Monday, April 04, 2005

The Next Pope, Prince Charles and Events

I wrote in this blog on February 2nd about the papabili - the likely successors to John Paul II (known now as The Great). Since then, the Pope has died (in the most amazingly graceful and meaningful way - showing the true meaning of peace through suffering - a well established Catholic concept) and the politics of succession have begun. I wrote extensively on the process of the conclave some time ago (see ), so will not reherse this again here. But there are some interesting developments.

First, there are two significant front runners. Cardinal Archbishop Tettamanzi of Milan is the favourite (bookies odds are 5-2). He fits the bill of a conservative Italian. He's 70 years old - so one of the younger Cardinals - and is affable and popular amongst the Cardinals who will be in the conclave. Cardinal Ratzinger, Dean of the College of Cardinals, is a dark horse second. Cardinal Rodriguez of Honduras is also seen as a possibility. (I dont understand the fascination with a possible "black" Pope - Cardinal Arinze of Nigeria, who is not a particularly nice guy and has the occassional Mugabe like outbursts on some issues - women, abortion, homosexuality for example. But his odds are currently 3-1 at some bookies, putting him well ahead of Ratzinger).

But there is a long way to go. The Cardinals meet every morning until the conclave begins - the affairs of the church are in their collective hands (under the day to day guidance of Cardinal Sodano) until the Conclave begins. You can bet your life there is a lot of jockeying for position and for influence. Be nice to be a fly on the wall.

But there is a more serious outcome. Charles and Camilla have had to postpone their wedding, which was scheduled for the 8th - the same day as the Pope's funeral (the British general election, widely expected to be announced this week, has also been put off) - but just for a day. So here we have a divorcee and the next titular head of one Church (Church of England) having his wedding to a divorced women with whom he had an adulterous affair during his previous marriage and with whom he has been living in sin since his separation delayed by the death of the head of the Catholic Church. I sense a divine message being sent here.

I have been looking at the work of the Copenhagen Consensus - a group of economists and policy wonks who gathered in 2004 to look at the key issues facing the world and what was likely to happen. The book documenting their work - edited, interestingly enough, by Bjorn Lomborg - makes interesting (if sometimes very technical) reading.

In the analysis of what they think may happen, they classify the issues as follows:
  1. Those where there was a very good chance of policies being effectively pursued:
    Communicable Disease – control of HIV/AIDS
    Malnutrition and Hunger – providing micronutrients
    Subsidies and Trade – further liberalisation of trade
    Communicable Disease – control of malaria
    Those where there was a good chance that effective policies would be pursued:
    Malnutrition and Hunger – development of new agriculture technologies
    Sanitation and Water – community managed water supply and sanitation; small scale water technology in support of livelihoods; and research on water productivity in food production
    Governance and Corruption – lowering the cost of starting a new business
  2. Those where there was a fair chance of action been taken:
    Migration – lowering the barriers to migration for skilled workers
    Malnutrition and Hunger – improving infant and child nutrition; reducing the prevalence of low birth weight (LBW)
    Communicable Diseases – scaling up basic health services in the developing world

  3. Those where there was a bad (or, in some cases, no) chance of appropriate action:
    Migration – guest worker programs for unskilled labour
    Climate Change – introducing an optimal carbon tax, success with the Kyoto protocol and value-at-risk carbon taxation

    The basis for their analysis and ranking is cost-benefit, coupled with judgements about political will.

    It will be noted that the innovations required to secure the gains which the Copenhagen Consensus imagine as possible (categories 1,2 and to some extent 3 above) require a combination of science, engineering and socio-economic and political skill – science alone will not be enough to secure gains in the control of communicable diseases or access to clean water.

    The work of the Copenhagen Consensus made some implicit assumptions. The first is that China and India would continue along the path of economic development they are currently pursuing. This is a major assumption.

    Chinas’ rapid economic growth is creating significant poverty for a growing number while at the same time creating significant wealth for others. China’s history is full of examples of peasant revolt against precisely these conditions[1]. In 2003, some 3 million peasants were involved in revolt and confrontation with the Chinese Government over exploitation and taxes. Such revolts have been growing ever since the major peasant revolt of 1977[2].

    India too has had its moments since independence from the British in 1947, most notably with tension and threats of war between two nuclear powers – India and Pakistan – over Kashmir. It also has a rapidly growing economy and a growing level of self-sufficiency and will became the most populated nation on earth sometime between 2015 and 2020.

    The second major assumption made by the Copenhagen Consensus is that global terrorism does not so disrupt trade and the movement of people that it affects our ability to manage critical issues, such as the need for migration to counter the known demographic trends which will have an impact on the economies of Europe, North America and the developed world.

    A third major assumption is that we have some time to deal with all of the issues that face us and that we have appropriate mechanisms for doing so. This too seems like a major assumption. With the sovereign power of states in decline, the growth of multinational entities with significant power – e.g. the European Union, the World Trade Organization, NAFTA – and the growing power of multinational corporations (MNC’s) and multinational non-government organizations (NGO’s), we may not have all of the systems needed to translate good intentions into sustainable action over time.

    Whether the Copenhagen Consensus framework is correct or not, a context for those of us concerned with building a culture and context for innovation needs to begin with such a big picture of the world in which innovation is to take place. What are the issues which face us as a society and which will have a significant impact on both the work of companies which seek to harness innovation and the work of governments, public organizations and non profits who sustain communities ? Unless we have some of this context, we will not understand the kind of society we will inhabit in 2025 and we will miss some key components of the innovation agenda.

Anyway, a serious blog today. Maybe the rest of the week will be fun.

If you're interested in these topics, here are some references:
[1] Chen Guidi and Wu Chuntao (2004) China’s Peasant’s: A Survey. Hong Kong: People’s Literature Publishing House
[2] See report at A Half Million Peasants Plunge into Rebellion in Four Provinces by Li Zijing, 1st August 1977. See also World History Archives at

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