Friday, June 15, 2007
Cato Unbound, part deux
The Cato Unbound debate about All Politics Is Global continues with response essays:
1) Ann Florini, "Globalization Is Transformative."My response to the critiques can be found here.
The massive disincentive to blog about Israel/Palestine
The following is a typical e-mail I've received in the wake of posting about Norman Finkelstein:
Anyone questioning the intellectual scholarship of Mr. Finkelstein really needs help. to simply say that he is accomplished does not do service to his record of superior scholarship which is there for everyone to see. Were he not a critic of Zionism he would be feted from on high for his academic achievements. I was not surprised that a Catholic Priest made a mealy mouth decision not to grant tenure on such a political decision and then lied in my opinion making matters even more suspicious by saying that ouside influence had no...who makes up these lies? Father H.'s phone lines are still blazing with threats from ADL Mr. D., Foxman, et.al. considering the Blackmail that Zionism has put on the Catholic Church for their so-called non assistance to the Jews in peril and their perceived coziness with the Nazis during the second W.W. However the Zionist have no quarter from which to truly attack Finkelstein on and they are now in helter skelter mode drunkenly flailing at any thing that Finkelsteins, ala J. Carter. Finally for the record and for sometime now ANTI-SEMITISM has not intimidated the investigators or human beings from observing what Israel is doing in Palestine and condemning them for what it is, genocide. a legitimate personage has "pulled the covers" off that cat(Zionism/Racism)and Zionist apologist are schreeeching to high heaven at being exposed. Dan's bullshit piece about Finkelstein is just another attempt at cover. he admits that he dosen't know what he's talking about when it comes to Finkelstein. I suspect that he really does but has no response to the truth thats printable. If he believed that Finkelstein got a raw deal then he should have stated that instead of listing all the negatives in his text about Finkelstein which makes Dan suspect to the reader. Israels murderous policy of theft of land,lies,targeted killings,walls, racist highways,killing of international observers,and unjust occupation against the Palestinian(short list) People is an international crime in the exact same way that the German Administration under Adolph Hitler and what he did to European Jewry was a crime. Liars such as Dershowitz and loonies such as David Horowitz only expose the Israeli desperate attempt to promote transparent false propaganda. The arrogance of how one should criticize newish people what words one can say and not say is a first in the history of mankind and will not stand. And now comes Dan, with a kinder gentler "objective" detachment The People of the world are united in their condemnation of Zionist blackmail by accusatory designation and use of the term anti-semitism to try and stop the debate concerning the Palestinian genocide committed by Israel since 1948 and continuing. The truth will be told whether Zionist like the way it is told to them or not. The world must unite to bring all the mass killers from the U.S. and Israel to the world court of Justice for their mortal sins against humanity.
I want to believe the Zagats -- I really do
Nina and Tim Zagat have an op-ed in today's New York Tmes about why Chinese food in the United States is substandard. I should sympathize with their argument:
Twenty years ago, American perceptions of Asian food could be summed up in one word: “Chinese.” Since then, we have developed appetites for Korean, Japanese, Thai and Vietnamese fare. Yet while the quality of the restaurants that serve these cuisines, particularly Japanese, has soared in America, Chinese restaurants have stalled. For American diners, the Chinese restaurant experience is the same tired routine — unimaginative dishes served amid dated, pseudo-imperial décor — that we’ve known for years....Hmm.... reducing barriers to exchange, increasing globalization of cuisine... I should be on this proposal like white on rice.
Except that the Zagats' policy solution does not explain their policy conundrum. Immigration barriers should have a roughly equal effect on all Pacific Rim cuisines, not just China's. Why would it be the case that Chinese cuisine in the U.S. is particularly disadvantaged by vsa restrictions?
1) Because China has a larger internal market, there is more innovation and competition at home, leading to more frequent innovations. Without a reliable transmission mechanism (i.e., migrating chefs), Chinese cuisine in China will improve at a faster rate than in the U.S.A.I'm willing to endorse more culinary trade as a matter of principle, but I'd still like a good explanation for this conundrum.
Take it away, Tyler Cowen!
This is my brain when it's cranky
Matthew Rojansky has a post at Across the Aisle on energy independence that caused me to bang my head against the wall in sheer frustration for a few moments.
Rojansky reacts to a DC panel on energy, the environment and national security at a Center for American Progress/Century Foundation conference. After all of the panelists politely point out that the goal of energy independence is neither possible not worthwhile. Rojansky replies:
Alright, I see their point. It’s not immediately clear that even the optimal combination of conservation and alternative energy technologies can keep pace with growing demands for energy, meaning we will continue to need energy imports to fuel the US economy. Cutting off foreign energy sources would, by that reasoning, make us less competitive, and more “isolated” in a negative sense.OK, to put this as simply as possible -- trading energy commodities creates value in the same way that trading any other kind of good creates value. The reason we import energy from other countries is that, as Rojansky observes, "is both cheaper to extract and transport than it would be to generate here at home." As a society, the U.S. gains value by having the market take resources that might have (inefficiently) gone into energy extraction and reallocating them into producing goods and services in which the United States has a comparative advantage (indeed, one of those goods and services might be, you know, a new innovative technique to more efficiently extract energy resources). Trade, in this sense, has the same effect as a technological innovation -- it widens the variety of efficient means through which a society can obtain goods.
Trading energy is not a zero sum game.
This doesn't mean policymakers should necessarily let the market operate in an unfettered manner. There are clear non-economic reasons to intervene (Rojansky argues that foreign suppliers might decide one day not to sell their energy to the U.S. That's a red herring, because any move in that direction hurts them more than us). Efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will likely require investment in alternative forms of energy. The political externalities of high energy prices are also undesirable. However, even factoring in the political externalities, the U.S. should not aim for energy independence. Why waste resources on eliminating that last drop of imported oil, when perfectly stable and friendly economies like Canada, Mexico, Norway, and Great Britain are willing to seel their energy to us?
Rjansky closes his post with the following critique:
The experts I cited above object to the energy independence slogan only because they perceive it as a red herring. They would argue it is a distraction from broader conservationist goals that will, in reality, have the same important impact in reducing our dependence on foreign oil, while combating global climate change by reducing carbon emissions. Certainly, climate change is very important, and a preoccupation with energy independence for security’s sake alone might lead us to transition to US-sourced fossil fuels, like coal and oil from ANWRA, that produce just as much harmful carbon as Middle Eastern oil and gas. But to call energy independence a bad idea destroys the only common ground in this debate, and hence the best chance for meaningful progress on both national security and climate change.Policymaking is also a bit about being trapped by slogans. The slogan on this issue should be energy diversification, not energy independence. The former is both economically feasible and politically desirable. The latter is neither.
Thursday, June 14, 2007
A pop quiz for Senators Baucus, Graham, Grassley, and Schumer
The Financial Times' Eoin Callan, Krishna Guha, and Richard McGregor report on a bipartisan effort to introduce a bill aimed at punishing China for currency manipulation:
China came under increased pressure to revalue its currency on Wednesday as a bipartisan group of US senators introduced legislation designed to push the Bush administration towards a full-blown trade dispute with Beijing.Meanwhile, Chris Nelson reports on how hearings on the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement went earlier this week. Nelson is usually respectful in his language, so this passage is particularly telling:
Deputy USTR Karan Bhatia and [Assistant Secretary of State] Chris Hill spent the morning being whipped, insulted, and generally abused, on a bipartisan basis, by the House Foreign Affairs' subcommittee on trade and terrorism - an interesting combination of jurisdictions.Clearly, Congress is upset about U.S. trade policy. And when congressmen are upset, stupid policies usally follow.
Here's a multiple-choice question to the proposers of the new China bill:
The American economy is experiencing rising interest rates and worries about rising inflation. Neither of these trends bodes well for average Americans.I'm sure Chuck Schumer, eminent economist, will figure out the correct answer.
My soft spot for the Stassenites
Over at Slate, John Dickerson has story that crops up every four years -- the indefatigable, perennial and completely obscure presidential candidate:
While covering the Republican and Democratic debates last week, I thought I might have a shot at eating a late breakfast at the Merrimack candidate-free. John Cox, the Republican superlongshot, has an office above the restaurant, but I knew he was away, trying to wangle his way into the Republican debate. So, I knew I wouldn't run into him. I thought I was in the clear. I sprinted toward the door, then slowed down briefly to pull the handle. "Are you a reporter?" asked a man standing on the sidewalk. He was typing on a laptop he'd perched on one of the newspaper machines. Busted.I find something unbelievably charming about the Harold Stassens of the world, but I honestly don't know why. In theory, these kind of people should repel me. If you think about it, what's endearing about a guy whose ego is so out of proportion to reality that he thinks he should be president?
I think what I find endearing is that, deep down, these guys know their odds and yet they persist anyway, election cycle after election cycle. That requires a mixture of optimism, faith in one's abilities, and partial self-delusion that is quintissentially American.
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
How's the economy going, Mahmoud?
The Financial Times' Najmeh Bozorgmehr and Gareth Smyth report that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, if left to his own devices, will succeed in running the Iranian economy into the ground:
Some 60 economists this week wrote to Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad criticising his government for putting “short-term welfare above long-term sustainable development”.A depressing parlor game to play: which economy will implode the fastest, Zimbabwe, Venezuela, or Iran?
The smart money would have to be Zimbabwe, but don't underestimate the economic incompetence of either Hugo Chavez or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
UPDATE: Congatulations to Venezuela and Zimbabwe for making this list.
There's something about Putin
The last time I was in Europe, reliable sources told me an interesting tale.
Angela Merkel apparently has a fear of dogs. Vladimir Putin is aware of this fact. Therefore, whenever Putin meets with Merkel in Moscow, he makes sure his pet dogs are in the room. [UPDATE: Foreign Policy's Blake Hounshell confirms this tale.]
Sound absurd? Consider that Putin has had some odd moments in his personal interactions with Westerners. There was the day he walked away with the Super Bowl ring, and of course the "I was able to get a sense of his soul" moment with George W. Bush.
All of this pales, however, before Putin's effect on new French President Nikolas Sarkozy. After a lunch with Putin, Sarkozy gave a press conference. The opening of it can be seen here:For non-French speakers, here's the gist of it:
reporter: I would like to show you the beginning of the press conference held by french president Nicolas Sarkozy at the end of the summit. He just had lunch with the russian president Vladimir Putin and it seems that he had more to drink than water.Still, give Sarkozy credit -- at least the man did not lose his watch.
Regarding Norman Finkelstein
I've acquired a passing interest in Chicago-based professors of political science who are denied tenure, so I've been reading up on DePaul's decision to reject Norman Finkelstein's tenure case.
Here's what I think I think....
1) Finkelstein and his supporters are crying "outside interference" in the form of Alan Dershowitz's jihad against Finkelstein. As someone who has been on the receiving end of a tenure denial, and been told by many, many people that idiotic reason X must be the key explanatory factor, I have to take this kind of charge with a whopping grain of salt. The decision-making process looks a bit odd (more on this below), but the official DePaul letter by President Dennis Holtschneider to Finkelstein explicitly stated that:I've never met Norman Finkelstein, I've never read any of Finkelstein's work, and based on the reviews, I suspect I'm none the poorer for it. I also suspect I wouldn't like him very much. There might well be valid reasons for having denied him tenure. But reading the paper trail on this case, it's hard not to conclude that DePaul did not use a valid reason. Indeed, it's hard not to conclude that Finkelstein got a raw deal.I am well aware of the outside interest in this decision, and the many ways in which the university community was 'lobbied' both to grant and to deny tenure. Examining the written record, I am satisfied that the faculty review process maintained its independence from this unwelcome attention. As much as some would like to create the impression that our process and decision have been influenced by outside interests, they are mistaken.DePaul's press statement quoted its president again on this point: "Over the past several months, there has been considerable outside interest and public debate concerning this decision. This attention was unwelcome and inappropriate and had no impact on either the process or the outcome of this case."
Monday, June 11, 2007
Drezner gets interesting results from Vladimir Putin
Hey, remember that Foreign Affairs essay I wrote called "The New New World Order?" If you don't, that's OK -- but it appears that Vladimir Putin has been reading it. From the Financial Times' Neil Buckley and Catherine Belton:
Russian president Vladimir Putin called on Sunday for a radical overhaul of the world’s financial and trade institutions to reflect the growing economic power of emerging market countries – including Russia.What's interesting about this speech is that Putin is correct in describing the state of the world, but not necessarily correct in his belief that "a new architecture of international economic relations" is going to serve Russia's interests.
Consider that Russia is already a member of one powerful club -- the G-8. Any realistic reform of global economic governance is going to give China and India more power than Russia relative to the status quo, because Russia still has the great power trappings it inherited from the Cold War. Indeed, unless we're talking about energy or nuclear weapons, Russia would be a less powerful actor after any reform effort.
Putin probably does not believe this, given sustained interest in the Russian economy and the comfort of high oil prices. Russia, however, should be very wary of what it wishes for -- it might just get it.
This new international order is just dominated by big national institutions -- SAFE and the PBoC, the Bank of Russia, the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency, the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority and the like -- not big international institutions. The international financial institutions of the old international economic order -- the IMF for example -- are still around. But they don't have as much influence as they once did.
Sunday, June 10, 2007
Final Sopranos predictions
1) No one in Tony's immediate family dies;Readers are encouraged to offer their own predictions/postmortems.
POST-EPISODE UPDATE: Wrong on Melfi, but I think the rest of it holds up pretty well.