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20:21 VISION by Bill Emmott

20:21 VISION

Twentieth-Century Lessons for the Twenty-first Century

by Bill Emmott

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 2003
ISBN: 0-374-27965-9
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Economist editor-in-chief Emmott assays the upcoming 88 years in terms of survival of the world as we know it.

As he showed in his prescient Japanophobia (1993), the author can think like an economist while writing like a journalist—clean, jargon-free prose—and possibly chew gum at the same time. In this effort he suggests (even journalists hedge) answers to two principal questions: Will the US maintain world leadership and continue to keep the peace? And will Capitalism’s benefits outweigh its inevitable downturns to the point where it prevails and spreads? He concludes there’s cause for “paranoid optimism” on both counts, but it’s the application of the economist’s mindset that really makes the exercise worthwhile. In this milieu, the daily headlines and alarums of mass media mean nothing; it’s the long view that counts, the author asserts, and the century from which we have just emerged gave us a wealth of negative examples in intertwined economics and geopolitics not to live by. Economists love stability, it seems, and don’t see any alternative to the benevolent world dictatorship of a dominant power. For example, Emmott agrees that the September 11th attacks were a bona fide tragedy and a horrendous terrorist act, yet it provided the device (he likes the term “prism”) the US needed to focus its military might with “absolute clarity of purpose.” One can almost see in the author’s mind future historians referring to 9/11, like Pearl Harbor, as a “strategic victory.” Poverty and pestilences that give rise to contentious nationalism are the economists’ bugbears. And they actually fidget, Emmott suggests, over things like the rape of a local woman in the vicinity of an overseas base by an American serviceman; a few more of those, after all, and we risk losing stability in the Pacific Rim.

Hopeful and divertingly meaty ruminations, made comprehensible.