Friday, September 19, 2003

The great white whale of income inequality

My last Krugman post managed to generate a vigorous debate in the comments section while simultaneously confusing Donald Luskin. So it's worth focusing more closely on one of the points where Krugman's current analysis goes off the track -- his Ahab-like obsession with income inequality.

One of Krugman's biggest complaints about the trajectory of the American economy is the rise in income inequality. This rise was particularly acute during the Clinton era, and a constant refrain of his writing is that Bush's tax cuts will merely accelerate this trend, leading to more social frictions.

There are three big ways in which Krugman is wrong -- his emphasis on inequality in the first place, his failure to distinguish between the different causes for inequality, and his assumptions about the political effects of rising inequality.

1) Inequality is the wrong variable. I wrote a longish post over the summer about why the fears about income inequality are way overblown. To sum up -- a focus on inequality overlooks the high degree of income mobility in the United States, as well as the absolute improvements over time in the lives of the poorest Americans. For another refresher on this, go check out Todd Bass' more recent analysis on this point (link via Instapundit).

2) The sources of inequality matter. Take Krugman's concerns at face value. Are there moral reasons to oppose this rise in inequality? Anyone not completely blinded by ideology would at least acknowledge there are valid arguments against increasing inequality. However, a key question is the causes behind inequality. If the reason is increased social stratification due to the advantages accrued by inherited wealth, then I'm pretty sympathetic, since such stratification stifles growth. If the reason is increased opportunities for gain via entrepreneurial activity, then I'm pretty unsympathetic, because entrepreneurial activity promotes growth.

In Saving Capitalism from the Capitalists (p. 92), Raghuram Rajan and Luigi Zingales make an important point about the changing origins of American wealth:

One statistic best sums up the changes that have taken place: in 1929, 70 percent of the income of the top .01 percent of income earners in the United States came from holding of capital -- income such as dividends, interest, and rents. The rich were truly the idle rich. In 1998, wages and entrepreneurial income made up 80 percent of the income of the top .01 percent of income earners in the United States, and only 20 percent came from capital. Seen another way, in the 1890s the richest 10 percent of the population worked fewer hours than the poorest 10 percent. Today, the reverse is true. The idle rich have become the working rich!

Instead of an aristocracy of the merely rich, we are moving to an aristocracy of the capable and the rich.

Americans will not begrudge the rich getting richer if it's by dint of effort. [Krugman would respond by pointing to the astronomical rise in CEO pay--ed. No doubt, there are examples of malfeasance in matters of corporate governance. Suggesting a systemic problem, however, is a bit of an exaggeration, given the increase in asset prices of U.S. firms over the past twenty years. It's telling that Rajan and Zingales, who are sensitive to the issue of income distribution, are far more afraid of overreegulation in response to Enron-like episodes than underregulation]

For more on this, go read Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez's NBER paper, "Income Inequality in the United States, 1913-1998" (updated in 2000).

3) Rising inequality does not lead to a breakdown in social cohesion. This is Krugman's core concern -- that inequality will lead to political and social instability. To repeat what he told Kevin Drum:

Is this the same country that we had in 1970? I think we have a much more polarized political system, a much more polarized social climate.

Krugman's reference to 1970 is interesting, since income inequality was much lower in 1970, the peak of the Great Society programs.

Despite the reduced level of inequality, society was more polarized back then. Anyone who believes that the country currently has a more socially polarizing climate now than in 1970 is, well, either lying or lost their grip on reality. Does Krugman really think that the debates about Iraq or affirmative action today even approximate the division and discord that Vietnam, Kent State or school busing generated thirty years ago?

Economic inequality has a far less significant effect on social instability relative to other factors -- the rate of absolute poverty, the method of raising armed forces, and the rate of economic growth and labor productivity. Krugman needs to worry about it less.

posted by Dan at 11:48 PM | Comments (42) | Trackbacks (4)

Rural responses to lost manufacturing

Last month I talked about how the outsourcing phenomenon was affecting rural communities in particular, and how this would affect the 2004 election. What I did not talk about was how rural communities could respond to the secular decline in manufacturing jobs.

Last Sunday the Hartford Courant ran a story about how a rural area near and dear to my heart -- the northwest corner of massachusetts -- has dealt and is dealing with this phenomenon. The answer appears to be mass infusions of contemprary art:

Cities across the country that lost heavy manufacturing are discovering the arts as a tool for revival. In Connecticut, Hartford and Norwich, among others, have promoted artist housing; New Haven sponsors a major international arts festival. But few cities have made as big or as bold a bet on the arts as North Adams.

The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, or MASS MoCA, opened four years ago in a complex of two dozen 19th-century factory buildings - not dissimilar to Hartford's Coltsville - that occupy almost a third of the small city's downtown.

Part of the sell was that it would breathe life into the other two-thirds and drive local economic development. It's still early. Progress has come in fits and starts and is still fragile. But, yes, the signs are good....

Arts tourism by itself isn't the ultimate goal. The hope is that it will attract "knowledge industries" to replace some of the jobs that went elsewhere.

And they've gotten a couple of these. Storey Publishing LLC, a division of Workman Publishing Co., and Kleiser-Walczak Construction Co., which specializes in computer-generated animation and visual effects, are both tenants in the MASS MoCA complex....

Artists are small business operators, and Rudd figures each new mill building that's renovated for artists brings about $1 million into the local economy. "If a few more buildings are done," he said, "it will make this a very interesting town.

Read the whole thing -- and thanks to Official Blogmom Esther Drezner for the link.

From this story, it's possible to carry Virginia Postrel's argument in The Substance of Style farther than she may intend for it to travel. It's already been argued that the cities that have the cultural endowments to attract a "creative class" do the best in terms of economic vitality. It's logical to believe that this could apply to rural communities as well. In the 21st century, aesthetics will play as crucial a role in determining national, regional or local competitiveness as proximity to raw materials played in the 19th century.

posted by Dan at 06:02 PM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)

A contrarian article on the WTO

My latest Tech Central Station piece is up, and is probably my most cantankerous to date. It's a warning shot about the future of the World Trade Organization. I'm not optimistic.

For further WTO news, it doesn't get more succinct than the latest Economist cover:


(link via Megan McArdle)

posted by Dan at 01:04 AM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)

Thursday, September 18, 2003

Why read me when you can hear me on the radio?

From 9:00 - 11:00 PM this evening, I'm going to be on Extension 720 with Milt Rosenberg on WGN radio 720. The topic? "Professorial bloggers". Fellow scholar-bloggers Erin O'Connor and Mark Shapiro will also be on.

If you're not in Chicago, or online, you can listen in by clicking here. The 10-11 hour will be call-in.

UPDATE: Media convergences are breaking out all over!! First Kieran Healy, after reading this post, listens in on the program and calls in from Canberra, Australia (see his comments below). Then, while the program is still on the air, I'm able to post my own reply comment (see below again).

Second, the Chicago Tribune today has a story on academic blogging, focusing on the Eric Rasumsen controversy. Yours truly is quoted, along with Eugene Volokh and Glenn Reynolds.

As for the show itself, I'll post a link to the archived audio if it goes up. My wrap up thoughts:

  • Especially when compared with my nasal twang, Erin O'Connor has quite the mellifluous voice.

  • I wasn't expecting to talk for the first part of the show about "things that annoy me about the academy." Still an interesting discussion, however.

  • The show producer told me afterwards that the callers broke down into two categories: those saying, "I just tuned in. What the hell is a blog?" and those saying, "Can I promote my blog on the air?"

  • Milt Rosenberg is now hooked on blogging. He has a page called Milt's File that functions as a quasi-blog on the WGN site, but inspired by this post, he went out and set up a real blog. Go check it out.
  • posted by Dan at 08:38 PM | Comments (9) | Trackbacks (0)

    Missing the Wesley Clark boat

    I've had no time to write anything substantial about Wesley Clark's decision to run for president. Ryan Booth has done an excellent job collecting reactions here and here. He did miss one important take -- Josh Marshall's mixed assessment of Clark's post-announcement performance on CNN.

    One random thought I do have -- there was a lot of noise during Operation Iraqi Freedom about whether Clark was doing a good job as a military analyst for CNN. Some of the criticism of his criticism was absurd, but there is one line of argument that would not be absurd. (Caveat: my recall of the substance of Clark's critique is not perfect, so I'll be happy to be corrected in the comments section.) I'm pretty sure Clark argued that the U.S. had not deployed enough troops to decisively win the war. In retrospect, this was flat-out wrong.

    Before critics get bent all out of shape, let me be perfectly clear what Clark got wrong. It is true that the administration has delpoyed too few troops for the occupation of Iraq. That's different from what I'm saying Clark screwed up in his analysis. He thought the U.S. did not have enough troops to defeat the Iraqi military while still being able to maintain logistical supply chains and control over captured territory. On this point, I'm pretty sure Clark was wrong.

    Given that security matters are his strong suit, isn't this a big vulnerability if he gets nominated? In part, this depends on what Iraq looks like a year from now. If it's still a mess, then it won't matter. But if things have improved significantly, then Bush can look at Clark and say, "We both screwed up. You were wrong on how to fight the war, and my administration was wrong in it's initial postwar planning."

    Just a thought.

    UPDATE: David Adesnik, Matthew Yglesias and Glenn Reynolds weigh in on Clark as well.

    For more on Clark, go check out this Joshua Green profile in The Atlantic Monthly. There's a priceless anecdote:

    When we returned from CNN, an aide stood waiting beside a rental car to ferry us to another appointment. Clark, who still runs his life as though he were conducting a military campaign, grabbed the keys, nodded for the aide and me to climb in, and shot out into rush-hour traffic. The aide took a halfhearted stab at briefing his boss while Clark—slouched low, cell phone cradled to ear—tore across Independence Avenue in view of the White House, weaving in and out of lanes. As we approached the Old Executive Office Building, Clark, seeing nowhere to park, glanced at his watch and then at me. "Listen, I'm late," he said. "Do you have plans?" I shook my head. Without another word he pulled over, tossed me the keys, and disappeared into the building, his aide scrambling to keep up. I found a parking space. A few hours later Clark called to get the keys.

    Link via Milt Rosenberg.

    posted by Dan at 03:21 PM | Comments (14) | Trackbacks (0)

    The Ninth Circuit's petulance

    There's lots to read out there about the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision to delay the California recall election. Bruce Ackerman's New York Times op-ed from yesterday, and Robert Hochman's Chicago Tribune op-ed today both offer legal explanations for why the 9th Circuit ruling is such a bad decision.

    However, the most honest thing I've read on this is Dahlia Lithwick's analysis in Slate of the motivations behind the decision. The key grafs:

    The real problem with all this analysis is that the high court expressly disallowed this kind of application of Bush v. Gore as precedent. With its now-famous disclaimer, "our consideration is limited to the present circumstances, for the problem of equal protection in election processes generally presents many complexities," the court explicitly limited the reach of the equal protection application to the 2000 election. The Supreme Court, seeking to wade into a political catfight yet indemnify itself from ever having to do so again, insisted that their holding was good for one ride only.

    The problem was that it was only a one-way ride—in favor of George W. Bush, and a lot of enraged liberals have spent the intervening years grinding their teeth over the unfairness of it all. We couldn't riot, we couldn't hunger strike. And there was no opportunity for payback; no opportunity to really stick it to the Supremes for rigging the election and using bad law to do it. Until now.

    There's really only one way to read the panel's decision from Monday. It's a sauce-for-the-gander exercise in payback. Pure and simple. The panel not only refused to accept the Supremes' admonition that the nation would not be fooled again; it refused even to address it. Applying Bush v. Gore again and again in the unanimous opinion, the judges told the high court that it has no power to declare a case a one-ride ticket and defied the court to step in again to tell them otherwise....

    You can't read the 9th Circuit panel's decision without recognizing that it is neither brilliant nor subtle. The court did not need to halt the whole election to achieve electoral fairness. It could have enjoined punch cards, demanded all paper ballots, recommended more polling places, or punted back to the California secretary of state to suggest something other than the existing disparate systems. But the court went so much farther. They shocked the whole country by halting the entire recall. Why? Reading the opinion, it's hard to escape the fact that the court seems to take pleasure in applying the broad and indefensible legal principle laid out in Bush v. Gore even more broadly and indefensibly. This wasn't just a liberal panel trying to prop up an embattled Democrat. The 9th Circuit isn't necessarily political, even where it's ideological. No, the more likely explanation for the panel's decision is that the court, which has been ridiculed, reversed, and unanimously shot down by the Supremes at rates that exceed (although not by much) any other court of appeals, just wanted this one sweet shot at revenge. This time, said the panel, it's personal.


    UPDATE: Drezner gets results from Robert Hochman, who e-mails this addendum to his Tribune op-ed:

    Dahlia's principal point was exactly what I was trying to capture (in an exceedingly tight way) when I said that the 9th Cir. was offering a poor reading of Bush v. Gore to "stick it to Republicans for the supposed evils of Bush v. Gore."

    I, too, think that the Supreme Court made a terrible mistake, one with far reaching consequences, in deciding to base its Bush v. Gore decision on the Equal Protection Clause. The Article II rationale, adopted by the concurrence, would have been better. And the reason, in my view, has everything to do with the core point of my piece: it's a bad idea to have judges interfering in election procedures, either during a campaign or while the votes are being counted. That could have been the theme of an Article II decision. The Florida Supreme Court adopted vote counting procedures out of whole cloth, casting aside established state election procedures. Article II prohibits this only in the context of a Presidential election. But the broader point could have been praised and used as a reason for reading Article II that way.

    And had the Supreme Court taken this route, it would have made less sense to accuse the Justices of having "interfered" in the election. Rather, the whole point would have been a higher court (the US Supreme Court) preventing a lower court (the Florida Supreme Court) from interfering in an election. The Court would have been accused of interfering anyway, but those of us who think that what the Florida Supreme Court did was an abomination would have been given stronger ground to defend the US Supreme Court.


    posted by Dan at 11:53 AM | Comments (17) | Trackbacks (3)

    The transatlantic trend of full disclosure

    I was all geared up to post something about President Bush's statement that the U.S. had no evidence Saddam Hussein was linked to 9/11. Bush's statement -- and others by Don Rumsfeld and Condi Rice -- was made to rebut Vice President Cheney's Meet the Press comments hinting at such a link.

    Then David Adesnik beats me to the point:

    I have to admit, it's surprising to see Bush discipline Cheney in this sort of way. It means either that Cheney recognized he was wrong and wanted Bush to clarify the matter, or Bush recognized the threat to his credibility that Cheney's remarks presented.

    I suspect it was the latter. Which is good, because you want to see the President fully in control of his own Cabinet and his own Administration (emphasis added).

    Advantage: Adesnik!! This reinforces a point I made earlier this month about the need for more active White House management of the policy process.

    Also, kudos to Josh Marshall for effectively fisking Cheney on this point a few hours after his TV appearance.

    And, while we're on the subject of full disclosure, it seems Andrew Gilligan and his bosses at the BBC have finally apologized -- albeit under cross-examination -- for Gilligan's shabby journalism. Kudos to Andrew Sullivan for staying the course on this issue.

    posted by Dan at 10:46 AM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)

    Wednesday, September 17, 2003

    More blogging advice

    In the wake of the advice I gave to new bloggers last week, several others have posted some valuable advice that's worth clicking on:

    1) Electric Venom offers her top ten lessons after six months of blogging. Numbers nine, six, and five seem particularly relevant, but her #1 lesson is the most important:

    If it's not fun, don't do it. But if you enjoy it, if it really adds something to your life, then don't let anyone's opinions or personal issues or downright nastiness stop you from pursuing it. Just blog.

    By the way, after reading some self-descriptions by Electric Venom, let me just say I'm reeeaaalllyyy glad she doesn't think I'm stupid.

    2) Wizbang offers some advice on how to get an Instalanche. He makes a very important point on Glenn Reynolds' role in the blogosphere:

    Contrary to what you may have been led to believe InstaPundit actually links to more new bloggers than any of the other major sites.

    One other comment if you read his post: Kevin is probably the first person alive to believe I have "a cool last name." [UPDATE: Amish Tech Support offers a different route to attract Glenn's attention. And Instapundit gives his own take]

    3) John Scalzi offers some thoughts about the enterprise -- which is a professional gig for him -- after five years of blogging (link via Matthew Yglesias). Two comments of his stood out in particular:

  • Paid bloggers are a vanishingly small percentage of the entire blogging population, and will almost certainly continue to be so. I would suspect at this point in time, there may be 100 to 200 people around the world who take home significant pay from blogging ("significant" being defined as "you can actually pay bills with it"). There are probably a million people who blog. Even if the number of paid bloggers expands tenfold in the next year (and why not?), that's still a 1000-to-1 ratio of amateur to paid.

  • The number of "big" bloggers has expanded, and the diversity of the "big" bloggers is fabulous. But if you rented a convention hall for all the bloggers who get more than 5,000 unique visitors a day, you'd have a big, empty convention hall and a small clot of guys near the punch bowl, talking about the Dean campaign and shuffling their feet.
  • Heh.

    posted by Dan at 09:36 PM | Comments (8) | Trackbacks (2)

    Academic freedom and blogs

    Earlier this month, Indiana University professor Eric Rasmusen got into some hot water with with his blog. He wrote a post asserting that homosexuals should not be put in positions of moral leadership over children because, "I think they are attracted to people under age 18 more than heterosexual males are..."

    Needless to say, this prompted some hostile reactions, which trickled up to Rasmusen's dean in the business school. There was then a discussion between Rasmusen and his dean about whether the blog should be moved off IU's server. Rasmusen volunteered to move it himself, and did so until his dean informed him that the blog did not violate policy, at which point Rasmusen moved back. During this brouhaha, there was some debate in the blogosphere about the relative merits of online academic freedom. But with the dean's decision, things were dying down.

    Today, however, IU Chancellor Sharon Brehm upped the ante by arguing that the university needs to revisit it's policy of supporting blogs. Press reports are here and here. Rasmusen reprints the entirety of Brehm's comments (and his response) on his blog. Here's an excerpt of the chancellor's comments:

    The postings on this website have created the difficult challenge of affirming the right to speak, even when we deplore the speech itself. As hard as this is, it is the only way to maintain our liberty. It's easy to defend freedom of speech when we agree with or don't care about the speech itself. Only when the speech offends us, do we realize the strength and courage of those who wrote the first amendment and all those after them who have affirmed and upheld it.

    In exercising my freedom to speak against Professor Rasmusen's statements, I also provide the opportunity for others to agree or disagree with my views.

    There is, however, another more general issue that President Daleke [President of the Bloomington Faculty Council] and I have discussed at some length. We agree that it would be useful to ask the UFC [University Faculty Council] to review the current policies, practices, guidelines, costs, and benefits of "Mypage," the UITS service for personal Web pages. It seems to us that, as a community of scholars and students, it is crucial to think through the role of these personal web pages in our communal and intellectual life.

    I'd like to close with a quote that I found while working on this statement for this meeting: "But the peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth; if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error." John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, 1859.

    My thoughts on this are pretty simple:

    If Brehm really read what she said -- and what Mill said -- then there is no need for a review. The "role of these personal web pages in our communal and intellectual life" is to promote the free and full expression of ideas by professors and students alike. As Mill himself would point out, the cure for promulgated ideas that are believed to be offensive or wrong is more speech, not less.

    Brehm exercised that right and encouraged others to do the same -- in, among other formats, on blogs. What need there is for a review beyond that is truly beyond me.

    [Wait, wait, you forgot the ritual denunciation of Rasmusen's views on homosexuality.--ed. That's completely irrelevant to this question. As an aside, however, it's worth highlighting a fact that Louis Menand pointed out in The Metaphysical Club. One of the triggering events for the emergence of academic freedom was when a Stanford University professor was fired for making a speech that contradicted co-founder Jane Stanford's views on the matter. The professor made a eugenicist argument against Asian immigration.]

    posted by Dan at 03:09 PM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (4)

    Food and the blogosphere

    Eugene Volokh has multiple culinary posts.

    Josh Chafetz rhapsodizes about smoked salmon.

    And Gregg Easterbrook has some excellent suggestions for new Ben & Jerry's flavors.

    My only contribution -- add sliced cucumbers to Josh's recipe. Trust me, it's good.

    UPDATE: Continuing on the theme of food and the blogosphere, I was fortunate enough to share a lovely but off-the-record lunch with Virginia Postrel and Jacob Levy today. Virginia is in Chicago on her book tour. From lunch, I can aver that she's even more delightful in person than on television, and she definitely knows a thing or two about style.

    [Hey, you and Glenn Reynolds had Postrel moments on the same day.--ed. Yes, but mine was in person and included lunch. Advantage: Drezner!!]

    posted by Dan at 01:03 PM | Comments (15) | Trackbacks (5)

    Must-read for the day

    Jacob Levy's latest TNR Online piece takes a serious look at the "lucky duckies" argument and the liberal snark that's followed. His point:

    The Journal has provided an irresistible target: Republicans proposing to raise taxes, not cut them! On poor people! For purposes of naked partisan gain!

    As you might expect, most of the commentary surrounding this idea has treated it as uniquely appalling and indefensible. But the truth is that it's a line of argument that is very familiar, especially among communitarian and social democratic elements on the left. True, it's almost always morally dubious. But sometimes it also happens to be unavoidable. (emphasis in original).

    What's brilliant about this piece is that Levy points out that the argument that the tax burden should be shared broadly is of a piece with arguments that the left is far more comfortable advancing -- reviving the draft, opposing school vouchers, and keeping Social Security as a universal benefit.

    Read the whole thing.

    UPDATE: Still interested in the topic? Go read Russell Arben Fox's critique of Levy's hostility to communitarianism as well. And Kevin Drum provides a more specific critique of the tax question.

    posted by Dan at 12:59 PM | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (0)

    Tuesday, September 16, 2003

    They report, Roger Simon decides

    Roger L. Simon compares what John Burns of the New York Times and Christiane Amanpour of CNN had to say about media coverage of Iraq before and during Operation Iraqi Freedom. The results aren't pretty for Amanpour.

    It's worth pointing out specifically how Burns contradicts Amanpour. USA Today quotes the CNN reporter saying the following on Tina Brown's CNBC show:

    I think the press was muzzled, and I think the press self-muzzled. I'm sorry to say, but certainly television and, perhaps, to a certain extent, my station was intimidated by the administration and its foot soldiers at Fox News. And it did, in fact, put a climate of fear and self-censorship, in my view, in terms of the kind of broadcast work we did.

    Amanpour is correct -- CNN was muzzled during its war coverage. However, you have to take a look at what Burns says to discover who did the muzzling:

    [T]he TV networks were still filing from the information ministry because they were not allowed to file from anywhere else. Which is why CNN got expelled. They refused to go on filing from there; they used a videophone to file their stories on the first heavy night of bombing on March 21. They were caught with a videophone and they were expelled by dawn.

    Well, at least they can agree that CNN was muzzled during the war.

    posted by Dan at 06:22 PM | Comments (35) | Trackbacks (2)

    The logic of suicide terrorism

    The tired refrain against academic political science is that the discipline is so consumed with abstract theoretical debates that it fails to study "real world" problems. [I thought the standard refrain was that too many political scientists lean to the left--ed. That's a different refrain -- click here if that's what you care about.] Therefore, it's important to highlight those research programs that contradict this meme.

    Which brings me to my colleague, Robert Pape. The American Political Science Review just published Pape's essay, "The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism" as the lead article in its August 2003 issue.

    I'd describe the topic as pretty important, and Pape has some interesting and provocative things to say about it. Here's the abstract:

    Suicide terrorism is rising around the world, but the most common explanations do not help us understand why. Religious fanaticism does not explain why the world leader in suicide terrorism is the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, a group that adheres to a Marxist/Leninist ideology, while existing psychological explanations have been contradicted by the widening range of socio-economic backgrounds of suicide terrorists. To advance our understanding of this growing phenomenon, this study collects the universe of suicide terrorist attacks worldwide from 1980 to 2001, 188 in all. In contrast to the existing explanations, this study shows that suicide terrorism follows a strategic logic, one specifically designed to coerce modern liberal democracies to make significant territorial concessions. Moreover, over the past two decades, suicide terrorism has been rising largely because terrorists have learned that it pays. Suicide terrorists sought to compel American and French military forces to abandon Lebanon in 1983, Israeli forces to leave Lebanon in 1985, Israeli forces to quit the Gaza Strip and the West Bank in 1994 and 1995, the Sri Lankan government to create an independent Tamil state from 1990 on, and the Turkish government to grant autonomy to the Kurds in the late 1990s. In all but the case of Turkey, the terrorist political cause made more gains after the resort to suicide operations than it had before. Thus, Western democracies should pursue policies that teach terrorists that the lesson of the 1980s and 1990s no longer holds, policies which in practice may have more to do with improving homeland security than with offensive military action.

    To download a .pdf version of the paper, click here.

    It's worth noting that Pape's findings do not lead to clear-cut policy solutions. For example, Adam Wolfson, while bestowing heaps of praise on Pape's essay in NRO, concludes:

    The main reason suicide terrorism is growing is that terrorists have learned that it works. Even more troubling, the encouraging lessons that terrorists have learned from the experience of the 1980s and 1990s are not, for the most part, products of wild-eyed interpretations or wishful thinking. They are, rather, quite reasonable assessments of the outcomes of suicide -terrorist campaigns during this period.

    So how should democracies respond to this new scourge? Pape argues in favor of beefing up homeland security. Good advice. But much more than that can and should be done.

    We need to see suicide terrorism for what it is; we need to demystify it. Suicide terrorists are not some other breed of men, unsusceptible to the usual tools of statecraft. As Thomas Hobbes once said of human cruelty: "That any man should take pleasure in other men's great harm, without other end of his own, I do not conceive it possible." The terrorists have their ends. Deny these — make sure that suicide terrorism does not pay — and it will surely lose much of its luster.

    This is one logical conclusion to draw. However, Pape comes to a very different conclusion, as the final two paragraphs of his paper suggest:

    [I]f Al Qaeda proves able to continue suicide attacks against the American homeland, the United States should emphasize improving its domestic security. In the short term, the United States should adopt stronger border controls to make it more difficult for suicide attackers to enter the United States. In the long term, the United States should work toward energy independence and, thus, reduce the need for American troops in the Persian Gulf countries where their presence has helped recruit suicide terrorists to attack America. These measures will not provide a perfect solution, but they may make it far more difficult for Al Qaeda to continue attacks in the United States, especially spectacular attacks that require elaborate coordination.

    Perhaps most important, the close association between foreign military occupations and the growth of suicide terrorist movements in the occupied regions should give pause to those who favor solutions that involve conquering countries in order to transform their political systems. Conquering countries may disrupt terrorist operations in the short term, but it is important to recognize that occupation of more countries may well increase the number of terrorists coming at us.

    Whether Pape is correct in the conclusions he draws from his evidence is an open question. Pape's seminal contribution to this critical discussion, however, is not.

    posted by Dan at 05:36 PM | Comments (10) | Trackbacks (4)

    A welcome replenishment of New England optimism

    I'm a Boston Red Sox fan -- been so since I started paying attention to baseball. I don't talk about it too much on the blog because, well, I'm a bit ashamed about it. Some of my fellow Red Sox fans have been driven so mad by the team's failures over the years that they've surrendered to the dark side of the force and will run down the team after every minor kerfuffle.

    Now, as a Red Sox fan who lives in Chicago, I know about the pain of not winning a World Series for 263 seasons. I watched Bucky f@#%ing Dent hit his home run in 1978; I watched the Mets come back in 1986. I understand the source of the sourness. But I can't condone it.

    So it's cheering to read this Boston Globe essay about a new generation of Sox fans:

    Hope springs eternal, unless you're burdened with the tormented identity of a Red Sox fan, in which case hope is tempered by history, and you expect to stumble upon a banana peel rather than a pot of gold when you reach the end of the rainbow.

    But what about those too young to have been scarred by the heartbreaks of the past? Those for whom Bill Buckner, Bob Gibson, and Bucky Dent are just names in the record books rather than raw reminders of a summer's worth of dreams turned to ashes. As the team enters the final 13 games of the season in a typically nail-biting battle for a postseason berth, are the younger citizens of Red Sox Nation as doom-ridden as their elders? Or can they face the autumn without preparing, down deep, for a Fall?

    The answer comes back confidently from 20-year-old Jon Liro in a phrase that sweeps away eons of near misses, might-have-beens, and outright suffering by Sox fans at the hands of a certain team 200 miles to the south. "I kind of tend not to look back," says Liro, a Babson College student from Longmeadow. "I know the history is out there -- a lot of Yankees fans like to bring it up -- but when the Red Sox bring their bats, they may be the best team in the Major Leagues." Ah, youth! Welcome to the generation gap, Red Sox style. Let the baby boomers and senior citizens fret about 85 years of postseason failure; let them bemoan the weekend losses that, heading into last night's game against Tampa Bay, had cut the Sox' lead in the wild-card race to half a game over Seattle. For the apple-cheeked cohort that had not yet come of age when the Sox last reached the World Series in 1986 and who are convinced that this team is special, there is much less reason or room for doubt.

    At present, the Red Sox have a decent chance to make the playoffs. Some among the baseball cognoscenti are boldly predicting they'll win it all this year. If that happens (or if either Chicago team wins) I'd be delighted [By "delighted," do you mean naked, drunk and screaming your head off?--ed. Er, yeah, something like that.]

    But the rise of New England sports optimists -- those don't bad-mouth the team after they lose two in a row -- that makes me want to wear my Red Sox hat with pride.

    posted by Dan at 02:49 PM | Comments (14) | Trackbacks (6)

    Paul Krugman opens up

    Kevin Drum has posted a must-read interview with Paul Krugman on his blog. As someone who's tangled with Krugman in the past, I was entranced by the interview's mix of defensible economic critiques and wild-eyed political paranoia (and a hat tip to Drum for doing a great interview).

    Here are some of the choice quotes:

  • From the introduction to Krugman's new book, The Great Unraveling: "There's a pattern...within the Bush administration....which should suggest that the administration itself has radical goals. But in each case the administration has reassured moderates by pretending otherwise — by offering rationales for its policy that don't seem all that radical. And in each case moderates have followed a strategy of appeasement....this is hard for journalists to deal with: they don't want to sound like crazy conspiracy theorists. But there's nothing crazy about ferreting out the real goals of the right wing; on the contrary, it's unrealistic to pretend that there isn't a sort of conspiracy here, albeit one whose organization and goals are pretty much out in the open."

  • Krugman on the book: "The central theme is, we're being lied to by our leaders, and I just felt I really needed to put that very strongly in context."

  • Krugman on his political transformation: "During the 2000 campaign I was inspired to get radicalized. You know, this was not your ordinary average slightly misleading campaign, this was something off the scale, but most people just wouldn't go at it. And that's when I started saying that if Bush said the Earth was flat, the resulting article would say 'Shape of the Earth: Views Differ.' And then after September 11th it was really impossible, because people wanted to believe good things that just weren't true."

  • Krugman on America's social cohesion: "Is this the same country that we had in 1970? I think we have a much more polarized political system, a much more polarized social climate. We certainly aren't the country of Franklin Roosevelt, and we're probably not the country of Richard Nixon either, so I think we have to take seriously the possibility that things won't work out this time."

  • Krugman on his blog preferences: "I'm on the web, I read Josh Marshall regularly, and Atrios regularly, and I read you occasionally, once every couple of days so I know what's going on."
  • Go read the whole thing. [Won't your conservative readers be too pissed off to bother?--ed. Then they would be falling into the same trap that Krugman's last quote suggests, which is reading only one half of the blogosphere. However, for those who are right of center, open up a new page and look at this Charles Krauthammer essay on Bush-hating and then read Krugman.

    UPDATE: Krugman is giving a lot of interviews to promote his news book. Here's a link to his chat with Buzzflash. One excerpt:

    [A] good part of the media are essentially part of the machine. If you work for any Murdoch publication or network, or if you work for the Rev. Moon's empire, you're really not a journalist in the way that we used to think. You're basically just part of a propaganda machine. And that's a pretty large segment of the media.

    And here's Donald Luskin's critique of Krugman's Sunday New York Times Magazine essay (though also check out Brad DeLong on Luskin).

    posted by Dan at 11:38 AM | Comments (101) | Trackbacks (8)

    David Brooks goes for the meritocracy's jugular

    On Saturday, David Brooks' NYT op-ed discussed what's been lost with the decline of noblesse oblige and the WASPocracy:

    Unlike today's top schools, which are often factories for producing Résumé Gods, the WASP prep schools were built to take the sons of privilege and toughen them into paragons of manly virtue. Rich boys were sent away from their families and shoved into a harsh environment that put tremendous emphasis on athletic competition, social competition and character building.

    As Peter W. Cookson Jr. and Caroline Hodges Persell write in "Preparing for Power: America's Elite Boarding Schools," students in traditional schools "had to be made tough, loyal to each other, and ready to take command without self-doubt. Boarding schools were not founded to produce Hamlets, but Dukes of Wellington who could stand above the carnage with a clear head and an unflinching will to win."

    As anyone who has read George Orwell knows, this had ruinous effects on some boys, but those who thrived, as John F. Kennedy did, believed that life was a knightly quest to perform service and achieve greatness, through virility, courage, self-discipline and toughness.

    The Protestant Establishment is dead, and nobody wants it back. But that culture, which George Bush and Howard Dean were born into, did have a formula for producing leaders. Our culture, which is freer and fairer, does not.

    Needless to say, this poke at the meritocracy has prompted some vigorous reactions in the blogosphere, particularly from David Adesnik, Greg Djerejian, Innocents Abroad, and Adesnik yet again.

    As someone who's generation is roughly between Brooks and these bloggers, let me chip in my two cents:

  • If you read Bobos in Paradise -- and you really should -- it's quite clear that Brooks believes that on the whole the rise of the meritocracy is a good thing. So don't take this section of his article as a generic statement saying that things were better in the previous era.

  • I laughed out loud at Brooks' assertion that the private schools of yore were such harsh environments that they built character and greatness. Has Brooks ever visited an inner-city public high school? Even a garden-variety suburban public school? Surviving those environments takes a healthy dollop of the qualities Brooks admires. All high schools are harsh environments -- they just manifest harshness in different ways.

  • I think Brooks had an interesting point -- one that Belgravia Dispatch picked up on -- but Brooks expressed it awkwardly. The key difference between the WASP generation and the meritocratic generation is that a necessary condition now for joining the leadership caste is ambition. For a prior generation, being born into a brahman family was all one needed to get noticed. Thankfully, that no longer holds. However, Brooks' point is that ambition crowds out other cultivated qualities, such as chivalry.
  • That's a seriously debatable point. But it is an interesting debate.

    posted by Dan at 11:14 AM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)

    Monday, September 15, 2003

    Is this good or bad for democracy?

    One of the themes that Democrats have used over the summer is the idea that Republicans are subverting democracy through non-electroal means. As the meme goes, first it was the 2000 election. Then it was the redistricting efforts in Colorado and Texas (an instance in which I tend to agree with the Dems). Now it's the Californa recall.

    So, the news that a Federal Court of Appeals has postponed the recall election because of disparities in voting technology across counties will probably provide some comfort to the Dems. However, an interesting question arises: is the use of undemocratic means to block a recall election really a good thing? From a partisan's view, the answer is yes. From the perspective of democratic theory, I'm genuinely unsure.

    I close with a dare to the many lawyer-bloggers out there: Devise a theory of judicial intervention that argues that either this Court of Appeals intervention or the U.S. Supreme Court intervention in the Florida recount was appropriate, but the other is not. I think it's possible, but I'm not a lawyer.

    posted by Dan at 03:04 PM | Comments (42) | Trackbacks (1)

    Good economic news

    Many readers are probably in a glum mood this morning, what with the world trade talks at a seeming impasse. I'll get to those talks over the next week, but in the meanwhile here's some good economic news.

    Loyal readers of this blog are probably aware that I hold great respect for intellectual output of the Institute for International Economics. So it's worth pointing out that they're optimistic about the global economy:

    Many forecasters had already been expecting the United States to recover strongly. [former International Monetary Fund chief economist Michael] Mussa echoes that judgment, projecting US growth at better than 4 percent through at least mid-2004 with a strong possibility of considerably better results for a quarter or two, and [former Council of Economic Advisers chairman Martin Neil] Baily expects the rapid growth to start creating substantial numbers of new US jobs in the fourth quarter of this year. However, there have been previously widespread expectations that only China would join the United States in experiencing robust expansion over this period.

    The Institute team now believes that, to the contrary, most other components of the world economy will share in the rapid expansion (see table 1). This includes Japan and most of Europe, both of which had until recently been viewed as lagging significantly. Germany is viewed as the only major exception. Hence the strong recovery now appears likely to be globalized.

    In addition, positive interaction between the pickups in the different regions can be expected. For example, faster-than-expected growth in Europe and Japan, along with the modest decline in the exchange rate of the dollar over the past 18 months, may at least arrest the steady deterioration in the US trade balance that has deducted an average of 0.75 percentage points annually from US growth in five of the last six years. Stabilization of the external imbalance is thus an important factor in the positive outlook for the United States.

    Moreover, strong growth throughout the world adds to the likelihood of implementation of policy reforms that will help sustain that growth and enhance economic prospects for the longer run. For example, the crucial German reforms proposed by Chancellor Schroeder and Japan's efforts to strengthen its banking system are more likely to be pursued successfully in a hospitable economic climate. Their implementation will then enhance both those countries' own performance and, since they are the world's second and third largest national economies, the global outlook as well. (emphasis in original)


    posted by Dan at 12:01 PM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (2)

    The New York Times editorial page never ceases to amuse

    Yesterday the New York Times editorial on Iraq was about the failed Security Council negotiations over a new resolution. It being the Times, it was quite critical of the Bush administration:

    After a summer of worsening news from Iraq, it is time to rethink America's postwar strategy...

    Mr. Bush has so far failed to explain satisfactorily how he plans to secure Iraq without a crippling, indefinite American military commitment; speedily achieve Iraqi self-government; and share the burden of rebuilding Iraq's industries and society so the United States can leave on its own terms. And his maneuvering room may soon shrink, since the Democratic challengers are desperate to break out of the herd on Iraq. If Mr. Bush does not demonstrate a clear and convincing strategy soon, he may face political pressure to bring home American troops under conditions that would be embarrassing for America and perilous for the Middle East. Of all the possible scenarios, the most important one to avoid is a poll-driven scramble to bring the troops home that suffers the same lack of preparation the administration showed at the end of major combat.

    OK, so far I'm almost in half-agreement with the editorial. Then we come to the next graf:

    Moving forward will require new thinking from an administration that has shown little inclination to learn from its mistakes. The United States needs help from its allies in Europe, but those countries are unlikely to provide it unless Mr. Bush abandons his "my way or the highway" approach. Simply saying it's time to pay up, as Mr. Bush did last Sunday, does not begin to address the concerns of economically stressed allies who felt trampled before the war. The lingering strains were evident on Friday in Geneva, where Secretary of State Colin Powell quickly rejected France's proposal for an unrealistically rapid buildup to Iraqi elections in the spring. (emphasis added)

    Now, I'm a touch confused here. The editorial admits that the French were being unreasonable and ridiculous in their position on Iraq -- according to this VOA report, France wanted to turn over power to an Iraqi government next month. So why, exactly, is the Times is upset that Powell "quickly rejected" that proposal?

    My guess: "lingering strains" between the Bush administration and the New York Times editorial page.

    Let's hope time will heal these wounds.

    For more on Iraq, check out OxBlog and this excellent backgrounder from the Economist. The latter points out that the Iraqis are slowly taking on more governing tasks:

    The $20 billion allocation has also paved the way for America to transfer Iraq's budget to Iraqis. At present, Iraqi ministers complain bitterly about their American shadows; they felt left out in the cold by the 2003 budget, which was drawn up by the American administrator, Paul Bremer. The oil minister, for instance, said he had no idea how much was to be spent on rehabilitating the oilfields, and was told to seek finance on a case-by-case basis.

    But Iraqi ministers have themselves helped to draw up the 2004 budget. For the first time in seven years, Iraqis will spend their own oil wealth. Few, under these circumstances, would relish handing responsibility back to the UN.

    Iraqis will have a $13 billion budget in 2004, most of it from oil revenues, and all but $1 billion will be assigned for running costs, most of them salaries. The capital budget, the $20 billion, will be managed by Mr Bremer, with most of it going to the rebuilding and reform of Iraq's infrastructure. Of this, $6.6 billion will go to electricity, $2 billion to rehabilitate the oilfields, and much of the rest for public works.

    posted by Dan at 11:17 AM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)