Friday, April 27, 2007

Thoughts on Bush-Abe Meeting

I spoke on Al Jazeera and to the Congressional Quarterly yesterday about the Bush-Abe meetings this week. On the comfort women issue, my basic take is this: Japan should seize the moment to take the moral high ground, not get caught up in cynical short-term political calculations. Shared values is the glue that holds the US and Japan together, and it is what gives the US and Japan legitimacy to lead. Based on the news yesterday, I get the sense that Abe is coming to the same conclusion, despite Japanese diplomats' protestations.

In my view, seizing the moment for Japan would mean: 1. taking responsibility for the recruitment of comfort women and 2. embracing human rights. This is to say Japan should reframe the issue as protecting human rights and responsibility--not about pride and sovereignty. I get the feeling from Japanese press, polls, and friends that this approach would resonate with the public. Japan is thirsty for a moral, visionary leader. Here are some of my comments from the al Jazeera interview:

Q: Perhaps the biggest issue that PM Abe and Pres. Bush will discuss is North Korea. Both countries are partners in an effort to persuade North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons- what is Japan’s role? Abe owes much of his popularity to his tough stance on North Korea, but the Japanese view America as being ‘soft’ on NK- especially with the missed deadline to shut down Yongbyon. What kind of strain does this put on their relationship?

I would put the question differently: What is North Korea's role in US-Japan relations? Although the US-Japan alliance is firmly in place for the long run, based on shared values and what I would call contiguous interests, North Korea is somewhat of a thorn in their side. The simple fact is that Bush and Abe are weak leaders who need a foreign policy success and are willing to do a lot to get it. The problem is that the US just wants a deal with North Korea on dismantling its nuclear facilities, while Japan wants a more hard line resolution on the abduction issue. Both of these demands are coming from domestic constituencies in Japan and the US---and that's what happens when foreign policy is made in the context of democracy.

The US is waiting for North Korea to start dismantling its nuclear facilities. And the US is optimistic that North Korea will cooperate and allow inspectors in. What about the US record with comfort women, ask some in the Japanese press? The US is not without guilt. No one has a spotless history. Whether it's fair or not, it is Japan that is under international scrutiny now, not the US.

Q: Is China’s rising economic power a growing concern for Japan?

China just became Japan's biggest trading partner, surpassing the US. And Toyota has just surpassed GM as the largest car maker in terms of sales last quarter. We are starting to see what many people have predicted as the Asian Century. Power is shifting to Asia. Is Japan afraid of China? Absolutely. There is enormous change happening in East Asia in economics, politics, and security, and that is frightening. But China's leaders need a stable economy as much--maybe even more so--as Japan's leaders. While China's political stability is based on economic growth, Japan's is based on democratic legitimacy. Japan's view of China is ambivalent overall: It sees China as a great opportunity with high risk and it sees it as an economic challenge--in terms of intellectual property rights, the environment, energy consumption, and eventually in the manufacturing sector. But this wont really happen until China gets some recognizable brand names. And I give that another 10 to 15 years.

Q: President Bush and PM Abe both are dealing with low popularity, does this make their alliance even more crucial?

Bush and Abe are dealing with low popularity so they will probably want to avoid anything risky during their public appearances during this trip. They need to show that they have friends in the world. The US is Japan's most reliable friend and vice versa. My prediction is that these leaders will re-affirm their commitment to the spread of democracy (the glue in the relationship) and will try to find common ground on areas that everyone agrees on, including cooperating on environmental technologies such as clean coal plants, cooperation in energy conservation (something Japan knows a lot about), and possibly the idea of deeper economic partnership. Japan launched FTA negotiations with Australia recently and US signed an FTA with Korea. Many see these talks as preludes to a deeper US-Japan economic partnership based on shared values.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Food, Fairness, and the 2007 "Farm" Bill

Writing in the New York Times magazine this past weekend, Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore's Dilemma, attempts to rebrand the 2007 Farm Bill as a food bill, linking health policy and agricultural policy. For decades, American waistlines have been expanding in tandem with bloated farm subsidies, and the worst effects are felt by poor people whose dollar goes farther when purchasing unhealthful, high-calorie, processed foods. Comparing the fate of carrots and Twinkies in our food economy, Pollan says:
Among other things, [the Farm Bill] determines which crops will be subsidized and which will not, and in the case of the carrot and the Twinkie, the farm bill as currently written offers a lot more support to the cake than to the root. Like most processed foods, the Twinkie is basically a clever arrangement of carbohydrates and fats teased out of corn, soybeans and wheat—three of the five commodity crops that the farm bill supports, to the tune of some $25 billion a year. (Rice and cotton are the others.) For the last several decades... U.S. agricultural policy has been designed in such a way as to promote the overproduction of these five commodities, especially corn and soy.

Agriculture also persists as the millstone around the neck of international trade negotiations, grinding the process to a halt. Promises have not been kept to end unfair practices that harm farmers in the developing world, such as the dumping of surplus goods. Environmental pressures are also bearing down on the situation. Policy Innovations recently covered the use of food crops to produce ethanol—the result is a complex economy of tariffs, Brazilian sugar, American corn, and rising tortilla prices in Mexico.

The Minnesota-based Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy has been covering all these topics at its AgObservatory site, with a special section dedicated to the Farm Bill.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Nigerian Elections, Property Rights, and the Resource Curse

Fears of violence and fraud again surround elections in Nigeria. A tanker truck attempted to destroy the Independent National Election Commission and an opposition party claimed that it captured a truckload of rigged ballots. Such unrest is symptomatic of the resource curse, wherein extreme wealth from natural resources often harms political stability, equitable prosperity, and economic growth in developing nations. As the New York Times reports:
By all accounts, petroleum profits have brought huge benefits to this country's rulers, but few to its people. Oil companies typically keep 7 percent of the profits from oil sales; the government gets 93 percent.

Nigeria ranks as one of the most corrupt countries in the world according to Transparency International, a Berlin-based anti-corruption group; 70 percent of the country’s population lives on $1 a day or less. Life expectancy is 47 years.

Between 1960 and 1999, more than $380 billion was stolen or wasted, according to Nuhu Ribadu, Nigeria's top anti-corruption official. In that period, the country produced over $400 billion worth of oil.

In an effort to redistribute wealth, the government now gives 13 percent of the proceeds from oil sales to the producing states but there is little accountability of how these funds are spent. Much of it simply disappears, wasted by inefficient or corrupt local officials, according to a recent Human Rights Watch report.

University of Sheffield philosopher Leif Wenar has been rethinking how property rights law can be used as an antidote to the resource curse. He starts with some basic assumptions from international and commercial law—resources belong to all people of a country not just the mightiest minority, the people must assent to the sale of those resources, and if they haven't assented then the resources can be considered stolen and therefore not valid for trade. Wenar then builds the case for new legal and trade practices to ensure that such stolen resources do not reach the market or that their value is delivered to the peoples who truly own them.

Wenar works through a number of interesting objections to his proposal. Primary among them is finding a means to circumvent the case where, for example, China continues to buy oil from Sudan and the United States continues to buy goods from China. He advocates opening a Clean Hands Trust for the people of Sudan, generated by tariffs on Chinese goods and delivered to the Sudanese once the country has obtained levels of governance that would allow it to validly sell its resources.

Fortunately, the United States already employs the Freedom House standards in its Millennium Challenge Account program, thus establishing bright lines for determining whether resources from a particular country are valid for trade. Countries falling below certain levels of political rights and civil liberties would be disqualified.

"According to the US government's own standards," writes Wenar, "American corporations are buying resources from regimes that could not possibly have the right to sell them. Any consistent pro-market government should prohibit these transactions explicitly."

Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Ethic of Stewardship: It won't be easy being Green

In the New York Times Magazine this weekend Thomas Friedman discusses the challenges of making environmentalism profitable, strategic, patriotic, and globally equitable. Political and technological innovation will play a crucial role in this process.

One major hurdle is the energy market and its often conflicting incentives: The world needs to simultaneously reduce demand for carbon-intensive energy sources and create demand for alternatives. Robert Socolow and Stephen Pacala of Princeton's Carbon Mitigation Initiative have innovated a series of "stabilization wedges"—aspects of the energy economy and changes in behavior that can be adjusted using current technologies. Their ideas could help bridge the transition to a Green economy over the next half century.

According to Friedman, McKinsey Global Institute has forecast that "developing countries will generate nearly 80 percent of the growth in world energy demand between now and 2020, with China representing 32 percent and the Middle East 10 percent."

Despite the advanced industrial world's historical responsibility for climate pollution, the developing world is catching up, and so Friedman concludes that the Green platform "will not go down Main Street America unless it also goes down Main Street China, India and Brazil. And for green to go Main Street in these big developing countries, the prices of clean power alternatives—wind, biofuels, nuclear, solar or coal sequestration—have to fall to the “China price.” The China price is basically the price China pays for coal-fired electricity today because China is not prepared to pay a premium now, and sacrifice growth and stability, just to get rid of the CO2 that comes from burning coal."

Friedman believes that the "only way we are going to get innovations that drive energy costs down to the China price... is by mobilizing free-market capitalism." But the market will only work if there is an accurate price for carbon, if countries "force their people to pay the full climate, economic and geopolitical costs of using gasoline and dirty coal."

But Friedman realizes that "the market alone won’t work. Government’s job is to set high standards, let the market reach them and then raise the standards more. That’s how you get scale innovation at the China price."

He goes on to suggest a number of areas where government can help:

  • Raise efficiency standards for buildings and appliances

  • Stipulate that utilities generate a certain amount of electricity from renewables

  • Raise mileage standards for cars

  • Tighten the cap-and-trade system for the amount of CO2 any factory or power plant can emit

  • Offer loan guarantees and fast-track licensing for anyone who wants to build a nuclear plant

  • Enact a carbon tax

Government, of course, means us. The market, of course, means us. People now must roll sleeves, cinch belts, and innovate. As the unpredictable havoc of doubling atmospheric carbon gets delivered to our doorstep, the Ethic of Stewardship becomes less about intergenerational sacrifice and more about shared humanity. It won't be easy being Green, but it will be worth it.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

From Hybrid SUVs to Hybrid MBAs

All the world loves greener, more socially-responsible hybrids.

Now Harvard Business School is following an emerging trend among graduate schools of offering a hybrid degree incorporating parts of an MBA with a public affairs degree--to prepare students for careers in the ever-overlapping private, public, and nonprofit sectors. The Harvard degree will launch in 2008.

The Fletcher School at Tufts earlier launched its Master of International Business (MIB) as another public-private-nonprofit degree:

"How is the Fletcher MIB different from an MBA?

The Fletcher MIB is a hybrid international business/international relations degree. It was founded on the principle that business professionals today must be well-versed not only in business management and strategy but also the complex reality of external governmental, legal, social, and environmental factors that influence business."

Johns Hopkins SAIS and University of Pennsylvania Wharton School have for 20 years offered a dual MA-MBA degree to prepare students "to lead in today’s globalized environment, in which both managerial acumen and international comprehension are essential, and in which knowledge of both business and public policy are vital for success."

The premise behind these initiatives is that the world's problems encompass all sectors. Harvard's Kennedy School Dean David Ellwood put it this way:

"Every interesting public problem in the world today crosses the boundary between business and government. Frankly, I think that for too long there have not been enough connections."

Greenpeace Going Nuclear

The times they are a-changin'. Are the activists becoming more realistic or is the environmental crisis so bad that it requires an Earth triage of sorts? It is often said that when the green activists embrace nuclear power and the conservatives embrace ethanol, we know things are changing.

Greenpeace founder Patrick Moore, speaking in Texas last week before the Gulf Coast Power Association, said he remains in favor of moving away from fossil fuels. From the Houston Chronicle:

Moore, who is chairman and chief scientist of consulting firm Greenspirit Strategies and co-chair of a pro-nuclear energy group called the CASEnergy Coalition, said nuclear power could help wean the U.S. from its reliance on foreign oil and natural gas. It could also reduce the health effects of power plant emissions and save oil and gas for better uses, such as creating plastics, he said.

About one year ago in April, Moore wrote this essay, "Going Nuclear, A Green Makes the Case," in favor of nuclear power in the Washington Post, with this powerful opener:

In the early 1970s when I helped found Greenpeace, I believed that nuclear energy was synonymous with nuclear holocaust, as did most of my compatriots. That's the conviction that inspired Greenpeace's first voyage up the spectacular rocky northwest coast to protest the testing of U.S. hydrogen bombs in Alaska's Aleutian Islands. Thirty years on, my views have changed, and the rest of the environmental movement needs to update its views, too, because nuclear energy may just be the energy source that can save our planet from another possible disaster: catastrophic climate change.

Look at it this way: More than 600 coal-fired electric plants in the United States produce 36 percent of U.S. emissions -- or nearly 10 percent of global emissions -- of CO2, the primary greenhouse gas responsible for climate change. Nuclear energy is the only large-scale, cost-effective energy source that can reduce these emissions while continuing to satisfy a growing demand for power. And these days it can do so safely.

An interesting take on one of the ethical questions of total destruction caused by nuclear materials:

Over the past 20 years, one of the simplest tools -- the machete -- has been used to kill more than a million people in Africa, far more than were killed in the Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear bombings combined. What are car bombs made of? Diesel oil, fertilizer and cars. If we banned everything that can be used to kill people, we would never have harnessed fire.

And then back to Japan as providing one of the technological solutions:

And new technologies such as the reprocessing system recently introduced in Japan (in which the plutonium is never separated from the uranium) can make it much more difficult for terrorists or rogue states to use civilian materials to manufacture weapons.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Economist: Company Ethics a Concern

I hope everyone caught the lead article "Globalisation's Offspring" in this week's Economist. It really captures our concept for the workshops for ethics in business at the Carnegie Council.

I like this part:

"India's Ranbaxy is still minute compared with a branded-drugs maker like Pfizer; China's Haier, a maker of white goods, is a minnow next to Whirlpool's whale. But the new multinationals are bent on the course taken by their counterparts in Japan in the 1980s and South Korea in the 1990s. Just as Toyota and Samsung eventually obliged western multinationals to rethink how to make cars and consumer electronics, so today's young thrusters threaten the veterans wherever they are complacent."

"But the newcomers' advantages are not overwhelming. Take the difference in company ethics, for instance, which worries plenty of rich-world managers. They fear that they will engage in a race to the bottom with rivals unencumbered by the fine feelings of shareholders and domestic customers, and so are bound to lose."

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Network as Catalyst for Democracy

The Council of Europe Committee on Higher Education and Research and the International Consortium for Higher Education, Civic Responsibility and Democracy held a two-day "Symposium on Universities, Democratic Culture, and Human Rights" last week at the University of Pennsylvania. The group comprised university presidents, deans, department heads, professors, and civil society leaders.

I was the final speaker on a panel with David Maurrasse, Timothy Stanton, Josef Huber, and Radu Damian on creating a global network as a catalyst for democracy.

In response to what is seen as a "crisis in confidence" and an increased emphasis on the rhetoric rather than the practice of democracy, these higher education leaders met in Strasbourg last year. They adopted on June 23, 2006 a declaration titled, "The Responsibility of Higher Education for a Democratic Culture, Citizenship, Human Rights and Sustainability," which supports the principles in higher education of:

Democratic and accountable structures, processes, and practice;

Active democratic citizenship;

Human rights, mutual respect, and social justice;

Environmental and societal sustainability; and

Dialogue and the peaceful resolution of conflicts.

The declaration was also a call for action in local, national, and global communities to put these principles into practice.

My suggestion was that information technology can help democratic practice and leaders in higher education have a responsibility to use this tool. Given the theme of responsibility and scholarship at this symposium and the recent International Studies Association conference in Chicago, I detect a concern among academics about their duty to society--their duty to question policymakers.

A global online network can help deepen democratic practice. In my view, an effective network has global reach or potential and can therefore affect change when called upon. The advantage of a single hub is that the knowledge and networks that it aggregates can more easily find their way on a syllabus or policy paper.

The Internet is a democratic tool because there is little cost of using it and it doesn't discriminate according to language, class, culture, etc. Like good democratic citizenship, it is up to the individual to learn how to use the Internet. While the Internet is a communications or knowledge management technology, democracy can be seen as a governing technology.

Themes on networking civil society I can offer from my experience with Policy Innovations over the past year:

1. Multi-stakeholder approach - build your community and expand by finding overlapping communities;

2. It is a messy process - Some people will participate in networks, some people won't. But human networks are chaotic--as are neurological networks. Nevertheless the weight of successful networks creates a gravity that draws people in.

3. Try to share your knowledge and value with others and look for a place for every stakeholder. Often the people who come to you undergo a self-selecting process.

4. Treat every relationship ethically and with respect. This may need no explanation, but connecting networks requires that relationships are handled with respect.

5. Maintain your guiding ethos, but be prepared to expand, change, and reinvent your methods and delivery systems. The Internet and world are constantly changing; be prepared to rethink copyright and intellectual property.

Finally, the offline meeting and a shared ethos are crucial for online networking success.