Friday, December 12, 2003
What blogging hath wrought
No blogging today -- and it's the blog's fault. Follow this chain of events:
Back in May, I blogged about the Center for Global Development's Ranking the Rich, an effort to create, "an index that measures 21 developed countries on a plethora of policies that help or harm poor nations."
Which led to my first essay in Tech Central Station.
Which led to me getting asked to be on their Board of Advisors for future revisions to the index.
Which leads me to fly to DC and back to go to a board meeting today.
UPDATE: Back and exhausted -- just like Glenn Reynolds was yesterday.
Thursday, December 11, 2003
Who's minding the foreign policy store?
Well, first, the reaction from the French, Russian, and German governments has been more overblown than a Matrix sequel. For example, France and the EU claim that the ruling may be inconsistent with WTO procurement rules. Given that the ruling is phrased to be consistent with the national security exemption, and given the understandable reluctance of the WTO to get involved, it would be safe to say that the Europeans are overreaching.
The Christian Science Monitor puts things in the proper perspective:
It's the last point that makes all of this so puzzling. If the administration did not need the assistance of these countries with regard to Iraq, then the finding would be gratuitous but harmless. However, why on God's green earth would implement this decision just when you're dispatching an envoy to ask these countries to forgive Iraqi debts? Yes, there's a bargain to be made here, but hint at it, discuss tactical issue linkage behind closed doors, use that diplomacy thing. Don't make your move on a web site in such crude form. From the New York Times (link via Josh Marshall, who has another interesting post here):
The lack of policy coordination is astonishing. Going back to the Christian Science Monitor editorial:
Alas, this is becoming a familiar refrain with this White House.
Catherine Mann on globalization and outsourcing
The Institute for International Economics' Catherine Mann has a great policy brief on the globalization of IT services. There's a lot of interesting info, but the discussion of employment effects is particularly interesting:
By all means, read the whole thing.
UPDATE: Cold Sping Shops has further thoughts.
Syllabi for next quarter
Sorry for being mute today -- I was finalizing my course syllabi for next year. The finishing touches always take longer than I think.
For those U of C undergraduates and graduates interested, here are the links (which can also be found on my teaching page):
Undergraduate: American Foreign Economic Policy (in Word format)
Graduate: Global Political Economy (in Word format)
Wednesday, December 10, 2003
Jay Drezner has an interesting post on the norms of political civility in Australia versus the United States:
Of course, there are plenty of politicians in the U.S. willing to use strong language. However, Australian politics may have hit a new low recently thanks to third party leader Andrew Bartlett:
Click on this report to see the precise language Bartlett used in the altercation.
My chic strategy of providing links
Looking for more on the global southern strategy? Look no further!
Documentation: The Fischler quote comes from this story in the Guardian. The Goldman Sachs study mentioned in the piece is available online. Here's a link to the joint IMF-World Bank-WTO statement. For good measure here's a follow-up joint Bank-Fund statement post-Cancun.
Background: For more info on the old-school New International Economic Order, check out this entry in the Routledge Encyclopedia of International Political Economy. On the developed country response, the best source is Stephen D. Krasner's Structural Conflict, about which I've posted previously.
For more on the G22/G20+, there's this story. Another piece by the same journalist in the Asian Times provides further background on the emergent grouping.
I discussed developing country opposition to the "Singapore issues" in the WTO talks in a Tech Central Station column. For a mildly contrary take, Jeffrey Schott provides engaging analysis of the post-Cancun state of negotiations.
My latest TNR online essay is up -- as hinted at here, it's on the faultlines emerging between the developing and developed nations over global economic governance. Go check it out.
Footnotes to come soon.... and here they are.
Last thoughts on Dean and Gore
Josh Marshall thinks that Gore's endorsement of Dean could paradoxically help Clark, through the process of eliminating the other pretenders to the throne. If Kerry, Gephardt, Edwards, Lieberman et al drop out, it becomes a Dean/Clark horse race:
Josh probably knows a hell of a lot more about Democratic Party politics than I do, but the more I think about it, the more I don't buy it. Here's why:
1) Follow the money. The mainstream press is now obsessing over Dean's new campaign model. The latest issue of Time reports that Dean's coffers are bulging to the point where he's offering money to others:
Republican or Democrat, all politicians follow the funding. The more resources that Dean has to throw around for other campaigns, the less charged the opposition will be.
2) Pride matters for the rest of the field. The Gore endorsement managed to accomplish something that nothing else in the campaign had done to date -- make Howard Dean's challengers look as angry as Howard Dean (this also applies to Democratic-friendly media outlets -- Will Saletan, Exhibit A). This has more to do with Gore than Dean -- as Jeff Greenfield put it: "This to be candid with you is a problem Al Gore has had in the past in his relations with other politicians. There is a kind of reputation that he has earned over the years for not necessarily being the most graceful of diplomats in dealing with his fellow Democrats." If the debate wrap-up is any indication, the other contenders are not going to go down without a serious rhetorical fight.
The problem is, they're all angry, which means none of them are dropping out anytime soon. This complicates the scenario where everyone but Clark falls away. At best, I suspect that by the time South Carolina rolls around, only Kerry and Gephardt would drop out if they were clobbered in New Hampshire and Iowa, respectively. Edwards, Clark and Lieberman can easily split the Clinton wing of the party to the point where Dean skates through the Southern primaries.
3) Dean could win the general election. Forget polls comparing Bush to the Democratic challengers today. As I've argued elsewhere, Dean will prove to be more formidable than he seems now. William Kristol is right about this. I have it on good authority that the Bush team is equally aware of how close 2004 could be.
Once this meme filters through the mediasphere, the strongest political rationale for opposing a Dean nomination will be squelched. Implicit hints from Dean that he would pick a VP with either Southern or Western roots would probably accelerate this as well.
One other thing -- as TNR's &c. points out, Dean's wooing of Gore demonstrates something counterintuitive about his political skills:
Again, Marshall may very well be right. I kind of hope he's right, just because it would make for much more entertaining political theater. My hunch, though, is that at best Clark might pull a Jesse Jackson circa 1988 and win a big state after everyone thought Dean had it locked it up. But this would be a hiccup, not a horse race.
UPDATE: Ryan Lizza has an outstanding analysis of Dean's effect on the Democratic Party elite (link via Mickey Kaus) that anticipates much of what was said here and in my previous post on Dean/Gore. And it was written a month ago!
Tuesday, December 9, 2003
Boomshock has moved
Robert Tagorda finally had it with Blogger and has moved into much sleeker digs at his new home.
His latest post is a good take on how the media can twist official reports in a lot of different ways. In this case the report in UN predictions of population growth. Go check it out.
Islam, geography, and economic growth
Marcus Noland argues that, contrary to conventional wisdom, adherence to Islam does not lead to reduced economic fortunes:
Tyler Cowen disagrees:
Kieran Healy says this nut may never be cracked:
Kieran goes on to quote Ernest Gellner, a bigwig in the study of nationalism, who says:
Read all of the posts -- interesting debate. There's a bit of talking past each other -- Cowen is much more concerned with state structures in Muslim-majority countries, while Noland is concerned with effects on individuals as well.
What intrigues me is Gellner's comment. In international relations theory and economic history, a common argument for why Europe grew the way it did after 1500 is that geographic barriers permitted the proliferation of states and religious sects, decentralizing power enough to create a space for economic actors to operate free of state repression. One wonders if the curse of the Middle East is not its religion, but rather the absence of those geographic barriers.
UPDATE: Brad DeLong is similarly intrigued by this debate, and has the following thoughts on the subject:
Read the whole post.
ANOTHER UPDATE: This book may be of interest to readers of this post (Thanks to alert reader D.G. for the link)
The employment debate
Last week I blogged about the debate over productivity numbers. This week it's the employment numbers that are being questioned. Amity Shlaes makes a good case that the accepted statistics are overestimating the unemployment rate -- though, as she points out, this affects the productivity debate. The good parts version:
Combine Shlaes' analysis with Stephen Roach's analysis, and one has to conclude that the productivity numbers are probably exaggerated a bit.
Monday, December 8, 2003
Is this the ballgame?
The AP is reporting that Al Gore is going to endorse Howard Dean for President (link via Drudge):
1) If there was ever a sign that the Democratic establishment now sees Dean's nomination as inevitable, this is it.
2) Not to be too cynical, but what is Gore getting out of this? I'm not saying that he's selling out his principles by endorsing Dean -- it's just that I don't see the upside of making an endorsement at this point in time unless there's a backscratch in there somewhere.
3) This exposes the faultline between Gore and the Clintons, who fear Dean because he has a money stream independent of the Democratic Party establishment (run by Clintonite Terry MacAuliffe, remember). Tapped's Nick Confessore links to a Washington Post story that explains the political cleavage emerging for 2004:
Gore's endorsement would throw a significant monkey wrench into this Southern Strategy. [Wouldn't the Clintons be happy about this, since it increases the odds that Hillary will be able to run in 2008?--ed. Five years is a lifetime in politics -- and Dean's ascension means that the Clintons now have a formidable rival]
5) If, against all odds, someone else were to win the nomination, Al Gore would become the official unlucky charm of Democrats everywhere.
More reaction from Josh Marshall ("stunned") and Atrios ("laughing"), Mark Kleiman ("I'm banking on them [50,000 Clark supporters] rather than Gore") and Ramesh Ponnuru at NRO's the Corner ("No word yet from McGovern, Mondale, or Dukakis") James Joyner collects additional blogosphere reactions. Time has a roundup of mediasphere reaction. Nothing on Dean's official blog -- or this one either.
UPDATE: The Washington Post has reactions from other campaigns. It's not pretty:
LAST UPDATE: Another reason for Kerry to use strong language -- from today's Chicago Tribune:
TNR's &c. has the actual e-mail.
Kind of a sorta good news/bad news situation
Well, the "sorta" bad news is that my chances of winning a Weblog Award look pretty slim. On the other hand, polling fifth out of twenty ain't too shabby -- and I gotta feel for poor Pejman after reading this.
The "sorta" good news is that I have been awarded an honorary title by another blog...
It'll look great on the cv!!
The potential costs of re-regulation
Recently, Howard Dean called for sweeping re-regulation of significant portions of the American economy:
Given Dean's position, it's worth highlighting the benefits that deregulation have brought to the U.S. economy.
Brad DeLong links to an Economist article (subscription required) and a joint AEI-Brookings book by Alfred Kahn on the subject. The key paragraphs from the Economist story:
This domestic deregulation omits the equally important international deregulation that took place around the same time, as most commodity cartels fell apart. In the case of coffee, for example, the demise of the International Coffee Agreement lowered coffee prices from $1.50 per pound in the mid-eighties to $0.50 per pound in current dollars.
Question for Governor Dean -- how do your re-regulation proposals not amount to a disguised tax regime that raises barriers to market entry, thus empowering the very corporations you allegedly distrust?
An update on the Internet and the UN
Last week I red-flagged the upcoming World Summit on the Information Society and developing country efforts to have greater UN involvement (in the form of the International Telecommunications Union) in Internet governance. The United States, European Union, and Japan all opposed this move -- out of normative fears that it would enhance the ability of states to regulate content, and positive fears that such a switch would dilute their influence in ICANN.
Looks like the status quo will be preserved for the near-future -- meaning that ICANN still runs key parts of the Internet and states like China and Saudi Arabia can still regulate content to their heart's content. Here's the Reuters story on it. The Register has some good behind-the-scenes stuff:
The Washington Times suggests the clear faultlines when these issues re-emerge:
China, Brazil, South Africa. Hmmm... These countries also played a pivotal role in derailing world trade talks at Cancun three months ago.
In all the talk about transatlantic tensions -- in the blogosphere and the mediasphere -- methinks that analysts have overlooked a deeper division that may emerge in future negotiations on the global political economy: the developed and developing world.
More on this in a few days.
Sunday, December 7, 2003
When is it important to fact-check fiction?
Last year, Gregg Easterbrook mocked the New York Times for publishing a correction saying that it had made a few errors in recounting a plot point from the HBO series The Sopranos. Easterbrook noted:
Now, I take Easterbrook's point that this sort of corrections policy can border on the absurd, but consider, as a counterexample, Alex Kuczynski's essay in today's NYT on religious interpretations of the movie Groundhog Day. Here's Kuczynski's plot summary of the movie:
There are two errors in this plot summary. First, Bill Murray's character Phil Connors does not save the homeless man from freezing to death -- indeed, this section of the film shows that as the day repeats itself, the homeless man dies no matter how much Phil attempts to save him. Second, although it appears that Connors has successfully seduced the producer at the end of the film, the dialogue suggests that Phil restrained from any hanky-panky, acting like a perfect gentleman.
Nitpicky details? Perhaps, but in an article on how "the film has become a curious favorite of religious leaders of many faiths, who all see in Groundhog Day a reflection of their own spiritual messages," these facts are actually pretty crucial. One corrected, the movie suggests:
1) The limit's of man's power over life and death;
[You, who never misses an opportunity to ogle Salma Hayek, are preaching abstinence?--ed. No, but surely some of the religions discussed in the essay do proffer such advice. And there's a big difference between admiration from afar and acting on such admiration, buddy!]
It would be absurd for the Times to issue an apology to anyone for these errors. However, this is an example of how getting the facts wrong about fiction do alter the tenor of a particular argument.
John Kerry goes ballistic
What must be monumentally frustrating to Kerry (and Edwards, and Lieberman, etc.) is that he's pretty decent on substance -- earlier this year, I thought his foreign policy positions and rhetoric to be the best among the Democratic candidates. This is in contrast to Dean, who has been having difficulty with country names as of late.
That was then. This is now, and Kerry's in full pander mode. According to Eric Alterman:
Now let's click over to Kerry's interview in the December 2003 Rolling Stone (NOTE: Kerry said the following before hearing Spiegelman's advice). It would be safe to say that Kerry uses some very strong language to describe President Bush's policy towards Iraq:
When informed of the comment, Brookings Institution presidential scholar Stephen Hess told the New York Post, "It's so unnecessary. In a way it's a kind of pandering [by Kerry] to a group he sees as hip . . . I think John Kerry is going to regret saying this." (link via Glenn Reynolds).
Actually, there's another passage of the RS interview that I found to be much more revealing of the tenor of the Democratic primary:
The Democratic primary boils down to "representing that anger." And there's no way at this point that anyone will beat Dean at that game.
The thing is, no matter how you slice and dice the opinion polls, the "anger" is still confined to hard-core Democratic primary voters. And the more that the Democratic candidates appeal to it, the more they risk alienating the rest of the voting spectrum. As Alterman himself observes, "I represent a tiny sliver of the electorate that can’t even elect a mayor of New York City."
If Kerry's behavior is any indication, winning the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination will prove to be a Pyrrhic victory at best.
UPDATE: William Saletan, reporting for Slate from the Florida Democratic Party convention, thinks the Rolling Stone epithet is part of "The New Kerry":