Around the Institute

2009 Winter Seminars

February 16, 2009  • Institute Contributor

Three expert-moderated seminars were offered to Socrates participants at the 2009 Winter Seminars on February 13-16 in Aspen, CO. The topics included: Nuclear Weapons and the Middle East; Innovation; and the American Economy.

Nuclear Weapons and the Middle East: A Simulated Negotiation
This seminar will be a simulated negotiation with the participants playing the roles of diplomats operating under national instructions. The focus of the negotiation will be the nuclear issue in the Middle East. States involved will include the United States, Israel, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt. Each national delegation will have three to five members: ambassador and representatives for the foreign ministry, defense, intelligence, and the uniformed military. National instructions will be issued to each delegation in secret by the Head of Government, in all cases played by the manager of the simulation. All delegations will be required to act entirely in accordance with instructions, though the ambassadors may seek modifications from time to time by e-mail from their respective Heads of Government. Each representative on a delegation will be expected to faithfully represent his or her constituent ministry (e.g., the representative of the ministry of defense on intra-delegation discussions should reflect an interest primarily in defense issues, as opposed to the representative of the foreign ministry who would care greatly about diplomatic relations with other countries).

The objective of the negotiation will be a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons in the region and providing for effective verification with concomitant controls over the use of nuclear energy technology. There will be three formal negotiating sessions with all diplomatic protocol observed, accompanied by extensive one-on-one as well as multilaterail negotiations between the sessions.
Moderator: Ambassador Thomas Graham, Jr., former senior US diplomat

Whither Innovation: Can we be this Shortsighted and Succeed?
Leading-edge science, technology, and innovation have been at the foundation of our country’s economic growth. Our strength in bringing new ideas to market has enabled us to trade and compete effectively with other nations, improving the lives of people all over the world. Today, more than ever, innovation is critical to the role we will play in the global economy and to addressing major challenges we face, including our dependence on oil, climate change, health care, and national security. The world is poised for a huge leap in the rate of innovation as a result of the enhanced sharing of information and the collaborative possibilities opened up by the Internet. We need to be lead actors in this enormous global transformation, rather than merely spectators. But do we still have what it takes to succeed?

Given the number of innovative products and services that we see around us, it’s easy to believe that our position is stable and secure. But in fact, there are ever-increasing signs that we should be concerned about our future. Businesses and the nation’s leadership must think beyond short-term financial results and understand the impact of globalization and an accelerated pace of change on future economic growth. As we look forward to a paradigm for the 21st century, we must understand the fundamentals of innovation, learn from our past successes and failures, account for how much has changed, and identify the forces that shifted the balance in favor of near-term results.
Moderator: Judy Estrin, CEO, JLABS, LLC, formerly known as Packet Design Management Company, LLC, and author, Closing the Innovation Gap

From Economic Crisis to the New New Deal: Repairing the American Economy
The United States, along with much of the world, faces the most challenging economic crisis since the Great Depression. Output is falling, unemployment is rising, and deflation is a clear and present danger. Despite remarkably bold policy initiatives undertaken in recent weeks both by the Treasury and the Federal Reserve, there is little sign yet that the economy is responding to treatment. Not since the election of FDR has a new president taken office in such a daunting environment.

Our seminar will address four main questions. How did we get into this mess? How do we get out of it? How do we reduce the risk that it might happen again? And how will the crisis and the response to it shape the future of the U.S. economy? We will look for the financial roots of the crisis in the U.S. mortgage business, in Federal Reserve policy during the earlier part of this decade, in global economic imbalances and capital flows, in the culture of Wall Street, and elsewhere.

We will ask whether the policy response up to now has been adequate and well-designed, and what more needs to be done. We will look with particular care, of course, at the proposals of the new administration. And we will look further ahead, asking what changes are needed to our systems of financial regulation and broader economic governance—domestically and internationally—if we are to avoid making the same mistakes again.

And we will strive to put the crisis and its resolution in a broader historical context. How deep do the roots of this emergency go? What, if anything, does the financial meltdown tell us about the underlying defects of “Anglo-American capitalism”? Will Obama’s New Deal, by design or otherwise, change the United States as profoundly as FDR’s did?
Moderator: Clive Crook, senior editor, The Atlantic, columnist, National Journal, and commentator, the Financial Times