No western nation has ever implemented laissez-faire capitalism and universal suffrage at the same time. Yet in the era of globalisation, this is what the west often urges upon poor countries. Furthermore, as Amy Chua points out in our cover story, conditions in many poor countries are made more combustible by the presence of market-dominant ethnic minorities. Markets concentrate wealth in the hands of the minority – for example the Chinese in much of southeast Asia or the Jewish oligarchs in Russia – while democracy increases the political power of the impoverished, indigenous majority. Chua is not an anti-globaliser but she is aware, from her own family’s experience, of the fragility of social order in many parts of the developing world. Like Fareed Zakaria, Robert D Kaplan and other commentators, she is wary of the global social engineering – now favoured in parts of Washington – which assumes, too readily, that stable, liberal polities will emerge from the rubble of closed societies. The discussion taking place between Washington, London and Baghdad about how to co-opt more senior Ba’ath party officials into helping run occupied Iraq is embarrassing evidence of where such excessive optimism can lead. Americans are not an ethnic minority but, as President Bush has discovered on his visit to London, they are perceived by many people, even in friendly countries, as the market-dominant minority of the world. And one reason for the new volubility of anti-Americanism around the world is the fact that recently installed populist democracies – often, paradoxically, the result of US pressure – are free to voice resentment against this minority.
Behind closed doors in London, Iran will have been high on the agenda. Despite superficial similarities, the Iran crisis is very different from the Iraq one and, as Steven Everts argues, much more susceptible to cold war-type confidence-building measures modelled on the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe. European capitals are, of course, more nostalgic for such “Helsinki” measures than Washington, but this time it looks as though London will stay within the European camp.
Talking of nostalgia, there is plenty of it this month: for nursing like it used to be, for good old cabinet government, for Albert Camus, and for British middle-distance running of the 1950s.