One cold February morning in 2021, the U.S. president comes hat in hand to the China-dominated International Monetary Fund to request emergency financing to shore up an American economy racked by more than a decade of anemic growth and spiraling debt. In exchange, the Chinese demand -- and receive -- the withdrawal of American naval bases from the Pacific and an onerous restructuring of the U.S. budget.
That, at least, is the gloomy scenario that begins economist Arvind Subramanian's new book, Eclipse: Living in the Shadow of China's Economic Dominance. To hear Subramanian tell it, China is not just looming ever larger in America's rearview mirror -- it has already sped by. He argues that most estimates greatly understate China's economic weight and that the Asian powerhouse's purchasing power actually surpassed that of the United States in 2010. And China's demographic advantages mean there's not much the United States can do about it. "Dominance," he warns, "might be more China's to lose than America's to retain."
Muse As for all times, Gandhi.
Stimulus or austerity? Stimulus now, austerity later.
America or China? America.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? Prolonged autumn.
Reading list To the End of the Land, by David Grossman; The Prospector, by Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio; Why the West Rules -- for Now, by Ian Morris.
Best idea Need to tether China to the multilateral system.
Worst idea Government is the problem in the United States.
"It's more fun to be a pirate than to join the navy," the late Steve Jobs once said. No one had to tell Rick Falkvinge, founder and chief evangelist of the growing global Pirate Party movement. A former software entrepreneur and Microsoft employee, Falkvinge founded the original party in Sweden in 2006. It rose to prominence following a government crackdown on the Pirate Bay file-sharing site, and Pirate parties are now active in more than 25 countries.
Indeed, 2011 may be remembered as the year Falkvinge's big idea broke through into the public consciousness. His Pirates still aren't exactly mainstream, but the issues they focus on -- government transparency, Internet privacy, and copyright law -- are very much in the zeitgeist, and their ranks are growing. The Swedish and Swiss Pirate parties have aided WikiLeaks, offering the controversial site server space and web hosting; a self-described Pirate Party activist was named secretary of youth and sports in Tunisia's revolutionary cabinet; and in September, the Pirates won a shocking 8.9 percent of the vote in Berlin's state elections.
Falkvinge also made Internet waves this year with his high-profile advocacy of Bitcoin, a digital currency that is either the future of global commerce or a high-tech form of money laundering -- depending on whom you ask.
Muse John Stuart Mill.
Stimulus or austerity? Letting the banks fail in the first place. That would negate the need for this follow-up question.
America or China? Neither. Brazil and India.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? It's going to be a long process that spans well over one season, but people are going to demand being involved in the running of their countries all over the world.
Reading list Guns, Germs, and Steel, by Jared Diamond; Peopleware, by Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister; Information Feudalism, by Peter Drahos with John Braithwaite.
Best idea Bitcoin. Distributed cryptocurrency will change the economic game entirely, wrestling financial power from banks and governments.
Worst idea Anything related to harder enforcement of the copyright monopoly, escalating tensions further.
If Teodoro Petkoff's résumé -- student demonstrator, guerrilla fighter, economic policymaker, journalist -- is an archetypal Latin American intellectual's, so is his role in Hugo Chávez's Venezuela: the newspaper editor-cum-opposition leader. Since quitting government service 12 years ago, the irrepressible Petkoff has used his editorial posts -- as well as a short-lived 2006 presidential bid -- to establish himself as one of the most prominent and persistent critics of Venezuela's red-shirted president.
When a pro-Chávez National Assembly granted the president expanded executive powers over the economy, courts, and individual rights last December, Petkoff wrote, "Chávez has begun to take the path of dictatorship." When the government pushed through a minimum-wage hike in April, complicating efforts to control Venezuela's alarming 27 percent inflation, Petkoff warned that policymakers had gotten themselves "stuck in a swamp of quicksand." After Chávez returned from cancer treatment this summer as a self-professed changed man just in time for next year's polls, Petkoff wryly noted the "very clear electoral campaign message" in the president's newfound moderation. Against a backdrop of steadily shrinking media freedom in Venezuela, Petkoff's crusade is an increasingly necessary one.
Stéphane Hessel has a fair claim to being the world's most interesting man: He's the son of the real-life model for the woman in Jules et Jim, a French Resistance fighter during World War II who survived torture in Buchenwald, and a concentration-camp escapee who later helped Eleanor Roosevelt edit the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Even at 94, when he talks, people listen. So when he published a pamphlet-length book last year, Indignez-Vous! (published in English as Time for Outrage), people bought it -- by the millions around the world, making Hessel a bona fide publishing phenomenon. The book is a short polemic, an old lefty's impassioned cri de coeur against a society that has forgotten the postwar values of tolerance and social responsibility and fallen under what Hessel calls the "international dictatorship of the financial markets." It struck a major chord in a year when everyone, it seemed, was indignant about something. When protesters in Spain began calling themselves los indignados, it was clear that Hessel's message had leapt borders. "The basic motive of the Resistance was indignation," Hessel writes. "We, veterans of the French Resistance … call on you, our younger generations, to revive and carry forward the heritage and ideals of the Resistance. Here is our message: It's time to take over!"
Stimulus or austerity? Stimulus.
America or China? America.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? Arab Summer.
Reading list La révolution arabe: Dix leçons sur le soulèvement démocratique, by Jean-Pierre Filiu; La Voie, by Edgar Morin; Le triomphe de la cupidité, by Joseph Stiglitz.
Best idea Build a strong Europe.
Worst idea Continue the war in Afghanistan.