I had the good luck to again attend this year's Aspen Ideas Festival last week -- the second annual gathering of what I predict will become a healthy competitor to Davos. As at Davos, most participants pay (though much less and they need not be CEOs), and some are put to work on panels and presentations. The objective is to foment and celebrate ideas - an important difference from Davos, where networking seems to be at a premium.
Development issues were, you might say, mainstreamed -- popping up naturally under this year's defined themes which included global dynamics, the world economy, democracy and citizenship.
A few highlights:
My favorite idea, from Shashi Tharoor on a panel I shared, Does Globalization Undermine Democracy, with him and Ragu Rajan: Democracy is like love: It has to come from within. Globalization can only provide the soft music and candlelight . . .
Benjamin Friedman spoke about his new book, The Moral Consequence of Economic Growth, which he argues are wholly fine, by the way. The other side of the coin: social pathologies that follow when economies don't grow and people don't expect progress: such as anti-immigration fervor in the U.S. -- in the 1880s, the 1920a, and, he fears, since 2000 -- because since 2000 median wages have fallen in the U.S. (On immigration as global labor mobility, see Lant Pritchett's CGD Working Paper, Boom Towns and Ghost Countries: Geography, Agglomeration, and Population Mobility. )
George Ayittey of Free Africa Foundation and American University: Socialism is alien to Africa. It was a reaction to the capitalism of the colonialists. And the concentration of power in post-colonial Africa in rapacious heads of state? A reaction to the "Western" idea of democracy.. . . NEPAD is a whitewash of recent elections... but now we have a Cheetah generation in Africa (fleet of foot and sound of mind he means) to succeeed the Hippo generation (that was stuck in power for too long). . . . Referring to foreign aid: Africa's begging bowl leaks horribly.
Arthur Mutumbara of Zimbabwe to the West: Don't have double standards. When you say you believe in human rights and democracy, how can you be friends with Musharraf?
Larry Summers on sustainable development: I yield to no one in my commitment that much more needs to be done....profound missed opportunities in the developing world....(but) ....the highest morality is in hard-edged view of (tradeoff between) saving lives now and needs of future generations.
And one participant in the session on sustainable development: When is enough (growth of companies, of countries) enough?
And on the state of the United States especially in relation to the rest of the world:
Jack Kemp on the U.S. government deficits and the burden of taxes: At least a drunken sailor spends his own money...(pdf)
Michael Sandel: The "skyboxification" of America.....
David Gergen: The leadership in this country is failing our children. . . We all want skyboxes for our children....but what we need are experiences of mixing with other types ....
David Kennedy: Today's U.S. active military forces are 1/25th the size of those in WWII. And with lethal and efficient weaponry....means we can deploy our forces without claims on our population or on our economy. . .