Either way, I went to customer service and got myself on standby for the next flight to Toronto. And while I was hoping somebody misses his flight at noon, I was walking up and down the hallway in what must be the dullest terminal in the world. The newsstands were offering an abundance of Obama fan products, T-shirts, baseball caps, mugs, pins, pens, keyrings, you ought to be prepared for inauguration day! Obama was grinning down from literally every newspaper. Having time to kill, I bought the Newsweek Special Edition “How to Fix The World - A Guide for the Next President.” It is a collection of advises from "bold innovators from different fields” and is a very mixed bag.
Many of the contributors advocate the need to global politics and multi-lateralism. Kishore Mahburani, dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, for example writes
“While Americans like to show off their toughness by mocking multi-lateralism, strategic thinking shows that the United States is well served by strengthening, not undermining international cooperation. Fortunately, the economic meltdown may have finally changed Americans' views on this question.”
Sergey Lavrov, foreign minister of Russia, writes “Russia and the United States must work together in a multipolar world,” and Larry Diamond, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and professor of Sociology and Political Science at Stanford University, addresses the need to promote democracy both in and outside the USA:
“The new president should keep in mind the power of example. Washington can't promote democracy abroad if it erodes at home.”
Several contributions are about the US relations to India, China and Russia, some offer advice on the war in Iraq and Afganistan, and how to deal with Iran. Gideon Rose, managing editor of the journal Foreign Affairs, asks for “adult supervision” of foreign politics, praising the “disciplined intelligence” of Obama's campaign and his “respect for professionalism”. Ayaan Hirsi Ali writes on the importance of promoting women's' rights in the Middle East, though she remains vague on how so.
Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel laureate in economics and professor at Columbia University, calls upon “more global and more robust oversight” of financial markets:
“What we need now is a global financial regulatory body to help monitor and gauge systemic risk. If financial rules are allowed to vary too widely from nation to nation, there is a risk of a race to the bottom - some nations will move toward a lore lax regulation to capture financial business at the expense of their competitors. The financial system will be weakened, with consequences that are now all too apparent.”
And he offers the following insight
“[W]e need to restrict the scope for conflicts of interest - whether among rating agencies being paid by those they are rating, or mortgage companies owning the companies that appraise the properties on which they issue mortgages.”
Robert Zoellick, president of the World Bank, asks for “A New Kind of Globalisation” and uses many fashionable words to say little:
"The architecture designed to deal with global markets is creaking. To deal with all this, we need a new multilateralism, one that suits the times. It should be a flexible network, not a fixed system - a network that maximizes the strengths of interconnecting actors, public and private.”
He then asks for a “steering group” to "tackle the reform of financial systems” but he remains vague on the how and what. I'd hope Obama has advisers that have more useful things to say.
Pascal Lamy, director-general of the WTO, advocates that the new president should “reignite Americans' belief in free markets”. He is concerned since “a survey conducted in 2008 found that only 53 percent of Americans think trade is good for their country.” Well, I think one should consider the reason for this might not be their lacking belief in free markets, but rather their lacking belief there is intelligent life outside their country. He goes on to reason “And while trade does create both winners and losers, Harvard professor Robert Z. Lawrence argued convincingly in a 2008 study that the stagnation of middle- and working-class wages is largely attributable to the larger share of the profits that has gone into the hands of the superrich.” If anybody could tell me why this is an argument either pro or con regulation, I don't get it.
Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva, president of Brazil is very clear and uninhibited to the point:
“We [in Brazil] are ready to do our part [to develop a better system of international economic governance], and our economy is better prepared than most to confront the crisis. We have said no to macroeconomic adventurism. Inflation is under control and we are growing steadily. We have plenty of foreign reserves and owe nothing to the International Monetary Fund [...] Since I took office in 2003, more than 10 million Brazilans have joined the workforce. Some 20 millions have risen out of absolute poverty [..] Above all, we are redistributing our income and reducing social inequality [...]
This is not the time for protectionism, but for progressive action born of generosity and solidarity that will forge collective answers to 21st century challenges.”
But let's come to the more fun part. Sameer Reddy, a freelance writer based in Berlin, points out that “the United States has a serious public-relations problem” because “if you ask citizens of other countries to paint a portrait of the average American tourist, it would look something like this: a loud, chubby sightseer wearing a fanny pack, baseball cap, printed T-shirt, jean short and sneakers.” But “the election of president Obama - with his youthful, cleancut good looks,” he writes “offers a valuable opportunity for a national top-to-toe makeover”. He then continues to advocate that simplicity, not sloppiness, “is Americas true stylistic heritage” and that “when Obama takes office Jan 20, Americans will, with luck, create their own new New Look, modeled after his elegantly simple and straightforward wardrobe and manner. And women everywhere will be watching carefully as the new First Lady, Michelle, tries to find the elusive balance not only between work and family but between practical and stylish dressing”.
I would only want to add that Americans might profit if they'd pay more attention to what their politicians do than how they look.
And what advice would you give?