Monday, June 30, 2014

A further note on laissez-faire

Another thing: If Repubs are going to oppose Ex-Im Bank on grounds that it is interference with the 'free market', one might think they would have to take on a big chunk of the U.S. economy, where oligopoly reigns (h/t). Unless their position is that oligopoly and monopoly are fine, provided that they arise from 'free-market' competition. If competition leads to one or two or three firms dominating an industry, so be it. But heaven forfend that government should "pick winners and losers." No, we can't have that.

Friday, June 27, 2014

More evidence of "the business-populist split" in the Repub. party

Signing off the computer for the evening, I just ran across this WaPo piece about Tea Party and other right-wing opposition to reauthorization of the U.S. Export-Import Bank. This is a Chamber of Commerce vs. Club for Growth fight, to name two groups on opposite sides. Moreover, the new House majority leader, McCarthy, has announced he is opposed. Another Republican congressman, according to the piece, recently gave a speech at the Heritage Foundation in which he said the party had to come down firmly on the side of "free enterprise" (as opposed to "mercantilism" or "industrial policy"). Does that mean he opposes all government subsidies to business? All provisions of the tax code tilted in a pro-business direction?  There are probably various angles from which one could gloss all this, but I'll let readers provide their own. Btw, the phrase in this post's title that's in quotes is taken from the article.

Added later: If you want to oppose 'corporate welfare', fine. But wrapping oneself in the rhetoric of a pure laissez-faire, free-market system is just political flummery, because there is no such thing. Modern economic systems require some degree of state involvement, and businesses and the state have been intertwined forever, going back at least to the 'long 16th century'. I view these points as being obvious, but sometimes saying the obvious can't hurt.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Note to readers

Posting here is likely to be very light or absent for the rest of this month.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The difference that not running for re-election makes

In a Senate hearing today, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.) criticized the proposal to have NSA ask the telecom companies for specific pieces of data it wants, rather than have NSA store all the 'metadata' itself, as it now does. Rockefeller said that the plan makes no sense, for several reasons, among them that the telecom companies don't want to do this (and, he implied, will mess it up). Whereas, he said, the NSA has not abused its power in this regard yet, though people fear it might, he added. (Hmm, so much for Snowden, Greenwald, et al.)

If Sen. Rockefeller were running for re-election this year rather than retiring from the Senate, would he say this? (You have two options: yes or no. Congratulations -- you've just won, well, something or other.) 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014


Derek Gregory, a geographer who writes a lot about war, has a recent post discussing an essay of his about "cartography and corpography," which is mostly about the Western Front in WW1 and ends with "some reflections on [war in] the 21st century."

(This reminded me that some months ago I picked up a used copy of Richard Cobb's book on France under German occupation in the two world wars. Haven't done more than dip into it.)

Btw, some other recent posts of Gregory's are worth a look, including this, on the Syrian war. 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Preview of USIH roundtable on U.S. foreign policy and the Left

In July I'm participating in a roundtable on U.S. foreign policy and the Left at the U.S. Intellectual History (USIH) blog. Andrew Hartman has a preview of it here, with abstracts from the nine participants. It looks like there'll be a nice mix of contributions.

[P.s. My abstract is short and perhaps a bit harsh in tone, so pls wait for the actual essay before rushing to judgment.]

Monday, June 2, 2014

U.S. food aid and civil conflict

An article (via) in the current American Economic Review finds U.S. food aid "increases the incidence and duration of civil conflicts." A commenter in the thread at the linked blog questions the data analysis. In any case, I think it's true, as the linked post says, that U.S. food aid is generally more concerned with disposing of domestic grain surpluses than anything else. In an overhaul of U.S. development assistance, the food aid program should be one of the first things to be reformed. (Are there political obstacles? Of course. There are obstacles to everything. That's no reason not to raise the issue.)


"People don’t take hurricanes as seriously if they have a feminine name[,] and the consequences are deadly, finds a new groundbreaking study."