Mathis Lohaus

Links: Mandela and Great Leaders; WTO deal in Bali; How Money Works

Frederik de Klerk with Nelson Mandela - World Economic Forum 1992
Frederik de Klerk and Nelson Mandela in Davos, 1992. (CC) World Economic Forum

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.”

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that other observers (#1, #2) are not too excited about the outlook for future WTO negotiations.

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:

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