April 28, 2012

Posted by orrinj at 7:49 AM


Greetings From the New Africa (RICHARD DOWDEN, 4/20/12, WSJ)

For Mr. Severino, in "Africa's Moment," what matters now is the demographics: the coming African population explosion and the mass movement of people from rural areas to towns. The population boom is partly due to a decline in infant mortality. According to the World Bank, in 1970 there were 136 deaths per thousand live births; by 2009, the number had dropped to 72.6. But the birthrate itself remains very high in many African nations. The U.S. fertility rate is estimated at 2.1, Europe's is 1.59. Sub-Saharan Africa's is estimated at 4.94. One simple fact is clear: Many Africans want to have many children.

Africa, Mr. Severino notes, had a fifth of the world's population in 1500 and then suffered four centuries of mortal disruption. It is only now catching up. But this raises a question. Historically, when populations have exploded--such as Europe's in the 19th century--the answer was emigration. But tomorrow's young Africans will have nowhere to go. The African population boom, Mr. Severino believes, will be "the most incredible demographic adventure that human history has ever known. A time neither for rejoicing nor for fear, but simply for recognizing the facts. . . . Africa's demographic advance over the next fifty years is unstoppable. The worst thing to do would be to ignore it."

"Africa's Moment" is a wake-up call. The book--which Mr. Severino wrote with Olivier Ray, one of his former colleagues at the French aid ministry--is a broad survey of contemporary Africa. Its message is simple: Look out world, here comes Africa. Early on, Mr. Severino dismisses Afro-pessimist theories that claim that the continent is immutable because of its culture or climate. He predicts that the Africa of the future will be urban. The cities will enable social freedom that will melt ethnic and cultural differences and allow people to form communities of choice.

Mr. Severino thinks that churches rather than the ethnic groups will be the particular glue that will bind people together in the future and offer them solidarity in hard times. The growth of evangelical Christianity all over Africa is an extraordinary recent phenomenon--whole communities forming around a single pastor. Funded by American fundamentalist churches, these pastors and preachers are quickly drawing members away from the traditional established churches.
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Posted by orrinj at 6:54 AM


Europe's Zero-Sum Dilemma (Gideon Rachman, May/June 2012, National Interest)

Even if both the EU and the single currency survive, the current crisis is likely to extract an economic and political price that makes a mockery of many of the original hopes invested in the European Union. The founding fathers of the EU--men such as Jean Monnet and Robert Schuman--built their project around a brilliant and simple proposition. The purpose of the European project when it got going in the 1950s was explicitly political. The idea was to move Europe beyond the terrible wars that had disfigured the Continent during the first half of the twentieth century. But, while the goal was political, the means were economic. The founding fathers aimed to build a new Europe by initially concentrating on small, practical steps that brought tangible economic benefits. The idea was that economic cooperation would create shared prosperity and foster the habit of cooperation. The old national rivalries would be replaced by a win-win logic built around economic integration. As Europeans got used to working together and saw the benefits, further and bolder steps could be taken toward the "ever closer union" spoken of in the 1957 Treaty of Rome.

For more than fifty years, this vision worked beautifully. Europe prospered and grew--and hugely expanded its powers. By 2007, the year before the financial crisis hit, the European Union encompassed twenty-seven members. The simple coal-and-steel community of the 1950s had been transformed into a European Union with a single market, a single currency, common borders, and a common foreign and security policy.

Then came the global financial crisis. A sharp economic downturn in Europe exposed important weaknesses within the Union. Above all, it became clear that many countries had been running up unsustainable debts. In the new economic climate, Greece, Portugal and Ireland proved unable to fund themselves through the markets and had to apply for bailouts from the rest of the European Union. The borrowing costs of Italy and Spain soared, raising the prospect that they too might have to apply for financial help. Given the size of the Italian and Spanish economies and the level of their debts, bailouts for Italy and Spain might simply be unaffordable for the rest of Europe.

The debt crisis within the European Union is a lot more than a transient economic difficulty. In fact, it directly threatens the underlying logic of the European project. In good times, building Europe was all about creating a win-win dynamic based on sharing the fruits of prosperity. But in bad economic times, this positive logic has gone into reverse. Rather than sharing the gains of prosperity, Europeans are now arguing about who should bear the losses associated with recession and the debt crisis. Win-win logic has been replaced by zero-sum logic in which one country's gain is another's loss.

After 50 years the nations are too enfeebled for their enmities to matter anymore.  The Marshall Plan rendered them helpless.

Posted by orrinj at 6:50 AM


I Was Wrong About Dick Cheney . . . : . . . and other lessons I learned from vetting vice-presidential candidates. (KARL ROVE

Choosing a running mate reveals much about the presidential candidate himself. Though still only a candidate, this is his first presidential decision.

It is one best made by asking about the skills, philosophy, outlook, work ethic and chemistry of a prospective running mate. Do they have good judgment? Can they be counted on to give their unvarnished opinion? Are they loyal? Who can best help the president govern? In other words, set aside politics. Put governing first.

This was brought home to me in 2000, when then-Gov. George W. Bush was strongly leaning toward picking Dick Cheney as his VP. He knew I was opposed and invited me to make the case against his idea. I came to our meeting armed with eight political objections. Mr. Bush heard me out but with a twist: I explained my objections with Mr. Cheney sitting, mute and expressionless, next to the governor.

The next day, Mr. Bush called to say I was right. There would be real political problems if he chose Mr. Cheney. So solve them, he said. Politics was my responsibility. His job was different: to select his best partner in the White House and a person the country would have confidence in if something terrible happened to him. The country was better served by Mr. Bush's decision than by my advice.

There's a lesson there for Mr. Romney. Choose the best person for the job. Leave the politics to the staff.

The nominee is often more likely to pick someone you can't imagine as president, so as not to feel threatened, which is why it is so often a legislator instead of an executive.  Consider Joe Biden.