Tuesday, November 26, 2002
BEST EU RECAP EVER: Gregg
BEST EU RECAP EVER: Gregg Easterbrook is a senior editor of New Republic, a contributing editor of The Atlantic Monthly and a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution. But far more important than those prestigious sinecures, during football season he writes a hysterical weekly column called Tuesday Morning Quarterback. About 75% of the column is about football and "megababes," but Easterbrook channels his inner blogger for the other 25%. Today's column contains the best summary description of the European Union I've ever read:
"The European Union is a kind of quasi-official meta-government that seeks out the cost, bureaucracy and ineffectiveness of each member nation's worst ministry, then tries to impose it on all of Europe."
A CHEER FOR U.S. FOREIGN
A CHEER FOR U.S. FOREIGN ECONOMIC POLICY: I've been criticial of the way this administration has given foreign economic policies such a low priority. It seems only appropriate to point out when the White House gives it a justifiably higher profile.
This FT story suggests the administration is committed to jump-starting the Doha round of world trade negotiations. The story suggests that the proposal would mainly benefit developing countries; that leaves out how much these cuts would benefit low-income families in the United States. Click here for an excellent essay on why protectionism hurts the poor more than the rich.
Today, the Bush administration proposed an innovative method of allocating the $5 billion increase in foreign aid. According to Reuters:
"Strict conditions would be set for countries to qualify under the so-called Millennium Challenge Account program aimed at rewarding cash-strapped governments that embrace civil rights, root out corruption, open up their markets and adopt other policies favored by Washington..... To win a share of the resources, countries would be ranked based on 16 separate "performance indicators," from civil rights to spending on public health and education."
Makes sense to me; it's a pity the rest of the $10 billion in official development assistance won't be allocated in this fashion.
Monday, November 25, 2002
A DEATH IN THE LIBERAL
A DEATH IN THE LIBERAL FAMILY: John Rawls died today at the age of 81. Who is John Rawls? A liberal philosopher of the highest order -- here's Jacob Levy's take:
"the sheer accomplishment of Rawls' work is-- as one of his sharpest critics, the late Robert Nozick, said quite forcefully-- tremendous. Within Anglo-American philosophy it renewed the sense that it was possible to engage in rigorous, serious, meaningful debate about moral and political questions. And it serves to this day as the most influential, most important critique of both aggregative-utilitarian substitutes for a theory of justice and radically-egalitarian versions of such a theory. He was, in addition, a famously effective teacher who shaped two generations of Harvard philosophers, and a gracious gentleman who sought conversation and shared intellectual progress."
He will be missed.
AIDS, THE WEST, AND THE
AIDS, THE WEST, AND THE REST: Jerry Falwell used to argue that AIDS was God's way of killing homosexuals for their acts of apostasy. Lefties used to believe that the CIA created AIDS to wipe out those who opposed the American government. In the wake of 9/11, such conspiracy theories seem passé. However, the spread of AIDS is going to raise some profound questions about the future of different types of states. And, oddly enough, the lefties might have been unintentionally correct -- AIDS will increase America's relative power in the long run.
If you think I'm exaggerating the impact of AIDS on national security, consider this NYT story on the effect of AIDS on African militaries. Consider this projection of India's infection rate. Here's the UN's take on AIDS in Asia more generally. And, having just returned from a conference on Russia, it's been made pretty clear to me that the problem is about to explode in that country as well.
There are two basic ways to combat the deleterious effects of AIDS on society -- information and innovation. Information about what AIDS is, how it can be transmitted, etc. helps to reduce the spread of infection. But it's damn hard for most societies to be able to discuss sexual matters in an honest manner. Only in a open, liberal society can accurate messages about prevention spread (Consider this story from Buffalo, NY). Just as important, only in these societies can ill-founded myths about the disease be falsified. As for innovation, only a society that prizes scientific inquiry, rewards innovation and protects the rights of the innovators is there any individual motivation to discover vaccines and cures. Again, you need a liberal, affluent society to be able to provide the proper incentives.
Some, like Falwell, may argue that there is another option -- a fundamentalist regime that actually gets its citizens practice sexual abstinence. This could work in theory, but it's a much less robust strategy. Once AIDS occurs in these societies, it's impossible to stop, since the state can't admit its existence without admitting its founding principles are being violated. Any discussion would have to admit the possibility of illicit sex and drug use. In fact, the spread of AIDS in totalitarian societies is likely to be much faster because of the state's reluctance to ever publicly broach the topic.
Realists believe that we live in a Hobbesian world in which all gains are strictly relative. If you accept that worldview, one can only conclude that AIDS is a boon to the West. It will incapacitate any society that is so beholden to religious conservatives that either sex or drug use cannot be a topic of public discussion.
To be clear: I'm NOT claiming to be happy about the impending death of billions. I'm not. But I do find it interesting that the societies that the Christian right claimed were bringing AIDS upon themselves are in fact the ones best equipped to cope with the scourge.
UPDATE: Thanks to Andrew Sullivan for the link; check out this LA Times story on the alarming increase in AIDS infections in societies that are ill-equipped to deal with the disease, and the potential for AIDS to lead to mass famine in Africa. Here's the actual UN study.
CORRECTION: My original version of this post stated that Phyllis Schlafly made the comment that AIDS being God's will against homosexuals. That was my error, for which I apologize. According to this article, Schlafly did accuse C.Everett Koop of promoting "safe fornication with condoms" as "a cover-up for the homosexual community" when Koop promoted condom use as a means of prevention.
REPLY TO OSAMA: The Guardian's
REPLY TO OSAMA: The Guardian's Sunday Observer has reprinted Osama bin Laden's alleged “letter to the American people,” The letter was originally posted in Arabic on a Saudi web site. The Observer story describes it as, “the most comprehensive explanation of bin Laden's ideology to be issued for several years.” Andrew Sullivan makes several trenchant comments on it. InstaPundit also has a reply. Here's mine:
I’m sensing some nervous tension in your last missive. You seem concerned about the exchange of letters between American and Saudi intellectuals. You should be scared, since it’s pretty clear that your faith in your faith is staggeringly weak.
Let me explain. You believe you’re a devout Muslim, armed with a super-freaky interpretation of the Quran. OK, so yada, yada, yada, you’re devout. But it’s pretty clear that you believe that when Muslims – much less infidels – are faced with an array of choices, your version of the creed isn’t going to win. This is why you fulminate against the inability to impose Shariah, the U.S. separation of church and state, and the fact that American culture seems to be kicking some global ass. Because without the power of the state, without the elimination of a marketplace of ideas, your "fun-loving" philosophy is doomed to go the way of the do-do bird. Even with the power of the state, you're in trouble. Looked at Iran recently?
Leaving aside the state, it’s pretty clear you don’t want anyone around that disagrees with your theology. You think you have arrived at the definitive interpretation of the Torah, Quran, and U.S. Constitution. You also believe that any other interpretation must be the work of the Jews, the gays, or the myriad other minorities you want to persecute. What, you’re afraid of some debate, some give and take on these issues? That’s the way you attract followers, by changing their minds. This letter is not going to help in that cause. It does a great job with the Stalinist intellectuals – loved your references to Kyoto and the ICC – but you’ve already got their misguided votes. This kind of intellectual cowardice doesn’t play well with the masses.
The exchange of different opinions and ideas will be the death of you, your cronies, and your totalitarian ideology. You might blow some more things up; I have no doubt you’ll try. But that’s your only strategy left. You can’t tolerate discussion; you can’t tolerate debate. You request to “deal with us and interact with us on the basis of mutual interests and benefits, rather than the policies of subdual (sic), theft and occupation” is fatuous in the extreme. There is no mutuality of interests. You’ve defined the situation as a zero-sum game. So thanks for clearing that up.
Daniel W. Drezner