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The World's Next Supermodels

Ijsbrand van Veelen, Director
Icarus Film, Brooklyn, NY, 2009
DVD, 48 mins. col.

Sales, $348
Distributor address:  http://www.icarusfilms.com.

Reviewed by Giuseppe Pennisi

Economics Università Europea di Roma
Rome, Italy


This is a very interesting educational movie to be suggested for courses in international economics, comparative economic systems, and geo-economics, both introductory and advanced, as well as for seminars of reflection groups about the financial and economic crisis of the last part of the first decade of the 21st Century. It would pair very well with another film from the Icarus collection, We all Fall Down, reviewed by Leonardo Reviews in July 2009. Together, they may prompt a lively class and/or the seminar discussion: We all Fall Down deals with the roots of the financial and economic crisis and is a severe critique to the American way of life and of doing business – the "Supermodel" for most the world since the end of World War II; The World's Next Supermodels is the search for a the next Supermodel after the crisis.
The approach is quite theatrical and dramatic. A jury of three well known (and well rounded) economists with a flair for the other branches of social science––Willem Buiter of the London School of Economics; Parag Khanna of the New America Foundation; and Amy Chua of Yale University––sit in their office and via an intercontinental video conference, they examine the post-crisis world. They use the technique of interviewing expert-witnesses--Kishore Mahbubani, Marcelo Neri, and Wouter Bos. Mahbubani is the author of a best seller, The New Asian Emisphere, and a strong support for the Asia development model as it has emerged in the last decades. Marcelo Neri heads an economic think tank in Brazil and favors the specifics of the large and populous Latin American country policies under the Lula Government as an example to be adapted to the rest of the world. Wouter Bos, Dutch Minister of Finance, sees that, after all in spite of its weaknesses, the European “social market economy” seems to work well. The interviews are intertwined with filmed documentary evidence with beautiful pictures; thus, nearly an hour goes rapidly for the viewer. The parameters are set from the beginning of the discussion: The three main criteria are growth, income distribution, and resilience (to crisis). Also the discussions among the three jury members are handled like in a Agatha Christie’s thriller: Until the very end, you do not know “who has done it”, in this case who is the winner, not who is the culprit.

Asia seems to receive high marks, but Buiter and especially Chua (America born but from Chinese heritage) show how the two main drivers (India and China) have stagnated for centuries and how Chinese growth is based on borrowed (if not stolen) technology, increasing income inequalities, very little democracy if any, and very high cost in terms of loss of public goods (especially environment). The “Brazil with Lula” example appears to be fascinating many a member of the panel, but is it replicable? This is the crucial unanswered question. Even Marcelo Neri, a strong supporter of Lula, seems to think that it be hard to export to other Latin American Countries.

Thus, the European model looks like the winner.  Certainly, in terms of income distribution, safety nets, and resilience to external crisis, but not necessarily in terms of growth. In fact, nobody seems to know how to wake up the Sleeping Beauty (viz., the Old Continent).

Last Updated 7 March 2014

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