Monday, August 29, 2011

NATO and "free markets"

I just heard a broadcast (on C-Span radio) of part of a discussion held last week by the Atlantic Council on "Libya and the Future of the Atlantic Alliance" (that may not have been the exact title of the meeting, but it's close). Several aspects of this discussion I found somewhat jarring. One was the use by speakers of the phrase "free markets" when referring to the values shared by NATO members, as in "democracy and free markets."

I dislike the phrase 'free markets' for a number of reasons and I was a bit surprised, though I probably shouldn't have been, to find it being used, apparently as a piece of boilerplate, in this context. If it is meant as a synonym for "capitalism" (the similar phrase "free enterprise" is sometimes used in this way), why not just say "capitalism"? But especially given the different varieties of capitalist economic systems represented by the member states of NATO, one could argue that an alliance commitment to spreading and/or defending capitalism would be odd, an argument that would apply to "free markets" as well.

One of the speakers at the Atlantic Council session, responding to a question about how to answer criticisms that NATO had strayed quite far from its original purpose, said that the alliance is a "living, breathing entity" that has adapted itself to new challenges etc., and he referred to the Strategic Concept adopted at the NATO summit in Lisbon last November. I just downloaded this document, and glancing at the opening paragraphs I see a reference to the shared commitment of member states to "individual liberty, democracy, human rights and the rule of law." Nothing about "free markets."

Hollywood & the military: a bit of historical amnesia

A few days ago David Sirota published a piece in which he claimed that the movie Top Gun started a Pentagon-Hollywood alliance, a 'military-entertainment complex'. In fact that alliance goes back at least to the 1940s, albeit with ups and downs over the years. More on this later.

"Realism is stuck in the 19th century"

The quote is from remarks by Randall Schweller at a roundtable on Charles Glaser's Rational Theory of International Politics held at last year's APSA annual meeting. Video here.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Note to readers

Posting will resume here in September [added later: or possibly a bit earlier] but probably at a slower pace than during the first part of the year (so expect longer intervals between posts). Incidentally, the few regular readers may find it more convenient to get the posts via RSS feed (see "subscribe" -- misleading word, since it doesn't cost anything -- on the right-hand-side column). I've never used feeds myself but I know that a lot of people do use them.
P.s. Hurricane note: No one knows yet precisely how badly the area where I live (a bit north of D.C., west of I-95) will be affected; to judge from the media reports, however, those further north are supposed to bear the brunt as it moves up the coast. So to anyone in Pa., NY, NJ, etc. who may be reading -- be safe. (Ditto N. Carolina and Va.) Btw I remember Hurricane Isabel about 8 years ago -- power knocked out, trees swaying madly, etc. For some reason it doesn't seem to get mentioned much in the news coverage of Irene. In terms of scope -- i.e. geographic area covered -- I guess Irene dwarfs it.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Biden and China's one-child policy (brief interruption in the break)

I just read this WaPo editorial about V.P. Biden in China. The Republicans apparently jumped all over Biden's remark that he "understood" China's one-child policy even though it was "unsustainable" from the standpoint of future worker-to-retiree ratios. Biden's office then issued a statement "clarifying" that the V.P. opposes not only the coercive aspects of the one-child policy but also the policy as a whole.

Although the coercive aspects of the policy are bad, if the policy were based on incentives alone would it warrant a denunciation? Probably not. The Chinese government did have rational reasons, when the policy was adopted, to want to moderate the pressures of population on resources, infrastructure etc., and those reasons probably remain somewhat valid. No one, of course, can approve of forced sterilizations or coerced abortions, but a non-coercive one-child policy would not be irrational, despite the concern about worker-to-retiree ratios. It's a bit annoying that Biden's office, in its clarification, apparently did not draw this distinction.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


I'll be taking a break from posting in August.