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Pay More Attention to Our Own Backyard

• December 22, 2008 • 6:55 PM

Miller-McCune’s experts offer solutions to problems that were under-discussed during the presidential campaign.

A clear lesson of the last eight years is that the world is now too large and complex to be dominated by a single power. Nations that try to exercise unilateral economic and military power will only undermine their moral and material position in the world and contribute to their own decline. A better strategy is for great powers to focus their energies on their own regional spheres of influence, while working with other nations multilaterally to achieve peace, stability and prosperity elsewhere.

For the United States, this means ending reckless unilateral interventions in places like Iraq, Afghanistan and Georgia. To address pressing problems in distant locations, we need to work with cooperative partners willing to commit resources to multilateral efforts that will carry international legitimacy and be sustainable over the longer term. To the extent we project power externally, we should use our influence to address problems in the Western Hemisphere. Specifically, we should follow the model of the European Union and work to create a political economy of peace and prosperity grounded in the relatively free movement of goods, capital, information and people throughout the Americas. We should begin by getting NAFTA right, and once Canada, Mexico and the U.S. are successfully moving toward integration and economic growth, use North America as a springboard to incorporate other Latin American and Caribbean nations into an expanding and increasingly prosperous political and economic union.

More Unsolicited Advice …


Re-establish Respect for the Constitutional Separation of PowersMickey Edwards, Princeton University: Despite repeated assertions by both Barack Obama and John McCain that their policies would differ significantly from those of the previous administration, virtually no attention was paid during the campaign to the worst feature of the Bush presidency: the determined undermining of America’s constitutional framework. Read more


Restore Public Faith in Science
Sunshine Menezes, Ph.D., University of Rhode Island: Before the tumbling economy sucked the air out of other issues in the 2008 presidential campaign, there was laudable effort to bring attention to a largely overlooked but critical policy issue: the decline of American science funding and education. Read more


Eliminate the Electoral College
Len Sellers, CEO, Hammer2Anvil: I was at a business dinner in Asia shortly after the 2000 election. Jokes were being made about still not knowing who will be the next U.S. president: “Isn’t it typical of Americans to bring in the lawyers?” And so on. Read more


Close the Turkey Farm
Thomas A. Birkland, Ph.D., North Carolina State University: The president should remove FEMA from Homeland Security. Minimally, he could issue an executive order that indicates that the FEMA director reports directly to the president during disasters. Read more


Grant All Americans Their Day in Court
James L. Gibson, Ph.D. Washington University in St. Louis: One issue I believe your administration ought to address is that of access to justice by ordinary citizens. As you are no doubt aware by virtue of your legal training, the American legal system has been radically reshaped during the Republican years under so-called tort reform. Read more


Return Balance to the Federal Judiciary
Cornell W. Clayton, Ph.D., Washington State University: You will have the opportunity to nominate many federal judges and no doubt one or more individuals to the U.S. Supreme Court in the next four years. Please restore balance to our federal judiciary. By balance, I do not refer to partisanship or ideology but to life experience and public stature. Read more


P. People O.
Bill Savage, Ph.D., Northwestern University: Piss people off. Piss off the right-wing Cuban Americans in Florida by normalizing relations with Cuba. (If we can work with the commies in Vietnam or China, then we can work with the Cubans.) Piss off the agribusiness industry by ending subsidies for farms not owned and worked by individual families. Read more


Find a New Immigration Perspective
James La Valle, Ph.D., Murray State University: Conspicuously absent from both 2008 presidential campaigns was a fair, honest and decisive proposal to solve the immigration problem in the U.S., especially with respect to our southern border. Read more


Make Real Racial Progress
Phillip Atiba Goff, Ph.D., University of California, Los Angeles: There are few places where the United States is further away from achieving “post-raciality” than in our prisons and courtrooms. … It is distressing to think that this election’s celebration of moral progress could coincide with the largest incarceration of a people in the history of the world, with recent reports estimating that as many as 1 in 9 black males between the ages of 18 and 34 are held in penitentiaries. Read more

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Douglas Massey
Douglas Massey is the Henry G. Bryant Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs at Princeton University and president of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. He is co-author of American Apartheid (Harvard University Press, 1993), winner of the 1995 Distinguished Scholarly Book Award of the American Sociological Association; Miracles on the Border (University of Arizona Press, 1995), which won the 1996 Southwest Book Award; and Beyond Smoke and Mirrors (Russell Sage, 2002), winner of the 2004 O.D. Duncan Award from the American Sociological Association. His most recent book is Categorically Unequal: The American Stratification System (Russell Sage, 2007).

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