ATHENS – Like Macbeth, policymakers tend to commit new sins to cover up their old misdemeanors. And political systems prove their worth by how quickly they put an end to their officials’ serial, mutually reinforcing, policy mistakes. Judged by this standard, the eurozone, comprising 19 established democracies, lags behind the largest non-democratic economy in the world.
PARIS – Global growth disappoints again. A year ago, the International Monetary Fund expected world output to rise 4% in 2015. Now the Fund is forecasting 3.3% for the year – about the same as in 2013 and 2014, and more than a full percentage point below the 2000-2007 average.
BAGHDAD – Europe’s migration debate has taken a disturbing turn. It began with the creation of the catch-all concept (a legal freak) of a “migrant,” which obscures the difference, central to the law, between economic and political migration, between people escaping poverty and those driven from their homes by war. Unlike economic migrants, those fleeing oppression, terror, and massacre have an inalienable right to asylum, which entails an unconditional obligation by the international community to provide shelter.
MUNICH – The aging of our societies is one of the greatest success stories of the twentieth century. More than three decades have been added to the lives of hundreds of millions of people over the last hundred years.
NEW YORK –The United Nations will mark its 70th anniversary when world leaders assemble next month at its headquarters in New York. Though there will be plenty of fanfare, it will inadequately reflect the UN’s value, not only as the most important political innovation of the twentieth century, but also as the best bargain on the planet.
PALO ALTO – Since the development of the science of toxicology in the sixteenth century, its guiding principle has been that “the dose makes the poison.” It is a rule that applies to the medicines used by patients worldwide many billions of times a day. The right dose of aspirin can be a therapeutic godsend, but consuming too much can be lethal. The principle even applies to foods: Large amounts of nutmeg or licorice are notoriously toxic.
LAGUNA BEACH – Oil prices have been heading south again, with a barrel of US crude recently falling below $42 – the lowest level since March 2009, the nadir of the global financial crisis. And, while last year’s sharp price drop was heavily influenced by two large supply shocks, the current decline also has an important demand dimension.
STANFORD – There is no doubt that Earth is undergoing the sixth mass extinction in its history – the first since the cataclysm that wiped out the dinosaurs some 65 million years ago. According to one recent study, species are going extinct between ten and several thousand times faster than they did during stable periods in the planet’s history, and populations within species are vanishing hundreds or thousands of times faster than that. By one estimate, Earth has lost half of its wildlife during the past 40 years. There is also no doubt about the cause: We are it.
NEW YORK – Most of the world’s governments – eager to mobilize more tax revenues to finance development and curb pervasive tax-avoidance schemes, such as those revealed in the so-called Luxembourg Leaks scandal last year – have an interest in collaborating on taxation matters.
WASHINGTON, DC – When Pope Francis visited Latin America in July, he made an impassioned plea for the protection of the Amazon rainforest and the people who live there. “Our common home is being pillaged, laid waste and harmed with impunity,” he told activists gathered in Bolivia for the World Meeting of Popular Movements. “Cowardice in defending it is a grave sin.”