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Synopsis: George Soros - The Bubble of American Supremacy
Jan 24, 2004, 10:32a

George Soros - The Bubble of American Supremacy: Correcting the Misuse of American Power

* International relations are relations of power, not law; power prevails and law legitimizes what prevails

* Religious fundamentalism combined with market fundamentalism form the ideology of American supremacy

* Criticism, which is essential in an open society, is stifled by being treated as unpatriotic

* Terror is being used as a pretext for war

* The 9/11 attacks should have been treated as crimes against humanity rather than a declaration of war. Starting a war creates innocent victims, and the more innocent victims there are, the greater the resentment and the better the chances that some of the victims will turn perpetrators

* Cycle of violence: (this is not the beginning but just a beginning)
- Post-WWI Allies Germans
- WWII Hitler/Germans Jews
- Post-WWII Jews British/Arabs
- Intifada Arabs Jews/US
- post-911 US/Jews Arabs

* In Jenin, it took 6 months and 50 inhabitants killed before the first suicide bomber emerged from that town

* Parallel between war on terrorism and war on drugs. The remedy is inappropriate to the disease. Drugs is a public health problem, not a crime problem. Terrorism is a crime, not a cause for war. In both cases, waging war is a false metaphor that can be used to justify repressive measures.

* Terrorism fills the role of communism as THE enemy

* Terrorism is a reflexive phenomenon: Its impact and development are precisely dependent on the actions and reactions of the victims

* Our nation must concern itself with the well-being of the world: preserving peace, assuring economic progress, protecting the environment, etc.

* Inaction is a cause

* Housing and auto sales are the 2 main factors that have kept the economy going

* Convexity in the mortgage market causes interest rates to rise even before unemployment has declined, which means that when the economy recovers, high interest rates go higher and put on the brakes

* It is in out own self-interest that the system we dominate should survive and flourish

* The great unsolved problem: how to protect the common interest in a world consisting of sovereign states that put their own interests before common interests

* States have interests, but no principles

* The global capitalist system allows finances to roam freely, even as the movement of people remains heavily regulated.

* One negative result of globalization is that the requirements of attracting intl capital can take precedence over other social objectives

* The advent of railroads, telegraphy, and telephony represented as great an acceleration in the 19th century as computer communications do at presente

* Private enterprise is better than wealth creation than the state

* The sum of GNP is not an adequate measure of human welfare

* The burden of taxation has shifted from the rich to the poor: taxes on capital and employment have come down while other forms of taxation, particularly on consumption, have increased

* Globalization has favored the pursuit of profit and the accumulation of private wealth over the provision of public goods

* Great disparities:
1) Between private and public goods, which cause growing inequality between rich and poor, within and among countries. Winners do not compensate losers within or between states.
- Total intl assistance was $56.5B in 2002, just 0.18% of global GDP.
- The richest 1% receive as much as the poorest 57%.
- 1.2B people live on less than $1 a day; 2.8B on less than $2 a day
- not caused by globalization, but not addressed by it either
2) Between center and periphery: Countries at the center enjoy significant advantages over those at the periphery
- they can borrow in their own currencies
3) Between good and bad governments: Countries that have good governments with functioning democracies are much more successful compared with countries with corrupt or repressive regimes or failed states.

READ: Kissinger's Diplomacy, Collier's Breaking the Conflict Trap: Civil War and Development Policy

* Challenges
1) How to intervene in the internal affairs of sovereign states
- if the abuses of power are severe enough and the people are deprived of opportunity to correct them, outside interference is justified
- focus on principle of people's sovereignty - "the responsibility to protect" - p 104
a) Offer help
b) Military intervention, only when the primary purpose of the intervention must be to halt or avert human suffering, with multilateral operations clearly supported by regional opinion and the victims concerned
2) How to ensure that the intervention serves the common interest

* The Soros Doctrine: The most effective way to prevent conflicts is by fostering the development of open societies around the world; or, from the Warsaw Declarations, it is in the interest of all democracies taken as a group to foster the development of democracy in all other countries.

IDEA: What if citizens of the world voted on UN propositions?

* Encourage the formation of a community of democracies


* Shortcomings of International Assistance
1) Foreign aid serves the interests of the donors rather than the recipients
2) Programs that are imported rather than homegrown rarely take root
3) Recipient governments often act as gatekeepers, diverting funds for their own purposes
4) Donors insist on retaining national control over the aid they provide, and there is not enough coordination among donors
5) Few recognize that international assistance is a high risk enterprise

* The stateless statesman: "You have principles but no interests." That has been my inspiration ever since.

* Foreign aid is more effective in the middle of the decade that follows a conflict or regime change than during or immediately after the conflict (research by Collier)

* The less democratic the recipient society, the more the aid should flow through nongovernmental civil society

* Development traps that worsen developing countries
- Resource curse: possession of natural resources seem to militate against peaceful development
- Conflict trap

* UN Millennium Development Goals (by 2015):
1) 1/2 the number of people suffering from extreme poverty and hunger
2) All children finish primary school
3) Eliminate gender disparity
4) 1/3 child mortality
5) 1/4 maternal mortality
6) Halt and reverse spread of HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases
7) 1/2 people without sustainable access to drinking water, and reverse loss of environmental resources
8) Develop global partnership for development

* Extremes
- conservatives liberals
geopolitical realists human rights idealists
natural rights open society

* SOROS VISION: The US ought to become the leader of a community of democracies, and change its behavior accordingly. It ought to lead by building genuine partnerships and abiding by the rules that it seeks to impose on others. Since peaceful cooperatives do not necessarily succeed, the US would still need to retain its military might, but this strength would serve to protect a just world order and would be seen as such by the rest of the world.

* The failure of central planning did not prove the validity of free enterprise

* Postulate of radical infallibility: all our constructs are flawed in one way or another.

* In financial markets and government actions, a boom-bust can get underway in which the prevailing interpretation and reality itself are propelled into far-from-equilibrium territory.

* We can make true statements about situations in which we don't participate

* Participating and understanding interfere with each other, ensuring that our understanding is inherently imperfect and that our actions have unintended consequences.

* REFLEXIVITY: The 2-way connection between thinking and reality.

* Fertile fallacy: Starting with a valid idea and extending it to areas in which it no longer applies. (this idea is at best a fertile fallacy as well)

* We must treat our beliefs as provisionally true while keeping them open to constant reexamination. (foundation principle of open society)

* Human uncertainty principle: The discovery or introduction of a new general principle can change the behavior of human participants.

* The US can choose to continue to be the leader of the free world WITHOUT being a superpower but as a multilateral leader. (During Coldwar, US could be both superpower and leader of the free world, interests and ideals aligned. Now it must choose a different road.)

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