Monday, November 01, 2004


Hours before I took my kids trick or treating yesterday evening, I was sitting on South Beach looking at this:

south beach Posted by Hello

Breathtakingly beautiful water; warm wind; white sand. Very nice. I was in town for a conference hosted at the young but hungry and quite impressive Florida International University.

A quick summary of the conclusions of the conference: the gains made in the so-called third wave of democracy are real and impressive, particularly in Latin America and parts of Asia. But, as the debate shifts from "should country x be democratic?" to "what kind of electoral system should country x have?" things get more murky and ambiguous. In some places (Venezuela) reactionary forces have figured out how to game the system to obtain and maintain power. In others, powerful wealthy elites co-opt the system. In others still (South Korea?) it remains an open question whether democracy will retain its luster if it fails to deliver the economic goods. Looming above all of this is China and, to a lesser extent, Russia, which may present an alternative model of market authoritarianism for would-be state- and nation-builders to think about imitating.

Random thoughts about south Florida (my first trip):
--far more Kerry-Edwards signs and buttons than Bush-Cheney ones.
--I do not understand the certainty with which one can say (as I heard it said this weekend) "Gore won Florida in 2000." "Gore may have won Florida" is fine with me. "In my opinion, Gore won Florida, but well-meaning people can disagree" is better. "Florida ended in a tie" is better still.
--South Beach on Halloween-eve is an interesting place, to say the least.
--I heard (and saw) far more Spanish than English.
--Saturday was the first time in years that all three big Florida football teams--Miami, FSU, Florida--lost on the same day. I could scarcely contain my glee, but maintained a diplomatic silence whenever the subject might have arisen.

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