"Japan: quickly leaving pacifism behind" (International Outlook, Oct. 25) is timely and insightful. During the Cold War, siding with the American camp, Japan could concentrate its entire energy on development of industrial might without paying much attention to national security. Taking advantage of the pacifist constitution imposed by America during the occupation era, Japan has tended not to get involved in regional conflicts and to evade international obligations of sending armed forces overseas.
However, after the collapse of the Berlin Wall, Japan found such self-styled pacifism did not work any more. During the first Gulf War, Japan was ridiculed for not sending armed forces to the region, and the international community saw the nation as an economic animal buying off its global obligations with a check.
Spreading regional unrest lately makes it harder for Japan to remain a pacifist any longer. The discovery that North Korea had abducted quite a few Japanese citizens and the threat of its nukes and long-range missiles arouse Japan from its stupor of peace. While that does not mean Japan will become hawkish, we believe it is time for the country to decide between resolve and cowardice.
Having just read The World's Banker: A Story of Failed States, Financial Crises, and the Wealth and Poverty of Nations by Sebastian Mallaby, I read the review by Paul Magnusson, "Sea Change at the World Bank" (Books, Oct. 25) with interest. While the personality of James Wolfensohn may be of interest to some, in my view, the book has a few key lessons that could have been more adequately summarized: First, despite the fact that a plethora of factors influences the ability to increase the rate of development and reduce poverty, development finance institutions need to carefully assess, select, and focus on the most important of these factors. This is not a trivial task -- which is perhaps why it has not been done.
Second, the involvement of the developing recipient countries in the selection of the area of focus is a critical success factor -- and in this regard, civil society groups that originate from the project country are an important stakeholder, particularly on physical infrastructure projects. Third, the World Bank needs somehow to make itself more relevant to large and middle-income developing countries such as Brazil, China, India, and South Africa -- which find dealing with it costly and meddlesome, and therefore increasingly turn to the capital markets to meet long-term finance requirements.
Finally, attempting to negotiate with all the different NGOs is likely to hinder the first lesson above and lead to failure. Try as it may, the World Bank cannot be all things to all countries and their stakeholders.
Johannesburg, South Africa
I congratulate you on your excellent review, "The Innovation Economy" (75th Anniversary Issue, Oct. 11). To my British eyes, however, you seem to leave out one of the most important drivers of growth, namely the large number of startups in the U.S. that grow rapidly into multibillion-dollar companies. This factor does get attention in your special report "Europe's hot growth companies" (European Edition Cover Story, Oct. 25). The huge growth of Microsoft, Intel, Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Cisco Systems, Sun Microsystems, Oracle, eBay, Amazon, and scores of others is a major, perhaps even the single most important, engine of U.S. growth. I can think of just one such company in Britain in the past two or three decades, namely, Vodafone. In fact there have been few in all of Europe: Nokia in Finland and Ericsson in Sweden come to mind. These three all belong to the mobile-telephony sector in which Britain and Scandinavia were world leaders.
Why is U.S. business so good in this field? One factor must be its large domestic market. Another is leadership in information technology, which is the big growth industry. Also, perhaps U.S. companies are quick to tap global markets by setting up overseas subsidiaries (Britain was good at this for 200 years). If Britain and Europe are to be sure of future economic growth they need to generate scores of Microsofts, Intels, Ciscos, etc. I would welcome a special report on this subject by BusinessWeek.
Having read Glenn Hubbard's Economic Viewpoint ("When it comes to jobs, Kerry is way off base," Oct. 25), may I suggest that you consider renaming this column "Political Viewpoint." The cherry-picking of short-term statistics, coupled with broad statements without any corroborating evidence, would be surprising coming from an undergraduate, but from the dean of Columbia Business School, it is something else!
Still, for one gem, that "data on consumption [are] a better measure of how well-off people are than is current income," he deserves all our gratitude. I recommend the use of this approach by any lay person called in by the bank manager to discuss an overdraft. Let me know how you get on.
"Keeping out the wrong people" (Information Technology, Oct. 4) made a good point in describing present immigration policy in the U.S. The fact that students who come from a poor background are required to present a sponsor's bank statement indicating the capability of paying tuition fees for at least one academic year discourages people like me from seeking visas from the U.S. Consulate General in order to achieve my dream of becoming a solid-state physicist and an information technology professional. The American spirit is so unique, and cannot be found anywhere else in this world.