Bill Clinton, at the opening ceremony for his meeting, defined the purpose of the Clinton global initiative as to tackle problems that “government won’t solve, or that government alone can’t solve.” A worthy purpose, indeed, for a charity. And I really think there are things that fit that category. Direct government sponsorship of the arts, for example, is a great way to preserve classic works and make them available to a broad audience. But if you want to encourage new, innovative works of art it makes much more sense to rely on a vigorous philanthropic sector that won’t face political pressure to avoid anything that offends the sensibilities of anyone.
That, though, isn’t what this event is about. Instead, it’s really about political issues: education, poverty alleviation, global public health, and climate change.
In those fields, it really seems to me that Bill Clinton could do much more good using his charisma and standing to try to convince rich guys and executives at big companies to take a more enlightened attitude toward the political process, to return to the sort of public-spirited involvement in public affairs that characterized the business class in the 1950s and 60s. Realistically, you can’t resolve climate change if the United States of America is in the grips of a fanatic ideological aversion to taxes and regulation, an ideological aversion that American business has spent — and continues to spend — tons of money propagating and re-enforcing. Similarly, you could do a ton of poverty alleviation if you worked through the political process to reorient America’s global engagement away from such a lopsided reliance on the military. But somebody other than defense contractors and Israeli nationalists would need to invest serious money in foreign policy ideas.
Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton doesn’t seem to have made much of a priority out of climate change or global poverty issues relative to some of the other candidates in the race. She’s also the front-runner for the Democratic nomination in what looks to be a very pro-Democrat election cycle. Maybe he should talk to his wife?
Meanwhile, griping aside Clinton still has that weird charisma whereby he can make a somewhat rambling disquisition on the technical hurdles in establishing commercially viable solar power initiatives seem very compelling.