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The undeterrables 

Tom Friedman reckons the Bush administration has the argument against Saddam the wrong way around. “I am for invading Iraq only if we think that doing so can bring about regime change and democratization. Because what the Arab world desperately needs is a model that works — a progressive Arab regime that by its sheer existence would create pressure and inspiration for gradual democratization and modernization around the region.”

Tom has been banging the drum for democratisation and modernisation in the Arab world for some time. I wish I had greater belief that someone in the administration was listening.

Not economics 

John Plender makes an important point in the Financial Times (no link, because it’s subscribers only): “The response of many 21st-century business people to Enron, WorldCom and other scandals, has been to highlight the reputational risk posed to companies and shareholders by poor ethics. They applaud good behaviour not because it is right but because it pays.”

Echoing New York Fed chief Bill McDonough, Plender argues that morality is just right. Incidentally, it makes economic sense.

I had a barney with an economist at the Hayman Leadership Retreat in Australia last week. I was speaking on a panel about education and he launched into a diatribe about how the education sector justified its restrictive practices just as the textile industry used to do. If foreign competition (this was in the context of higher education) meant Australia’s universities couldn’t compete, so be it.

As so often happens in these situations, the educators launched into economic justifications of what they do. I took a different tack. I don’t care whether education produces zero benefit to economic growth or productivity. That’s not what it’s for. Education is a good in and of itself, that has incalculable benefits for both individuals and societies.

Similarly, as Plender and McDonough point out, we should all exercise good moral and ethical standards whatever the economic impact.

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