It’s morning in Davos, and the 2009 edition of the World Economic Forum has finally begun. Oh frabjous day!
TIME’s annual economics panel—featuring World Bank chief economist Justin Yifu Lin, South African Finance Minister Trevor Manuel, Morgan Stanley Asia chairman (and former chief economist) Stephen Roach, Turkish industrialist Ferit Sahenk (chairman of Dogus Group), Keio University economist (and former high-level Japanese government official) Heizo Takenaka—was the first big event of the day, and now I’ve got to write up a quick 1,500 words on it for TIME’s Europe edition.
So the conference blogging will have to wait. In the meantime I will leave you with Michael Elliott on porridge (I though of this because Michael recycled the metaphor in introducing the panel this morning):
It was, for a few years in the middle of this decade, the trope that you heard all the time. The global economy, it was said, was a “Goldilocks” one. Just like the bowl of porridge that the child in the fairy tale sampled, it was neither too hot, nor too cold. It was — wonderfully, warmly — just right.
It’s worth thinking how that analogy might be extended into our times. The global economy, you might say, now resembles the sort of congealed, cold, gray, glutinous bowl of oatmeal, curling up at the edges, that was once to be found in the lesser sort of Scottish boarding houses, with a couple of flies dancing a lazy highland reel on its surface. …
Then there’s Peter Gumbel on Marx (the current cover story of TIME’s Europe edition):
The book has been on the best-seller lists in Germany for nine weeks, and in the provincial town of Trier it has special resonance, especially in tough economic times. It’s Marx’s Das Kapital, and dozens of copies of it are laid out in the bookshop in Trier’s pedestrian-only town center. But no, this is not the seminal 19th century work on political economy by Karl Marx, who was born in Trier in 1818. It’s a book by Reinhard Marx, the former Roman Catholic Bishop of Trier who is now Archbishop of Munich and Freising. He cheekily borrowed the title for his own thesis, namely that today’s troubled economy needs to reconnect with fundamental Christian values if it is to be restored to health. The book’s introduction is a letter to Reinhard’s celebrated namesake in which he rejects revolutionary Marxist solutions. Nonetheless, as he surveys the wreckage of the global financial system and the growing insecurity of ordinary people, the Archbishop wonders: Was Marx’s critique of capitalism right after all? “It lasted longer than you expected back in the 19th century,” he writes, “but could it be that capitalism is just an episode of history that will end at some point because the system will collapse as a result of its internal contradictions?”
And the final piece in TIME’s pre-Davos package, Michael Schuman on globalization’s struggles:
Hoang Van Ti was one of the winners when Vietnam ended its long period of isolation and joined the global economy. Foreign investors flocked to the communist country, new factories making computers, clothing and other goods for export rose from the country’s rice paddies, and suddenly jobs were no longer in short supply. In 2007, Ti landed work near Hanoi at a South Korean – owned kitchenware manufacturer, where he attached handles to pots on an assembly line. The pay, at $105 a month, was much more than the 22-year-old could ever earn back in his farming village of Hau Loc in central Vietnam. But two months ago, the world’s severe economic slowdown hit home. Orders at Ti’s factory dried up; his manager furloughed him indefinitely. Ti can no longer help his family in Hau Loc by sending them extra cash. As he chain-smokes at a makeshift tea stall near Hanoi, he longs to get back on the road to prosperity. “I’m trying to stay here to find another [factory] job,” he says, “because life is even more difficult back home.”