Thursday, November 30, 2006
Who's getting their Malthus on?
In the New York Times yesterday, Thomas F. Homer-Dixon got his Malthus on:
Mr. [Paul] Ehrlich and his colleagues may have the last (grim) laugh. The debate about limits to growth is coming back with a vengeance. The world’s supply of cheap energy is tightening, and humankind’s enormous output of greenhouse gases is disrupting the earth’s climate. Together, these two constraints could eventually hobble global economic growth and cap the size of the global economy.Homer-Dixon has carved out an impressive career detailing the ways in which resource scarcity and ecological catastrophe will spell doom for the global political economy (Robert D. Kaplan's "The Coming Anarchy" was in many ways a popularization of Homer-Dixon's early work). However, methinks that he's only focusing on one side of the energy question -- the rising cost of supply provision. This is certainly an issue, but it doesn't address a compensating phenomenon -- that the energy-to-GDP ratio is rising even faster.
The McKinsey Global Institute just released an interesting paper that takes a look at this very issue. From the executive summary:
To date, the global debate about energy has focused too narrowly on curbing demand. We argue that, rather than seeking to reduce end-user demand, and thereby the choice, comfort, convenience, and economic welfare desired by consumers, the best way to meet the challenge of growing global energy demand is to focus on energy productivity—how to use energy more productively—which reconciles both demand abatement and energy-efficiency.I'm concerned about energy scarcity, but I'm not getting my Mathus on by any stretch of the imagination.
Korean pessimism about the Doha round
But not the Doha round I'm usually talking about. David Pinto explains
UPDATE: While I'm in a linking mood, here's a link that contributes to blog studies.
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Message of Dr. Daniel Drezner to the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran
Got your letter today, thanks. It's much more coherent than that letter you sent about six months ago. I like that you stress the commonalities between what Americans and Iranians want. The repeated references to the notion that, "We are all inclined towards the good, and towards extending a helping hand to one another, particularly to those in need" -- very Carter-esque of you.
You sum up as follows:
It is possible to govern based on an approach that is distinctly different from one of coercion, force and injustice.It's good you got that out in the open.
Here are some of my anxieties and concerns -- which I'm willing to bet many Americans share:
1) You say in your letter that, "Hundreds of thousands of my Iranian compatriots are living amongst you in friendship and peace, and are contributing positively to your society." Do you remember why so many Iranians live in the United States? Do you believe that these Iranians could live peacefully under your regime in Iran?You probably notice a theme to these questions -- in all of your letters and interactions with Americans, you seem almost as obsessed with the United States as Lars von Trier. You have not, however, done anything to assuage the fears of Americans and others about the intentions and capabilities of your country. Why are you so mute about your own nation?
Write back as soon as you can!!
"You have a good voice for media-whoring"
Well, I'm paraphrasing:
Drezner's iron laws of high school reunions
Your humble blogger attended his twentieth -- yes, I said twentieth -- high school reunion over the Thanksgiving break. Using some of the fancy-pants Ph.D.-level training I've picked up since my high school days, here are some tips for future reunion attendees that might be helpful:
1) Physically and emotionally, the men will have changed much more than the women. This is mostly physiology -- boys mature later, and are the ones who go bald. Plus, if they're very, very lucky, the men will also meet someone who can dress them better than when they were in high school.As a public servive, readers are hereby requested to suggest their own covering laws.
UPDATE: James Joyner weighs in: "Women, much more than men, still define themselves by who they were in high school. Possible exceptions include men who were star athletes or otherwise peaked as teenagers."
Hmmm... I wonder if this applies to math team captains.....
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Democratic activists in the United States achieved some success in Google-bombing Republican candidates during the 2006 midterms. Now, Passport's Mike Boyer reports that Bahraini cyberactivists are exploiting Google tools for their legislative elections:
In the run-up to the country's parliamentary elections this Saturday, cyber-activists in Bahrain are using Google Earth to highlight the excesses of the ruling al-Khalifa family. It's always surprised me that more authoritarian regimes do not block access to Google Earth. Bahrain has tried in the past, but its efforts to do so proved mostly futile. And since Google ratcheted up the resolution of its images of Bahrain, Google Earthing the royal family's private golf courses, estates, islands, yachts, and other luxuries has become a national pastime. Most Bahrainis have long known that these things existed, but they've been hidden behind walls and fences.
An all poli sci bloggingheads!!!
Two political scientists matching wits on bloggingheads.tv? How can you not check it out?
See Henry Farrell and I debate Iraq, U.S. trade policy, David Horowitz, and Jacob Hacker by clicking here.
UPDATE: We managed to keep Laura McKenna awake!! Woo-hoo!
Monday, November 27, 2006
Mickey Kaus' dream article
Ken Auletta's New Yorker story on CNN and Lou Dobbs has a Mickey Kaus two-fer -- potshots at CNN president Jonathan Klein and a discussion of how a hard line on illegal immigration has boosted Lou Dobb's ratings!!
Here are the parts of the article I enjoyed the most:
In many ways, Dobbs and Bill O’Reilly, of Fox News, who in 2003 wrote a book entitled “Who’s Looking Out for You?,” are kindred spirits. Dobbs, who lives on a three-hundred-acre farm in a prosperous part of New Jersey, admires his own capacity for compassion and self-effacement....
Living and breeding in sin in Europe
The European Union just released 2004 data on ferility rates for the EU 25 countries. Here's the interesting chart:
As you can see, there appears to be a positive correlation between higher birth rates and the percentage of births outside of wedlock.
Is this driving the results? Not necessarily. In a 2004 Journal of Population Economics paper, Alicia Adsera provided another explanation for the variation in birth rates: the structure of labor markets:
During the last two decades fertility rates have decreased and have become positively correlated with female participation rates across OECD countries. I use a panel of 23 OECD nations to study how different labor market arrangements shaped these trends. High unemployment and unstable contracts, common in Southern Europe, depress fertility, particularly of younger women. To increase lifetime income though early skill-acquisition and minimize unemployment risk, young women postpone (or abandon) childbearing. Further, both a large share of public employment, by providing employment stability, and generous maternity benefits linked to previous employment, such as those in Scandinavia, boost fertility of the 25–29 and 30–34 year old women.To read a draft of the whole thing, click here.
Saturday, November 25, 2006
Does China have a slack labor market?
There are many questions that flummox me about China's economy (when will the central bank diversify its holdings? Are nonperforming loans a real problem or not? Why has Chinese saving increased just when Beijing took steps to boost consumption? Just how efficient is foreign and domestic Chinese investment?) In the Washington Post, Edward Cody suggests a new empirical puzzle -- how can I reconcile reports about the dearth of skilled labor in China with this one from Cody?
An open-ended rise in living standards, particularly for the educated middle class, has been part of an unspoken pact under which the party retains a monopoly on political power despite the country's turn away from socialism.The article suggests that a slackening economy is the culprit. Another possible explanation is that as labor productivity increases from the high rate of investment in capital stock, job growth in China will no longer keep pace with growth in GDP. Another, more quirky hypothesis is that the market for English students -- who disproportionately show up in western press reports -- is particularly bad.
But I'd be curious to hear other hypotheses.
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
I'm sure glad the Democrats are improving our standing in Latin America
The Nelson Report has been assuring me repeatedly that the Democratic takeover of Congress will not mean the end of U.S. trade policy. Here's one example from a report from last week:
It’s our contention that even if the Democrats had not swept the House and Senate elections, the US would still face increasing difficulty as the political arena wrestles over the challenges of adjustment to globalization, especially dealing with a downside which includes mitigating pain at home, and enforcing better behavior by trading partners.Nelson is correct to point out that trade integration was not exactly going gangbusters prior to the midterms -- but then again, this FT story by Eoin Callan points out that it's possible for integration to slow even further:
The US Congress will reject two trade deals agreed with Colombia and Peru, leading Democrats said, in a significant blow to President George W. Bush’s agenda for his final two years in office.UPDATE: The Washington Post's Sibylla Brodzinsky and Peter S. Goodman summarize how this kind of thing is going to be perceived south of the border:
"We watch the news and we're nervous about what might happen with what we send to the United States," said Janeth Palacio Ramirez, 35, who supports her 15-year-old daughter and her elderly parents by punching zipper stops onto 7,000 pairs of jeans a day, earning about $200 a month. "Everything we make here goes there, so if there are problems with exports, we'll all lose our jobs."....Hat tip: Pienso
What's the more disturbing video of the week?
Over the past week, there's been a lot of blog chatter about a tazer incident at a UCLA library that was partially captured on video. To quote James Joyner, "I agree that the use of a taser against a skinny student for the crime of being a dumbass would appear to be an excessive application of force."
The video is extremely disturbing for the cries of the tazed student, Mostafa Tabatabainejad. What I found interesting, however, was the way in which every person on that video acted according to type. The security officers acted as brutal thugs who would not have their authority questioned; the students acted as the righteously indignant chorus. Even Tabatabainejad seemed to be playing a role, the belligerent protestor ("here's your f#$%ing Patriot Act!!"). The violence is disturbing, but the characters playing their parts grounds the sequence into familiar tropes. It is, therefore, perhaps less shocking than it should be.
For me, the more discomfiting video was Michael Richards' apology on The Late Show with David Letterman for his racially profane diatribe at an LA comedy club over the weekend. Richards, a comedian, is acting in a non-comedic fashion. The audience, confused about what's going on, begins to laugh at Richards' apology. Jerry Seinfeld, a comedian, tut-tuts the audience for laughing. Richards, who on Seinfeld played a character who seemingly fell ass-backwards into success, has put himself into the exact opposite situation, someone who seems completely mystified about how he wound up in his current predicament.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
In defense of Hillary Clinton
Anne Kornblut and Jeff Zeleny have an NYT front-pager that seems designed to knock Hillary Clinton down a peg or two:
She had only token opposition, but Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton still spent more on her re-election — upward of $30 million — than any other candidate for Senate this year. So where did all the money go?Now this would be an interesting story -- if the context suggests that she did in fact spend in a profligate manner compared to other politicos and diminshed her ability to collect future revenues.
Alas, the meat of the story suggests precisely the opposite:
[T]he way she spent the money troubled some of Mrs. Clinton’s supporters, many of whom have been called on repeatedly over the years to raise and give money for Bill Clinton’s two presidential campaigns, his legal expenses, his library, his global antipoverty and AIDS-fighting program and now his wife’s political career. One Clinton supporter said it would become harder to tap repeat donors if it appeared that the money was not being well spent.Look, any candidate that has enough money to hire a blog consultant is probably overspending just a bit. That said, anyone prepping for a 2008 run would be expected to overspend in this election cycle. Clinton needed to win convincingly and to amass a healthy donor base, and both of these activities cost money.
I'm hardly a big fan of Hillary's, but this piece seems like ovekill to me.
Greed and envy are good
This New York Times story by Katie Hafner seems pretty upfront in making this point:
Envy may be a sin in some books, but it is a powerful driving force in Silicon Valley, where technical achievements are admired but financial payoffs are the ultimate form of recognition. And now that the YouTube purchase has amplified talk of a second dot-com boom, many high-tech entrepreneurs — successful and not so successful — are examining their lives as measured against upstarts who have made it bigger....
Monday, November 20, 2006
In honor of Milton Friedman, I'd like to see....
Milton Friedman's significance to the world has been revealed in the bevy of obits that we've all read in the past week. Much of the effort has been focused on those aspects of Friedman's ouvre that have become accepted wisdom -- the importance of monetary policy, the
Here's an open invitation to readers -- which of Friedman's policy proposals that have not become accepted wisdom would you like to see implemented?
My choice is not a difficult one -- it's a policy proposal that would manage to address U.S. foreign policy, economic development, the rule of law, crime, and race relations in one fell swoop.....
If the United States were to legalize (and tax) illegal narcotics in the same manner that legal narcotics, like alcohol and tobacco, are treated, consider the effects on:
U.S. foreign policy: Because of current policies regarding narcotics, the United States is stymied in promoting the rule of law in Afghanistan and several Latin American countries because farmers in those countries keep harvesting products that American cunsumers demand. Because this activity is crminalized, the bulk of the revenues from this activity enriches criminal syndicates and terrorist networks. All for a supply-side policy that does nothing but act as a price support for producers.There are other benefits as well -- such as eliminating the racial bias that exists within drug sentencing guidelines at the federal level.
There are two potential downsides to this move. First, actual drug use would likely increase -- but this can be dealt with via larger treatment budgets. Second, once this genie is out of the bottle, I suspect there's no going back. (For an extended argument against legalization, check out this Theodore Dalrymple essay from City Journal).
Sunday, November 19, 2006
David Brooks rousts me from my Sunday torpor
In the past 24 hours I had to go from presenting a paper at the inaugural meeting of the International Political Economy Society to spending the night with my son at his Cub Scout campout. In other words, I'm wiped.
So I ordinarily wouldn't bother to blog today... until I saw David Brooks' column devoted to Milton Friedman.
Brooks accomplishes a unique two-fer in this column, simultaneously infuriating me on one point and making me agree with him on another.
So, in order... the part of the column that is utter horses%&t:
[Friedman's] passing is sad for many reasons. One is that from the 1940s to the mid-1990s, American political life was shaped by a series of landmark books: "Witness," "The Vital Center," "Capitalism and Freedom,""The Death and Life of American Cities," "The Closing of the American Mind." Then in the 1990s, those big books stopped coming. Now instead of books, we have blogs.Oh, please, spare me the crap about how today's deep thoughts fail to rival those of the past. Brooks listed five books to cover five decades. Here are five books from the past decade that would meet his criteria (note I am far from endorsing the content of these books -- but they're big in the sense that their arguments cannot be ignored):
Samuel Huntingon, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order.I did this without breaking a sweat. If I actually glanced over to my library or checked out my book club recommendations, I could probably come up with twenty more.
To paraphrase Gloria Swanson -- books are big, it's the politics that got small.
Oh, and it's not the blogs either -- the last three authors in that list either have blogs or have interacted with them on a regular basis.
At the same time, Brooks got me to nod with this pararaph:
His death is sad, too, because classical economics is under its greatest threat in a generation. Growing evidence suggests average workers are not seeing the benefits of their productivity gains--that the market is broken and requires heavy government correction. Friedman's heirs have been avoiding this debate. They're losing it badly and have offered no concrete remedies to address the problem, if it is one.
Thursday, November 16, 2006
I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by the Nassau Inn
Blogging will be light for the next 48 hours as I wend my way to Princeton for the first meeting of the International Political Economy Society.
The quickest and dirtiest path out of Iraq
As sectarian violence rises in Iraq and the White House comes under increasing pressure to revamp its strategy there, a debate is emerging inside the Bush administration: Should the U.S. abandon its efforts to act as a neutral referee in the ongoing civil war and, instead, throw its lot in with the Shiites?The political science literatue on civil wars would recommend backing the Shia. Monica Duffy Toft summarized this logic in a Washington Post op-ed:
The fighting can stop in a variety of ways -- by military victory or negotiated settlement. Historically speaking, military victories have been the most common and have most often led to lasting resolutions. So while a negotiated settlement may seem the most desirable end point, this resolution is frequently short-lived even with third-party support....Similarly, James Fearon summarized the state of poli sci knowledge about civil wars in his testimony to Congress:
By any reasonable definition, Iraq is in the midst of a civil war, the scale and extent of which is limited somewhat by the US military presence.The political science on this is pretty clear. The morality of such a policy is clearly more troubling. That said, Kevin Drum makes a valid point:
Would this be an appalling strategy to follow? Of course it would. Appalling options are all that's left to us in Iraq.Discuss.
Milton Friedman, R.I.P. (1912-2006)
Milton Friedman died today at the age of 94.
Here's the Cato Institute's obituary. And here's the New York Times obit. The best quote in that one comes from Ben Bernanke: "His thinking has so permeated modern macroeconomics that the worst pitfall in reading him today is to fail to appreciate the originality and even revolutionary character of his ideas."
The obit aso contains these surprising (to me) facts:
In his first economic-theory class at Chicago, he was the beneficiary of another accident — the fact that his last name began with an “F.” The class was seated alphabetically, and he was placed next to Rose Director, a master’s-degree candidate from Portland, Ore. That seating arrangement shaped his whole life, he said. He married Ms. Director six years later. And she, after becoming an important economist in her own right, helped Mr. Friedman form his ideas and maintain his intellectual rigor.
Why do foreigners overpay for US brands?
Daniel Gross asks this question in Slate with regard to foreign purchases of American conumer companies in the U.S. His answer:
It's not that dim foreign owners are screwing up the healthy American brands they acquire. Rather, they are buying brands that are already on a downward trajectory. To foreigners, these companies may seem like iconic, big brands. IBM did invent the PC. Reebok is a pioneer in fitness. And Pier 1 is the biggest independent home furnishings chain—as of February 2006, it had more than 1,100 stores in the United States (plus 43 Pier 1 Kids stores) and $1.78 billion in annual sales. Foreign companies like these brands not because they're global icons, although Reebok and IBM have international presences, but because of their domestic cachet. It would take immense sums of money to build such brands in the United States from scratch....Of course, sometimes American companies overpay for foreign assets too.
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Will Bush 43 become like Bush 41?
The purported dichotomy between 41 people (good!) and 43 people (bad!) is dramatically overstated.... Paul Wolfowitz was on the Bush 41 team. So was Condoleezza Rice. And, of course, so was Colin Powell. Don Rumsfeld, meanwhile, wasn't. The reality is that presidents almost always -- especially in the first terms of their administrations -- appoint reasonably diverse groups of people to national security positions. They proceed to disagree with each other. The President of the United States then decides what he wants to do. Bush 41 had some real nutters working for him who pushed some nutty ideas inside his administration. Bush 43 had some reasonably sensible people working for him who pushed some reasonably sensible ideas inside his administration. The difference wasn't in the advisors, it was in the presidents. More often than not, Bush 41 made reasonable choices while Bush 43 made bad ones.This is a fair point, but it does not necessarily mean that the Gates/Rumsfeld switch doesn't matter. The key question is whether Bush 43 has learned from his decision-making failures. One could argue, in fact, that the Gates/Rumsfeld switch is evidence suggesting that he has decided to switch tack.
Or, it could be a PR stunt.
As I said when debating Matt, I'm not sure which it is. I assume my readers will have fewer doubts one way or the other.
I, for one, welcome our protectionist overlords
The most important--and unfortunately the least debated--issue in politics today is our society's steady drift toward a class-based system, the likes of which we have not seen since the 19th century. America's top tier has grown infinitely richer and more removed over the past 25 years. It is not unfair to say that they are literally living in a different country. Few among them send their children to public schools; fewer still send their loved ones to fight our wars. They own most of our stocks, making the stock market an unreliable indicator of the economic health of working people. The top 1% now takes in an astounding 16% of national income, up from 8% in 1980. The tax codes protect them, just as they protect corporate America, through a vast system of loopholes....The op-ed consists mostly of a critique of the existing situation -- not a lot of suggested solutions. For that, we have to go to his campaign web site, where we find:
This country is splitting into three pieces. As a result of the internationalization of the economy, the people at the top have never had it so good. The middle class is continuing to get squeezed by stagnant wages and rising cost of living. And we are in danger of creating a permanent underclass. We must reexamine our tax and trade policies and reinstitute notions of fairness, and also enforce our existing trade laws so that free trade becomes fair trade."Fair trade" is a vague term, but given Webb's rhetoric, it's safe to say that he kind of policies that Webb favors will:
a) Have little effect on the income of the richest Americans -- though their capital gains will fall dramatically;Combine that with reduced overall growth, and, well, it's gonna be a scary Senate for international economic policy.
[L]et's suppose for a moment that a free-market economist were hired by the Dems to offer policy advice. If the boss's goal is to reduce income inequality, what is the best way to do that?
The sort of news story that keeps me up at night
This New York Times story by Robert Worth has very little good news in it:
More than 700 Islamic militants from Somalia traveled to Lebanon in July to fight alongside Hezbollah in its war against Israel, a United Nations report says. The militia in Lebanon returned the favor by providing training and — through its patrons Iran and Syria — weapons to the Islamic alliance struggling for control of Somalia, it adds.
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
Will Kaesong subvert North Korea?
I'm probably more enthusiastic than most about the ability of multilateral economic sanctions to topple the North Korean regime. On the other hand, it looks like real multilateral enforcement ain't gonna happen anytime soon.
So.... what's left? Well, there's the engagement option, of course. Which leads me to Anna Fifield's FT journal from Kaesong, the joint ROK-DPRK industrial zone. If commercial engagement is going to change the DPRK regime from within, this should be the flashpoint.
Fifield's piece sounds optimistic, but I have my doubts:
South Korea’s sunshine policy has clearly failed to change the regime’s behaviour – Seoul has sent billions of dollars to Pyongyang over the past eight years and has received almost nothing in return. Seoul must start to demand information about where its money is going – preferably paying Kaesong workers directly – and make it clear how it expects Mr Kim’s regime to act in return for this assistance.My research suggests that in places where sanctions don't look like a viable tool of statecraft, engagement does not work any better, but you, dear readers, be the judge -- is Fifield's cautious optimism well-placed?
Best endorsement ever
This evaluation of the blog might have to be excerpted on the sidebar:
This is a personal website, by a person call Daniel D. Rezner, where he has a section on his opinions and terrorism and its impact on the world's economy. He has some interesting comments and suggestions so you can visit his site if you are interested.
What deep capital markets you have!!
A common lament among financial market analysts in the U.S. is that the onerous provisions of Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) are costing American equity markets lost listing oppotunities, threatening a sector that's vital to the United States. These people find unlikely allies in Nancy Pelosi and Barney Frank.
I certainly support making SOX compliance easier for new start-ups, but it should be noted that I don't see the U.S. losing its primacy in equity markets anytime soon. For those doubters out there, click over to this Foreign Policy list of candidates to supplant the New York Stock Exchange.... in a century or two. The most important sentence in the piece is the first one: "The New York Stock Exchange dominates global trading. At nearly $23 trillion, its market capitalization—the value of the stocks it lists—is more than four times that of its closest competitor."
Monday, November 13, 2006
Assignments for the Economist blog
I'm pleased to see that the Economist has entered the blogging age, with its Free Exchange blog. As per the Economist's rules for its print magazine, there is no identification of the authorship of individual posts, but I have it on good authority that Megan McArdle is using her invisible hands to guide its development.
As I am knee-deep in day-job activities, I would like to welcome Free Exchange into the blogosphere by requesting that it comment on two memes currently making their way through the blogosphere:
1) Over at Crooked Timber, Chris Bertram asks a pointed question to libertarians -- what kinds of inequality matter?[T]he crux of Tyler [Cowen]’s argument has been that Europe’s ageing population matters because it will lead to lower growth rates and that the compounding effect of these will be that Europe’s position relative to the US (and China, and India) will decline, and that that’s a bad thing for Europeans. Whilst Tyler insists that these global relativities matter enormously, Will [Wilkinon] suggests that domestic relativities between individuals matter hardly at all. Since I think of Will and Tyler as occupying similar ideological space to one another, I find the contrast to be a striking one, and all the more so because I think that something like the exact opposite is true. That is to say, I think that domestic relativities matter quite a lot, and that global ones ought to matter a good deal less (if at all) just so long as the states concerned can ensure for all their citizens a certain threshold level of the key capabilities.UPDATE: Drezner gets results from Free Exchange!!
What's going on in international education?
A few odds & ends from the world of international education:
1) It would appear that the U.S. has finally reversed the decline in international students wishing to study in the U.S. Karen Arenson summarizes the latest information in the New York Times:The number of new foreign students coming to the United States grew this school year, after several years of weakness that followed the terrorist attacks of 2001, according to a survey to be released today by the Institute of International Education.Parenthetical thought -- how does Lou Dobbs feel about this info? On the one hand, the increase in student visas means greater flows of foreigners into the United States -- which Dobbs the nativist would surely condemn. On the other hand, the increase in foreign students actually improves our balance of trade ($13.5 billion according to this estimate), since they count as an export of services -- which Dobbs the mercantilist would surely like.
Saturday, November 11, 2006
Sign # 347 that the Doha round is deader than a doornail
The Democratic victories have generated a lot of pessimism in the business press about there being any chance for a revival of world trade talks. I'm certainly not optimistic about a revival in trade talks.
That said, let me offer two counters to this -- one positive and one negative.
The negative is that there wasn't exactly a lot of momentum on trade liberalization before the election. The most symblolic evidence of this fact come from this Reuters story from November 2nd:
Comatose world trade talks showed a possible sign of brain activity on Thursday as World Trade Organization Director General Pascal Lamy arrived in Washington to meet with U.S. officials.Sounds like a cautiously positive story, until you get to the marathon part. I saw Lamy speak when he was on Boston, and it was clear that he had trained rigorously for the marathon. This is great for Lamy, but it raises the obvioius point -- no WTO Director is going to have the time to train for a real marathon if there's progress to be made on a trade round.
[So what should Lamy have done with his time?--ed. Oh, the impasse is not his fault -- the WTO director has practically no power. His ability to train for the marathon is a symptom of the stalemate among the key countries -- not a cause.]
Second, even if Doha goes down, and even if enthusiasm for free trade slows in the Congress, progress towards liberalization can still be made. Consider that in the past week, Vietnam was admitted into the WTO, and the US approved Russia's entry into the organization as well. There are a few other economies on the outside looking in -- Ukraine and Kazakhstan, not to mention a third of the Middle East-- and if the US can facilitate their entry, then the WTO can live up to its name.
Friday, November 10, 2006
The trouble with fair trade, continued
Two months ago I blogged about the serious pitfalls of implementing fair trade certifications in the coffee trade.
Now I see that the Economist's business.viewhas an interesting story about the brewing battle between Starbucks and Oxfam:
Coffee has become a big testing ground for what it means to be an ethical consumer. The hugely successful Fair Trade brand allows many coffee addicts to get their fix with a clearer conscience, safe in the belief that no farmers have been exploited in the growing of it.Who's right? Decide for yourselves! Here's a link to the Oxfam campagn, and here's a link to Starbucks web page on sustaining coffee-producing communities.
UPDATE: Joshua Gans has some thoughts on the matter that are worth checking out.
The ultimate study of higher education
With the midterms and all I forgot to highlight this article from the New York Times education supplment about why ultimate frisbee is the sport of kings:
Forget college guides, U.S. News & World Report rankings, average SAT scores. The best gauge of an institution’s ex cellence may actually be … its ultimate Frisbee team. At least that’s the theory of Dr. Michael J. Norden, a Univer sity of Washington professor of psychiatry.My first thought is that this is correlation and not causation, but you'll have to read the article to see why Norden thinks there is a causal relationship.
Thursday, November 9, 2006
Watch me get tipsy on video
In this episode:
1) As an act of political protest against Question 1 going down, I drink a lot; Matt, in an act of protest against his headset not working, uses an actual phone;
Wednesday, November 8, 2006
Rumsfeld out, Gates in, Drezner happy
If this AP report is correct, then the midterms have claimed another big loser:
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, architect of an unpopular war in Iraq, intends to resign after six stormy years at the Pentagon, Republican officials said Wednesday.If true, the news will provoke a triple "yee-haw!" from the hardworking staff here at danieldrezner.com.
[Why three yells?--ed.] First, this blog has wanted Rummy to retire for quite some time. Second, Gates is a member in good standing of the Bush 41 crowd -- i.e., he's, you know, competent.
Third, if it is Gates, this might reduce some of the paranoia about Joe Lieberman-replacing-Rumsfeld-and-then-being-replaced-by-a-Republican scenario that's been discussed in some parts of the blogosphere. This also kills the Santorum-for-DoD campaign just after it starts, by the way.
UPDATE: It's official! Yee-haw!!
Rich Lowry makes an interesting point over at The Corner:
The public probably wanted Bush to reach out to and listen more to critics. They wanted him to break-out of the "stay the course" stalemate in his Iraq policy, which had been embodied by Rumsfeld. They wanted him to acknowledge, really acknowledge in a serious way, their deep disatisfaction with the course of things in Iraq. And lo and behold, about 18 hours after the election, he is doing all of things. American democracy is a marvelous thing.ANOTHER UPDATE: In what I believe is the fifth sign of the coming apocalypse, the Rumsfeld resignation story was apparently broken by Comedy Central's Indecider blog.
Nancy Pelosi's impact on the global economy
It would seem that the markets ain't thrilled with the midterm elections:
Global finance markets have wobbled on fears that a Democrat victory in the US Congressional elections could prompt less market-friendly policies in the world's biggest economy.It will be interesting to see how U.S. markets respond.
UPDATE: Kevin Drum labels this kind of story, "Idiotic Conventional Wisdom Watch." He might be right -- but that conventional wisdom seems pretty widespread in the business press. Consider Neil Dennis, "Stock markets stall after Democrats win House," Financial Times:
The win was seen as negative for equity markets, particularly if the Democratic Party also takes control of the Senate – a result which still hangs in the balance.Or Wayne Arnold, "Asians wary of U.S. trade shift," International Herald-Tribune:
The victory by the Democratic party in U.S. congressional elections appears to have left President George W. Bush hampered in his efforts to push through free-trade agreements being negotiated with several Asian nations and facing an antagonistic legislature bent on placing its own stamp on policies from trade to defense to stem- cell research - all with potential ramifications for Asia and the rest of the world....Jacob Weisberg, "The Lou Dobbs Democrats," Slate:
Most of those who reclaimed Republican seats ran hard against free trade, globalization, and any sort of moderate immigration policy. That these Democrats won makes it likely that others will take up their reactionary call. Some of the newcomers may even be foolish enough to try to govern on the basis of their misguided theory.This Reuters report is downbeat on the U.S. stock market -- though the actual market decline seems pretty picayune to me.
On the other hand, this Forbes report attributes the equity market downturns to profit-taking rather than the Democratic takeover.
I agree that the reaction of equity markets is probably nothing -- but the effects on trade policy are nothing to be sneezed at.
UPDATE: Kevin Drum renews his ire at this kind of press coverage here -- he's got a decent case.
Tuesday, November 7, 2006
Open midterms thread
Comment away on the election results here. AP reporting on the exit polls is suggestive of a big Democratic night:
In surveys at polling places, about six in 10 voters said they disapproved of the way President Bush is handling his job, and roughly the same percentage opposed the war in Iraq. They were more inclined to vote for Democratic candidates than for Republicans.Over at the US News and World Report blog, Kenneth Walsh notes a statement against interest:
More evidence of a big Democratic surge. Fox News's commentator panel led by Brit Hume, which is considered mostly right of center, has reason to be skeptical of this perception of Democratic gains. But the Fox panel, which includes Fred Barnes, Bill Kristol, Mort Kondracke, Juan Williams, and Hume, is now saying the exit polls and their analysis suggest what Barnes calls "a good Democratic night."I have mixed feelings on this evening. I only hope that Question 1 is approved in Massachusetts, and that there be as few disputed results as possible.
UPDATE, 10:30 PM: Question 1 goes down. Grrrr.......
UPDATE, 10:34 PM: Just when I think John Kerry can't say something dumber, he pulls it off. CNN showed him at the Deval Patrick headquarters saying the following:
We have made history tonight, because we have elected, for an unprecedented ninth time, the greatest Senator in the history of the United States Senate, Ted Kennedy!!That's how I'd interpret Kennedy's re-election as well.
UPDATE, 10:52 PM: I'm not going to stay up late, but glancing at the results so far,
We'll see how long it will be before the "blame Britney" crowd becomes a mob.
UPDATE, 12:17 AM: So I stayed up late -- so sue me. The Dems have retaken the house, and have a slim chance at the Senate since Jim Webb looks like he's barely going to beat George Allen. More impressive, but as Jeff Greenfield observed, this would be the first time in quite a while that the House flipped but the Senate did not.
Over at The Corner, Ramesh Ponnuru suggests the GOP will actually have to suck up to libertarians now:
If Sodrel loses in Indiana, as looks likely, it may be because a libertarian candidate took votes from him.... So far, losing because of libertarians hasn't caused Republicans to move toward the libertarians ideologically. But maybe things will change this time.Good night.
UPDATE, 7:10 AM: Well, it seems like there are shades of 1994 in the election. If Jim Leach went down in Iowa, and the Democrats win the Senate and they win a majority of governorships, then it's fair to describe this as a tidal wave.
The ultimate election day surprise
Well, if the Dems do worse than expected in today's midterms, I think we know who to blame:
TMZ obtained the legal papers, filed today in Los Angeles County Superior Court, citing "irreconcilable differences." In her petition, Spears asks for both legal and physical custody of the couple's two children, one-year old Sean Preston and two-month old Jayden James, with Federline getting reasonable visitation rights.This is perfect timing for the GOP. She's demonstrated her love of George W. Bush in the past. Now consider the following chain of events:
1) Her divorce will fire up Andrew Sullivan to point out -- again -- how Britney has defiled the institution of marriage more than any gay man ever could.It's genius. Pure genius.
In case you were wondering about the exit polls....
Howard Kurtz reports in the Washington Post that exit poll data will be more closely held this year than in the past:
The biggest behind-the-scenes change in network coverage involves what has been dubbed the Quarantine Room. Determined to avoid a rerun of recent years, when its exit polls leaked out by early afternoon to the Drudge Report, Slate and other Web sites, a media consortium is allowing two people from each of the networks and the Associated Press entree to a windowless room in New York. All cellphones, laptops and BlackBerrys will be confiscated. The designated staffers will pore over the exit polls but will not be allowed to communicate with their offices until 5 p.m.The Los Angeles Times' Matea Gold reported on Saturday that the media reps in the Quarantine Room will "even monitored when they use the bathroom."
Hat tip: Open University's David Greenberg.
UPDATE: Jim Lindgren is right: "Expect heavy hinting by the networks after 5pm ET today."
I live in a one-party state
So I went to vote this morning -- and discovered that a whopping three out of the 13 races had both a Democrat and a Republican running for office (and one of those was for Ted Kenney's seat, so it doesn't really count). A few of the minor state offices had a Green/Rainbow candidate as well as a Democrat running. Barney Frank was running unopposed.
How lopsided is this ballot? I remember there being more Republicans running in Cook County, for Pete's sake.
This leads me to wonder -- what's the most lopsided ballot in America this election day? Tell me, dear readers, how lopsided is your ballot?
Monday, November 6, 2006
My one endorsement for 2006
Unlike two years ago, the hardworking staff here at danieldrezner.com will not be offering any grandiose endorsements for anyone holding political office.
However, it is worth noting that the staff has finally found an issue where the blog wife and I will be voting one the same side: Question 1 on the Massachusetts ballot:
This proposed law would allow local licensing authorities to issue licenses for food stores to sell wine. The proposed law defines a “food store” as a retail vendor, such as a grocery store, supermarket, shop, club, outlet, or warehouse-type seller, that sells food to consumers to be eaten elsewhere (which must include meat, poultry, dairy products, eggs, fresh fruit and produce, and other specified items), and that may sell other items usually found in grocery stores. Holders of licenses to sell wine at food stores could sell wine either on its own or together with any other items they sell.This is an easy call for the missus and me -- hell yes, I'd like to see grocery stores sell wine.
The Boston Globe's endorsement provides sufficient explanation:
In 34 other states, shoppers at grocery stores can buy wine with their steaks. This has not caused an epidemic of drunken driving or teenage alcohol abuse. But the availability of wine with groceries does make life a little more convenient for the many adults who like to sip wine with their dinner.Ah, I love it when the Globe asks for more market competition. You can find more information on this ballot question by clicking here.
But let me urge all blog readers in the state of Massachusetts -- help the hardworking staff here at danieldrezner.com
Why is the GOP gaining strength?
Over the past 72 hours, every poll announcement I've seen has the Republicans gaining momentum. Mickey Kaus and Charles Franklin argues that this trend actually started 10 days ago -- so no one blame Kerry.
How serious is this momentum shift? It's actually forced the NYT's Adam Nagourney to perform his prognostication pirouette 24 hours before the election takes place -- contrast today's Page One story with yesterday's Page One. The contrasts with Nagourney's usual tactic of having a "Democrats Gaining Steam" headline on Monday of election week followed by a "Republicans Display Hidden Strengths" headline Thursday.
I have a very simple question -- what's driving this? Is it:
a) Positive headline numbers on the economy (Dow Jones Industrial Average + falling unemployment numbers)?UPDATE: Hmmm... maybe the GOP isn't gaining strength -- Fox News shows gains by Democrats (hat tip: Andrew Sullivan)
Does Google-bombing matter for elections?
Tom Zeller's column in the New York Times today focuses on liberal efforts to Google-bomb vulnerable Republican candidates. Zeller reports that the effort has been successful:
A GOOGLE bomb — which some Web gurus have suggested is perhaps better called a link bomb, in that it affects most search engines — has typically been thought of as something between a prank and a form of protest. The idea is to select a certain search term or phrase (“borrowed time,” for example), and then try to force a certain Web site (say, the Pentagon’s official Donald H. Rumsfeld profile) to appear at or near the top of a search engine’s results whenever that term is queried....The latest MyDD update suggests that the netroots have managed to push their preferred link (an unfavorable news story about the candidate in question) into the top 10 links for more than 50 candidates.
So, clearly, political Google-bombing has achieved its short-term goal of pushing particular stories into prominence.
That said, the Luddite in me remains convinced that this will actually have absolutely zero effect on the election. For this to work, you need to believe that undecideds are going to actively search for candidates on the web before making their vote, and in the process stumble across the unflattering story. This is possible in theory, but in practice my hunch is that the people more likely to use the Internet to acquire information on political candidates are more likely to have made their voting decisions already -- and hence the Google-bombing effect would be too late.
Or, to be more flip about it, James Joyner characterizes how these kinds of plans usually end:
Step Four: Sharks with lay-zers on their foreheads.Caveat: my analysis is predicated on an assumption that voters who use the Internet to access political information are more eager for that info, more politically committed, and therefore more likely to commit to a position earlier. I'll grant that there miight be eaknesses in this causal chain.
And, to be fair, a less stringent version of the Google-bomb hypothesis is that a few undecideds stumble across the Google-bombed story, and then e-mail it to everyone they know, creating a viral effect. This is the topic du jour in David Carr's NYT column:
Ken Avidor would not seem to constitute much of a threat to the Republican Party. A Minnesota graphic artist with no official political role, he is a self-described Luddite and a bit of a wonk with an interest in arcane transportation issues.
Friday, November 3, 2006
Comments are down and help is wanted
The comments feature is not working, due to comment spam overload.
This and other persistent problems lead me no choice but to put out a "help wanted" sign. The hardworking but HTML-illiterate staff here at danieldrezner.com needs to remote hire someone for a quick fix for the blog. In particular, we need someone who will:
1) Install vigorous anti-spam measuresContact me at the e-mail address on the right. Remuneration to be negotiated.
UPDATE: All should be well now. New posts to follow soon!
The A-Rod quagmire
Tom Peyer and Hart Seely, "Yankee Go Home." New York Times, November 3, 2006:
TRADE A-Rod’s continued failure to deliver in the clutch is diverting critical resources and dividing our team. He must go. We need to move on, now!Best. Op-ed. Ever.
Wednesday, November 1, 2006
What's Liberal About The Liberal Arts? -- a review
My (lengthy by blog standards) take on the book is below the fold:
UPDATE: Comments are down here -- but this review has been cross-posted over at The Valve, so say what you think over there.
What’s Liberal About The Liberal Arts? By Michael Bérubé. New York: W.W. Norton, 2006.
How Kerry helped the Democrats in 2008
Over at The Guardian's website, James Crabtree makes a great point about how Kerry has helped his party for 2008:
Yesterday was, in fact, a tremendous day for the Democratic Party. John Forbes Kerry, uniquely among his fellow Americans, genuinely appeared to believe that the next President of the United States could be John Forbes Kerry. Much in the same way as Nixon ran against Kennedy, was defeated, and came back, Kerry thought his phoenix could rise again. That is now not going to happen. We can all breathe a sigh of relief. John Kerry 2008. RIP....