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Is Washington The World's Cultural Nanny? (Int'l Edition)

International -- Readers Report

Is Washington the World's Cultural Nanny? (int'l edition)

I read "`Cultural imperialism' is no joke" (Economic Viewpoint, Nov. 30) with bewilderment. It's not the responsibility of the U.S. to reduce its export of movies and books. Instead, it is up to other countries to reduce their imports of these products. However, where there is a demand, there are buyers.

Particularly in Asia, people want to view U.S. films, read U.S. magazines, listen to American music, and wear American athletic gear. The import of U.S. films has not caused any cultural revolution or any change in lifestyles, characteristics, or family values in foreign countries. Jeffrey Garten refers to Lethal Weapon as an example, as if foreign viewers will now assume the roles of Los Angeles police officers and wreak mayhem. To press the Clinton Administration to place quotas on cultural exports is impractical and ludicrous.

I would be the first to expound on the aspects of American society that require improvement. Culture, however, is the responsibility of the host country.

Brian L. Black

Chennai, IndiaReturn to top

Reality Check from the IMF (int'l edition)

"In Brazil, the IMF made things worse," (European Edition Editorial, Feb. 1) needs a reality check. First, the International Monetary Fund has spent nowhere close to $200 billion on containing the recent financial crisis. The sum committed so far to Thailand, Korea, Indonesia, Russia, and Brazil is about $67 billion, with some $43 billion of that actually disbursed--and Korea has already begun repaying the IMF.

Second, it is not the case that Thailand and Korea began to dig themselves out of recession only "when they repudiated IMF policies." It is the IMF-supported programs in place that have helped restore financial market confidence, allowing these countries to lower interest rates and stimulate demand.

Third, you claim "there is no end in sight" to the financial crisis. This flies in the face of recent developments. Indications are that the worst is probably behind us, with Korea and Thailand expected to resume growth this year, and Indonesia at least bottoming out.

As for Latin America, it is true the crisis is not over. But remember that Brazil fought off the worst of the contagion last fall, with the help of the IMF and the international community. A recession in 1999 is inevitable, as a result of the crisis and belated efforts to adjust, but there is scope for Brazil to stabilize and avoid a protracted decline.

The biggest problem is with your basic premise: that insufficient demand was at the heart of the problem in Asia in 1997. We beg to differ. In 1997, the world economy was growing at a rate of 4%, and world trade was growing even faster, at 10%. The crisis originated in the region's earlier overheating, excessive credit expansion, financial sector weaknesses, and structural shortcomings. It then developed into a funding crisis, sparked by rapid capital outflow.

Undeniably, the world economy has slowed since this crisis. But with growth of 2% in 1998-99, we call it a cyclical downturn rather than global deflation.

Flemming Larsen

Deputy Director, Research Dept.

International Monetary Fund

WashingtonReturn to top

The Trade Gap Can't Be Wished Away (int'l edition)

In assessing possible dangers to the U.S. from the euro ("What the euro means," Editorials, Jan. 18), you rightly note the pileup of debt from the adverse trade balance we have had since 1976. By 1998, it was about $2.4 trillion for goods alone and $1.7 trillion for goods and services; net investment income turned negative in 1997. If, as you fear, the deficit hits 4% of gross domestic product in 1999, that's about double the 1994 figure (2.2%). Will others keep holding dollars on the "too big to fail" principle? Will we go on not paying this biggest of all credit-card bills?

If we can't, a revival of manufacturing here is the only answer. It would not be easy: Cost-indifferent military excess has ruined its efficiency, and the jobs were exported, so we are short of technology, role models, and experience. Germany, France, and Italy, the major Euro partners, are in far better shape.

John E. Ullmann

Hempstead, N.Y.Return to top

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