The End of Secrecy
by Ann Florini
ANN FLORINI is a resident associate at the Carnegie Endowment for
International Peace. Her monograph on transnational governance
will be published shortly by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.
Two standards of behavior are slugging it out around the world. Advocates
of well-established norms such as corporate privacy and national sovereignty
want to hide information from prying eyes, while promoters of transparency
tout it as the solution to everything from international financial crises
to arms races and street crime.
Just what is transparency? Put simply, transparency is the opposite of secrecy.
Secrecy means deliberately hiding your actions; transparency means deliberately
revealing them. This element of volition makes the growing acceptance of
transparency much more than a resigned surrender to the technologically
facilitated intrusiveness of the Information Age. Transparency is a choice,
encouraged by changing attitudes about what constitutes appropriate behavior.
Transparency and secrecy are not either/or conditions. As ideals, they represent
two ends of a continuum. What we are seeing now is a rapidly evolving shift
of consensus among observers and actors worldwide about where states and
corporations should be on that continuum. For corporations, the point of
balance is moving away from an emphasis on privacy to agreement on financial
transparency and corporate social responsibility. For nation-states, the
shift is occurring between old ideas of sovereignty, which allowed states
to keep the world out of their domestic matters, and a new standard that
they must explain their actions to the world. Although usually considered
separately, transparency's many applications are intrinsically linked. All
reflect the growing necessity and utility of regulation by revelation, a
dynamic new alternative to the coercive power of states.
Yet precisely because transparency represents such a profound change--both
in the distribution of power and the way in which it is exercised--its spread
has provoked resistance from some quarters. To governments or corporations
that are just doing what they have always done, the expectation that they
should now report on their activities to outsiders can seem like an affront
or an inconvenience, if not an outright threat. Government bureaucrats struggle
to keep up with the endless reporting requirements of international
environmental, human rights, and financial institutions. Corporations find
themselves besieged by demands for information on their environmental and
labor practices, often from nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) based in
other parts of the world. International organizations such as the World Bank
and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) face growing pressure to open up
their decision-making processes to public review. All find the bright light
of scrutiny at best uncomfortable, at worst paralyzing. Many states,
corporations, and organizations have instead retreated behind more traditional
norms of privacy or sovereignty, insisting that although calls for transparency
are all well and good, they should not be required to hew to its demands.
Who is right? What information should be made available, when, and to whom?
To answer these questions we need to look at how transparency began to catch
on, how it works in practice, and why it is necessary to have a norm of
transparency even today, when technology is rendering snooping ever more
[Photo of tiny surveillance device] Smile, you're on candid camera.
WHAT DRIVES TRANSPARENCY?
After World War I, the Allies required Germany to demilitarize, instituting
verification procedures that included international inspection commissions.
Yet once these transparency measures were established, it quickly became
clear that, other than France, the victorious powers had little stomach for
enforcing the more intrusive provisions. American and British officials believed
they had no right to inspect the territory of a sovereign nation against
its wishes and feared that such intrusion would be more likely to provoke
friction and hostility than to bolster the cause of peace.
Eighty years later, America and Britain were prepared to go to war to enforce
similar inspection provisions against Iraq. Although much of the world opposed
the use of force, no one argued that there was as anything inherently
illegitimate about inspections. Chinese, French, and Russian leaders all
joined the United States in demanding that Iraq allow UN inspectors to go
forward, arguing that it was obliged to comply with Security Council resolutions.
In both cases, a defeated state was forced to accept foreign inspection of
its military capabilities. In the 1920s, the prevailing attitude held that
states, even aggressors, had a right to military privacy. Then-U.S. secretary
of state Frank Kellogg stated unambiguously that "the United States will
not tolerate the supervision of any outside body in [disarmament] nor be
subjected to inspection or supervision hy foreign agencies or individuals."
By the 1990s, complete disclosure had become so legitimate that the right
to coerce such disclosures from an aggressor--sovereign state or not--was
broadly taken for granted by the international community. Obviously, something
has changed in the interim.
Admittedly, dramatic advances in technology have made transparency more possible
and more attractive (see box 1). But no matter how small
or farseeing surveillance devices become, secrets will remain plentiful,
protected by technological forces that can obscure as easily as they can
In April 1986, Moscow remained tight-lipped about a rumored leak at its Chernobyl
nuclear facility, but a U.S. government "Keyhole" satellite captured an
unobstructed view of the exploded power plant. Only 24 hours after Pentagon
analysts first saw the wreckage, ABC News broadcast the same view from a
private satellite. The pictures were blurry, but the underlying message was
clear: So much for the government monopoly on high-tech surveillance technology.
Since then, private aerospace ventures have further narrowed the technology
gap. Privately owned satellites scheduled for launch this year can resolve
images to one meter, rivaling the best technology of the world's intelligence
services. Once these commercial systems are on line, detailed images of any
spot on the planet will be available on the open market.
On the ground, ever cheaper surveillance cameras are catching on as a means
of law enforcement, most often for traffic control. The British, however,
have been more ambitious. Today, more than 300,000 video cameras scan
intersections across the United Kingdom for street crime and terrorist activity.
Although some civil libertarians find the cameras Orwellian, the reality
of safer streets has won over much of the population.
All these systems rely on clunky hardware mounted in plain sight--but this
too may change. Researchers at MIT are developing a camera that weighs less
than one-tenth of an ounce and transmits high-definition television-quality
images. And a 1992 RAND study on unmanned surveillance aircraft has spawned
at least a dozen competing designs for "micro air vehicles" (MAVs) with both
military and civilian applications. Also known as "airplanes-on-a-chip,"
these MAVs are intended to weigh two to four ounces and to be no bigger than
six inches across. One of the most unusual designs on the drawing board is
a four-inch-long, insect-like craft dubbed "the entomopter," equipped with
legs for crawling through buildings or ventilation ducts, and flapping wings
for airborne reconnaissance.
Nevertheless, no matter how small, efficient, or cost-effective surveillance
hardware becomes, there will always be limits to what technology can accomplish.
Indeed, it is a double-edged sword--witness the polemics in Washington and
on the Web over who, if anyone, should regulate electronic encryption. From
untappable communications to pixel-by-pixel photo and video editing, technology
is often as good at hiding secrets as it is at revealing them. Without a
norm of transparency, technology will continue to protect private information
as well as ferret it out.
Instead, transparency is spreading as part and parcel of two other trends:
democratization and globalization. With the spread of democratic norms, it
seems right that powerful entities such as states and corporations should
be held accountable for their behavior. A fundamental norm of democracy is,
after all, the consent of the governed, and consent is meaningless unless
it is informed.
Now, consent must come from a much wider group: As the world shrinks, a lot
of people want to have a say in what used to be other people's business.
As trade, information flows, environmental problems, and all sorts of direct
contacts between individuals continue to cut across existing political
boundaries, what people do in one locale affects more and more people in
other places. These ever tightening connections create strong pressures for
better ways to govern this growing number of transnational interactions.
New standards about everything from human rights to nonaggression and
environmental protection are emerging in response. Increasingly, in issues
ranging from security to commerce to economics, transparency is the preferred
means of enforcement. In short, the world is embracing new standards of conduct,
enforced not by surveillance and coercion but by willful disclosure: regulation
Transparency in the form of verification provisions has been employed in
arms control for decades, although initially only a handful of countries
were involved. By the time the Cold War ended, the Eastern and Western blocs
took for granted the need to open up their territories to highly intrusive
inspections by the other side. Since then, however, transparency has spread
far beyond the erstwhile superpowers and their allies. More and more multilateral
arms control arrangements use transparency to ensure compliance. And the
idea that potential combatants should share detailed information about their
military capabilities and plans with one another has become widely accepted.
In the nuclear nonproliferation regime, the international community has relied
for decades on the inspection programs of the International Atomic Energy
Agency (IAEA) to monitor civilian nuclear facilities. Shocked by the extent
of Iraq's nuclear-weapons program, revealed in the wake of the Gulf War,
the IAEA's member countries recently agreed to make its inspections far more
rigorous. Under the Model Additional Protocol, which was approved in May
1997, members will provide IAEA inspectors with greater access to information
about their nuclear programs, including decommissioned facilities, research
programs, and more thorough design information. The IAEA will be allowed
to inspect more locations, not only nuclear sites but also research and
manufacturing facilities that could potentially contribute to a nuclear program.
It will also make more use of environmental sampling (looking for the minuscule
but distinct traces of nuclear material that migrate beyond the immediate
environment where they are handled) and remote monitoring.
As arms control spreads to more types of weapons, many of which can be made
from goods that have legitimate civilian uses, whole industries face new
transparency requirements. The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) bans the
development, production, acquisition, stockpiling, retention, direct or indirect
transfer, and use of chemical weapons. Entered into force last year, the
CWC now claims most of the world's countries as signatories and features
the most extensive verification provisions ever attempted. All signatories
must declare their chemical-weapons holdings. This requirement has already
produced one major surprise: India's admission of a previously undisclosed
weapons program. In addition, parties have to report all "precursor"
chemicals--compounds that could be used to make chemical weapons--stored
within their borders. Many of these compounds are widely used in industry.
Nevertheless, states must declare them, even if they are in the hands of
private businesses. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons,
made up of the countries that are party to the CWC, includes a permanent
inspectorate empowered to carry out regular inspections of private and
governmental chemical facilities, as well as short-notice "challenge" inspections
anywhere on a signatory's territory--an unprecedented derogation of national
Even when countries fail to agree to bans or limits on weaponry, transparency
measures help fill in the blanks. In the UN Register of Conventional Arms,
all UN member states are asked to provide information on their armament imports
and exports, including everything from battle tanks to missiles and warships.
In sharp contrast to the nuclear- and chemical-weapons regimes, where only
governments have access to the information gleaned from verification, the
register is a public document. And although participation in the register
is completely voluntary, about 90 countries do so every year, including most
major importers and exporters. Much of the information it contains has already
been ferreted out by NGOs, such as the International Institute for Strategic
Studies in London and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
Nevertheless, the register has revealed some surprises, notably a Russian
shipment of missile equipment to Iran in 1994.
Despite the close connection between transparency and democracy, the spread
of transparency in politics reflects more than just the spread of democracy.
Democracy--in the sense of regular elections--and high levels of transparency
do not necessarily go together. Until this year, Great Britain, the world's
oldest democracy, was more opaque than many governments with flimsier liberal
credentials. Its Official Secrets Act, passed in 1911 during a German spy
scare and beefed up in its 1989 revision, drastically curtailed public access
to information about its government. Then-prime minister Margaret Thatcher
defended the act on the grounds that, "We do sometimes have to sacrifice
a little of the freedom we cherish in order to defend ourselves from those
whose aim is to destroy that freedom altogether."
But even in England, times change. In the last elections, the Labour Party
campaigned on a promise to make government more open and accountable to the
citizenry. So far, it seems to be keeping that promise. The government of
Tony Blair proposed a freedom of information act last December, intended
to make the United Kingdom one of the most transparent societies in the world.
Other countries are joining Britain in its attempt to open up government.
A bill is currently circulating in the U.S. Congress that would forbid officials
to classify documents anonymously. It would also automatically declassify
most documents after 10 years, instead of the 50-year period common today.
Even Japan is awash with transparency proposals aimed at its bureaucracy.
A bill pending in the Diet would compel government ministries and agencies
to reveal information to the public upon request.
The collapse of the Soviet Union left free market ideology standing unchallenged.
Nearly all countries pay at least lip service to the superiority of markets
over states as efficient allocators of resources. But free markets have a
voracious appetite for timely information. Given the choice, investors put
their money where transparency allows some predictability about the likelihood
of returns. Thanks to globalization, they have a lot of options, creating
a powerful economic incentive for ever higher degrees of self-disclosure.
Nearly unanimous international opinion now holds that the only way to restore
investor confidence in Asia is to impose transparency. Leading the charge
are the U.S. Treasury Department and the IMF, which now includes promotion
of "greater transparency and accountability in government and corporate affairs"
in its mandate. As IMF managing director Michel Camdessus has explained,
these are now economic issues, not solely political ones:
As more and more evidence has come to light about the adverse consequences
of governance problems on economic performance--among them, losses in government
revenue, lower quality public investment and public services, reduced private
investment, and the loss of public confidence in government--a broader consensus
has emerged on the central importance of transparency and good governance
in achieving economic success.
Most officials in Asia seem to have accepted the virtues of transparency,
at least in the economic field. Singaporean senior minister Lee Kuan Yew,
stressing the importance of transparency in a country's financial system,
recently told Vietnamese prime minister Phan Van Khai: "In an age of information
technology, instant communications and computers, if you try to hide, you
are in trouble." Even the Association of South East Asian Nations, a group
of states that long treated the principle of noninterference as holy writ,
announced in December 1997 that it will begin monitoring its members' domestic
Some in the private sector seem to agree that transparency is in their
self-interest. Increasingly, foreign companies are listing their stock on
U.S. exchanges because American accounting standards, which demand transparency,
provide a seal of approval for investors. When officials from Nippon Telegraph
and Telephone announced that the company would list on the New York and London
exchanges, they echoed this point: "By listing in the United States, where
disclosure rules are stricter than in Japan, we hope to win trust from
Bringing Corruption to Light. . .
The problem of corruption is tailor-made for regulation by revelation. For
many--but not all--public servants, it is embarrassing to be caught taking
bribes, a sign not only of venality but also of backwardness. And corruption
is hot news--big, juicy scandals get front-page treatment. Transparency
International (TI), the NGO community's leading corruption fighter, makes
brilliant use of the social unacceptability and media value of corruption.
It publishes the annual Corruption Perceptions Index, which ranks
countries on how corrupt they are perceived to be according to surveys of
business people, political analysts, and the public. Although TI also lobbies
governments for anticorruption laws and treaties, and pressures international
financial institutions to include corruption concerns in loan conditions
and country strategies, the index is what gave corruption, and TI, greater
international prominence. Now, the group is planning to supplement the
demand-side index with a supply-side bribery index that will publicize which
countries are home to international corporations with high incidences of
The environmental field is awash with examples of regulation by revelation,
in which governments require transparency rather than enforced standards
for pollution. Particularly innovative are transparency-based efforts to
deal with toxic chemicals. More than 50,000 different chemicals are in regular
use hy industries around the world, most introduced since World War II and
very few tested for their effects on human health or the environment. In
1986, the U.S. Congress passed the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know
Act, requiring companies to disclose the quantities of a few hundred toxic
chemicals commonly released into the air, the water, and onto land. The
information is sent to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which
compiles the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) and makes it available to the
public. Although the act puts no limits on emissions, merely requiring their
disclosure, its impact has been dramatic: Emissions of the indexed chemicals
at facilities covered by TRI fell 44 percent between 1988 and 1994, even
though production of those chemicals rose 18 percent.
The TRI is more than just an American story. The 1992 UN Conference on
Environment and Development's final report called for an international effort
to guide countries interested in developing their own inventories. Since
then, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, in collaboration
with various UN agencies, NGOs, and private businesses, has published a guidance
manual for governments and conducted a series of international workshops
to do just that. Several countries have established, or are in the process
of establishing, inventory systems, including Canada, Japan, Mexico, and
the Netherlands. The North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation,
established under the North American Free Trade Agreement, is working to
develop a regional inventory. And the European Union (EU) has decided to
publish an inventory of principal emissions and their sources every three
. . . and Making Pollution Public
The Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) works because it spotlights pollution.
As one chemical industry representative noted, "There's not a chief executive
officer around who wants to be the biggest polluter in the state." Seeking
to intensify this focus, and thus the incentive to reduce pollution, a major
U.S. environmental group, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), recently
launched a free, online "Chemical Scorecard"
(www.scorecard.org) that makes TRI
data accessible to anyone with an Internet connection and a computer. Although
other groups have previously posted TRI data on the Web, the EDF has taken
the next step: incorporating information on the relative toxicity of compounds
and providing rankings--by county and state, zip code, and facility--that
focus on the biggest health threats. In addition, the scorecard provides
user-friendly maps that display schools, major roads, and TRI facilities,
as well as take-action tools that allow users to send faxes free of charge
to high-ranking polluting facilities. It is too soon to know how much the
Web site will affect corporate behavior, but the project is off to a strong
start. The site received over 4 million hits in its first two weeks of operation.
Other countries have taken a different approach to using transparency for
environmental control. Every year, Indonesia's Environmental Impact Management
Agency publicly grades participating facilities by color: Gold means the
facility could pollute but does not; green means it does better than regulations
require; blue means that it is following the existing regulations; red means
that it is not yet following them; and black means it is seriously violating
environmental regulations and causing substantial harm to the environment.
According to a World Bank evaluation, the program is significantly increasing
compliance with environmental regulations, important in a country where
government enforcement is virtually nonexistent. Its success, due to the
pressure of both local public opinion and the business community's desire
to market to environmentally sensitive foreign consumers, has spurred imitation:
In 1997, the Philippines announced the introduction of a public information
program called EcoWatch.
In none of these cases are the reporting requirements accompanied by laws
putting limits on emissions. But educated communities have given companies
a strong incentive to clean up their act, without government enforcement.
THE PROBLEMS WITH TRANSPARENCY
So far, so good. Transparency appears to be winning its slugfest with the
forces of opacity--and to good effect for the world. As the move toward global
integration prompts increasingly shared standards of correct behavior, we
see ever more frequent calls for transparency to ensure that those standards
are being met. But there are significant reasons to move cautiously toward
greater reliance on openness, and they are more compelling than the simple
inertia that characterizes most defenses of opacity:
In the absence of universally shared, or at least mutually compatible,
norms, transparency will aggravate conflict. It may simply remove the
ambiguity that can otherwise conceal conflicts or soften disagreements. For
example, the world is arguably better off politely ignoring Israel's well-known
but undeclared nuclear capability than demanding that Israel own up to it.
Although the principle of nuclear nonproliferation is well established among
most other countries, few expect that Israel can be made to accept it. The
costs to the nonproliferation regime of forcing the issue are higher than
Some secrets are legitimately worth protecting. Corporations imperil
their business strategy if their competitors are able to distill key elements
from public documents. And countries have national security reasons for hiding
certain information. In the early days of the Cold War, the Soviet rejection
of U.S. transparency initiatives, such as Eisenhower's Open Skies proposal
to permit the superpowers to overfly one another's territory, made perfect
sense. The USSR feared the United States would use the information it gathered
not to reassure itself about Soviet activities, but to pinpoint targets.
Information can easily be misused or misinterpreted. Transparency
reveals behavior, but not intent. At the international level, what someone
is doing is less important than why they are doing it. Americans do not worry
about the British building nuclear weapons because Americans believe that
Britain harbors no hostile intent, but they remain anxious about the possibility
of a nuclear Iran. The potential for misuse of information is equally troubling.
Many of the emerging systems of regulation by revelation depend heavily on
NGOs to collect and disseminate information. Supposedly, these are unbiased
and competent organizations working solely for the public interest. In reality,
they are unelected, unaccountable, and sometimes less transparent than the
institutions they monitor.
Even if all the conditions are right, transparency does not always work.
Knowing that someone is watching you does not necessarily make you change
your behavior. Even with the publicity given to the TRI, emissions of noxious
chemicals in the United States have yet to drop to zero. Saddam Hussein is
unlikely to stay awake nights worrying about what the public or civil society
thinks. Because regulation by revelation only works if revelation sparks
action, it requires a mobilized, or at least mobilizable, public. Transparency
merely raises the costs of delinquency; it does not render such behavior
For all these reasons plus the natural human tendency to shy away from public
scrutiny--an irreversible global move toward regulation by revelation remains
far from assured. Resistance is strong, even in quarters that have already
moved closer to the transparency end of the continuum. The U.S. Chemical
Manufacturers Association (CMA), for example, claims to support the TRI but
when the EPA moved to nearly double the number of chemicals included, the
CMA sued to stop it (and lost). As holders of the EU's rotating presidency,
the British are pushing fellow member states for more transparency in the
group's decision making. In response, the Council of Ministers held a debate
on openness in March 1998--behind closed doors. And the appetite of the newly
transparent British for openness is fitful at best: Although British officials
in Brussels supported a request from a U.K. television company to film a
discussion among heads of EU member states on a proposed directive on air
quality, officials from the British departments of transport, environment,
and trade and industry objected.
Despite the potential drawbacks, however, the world will see transparency
used more and more as a means of changing the behavior of states and
corporations. The reason is purely pragmatic. Governments face growing and
potentially overwhelming demands on their time and resources. States must
provide physical infrastructure, inclusive or universal education, legal
systems that stand up to international scrutiny, military security, and police.
They must maintain compliance with a wide range of international human rights
standards. They are expected to participate in a bewildering range of
environmental treaties, preserve the environment within their borders, and
set macroeconomic policies that will ensure sustainable economic development.
They are supposed to provide social safety nets for a growing number of senior
citizens in rich countries and for a huge boom of young and unemployed people
in developing ones. And many face a decreasing willingness on the part of
their publics to pay the taxes necessary to fund all these programs.
As information technology and free trade bring the world closer together,
many of these governmental functions will cross existing national boundaries.
The problems already do. Because it is so hard for governments to enforce
compliance across national borders, it makes sense for them to take on a
different role: that of an enforcer, not of specific rules, but of diligent
transparency. For example, governments, rather than setting reserve requirements
for banks, might insist that each bank inform the public of its reserve levels.
States might move away from cumbersome policies mandating specific,
environmentally friendly production techniques, or even precise emissions
limits, and instead establish systems for reporting what individual facilities
and companies emit. In arms control, where negotiations are shifting away
from large state-controlled systems of nuclear and conventional weapons to
such matters as the trade in light arms, governments might insist on maintaining
registries of arms production and transfer rather than enforcing bans.
Only governments can regulate in the coercive way we usually think about
regulation, but many entities can reveal. With states, international
organizations, and corporations all prodding one another to release ever
more information, civil society can take that information, analyze and compile
it, and disseminate it to networks of citizen groups and consumer organizations.
Transparency encourages a new kind of "devolution"--not from central to local
government, but from government to civil society. Even relatively open
governments are less than happy about this development, as the new glare
of scrutiny shines on them along with everyone else, but their options are
Winston Churchill famously said of democracy that it "is the worst form of
government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to
time." The new approach to cross-border governance, based on revelation rather
than governmental coercion, may prove similar: a problematic, inefficient
system that many would consider a poor option--if the alternatives were not
Transparency provides the basis for a highly democratic, albeit nonelectoral,
system of transnational governance based on the growing strength of global
civil society. It made sense to cling to secrecy in a world truly divided
into discrete nation-states. But in this era of global integration, transparency
is the only appropriate standard.
WANT TO KNOW MORE?
Despite all the hoopla over "transparency and accountability," few writers
have done much in the way of rigorous analysis. A notable exception is the
work that took place under the auspices of the Brookings Institution's project
on cooperative security, directed by John Steinbruner. In the volume that
resulted from the project, Global Engagement: Cooperation and Security
in the 21st Century, edited by Janne Nolan (Washington: Brookings
Institution Press, 1994), the chapters by Antonia Handler Chayes and Abram
Chayes and by Wolfgang Reinicke merit special attention. These authors have
since published books that deal with what the Chayeses term transparency
and Reinicke calls regulation by disclosure: The New Sovereignty:
Compliance with International Regulatory Agreements (Cambridge: Harvard
University Press, 1995), by Abram Chayes and Antonia Handler Chayes; and
Global Public Policy: Governing Without Government? (Washington:
Brookings Institution Press, 1998), by Wolfgang Reinicke. The most fun reading
on the subject is undoubtedly the work of David Brin, physicist and award-winning
science fiction author. His first nonfiction book, The Transparent
Society (Reading: Addison Wesley, 1998) addresses themes from technology
to privacy rights to the politics of encryption in an engaging and accessible
style, and his remarkable 1990 novel, Earth (New York: Bantam
Spectra, 1990) remains well worth reading a decade later.
For links to relevant Web sites, as well as a comprehensive index of related
Foreign Policy, Summer, 1998
9 EDITOR'S NOTE
by Moisés Naím
12 ETHNIC CONFLICT
by Yahya Sadowski. The world was paralyzed by indecision as genocidal
wars swept Bosnia and Rwanda. After all, how can tribal and religious conflicts
that have simmered for centuries be stopped? Well, start by recognizing that
ethnic conflicts are neither as ancient nor as "ethnic" as they seem.
U.S. Dominance: Is It Good for the World?
24 THE BENEVOLENT EMPIRE
by Robert Kagan. Be honest . . . which would you rather see as the
dominant power in the international system: France or the United States?
If you answered the United States, you are not alone--you may even be European.
The world may decry American arrogance, but it depends on the sole remaining
superpower as a guarantor of stability and prosperity.
36 THE PERILS OF (AND FOR) AN IMPERIAL AMERICA
by Charles William Maynes. Not since ancient Rome has a single power
so towered over its rivals. From U.S. military might to the "virtual power"
of software, America reigns supreme. Yet not only does the American Imperium
threaten to become dangerously overbearing, but also to impose costs that
could prove intolerably high.
Globalization at Work
50 THE END OF SECRECY
by Ann Florini. Promoters of transparency claim that the full disclosure
of information can solve everything from the Asian crisis to global warming.
But although regulation by revelation may be the wave of the future, it is
running up against traditional notions of secrecy and national sovereignty.
64 THE SHANGHAI BUBBLE
by Joshua Cooper Ramo. Across Asia, scores of empty skyscrapers show
what can happen when global finance meets emerging markets. Will Shanghai,
with its rocketing GDP and slumping real estate values, be the Asian flu's
next victim? A guide to the perils of globalized real estate and the limits
of the Asian Miracle.
76 LIFE IS UNFAIR: INEQUALITY IN THE WORLD
by Nancy Birdsall. The triumph of democracy and o pen markets was
supposed to usher in a new era of freedom and opportunity. It has, but not
for everybody. A look at why economic inequality is on the rise around the
world and what nations can and cannot do about it.
95 THE CASPIAN'S FALSE PROMISE
by Martha Brill Olcott. The discovery of billions of dollars in energy wealth
has put the Caspian Sea back on the map. Yet for most of the region's
inhabitants, the oil boom has so far been more of a bust. It is also sparking
developments that threaten to turn all of Central Asia into a zone of instability
114 THE IMF: A CURE OR A CURSE?
by Devesh Kapur. Just one year ago, the IMF praised parts of Asia
as a model for the world's emerging markets. Now, it blames the region's
financial crash on poor domestic policies and insists on stringent, sweeping
changes. But a look at the IMF'S history suggests it could use a little
structural adjustment of its own.
132 Germany builds a politically correct Reichstag, Uganda sows a few mustard
seeds, India salutes Rupert Murdoch, Italy embraces Islam, and other
foreign-language bestsellers from around the world.
153 Enter the intellectual free-trade zone. Seven journals in six languages
on Italy's guilt, Japan's pork-barrel politics, Jamaica's Rastaman problem,
Russia's unhealthy reforms, and more . . .
164 Right thinking on China and some bulletins from the frontiers . . .