On December 5, Nelson Mandela passed away. For political scientists, discussing Mandela’s legacy is of course connected to questions about the role that great leaders can play in world politics. Or, more generally: how to analytically deal with individuals.
- Alex de Waal argues that “[t]he way he has become idolized and idealized tells us more about the world’s need for such a figure, than about Nelson Mandela himself.”
- Joshua Tucker writes that waiting for great persons to come along and single-handedly push democratization “has the potential to lead to dramatic lost opportunities”.
- Also at the Monkey Cage, Stephen Dyson replies: “A worthy goal of science is to provide systematic, rigorous knowledge about issues of social importance. But science should also engage with the moral and empathetic possibilities that come from taking leaders seriously.”
Dan Drezner comments on the WTO: “Why the Trade Deal in Bali Was A Game Changer”. Drezner happily points out that positive news on the WTO are in line with his forthcoming book, which argues that post-Lehman financial governance has worked quite well:
Of course, not everyone shares this view, and there has been no shortage of arguments that say the opposite. One of the strongest data points in their empirical quiver has been the failure of the Doha round of WTO talks to be completed. Indeed, for the past five years, “Doha” has been wonk shorthand for “dysfunctional global governance that accomplishes nothing but gridlock.”
From the WTO, we move on to finance – and somewhat away from political science. Forgive me, but you will thank me as soon as one of your relatives brings up “the financial system” and/or Bitcoin at the next family reunion. I highly recommended reading the next three items in preparation:
- To start off lightly (but still learn about economics): Tim Hartford has written a nice piece on Bitcoins, bubbles, and gift vouchers.
- Michael Nielson offers an excellent and relatively accessible explanation of how Bitcoin actually works.
- Finally, in comparison it would be nice to know how the circulation of regular dollars and euros “actually works”, right? Luckily, Richard Brown has just published a “simple explanation of how money moves around the banking system”.