At the beginning of today, I posed the question what is greatness? I still do not know the answer to that question. I have been exploring several models of democracy today though and I think the answer lies somewhere in where your country stands. Parliamentary systems like Iraq are good, but they can take a long time to form coalitions. Sometimes other democracies, like Ecuador, can have small coups or large coups. Other countries, like Burma also can have rigged elections, but they might institute reforms.
There is no correct form of government, but we like to believe their is. I think that each nation must find out for themselves which type of government works and does not work. I wish my thoughts were deeper on that topic, but sadly individualism is the best I can say about this topic.
To sum up my posts:
1. My theme was greatness
2. My column is out today
3. Iraq found a new government
4. Ecuador kindof had a coup
5. Myanmar’s rigged elections could be good.
Thanks for reading my posts. Have a great weekend!
In developing countries, having a sham election is considered better than not having any election at all. I’m not sure that I totally agree with that premise. If the people do not truly elect a leader than the motivation to change the country is probably not there.
Myanmar/Burma is going to have elections in November. The military Junta has set up the system so they will get many of the seats and has ruled out crucial political opposition. While most cry foul, others say political shams can be good. Foreign Policy notes:
But loosen it they eventually will. History shows that gradual, half-hearted reforms of this sort are exactly how many autocracies successfully transition to democracy. Rulers gradually liberalize laws while ensuring that they maintain their privileges and status, come what may. Chile’s move to democracy, for example, was facilitated by protections that the new constitution gave to Pinochet and other leading generals. The process of political reform in 19th-century Britain was also smoothened by the ability of existing elites to protect their interests via the House of Lords. And the world’s longest-running constitutional democracy — the United States — got its start because its “founding fathers” were convinced that the establishment of indirect elections for senators and the president would prevent radical, popular reforms. But, in all the above cases, the new openness produced a spurt of economic growth that eventually dislodged the old ruling class from its privileged perch over society.
An instructive comparison is also offered by the experiences of Egypt and Iraq since the 1950s. In Egypt, Colonel Nasser initiated a new tradition: Rulers were still invariably drawn from the military ranks, but they would henceforth present themselves as civilian presidents — highly restricted elections would even be set up to validate their rule. Iraq did nothing of the kind. While the Egyptian economy has achieved sustained growth since the 1950s, Iraq is probably poorer today than it was then. Egypt is still unfortunately far from being a full democracy, but far fewer of its citizens are in poverty than they were 50 years ago, and many more of them are educated.
Flawed as Burma’s current reforms are, they are unlikely to be the country’s last. Once a process of liberalization has begun, it usually continues, however gradually. One instructive example is Taiwan. The island was long a one-party state dominated by Chiang-Kai Shek’s Kuomintang. The group decided in the mid-1990s to introduce constitutional changes that would establish the country’s first real elections, confident that the Kuomintang would continue to rule comfortably. They did, in fact, win the first election handily, but the process of competition forced the party to move away from its militarized roots and eventually allowed an opposition to flourish and challenge its monopoly. The gradual process also allowed the ruling and the opposition to normalize their relationship, so that the new leaders weren’t fueled by revolutionary rage, and the old leaders were prepared to tolerate having lost their authority.
Of course, each country is different because of its political system, but it might be possible.
Paul Krugman is big critic of China undervaluing its currency. I already talked about yesterday my feelings on the House passing a bill that gives the president more authority to raise tariffs on China, but Krugman puts it in a more interesting light. His argument is about leveling the playing field:
Let’s step back and look at the current state of the world.
Major advanced economies are still reeling from the effects of a burst housing bubble and the financial crisis that followed. Consumer spending is depressed, and firms see no point in expanding when they aren’t selling enough to use the capacity they have. The recession may be officially over, but unemployment is extremely high and shows no sign of returning to normal levels.
The situation is quite different, however, in emerging economies. These economies have weathered the economic storm, they are fighting inflation rather than deflation, and they offer abundant investment opportunities. Naturally, capital from wealthier but depressed nations is flowing in their direction. And emerging nations could and should play an important role in helping the world economy as a whole pull out of its slump.
But China, the largest of these emerging economies, isn’t allowing this natural process to unfold. Restrictions on foreign investment limit the flow of private funds into China; meanwhile, the Chinese government is keeping the value of its currency, the renminbi, artificially low by buying huge amounts of foreign currency, in effect subsidizing its exports. And these subsidized exports are hurting employment in the rest of the world.
Chinese officials defend this policy with arguments that are both implausible and wildly inconsistent.
They deny that they are deliberately manipulating their exchange rate; I guess the tooth fairy purchased $2.4 trillion in foreign currency and put it on their pillows while they were sleeping. Anyway, say prominent Chinese figures, it doesn’t matter; the renminbi has nothing to do with China’s trade surplus. Yet this week China’s premier cried woe over the prospect of a stronger currency, declaring, “We cannot imagine how many Chinese factories will go bankrupt, how many Chinese workers will lose their jobs.” Well, either the renminbi’s value matters, or it doesn’t — they can’t have it both ways.
The country of Nigeria, a country that I do research on while I am in college, has just celebrated 50 years of independence. Nigeria was formerly a British colony. Big celebrations were planned in the area and some attacks occurred by Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND). Is it a happy independence? It could be hard to judge. For a country that has very high poverty rates, numerous civil wars, a corrupt government, military dictatorships, problems galore with the oil industry, and other problems it could seem bleak. I would say you be the judge.
BBC Country Profile on Nigeria
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius went to Columbia today to apologize for an experiment that the U.S. government tried on women to treat syphilis by using penicillin. Most of the women were treated, but about half of them were not treated.
While this was a grave tragedy, I often wonder how these types of apologies affect foreign relations with other nations? I would think that it would increase trade and bilateral cooperation. Many often criticize the president for going on an apology tour, but sometimes it must be done. It might not always work though. When President Obama gave his famous Middle East speech in Cairo in 2009 he has not received wide amounts of praise from Middle Eastern countries. It would be interesting to see if these types of apologies do correlate with better relations.