One World?

One World: The Ethics of Globalization
by Peter Singer
Yale University Press, 235 pp., $21.95

Free Trade Today
by Jagdish Bhagwati
Princeton University Press, 128 pp., $35.00; $14.95 (paper)

The Chastening: Inside the Crisis That Rocked the Global Financial System and Humbled the IMF
by Paul Blustein
Public Affairs, 435 pp., $18.00 (paper)

World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability
by Amy Chua
Doubleday, 340 pp., $26.00

1.

Globalization was the most dramatic idea to emerge from the collapse of communism and the end of the cold war. Suddenly, it seemed, there was “one world.” US State Department official Francis Fukuyama said it first: there was now no ideological obstacle to the spread of markets and democracy. Further, it seemed highly plausible to suppose that the fall of political barriers to trade and the movement of capital would unite the world into a single economic unit. On top of this came the revolution in communications: cell phones and the Internet would, at the very least, speed up the emergence of a global consciousness. At the earth summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, a grimmer aspect of globalization was unveiled: “global warming,” or the threat to the world’s climate from carbon emissions. Common to all these perceptions was the thought that the traditional divisions of humanity into tribes, races, nations, religions, and cultures were obstacles to the “global” thinking needed to bring about prosperity, peace, and justice to all, or indeed to avert planetary disaster.

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Russia should use PFIs to rebuild its public services

Put together a government with too little money and a private sector with too much money and you have the making of Public/ Private Partnership. In Russia today, government revenue comes to 19.3% of official GDP, or $85bn. If the black economy (estimated at about 40 per cent) is added on, government revenue comes to only 14% of GDP – between a third and a quarter of public revenue as a percentage of GDP in the European Union. With this sum, the Russian government has to build and maintain almost the whole of Russia’s public infrastructure. No wonder it is crumbling away.

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The death of the dollar?

Every time the dollar slides in the international currency markets, people predict the death of the mighty dollar. No one, they say, will want to go on investing in a depreciating currency. The age of the dollar has come to an end. Its successor will be a multi-polar currency system, with the dollar, the euro, and possibly the yen as the three competitive poles of attraction. How likely is this?

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Moscow needs its own congestion charge

One of the first Russian words I learnt was ‘probka’, or traffic jam. It must take longer to get round Moscow by car than any other city in the world. Not only do the big roads lead you in the opposite direction from where you want to go; there are far too many cars on them. Probably the main use of mobile telephones is to ring up in a ‘probka’ to explain why you are going to be late for an appointment. Congestion must cost the city’s economy billions of roubles a year.

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Population and ageing

‘It’s population, stupid’. According to an eighteenth century English clergyman, the Revd Thomas Malthus, this was the key to the great movements of history. As industrialisation spread, the fear of overpopulation declined. In the rich countries, productivity raced ahead of fertility. It was assumed that sooner or later the population of the rest of the world would stabilise. So why have we started to worry about a demographic ‘time bomb’?

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The Unresolved Debate on Capital Flight

By Robert Skidelsky and Pavel Erochkine

Is capital flight a problem for Russia? Most people would say “yes” and would regard the recent reversal of capital flight as a positive sign for the Russian economy. But there is another school of thought that believes that capital movements should be a matter of complete indifference and certainly not the object of government concern.

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The Killing Fields

Changes in the character of war partially account for the mass murders of the past century. But the rise of democracy also plays a role.

Why did the 20th century produce so much mass killing of civilians – a phenomenon so terrible and unexpected that it caused a new word, “genocide”, to be coined to describe it? Mass slaughter is nothing new. What was new was its return to the centres of civilisation after two centuries of progress. From Europe, it spread to Asia and Africa. In Rwanda on 7 April 1994, the Hutus started killing the Tutsis, or “cockroaches” as they were called. They shot and hacked a million to death in three months. The killings were as coldly deliberate as those organised by Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot. The great powers supplied the weapons that allowed the genocide to happen and withdrew the small force of UN peacekeepers who might have stopped it.

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