Best known for identifying the world's poorest "bottom billion" in his 2007 book of the same name, Paul Collier has long insisted that bad governance is most to blame for global poverty and that the West should stop cozying up to dictators who enable the worst abuses. His 2009 book, Wars, Guns, and Votes, controversially called on Western countries to condone foreign military coups in response to sham elections, while suppressing rebellions against politicians elected fairly. Thus, according to Collier, the international community could at least delegitimize -- and perhaps even help topple -- the world's most corrupt and anti-democratic leaders.
Then came 2011, and a string of the dictators Collier had long been railing against finally bit the dust. Not only was the international community following Collier's advice and hardening against corrupt leaders, but, as he wrote for Foreign Policy, the "bottom-up force of information technology" and the pressures of foreign influence have been "an excruciating squeeze even on the world's seemingly most secure incumbents of power." A good thing, too: It's the only way that the bottom billion will ever move out of misery.
Muse Martin Wolf.
Stimulus or austerity? Stimulus -- but spend big on investment while trimming consumption so as to improve the balance sheet.
America or China? China -- but rocky not rocket.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? Spring.
Reading list Pillars of Prosperity, by Timothy Besley and Thorsten Persson; The Memory Chalet, by Tony Judt; Arrival City, by Doug Saunders.
Best idea John Kay's analogy of the "dollar bill auction" to the euro crisis.
Worst idea Heard at Jackson Hole: To resolve the U.S. economic crisis, we need to return government spending and the fiscal deficit to pre-crisis levels as fast as possible.
If there is a living symbol of this year's Mediterranean meltdown, it is Silvio Berlusconi, whose "bunga bunga" parties and maladroit governance have made Italy a global laughingstock -- and, more seriously, a major drag on the entire European project. The Italian prime minister, finally headed for the exits after 24 dodged lawsuits since he first took power in 1994. In no small measure it was thanks to Ilda Boccassini, a prosecutor based in Milan.
Dubbed "Ilda la Rossa" ("Ilda the Red") for her fiery hair and left-leaning politics, Boccassini is known for her daring investigations into some of Italy's most notorious mafia clans. Since the early 1990s, however, Berlusconi has been her chief quarry, and she finally seems to have caught him this year for allegedly paying a 17-year-old for sex and abusing his position to hide the act. The prime minister denies it, but tens of thousands of wiretaps, ordered by Boccassini's office, have revealed the decadence of Berlusconi's bacchanals -- and the corruption and callousness of Italian politics in the midst of a financial crisis. Berlusconi's unforgettable quotes rank up there with the worst scandals exposed by WikiLeaks.
Despite strenuous pushback from the flamboyant PM's media empire, Boccassini has quietly proceeded with putting the entire corrupt system of Berlusconismo on trial. As she said last year of the mafia, "Either you are with the state or you are against the state." Even if you think you own the state.
Thomas Friedman popularized the idea that the world is flat -- and now he thinks it's cracking up. The New York Times foreign-affairs columnist argues that today's hyperconnected world has made the planet's have-nots more aware of their predicament and thus more eager to rebel against the indolent and corrupt elites above them. But Friedman has done more than catalog the wreckage of the Great Recession -- he has laid out a blueprint for how the United States can reclaim its status as the world's greatest nation. In That Used to Be Us, co-authored with Johns Hopkins University professor Michael Mandelbaum, Friedman delivers what he describes as a "wake-up call" to America, making the case that the war against al Qaeda was a dangerous distraction from the home front and that a third party is needed to restore American greatness.
For Friedman, American anxiety over the "rise of the rest" is caused primarily by the realization that the U.S. political system is increasingly bogged down in partisan infighting and bureaucratic paralysis. Commenting on Republican presidential candidates Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann's climate-change denialism, he implored them to sell their wares elsewhere -- as he put it, "we really are all stocked up on crazy right now."
Stimulus or austerity? Both.
America or China? America.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? It is an Arab Awakening and will take all four seasons for many years.