Friday, April 29, 2005
Rock, paper... Christie's
When it comes to changing diapers, Erika and I try to alternate when we are both home. Occasionally, however, we lose track of whose turn it is, in which case we resort to the time-honored tradition of rock, paper, scissors.
That was flashing through my head when I read this Caroline Vogel article in the New York Times (thanks to J.H. for the link):
After re-reading the article, however, what I found particularly interesting about this story is the contrast between these two paragraphs. There's this one:
This actually makes sense -- when the decision-making costs exceed the payoff differential between the two choices, this is a rational decision.
However, this leads to an interesting question -- is rock, paper, scissors a game of chance? While Hashiyama faced a minimal difference in payoffs between his choices, both Sotheby's and Christie's saw a whopping difference between getting nothing or getting some sizeable commissions from Hashiyama's business. Given this gap in payoffs between winning and losing, Christie's thought it was worth doing some strategic research:
Sotheby's thought of the game as a strict game of chance, and did no research.
Given that there are apparently rock paper scissors championships and rock-paper-scissors strategy guides (and please, someone tell me if these are hoax sites), who was right -- Christie's or Sotheby's?
[Christie's won, so isn't the answer obvious?--ed. In a one-shot game, it's not clear that Christie's won because of research; they might have won because of chance. A normal-form version of this game reveals that the only equilibrium strategy is to randomize equally among the three options. However, this might be a game where the designations of "rock, paper, scissors" alters how human beings feel about the choices, which subtly alters their expectations of what other players will do, which then alters their own strategies. In other words, a formal model of rock, paper, scissors might not carry the crucial piece of information to optimize on strategy. Now you're making my head hurt--ed. Aha! This is evidence to support the original claim; even if there might be a strategic element to this game, that element is so small that it's outweighed by the computational costs of figuring out the optimal strategy against a specified opponent!!]
"Good ol' rock. Nothing beats that. D'Oh!!" Bart Simpson.
Some changes are coming on Internet ads
The Economist has an interesting story on how the evolution of Internet advertising. Here's how it opens:
Read the whole thing to see how Google is revamping its AdSense feature.
This segues nicely into a Mickey Kaus report on a potential change in how ads will be gathered on the blogosphere:
As someone with more than a passing interest in this proposal, I'm curious to hear from readers whether they think either or both aspects of the Pajamas Media proposal will fly.
FULL DISLOSURE: I've been contacted about participating in the proposed syndicate.
UPDATE: Roger L. Simon has a post providing some more explanation -- and an open invitation for other bloggers to join in.
Meanwhile, Marc Danziger provides a lot more explanation in this post -- including his take on the future of newspapers and blogs:
Wednesday, April 27, 2005
Andrew Sullivan has a long essay in The New Republic that tries to explain modern-day conservatism's policy schizophrenia over the past four years. Some highlights:
As always, Andrew's stuff makes for compelling reading -- but I'm unpersuaded by his proposed typology, for several reasons:
In the end, Sullivan is dressing up a very simple argument -- "keeping religion in its safest place--away from the trappings of power.... keeping politics in its safest place--as the proper arrangement of our common obligations, and not as a means to save or transform our lives and souls" -- in clothes that don't fit. The divide between those who put their faith first in their politics and those who prefer to keep it out of government is not responsible for all of the hypocrisies that Andrew listed in his first paragraph -- they're just responsible for many of the obvious ones.
The question of whether religious fundamentalists have too much power in the Republican Part and in the Bush administration is a good one to have -- currently Sullivan and Glenn Reynolds are going a couple of rounds on the question. However, I'm not sure that Sullivan's TNR essay provides anything new in answering that question.
Open Chinese nationalism thread
I've been remiss in not posting about the surge of anti-Japan protests in China over the past ten days or so, and the official Chinese reaction, which ranged from tacit support at the outset to a hasty, clumsy effort to assuage the Japanese and characterize the protests as part of an evil plot to undermine the Communist Party.
Comment away on the implications. I will only make one observation -- the Chinese government has been extraordinarily maladroit over the past six months. Until recently, the government was keenly aware about the geopolitical anxiety caused in the Asia-Pacific region by its growing economic and military strength. Being a rising, somewhat opaque power is tricky terrain for any state to navigate. Post-9/11, the Chinese had been pretty deft, tolerating the U.S. focus on the Middle East while pointing out to its neighbors, Europe, and even Africa the value of close economic relations with Beijing. Chinese academics have labeled this the "peaceful rising" strategy.
However, in the past six months, the Chinese government has:
I'm curious to see how both the Chinese and the other countries in the region will respond.
Tuesday, April 26, 2005
I definitely feel better about investing in
In the wake of the Russian government's prosecution of Yukos oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, president Vladimir Putin tried to assuage domestic and foreign investors in his state-of-the-nation address.
If this AP account by Alex Nicholson is accurate, I'm not sure he succeeded:
[What the hell is Khakamada talking about?--ed. Well, if you read Jeremy Page's account of the speech in the London Times, "Putin tried to make peace with Russiaâ€™s increasingly critical clique of influential businessmen yesterday by ordering his tax police to stop 'terrorising' companies." So Putin wasn't only scaring the bejeesus out of the near abroad, Eastern and Central Europe, and the West. Well, I certainly want to invest all of danieldrezner.com's financial resources into Russia right now!!--ed. And that's about all I'm expecting Putin to reap from this speech.]
Monday, April 25, 2005
What happens if the French say "non"?
When we last left the French referendum on the EU constitution, President Jacques Chirac had bungled a TV appearance designed to bolster support for a "oui" vote.
In today's Financial Times, John Thornhill reports that France's neighbors are warning of the apocalypse if France says non.
The fact that articles like this one and this Charlemagne column in the Economist are being printed suggests that experts are taking the likelihood of a non vote very seriously.
Of course, this begs the question -- would a rejection of the EU constitution really mean the end of the EU project? I'd like to hear from the Europeanists in the audience, but this strikes me as a gross exaggeration. The European project has managed to generate a common market, a common Court of Justice, the euro, Schengenland, an increasingly assertive European parliament, and even the faint stirrings of a common foreign and defense policy -- all using the current set of legal and political arrangements. None of these will disappear if the French say non (a good indicator of its significance will be to see what happens to the value of the euro as the probability of a non vote approaches one. If it actually starts to fall in value, then I'm wrong).
The "end of Europe" claim by Prodi is an extreme version of the "bicycle theory" of international integration, which says that if there is any slowdown in integration, the process starts to wobble like a slow bicycle, eventually toppling under its own weight. This line was also used after the Maastricht accord was signed in the early nineties. I suspect that warnings like Prodi's will, if anything, further turn off people against what elites tell them about the European Union.
Does this mean the EU would just sail along after a French rejection? Non, it would not, but I'm not sure that the ensuing difficulties would be any more severe than, say, what the World Trade Organization experienced after the 1999 Battle in Seattle. The EU will live on.
What will be interesting to see is whether the rest of Europe would interpret a negative vote as an actual rejection of the planned future of the EU or explain it away as a rejection of Jacques Chirac and nothing more.
Sunday, April 24, 2005
In praise of the average Americans
If there is one thing that too many modern-day Democrat and Republican party elites share, it's a mild contempt for the average American. For Democrats, Americans are obese spendthrifts susceptible to faith-based argumentation at the expeense of logic and evidence. For Republicans, Americans are obese spendthrifts susceptible to the temptations of a debased popular culture at the expense of moral probity.
Well, a bunch of stories this week suggest that the average American is a hell of a lot smarter than the donkey and elephant elites.
Over at Slate, Daniel Gross observes that Americans are responding to interest rate increases by.... reducing their spending and paying off their debts:
And while we're on the subject of consumer behavior, could commentators please stop bashing Americans for not saving enough when they are acting rationally? If the assets that Americans hold -- like equities or their houses, for example -- are dramatically increasing in value, then it makes sense that their stream of additional savings will taper off.
Meanwhile, earlier this week Jonathan Bor and Frank Roylance reported in the Baltimore Sun that just a smidgen of obesity might be good for you:
The legal team here at danieldrezner.com would like to remind everyone that this report does not recommend obesity and that anyone now tempted to go order several Hardee's Monster Thickburgers are doing so at their own discretion and not with the blessing of danieldrezner.com. More seriously, check out food economist Parke Wilde for an informed appraisal of the ramifications of the CDCP study.
Finally, that allegedly brain-dead American boob tube may acually provide more cognitive stimulation than previously thought. Steven Johnson explains why this might be true in the New York Times Magazine:
Read the whole thing. The only troubling note I found in the piece was the admission that, "The only prominent holdouts [to more cognitively sophisticated plots] in drama are shows like ''Law and Order'' that have essentially updated the venerable ''Dragnet'' format and thus remained anchored to a single narrative line." Which is true, except that when you tally up all the "Law and Order" and "CSI" shows & spinoffs, that's an awful lot of the prime time schedule.
Johnson earns my goodwill, however, by labeling his phenomenon the Sleeper Curve after this classic exchange from the Woody Allen movie Sleeper:
Saturday, April 23, 2005
Regarding The End of Poverty
Loyal readers of danieldrezner.com may recall that I blogged about Jeffrey Sachs and his book The End of Poverty last month. Well, I should confess that one reason for my interest in the book was because I was reviewing it for the New York Times Book Review.
The review is now available online. Go check it out.
[No excerpt?--ed. Not with this review. Besides, I'm busy prepping for the inevitable reply from Professor Sachs. What makes you think there will be a reply?--ed. Well, let's see:
Thursday, April 21, 2005
Alex Tabarrok on political bias in the academy
Last night the Georgetown IR group took me out to a fabulous dinner, and naturally the conversation turned to whether there was a bias in academia against political conservatives.
I was all prepared to expound on this in a post, but fortunately for me,
Wednesday, April 20, 2005
So about this new Pope....
From an institutional perspective [And an institutional perspective only!!--ed.], there is more than a passing resemblance between the Catholic Church and the now-extinct Soviet Communist Party. So, after reading this Associated Press report by Nicole Winfield, I'm still trying to figure out whether Pope Benedict XVI will be Yuri Andropov or Konstantin Chernenko:
So either the Pope is healthy enough to reinvigorate and cement the Catholic Church for a short time, or he's going o get sicker and sicker very quickly.
Andrew Sullivan raises an interesing point about how John Paull II changed the rules to make it easier for Ratzinger to be chosen -- which raises an interesting question: will Benedict XVI similarly change the rules or stack the
As a non-Catholic, I have no dog in this fight -- but I'm curious about what will happen.
Should John Bolton be the next UN ambassador?
With more Republicans wavering yesterday over John Bolton's nomination, I think it's worth asking the question: should he be the next UN ambassador?
[Wait, weren't you defending him last week?--ed. No, I was defending the substantive point he made -- there's a difference. So is he a good choice?--ed. I actually have many thoughts on this, but insufficient time to post. Check back later in the day.]
UPDATE: The commenters have actually done a decent job of framing most but not all of these issues. First, does Bolton have the right temperment? There's echoes in the testimony of the Bob Blackwill case from late last year. However, there is a difference between being an effective SOB who's a hothead and being an SOB who's a hothead and seems comfortable with punishing subordinates who disagree with him on facts (as opposed to policy disputes -- if that's the arena of conflict between Bolton and subordinates, then Bolton has a right to punish subordinates who sabotage his decisions).
This is a big problem. It's countered by two arguments in favor of Bolton. First, the President deserves broad leeway in selecting his/her subordinates, even if they're not the greatest choices in the world.
Second, and not discussed as of yet in the comments, is related to a point Matthew Yglesias identified earlier in the week:
I think Yglesias is probably correct but it raises a point beyond his. Even if the UN Ambassador job is a booby prize, it's a pretty nice booby prize that probably mollifies one camp within the Republican Party. If Bolton doesn't get the job, will this lead some Republicans to act in an obstructionist fashion when Bush puts forward foreign policy appointments more symptico with, say, Condi Rice?
As a moderate Republican, this is the question with which I'm wrestling.... is it worth swallowing hard and letting Bolton get the UN job in order to preserve the ascendance of the moderates in the Bush foreign policy apparatus?
I'm not sufficiently plugged into the Beltway to answer that question in a satisfactory manner.
Gone talkin'.... so go read Brad Setser
I'm on the road in DC giving a talk at Georgetown, so blogging may be limited for the next few days.
However, be sure to read this Brad Setser post that follows up on my previous post regarding tactical issue linkage with China on the exchange rate question. Brad offers some additional possibilities, some of which I had thought of and some of which I hadn't and find very intriguing.
Tuesday, April 19, 2005
The paranoid style in the New York Times Magazine
The Volokh Conspiracy en masse -- and Orin Kerr in particular -- is going to town on Jeffrey Rosen's New York Times Magazine cover story on the libertarian cabal that allegedly threatens the judiciary (you gotta love the sinister photographs that accompany the piece).
This Kerr post in particular triggered a strong sense of dĂ©jĂ vu:
As one (of many) who has been on the receiving end of a Richard Epstein rant about the ills of the Bush administration, let me just reaffirm the fact that Epstein is hardly a trusted confidant of this president.
The reason for the dĂ©jĂ vu was that there is a strong parallel between this meme and the hysteria that gripped many in 2003 about the Straussian cabal that was allegedly running U.S. foreign policy during the first term of the Bush administration. As I wrote in TNR online back then:
If there is any link between the Bush administration and libertarian judicial theory, I suspect it's of akin to the bolded sentence of the paragraph. And it's worth thinking about how the neocons are doing now (see Bolton, John). This administration on the whole uses ideas more often (though not always) as hooks for policies they prefer for material or political reasons rather than as a guiding star for the future. In other words, they're like every other administration that ever occupied the White House.
So why the return to conspiracy theories? I'll quote again from the master, Richard Hostadter:
Monday, April 18, 2005
Why my head hurts right now
Alex Mindlin recounts an apparently real dispute about what constitutes fiction between the writers Michael Chabon and Paul Maliszewski in the New York Times. The highlights:
So if I understand this correctly: A writer that has frequently fudged facts for fun has fingered a fellow fabulist for fictionalizing facts for fortune, even though that fabulist foretold his fictions before his oration. [Now my head hurts--ed. If I'm going down, I'm taking people with me!]
Seriously, it seems like Maliszewski is off his rocker.
Charles Krauthammer misses the best part
I know this is a lighter column for Krauthammer, but it's almost criminally negligent for him to go from discussing his passion for the Sox to his interest in the Nats without mentioning how he felt being on the outside looking in at the Red Sox successful 2004 season.
Sunday, April 17, 2005
The difference between economists and political scientists
Sigh..... let's clear up a few misconceptions.
Brad's assertion is that political scientists think that "getting serious" about something is dispatching an ambassador -- as opposed to the economists who want to fix the problem. Actually, to a political scientist -- more specifically, one who studies international relations -- you "get serious" about an issue like the currency when you engage in tactical issue linkage to change other government's policies in such a way as to change the balance of returns and risks facing those buying and selling in foreign exchange markets. If one can arrange for other countries to bear a greater portion of the costs of adjustment from the current set of macroeconomic imbalances, then political scientists will predict that governments will prefer this policy option ten times out of ten -- even if the long-term economic picture would be improved by listening to economists. [Yes, but doesn't this still leave the U.S. with some long-term macroeconomic problems?--ed. I believe it was an economist who pointed out what happens in the long run.]
This leads to Matthew's appropriate question about leverage -- what does the U.S. have to offer? What is the tactical issue linkage that could be put in play here?
Looking at the state of play, here's whats on the bargaining table:
Finally, the reason I said the Bush administration was "getting serious" about the trade deficit after reading the FT article was twofold: a) the administration shifted from talking about the Chinese revaluing their currency to China setting up a floating rate system. That was a shift in their position; and b) Treasury officials spoke about this to the FT in the first place -- to date Treasury officials had been sticking very close to official statements on this issue. My unspoken and unstated assumption in the previous post was that these statements to the FT as a signal that the U.S. had their ducks lined up with the other G-7 countries, and was going to start deploying tactical issue linkage. However, I'm afraid that in the wake of what actually happened, Joseph Britt is correct to point out that, "'getting serious' is not normally so easy to confuse with 'flailing ineffectually.'" So I've gone back and amended the title of the original post
So did the Bush administration get serious about the dollar?
Well, the meeting of the G-7 finance ministers happened. Did the U.S. and the G-7 ratchet up the pressure on China, as was previously suggested?
This appears to depend on who you ask. In the Washington Post, Paul Blustein says "no":
In this case, both the FT and WaPo are correct. It's clear that the latest G-7 statement doesn't differ much from previous ones, and I have no doubt Japan acted as the brake on any change in the language. However, U.S. Treasury Secretary John Snow also delivered a statement after the communique that was reasonably clear in its intent:
Of course, the U.S. can insist that China is ready all it wants -- whether Beijing will hop to is another question. Until and unless Japan changes its tune, it would appear that China doesn't face a huge incentive to change the status quo.
On the other hand, this Bloomberg report by Tim Kelly suggests that Japan recognizes the political lay of the land:
Friday, April 15, 2005
The Bush administration
Looks like the Bush administration is shifting from passive-aggressive to aggressive in trying to get the Chinese to revalue their currency. Andrew Balls and Edward Alden have the story in the Financial Times:
That last bit suggests to me that this pressure won't have an appreciable effect anytime soon. This will irritate the Bush administration but really irritate the European members of the G-7, who blame the United States and the Pacific Rim for the magnitude of current global imbalances.
Will realpolitik sell the EU constitution to the French?
In six weeks, the French will vote on a referendum to ratify the EU constitution. Current polling in France runs about 55% against, and twelve straight polls have had the "no" camp in the lead.
In an attempt to combat this trend, last night French President Jacques Chirac held a nationally televised town hall-style meeting with 83 "young people."
Two things were interesting about the event and its aftermath. The first was Chirac's principal arguments for ratification -- political and economic balancing against the United States. According to the Wadhington Post's Erika Lorentzsen:
In the Financial Times, John Thornhill and Peggy Hollinger provide an even more explicit quote:
The second interesting thing was that Chirac's line of argumentation floundered. Both the BBC and CNN International have recaps of the French media response, and they were not good. From the latter's round-up:
The Economist, among others points out that much of the "no" support might have less to do with the EU constitution and more to do with Chirac's growing unpopularity. However. going back to the FT, it's possible that the two may actually be linked:
Even the Economist acknowledges that, "in contrast to the Maastricht vote, which led to the euro, it is hard to say what is at stake in the EU constitution."
It will be very interesting to see how this plays out over the next six weeks. My hunch is that support for the "yes" side will increase as the vote nears -- and even if the referendum fails, the French can simply schedule another referendum. On the other hand, if the quixotic combination of realpolitik and social democracy doesn't generate majority support in France, then I'm not sure where it will work.
Does anyone in the academy read Saul Bellow?
The common perception of academia is that being a professor is a cushy life. This isn't the post to debate that point, but it's always stuck me that this observation elides a really important fact: getting a tenure-track job at a good university has become increasingly difficult over the years. A ratio of three hundred applicants to one faculty position is not unusual. So even if these are good jobs, there ain't a ton of them to go around.
This fact carries an even greater bite in the humanities. As tough as it may be to get hired in political science, it's a cakewalk compared to getting a position in, say, English departments. I know far too many acquaintances who are whip-smart but drop out of academia because they picked the wrong department to get a Ph.D., and so their hiring market sucks eggs.
The point is, those people who do manage to get the good jobs have to be pretty talented in their area of specialty. Which is a fact I keep reminding myself of this fact whenever I read about an academic saying something stupid about their subject in the mainstream media.
Take for example, this Patrick T. Reardon story in the Chicago Tribune about why "relatively few college and high school courses study Bellow." Here's how Erin G. Carlston, an assistant professor of English at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, answered the question:
The really appalling thing about this quote is that, according to Calston's UNC web page, "Prof. Carlston's research interests are in comparative modernisms and especially the intersections between sexuality studies and Jewish studies." She's also working on a book chapter that "looks at the way race, religious confession, and sexuality have been defined in relation to the modern, Western nation-state and notions of citizenship." So it's not like Bellow is completely irrelevant to her area of expertise.
This would be the equivalent of me telling a reporter after George Kennan's death:
Carlston's current research project is a "book-in-progress, Double Agents, considers literary responses to several major espionage scandals of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries." This sounds pretty interesting, actually, and I hope it proves to be a path-breaking work on the subject. Because it's banal statements like the one above that cause me to doubt the way my profession works in practice.
The cyberbalkanization of trivia?
This argument is akin to Cass Sunstein's "cyberbalkanization" hypothesis from republic.com. The only problem is that Curtis contradicts his closing earlier in the piece by observing: "23 years after its American debut, the original [Genus] edition still accounts for a huge percentage of Trivial Pursuit's 80 million units sold." If memory serves, a Genus II edition was also pitched to the generalist. In fact, since most trivia games are played in person, the Internet's effect on this social institution is likely to be marginal.
Thursday, April 14, 2005
Bravo to the public relations staff
The hardworking PR team here at danieldrezner.com has had a good week:
Being compared to cheap labor, getting my name misspelled at cnn.com, and a citation in the Village Voice -- yes, it's been a banner week for the PR staff!!
John Bolton is right about the United Nations
John Bolton's confirmation as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations has been in the news as of late (the committee vote for him has been delayed until next week). There's not a lot of love for Bolton among Democrats, Republicans of the Richard Lugar ilk, or, apparently, State Department staffers.
Richard Cohen's column in the Washington Post entitled "Disaster, Not Diplomacy" ably summarizes the conventional take on Bolton. And while I don't want to defend Bolton's record or comportment (see William Kristol for one defense) there is one line of criticism that really bugs the hell out of me. From Cohen's column:
OK, let's get that quote in context. This is from a Democracy Now! web page, which informs us that the original quote came from a Bolton presentation "more than 10 years ago where he was speaking at an event called the "Global Structures Convocation," held on February 3, 1994 in New York":
I don't know if Bolton is a serial bully, I don't know if he'd be a great ambassador to the UN, and I share Jonah Goldberg's concern about the moustache, but I will say one thing -- Bolton's assessment of the United Nations was and is 100% correct. He's not saying the organization doesn't exist -- he's saying that thinking of the UN as a single coherent actor is both factually incorrect and counterproductive to U.S. foreign policy. The United Nations acts in a forceful manner if and only if the United States and other great powers agree that such action is necessary. [What about specialized bureaucracies like the UN Development Program or the World Health Organization?--ed. The more "technical" agencies do have more autonomy, but even in these areas the great power delegations wield effective vetoes and can guide UN actions in these issue areas.] It's telling that a few months after Bolton made this statement, the U.N. decided not to get involved in the Rwandan genocide -- primarily because the U.S. government wanted no part of getting involved.
I might add that most international relations scholars would acknowledge this fact to be true for most international governmental organizations (IGOs) in existence. These organizations -- including the UN -- provide useful fora for negotiation, bargaining, diplomatic coordination, and occasionally collective action. At best, IGO secretariats can, once in a blue moon, try to get an issue or policy option onto the global agenda. But to go from that possibility to thinking of them as truly independent actors is to make a very heroic assumption about the functioning of world politics.
[How strong is this consensus among IR scholars?--ed. It's not unanimous, but let's put it this way. Susan Strange's last book, The Retreat of the State (CUP, 1996), was pretty much devoted to showing the myriad ways in which states were losing their control over world politics to multinational corporations, criminal mafias, etc. When she got to IGOs, however, Strange threw up her hands and conceded that for international institutions, states still rule the roost.]
Perhaps Bolton takes more glee in this assessment of the UN than his critics do -- and that's a normative debate that will not go away. But to chide Bolton for the quoted passage above is absurd. He was making an empirical assessment of the United Nations -- and his assessment was correct.
UPDATE: Note to self -- check out David Brooks before posting on a more regular basis.
Wednesday, April 13, 2005
Be afraid but not too afraid about the dollar
Longtime readers of this blog will recognize my occasional concern with the size of the trade deficit and the future of the dollar. On this question, economists split into two clear camps -- camp one thinks the current equilibrium -- in which the U.S. runs enormous current account deficits and Pacific Rim central banks provide the financing for said deficits -- is incredibly fragile and that the dollar's value will fall hard, fast, and soon. The other camp thinks that because most actors in the system have a vested interest in seeing the status quo persist, the current equilibrium is more stable than many think, and that over time, the dollar's slow decline will help sort the system out.
Today the International Monetary fund follows up on the World Bank's warnings from last week and says that the current situation is not good. Andrew Balls provides a recap in the Financial Times:
For more on the IMF's reaction, see the transcipt of their press conference, as well as a link to their World Economic Outlook: Globalization and External Imbalances. This quote by Rajan stands out from the press conference:
On the "don't panic" side, James Surowiecki has an essay in The New Yorker concluding that although a hard landing would be bad, it probably won't happen:
Competition has been good for Boeing
The US-EU trade war over government subsidies to Boeing and Airbus -- well, mostly Airbus -- blows hot and cold, it's worth stepping back and seeing how the rise of Airbus has affected Boeing. Fortunately, the Chicago Tribune has been doing periodic stories on this very question in its "Battle for the Skies" feature. The latest installment by Michael Oneal makes two interesting points. One is the extent to which this competition is driven by the extent to which both companies cater and listen to their customers' needs:
The second interesting fact is that Airbus' success has prompted Boeing to do more than have Washington threaten a trade war. They've respnded to the competition by improving their productivity and their customer relations:
Tuesday, April 12, 2005
Joel Engel goes Vizzini on the L-word
About once a quarter I'll experience a conversation in which I feel like Inigo Montoya's character in The Princess Bride when he hears Vizzini repeatedly say the word "inconceivable!" after witnessing yet another heroic feat by the masked and dangerous Dread Pirate Roberts. After hearing Vizzini say that word several times, Montoya finally turns to him and says, "I don't think that word means what you think it means."
I'm having an Inigo Montoya moment after reading Joel Engel go all Vizzini on the word "liberal" in The Weekly Standard. Here's a snippet:
Engel's implication -- that all liberals are little Ward Chruchills -- is partisanship gone absurd. Conservative Ramesh Ponnuru makes this point in NRO's The Corner in discussing Engel's litany of non-liberal actions:
In other words -- I don't think the modern incarnation of the word "liberal" means what Joel Engel thinks it means.
Globalization and human welfare
Martin Wolf has a concise summary of globalization's variable effects on the human condition for the past few decades in his Whitman Lecture to the Institute for International Economics last week:
About the only thing I would add is that with regard to economic development, one could say, "________ has not worked well for Africa and much of Latin America" and you'd likely be correct no matter what filled in the blank. And I don't mean that scornfully, but rather tragically.
Monday, April 11, 2005
The crazy life of a city-state
Normally when a country's GDP shrinks by more than five percent
The last two paragraph suggest one reason why Bretton Woods 2 might persist for longer than some predict. If Singapore decides to halt the appreciation of its currency, it's going to buy more dollars.
J. Lo, Conan the Barbarian, and Afghan Idol
You have to think that things are going pretty well in Afghanistan when a major subject of public debate is.... what's on television. Kim Barker explains in the Chicago Tribune:
I can just picture Virginia Postrel smiling at the bolded section.
UPDATE: Barker has a follow-up piece in Tuesday's Tribune on the opening of the first plastic surgery clinic in Kabul:
LAST UPDATE: Oxblog's Afghan correspondent provides an update on the situation on the ground outside of Kabul. Quick summary: "[E]nthusiasm, continued commitment, and some degree of optimism -- these are I think proper attitudes when considering the situation in Afghanistan."
Sunday, April 10, 2005
Real men don't worry about man dates
At a group dinner last night, a male friend who shall remain anonymous said that the first thing he read in the Sunday New York Times was the Style Section. In the Drezner household, that section generally falls under Erika's purview -- much like our division of labor with regard to the Book Review. However, I will often look at an article that my lovely wife recommends. The point is, this declaration from a close heterosexual friend neither surprised nor particularly preturbed me.
Today, however, the front-pager for the Style Section was a Jennifer 8. Lee story about the "man date". Some highlights:
As someone who has gone on the occasional man date, I suspect Ms. Lee might be exaggerating the awkwardness of this particular social institution. Heterosexual men who are unafraid of saying that they read the Sunday Styles section first -- and the men who befriend them -- don't really care what other people think about two men sharing a meal, a movie, or an art gallery.
Next week in the Style Section, I want to read about
UPDATE: to be fair, Mr. Lee changed her name before she became a reporter and did so for reasons having little to do with trendiness. Plus I've been assured by many that she is a very nice person.
This doesn't change the fact that the article is a crock of st, however.
Saturday, April 9, 2005
April's Books of the Month
The international relations book for April [It's a bit late--ed. Look, I've been on the road a little bit.] addresses two issues that plague the study of the global political economy: how to explain the independent effect of economic ideas and ideology, and the overestimation of Karl Polanyi's Great Transformation as a guide to understanding political economy.
Various IR scholars have tried to put forward arguments for how ideas -- distinct from material interests or pre-existing institutions -- influence outcomes. As someone who generally assigns a lot of causal weight to interests and institutions, I've neverheless wanted to see a serious exploration of the role ideas can play in the world. And, at the very least, I'm in the middle of reading a good-faith effort to do this very thing: Great Transformations: Economic Ideas and Institutional Change in the Twentieth Century, by Mark Blyth. Great Transformations looks at how the United States and Sweden have reacted to economic crises by changing their ideas about how to run an economy. To explain the role of ideas, Blyth goes back to a very old but still useful typology that economist Frank Knight made between risk and uncertainty (though this distinction remains a subject of debate among economists). Risk is a situation in which there are a number of possible outcomes, and it is possible to estimate the probability of each of those outcomes taking place. Uncertainty, in contrast, is a situation in which all of the possible outcomes aren't necessarily known, and it is impossible to estimate the probabilities of future events. It is under conditions of uncertainty -- i.e., when an economic crisis causes policymakers to lose faiths in previously accepted truisms about the economy -- when ideas can have causal potency.
Also, I like any book that opens with the sentence: "While Polanyi's description of the economic disorder caused by the self-regulating market still has great resonance, his prediction of that same market's denouement seems precipitous, at least with the benefit of hindsight."
The general interest book is Brian C. Anderson's South Park Conservatives: The Revolt Against Liberal Media Bias. Anderson's book is an expansion of a City Journal essay he wrote in autumn of 2003 (about which I blogged here) -- in which he argued that the rise of cable news and satire, blogs, and conservative publishing houses was leading to a level playing field in the media. South Park Conservatives also has chapters on talk radio and campus conservatives. Here's the closing paragraph:
The one coda I would attach to this is that the rise of a conservative media elite can lead to the same kinds of arrogance and sumgness perpetrated by the old liberal media elite. Eric Boehlert makes this point in Salon in his autopsy of the Schiavo memo meme. For more on this incident, see Jack Shafer's essay in Slate about the comparative advantage of bloggers vs. journalists.
Go check them out!
Friday, April 8, 2005
I didn't think this was possible...
Here's how it starts:
Read the whole thing.
Refreshingly, after repeated waves of comment spam last fall, I've had to deal with far fewer attempts since the election. The most clever spam effort I've seen simply copied a prior comment from the thread, with the desired URL replacing commenter's e-mail and URL. This is dangerous, because unless the blogger is paying attention it just looks like a random double comment.
Funny thing about the comics....
Jeffrey Zaslow writes in the Wall Street Journal (that link will work for non-subscribers) about how old comic strips are trying to stay fresh. Apparently the "Family Circus" above is one such example. Others include, according to Zaslow:
The more macro trend Zaslow identifies is the barrier to entry that keeping old strips on the funny pages presents:
What the Internet taketh away, the Internet also giveth. Which makes this as good a time as any to recommend Chris Muir's Day By Day strip.
Thursday, April 7, 2005
The World Bank fires a warning shot across the dollar's bow
Andrew Balls reports in the Financial Times that the World Bank ain't too comfortable with the developing countries' accumulation of dollar-denominated assets:
The World Bank press release contains more direct warnings shots than those quoted in the FT:
Click here for the Bank's full report, Global Development Finance 2005: Mobilizing Finance and Managing Vulnerability.
Brad Setser has further thoughts on this topic as well:
The Bretton Woods 2 system of Asian reserve financing of the US continues, no doubt. But I also think it is fair to say that many -- both in Asia and in the World Bank -- are beginning to reassess the cost/ benefit ratio of this system.
The New York Times and academic politics
Tom Elia take issue with one of the letters -- for me, however, this one was the most amusing of the lot:
Meanwhile, the lead Times editorial discusses the fracas at Columbia's Middle Eastern Studies program -- in which students have claimed to be intellectual intimidated by pro-Palestinian faculty members and faculty have received hate mail and death threats. The editorial trashes the selection of the faculty committee tasked to write a report and the overall clumsiness with which the university handled the affair (i.e., refusing to do anything until a documentary film brought the issue into the public eye).
What I really found peculiar, however, was the closing paragraph of the editorial:
Replace "pro-Palestinian, anti-Israeli bias" with "pro-liberal, anti-conservative bias" -- is there any difference between the NYT's complaints about substantive bias in Columbia's Middle Eastern Studies program and conservatives' complaints about substantive bias in the humanities and social sciences?
[But just because academics are liberal doesn't mean they proselytize in their classes--ed. This is true, and it should be stressed that I think professors using their lectern as a bully pulpit is the exception as opposed to the rule. However, as a category of concern, the Times objection in this paragraph and the conservative complaint are awfully similar. However, as the letter quoted above suggests, how much difference any of this makes in the end is subject to debate.]
This sort of argument makes me wonder if Cole has ever actually sat in on an international relations course. It is possible that someone at some college teaches the Middle East as "Zionist historiography" but most IR scholars are way too professionalized to ascribe such a normative judgment to any nationality. It sure as hell ain't "dominant in the American academy." In fact, I'll dare Cole to find a single syllabus at the American Political Science Association archive or elsewhere with a "Zionist" bent.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Cole responds here, saying:
I certainly do not disagree with Cole's point about teaching students critical and analytical skills -- but his first posting (excerpted above) on this topic was entirely a discussion about content and not method. Furthermore, Cole has misunderstood my rebuttal. When I say that, "most IR scholars are way too professionalized," what I mean is that my fellow IR profs rarely, if ever, offer only one master narrative of any event. Instead, they tend to discuss how an event or case can be explained by different theories of international relations, and how for almost every theory, there are inconvenient facts that problematize that model. This doesn't leave much room for the "Israelis good, Palestinians evil" mode of teaching (and, again, let me stress that this is in international relations classes, which were the target of Cole's lament; I can't speak to how these questions are taught in comparative politics or history classes).
See Henry Farrell for a similar take. His punchline:
Wednesday, April 6, 2005
I'll be at Boston University today as part of "The Great Debate" series at Boston University's College of Communications:
They'll also be webcasting the event -- click here to see.
Tuesday, April 5, 2005
Brooks and Krugman roil the waters
Occasionally I wonder whether David Brooks and Paul Krugman call each other up and say, "Hey, let's get the blogosphere really worked up about topic X!!" I know that doesn't actually happen, but their columns from today -- Krugman's explanation for why no conservatives are in academia and vice versa, and Brooks' explanation of why conservatives are the party of big ideas -- play off each other nicely.
In contrast to Krugman's claim of Republican intolerance, Brooks argues that it's precisely the intra-party squabbling that keeps the GOP on its toes:
Combined, these two columns have certainly inspired a great deal of blog chatter. On Brooks, see Glenn Reynolds, Kieran Healy, Mark Schmitt, Matthew Yglesias, and Kevin Drum. On Krugman, see Juan Non-Volokh, Orin Kerr, Mark Kleiman, and Brad DeLong [What the hell does DeLong's post have to do with Krugman's article?--ed. Nothing, except it does offer a glimpse into the kind of mentality that is necessary to survive and thrive in the modern academy].
As a Republican academic, I offer the following insights:
There's plenty more to wrestle with here -- including the question of how Mill's On Liberty would inform one's reaction to these columns -- but I'll leave that to the readers.
San Francisco regulates bloggers -- or not
Eugene Volokh has the run-down on a possible San Francisco ordinance designed to regulate election coverage, and may or may not regulate blogs. Eugene writes, "I've held off on blogging about this because I wanted to figure out just what the ordinance means, and it's been surprisingly hard." After reading his post, I'm equally flummoxed -- but I fear this will not be the last of blog regulation.
Passive-aggressive opportunism and the College of Cardinals
Liz Sly has an interesting piece in the Chicago Tribune on the selection process for the next pope. Although any male Catholic can be chosen, the overwhelming probability is that the next Pope will come from the College of Cardinals -- the very body that selects the next pope.
This raises a tricky question -- how can a Cardinal who wants to be pope express that desire? As Sly explains:
So, does this make it difficult for potential prelates to make their case to fellow cardinals? Not necessarily, thanks to the Internet, as Sly explains:
In other words, candidates for the papacy can't come out and say they want to be the pope, but they can provide easily accessible information about their theological doctrines, positions, and, yes, even head shots. They can't be aggressive, but they can be passive-aggressive. [Jeez, it's almost like they're academics or something--ed.]
I eagerly await the first cardinal blog.
For more information on the selection of the next pope, visit this page at catholic-pages.com.
UPDATE: The Associated Press reports that, "In a major change to a centuries-old practice, the Vatican will ring bells in addition to sending up white smoke to signal the election of a new pope." Yep -- it's just a step or two between ringing bells and text-messaging the entire flock.
Monday, April 4, 2005
A warming world and frosty Aussies
President Bush has had a pretty good foreign policy run as of late. Last month Europe decided to maintain its arms embargo on China (though this issue hasn't gone away) and this month accepted Paul Wolfowitz's nomination as World Bank President without firing a rhetorical shot. The French have returned to their usual exercises in Anglophobe hysteria -- now they're worried about the hegemony of Google.
In the rest of thw world, that whole "freedom on the march" deal is looking pretty good. Kyrgyzstan's transition to democracy "has been largely peaceful" according to the BBC. Syria has now set April 30th as the actual deadline for its military withdrawal from Lebanon. Finally, President Bush just had a fruitful meeting with Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, promising help in getting Ukraine into NATO and the WTO (though he didn't go as far as Slate's Peter Savodnik would have liked).
In Iraq, the news is also trending upwards. 64 Sunni scholars recently issued a fatwa declaring that Sunnis could join Iraq's security forces in order to prevent the country from falling into the "the hands of those who have caused chaos, destruction and violated the sanctities." The violent insurgency has died down as of late; Britain's senior military official in Iraq declared that the insurgents were "running out of steam."
So things are apparently going swimmingly for Bush. But -- you knew there was a "but" -- there's this Australian poll reported in the Economist that's nagging at me:
One could dismiss this as an irrelevant poll in a country led by a very pro-American government. Or one could think of this as one of those data points suggesting that other countries/populations are just biding their time until they can act to subvert U.S. interests.
I'll leave that debate to the readers.
Sunday, April 3, 2005
A very important post about.... the state of the Sox-Yankees rivalry
Ah, opening day. I was going to compose a long post about coping with the idea of the Red Sox as world champions, while still being confident of the Red Sox's chances this year, but a lot of other people beat me to it.
As for the Yankees, consider this Futility Infielder post by Baseball Prospectus contributor Jay Jaffe from the offseason:
The Yankees are going to be good this year, no doubt. Randy Johnson will be ferocious. However, the fact is that they have no depth in starting pitching -- for the Yankees to win this year, they have to rely on one over-40 pitcher with no cartilage in his right knee and another over-40 pitcher with just a spot of back trouble. This didn't hamper the Red Sox last year (their top five pitchers were remarkably healthy and started 157 of 162 games), but the odds of the Yankees repeating this durability ain't great.
What's more important, however, is how this rivalry shapes up for the next few seasons. It's telling that Theo Epstein has managed not just to sign free agents this off-season, but also trade for some decent prospects. By allowing most of their free agents to walk, the Red Sox will have five of the top fifty picks in this year's amateur draft. The Sox won't just be good this year -- they're setting themselves up for quite a nice run.
And the Yankees? No team with a $200 million payroll is going to be bad -- and this is a great thing for Sox fans. For there to be a real rivalry, both sides need to have a decent chance of winning, and this will be a real rivalry for many years to come. It's been intense in recent years because, as Joe Torre observed, "both clubs have been very evenly matched." After this year, however, medium-term trends favor the Red Sox. Given that for years, nay, decades, the reverse was true, I have no problem with this.
Friday, April 1, 2005
Open Pope thread
Feel free to comment on the legacy of Pope John Paul II, now approaching death. His pivotal role in promoting dissent in the Soviet bloc will certainly be prominently mentioned. So will his profound and consistent commitment to pacifism. As for his iron-clad control of the Church hierarchy itself, I'll leave it to the commentors.
UPDATE: Rest in peace, Karol Wojtyla.
Josh Marshall takes a welcome break from Social Security-blogging to make an excellent point about the ways that this pope changed the way that we think about the pope more generally:
Kathryn Jean Lopez also makes a trenchant point about the Pope's last lesson:
Posting will be erratic the next couple of days, as I wend my way to New Haven for a conference sponsored by Yale's Information Society Project entitled "The Global Flow of Information." Looks like an interesting program.
If you're really trying to avoid work, go check out the thought piece I'll be presenting entitled "Weighing the Scales: The Internet's Effect on State-Society Relations." I'll be very curious to see whether new information technologies will affect the situaion in Zimbabwe.
UPDATE: For those of you who really want to know what's going on at the conference, check out Lawmeme, which is liveblogging the panels.