Saturday, December 9, 2006
Lincoln with Chinese characteristics
Three years ago, I wrote the following:
As a regional actor in Asia, Beijing can not and should not be ignored. As a global actor, its profile remains relatively small, even compared with the Unitred States a century ago.Today, the
New York Times has a front-pager by Joseph Kahn demonstrating that a lot has happened since then:
In the past several weeks China Central Television has broadcast a 12-part series describing the reasons nine nations rose to become great powers. The series was based on research by a team of elite Chinese historians, who also briefed the ruling Politburo about their findings.Kahn reviews the documentary series [Hey, PBS, how about purchasing its rights and broadcasting a version with subtitles here in the states?!--ed.]. This part stands out: "In the 90 minutes devoted to examining the rise of the United States, Lincoln is accorded a prominent part for his efforts to “preserve national unity” during the Civil War. China has made reunification with Taiwan a top national priority."
It will be interesting to see how and when China translates its growing economic power into ideational power. This, intriguingly, is (kind of) the topic of Jeffrey Garten's op-ed in the NYT about higher education in Asia:
At a summit meeting of leaders next week in the Philippines, senior officials from India, Singapore, Japan and perhaps other countries are scheduled to discuss the revival of an ancient university in India called Nalanda. It is a topic unlikely to receive much mention in the Western press. But no one should underestimate the potential benefits of this project to Asia, or the influence it could have on Asia’s role in the world, or the revolutionary impact it could make on global higher education....I'm rapidly coming to the conclusion that Garten is focused too much on regional initiaties and not enough on national ones -- but this seems like enough to chew on for the weekend.
Friday, December 8, 2006
Syllabi for next semester
The following is likely to only interest students at the Fletcher School:
Here are the syllabi for my spring courses:
UPDATE: Thanks to those who are caching typos!
The perils of precocious children
A breakfast play, in one act (draft only):
MOTHER: Sam, what would you like for breakfast?AUTHOR'S NOTE: Use cereal bars as deus ex machina to end play if necessary.
Thursday, December 7, 2006
Draw your own conclusions about American pop culture
What is the significance of the fact that the following is currently ranked as the most viewed YouTube video for today?
A) The imminent arrival of the apocalypse?
B) Ironic detachment is now the predominant stance of Internet users?
C) YouTube has jumped the shark?
D) Ain't nothin' over til it's over?
E) There are a lot of Airplane II: The Sequel fans?
F) Montage sequence + Bill Conti theme = Crazy delicious?
Save the rust belt -- and screw western Washington
The New York Times' Leslie Wayne looks at the renewed demand for Boein's 747 jet. Turns out that the expansion of trade has something to do with it:
[A] funny thing happened to the 747 on the way to the graveyard: it found a new tailwind, and a strong one at that.
Wednesday, December 6, 2006
Open Baker-Hamilton thread
Comment away on:
1) The Iraq Study Group's report;
The gift that keeps on giving for protectionism
Ah, the Democratically-controlled Congress -- is there any step towards economic liberalization that they won't block?
Don Phillips, "U.S. Withdraws Plan on Foreign Investment in Airlines, Disrupting Open-Skies Treaty," New York Times, December 6, 2006:
The Bush administration withdrew a plan on Tuesday to give European airlines more freedom to invest in American airlines and to participate in management decisions, bowing to opposition expected to deepen in a Democratic-controlled Congress.I was curious about he substantive reasons why unions were opposing this particular agreement, seeing as the sweatshop argument did not seem credible.
You see some of the union arguments by clicking here and here. As near as I can determine, the primary reason for opposition is based on simple protectionism akin to the Dubai Ports World episode-- they simply do not want to see foreign ownership and control of U.S. carriers.
As for the benefits of an Open Skies arrangement? One union head argued that since the benefits are likely to be realized in the medium to long-term, there's no real cost to scuttling the arrangement.
Gonna be a long two years.....
The grounded open-skies deal was only half the prize sought by both sides. Ending most market-access restrictions would have triggered a second round of talks aimed at creating an Open Aviation Area (OAA), with more alignment of safety, security and competition policy and, perhaps, investment and ownership rules....ANOTHER UPDATE: The Los Angeles Times' Paul Thornton has more on the killing of this deal (hat tip: Virginia Postrel). He also addresses the national security concern -- as I suspected, it's about as well-placed as the Dubai Ports World fiasco:
A "homeland security risk"? All the DOT's proposal would have allowed is non-citizens to hold executive positions in airlines that oversee purely economic decisions (think fares, routes and aircraft purchases). The proposal explicitly -- I repeat, explicitly -- walled off non-citizen managers from having any say in an airline's security. In fact, the DOT proposal would have left the 25% foreign ownership cap completely intact; it even had the blessing of the Department of Defense....
Tuesday, December 5, 2006
The Campaign for America's Future... and its enemies
In what I am convinced is a plot to make me reject Brink Lindsey's efforts to get libertarians and liberals to kiss on the first date, I was sent the following press release:
More than 100 leaders, speaking for dozens of progressive organizations, assembled today to organize a campaign to back major portions of the House Democrats' early legislative agenda. The attending groups represent an expansion of a regular meeting of progressive leaders known as the "Tuesday Group." Organizers said support for key elements of the agenda represents a down payment on a more ambitious agenda for change promised by the new majority in Congress.I should add that I do think the Campaign for America's future is likely correct in its assertion that "Democrats ran the most populist elections in memory." For support, click on this Stan Greenberg analysis of the midterm exit polls, as well as Public Citizen's report, "Election 2006: No to Staying the Course on Trade."
What happened to bowling alone?
The Corporation for National and Community Service -- a government entity that runs AmeriCorps and Senior Corps -- issues a report that would, at first glance, surprise those who have read Bowling Alone. From the press release:
Volunteering has reached a 30-year high in the United States, as more people pitch in to help their communities, according to a study released today by the Corporation for National and Community Service....After another glance, this result can be partially and uneasily reconciled with Putnam's thesis of declining social capital. First, Putnam focused on a wide range of behaviors beyond volunteerism, which this report doesn't cover. Second, this report still shows a volunteering gap among Gen X-ers like myself, which prompted Putnam's book in the first place. Third, describing the growth of teenage participation in these kind of activities as "volunteerism" stretches the meaning of the word a bit, since "service-learning programs" are often mandated at the high school level (that said, the growth of volunteerism at the high school level might also be a function of market pressures -- you want to get into a good college,you need to demonstrate volunteerism).
One question I'm curious about: these service programs have been in place for quite some time now. Does anyone know if hard data exists showing that participation in them triggers a life-long pattern of volunteerism?
Monday, December 4, 2006
Name that mutual interest!!!
The AP reports that State Department press officer Eric Watnik has a wry sense of humor when it comes to Venezuela:
The State Department, long at odds with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, greeted the populist leader's landslide re-election victory by holding out the possibility of a more cooperative relationship with his government.Readers are strongly encouraged to name issues in which Hugo Chavez and George W. Bush would share a mutual interest.
Who's going to fuse with libertarians?
Over at The New Republic, Brink Lindsey argues that Democrats should start catering liberarians more aggrssively:
Libertarian disaffection [with the GOP] should come as no surprise. Despite the GOP's rhetorical commitment to limited government, the actual record of unified Republican rule in Washington has been an unmitigated disaster from a libertarian perspective: runaway federal spending at a clip unmatched since Lyndon Johnson; the creation of a massive new prescription-drug entitlement with hardly any thought as to how to pay for it; expansion of federal control over education through the No Child Left Behind Act; a big run-up in farm subsidies; extremist assertions of executive power under cover of fighting terrorism; and, to top it all off, an atrociously bungled war in Iraq.I'm not going to excerpt Lindsey's case because it should be read in full (click here to read it if you're not a TNR subscriber).
One critique of it is that while Lindsey focuses on the possible areas of common ground (corporate welfare, immigration, tax reform) he elides the issues where Democrats want to promote economic populism (the minimum wage, trade expansion) because it gets more votes than libertarians can proffer themselves. Even here, however, Lindsey could argue that programs do exist (trade adjustment assistance) that could potentially split the difference.
My only other critique comes with what's missing in this paragraph:
Conservative fusionism, the defining ideology of the American right for a half-century, was premised on the idea that libertarian policies and traditional values are complementary goods. That idea still retains at least an intermittent plausibility--for example, in the case for school choice as providing a refuge for socially conservative families. But an honest survey of the past half-century shows a much better match between libertarian means and progressive ends. Most obviously, many of the great libertarian breakthroughs of the era--the fall of Jim Crow, the end of censorship, the legalization of abortion, the liberalization of divorce laws, the increased protection of the rights of the accused, the reopening of immigration--were championed by the political left.None of what's in this paragraph is incorrect. Again, however, Lindsey does omit the successes in microeconomic policy -- deregulation, welfare reform, declines in marginal tax rates, shifts in antitrust policy, the 1986 tax reform -- that conservative fusionism produced in the past few decades.
UPDATE: Sebastian Mallaby mulls over Lindsey's essay in the Washington Post today. Hat tip to Inactivist, who also has some thoughts on the matter. Also check out the series of posts at the Volokh Conspiracy.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Over at The American Spectator, John Tabin suggests that a liberal-libertarian fusionism won't take:
The problem with this idea is that classical liberalism (or libertarianism) and modern liberalism (or progressivism, or egalitarian liberalism) are fundamentally at odds philosophically. The crux of the split is the difference between negative and positive liberty, a difference that illuminates how libertarians and liberals are separated even when they seem to be allied.It's convenient for conservatives to make this argument, but Tabin shrewdly links to this Matt Yglesias post from a few months ago that makes the same point:
For one thing, a lot of the views liberals tend to think of us libertarian-ish liberal positions aren't actually especially libertarian at the end of the day. For example, liberals, like libertarians, don't think the coercive authority of the state should be deployed to discriminate against gays and lesbians. Unlike libertarians, however, liberals generally think the coercive authority of the state should be deployed to prevent discrimination against gays and lesbians. We think that landlords shouldn't be allowed to refuse to rent houses to gay men, that bartenders shouldn't be allowed to refuse to serve them, that employers shouldn't be allowed to fire them, etc. Liberals believe in a certain notion of human liberation from entrenched dogma, prejudice, and tradition, but this isn't the same as hostility to state action, even in the sex-and-gender sphere.To argue in favor of Lindsey now, these are good but not devastating points. Both Tabin and Yglesias assume that all libertarians are so dogmatic that they cannot compromise in the interest of pursuing larger gains. Most libertarians -- including, I suspect, the overwhelming majority of the 28 million voting-age Americans that Boaz and Kirby identify as libertarian -- will not automatically blanch at, say, anti-discrimination laws as a deal-breaker. Well, they'd blanch, but they wouldn't faint.
In other words, libertarians run the gamut from Murray Rothbard to, say, Milton Friedman. And more of them are sympatico with someone like Friedman than someone like Rothbard. [Rothbard had reasons to link with the left as well!--ed. True, which suggest a very different lib-lib fusionism than the one that interests Lindsey.]
Sunday, December 3, 2006
We've got blog, blog, blog, blog, blog, blog, spam, and blog
So I see that the second-most interesting article about blogs in the New York Times today got a lot of attention. That would be K. Daniel Glober's op-ed on the increased linkages between bloggers and political candidates:
The Netroots.” “People Power.” “Crashing the Gate.” The lingo of liberal Web bloggers bespeaks contempt for the political establishment. The same disdain is apparent among many bloggers on the right, who argued passionately for a change in the slate of House Republican leaders — and who wallowed in woe-is-the-party pity when the establishment ignored them.As William Beutler points out, this op-ed has not had the best of reactions in the blogosphere -- in large part because the piece could give the impression that some campaign bloggers did not act up to the Times' ethical standards.
Me,I just yawned, and recalled what I wrote about this six months ago:
What's going on is not illegal, or even out of the ordinary in Washington, DC. It's politics as usual. The only reason the story is noteworthy is because bloggers... have persistently said that they and theirs -- a.k.a., the netroots -- are not about politics as usual.Now, the most interesting story about blogs in the NYT today was Clive Thompson's cover story in the magazine about how blogs and wikis could prove useful structures for intelligence analysis:
[T]hroughout the intelligence community, spies are beginning to wonder why their technology has fallen so far behind — and talk among themselves about how to catch up. Some of the country’s most senior intelligence thinkers have joined the discussion, and surprisingly, many of them believe the answer may lie in the interactive tools the world’s teenagers are using to pass around YouTube videos and bicker online about their favorite bands. Billions of dollars’ worth of ultrasecret data networks couldn’t help spies piece together the clues to the worst terrorist plot ever. So perhaps, they argue, it’ s time to try something radically different. Could blogs and wikis prevent the next 9/11?....Clearly there are downsides as well, and Thompson discusses most of them in the story.