Tuesday, May 31, 2011
A guy asked his friend, the writer David Foster Wallace,
"Say, Dave, how'd y'get t'be so dang smart?"
"I did the reading."
No one said the preparation part was fun, but yes, it's important. I wonder why we believe we can skip it and still be so dang smart.
Classical liberal thought, I would argue, is in the midst of a minor interpretive crisis. With a quick glance at the sales numbers of books by Hayek or Ayn Rand one might try to claim it’s in the midst of a revival—in fact at this very moment I’m sure there is a blog post over at Cato talking about the impending triumph classical liberalism. I would argue that classical liberal thought must be reevaluated. I believe attempts at promoting classical liberal thought in the political realm must come to terms with the realities of modern industrial economies, where multinational bureaucratic corporations are just as influential, if not more influential, than nation-states on the lives of individuals. The core themes of classical liberal thought are still valuable, but a failure to interpret the impacts of industrialization on these principles leads to public policies that undermine the ability of individuals to retain meaningful liberty and autonomy in their day to day lives. I would argue that the heart of a healthy liberal state is being undermined in the name of protecting it and the voices of everyday citizens are being harnessed exploitatively to do so.
Are citizens themselves calling for a move towards a more limited state? What I saw as a candidate for state senate were contradictory claims of desiring limited government intervention, with questions of “what’s happened to my country,” and pleas of desiring to get back to the “good old days.” On multiple occasions efforts to point to the decline of regulations or decline in social investment that have occurred over the past few decades, as compared to “the good old days,”—which are also known by some economists as “the golden age of capitalism”—got shock and disbelief from the vocal, agitated, questioners (but nods of approval from many attendees around them).
The idea that good public relations by Glen Beck or Ron Paul has inspired people to break open the books, think deeply, and nurture a new found love for liberty, and a distaste for the state, is a lovely one indeed. But it is idealistic, naïve, and not accurately representing the core sentiments that people are communicating to their politicians. Has the work of Hume, Locke, and Adam Smith found a new era? Is Humboldt's The Limits of State Action going to help resolve the challenges of governance that we face at the local, state, and federal level? Or are policies that are simply focused on the concerns of protecting individuals from the church and state of limited value when power and external constraints on autonomy are found outside of those arenas?
I would argue that the current discourse is being driven not by a new found appreciation for classical liberal thought but by political and economic instability that has arisen through imbalances of political power—imbalances that have gotten increasingly worse over the past three decades. Sheldon Wolin, in his book Democracy Inc., pointed to the dramatic rise of private power in the form of modern corporations, "[t]he emergence of the corporation marked the presence of private power on a scale and in numbers thitherto unknown…concentration of private power unconnected to the citizen.” I would argue that these shifts of power away from individuals having a voice through democratic participation--be it electorally or via a voice in the workplace through a union—has exacerbated what Alan Wolfe has called the paradox of modernity. Wolfe opens his book Whose keeper? by noting that “[c]apitalist economics and liberal democratic politics have given many citizens of Western societies two unique gifts: freedom from economics and liberation from politics.” These gifts meant that people could, “lead their lives unaware of the struggles for power taking place around them.” These are the factors driving discontent and solutions that fail to address these challenges not only miss the target but exacerbate the problems.
Could the revival of classical liberal thought in the form of Ayn Rand, Ron Paul, or the “Tea Party movement” in fact be the outcome of private power harnessing modern forms of mass media for their own purposes; further exacerbating the discontents of living in modern industrialized society? If so is there really a revival at all? I would argue that classical liberal thought is in the midst of a minor crisis of confidence because many of its most vocal champions in the political realm aren’t champions of classical liberal thought at all, but are pushing political agendas that undermine core goals of the liberal project—goals of individual liberty and personal autonomy.
As I stated earlier, I believe a key component of this question can only be resolved by noting that classical liberal thought was founded by thinkers who came before industrial-capitalism. Noam Chomsky, in his essay Notes on Anarchism, points out that, by “the very same assumptions that led classical liberalism to oppose the intervention of the state in social life, [industrial] capitalist social relations are also intolerable.” I believe that recent discussions of terms like “Liberaltarian” and creation of spaces like the blog Bleeding Heart Libertarian to discuss and debate such questions there is recognition that classical liberal thought is at an important impasse which right-libertarianism-- a la Rand Paul or policies of the Libertarian Party--can’t resolve in a clear cut manner. Though these are positive steps in thinking through these questions one of my concerns is with the lack of discussion of left-libertarian perspectives that would have meaningful applications in the political realm, give voice to the interests of working class citizens, and would highlight problems that industrialized economies present to us that cannot be resolved with solutions proposed for agrarian based close-knit societies.
I wrote this about two weeks ago. I see a number of problems with it now--not to mention the need to make some generalizations that don't quite fit all situations. I'm trying to build on this critique of political theory via the reality of policy/power-politics. But would love feedback if anyone has any thoughts/problems/elaborations... -----------------------------
Google Docs makes it easy to create, store and share online documents, spreadsheets and presentations.
Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan welcomed South Africa's first quarter GDP figures, saying the country was on target to achieve 3.4% growth for the year.Gordhan made his remarks on Tuesday morning before the parliamentary finance committee soon after the release of the data. According to Statistics South Africa, the country's economy grew at a rate of 4.8% in the first three months of this year compared to an expected 4.25% and better than the 4.5% experienced in the last quarter of 2010.Gordhan told the committee that he was worried about imported inflation from some of South Africa's key trading partners including China and India and that the Euro debt crisis was of concern.He touched on international monetary flows, a major factor in keeping the rand overvalued
Inflation in the countries that share the European single currency fell to 2.7% in May, according to the European Union statistics office.
The preliminary estimate is down from 2.8% in April and is lower than expected.
Unemployment in the euro area remained unchanged at 9.9% in April, though there were big differences between states.
The euro fell on the news, which may limit further rises in interest rates. The European Central Bank (ECB) wants to keep inflation just below 2% over the medium term. The ECB raised rates in April to 1.25% to limit rising prices.
However, economists predicted that inflation would continue to rise, despite a recent drop in the price of some commodities, including oil. "The ongoing moderation in economic activity will probably ease some of these pressures, but will not change the overall picture," said Eoin O'Callaghan, an economist at BNP Paribas.
If inflation continues to rise, economists think further rate rises are likely.
"When the financiers become, as happened in the United States from the mid-1980's onwards, dominant over all other sectors and when those who should be regulated capture the state regulatory apparatus, then the state-finance nexus tilts to favor particular interests rather than those of the body politic at large. Sustained populist outrage is then essential to restore the balance." --David Harvey The Enigma of Capital
South Korea is launching an investigation into whether toxic chemicals were buried at former US military sites in the country.Military and civilian experts have begun surveys at the site of the former Camp Mercer, outside the capital Seoul. The investigation team includes army and government officials, environmental experts and local residents. Inquiries were prompted by allegations that American soldiers dumped large amounts of Agent Orange on Korean land.Investigators will drill holes to collect soil and water samples at the former base at Camp Mercer. If signs of contamination are found, the investigation could be widened to include more than 80 former US military sites across the country.The investigation was sparked by former US servicemen, who told a TV documentary that the toxic chemical, Agent Orange, used as a defoliant during the Vietnam War, had been buried at another US base in South Korea, Camp Carroll.
The prices of staple foods will more than double in 20 years unless world leaders take action to reform the global food system, Oxfam has warned.By 2030, the average cost of key crops will increase by between 120% and 180%, the charity forecasts.Half of that increase will be caused by climate change, Oxfam predicts, in its report Growing a Better Future.It calls on world leaders to improve regulation of food markets and invest in a global climate fund."The food system must be overhauled if we are to overcome the increasingly pressing challenges of climate change, spiralling food prices and the scarcity of land, water and energy," said Barbara Stocking, Oxfam's chief executive....The World Bank has also warned that rising food prices are pushing millions of people into extreme poverty.In April, it said food prices were 36% above levels of a year ago, driven by problems in the Middle East and North Africa.Oxfam wants nations to agree new rules to govern food markets, to ensure the poor do not go hungry.It said world leaders must:increase transparency in commodities markets and regulate futures marketsscale up food reservesend policies promoting biofuelsinvest in smallholder farmers, especially women"We are sleepwalking towards an avoidable age of crisis," said Ms Stocking."One in seven people on the planet go hungry every day despite the fact that the world is capable of feeding everyone."
Gold futures moved higher in electronic trading on Tuesday as the dollar weakened against the euro on new promise of a soothing of Europe’s sovereign-debt woes...A softer U.S. dollar tends to encourage buying in dollar-priced commodities.The dollar index DXY,which measures the greenback against a basket of six other rival currencies, fell to 74.633, from 74.954 late Monday.The dollar weakened against the euro amid reports that Germany is considering easing its stance on Greece. Read more on Germany reportedly softening its approach to Greece.The news came against a backdrop of public protests in Athens over the government’s austerity policies and crippling debt crisis, while the International Monetary Fund warned recently that unless the nation’s European partners provide additional help, it would not lend money to Greece on its own.
Colombia’s central bank raised its borrowing costs for a fourth month to cool inflationary pressure as bank lending and consumer spending fuel faster-than-expected economic growth.The seven-member board, led by bank chief Jose Dario Uribe, increased the benchmark interest rate by a quarter point to 4 percent today, meeting expectations of all 25 economists surveyed by Bloomberg. The bank also extended a plan to purchase about $20 million per day in the foreign exchange market to “at least” Sept. 30. The program was set to expire June 17.“Adjustments toward a less-expansive monetary policy should continue,” Uribe said in Bogota today. The move will help keep inflation near the bank’s 3 percent target this year and next, he said.Pressure built on policy makers to keep inflation expectations anchored around their target as economists at Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan Chase & Co. boosted their growth forecasts. The bank increased the rate because of “the possible pressure on prices” and “strong” economic growth, said Camilo Perez, head analyst at Banco de Bogota SA.“Available indicators point toward economic growth maintaining its dynamic,” Uribe said after announcing the rate decision. “This is supported by strong expansion of internal demand, consumption and investment, and also due to strong external sales.”
Prisoners in Thailand kept 'shackled and crampedTruce between Saleh's gov't and supporters of Sadiq Ahmar, who heads Hashad tribe, breaks down just days after being brokered.SANAA - A truce that ended days of street fighting between Yemeni tribesmen and security forces loyal to President Ali Abdullah Saleh has broken down, a government official said on Tuesday.The government and the supporters of Sadiq Ahmar, the leader of the powerful Hashad tribe, accused each other of breaking the truce and bringing the embattled country closer to a civil war. "The ceasefire agreement has ended," a government official told Reuters when asked whether an overnight exchange of fire between the two sides had broken the fragile truce.Militants loyal to Ahmar regained control of Yemen's ruling party building in the Hasaba district of the capital Sanaa where much of the fighting took place.The violence, pitting Saleh loyalist forces against Hashed tribesmen has been the bloodiest since pro-democracy unrest erupted in January and was caused by Saleh's refusal to sign a power transfer deal.
Spain’s “Real Democracy Now” MovementAn independent rights group in Thailand, the Union for Civil Liberties, has opened a campaign to improve conditions in Thailand's jails.It has issued a report on prisons which highlights overcrowding, the use of shackles and the lack of medical care. The group has campaigned against the death penalty and praises the government's promise to commute death sentences to life imprisonment. That makes improving prison conditions even more important, it says.Thailand's prisons are built to hold about 100,000 people - but according to the government's own figures, they are holding more than twice that number. As a result, the conditions, says the Union for Civil Liberties, are horrendous.People have to sleep in tight rows on hard floors. In these sleeping cells, each prisoner has an average of one square metre - in opposed to the four to six square metres described as the minimum by the Council of Europe.
Political analysts and specialists agree that the movement had great initial success during the week before the elections, but doubt their success in the long term.Ignacio Molina, associate professor in the department of politics and international relations at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, believes that the movement is limited and focus their claims too narrowly on matters of political theory.“In other words, protesters are naive enough to think that changing the political model on institutional issues such as the republican form of government, participatory democracy or the proportional electoral system can help resolve the crisis and improve the life prospects of young people or the unemployed,” he said.However, other specialists such as Jaime Pastor, professor at the department of political science and administration in the National University of Distance Education (UNED), consider that political and economic reform should go hand in hand – but argues that the movement is now at a crucial state.“Protestors have at least established a series of basic goals. But now, after the election, it remains to be seen if they are able to keep the flame alive.”What seems to be clear is that the movement has, so far, succeeded in awakening the Spanish youth that were mired in a prolonged slumber. According to many participants, the movement will continue – regardless of election results.Mario mentioned that there was a plan to move the protest out of the plaza and that they were thinking to start working at a “grassroots” level, organising committees and assemblies across the city’s neighbourhoods. He added that people in France and London had already contacted members of the committees.“We are discussing many issues related to policies and regulations that concerns everybody in the European Union.” Mario says.It is undeniable that protestors have received wide support from the population, and it has proved – so far – to have a considerable impact on Spanish politics as well. The strength of the movement lies in their capacity to mobilise a large percentage of the youth. This ability could be crucial in next year’s presidential elections.However, the government’s mistake to underestimate the power of protest – in addition to the tendency among protestors to remain apolitical – has been capitalised by the right wing opposition, which gains popularity each day.Ironically, the presidential election may yield a very different change than that which the protesters filling plazas across the country desire.
Monday, May 30, 2011
The Iraqi people and the parliament want the US out of Iraq, and the US public wants out, and that withdrawal should proceed as outlined in the SOFA (i.e. US out by the end of the year). The Iraqi military is such that Baghdad will likely muddle through without the Pentagon. Moreover, trying to keep US troops in a country where they are widely disliked can only cause a lot of trouble. There are no US troops in Libya and US air involvement is limited in favor of NATO- and Arab League- UN allies. It in any case is likely to be a limited engagement. The place where there are over 100,000 US troops doing war-fighting on a large scale and over many years is Afghanistan, which for some reason gets less press and less public interest than Libya.The protests in Lashkar Gah, Helmand Province, Afghanistan, against yet another alleged killing of 14 women and children in an airstrike that went awry, reminds us that the big counter-insurgency effort in that country still has not produced social peace, still has not yielded a government capable of taking over security duties. NATO has had to issue an apology. If Afghan police and soldiers could project authority and force in local areas, air strikes would be unnecessary. And after nearly 10 years since the overthrow of the Taliban, it is legitimate to ask when and how exactly local troops can be expected to take up this slack?The deadly Taliban suicide bombing in the north of the country, which killed the police chief, a German officer, and NATO troops, raises questions about the Karzai government’s preparedness:But those who are skittish about a proposed US withdrawal in 2014, saying it is too soon, have to tell us when exactly it won’t be too soon. It is the Afghans’ country; when will they be willing and able to fight for it?The US public is tired of forever wars, and the idea that massive counter-insurgency is necessary to fight al-Qaeda has been belied by the success of a small, focused counter-terrorism operation against Usama Bin Laden.On this Memorial Day, it is time to start thinking about how to get out of Afghanistan, where the US has no vital interest, where there are no resources to speak of, where the international will to stay on the part of NATO allies is collapsing, and where the Karzai government has been erratic and corrupt. Regional powers have an interest in it not becoming terrorism central again, and the US has shown it can strike smart and on a micro-level. Hundreds of thousands of troops and decades of nation-building are the wrong way to go on this one.
Sunday, May 29, 2011
Putting Netanyahu’s speech into perspective, Olmert correctly argued that, first of all, US President Barack Obama’s recent Middle East speeches did not represent any change in American policy: Any peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians would have to be based on the 1967 borders plus agreed-upon land swaps, and this is also the view of the rest of the Western world.Netanyahu’s shriek of gevalt at the very mention of 1967 borders shows just how far he really is from any serious discussion with the Palestinians. And while the prime minister’s remarks on Jerusalem – “Jerusalem must never again be divided. Jerusalem must remain the united capital of Israel” – garnered a rousing round of applause in the House and played well with the Likud central committee members at home, more sober observers realize this is a non-starter.As Olmert writes: “All the countries of the enlightened world, as well as the overwhelming majority of the American public, support the separation of the Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem from Israeli sovereignty.This is inevitable, and it’s also the right move for those who wish to maintain Israel’s capital as a Jewish city. There is no escaping it.As Jerusalem’s former mayor, I know this well, and it’s possible. Those who refuse to discuss it terminate the chances for a peace process. One can speak nicely, stir up rightist radicals and draw applause from the settlers, yet this will not bring peace, genuine negotiations or global understanding [of Israel’s position].”INDEED, NETANYAHU’S remarks on Jerusalem slammed the door shut on any hope that his government had the slightest intention of entering into negotiations with the Palestinians. His stirring phrases might have boosted his standing in the opinion polls, but opinion polls do not change reality.And the reality is bleak. Come September, the majority of the international community will recognize a Palestinian state at the United Nations, leaving Israel isolated. Instead of using his Washington platform to signal that Israel is ready to enter meaningful negotiations with the Palestinians, and thus disarm the Palestinian threat of a unilateral move toward independence, Netanyahu chose to highlight those issues – Jerusalem and a long-term Israeli military presence along the Jordan River, for example – which deepen the rifts between us and our neighbors.
So the Agricultural Industry is claiming "labor shortages" in the midst of the worst unemployment crisis' seen in decades and I can't help but scratch my head.
The AJC of course is buying it hook line and sinker. With quotes from farmers but no mention of unemployment levels those farmers have around them. Governor asks state to probe farm labor shortages:
Jason Berry, the farm manager at Blueberry Farms of Georgia in Baxley, said a third of the 120 workers who were needed to pick highbush blueberries this spring did not show up for work even after the farm offered $50 signing bonuses. The farm also offered weekly $25 bonuses to people just for showing up for work.
Um, okay lets go check out what the employment situation around Applaing County GA is like...
11.5% in April.
Basic supply and demand. If an employer can't fill a needed job they raise the wage until it fills. If they don't really need it filled they won't fill it. Just because Blueberry Farms wants to just give out $50 signing bonuses and week $25 "show up" bonuses doesn't mean anything in of itself. They just keep raising the wage until labor is enticed into taking the job. These aren't highly skilled migrant workers are they? There aren't special schools of highly trained migrant workers that the state of GA is now losing out on are they? Or are these jobs that can easily be filled by the army of unemployed workers sitting ideal in the region?
Just because I want to hire people to come work in my back yard building a massive pyramid of books for $5 a day and I can't get people to do it doesn't mean their is a labor shortage. It means I'm not paying enough (or doing a good enough job locating workers). Neither of these do a "labor shortage" make.
Now if the argument is that I only want to hire people at slave labor wages and exploit them to the point that autonomous human beings who aren't desperate won't accept such treatment and would rather sit at home. Well tough luck for me.
The ability to exploit, degrade, or manipulate isn't the right employers have or should have. Claims of "or else I'm going to shut down my farm" means you weren't running a sustainable business model--or an ethically acceptable one either. A sucker is born every day and every time you read sob story's from the Agricultural industry in GA you should expect quality reporters to note the current unemployment rates in the region and maybe even quote an economist rather than just a rent seeking businessman who is more concerned about profits and getting cheap labor imported to him via government policy.
There is a different bewteen "labor shortages" that the Agricultural industry faces and actual labor shortages. Any reporter worth their salt will include unemployment sstatistics for the reigion when they report about "labor shortages"
I currently have a "labor shortage" for that pyramid of books I want built in my back yard. The rest of you shouldn't be concerned about this.
Look, every insurer already denies “certain types of care” and always will– it is a non-economic fantasy to think otherwise. You can call any denial of anything you want “rationing” but you then have to admit that there’s tons of rationing going on all the time. And btw, the current system is of course fraught with rationing by price, as about 50 million uninsured would be happy to explain to you.
Saturday, May 28, 2011
It's been awhile since I called out someone for being ignorant of Herbert Hoover's record in office. Jonathan Chait has piece about Republicans (supposed) opposition to government spending called"Herbert Hoover Called. He Wants His Fiscal Policy Back."
As anyone with an iota of knowledge about Hoover knows, Hoover didn't cut spending he increased it. Big time. Roughly 50% between 1929 and 1932 (and that's nominal terms--real would be even larger because that was a deflationary period). See Table 1.1 here.
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Georgia lawmakers who backed an ill-fated effort to skirt local school systems in setting up charter schools now are faced with a daunting task.
Last week, the state Supreme Court ruled the setup unconstitutional because it diverted local school money to fund schools overseen by a state commission. Legislators already have promised to press for a constitutional amendment that would work around the high court ruling. But there are too many hoops to pass such an amendment before the 2011-12 academic year begins.
So those same lawmakers are now faced with a more pressing challenge: Finding room in other schools for students who were enrolled in the eight existing “commission” charter schools that will now be closed, along with students who were set to attend eight new schools this fall.
To deal with both issues, state Senate Education and Youth Committee Chairman Fran Millar, R-Dunwoody, has established a Special Subcommittee on School Choice, which will hold its first meeting at 10 a.m. June 3 in the state Capitol. Millar, a commission charter school supporter, said the panel’s priority will be to ensure that students currently enrolled in the schools will be placed in an appropriate school setting for the next school year.
“We are optimistic that proactive steps taken by this committee will help to protect the valuable education we offer our youth in Georgia,” Millar said in a statement. “By examining short and long-term solutions, we hope to answer the many questions stakeholders have and return confidence to families and students [affected] by this court decision. We encourage our constituents, and those involved, to reach out to us with solutions and ideas on how to overcome this unnecessary barrier and determine the best route for excellence in education across Georgia.”
Among those expected to speak to the special subcommittee are State School Superintendent John Barge and various advocates for charter schools.
While the Supreme Court ruling has had a dramatic impact on the state commission’s charter schools, more than 150 charter schools established by local school systems were not affected.
Democrats using fear-mongering tactics and exploitation of the Terrorist threat to stifle civil liberties
As I've noted several times, I once thought that the greatest American political myth was "The Liberal Media," but I realized some time ago that it's actually the claim that "there is very little bipartisanship." Washington is driven by overwhelming amounts of bipartisanship, as today's vote (and the Reid/McConnell agreement that preceded it) yet again demonstrates. The 8 Senators voting against cloture were Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, Democrats Jeff Merkley, Mark Begich, Max Baucus, and John Tester, and GOP Senators Lisa Murkowski, Rand Paul, and Dean Heller (GOP Sen. Mike Lee announced he'd vote NO but missed the vote due to inclement weather). Sen. Paul, along with Sen. Tester, took the lead in speaking out against the excesses and abuses of the Patriot Act and the vital need for reforms.But what's most notable isn't the vote itself, but the comments made afterward. Sen. Paul announced that he was considering using delaying tactics to hold up passage of the bill in order to extract some reforms (including ones he is co-sponsoring with the Democrats' Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Leahy, who -- despite voicing "concerns" about the bill -- voted for cloture). Paul's announcement of his delaying intentions provoked this fear-mongering, Terrorism-exploiting, bullying threat from the Democrats' Senate Intelligence Committee Chair, Dianne Feinstein:"I think it would be a huge mistake," Feinstein told reporters. "If somebody wants to take on their shoulders not having provisions in place which are necessary to protect the United States at this time, that’s a big, big weight to bear."In other words: Paul and the other dissenting Senators better give up their objections and submit to quick Patriot Act passage or else they'll have blood on their hands from the Terrorist attack they will cause. That, of course, was the classic Bush/Cheney tactic for years to pressure Democrats into supporting every civil-liberties-destroying measure the Bush White House demanded (including, of course, the original Patriot Act itself), and now we have the Democrats -- ensconced in power -- using it just as brazenly and shamelessly (recall how Bush's DNI, Michael McConnell, warned Congressional Democrats in 2007 that unless they quickly passed without changes the new FISA bill the Bush White House was demanding, a Terrorist attack would likely occur at the Congress in a matter of "days, not weeks"; McConnell then told The New Yorker: "If we don’t update FISA, the nation is significantly at risk"). Feinstein learned well.Meanwhile, Electronic Frontier Foundation -- the organization that heroically sued over and over to stop Bush/Cheney excesses to the cheers of progressives -- is tonight praising Rand Paul "for defending 4th Amendment rights in Patriot Act debate." A similar dynamic occurred several months ago when newly elected conservative House members (including some from the Tea Party caucus) joined with the most liberal Democrats to temporarily block quick passage of the Patriot Act extension on privacy and civil liberties grounds.So when they were out of power, the Democrats reviled the Patriot Act and constantly complained about fear-mongering tactics and exploitation of the Terrorist threat being used to stifle civil liberties and privacy concerns. Now that they're in power and a Democratic administration is arguing for extension of the Patriot Act, they use fear-mongering tactics and exploitation of the Terrorist threat to stifle civil liberties and privacy concerns ("If somebody wants to take on their shoulders not having provisions in place which are necessary to protect the United States at this time, that's a big, big weight to bear," warned Feinstein). And they're joined in those efforts by the vast majority of the GOP caucus. Remember, though: there is no bipartisanship in Washington, the parties are constantly at each other's throats, and they don't agree on anything significant, and thus can't get anything done. If only that were true.Is it not so very inspiring how the death of Osama bin Laden has enabled the country to take a respite from its fear-driven assault on civil liberties in the name of Terrorism?
Sunday, May 22, 2011
Palestinian Authority chief negotiator Saeb Erekat on Sunday said that he agreed with US President Barack Obama's assertion that the 1967 borders should be the basis for negotiations with Israel, but that it was more important that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu accept this premise.“Once Netanyahu says that the negotiations will lead to a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders, then everything will be set,” Palestinian news agency WAFA quoted Erekat as saying. He added that until that happened, negotiations with Israel would not resume.Following Obama's Middle East speech on Thursday, in which he said that a future Palestinian State should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed upon land swaps, PA President Mahmoud Abbas called an emergency meeting of the PA leadership to discuss the new developments. Erekat said that the meeting could take place on Tuesday or Wednesday after Abbas, who is currently in Jordan meeting with King Abdullah, completes consultations with Arab leaders and the Arab League.PLO Executive Committee member Hana Amira was quoted by Israel Radio on Sunday as saying that the Palestinians would cancel plans to go to the UN with a unilateral declaration of statehood in September if Israel would agree to negotiations based on the 1967 lines and freeze all building in West Bank settlements and east Jerusalem for a period of three months.Following Obama's speech on Thursday, Erekat said that Abbas appreciated Obama’s efforts to resume the peace talks between the Palestinians and Israel, and maintained hopes of reaching a solution on the core issues, according to an agreed timetable.“President Abbas affirms his appreciation for President Obama’s declaration regarding people’s right to self-determination, freedom and dignity, as well as ensuring freedom of worship,” Erekat added.
Saturday, May 21, 2011
As his backers are quick to point out, Cain is more than a radio talker. He enjoyed a successful corporate career, rising to CEO of Godfather’s Pizza and serving as chair of the Federal Reserve Board in Kansas City. While that’s impressive, politics and business are very different fields. Michael Jordan was the best basketball player in history, but as athletic as he was, he couldn’t hit a curve ball. At the top echelons of any endeavor, skill sets don’t transfer easily.
Thursday, May 19, 2011
Getting the microfoundations right: I ordered a copy of Tomasello’s Why We Cooperate in which he argues, on the basis of detailed empirical work with young children and other primates, that humans are hard-wired with certain pro-social dispositions to inform, help, share etc and to engage in norm-guided behaviour of various kinds.... [T]hat work in empirical psychology and evolutionary anthropolgy (and related fields) doesn’t – quelle surprise! – support anything like the Hobbesian picture of human nature that lurks in at the foundations of microeconomics...
Let's go to the videotape on the foundations of microeconomics: Adam Smith:
Wealth of Nations — Bk 1 Chpt 02: The division of labour, from which so many advantages are derived, is not originally the effect of any human wisdom.... It is the necessary, though very slow and gradual consequence of a certain propensity in human nature which has in view no such extensive utility; the propensity to truck, barter, and exchange one thing for another.
Whether this propensity be one of those original principles in human nature of which no further account can be given; or whether, as seems more probable, it be the necessary consequence of the faculties of reason and speech, it belongs not to our present subject to inquire. It is common to all men, and to be found in no other race of animals, which seem to know neither this nor any other species of contracts.... Nobody ever saw a dog make a fair and deliberate exchange of one bone for another with another dog.... When an animal wants to obtain something either of a man or of another animal, it has no other means of persuasion but to gain the favour of those whose service it requires. A puppy fawns upon its dam, and a spaniel endeavours by a thousand attractions to engage the attention of its master who is at dinner, when it wants to be fed by him. Man sometimes uses the same arts with his brethren, and when he has no other means of engaging them to act according to his inclinations, endeavours by every servile and fawning attention to obtain their good will. He has not time, however, to do this upon every occasion. In civilised society he stands at all times in need of the cooperation and assistance of great multitudes, while his whole life is scarce sufficient to gain the friendship of a few persons....
[M]an has almost constant occasion for the help of his brethren, and it is in vain for him to expect it from their benevolence only. He will be more likely to prevail if he can interest their self-love in his favour, and show them that it is for their own advantage to do for him what he requires of them. Whoever offers to another a bargain of any kind, proposes to do this. Give me that which I want, and you shall have this which you want, is the meaning of every such offer; and it is in this manner that we obtain from one another the far greater part of those good offices which we stand in need of. It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages....
As it is by treaty, by barter, and by purchase that we obtain from one another the greater part of those mutual good offices which we stand in need of, so it is this same trucking disposition which originally gives occasion to the division of labour.... The difference of natural talents in different men is, in reality, much less than we are aware of; and the very different genius which appears to distinguish men of different professions, when grown up to maturity, is not upon many occasions so much the cause as the effect of the division of labour. The difference between the most dissimilar characters, between a philosopher and a common street porter, for example, seems to arise not so much from nature as from habit, custom, and education. When they came into the world, and for the first six or eight years of their existence, they were, perhaps, very much alike....
As it is this disposition [to truck, barter, and exchange] which forms that difference of talents, so remarkable among men of different professions, so it is this same disposition which renders that difference useful. Many tribes of animals acknowledged to be all of the same species derive from nature a much more remarkable distinction of genius, than what, antecedent to custom and education, appears to take place among men. By nature a philosopher is not in genius and disposition half so different from a street porter, as a mastiff is from a greyhound, or a greyhound from a spaniel, or this last from a shepherd's dog. Those different tribes of animals, however, though all of the same species, are of scarce any use to one another.... Among men, on the contrary, the most dissimilar geniuses are of use to one another; the different produces of their respective talents, by the general disposition to truck, barter, and exchange, being brought, as it were, into a common stock, where every man may purchase whatever part of the produce of other men's talents he has occasion for...
Adam Smith does not say: "the propensity to steal, pillage, rape, burn, and kill..." He says: "the propensity to truck, barter, and exchange one thing for another... to make a fair and deliberate exchange..."
The foundation of microeconomics is not the Hobbesian "this is good for me" but rather the Smithian "this trade is good for us," and on the uses and abuses of markets built on top of the "this trade is good for us" principle.
If microeconomics's foundations were as Bertram claims, Smith would not write:
It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest...
but would instead write:
Be wary of the butcher, and only enter his shope armed and with loyal and armed attendants at his back. For from his regard for his own self interest you cannot expect your dinner but rather that he will slaughter you and sell you to somebody else as long pig...