Nobel Prize Winner in Economics: a message to Washington?

October 10, 2011

Over the weekend, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded the Nobel Prize for Economics to Thomas Sargent and Christopher Sims – and in the process, the may have sent a message to President Obama and would be “stimulators” everywhere.

Now, as Tyler Cowen tells the Wall Street Journal on Sargent, “it is a mistake to view his work through the lens of politics,” and he’s right. Don’t expect Sargent or Sims on a campaign trail near you. However, in terms of policy, this is a very big deal. As I’ve mentioned before, Sargent was a pioneer in post-Keynesian economics (or, if you prefer Cowen’s phrase, “non-Keynesian”). The supposed consensus on economic policy that dominated Washington from 1940 to 2008 was demolished in academia back in the 1970s. For Sargent to be honored for his work just as Washington’s Democrats are trying the old Keynesian formula again is – or at least should be – something to give American pause. If anything, Sims, whose work is far more technical but essentially an assault on all economic modeling, has been even more damning of the Keynesian outlook on economics.

Contrary to popular belief, the biggest obstacle to reducing the size and scope of government has been the old, crusted consensus among economists of both parties and factions that government spending is necessary to grow the economy. In recent years, that debate has finally reached the political realm (this is the real reason the two parties can’t agree on anything these days; for the first time in decades, the Republicans are actually getting decent economic advice). No one did more to crack and crush that consensus than Sargent, and he has earned the honor he has received (Sims, too), but the timing of the award may have – or should have – more impact than the award itself.

Cross-posted to Virginia Virtucon

Mitt Romney may actually get it

October 7, 2011

Mitt Romney gave his first major foreign policy speech at the Citadel today, and for anti-CCP folks, it was a pleasant surprise. Of course, presidential candidates fortunate enough to be elected have a habit of sounding anti-Communist before Election Day, only to fall into the “engagement” morass soon after the victory party. Still, Romney broke new ground for a top-tier candidate, new and welcome ground.

In previous post-Tiananmen election cycles, incumbents hew the engagement line while challengers rail about economic threats from the CCP. Romney is the first major candidate I remember to go straight to the geopolitical threat. Here’s his first mention of the problem (transcript courtesy of Katrina Trinko – NRO, emphasis added):

China has made it clear that it intends to be a military and economic superpower. Will her rulers lead their people to a new era of freedom and prosperity or will they go down a darker path, intimidating their neighbors, brushing aside an inferior American Navy in the Pacific, and building a global alliance of authoritarian states?

Let me restate for emphasis: no other top-tier candidate for president has ever even noticed, let alone warn of the CCP building an anti-democratic alliance – not one. This is a major step forward for anti-Communists; even most of our prominent allies in Congress are missing this.

Later, Romney reiterated his concerns about the world with a list of ” a handful of major forces that vie with America and free nations, to shape the world in an image of their choosing . . . determined, powerful forces that may threaten freedom, prosperity, and America’s national interests” – and the Chinese regime made the list.

This is not to say it was a perfect speech. When Romney talked about what he would do as president, East Asia was not specifically mentioned. India was never mentioned at all, a glaring faux pas on several levels.

Still, Romney has given hope to anti-Communists everywhere that he at least understands better than anyone else how dangerous the Chinese Communist Party is to the democratic world. If that is maintained by Romney as GOP nominee (if he is to be that), it could be one of the surprise issues of the 2012 campaign; if President Romney (if he is to be that) turns it into policy, it could dramatically halt the CCP’s global march, and perhaps even hasten its demise.

I once thought I could never be able to support Romney’s bid for nomination. I can’t say that anymore after today.

Cross-posted to the China e-Lobby and Bearing Drift

Steve Jobs: Only in America

October 6, 2011

The passing of Steve Jobs has led to a lot of commentary. Most, as expected, focuses on his later life: the innovations he spawned, the consumer tech revolution he led, the fact that his vision came without government regulations or subsidies, etc. Kevin Williamson – over at NRO – summarizes it better than anyone:

Mr. Jobs’s contribution to the world is Apple and its products, along with Pixar and his other enterprises, his 338 patented inventions — his work — not some Steve Jobs Memorial Foundation for Giving Stuff to Poor People in Exotic Lands and Making Me Feel Good About Myself. Because he already did that: He gave them better computers, better telephones, better music players, etc. In a lot of cases, he gave them better jobs, too. Did he do it because he was a nice guy, or because he was greedy, or because he was a maniacally single-minded competitor who got up every morning possessed by an unspeakable rage to strangle his rivals? The beauty of capitalism — the beauty of the iPhone world as opposed to the world of politics — is that that question does not matter one little bit. Whatever drove Jobs, it drove him to create superior products, better stuff at better prices.

This is how most will remember Jobs, and I can understand why. However, there was more to it than that. Steve Jobs wasn’t just a great success story, he was arguably one of America’s greatest failure stories as well. His success speaks well for him, but the fact that he could recover from the depths to which he fell speaks more profoundly for America (and, I hope, to America as well).

Lest we forget, at age 30, Steve Jobs was an abject failure. Fired from his own company, bested by rival Bill Gates, he was – in 1985 – just another visionary who had a hand in the computer age, but was laid low by his own hubris. The 1980s Steve Jobs was a tragic story about the rough-and-tumble world of American business (the best depiction of this comes from a now long-forgotten 1998 TNT TV Movie, Pirates of Silicon Valley). That said, at least the 1980s Jobs was a noble failure. By contrast, the 1997 version was a joke: a last gasp move by a desperate and dying Apple; a has-been who needed funding from Gates himself retake the tech version of the Titanic. Those who remembered and admired Jobs shook their heads as he talked about moving Apple into consumer products. What could he be thinking?

Fourteen years later, the joke’s on us. Hardly anyone remembers (and no one under 30 is even knows) the events of the paragraph above. But I think they should, because while Jobs’ success is praiseworthy, his recovery is a remarkable and stunning tale that should provide hope and inspiration to every American.

We’d like to think that Steve Jobs could only succeed here, but success stories circle the globe these days. However, I genuinely believe there is nowhere else on Earth where someone could fail as spectacularly as Jobs did and come back to be such a great success and pivotal person. Jobs “had it all,” lost it all, and earned it all back.

That happens only here, in the land of the second chance; the land where we still let the market pick winners and losers; where we still let the market turn yesterday’s winner into today’s loser and – if justifiable – tomorrow’s winner once more.

Steve Jobs began his second act in technology at 42; in just fourteen years he rescued his company, restored his reputation, and revolutionized how we work, live, and play. As I said, he could have “made it” just about anywhere. But plumb to the depths he fell and still come back to do all he did?

Only in America; only in America.

Bad news for the bad guys in Afghanistan

October 5, 2011

Hamid Karzai has had enough of Pakistan meddling in his country; so he went to the first nation on anyone’s how-to-put-Pakistan-in-its-place list: India.

In the process, he made things a lot more difficult for the Taliban and al-Qaeda elements along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

Here are the details in the “strategic partnership” between Afghanistan and India (CNN): “a wide range of political, trade and person-to-person links” including “train(-ing) Afghan security forces.” In other words, when we’re gone in three years, the folks responsible for helping Afghan forces defeat the Taliban will be the one nation on the planet who hates the terrorist crew more than we do.

Speaking of the Taliban, their former-best-friend-in-Kabul had this to say about them (Washington Examiner): “Karzai had said over the weekend he was giving up on negotiating with the Taliban directly, and accused Pakistan of doing little to help rein in terrorists.” Lest we forget, Karzai was supposed to re-integrate the Taliban and welcome the return of Pakistan’s long shadow over his country, not ask its mortal enemy to train the Afghan army.

The signers of the deal tried to downplay the significance, but I’m all but certain the Taliban and al Qaeda noticed. After waiting out the Americans for over a decade, they’re seeing who will replace us as the Afghanistan’s sponsor – and India will never give up this fight.

I almost wish Osama and al-Awlaki were still alive to see it.


Cross-posted to Bearing Drift

I have decided whom to support for President

October 4, 2011

I just have to convince him to run.

Why the 1967 borders are not safe for Israel (Part 4)

October 3, 2011

The long-interrupted series on the history of Israel now – finally – picks up where it left off in the 1990s (here’s the Intro, Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3): the decade that should have made clear why returning to the 1967 borders was not feasible for Israel. Sadly, it did not.

In 1991, fresh off defeating Saddam Hussein in Gulf War I, the United States decided it could bring Israel and the Palestinians together in peace. Two years later, Israel and America had replaced leaders (each newcomer greatly pleasing to the other’s elite) and an interim deal with Yassir Arafat was a reality. A final deal seemed on the way.

Then things got problematic.

Arafat put himself up for “election” as Palestinian leader in 1996 – and only an ex-DFLP terrorist backer was willing to provide token opposition – but by 1999 he decided to cancel all elections and enforce his rule via the guns of his Fatah organization. Palestine has seen four “elections” – ballots in which only members of the various terrorist groups active in the place (Fatah, Hamas, PFLP, and DFLP) were allowed to compete (and Islamic Jihad called for boycotts – thus even tainting that option). In short, rather than present to their voters records of good governance, Palestine’s “leaders” preferred intimidation and extreme nationalism to silence and intimidate opponents. This meant only those who also had guns and wallowed in extreme nationalism had any chance of competing for power – and thus the people were forced to “choose” between Terrorist Group A, Terrorist Group B, Terrorist Group C, etc.

While all of this was going on, America and Israel tried to make peace with Arafat and his successor, Mahmoud Abbas, with increasingly generous offers.  All have been refused since 2000, since neither Arafat nor Abbas had a true mandate for anything accept appeasing the militants who kept them in power.

Today, Abbas is trying to get recognition from the United Nations for a Palestinian state without bothering to make peace – so he can have his state and the guns that keep him in office, too. Meanwhile, Hamas controls the Gaza Strip, having won the corrupted “elections” of 2006. Neither has made any attempt to even acknowledge that Israel would remain in existence.

So, in effect, President Obama and his defenders, in calling for Israel to go back to roughly the 1967 borders, want her to watch a Palestinian tyranny under terrorist control spring up on both sides of her, while supposedly relying on a deeply conflicted ally with an unreliable history (that would be us) to prevent her from disappearing in a bloody massacre.

Should it really surprise any of us that she refuses to do that?

Cross-posted to Bearing Drift


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