Monday, October 29, 2007

Gaps Abound

Last week, Daniel Altman, of the IHT and publisher of the blog Managing Globalization, came to the Carnegie Council to talk about his new book Connected: 24 Hours in the Global Economy. I asked him what people are interested in who read his blog: What stories is the world interested in but the mainstream press isn't covering?

His reply was that people around the world are engaged in a debate about the best way to organize economically. The Washington Consensus is not the world consensus. Other ways of managing economies--land reform, export-driven growth, or authoritarian capitalism--are also appealing to many.

I am in Tokyo this week at a program organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership. One of the themes that I am hearing is the many gaps in the world--perception gaps, income gaps, and values gaps.

Despite the common wisdom that Japan and the United States share common values (I would agree that the two countries do share a belief in universal values), one commentator said he felt that Americans are too concerned about terrorism. While Japan and the US are closer than ever through trade flows and security arrangements, he sees a divergence in what our respective publics care about. In Japan, the core concerns are gaps--between the rich and poor, countryside and cities--and demographics.

Global surveys depict these gaps worry many publics worldwide. Is the United States unique in that its culture accepts gaps between the rich and poor or the factory worker and the CEO or salaries commensurate with merit, as this Japanese commentator suggested?

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