This autumn is a fateful period. Both Canada and the United States are in major election campaigns, with the contending parties remarkably far apart in their hopes for the future. Conservative politicians in both countries downplay the dangers of war and climate, while the responsible parties of the left and centre pledge to tax carbon.
And the crises! In August there was an unexpected war between Georgia and Russia that revealed new power shifts and conflicts between Russia and the West. From Moscow, however, one could see it coming.
Next, in September, the investment bank bubble burst, and the US government bailed out and took over many capitalist institutions. As we go to press, the sovereign wealth funds of China, Russia, and other countries are preparing to buy up some of these banks, so they can send the streams of money home to their own economies. The flaws in capitalism have rarely been as apparent as now.
Moreover, the flaws in our political systems are also obvious; they are impediments to democracy. In Canada Stephen Harper may soon head a majority government (you may know the answer by the time you read this) because the other parties will divide the votes up and thwart their own aspirations for environmentally sound policies. If we want democracy, we need proportional representation!
In the US, neither McCain nor Obama dares tell the truth to the voters: that America cannot afford to reduce taxes. The average family's share of the US national debt was $450,000 -- before the government bail-outs raised it.
And as for democracy in Russia, virtually no one in that country will pretend that it exists there anymore, and the situation is likely to worsen. This time, we present interviews with two eminent Moscow liberals. The more hopeful one expects that Russians may become "ready for democracy" in fifteen years. The other, a man who came close to becoming president of the country, now sees Russia as going downhill in almost every respect (except for the money from oil and gas). Putin prevents such opponents from speaking out.
But cheer up. We have lots of new challenges -- but that's what makes life interesting, isn't it?