page of the Wall Street Journal. Kevin Drum has a delicious analysis of its wild-eyed smearing of John Kerry. His conclusion: “I apologize for using the phrases ‘Wall Street Journal editorial page’ and ‘journalistic ethics’ in the same sentence above. That’s clearly an abuse of the English language.”

Acute political comment 

Some of the most interesting political commentary I have read so far today was on the sports pages of The Daily Telegraph.

Here’s Paul Hayward: “In a sense, Abramovich’s takeover of Chelsea began the day Vladimir Putin took over as Russian president four years ago. The promotion of a former KGB chief to the highest office of the old Soviet Union presented the oligarchs with a choice. The first challenge, starkly articulated by Putin, was to stay out of national politics.”

Good reading for anyone interested in the intersection between sports and politics.

Incidentally, I meant to comment on a ludicrously over-stated sporting/political comment in yesterday’s Financial Times. Writing about the Olympic events of 1980, when president Carter initiated the US boycott of the Moscow Olympics, Mike Steinberger notes, “Just six months earlier, the US men’s ice hockey team had upended the mighty Soviets en route to winning the gold medal at the Lake Placid Winter Games, a victory that was surely a psychological turning point in the cold war.”

It was a wonderful sporting moment, but a “turning point in the cold war”? Utter nonsense.

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What progress?  

Conflict map: An interactive map of conflicts over the last century from the Nobel e-Museum

The Nobel e-Museum has creating something important and sobering in its interactive conflict map.

What was particularly terrifying for me was to run the slide through the century and to graphically see how 100 years of progress in so many areas is shadowed by the proliferation of deadly conflicts around the world.

A European poser 

Dave Winer wants to find a retreat somewhere in Europe in the countryside, not too far from good train connections, with swimming nearby and reasonable comfort.

That should all be fine (although he’s left it rather late for this summer), but his top requirement may be difficult to fulfil: good Internet connection.

I suspect that the most wired countries like Sweden and Finland may be able to satisfy that last item, but in the lazy summer good life of France, Spain or Italy, good phones in my experience are a rarity, to say nothing of decent connectivity. Lots of suggestions are appearing here.