The Atlantic and the Aspen Institute had a notable success, I think, with the Washington Ideas Forum, which took place yesterday and today. Things ran rapidly and more smoothly than they had any right to: all praise to the Atlantic’s remarkable events team. The Newseum is a wonderful venue by the way; if you are visiting DC, put it on your list.
You can check out the video clips and notes on the forum’s website. Highlights for me were, first, the interview with Michael Bloomberg–a sparkling performance, and how refreshing to hear a politician explaining why he won’t run (in this case, for president) in two words: “Can’t win.” I wonder if he is right about that. (The link now has the full video.) Walter Isaacson also did a great interview with Ken Feinberg (whom I also once interviewed at a Georgetown Law and Aspen event, but not so expertly).
In other WIF news, I moderated a discussion of “the sustainable energy state”. I have long thought “sustainable” a term best avoided, though I find it creeping into my head (and my articles) now and then. Few good things are sustainable, it seems to me, and many bad ones (such as economic stagnation) can be sustained quite easily. Honour-bound not to attack the title of my own session, I was pleased that Michael Shellenberger of the Breakthrough Institute said that very thing–and even more pleased, and surprised, that the point commanded almost universal agreement in a group that represented every shade of opinion on energy policy. Sustainability is the wrong model, he said: we need a new vocabulary that recognises the need for ceaseless change and innovation. Yes, we do.
In the evening I moderated a discussion on financial regulation. Pleased to say, I could relax: Douglas Elliott of Brookings was there and in his modest way did all the heavy lifting. What an asset to that think-tank and the wider conversation he is: calm, measured, deeply informed, and no suggestion of a partisan axe to grind. These traits should not be rare in the policy and think-tank world, but they are. I’ve linked to his commentary on the financial crisis and the response to it before. (Read his take on the Basel bank-capital accord–more generous than mine.) Thanks, Doug.