Although most of us can’t even pretend to grasp the matters of international finance that will be discussed by the Group of Twenty Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors–aka the G20–in Toronto at the end of the month, I feel certain I’m not the only layman concerned that President Obama is urging nations not to cut their stimulus programs prematurely. Isn’t the message of recent developments in Greece and Spain precisely the opposite–that spending should be cut?

This is just a thought because, as I said, I said, I don’t pretend to grasp the the abstruse financial issues before the G20. So, far the time being, I am going to refrain from giving you my–ahem–considered opinion on the yuan–a hot issue at the G20. Instead, I am going to content myself with urging you read Michelle Bernard’s G20 piece on our website. Like me, Michelle doesn’t pontificate on the fate of the yuan. But she puts forth some bedrock principles that in these parlous times representatives from democratic nations would do well to remember while in Toronto:     

[D]espite the West’s victory over the Soviet Union, liberal values again are under attack.  Iran is smothering what little independent civil society existed before last year’s stolen election.  Russia has steadily traded freedom for authoritarianism.  In joining political repression with economic freedom, China is providing an alternative model for many developing states.

The first response to this calculated attack on basic human rights should come from civil society.  For instance, Internet activists have worked to thwart government controls, and have shared their programs across nations and cultures.  Individuals, churches, associations, corporations, and other organizations should do what they can to promote humane political values, even if they are only able to liberate one person at a time.

Governments tend to look at foreign aid as the best means to promote developing world economic growth, but the experience of these programs is disappointing.  More effective would be restarting the engines of growth in the West.  Developing states will expand as they trade with and receive investment from wealthier states.