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Week in Review

Poverty alleviation, we argue in an essay this week,  is one of the signature accomplishments that the blue social model claims — and defending this progress is one of the chief reasons that blue partisans advance for keeping the model. But many blue policies aren’t sustainable or even desirable going forward, and as the model gradually breaks down it can no longer provide the same kinds of societal benefits as it was in its heyday. Indeed, blue practices, especially in education and health care, make our society less dynamic and therefore disadvantage the poor. We took a similar position on jobs of the future: the debate needs to get smarter and less dogmatic—more bold thinking and less cant.

As China faced a Filipino warship and Vietnamese monks in the South China Sea, Bo Xilai was suspended from the Politburo and his wife was arrested for murder.  The Chinese Communist Party is desperately trying to keep the story focused on the specifics of Bo’s transgressions rather than having the narrative turn to the widespread corruption in which most of the ruling elite indulge. As an analyst put it, “the dog who has fallen into the water is still being beaten”. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Cameron was visiting Myanmar, the latest in a series of attempts by the West to woo one of China’s stalwart regional allies.

As the intractable conflict between India and Pakistan over Kashmir showed tiny signs of tractability, the standoff between the West and Iran over nuclear weapons entered the latest phase of haggling. Could Khamenei quaff the bitter cup and come to a workable agreement with the West in the coming negotiations? His leverage may well be less than meets the eye: world markets seem to be doing just fine without Iranian oil. (That’s in large part due to Saudi Arabia, however, where burgeoning youth unemployment could bring Arab Spring-like instability sooner rather than later.)

On the home front, private sector pensions are feeling the squeeze as much as the more visible public sector cases in Rhode Island, California, and now deep-blue Illinois. And it could be that the overall situation is even worse than we thought: it looks like the U.S. government has its actuarial calculations wrong, and is underestimating life expectancy by as much as three years.

But fiscal necessity breeds bipartisan creativity, as Louisiana embarked on a landmark test of the school voucher system at a scale no US state has ever attempted before. Similar financial pressures may be the driver that brings us higher ed reform: as students are increasingly unable and unwilling to take on massive debt, colleges will be forced to adapt one way or another.


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