What is creating the financial panic that is unfolding as I write, what is causing the shares of all financial institutions to collaps, is the simple fact that Wall Street does not know the extent of the damage to the quality of the mortgages that financial institutions own. As Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs follow Merrill Lynch, Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers on a path to extinction that will cost the US economy dearly, isn´t it time that the US government really intervenes? What the US government has to do is a Brady Plan on itself. What worked for Latin America in the 80s can work now for America itself. It simply entails guaranteeing the majority of the principal and interest from those mortgages. And what was fantastic about the Brady plan is that the guarantee cost nothing to the US Treasury then. And, in my view, the same would be true now. Most of the mortgages in the States will be repaid over the next decades.
Because American education stimulates creativity and self reliance.
Because Americans have a huge homogenous home market in which to test their product.
Because American culture is the only global culture.
I’d like to introduce to you Ejovi Nuwere, our Fonero leader for North America. Ejovi is one of those IT prodigies. He was a hacker when he was young, but now, at 25, he is the head of his own internet security company and Business Week one of the top 20 most talented entrepreneurs in the US.
I met Ejovi at the March 11 conference and i was really impressed ith his ideas on how to make the internet secure and at the same time, more open. When i started FON, i invited Ejovi to be our North America leader and he accepted. And not only did he accept, but he also shared with me the great news that Andrew Rasiej, the political WiFi activist from New York, had joined FON.
I live in Spain. United States spends more money in its armed forces per year than the GDP of Spain, a prosperous European country of 44 million people. When I look at how much the United States devotes to “defend” itself and I read an article in today´s New York Times, that says that the United States ” is woefully unprepared for what could become the worst disaster in the nation’s history” meaning FLU, I wonder what´s happening to US spending priorities. Does it make sense to spend a trillion dollars in armaments and not spend enough in flu vaccines? The 381 pages report that the New York Times writes about predicts widespread violence at vaccination clinics resulting from a vaccine shortage. How can Bill Gates personally be paying for vaccinating millions of Africans while the US Government is not paying for flu vaccines for its own citizens? When is the United States going to realize that the biggest danger to its nation is not Islamic terrorism but hurricanes, epidemics, earthquakes, and other natural disasters? I think it´s time that United States realizes that its most dangerous enemies are not PEOPLE, but NATURE. More precisely, nature attacked by humanity, with its main aggressor, in terms of carbon emissions and global warming, being the United States itself. As I write this, I know that many people in the United States realize this. Unfortunately they only made 47% of the electorate last time around. Hopefully damage will be contained and a new president with the environment in mind will be elected in 2008. I frequently wonder what would have happened to the world if Al Gore had been given his true mandate in 2000. I have no doubt that the United States and the world would be a different, better, safer place.
I am a progressive. In the US I identify with the democrats. Over the last two US elections I have watched in pain as Bush defeated Gore and Kerry. How could America elect such a conservative leader? I wondered. But after attending the Clinton Global Initiative two weeks ago in New York City and listening to some token right wingers who were invited to attend I realized that things have changed. Nowadays, it is the Democrats who are conservatives, in the sense that it is them who want things to stay the same, and paradoxically it is the republicans, traditionally seen as conservatives, who want things to change, sometimes radically. Abortion is legal, they want to change that. Prayer is not allowed at schools, they want that changed as well. Evolution is seen as the only accepted science, they don´t buy that. There´s one rule in politics, people who want things to change organize themselves better than people who want things to stay the same. For example, creationists are well organized, evolutionists (who probably make 100% of the biology teachers in the world), are not. Why are you going to organize to fight for what you have? I think that people of a democratic spirit in America will begin to wake up only when they realize that their status quo…is no longer.
Both in Europe and America the press tends to be more progressive, or leftist, than the rest of the population. In America, conservatives have been very good at mounting a counterattack on the liberal media, but the liberal media still has the upper hand. The country votes republican, the media overall is democratic. Why is this the case? To me this is simply a function of income. Start giving journalists investment banking salaries and they would certainly write more conservative articles! As it is they make very little money, and empathize with other people who do as well.
Here is my first contribution to Freakonomics. It relates to gasoline prices. I was recently in the States and read articles, one that emphasized that while in America consumers were very concerned about the rise in the price of gasoline, in Europe people were less worried. In the article there were many unusual theories as to why this may be the case.
This session at the Clinton Global Initiative combined the President of Rwanda, the Prime Minister of Norway and a US Envoy to Sudan, discussing what is it that governments and civil society can do to avoid genocide.
To many Europeans, American style philanthropy evokes a mix of admiration and contempt. Admiration because America has wealthy individuals who are willing to give a significant part of their income to improve the state of the world. Contempt because they believe that we cannot leave “improving the state of the world” in the hands of wealthy individuals. Personally, I think that the the problem here is one of degree. The American government is far too stingy in helping the world compared to European governments, but American individuals are remarkably generous. Bottom line is the American government should donate more. But the wealthy citizens in Europe should definitely be more charitable. Here at the Clinton Global Initiative we see American style philanthropy at work, and it´s amazing to see that at every session there´s an announcement of somebody coming up with an amazing donation.
Originating off the tip of Africa, hurricanes often flood various parts of the US; sometimes Miami, now New Orleans. In Europe, “hurricanes” are merely very heavy rains. In 2002, Prague was greatly affected by the flooding caused from excessive downpour. You can see there is a striking difference.
When a hurricane occurs in America, news coverage tells not only of the damage caused by the rains, but also of the simultaneous destruction caused by the people of the cities these natural disasters affect! Namely uncontrolled looting is referenced time and time again during these times of crisis.
In Europe, when there is news of rain damage, there is never reference to looting, murders, or any of the atrocities that are happening right now in New Orleans. Interestingly, when the Tsunami hit South East Asia less than year ago, the news was also of death by nature. There was no mention of uncontrolled rioting and looting. Even rival factions in Sri Lanka ceased fighting during the tragedy. The question(s) I am trying to answer now is why these two reactions to natural disasters are not only on opposite sides of the globe but on opposite ends of the spectrum? Why is it that in America looting happens after blackouts or natural tragedies whilst in Europe and Asia focus is seemingly on humanitarian outreach alone?