Friday, April 27, 2007
The greatest threat this blog has ever faced
I see that Dani Rodrik has now set up his own blog.
Great. Just great. Back in the day, I use to have the monopoly on blogging about the global political economy. Now Rodrik -- and his fancy-pants Albert Hirschman Prize -- comes along to make the competition more difficult. It's not enough that the man is responsible for Jaghdish Bhagwati's jeremiad against yours truly.
In all seriousness, Rodrik is a smart economist who can speak to non-economists -- so it's a very good thing that he's joined the blogosphere. And while we have some overlap in interest, his take is quite different from mine. So, in fact, everyone wins!
Imagine some change in the economy leaves Tom $3 richer and Jerry $2 poorer, and I ask you whether you approve of this change. Few economists, regardless of their political and philosophical orientation, would be able to give a straight answer without asking for more information.... In other words, most of us would care about the manner in which the distributional change occurred--i.e., about procedural fairness....I don't disagree with Rodrik's political argument here per se -- but I do have a few quibbles about it's generalizability:
1) Let's change the redistribution to the following:I suspect Rodrik's procedural concerns affect how attitudes about trade. But the simple act of redistribution across borders -- regardless of the reasons -- matters even more.a) Tom is 30 cents richer;That's actually a more accurate picture of trade's effects. In focusing striictly on the employment effects, however, Rodrik elides the biggest gain from trade -- lower prices. He's correct that this is weak beer politically, but it's still worth remembering.
Debatable debate headlines
I'm sure my readers will be shocked -- shocked!! -- that I did not watch any of the presidential debate last night.
However, from today's headlines, I have a clear sense of what happened:
"Hillary Clinton shines in Democratic candidates' debate," The Guardian
Thursday, April 26, 2007
In honor of David Halberstam...
Despite baseball's long literary tradition, reading about the sport never interested me... until I read David Halberstam's Summer of 49. Despite Halberstam's admitted pro-Yankee sympathies, the book was a gripping read.
In honor of his passing -- and his unique ability to move from engaging books about serious geopolitics to serious books about engaging sports -- this blog post will discuss both baseball and geopolitics.
Fidel Castro, 80, has experienced serious health problems in recent years, and his brother Raúl is Cuba’s interim president, a situation that has prompted speculation about the country’s future. Baseball officials began discussions a year and a half ago about how to approach the possibility of normalizing relations with Cuba.If you ask me, MLB should be even more aggressive in establishing cooperative baseball relations with Cuba. If ping-pong can thaw Sino-American relations, why not baseball for Cuba?
Meanwhile, it appears that the import of Daisuke Matsuzaka has increased demand for advertising for a lot of major league teams. The Boston Globe's Keith Reed explains:
If you watched the Red Sox play the Texas Rangers earlier this month and couldn't read the Japanese-language ads behind home plate, don't worry. Those were meant for fans watching overseas, not you.(hat tip to David Pinto for the link).
Finally, check out Baseball Prospectus' Jim Baker on why, in almost every way possible, baseball today is better than when you were a kid. It's pretty convincing.
An Iran deal?
Time's Tony Karon reports that significant progress was made in the latest round of EU-Iran negotiations. In the process, Karon does an excellent job of describing how Iran's domestic politics affects their negotiating posture:
One problem in reading Iran's intentions is that it's very easy to forget who's in charge in Tehran. The fact that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is the President doesn't mean that he is, in Bush parlance, "the decider." In fact, Iran's president has little executive authority over national security decisions (including the nuclear program), and his constitutional position makes him, if anything, probably less influential over those decisions than more pragmatic figures such as Larijani, who convenes the key foreign policy decision-making body, the National Security Council. In the end, though, there is a "decider" — the supreme spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. But Khamenei wields his authority carefully, and in a consultative manner, seeking to maintain the unity of the competing factions of Iran's political class. So, while he is said to pay greater heed to the counsel of more pragmatic advisers such as Larijani and former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, the Supreme Leader is careful to accommodate the popularly elected President Ahmadinejad. For example, while the recent compromise with Britain over the 15 Naval personnel captured at sea may have been brokered in substantial part in talks between Larijani and key British officials, it was Ahmadinejad who got to do the populist grandstanding in the ceremony accompanying their release.If this analysis is correct, then one has to expect Ahmadinejad to try and delay agreement for as long as humanly possible. The fact is, once the nuclear issue is settled, he will be hard-pressed to achieve any of his populist goals.
UPDATE: In the Financial Times, Najmeh Bozorgmehr decribes Ahmadinejad's five-day trip through the province of Fars. It presets a mixed picture of the president -- though Bozorgmehr concludes:
I can’t help but ponder the recent analyses in political and intellectual circles in Tehran, most of which has argued that Mr Ahmadi-Nejad is finished politically. After the five-day tour, this seems like wishful thinking. His rivals have a tough challenge ahead.ANOTHER UPDATE: Dennis Ross, on the other hand, argues over at TNR Online that Ahmadinejad and the Revolutionary Guards are waning in power.
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
The Jonathan Rauch interview
Let me join Andrew Sullivan and Virginia Postrel in linking to this Reason interview with National Jounal columnist Jonathan Rauch. Uneknownst to him, Rauch is partly responsible for the creation of this blog.
Two parts of the interview that stand out. The first reflects Rauch's spot-on take on government:
[R]ight-sizing government, if you mean imposing some preconceived size that you or I or someone else might have, is impossible. Impossible, probably inconceivable and simply not going to happen ever.The second reflects Rauch's wariness of blog triumphalism:
I'm not a fan of the idea that the journalist and the journalist's attitude should be front and center. I think that a good journalist's duty is to get out of the way. The hardest thing about journalism--the hardest thing, a much higher art than being clever--is just to get out of the way, to show the leader of the world as the reader would see it if the reader were there. Just to be eyes and ears. Calvin Trillin, another writer I greatly admired who steered me towards journalism, once said that getting himself out of his stories was like taking off a very tight shirt in a very small phone booth. He's right.Read the whole thing.
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Ta-ta and au revoir
I'm off to Europe for an intensive week-long series of meetings to think about the transatlantic relationship. Blogging will hereby be intermittent for a few days.
Talk amongs yourselves. Topics:
1) Barack Obama gave a foreign policy speech. What do you think of it?
Monday, April 23, 2007
The politics of global warming, continued
Following up on my last post about global warming, I see there was a bit of a kerfuffle at the White House Correspondents Dinner. Sheryl Crow and Laurie David explain over at The Huffington Post:
The "highlight" of the evening had to be when we were introduced to Karl Rove. How excited were we to have our first opportunity ever to talk directly to the Bush Administration about global warming.The New York Times story by Jim Rutenberg on the encounter discusses the fallout:
Recriminations between the celebrities and the White House carried over into Sunday, with Ms. Crow and Ms. David calling Mr. Rove “a spoiled child throwing a tantrum” and the White House criticizing their “Hollywood histrionics.”Lots of blog reaction -- Joe Gandelman, Colin McEnroe, Ann Alhouse, and, well, lots of other places.
A few thoughts:
1) Laurie David is 100% correct on one thing -- no one should ever say "don't touch me" to Sheryl Crow. I mean, really, that's just wrong.Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe people like David and Crow will actually generate a Kumbaya-moment in world politics. But I'm very, very dubious about it.