17 – The Other Victim of Ideological Excess (25 Feb 09)

    As evidence continues to pile up about the damage done to national economies and the international financial system through policies inspired by ideological excess, the European Union is beginning to loom large as yet another victim of the same thing. The ample evidence of its being in trouble may not as yet have prompted the mainstream commentariat to see the connection, but it is there even so.
     In short: the neoliberal legacy, sometimes known as market fundamentalism or market worship, has been the major hurdle that halted an earlier gradual process of integration. It mostly blinded

16 – China And The Myth Of ‘Western’ Order (25 Feb 09)

    In these days of multiple crises ingrained assumptions loom large as obstacles to be overcome. This goes for international relations as much as for the tottering financial system that has been absorbing most political attention in recent months. I just stumbled upon a number of interrelated misguided and, in mainstream discussion, rarely examined assumptions on my laptop. They appeared in an article published a year ago by John Ikenberry in Foreign Affairs entitled: The Rise of China and the Future of the West – can the Liberal System Survive? A quite appropriate read on my one but last day in Beijing, after having had an opportunity to look at Chinese life up close here and in Kunming and other places in Yunnan (a spectacularly beautiful province, by the way).
     Now, I like to read Ikenberry. I think that in earlier writing he has made important points

15 – Two Takes on Obama’s Position, and a Third (13 Feb 09)

    Martin Wolf writing in the Financial Times asked a couple of days ago whether Barack Obama’s presidency has already failed. He concedes that in normal times, such a question would be ludicrous. But by now most politically thoughtful people have concluded that these are times, as Wolf puts it, “of great danger”. “Today, the new US administration can disown responsibility for its inheritance; tomorrow, it will own it. Today, it can offer solutions; tomorrow it will have become the problem. Today, it is in control of events; tomorrow, events will take control of it.” Wolf,

14 – The Elephant, Blind Men, and the Rhinoceros (11 Feb 09)

    The credit crisis and what follows, dominating economic discussions for some five months now, have prompted such a variety of explanations of causes and remedies, that I keep thinking of the famous Hindu and Indian Buddhist parable of the six blind men and the elephant. One feels a leg, another the trunk, and yet another its tail, and they all come with stories challenging each other’s truth. It would be hard to find a better recent instance of what the fable depicts. I have just re-read some contrasting explanations: from Clintonian regulations perverting private incentives, to Greenspan’s supporting the kind of activity and deregulation schemes that eventually made the crisis possible. Too much regulation, too much de-regulation,

13 – New Crises Covering Up Old Ones (9 Feb 09)

    the column this jotting refers to

    New crises inevitably dim older ones. Bits of the past that a nation was half-digesting intellectually may then remain undigested for a long time, perhaps forever. The current financial crisis has pushed the moral crises caused by warcrimes committed by a part of what since World War II proudly called itself “the free world” well down the memory holes in several countries.
     We should remember that the state of things resulting directly from the American government’s response to the terrorist attacks of the 11th of September 2001, led to lingering moral and intellectual crises on both sides of the Atlantic.

12 – Taking Japan Seriously (4 feb 09)

    I just heard that Newsweek will no longer have a bureau with correspondents in Tokyo, and that the Los Angeles Times has begun to cover Japan out of Seoul, Korea. When the Newsweek bureau chief goes, Tokyo loses one of its most thoughtful foreign correspondents. These are merely the latest developments in the gradual marginalization of Japan as a source of news and stories about how things might be done differently in different civilizations; in other words: of Japan as a source of knowledge. TV, the main source of information for the vast majority in most places, lost interest in Japan some years ago. It illustrates the unfortunate fact that our sources of knowledge and the way we go about gathering this knowledge are quite heavily dependent on fashion.
     Not so long ago it was believed that if you wanted to know our contemporary world you could not do without knowledge of Japan, especially