- Mark Wu on Putting Aside Currency Concerns In anticipation of Chinese president Hu Jintao's visit to Washington this week, New York Times contributor Mark Wu would like to urge American leaders to keep the discussion focused on "more vexing issues like North Korea, Iran and bilateral trade," and not get hung up on China's currency. Many in the United States fear that the flexibility of the exchange rate between the Chinese renminbi and the American dollar is having a negative impact on the American job market, but Wu provides several explanations for why this idea is blown out of proportion. "Don't get me wrong: China's currency policies have led to unhealthy artificial distortions in the Chinese and world economy. They also fuel currency wars that threaten to undermine the cooperation needed to sustain a global recovery," he clarifies, but argues that the currency issue should not take center stage at this particular meeting. "The issue is best left to the Group of 20," he suggests. "For this is as much the rest of the world's problem as it is ours."
- Francis Fukuyama on the Success of the Chinese Government Model This other piece coming ahead of Hu Jintao's visit takes a different angle. Famed political economist Francis Fukuyama comments in the Financial Times on the transfer in moral high ground from the United States to China. America's capitalist democracy model was once "seen as the way of the future," he writes. The Chinese model is more difficult to emulate and much less defined--but it works. This is why, argues Fukuyama, the American hope for a democratic transition in China is very unlikely. "The government knows how to cater to the interests of Chinese elites and the emerging middle classes, and builds on their fear of populism," he explains. "This is why there is little support for genuine multi-party democracy." China makes quick decisions, as opposed to the United States, which "prides itself on constitutional checks and balances, based on a political culture that distrusts centralized government." While this may make American democracy more legitimate than the Chinese model, Fukuyama argues that the U.S. must find away to work past the rigidity and polarization of the American model if it wants to continue to succeed globally as it has in the past.
- Joseph Goldstein on the Aging, Senile Federal Courts Joseph Goldstein at Slate notes that although 13 percent of Americans over 65 have Alzheimers and 12 percent of the country's federal district judges are pushing at least 80, there are no procedures in place to test their mental fitness. Goldstein says this lapse is wreaking havoc in the courts, with judges confusing testimony, accidentally depriving defendants of their rights, and jeopardizing what it means to have an effective and fair judicial system. "Life tenure, intended to foster judicial independence, has been a unique feature of the federal bench since the Constitution was ratified in 1789." Yet "today, aging and dementia are the flip side of life tenure."
- The Los Angeles Times on Jean-Claude 'Baby Doc' Duvalier's return to Haiti With an election plagued with fraud allegations and a country still reeling from last year's earthquake, editors at the Los Angeles Times say the last thing Haiti needs is the return of one-time dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier. In fact, it's unclear to the editors how he was allowed back into the country in the first place. Say the editors:
[Current president Rene] Preval can best bring a measure of calm to his country--and the prospect of international help--by embracing the OAS report [about fraud] and holding a legitimate runoff election. But first he should either bring Duvalier to justice or, if the judiciary isn't up to the chore, escort the former president to the Port-au-Prince airport and buy him a seat--economy class--back to France.
- Josef Joffe on Why Tunisia Won't Be Start of Arab Democracy Wave At The New Republic, Josef Joffe says anyone thinking that recent events in Tunisia are going to kick off a spate of revolutions in the Middle East will be disappoitned. The reason, he says, comes down to money; while the majority of the Arab world is struggling with poverty and lack of education (among other issues) Tunisia is relatively prosperous, and thus can, bizarrely, afford revolution where others can't. Here's the explanation: "If you are poor, you have neither the time nor the energy to engage in politics. If you are not educated, you lack the cultural skills to articulate your demands--to agitate and organize." Finally, "if you are poor, uneducated, and thus isolated, as much of the Arab world is, then you have no benchmark against which to measure your misery."
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