‘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’?
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.
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.
The most important event of 2003 was the American-led war on Iraq. The legality of this action has been much disputed. At this season of the year, a moral accounting is appropriate.
‘It is unsatisfactory that 450 million Europeans rely so much on 250 million Americans to defend them’. So wrote the British diplomat Robert Cooper in a recently-published book. On 12-13 December the heads of government of EU members and candidate members -25 in all – will be meeting in Brussels to agree a new European constitution. The draft constitution, drawn up at a convention chaired by former French President Valery Giscard D’Estaing, is an attempt both to meet the challenge of enlargement and to give the EU a bigger foreign policy and defence ‘presence’. It proposes to establish a new post of EU ‘minister of foreign affairs’, and a ‘capabilities agency’ to coordinate defence technology research and encourage harmonised procurement. The constitution would also allow a ‘vanguard’ of members to cooperate more closely on defence matters.
It is no secret that I have spent a large chunk of my life writing about the economist John Maynard Keynes. In 1973, a few months after my son Edward was born, he got a postcard from my mother-in-law. She clearly believed in encouraging early habits of reading. It was of Gwen Raverat’s famous watercolour of Keynes as a young man. “This is a gentleman whom you and Mummy and Daddy will soon grow to hate v. enormously I expect. He looks a bit furtive to me.” My son Edward is now 30.
A spectre is haunting the world: that of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). This is the collective name for nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. The United States and Britain said they attacked Iraq to prevent Saddam Hussein from using or developing them. Even more terrifying is the thought that they may be acquired by terrorist groups, who could use them to blackmail powerful countries or destroy large parts of the world. This is the nightmare scenario against which the US doctrine of preventive war is largely aimed.