Archive for the ‘Political Economy’ Category

21
Nov

“It looks like it is now just Germany and Canada holding down the Western world,” an elected politician from one of Germany’s prosperous western states told me over dinner this week. I started to laugh, but he put up his hand – he was being serious. He launched into a depressing tour of the countries once known as the Group of Eight, most of them sliding into chaos or extremism or long-term political paralysis.

At the head of the table, the United States is weeks away from falling off the political map, as far as its trade and military partners are concerned: Donald Trump’s administration will be, at best, unstable and untrustworthy; at worst, it will be a voice of toxic extremism to be shunned and avoided. Britain fell off in June, its Brexit referendum and harsh-edged new government limiting its relations with the world to a negotiated retreat, its future too uncertain for anyone to strike up commitments.

France is in deep crisis in advance of an election next year that could have frightening results: a victory by the race-hatred candidate Marine Le Pen or a lunge far rightward by conservatives to stave her off. Italy appears an oasis of sanity under Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, but his reforms are under attack and his government could be on the edge of collapse. Poland and Hungary have extreme, xenophobic governments that are withdrawing from international co-operation. Scandinavian countries are wrestling with coalition governments that include extremists.

And Russia, which has been lost for a long time, seems poised to establish a bloc of states with illiberal, authoritarian governments aimed against the liberal democracies – a bloc that could now come to include the United States. Scanning the horizon from Berlin in search of safe partnerships, there’s Canada. And, as Germans kept telling me this week, not much else. Read more…

Published on Nov. 19, http://www.theglobeandmail.com/, Doug Saunders

31
Oct

THE Chinese Communist Party likes to describe threats to its grip on power in barely comprehensible terms. Over the past three decades, it has struggled against the menace of “bourgeois liberalisation” (leaving many wondering whether there is an acceptable proletarian kind) and fought against “peaceful evolution” (exceedingly dangerous, for some reason, unlike “reform and opening up”). Now Xi Jinping, China’s president, is waging war against “historical nihilism”, a peril as arcane-sounding as it is, to his mind, grave. As a state news agency recently warned, there is a “seething undercurrent” of it in China. Failure to stamp it out, officials say, could lead to Soviet-style collapse.

Days before the party’s 350 or so most senior officials gathered in Beijing this week for a secretive conclave (as they normally do in the autumn), a party website published a compendium of Mr Xi’s public remarks on the nihilist problem (intriguingly headlined: “Xi Jinping: There Can Be No Nothingness in History”). People’s Daily, the party’s main mouthpiece, marked the start of the meeting with a commentary laced with references to the lessons of history, including the collapse of the Soviet Communist Party.

Against the flow

So what are the nihilists doing that so troubles China’s leaders? Mr Jiang’s main concern was a television series broadcast in 1988 called “River Elegy”, which had portrayed China as a country weighed down by a long history of backwardness and inward-looking conservatism. The documentary programmes had prompted energetic debate among intellectuals about how to reform China that helped foment the following year’s unrest. Read more…

The Economist, Oct 29th 2016

18
Oct

In Washington’s ongoing debate about the cause of the continuing chaos in the Middle East, President George W. Bush stands condemned for the 2003 intervention that pushed Iraq into civil war, while President Obama stands condemned for the nonintervention that worsened Syria’s civil war. In Libya, meanwhile, Washington’s partial intervention also failed to bring peace, while too few Americans are even aware of their country’s role in the conflict afflicting Yemen.

Without trying to defend or absolve U.S. policy, then, it is worth stepping back to ask what shared historical experiences might have left these four countries — Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen — particularly at risk of violent collapse. The following maps help highlight how, at various points over the past century, historical circumstances conspired, in an often self-reinforcing way, to bolster the stability of some states in the region while undermining that of others.

1. Century-old states are more stable today

Countries whose political or geographic precedents stretch back over a century are more stable today. Turkey, Egypt, Iran, and, to some extent, the ruling dynasties of what are now Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman and the United Arab Emirates, all, in one form or another, trace their current political structures to the late 19th century, before European colonialism took root in the region. Consequently, they were more likely to have the resources to maintain some independence in the face of European imperialism, or at least negotiate a less disruptive form of colonial rule.

 

Read more…

23
Sep

Near the beginning of President Barack Obama’s final speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday morning, he pointed out something really important about the world today: We are living through the best time in human history, but it feels to a lot of us like anything but.

“This is the paradox that defines our world today: A quarter century after the end of the Cold War, the world is by many measures less violent and more prosperous than ever before. And yet our societies are filled with uncertainty and unease and strife,” Obama said.

This isn’t just a one-off observation on his part. It actually speaks to something very fundamental, and underappreciated, about the nature of the world we live in. We have set up a series of institutions that order the world — ranging from NATO to the global free trade regime to the UN itself — and have helped make the world better for most people.

But not everyone. Some people have suffered tremendously from the way the world is ordered — and it’s helped create a broader sense of social and global crisis.

 Obama’s speech, then, is an implicit recognition that how this paradox gets resolved — if the real suffering of the few can be alleviated without sacrificing the gains of the many — will play a major role in shaping his how tenure in office is perceived. Read more…
 
1
Sep

Globalization is remaking and reshaping America’s two big political parties. This transformation lies behind the bedlam of this year’s presidential campaign.

For the past half-century, the Democratic and Republican parties have been unified around clear identities. Broadly speaking, the Democrats were liberal, economically and socially, and the Republicans were conservative. The Democrats were the party of big government, the Republicans of big business. Degrees of difference existed within each party, but the most liberal Republican was still more conservative than the most conservative Democrat.

That’s changed. Globalization has split American society into global winners and global losers, the haves and have-nots, global citizens and global left-behinds.

In a coherent politics, there would be a party for each side, a party for the haves and a party for the have-nots. Instead, each party now embraces large constituencies of both winners and losers, and these constituencies are battling for control.

This, more than anything else, explains the chaotic and vitriolic class-based campaign going on now. Read more…

August 16, 2016 | By Richard C. Longworth

https://www.thechicagocouncil.org

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