The new world: shifting from American exceptionalism

Chandran Nair at the Push Institute's Futures Conference

On June 16th 2008, Chandran Nair, founder and chief executive of GIFT, was invited to speak at the Push Institute’s annual futures conference in Minneapolis, USA. The conference brought together participants from the highest ranks of business, public policy, arts and science to discuss and debate the impact of global issues on local concerns. Mr. Nair was invited to speak on the economic forces shaping and polarizing the global economy and its implications for business and decision makers. Given the current emphasis on the US Presidential Campaign, Mr. Nair also shared his views on the challenges facing the next US President.

Mr. Nair pointed out in his opening remarks that without understanding the impacts of globalization affecting Asia and the world, the next American president will not be able to avoid the mistakes that have been the hallmark of the current administration. He listed several key issues such as the recent sub-prime crisis, terrorism, high commodity prices, energy security and climate change which will test the ability of the new president to adapt to a new world order. In order to be effective in the global arena, it is important for the next president to make a concerted effort in reaching out to the world. This would mean a fundamental shift away from the current policy of promoting American exceptionalism.

Mr. Nair also urged the next president to reign in the consumption driven by greed which has put pressure on natural resources and has exacerbated climate change. Citing the example that the average American consumes 15 times the amount of energy as the average Indian, Mr. Nair argued that much of world’s consumption is largely from rich western countries such as America as well as energy rich countries in the Middle East. He cautioned that these consumption patterns are unsustainable especially as an increasing number of Chinese and Indians are also eager and able to buy cars, refrigerators and TVs putting greater pressures on already limited resources.

Mr. Nair countered against the current administration’s belief that private interests can solve today’s challenges given that markets are imperfect. In order to make progress towards a solution, it must first be acknowledged that pressing issues such as climate change and dwindling resources is everybody’s problem. Although implementing domestic restrictions on car use, investments in public transports and implementation of a carbon tax in America are important; it is not enough argued Mr. Nair. To encourage limits to consumption, the next American president must actively engage with different governments and international bodies.

He concluded that stronger oversight and regulation is needed in order to ensure that public goods and resources are protected. In signing international treaties such as the Kyoto protocol, the upcoming president will create the openness and dialogue needed to tackle today’s most pressing problems.

Other speakers at the conference included: Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of Good Magazine and Co-founder of Ethos Water; Michelle Kinney, VP of Government Affairs, Target; Katherine Marshall, author and senior advisor at the World Bank; Clyde Prestowitz, founder and President, Economic Strategy Institute; Mark Seddon, UN Correspondent, Al Jazeera International etc.

Mr. Nair is a frequent speaker at conferences and other corporate events around the world.