A few observations on the last week:
1. The Foreign Policy 100 Global Thinker’s list seems to be taken very seriously. I got more congratulatory emails from colleagues last week than in the previous 4 years.
2. The Foreign Policy people in DC are extremely kind and helpful. They put on an impressive show.
3. I don’t think it’s a good idea to have the dinner in a museum. There is no place to sit, and you have to wait in long lines for small plates of food. The food is fine, but clumsy people like me have trouble holding a plate, fork, and drink at the same time, and then trying to engage in conversation. And it was very hot.
4. Had very interesting conversations with Jonathan Haidt (who is very charismatic), Bjorn Lomborg (also charismatic, wore a black tee shirt), Luigi Zingales, and Richard Muller.
5. Most of the people at the party were not part of the 100 list. I only met a half dozen winners, but I was told that 30 to 40 were there.
6. During the day I attended a bunch of foreign policy panels. It was interesting to see what these are like, although I can’t really process foreign policy discussion very well. It seems like lots of words, without clear meaning. I couldn’t tell you why we intervened in Libya and not Syria, except I gather that it’s complicated. There doesn’t seem to be a model, but then maybe there can’t be a model–I certainly don’t have any suggestions.
7. My favorite speaker was Google’s Sebastian Thrun
Thune, who remarked that California was wasting a fortune on a train that would connect two obscure Central Valley towns in 2020, by which time self-driving cars would be more energy efficient (and convenient) than high speed rail. His friend remarked that in-vitro meat could cut agricultural greenhouse emissions by 95%. (I doubt it.) Both seemed to think policymakers in Washington were clueless about technology.
8. Hillary Clinton is an impressive speaker, but not likable. I have nothing to say about her views on foreign policy. But in response to a final question on drugs (from a Latin American reporter), she said drug legalization would do no good because drug dealers are really bad people, and they would simply do other crimes. No discussion of how America’s murder rate fell in half after alcohol was legalized in 1933. I think she’d be even worse (from a libertarian perspective) than Obama–and that’s an already low bar for a Democrat.
9. Before she entered the room there was a hushed feeling, like the President was about to appear. People in Washington seem to worship power.
10. They polled people (using electronic clickers) on all sorts of questions. When they discussed the euro-crisis they gave 5 options, none of which would do much good. Monetary stimulus (the most effective solution) wasn’t even offered as an option. There’s still lots of work to be done on educating the public.
11. I’ve never been able to absorb the idea that I’ve had some sort of impact on policy. I’m not saying it’s impossible–some magazines have suggested a link—just saying I can’t really accept the idea. It seems too far-fetched. But even if I have, it’s not obvious that I’m the most important person in my family. My wife works for a small biotech company that has a promising drug in development, which can treat all forms of flu in animal models. If it works, it could save millions of lives if there’s another 1918 flu, or if bird flu mutates and spreads among humans. Her job is to develop it so it can be manufactured, which is extremely tricky for this sort of product. She works much harder than me, in a more important job, and gets no praise.
12. Speaking of “local hero,” that’s one of my favorite underrated films. Just the other day I was thinking about underrated directors for recent decades (English-speaking films of course; almost all the great recent foreign language directors are underrated.) Here’s a list I came up with, and a few films from each.
1. Bill Forsyth (Local Hero, Comfort and Joy, Breaking In.)
2. Nicholas Roeg (Walkabout, Don’t Look Now, The Man Who Fell to Earth)
3. Whit Stillman (Metropolitan, Barcelona, The Last Days of Disco)
4. John Dahl (Kill Me Again, Red Rock West, The Last Seduction.)
5. Wim Wenders (Paris Texas, Until the End of the World, The End of Violence)
6. The Quay Brothers (Lots of short films)
Who am I forgetting? I’d like to add some obscure directors from the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. Please help me.