Opinion

Trump’s Corporate Lackeys

LONDON – In mid-August, alt-right, neo-Nazi, and white supremacist groups, including the Ku Klux Klan, gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia, for a demonstration that ended with a white supremacist driving a car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing one and injuring 19. President Donald Trump responded not by condemning the racist terror, but rather by blaming “many sides” for the violence. For many members of his manufacturing council and the Strategy and Policy Forum, it was the last straw. But the camel’s back actually broke a long time ago.


The first few council members who resigned were labeled “grandstanders” by Trump. But then a trickle of resignations became a wave, and Trump, apparently fearful of a full-scale revolt by the business leaders who were supposed to advise him, quickly dissolved the two economic councils, tweeting that he didn’t want to put pressure on their members.

Perhaps he need not have worried. Yes, some members of Trump’s business advisory bodies took a stand. But it was too little, too late. After all, as appalling as Trump’s response to the events in Charlottesville was, no one could credibly claim to have been shocked by it. On the contrary, from day one, there were clear signs that this administration was toxic. Even the councils themselves were little more than a tool for boosting Trump’s ego, by stoking his self-image as a businessman’s businessman.

Yet, while a few council members resigned after Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris climate agreement, the majority remained, owing to an overriding desire for prestige and access. They participated in photo opportunities wearing painted-on smiles, nodding and shaking one another’s hands. They surely relished sharing anecdotes with their investors and boards that began with, “When I was at the White House last week …”

Blatant ethics violations? Check. Repeated lies regarding ties with Russia? Check. Tweeted threats of nuclear war? Check. Only when Trump implicitly validated literal Nazism did they feel compelled to weigh their options.

These business leaders cannot credibly claim that they believed, until last week, that they could be a moderating influence on Trump. If that were the case, there would have been some indication of it over the last seven months. But there was none. On the contrary, Trump repeatedly went off script, revealing beliefs and feelings that showed him in the worst possible light.

In fact, by choosing to remain on Trump’s councils for so long, these business leaders implicitly endorsed his authority, which, as he showed time and again, he was unfit to wield. For members of Trump’s economic councils, no less than for members of his administration, standing beside the president amounted to standing with him. In effect, these leaders validated Trump’s outrageous positions on a broad range of issues, from his plan to build a wall with Mexico to his repeated attempts to bar citizens of several Muslim-majority countries from entering the US.

No one should underestimate the impact of this stance. Trump’s economic councils comprised the heads of some of the world’s largest companies. Their actions matter. Their decision to associate themselves with an administration launching repeated assaults on democratic principles is highly significant – and not just for the US. In fact, the firms that were represented – such as Walmart, PepsiCo, JPMorgan Chase, and General Motors – together affect the lives of most people on the planet.

Within their firms, these leaders espouse the importance of diversity and action to combat climate change. They claim to value their role as global stakeholders. They tout their standing in America’s “best employers” rankings. But, by choosing to remain silent about Trump’s behavior and policies, such assertions became worthless.

In a global context, continued collaboration with Trump’s White House should be viewed as akin to doing business with – and thereby propping up – corrupt governments. With the exception of the Soviet bloc, no modern dictatorship has been established and sustained without the supporting role of business, be it diamond and coltan mining in conflict zones in Africa or oil companies in the Niger Delta. Companies like Bayer and BASF (then part of chemical giant IG Farben), Siemens, and the Volkswagen Group are still remembered for having profited from their close collaboration with the Nazis.

CEOs worldwide must recognize not just their influence and authority – of which most are probably quite proud – but also their responsibility to advance humane values and goals. They must stand for something greater than their own self-interest or the returns they are delivering to investors. If the moral imperative of standing up to oppression is not enough to drive a company to act, perhaps the need to protect the company’s reputation will be.

One might argue that, now that Trump’s economic councils have been disbanded, the issue is moot. But companies’ responsibility extends beyond participation in those councils. Now is not a time for politicking or parsing words. Business leaders must stand up and show genuine leadership, integrity, and respect for ethics. They must make clear that they do not stand with Trump, as he drives his country toward destruction.

This does not apply just to Trump or the US. Business leaders everywhere should use their influence to stand up to authoritarian governments wherever they are in the world. They and their companies have never been more powerful. They should be using their might to fight for a better future, not for a seat at the tyrant’s table.

Lucy P. Marcus is CEO of Marcus Venture Consulting.

By Lucy P. Marcus

A Better Investment Framework for Africa

BERLIN – Africa’s enormous economic potential is not news. But, until now, policymakers around the world have not successfully defined the political and economic steps that must be taken to enable Africa to realize this potential fully. That is why the German G20 presidency has launched its G20 Africa Partnership initiative.


At the core of this effort to intensify cooperation with Africa lies the G20 Compact with Africa (CWA). The CWA offers interested African countries the opportunity to improve conditions for private investment, including in infrastructure.

The CWA’s structure is straightforward: African countries, together with their bilateral partners and international financial organizations with proven expertise on Africa (such as the African Development Bank, the World Bank Group, and the International Monetary Fund), will jointly develop, coordinate, and implement tailor-made measures. The main aim is to lower the level of risk for private investments, by improving economic and financial conditions and strengthening institutions. Over time, the resulting increase in investment will boost growth and productivity, create jobs, and raise living standards, as envisioned in the African Union’s own Agenda 2063 program.

The CWA stands for a new approach in international development policy. Of course, we are not reinventing the wheel. But the mode of cooperation and coordination among the many bilateral and multilateral players, as well as the commitment of the African countries, is something new.

We view the CWA as a long-term, demand-driven process. It is open to all African countries that are interested in improving their investment environment on a sustainable basis. But, most important, the decision-makers are the African countries themselves. They will determine what they want to do to improve conditions for private investment, with whom they want to cooperate, and in what form. Only if the African countries “own” the initiative will it be a success.

So far, five African countries – Côte d’Ivoire, Morocco, Rwanda, Senegal, and Tunisia – have committed to full participation in the CWA. Ghana and Ethiopia will join this month.

CWA countries, the international financial organizations, and bilateral partners are working closely together on the details of the country-specific compacts. At the G20 meeting in Baden-Baden in March, some members – and also non-G20 countries – indicated that they would like to become bilateral partners. The German government will also contribute via the bilateral framework – called a “Marshall Plan with Africa” – developed by our Federal Ministry for Economic Development and Cooperation.

Our main job, however, is to bring private investors and African countries together. With the upcoming G20 Africa Partnership Conference in Berlin on June 12-13, we will provide a platform for these African countries to reach out to investors in order to enhance the continent’s engagement with the private sector. CWA countries will present the key elements of their investment compacts in a roundtable with investors. They will also outline the key industries and infrastructure projects for which they are seeking private funds.

After the Berlin meeting, the implementation phase of the CWA initiative will start. The country teams will further specify their compact measures and consider the milestones for their implementation. At this point, dialogue with investors will be particularly significant, because such conversations will help African countries to establish which measures and instruments are crucial for engagement with the private sector.

To be successful, this initiative cannot focus on short-term results. It needs to continue beyond Germany’s G20 presidency in 2017/2018 and to be supported by the G20 over the longer term. Germany, of course, will continue to take responsibility for the CWA’s implementation. The G20 will be informed on a regular basis about how the investment compacts develop.

Most important, by sending a signal to other African countries, progress in the participating countries will determine whether the CWA becomes a success for all of Africa. If all parties involved – African countries, international organizations, bilateral partners, and, not least, investors – collaborate closely, the CWA has the capacity to promote sustainable, robust, and inclusive economic growth throughout the continent.

Wolfgang Schäuble is Germany’s Federal Minister of Finance.

Are Nazis as American as Apple Pie?

NEW HAVEN – Is the United States threatened by Nazism? The short answer is no, notwithstanding the frightening events in Charlottesville, Virginia, this past weekend.


In Charlottesville, the home of the University of Virginia, founded by Thomas Jefferson, white nationalists, separatists, neo-Nazis, members of the Ku Klux Klan, and other likeminded groups rallied behind Swastika banners and marched in a Nazi-style torchlight procession. By the end of the next day, there had also been thuggish violence. One white supremacist went so far as to drive a car into a crowd of counter-protestors, killing one and injuring 19 others.

The groups responsible for the violence in Charlottesville reveled in US President Donald Trump’s election last November. And Trump has often hesitated to disavow them; during the election campaign, when former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke publicly backed him, Trump was scandalously slow to reject Duke and his followers. Trump also repeatedly incited violence during the campaign, while evincing a bottomless affection for authoritarian leaders such as Russian President Vladimir Putin.

After the events in Charlottesville, Trump initially offered a bland statement that condemned hate “on many sides,” thereby drawing a moral equivalence between the racists and those who gathered to oppose them. Two days later, under intensifying pressure, Trump issued a more forceful statement, in which he explicitly condemned the KKK, neo-Nazis, and other white supremacists, only to revert the following day to blaming “both sides” for the violence.

All of this is abhorrent. But any sober observer can see that the US is still a long way from the nightmarish atmosphere of Germany in 1933. American democratic institutions are holding up, just as they did in the crisis years of the 1930s. Opposition parties have not been banned, and the courts have not lost their independent authority.

Moreover, Trump is not the supreme leader of a political party with a paramilitary arm. There are no facilities such as Dachau, Auschwitz, or Treblinka under construction. Even Trump’s planned border wall with Mexico remains stuck in the planning stage, with no funding from the US Congress. And Congress is not about to pass an Enabling Act conferring dictatorial powers on the president, as the Reichstag did for Hitler in March 1933. Last but not least, the American press is more tenacious and energized than it has been in years.

Trump’s yearning for authoritarian rule is clear for all to see. But he will not achieve it. There will be no Nazi dictatorship in America.

But whether America is threatened by such a dictatorship is not the right question. American democratic institutions might be holding up, but history has taught us that they are not immune to the machinations of racially virulent political programs. In fact, the US produced some of the laws that would later serve as a foundation for the Nazi movement in Germany.

America, with its vibrant democratic institutions, was the leading racist jurisdiction in the world in the early twentieth century. An obvious example is the Jim Crow South, where white legislatures passed laws imposing racial segregation and reversing many of the gains of the post-Civil War Reconstruction period. But that is hardly the only example. Those on the far right in Europe also admired America’s early-twentieth-century immigration policies, which were designed to exclude “undesirable” races. In his manifesto Mein Kampf, Hitler singled out America as “the one state” that was progressing toward the creation of a healthy race-based order.

Indeed, during this period, 30 US states had anti-miscegenation laws intended to safeguard racial purity. America’s democratic institutions did not stand in the way of such policies in the early twentieth century. On the contrary, anti-miscegenation laws were the product of America’s democratic system, which gave full voice to many Americans’ racism. And US courts upheld these legal innovations, using flexible common-law precedents to decide who would acquire the privileged status of “white.”

The Nazis paid close attention. As they concocted their own racial statutes – the Nuremberg Laws of 1935 – they pored over American race law as a model.

So today, instead of asking whether American institutions will survive the Trump presidency, we must ask how American institutions can be put in the service of wrongful ends. After all, while America’s early-twentieth-century race laws are gone, it still has the same overheated democratic order and common-law flexibility that it had back then. These institutions might no longer produce Jim Crow laws; but the American criminal-justice system, for example, remains a poster child for institutionalized racism.

Americans should be ashamed that their country’s institutions laid the groundwork for Nazi race law. But they should not be worrying about the threat of renascent Nazism, despite Trump’s clear ambivalence in condemning white supremacists. Rather, Americans should worry about the potential of their institutions to facilitate evils that are, as loath as we are to admit it, as American as apple pie.

James Q. Whitman is Professor of Comparative and Foreign Law at Yale Law School, and the author of Hitler’s American Model: The United States and the Making of Nazi Race Law.

By James Q. Whitman

Surviving America’s Political Meltdown

NEW YORK – The US is in the midst of a political meltdown, unable to manage a domestic economic agenda or a coherent foreign policy. The White House is in turmoil; Congress is paralyzed; and the world is looking on in astonishment and dread. If we are to survive and overcome this collapse, we must understand its sources.

There are two power centers in Washington, DC: the White House and the Capitol. Both are in disarray, but for different reasons. The dysfunctionality of the White House is largely a matter of President Donald Trump’s personality. To many experts, Trump’s behavior – grandiose self-regard, pathological lying, lack of remorse or guilt, expressive shallowness, parasitic lifestyle, impulsiveness, failure to accept responsibility for his own actions, and short-term marital relationships – are symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder.

The consequences could be dire. Pathological narcissists have a tendency to indulge in violent conflicts and wars (think of Lyndon Johnson and Vietnam or of Andrew Jackson and the ethnic cleansing of Native Americans). At a minimum, Trump lacks the psychological characteristics needed for constructive governance: honesty, dignity, competence, empathy, relevant experience, and the capacity to plan. According to some observers, Trump also shows signs of diminished mental capacity.

The hope in Washington is that “adults in the room” will keep Trump’s dangerous tendencies in check. But the “adults” in Trump’s administration are increasingly military figures rather than civilians, including three generals (John Kelly, the new White House Chief of Staff, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, and Secretary of Defense James Mattis). Wise civilian leaders are the key to peace, especially given that America’s vast war machine is always revving. Recall John F. Kennedy’s military advisers, who advocated war during the Cuban Missile Crisis, or consider Mattis’s anti-Iran belligerence.

There are two other escape valves: the 25th Amendment, which charts a course for removing a president who is unable to discharge the responsibilities of office, and impeachment for “high crimes and misdemeanors.” Both measures are extreme in the US constitutional order, and both would depend on the agreement of Republican leaders. Nonetheless, one or the other may prove necessary and even urgent in the event that Trump’s psychological instability or political weakness leads him to launch a war.

The political meltdown in Congress is less dramatic, but serious nonetheless. There, the cause is not a personality disorder; it’s money. The legislative branch has been deeply corrupted by corporate lobbying and campaign contributions. Two brothers, the industrialists David and Charles Koch, worth a combined $100 billion, virtually own the votes, and voices, of Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The result is politically perverse. Ryan and McConnell relentlessly push legislation favored by the Koch Brothers rather than the American people. The attempted repeal of President Barack Obama’s signature health-care legislation, the 2010 Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) had nothing to do with voters’ views or interests; it was simply what the Koch brothers (and other Republican mega-donors) wanted.

That’s why the repeal legislation was kept secret until the last moment and was never subjected to expert testimony or analysis – or even considered by a Congressional committee. The legislation could pass only if it was hidden from view and voted on in the middle of the night. In the end, three Republican senators jumped ship, siding with the American people rather than with the Kochs.

Between Trump’s narcissism and the Koch brothers’ money, the US government has become a shambles. Washington is still filled with many smart and talented people of both parties, but America’s political institutions and formal processes are diminished. The federal government is hemorrhaging scientific expertise, as researchers leave or are purged, and as agency budgets are targeted for deep cuts. Seasoned diplomats are flooding out of the State Department. Lobbyists, meanwhile, are installing cronies and hacks throughout the government.

Through the din, new drumbeats of war can be heard, most ominously against Iran and North Korea. Is it posturing or real? Nobody knows. Trump’s foreign and military policies are now announced in early-morning tweets, without the foreknowledge of the White House staff or senior officials. The situation is dangerous and deteriorating.

I suggest three immediate steps, and a fourth longer-term step.

The first step is to take Trump off Twitter. The US – and the world – needs public policy by consultation and deliberation, not one man’s worsening pathology. The American people, by a large margin, concur that Trump’s tweets are hurting national security and the presidency.

Second, congressional leaders should agree, on a bipartisan basis, to constrain Trump’s belligerent proclivities. Article I, Section 8 of the US Constitution vests the authority to declare war with Congress, and Congress needs to reassert that authority now, before it’s too late.

Third, the world’s major powers – most urgently, America’s NATO allies, China, and Russia – should make clear that any unilateral US attack on Iran or North Korea would constitute a grave and illegal violation of the peace, and that matters of war and peace must be agreed within the UN Security Council. If the US had heeded the UN Security Council’s collective wisdom in the recent past, it would have avoided several ongoing disasters, including the chaos in Iraq, Libya, and Syria, and saved trillions of dollars and many hundreds of thousands of lives.

The fourth, longer-term step is constitutional reform to move away the US away from its volatile presidential system to a parliamentary system, or at least to a mixed presidential-parliamentary system, as in France. The power of the president – and therefore the danger of a runaway presidency – is far too great.

Much more needs to be done to restore democratic legitimacy in the US, including introduction of stricter limits on campaign financing and lobbying. First and foremost, however, we must survive the dangerous Trump presidency by preserving the peace.

Jeffrey D. Sachs, Professor of Sustainable Development and Professor of Health Policy and Management at Columbia University, is Director of Columbia’s Center for Sustainable Development and the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network.

By Jeffrey D. Sachs

Britain’s Road to Perdition

LONDON – Full English Brexit is off the menu. Before leaving the European Union altogether, the British government now wants an “interim period,” in which the United Kingdom would retain the commercial rights of EU membership, while still contributing to the EU budget, observing EU regulations and legal judgments, and allowing the free movement of people. This period would last for at least two years after March 2019 – the official deadline for the Brexit process – meaning that until 2021, Britain would essentially be an EU member state without any voting rights.


In the meantime, British Prime Minister Theresa May’s government, having promised to maintain a “deep and special” relationship with Europe, would try to negotiate a new “treaty-based arrangement” with the EU. But Britain will have a vanishingly small chance of concluding a new treaty in so short a time.

Indeed, come 2021, the UK will still be hurtling toward a “cliff edge”: a full break from Europe, with no alternative arrangement in place to cushion the blow. Politically, that timing would pose even greater risks for May’s government than it faces today, since the next general election must be held by June 2022. So the UK may try to extend the transition period beyond 2022. And as past experience tells us, once an extension is granted, it may never end.

The UK seems to be approaching the scenario I outlined three months ago. May’s fateful decision to hold an early election in June has allowed her opponents to demand that the UK negotiate a transitional arrangement similar to what Norway has as a member of the European Economic Area. The EEA was originally created in 1994 as a temporary framework for various countries preparing to join the EU. But because Norwegian voters rejected a referendum on EU membership 11 months later, the EEA has now lasted for 24 years.

Nobody can predict what will happen in 24 years. But the good news for Britain is that the EU may already be moving slowly toward a two-track structure. To prosper, the eurozone will need to establish a political union. This will leave non-euro countries such as Denmark, Poland, and Sweden forming an outer ring of economic cooperation outside the eurozone. These countries would have membership in the single market, but not in the monetary or political union.

A two-track Europe would be very different from the “two-speed” model that applies to Europe today. In the latter, every country is theoretically heading toward “ever-closer union,” just at different rates. In a two-track scenario, by contrast, Britain could comfortably re-join the outer track along with Norway and, perhaps, Switzerland.

Now for the bad news. A transition arrangement for the UK may be unacceptable to both EU governments and British voters. Committed federalists in the EU want Britain out as quickly as possible, because Britain has long given cover for others – such as Denmark, Poland, and Sweden – to resist deeper integration.

Federalist zealots hate the idea of a two-track Europe. They want to force all EU member states to adopt the euro within the next decade, and to embed themselves permanently into a full-scale political and fiscal union. And they rightly believe that achieving this goal will be easier with Britain out of the picture.

But a transition period is no panacea for the UK either. Britons have already started to get a glimpse of the economic costs of Brexit, as international businesses that once used Britain as a hub for their European operations have started to relocate some of their activities. As the UK government tries to maintain the fiction of a strictly time-limited transition, this process will accelerate further. Moreover, the EU will use the transition period to change its own regulations, so that businesses generating employment and large tax revenues will have to move onto EU territory.

For example, the European Banking Authority and the European Medicines Agency are already relocating from London, meaning the many legal, managerial, and lobbying jobs connected to highly regulated activities such as finance and pharmaceutical research will have to relocate, too. A transition period would thus hit international businesses based in Britain with a regulatory double-whammy: they would be subject to the whims of UK and EU bureaucracies at the same time.

Making matters worse, the promise of a long transition could delay the shift in public opinion needed to reverse Brexit before it is too late. After March 28, 2019, the UK will be officially out of the EU, where economic growth has already started to overtake that of Britain. If it ever wants to be readmitted, it will have to settle for far less attractive terms than what it enjoys today. Not only would it no longer receive budget rebates or special treatment on social regulations; it might even be forced to join the euro.

Even the 48% of British voters who voted “Remain” might reject such humiliating terms. Britain would thus be stuck in limbo – like Norway, but without the oil wealth or social cohesion. As the Labour Party’s trade spokesman has aptly put it, a semi-permanent transition period based on the “Norway model” would turn Britain into a “vassal state.” It would still pay large sums into the EU budget and adhere to EU laws, but it would have no say over how that money is spent or how those laws are made.

In the months ahead, the British public may start to foresee this humiliating endgame. The Norway model will satisfy neither Britain’s elderly, provincial Europhobes, nor the young, urban voters who want to preserve the rights of EU citizenship that they have taken for granted all their lives.

With this depressing prospect setting in, British voters could change their minds about Brexit before their leaders go through with it. But for such a Damascene conversion to happen, the country would have to experience a political or economic crisis large enough to shake public opinion out of its fatalistic complacency. As things stand, Britons have been emulating that beloved national slogan, “Keep calm and carry on.” Before things can get better for Britain, they will probably have to get much worse. Anatole Kaletsky is Chief Economist and Co-Chairman of Gavekal Dragonomics and the author of Capitalism 4.0, The Birth of a New Economy.

By Anatole Kaletsky

The Crown Prince’s New Clothes

PARIS – This June, Bahrain, Egypt, Libya, the Maldives, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen cut diplomatic and economic ties with Qatar. This Gulf crisis will, one way or another, come to an end. But whether that end will be good for the chief instigator of the crisis, Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), remains to be seen.


An extreme but unlikely solution to the crisis could come in the form of military-enforced regime change, whereby the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, would be replaced by a more pliant member of the Al-Thani family. In a more likely scenario, Qatar may stop providing sanctuary for a few members of the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, and discreetly promise to rein in Al Jazeera, its state-funded television network, which broadcasts throughout the region.

In the latter scenario, diplomats from Kuwait and Oman, who are mediating the dispute, would hold themselves up as peacemakers, and MBS would claim to be a statesman. Western governments worried about the price of oil and the future of America’s Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar would rest easier, at least until the next Gulf crisis. But if MBS continues to pursue headstrong policies, and Qatar keeps using its oil wealth to punch above its weight in regional politics, such a crisis may not be all that far off.

The latest Saudi-Qatari contretemps is hardly an example of the “Thucydides trap,” in which an incumbent hegemon is tempted to suppress a rival whose power is approaching its own. Saudi Arabia is host to around 32 million people, one-third of whom are foreign workers; Qatar is host to just 2.6 million people, 90% of whom are foreign.

Instead, at the heart of the matter is a semi-paranoid conviction among Saudi Arabia’s Sunni Arab leaders that Iran – which is predominantly Shia and non-Arab – is vying for superpower status in the Middle East. The Saudis are convinced that Qatar is aiding Iran in this quest, even though Qatar’s leaders share the Saudis’ Wahhabi brand of Islam.

Of course, Saudi Arabia has some grounds for suspicion. After the Iranian Revolution in 1979, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini advocated revolution throughout the Muslim world. A generation later, Iran has a foothold in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen, where it is helping Houthi rebels disrupt MBS’s ill-considered foray into that country. And now that Saudi Arabia has imposed a blockade on Qatar, Iran has come to the country’s aid, delivering food and allowing Qatar Airways to use its airspace.

It is worth asking whether MBS is misreading political and economic realities. Having been invested with unprecedented powers as the favorite son of King Salman, has he bitten off more than he can chew?

MBS has been Saudi Arabia’s minister of defense since January 2015. But Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen, now two years old, has become a humanitarian disaster, complete with a naval blockade that has led to widespread famine and 500,000 cases of cholera.

Meanwhile, in the civil war in Syria, the Saudis (and the Qataris) have backed several unsavory Islamist groups, but still have not managed to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. In the region’s balance of power, the Saudi-sponsored anti-Assad alliance – with America providing air support – pales in comparison to the alliance that Assad’s Shia-affiliated Alawite regime has made with Iran and Russia.

MBS is facing even greater challenges at home. As the world’s petro-state par excellence, Saudi Arabia has long mollified the Saudi populace with dollops of welfare spending. Meanwhile, it has sustained the Wahhabi clerical establishment’s loyalty by keeping social changes to a minimum. But with oil prices remaining relatively low, the Kingdom can no longer rely on its traditional policy of buying friends and buying off enemies.

To his credit, MBS recognizes that things must change. Saudi Arabia’s financial reserves are diminishing, and younger Saudis – whose numbers have quadrupled in the past 30 years – want more freedoms, and will need jobs outside of the oil sector. To address these issues, MBS came up with “Vision 2030,” a bold but not necessarily realistic plan to diversify the economy, privatize part of the national oil company, Aramco, and expand the private sector. In addition, MBS apparently has a plan to create hedonistic tourist resorts to rival those of Dubai.

Given the problems abroad and grumbling at home, where some in the Saudi royal family resent his meteoric ascent, MBS now needs to prove that he has the maturity and experience to lead. Here, he may receive help from an unlikely source. At the end of July, MBS hosted Muqtada al-Sadr, the leader of Iraq’s most powerful Shia militia, for his first visit to Saudi Arabia since 2006. And earlier this year, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi paid a visit to Saudi Arabia, just after the Saudi foreign and energy ministers made trips to Baghdad.

These trips – the first such delegations between the two countries in decades – suggest that Iraq and Saudi Arabia might be forging a new, mutually beneficial relationship. With closer ties to Saudi Arabia, Iraq’s leaders could free themselves from Iran’s overbearing grip on their decision-making, leverage Saudi Arabia’s influence over Iraq’s Sunni tribes, and procure Saudi investments to rebuild Mosul following its recapture from the Islamic State (ISIS).

Saudi Arabia, for its part, stands to gain from Iraq’s success against ISIS, a sworn enemy of the House of Saud, and from its help in calming Shia dissent in Saudi Arabia’s oil-rich eastern province. At the same time, MBS would be able to portray himself as a strategic thinker who is capable of bridging old Arab divides, and limiting Iran’s influence in the region.

Still, many questions remain. It is unclear when the disastrous operation in Yemen will end, or whether Iran and Turkey will continue undermining the blockade on Qatar. And it remains to be seen if Qatar will cave to Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states’ demands – especially the call for Al Jazeera to be shut down.

In any case, none of these developments seems imminent, so the 31-year-old crown prince will have to learn to temper his impetuosity. As the Arab proverb puts it, patience is the key to happiness. John Andrews is the author of The World in Conflict.

By John Andrews

Surviving America’s Political Meltdown

NEW YORK – The US is in the midst of a political meltdown, unable to manage a domestic economic agenda or a coherent foreign policy. The White House is in turmoil; Congress is paralyzed; and the world is looking on in astonishment and dread. If we are to survive and overcome this collapse, we must understand its sources.


There are two power centers in Washington, DC: the White House and the Capitol. Both are in disarray, but for different reasons.The dysfunctionality of the White House is largely a matter of President Donald Trump’s personality. To many experts, Trump’s behavior – grandiose self-regard, pathological lying, lack of remorse or guilt, expressive shallowness, parasitic lifestyle, impulsiveness, failure to accept responsibility for his own actions, and short-term marital relationships – are symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder.

The consequences could be dire. Pathological narcissists have a tendency to indulge in violent conflicts and wars (think of Lyndon Johnson and Vietnam or of Andrew Jackson and the ethnic cleansing of Native Americans). At a minimum, Trump lacks the psychological characteristics needed for constructive governance: honesty, dignity, competence, empathy, relevant experience, and the capacity to plan. According to some observers, Trump also shows signs of diminished mental capacity.

The hope in Washington is that “adults in the room” will keep Trump’s dangerous tendencies in check. But the “adults” in Trump’s administration are increasingly military figures rather than civilians, including three generals (John Kelly, the new White House Chief of Staff, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, and Secretary of Defense James Mattis). Wise civilian leaders are the key to peace, especially given that America’s vast war machine is always revving. Recall John F. Kennedy’s military advisers, who advocated war during the Cuban Missile Crisis, or consider Mattis’s anti-Iran belligerence.

There are two other escape valves: the 25th Amendment, which charts a course for removing a president who is unable to discharge the responsibilities of office, and impeachment for “high crimes and misdemeanors.” Both measures are extreme in the US constitutional order, and both would depend on the agreement of Republican leaders. Nonetheless, one or the other may prove necessary and even urgent in the event that Trump’s psychological instability or political weakness leads him to launch a war.

The political meltdown in Congress is less dramatic, but serious nonetheless. There, the cause is not a personality disorder; it’s money. The legislative branch has been deeply corrupted by corporate lobbying and campaign contributions. Two brothers, the industrialists David and Charles Koch, worth a combined $100 billion, virtually own the votes, and voices, of Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The result is politically perverse. Ryan and McConnell relentlessly push legislation favored by the Koch Brothers rather than the American people. The attempted repeal of President Barack Obama’s signature health-care legislation, the 2010 Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) had nothing to do with voters’ views or interests; it was simply what the Koch brothers (and other Republican mega-donors) wanted.

That’s why the repeal legislation was kept secret until the last moment and was never subjected to expert testimony or analysis – or even considered by a Congressional committee. The legislation could pass only if it was hidden from view and voted on in the middle of the night. In the end, three Republican senators jumped ship, siding with the American people rather than with the Kochs.

Between Trump’s narcissism and the Koch brothers’ money, the US government has become a shambles. Washington is still filled with many smart and talented people of both parties, but America’s political institutions and formal processes are diminished. The federal government is hemorrhaging scientific expertise, as researchers leave or are purged, and as agency budgets are targeted for deep cuts. Seasoned diplomats are flooding out of the State Department. Lobbyists, meanwhile, are installing cronies and hacks throughout the government.

Through the din, new drumbeats of war can be heard, most ominously against Iran and North Korea. Is it posturing or real? Nobody knows. Trump’s foreign and military policies are now announced in early-morning tweets, without the foreknowledge of the White House staff or senior officials. The situation is dangerous and deteriorating.

I suggest three immediate steps, and a fourth longer-term step.

The first step is to take Trump off Twitter. The US – and the world – needs public policy by consultation and deliberation, not one man’s worsening pathology. The American people, by a large margin, concur that Trump’s tweets are hurting national security and the presidency.

Second, congressional leaders should agree, on a bipartisan basis, to constrain Trump’s belligerent proclivities. Article I, Section 8 of the US Constitution vests the authority to declare war with Congress, and Congress needs to reassert that authority now, before it’s too late.

Third, the world’s major powers – most urgently, America’s NATO allies, China, and Russia – should make clear that any unilateral US attack on Iran or North Korea would constitute a grave and illegal violation of the peace, and that matters of war and peace must be agreed within the UN Security Council. If the US had heeded the UN Security Council’s collective wisdom in the recent past, it would have avoided several ongoing disasters, including the chaos in Iraq, Libya, and Syria, and saved trillions of dollars and many hundreds of thousands of lives.

The fourth, longer-term step is constitutional reform to move away the US away from its volatile presidential system to a parliamentary system, or at least to a mixed presidential-parliamentary system, as in France. The power of the president – and therefore the danger of a runaway presidency – is far too great.

Much more needs to be done to restore democratic legitimacy in the US, including introduction of stricter limits on campaign financing and lobbying. First and foremost, however, we must survive the dangerous Trump presidency by preserving the peace.

Jeffrey D. Sachs, Professor of Sustainable Development and Professor of Health Policy and Management at Columbia University, is Director of Columbia’s Center for Sustainable Development and the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network.

By Jeffrey D. Sachs

Empowering the Other Half of Africa’s Economy

JOHANNESBURG – Julius Nyerere, the founding president of Tanzania, once said that “unity” will not make Africa rich, but “it can make it difficult for Africa and the African peoples to be disregarded and humiliated.” But, two decades later, Africa remains divided along a key fault line: gender. To realize Nyerere’s vision of a strong, dignified continent, Africa needs a new era of liberation, one that is fueled by the economic empowerment of the continent’s women.


Although projections by the consultancy McKinsey anticipate that by 2040, Africa will have the world’s largest labor force, with more than 1.1 billion people of working age, more than 60% of Africa’s current population still survive on less than $2 a day. It is obvious that while many Africans have benefited from political emancipation – the legacy of Nyerere’s generation – poverty remains a significant obstacle. Unleashing the employment potential of African women is the best way to overcome it.

As it stands, Africa’s women continue to be underrepresented in key industries and executive roles, owing to workplace discrimination and patriarchal expectations at home. Unless barriers to entering the formal economy are removed and women are presented with options that enable them to realize their full potential, Africa’s socioeconomic development will continue to be impeded. But while women are essential to the continent’s progress, they are still too often regarded as being secondary. Women must therefore claim their right to sit where decisions are made, and to shape the policies, plans, and strategies that will affect their lives and the lives of Africans for generations to come.

Studies have shown that if more women had access to male-dominated occupations in Africa, worker productivity would rise by as much as 25%. That would be good for the overall economy, but also for women in general, as it would open up new avenues for social empowerment. When women participate in the job market and engage actively in business or political decision-making, patriarchal power dynamics shift, elevating the social status of women. Economic equality also challenges accepted beliefs, and dispels harmful myths that perpetuate narrow definitions of gender norms. In other words, bringing more women into the workplace leads to an emancipation of mindset – in men and women alike.

What Nyerere so eloquently said of Africa as a whole is no less true for its women: unity is the key to realizing our potential. When we come together as generators of wealth, it becomes impossible for us to go unrecognized for our economic contributions and marginalized in our entrepreneurial endeavours.

At the Graça Machel Trust, we are joining together with civil-society actors, the private sector, and governments across the continent to lead a new economic liberation movement for women. Divided, we are weak, but together, Africa’s women have the ability to confront and overcome the barriers that have kept us from full participation in our respective economies.

There is power in networks. My organization’s approach to economic advancement is to establish and strengthen informal and official networks, through which women can, in time, increase their participation and visibility in key sectors. That is why we are launching the “Women Advancing Africa” initiative, which is part of our ongoing effort to amplify the voices of Africa’s underrepresented and to establish a pan-African women’s movement, in which women can come together to transform the continent.

The inaugural Women Advancing Africa Forum will take place this week in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and will convene more than 250 women leaders from across the continent. Under the overarching theme of “Driving Social and Economic Transformation,” the Forum will focus on three strategic goals: promoting financial inclusion, increasing market access, and driving social change. We aim to emerge from the Forum with a common agenda for our participation as full economic actors.

It has been just over 20 years since Nyerere encouraged us to work toward African unity. Today, Africa’s women are helping to shape the policies and practices that will bring about economic and social liberation in their respective countries. We have some way to go before African unity is fully realized. But enabling women to become full partners in Africa’s economic future, is among the best ways to ensure that we succeed. Graça Machel, the founder of the Graça Machel Trust, is a member of the Africa Progress Panel and The Elders.

By Graça Machel

Finishing the Post-Crisis Job

LONDON – August 9, 2017, is the tenth anniversary of the decision by the French bank BNP Paribas to freeze some $2.2 billion worth of money-market funds. Those of us who were active in financial markets at the time remember that event as the beginning of the worst global financial crisis since the Great Depression.


Many economists and financial observers argue that we are still living with the consequences of that crisis, and with the forces that incited it. This is partly true. Many developed economies still have in place unconventional monetary policies such as quantitative easing, and both productivity and real (inflation-adjusted) wage growth appear to be mostly stagnant.

But it is important to put these developments in perspective. Many people, including the Queen of England in November 2008, still ask: “Why did no one see it coming?” In fact, many financial observers did warn that housing prices in the United States were rising untenably, especially given the lack of domestic personal savings among US consumers.

As Chief Economist of Goldman Sachs at the time, I had written three different papers over a number of years showing that the US current-account deficit was unsustainable. Unfortunately, these findings largely fell on deaf ears, and the firm’s foreign-exchange salespeople probably got bored passing on yet more of the same pieces to their clients.

At one point in 2007, the US current-account deficit was reported to be 6-7% of GDP (it has since been revised down to around 5% for the full year). This high figure reflected the fact that the US trade balance had been steadily deteriorating since the 1990s. In the absence of any obvious negative consequences, however, complacency had set in, and the US continued to spend more than it saved.

Meanwhile, China had spent the 1990s exporting low-value-added products to the rest of the world, not least to US consumers. In 2007, its current-account surplus was around 10% of GDP – the mirror image of the US. Whereas the latter was saving too little, China was saving too much.

For some observers, this huge international imbalance was the source of the crisis. In the years leading up to the crash, they argued that the global financial system was simply doing its job, by finding increasingly clever ways to recycle the surpluses. Of course, we now know that it performed that job rather poorly.

Much has changed in the intervening decade. In 2017, China will run a current-account surplus of 1.5-2% of GDP, and the US will most likely run a deficit of around 2% – but possibly as high as 3% – of GDP. This is a vast improvement for the world’s two largest economies.

Still, other countries have built up ever-larger current-account imbalances over the past decade. Chief among them is Germany, whose external surplus now exceeds 8% of GDP. Germany’s current account suggests that there are deep imbalances that could lead to a new crisis if policymaking is not well coordinated. The last thing that Europe needs is another sudden reversal, as we saw at the height of the Greek debt crisis.

The United Kingdom, for its part, will have a current-account deficit above 3% of GDP this year, which is nearly three times what it was ten years ago. But that is not to say that the UK’s trade balance has significantly deteriorated. Rather, it reflects the fact that the UK is a major financial center, and that investment returns have shifted more in the UK than elsewhere.

All told, the global economy today is much healthier than it was ten years ago. Many are disappointed that real global GDP growth since the crisis has undershot performance in the previous decade. But since 2009 – the worst year of the recession – the global economy has grown at an average rate of 3.3%, just as it did in the 1980s and 1990s.

Of course, this is largely owing to China, the only BRIC country (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) that has met my growth expectations for the decade (although India is not too far behind). The size of China’s economy has more than trebled in nominal terms since 2007, with GDP rising from $3.5 trillion to around $12 trillion. As a result, the aggregate size of the BRIC economies is now around $18 trillion, which is larger than the European Union and almost as big as the US.

There will inevitably be another financial bubble, so it is worth asking where it might occur. In my view, it is unlikely to emerge directly from the banking sector, which is now heavily regulated. The bigger concern is that many leading companies across different industries have continued to focus excessively on quarterly profits, because that determines how executives are remunerated.

Policymakers should take a hard look at the role of share buybacks in this process. To her credit, in the Conservative Party’s 2017 election manifesto, British Prime Minister Theresa May announced that her government would do this. One hopes that May’s government follows through. Doing so could strike a symbolic blow against the underlying malaise of post-crisis economic life. The West needs real investments and higher productivity and wage growth – not more economically unjustifiable profits.

Jim O’Neill, a former chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management and a former UK Treasury Minister, is Honorary Professor of Economics at Manchester University and former Chairman of the British government’s Review on Antimicrobial Resistance.

By Jim O’Neill

What Makes a Human?

ST ANDREWS, SCOTLAND – Last month, moviegoers flocked to theaters to see War for the Planet of the Apes, in which an army of retrovirus-modified primates wage war against humanity. Chimpanzees on horseback, machine-gun-wielding gorillas, and scholarly orangutans undoubtedly make for good theater. But could anything like this ever happen in real life?


In Planet of the Apes, Pierre Boulle’s 1963 novel upon which the films are based, space traveler Ulysse Mérou is stranded on a terrifying planet ruled by gorillas, orangutans, and chimpanzees who have copied their former human masters’ language, culture, and technology. The humans, meanwhile, have degenerated into brutal and unsophisticated beasts.

Much of the sinister realism in Planet of the Apes stems from Boulle’s impressive attention to scientific detail and knowledge of research into animal behavior at that time. His book tapped into the still-popular notion that animals such as chimpanzees and dolphins have complex but covert communication systems that humans cannot even fathom. Many people would prefer to think that all those “arrogant” scientists who have concluded that animals cannot talk have simply failed to decode animals’ calls.

But Boulle’s book is decidedly a work of fiction, because apes here on Earth could never actually acquire human culture solely through imitation. In reality, complex culture requires underlying biological capabilities that are fashioned over long periods of evolution. Chimpanzees simply do not have the vocal control or physiology to produce speech.

Moreover, modern apes could not be made highly intelligent even with brain-enhancing drugs. And although microbes can change behavior – such as when rabies renders its host violent and aggressive – they could never bestow language upon a species.

We know this because animal communication has been investigated extensively for more than a century, and the scientific evidence yields few hints of truly complex communication faculties in non-human species. For example, in the 1940s, researchers raised a chimpanzee named Viki in their home. But Viki learned just four words – “mama,” “papa,” “cup,” and “up” – which was more than could be said for an earlier experiment in which a chimpanzee and a human child were reared together. That exercise had to be abandoned after the chimpanzee failed to learn a single word, and the child actually started imitating chimpanzee sounds.

In the following decades, studies teaching apes sign language generated much excitement. And yet virtually all linguists would agree that the apes in these experiments had not produced language. They could memorize the meanings of signs, but they could not learn the rules of grammar.

Tellingly, utterances by “talking” apes proved to be exceedingly egocentric. When equipped with the means to talk, apes’ communications are limited to expressions of desire such as “Gimme food.” The longest recorded statement of any “talking” ape, by a chimpanzee named Nim Chimpsky, was, “Give orange me give eat orange me eat orange give me eat orange give me you.” It turns out that chimpanzees, bonobos, and gorillas make for poor conversationalists.

By contrast, within months of uttering their first words, two-year-old children can produce complex, grammatically correct, and topically diverse sentences comprising verbs, nouns, prepositions, and determiners. They can do so because human minds have evolved to comprehend and produce language.

Many scholars believe that language emerged from the use of meaningful signs. Our ancestors were immersed in a symbol-rich world, and this generated evolutionary feedback favoring the neural structures that enable us to manipulate symbols efficiently. The syntax in human language today was made possible by our ancestors’ long use of symbolic proto-languages. Genes and culture coevolved to reorganize the human brain.

The same is true of warfare, which is much more than just scaled-up aggression. In war, complex institutions dictate strict behavioral codes and individual roles that facilitate cooperation. Research suggests that this level of cooperation could not evolve in a species that lacked a complex culture and such features as institutionalized punishment and socially sanctioned retaliation.

Most of these norms are not obvious, and thus have to be inculcated, usually during youth. But even among apes that are proficient imitators, there is little compelling evidence that behaviors are actively taught. When apes do cooperate, it is largely to help relatives. The scale of human cooperation, which involves huge numbers of unrelated individuals working together, is unprecedented largely because it is built upon learned and socially transmitted norms.

There is now extensive evidence that our ancestors’ cultural activities changed the human brain through natural selection, which then further enhanced our cultural capabilities in recurring cycles. For instance, milk-drinking began with early Neolithic humans, who were consequently exposed to strong selection favoring genes that break down energy-rich lactose. This genetic-cultural coevolution explains why many of us with pastoralist ancestors are lactose tolerant.

It is little wonder that Boulle put such an emphasis on imitation. Humans are descended from a long line of imitators, who mimicked each other’s fear responses to identify predators and avoid danger. Today, this is reflected in empathy and other forms of emotional contagion that make movies a heartfelt experience. Without these traits, we would all watch movies like sociopaths, equally unmoved by a murder or a kiss.

It was also through imitation that our forebears learned how to butcher carcasses, build fires, and make digging tools, spears, and fishing hooks. These and countless other skills left us supremely adapted to decipher others’ movements, and reproduce them with our own muscles, tendons, and joints. Eons later, today’s movie stars demonstrate the same aptitude when imitating the movements of other primates, with a precision that no other species can match.

Human culture, having evolved over millennia, is not something that another species can easily pick up. We can rest assured that there will be no inter-primate war on Earth. For that to happen, another species would have to undergo a similarly prolonged evolutionary journey. And the only real warmongering ape on the planet seems hell-bent on preventing that.

Kevin Laland is Professor of Behavioral and Evolutionary Biology at the University of St Andrews, UK, and author of Darwin’s Unfinished Symphony: How Culture Made the Human Mind.

By Kevin Laland

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