Given that I’ve mostly been critical of the western intervention in Libya, I’ll hand the microphone over to the enthusiastic Juan Cole for his take on the uprising in Tripoli that led to the end of Muammar Gaddafi and his regime.
Beyond that, let’s wish the best of luck to the people of Libya. Part of the problem with this intervention has always been that the fall of a dictator seems to me just as likely to lead to a bloody civil war or a new dictatorship as the emergence of a humane and stable regime. The effort to build a better future really only starts today.
As Stan Collender says, the odds seem overwhelming that the supercommittee will fail to reach agreement on anything useful. In my opinion, that would be an okay outcome. But under the circumstances, I think it would make sense for committee members to consider just accepting the fact that the parties are too far away to enact meaningful long-term deficit reduction and just see if they can’t get something done.
Revenue neutral tax reform, for example, is well known to be a difficult political lift. And yet this isn’t a subject where the difficulty is that the parties are too far apart. And since a revenue neutral reform would boost growth, it would in fact reduce the deficit. Probably if committee members try to do this, they’ll fail. Big reforms usually fail. But you could imagine a drive for tax reform succeeding, in a way that I just can’t see any way forward on big picture long-term budget questions.
It’s a great story, though I’m kind of confused to see so many libertarians so excited about it. The basic notion seems to be that if you see “the government” doing “something” and the outcome is perverse, that proves that when “the government” does “things” it gets bad results so the government shouldn’t do anything. But pay attention to the story! This looks to me essentially like a story of the slightly perverse consequences of what amounts to privatization of infrastructure provision. The New York State Thruway Authority dealt with the Hudson River bridge issue in a manner designed to maximize profits rather than a benevolent social planner putting the bridge in the socially optimal more southerly location.
The other way to look at this is to ignore the Port Authority / Thruway Authority competition issue and see it as a federalism story. If the bridge were further south, like around where the Cross County Expressway goes, then the western side of the bridge would be in New Jersey. But the geography of the area is such that the overwhelming preponderance of the social benefit of a river crossing lies in New York State. Consequently, to get the project done New York State would either need to agree to structure it so as to offer cross-subsidy to New Jersey (which is what the Port Authority option would have done) or else needs to do it as an entirely New York project even if that meant a longer bridge further north. The fact that metropolitan areas in the northeastern United States are often divided among more than one state tends to complicate regional planning in an unfortunate way. But what does the Cato Institute propose to do about this? I wish we could go back in time and redraw the lines like this but it’s obviously a non-starter.
What is the greatest single class of distortions in the global economy? One contender for this title is the tightly binding constraints on emigration from poor countries. Vast numbers of people in low-income countries want to emigrate from those countries but cannot. How large are the economic losses caused by barriers to emigration? Research on this question has been distinguished by its rarity and obscurity, but the few estimates we have should make economists’ jaws hit their desks. The gains to eliminating migration barriers amount to large fractions of world GDP—one or two orders of magnitude larger than the gains from dropping all remaining restrictions on international flows of goods and capital. When it comes to policies that restrict emigration, there appear to be trillion-dollar bills on the sidewalk.
Obviously, full open borders is not a feasible short-term goal. But why shouldn’t we look forward to a freer, more egalitarian world of tomorrow in which people are allowed to live where they want? Imagine if there was a law saying a person’s not allowed to move from Ohio to DC after college to look for work. We can do better than the current status quo. Largely freeing goods and capital to move around the world while imprisoning human beings according to the happenstance of their birth is an odd equilibrium to have chosen.
In some ways, I think Clemens even sells himself short. Legal barriers to labor mobility among rich countries seem to me to also be a big deal.
Last week, Jon Huntsman began to call out Governor Rick “4 Pinocchios” Perry and others in his party for being anti-science. He started with the tweet above that went viral.
On ABC’s This Week, Huntsman went even further, explaining that being anti-science would harm his party — and America’s future:
TAPPER: These comments from Governor Perry prompted you to Tweet, quote: “To be clear, I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy.” Were you just being cheeky or do you think there’s a serious problem with what Governor Perry said?
HUNTSMAN: I think there’s a serious problem. The minute that the Republican Party becomes the party – the anti-science party, we have a huge problem. We lose a whole lot of people who would otherwise allow us to win the election in 2012. When we take a position that isn’t willing to embrace evolution, when we take a position that basically runs counter to what 98 of 100 climate scientists have said, what the National Academy of Science – Sciences has said about what is causing climate change and man’s contribution to it, I think we find ourselves on the wrong side of science, and, therefore, in a losing position.
The Republican Party has to remember that we’re drawing from traditions that go back as far as Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, President Eisenhower, Nixon, Reagan and Bush. And we’ve got a lot of traditions to draw upon. But I can’t remember a time in our history where we actually were willing to shun science and become a – a party that – that was antithetical to science. I’m not sure that’s good for our future and it’s not a winning formula.
Whether it’s bad for the Republican party remains to be seen — that would require President Obama and his team (and other progressive politicians) to push back in the general election the way Huntsman has in the GOP race.
But there’s no question that having one of the two major political parties in the most powerful country in the world being anti-science is a disaster for the nation and the world (see WashPost stunner: “The GOP’s climate-change denial may be its most harmful delusion”). I’ll be expanding on that position in the coming weeks, but what is interesting is that in the full online interview with ABC (video below), Huntsman himself starts to explain just how counterproductive and self-destructive it is for the party:
In an interview this morning with ABC News’ Jake Tapper, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman repeatedly ripped his fellow GOP presidential candidate Texas Gov. Rick Perry for Perry’s “extreme” views on global warming, monetary policy and secession:
TAPPER: [C]omments from Governor Perry prompted you to Tweet, quote: “To be clear, I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy.” Were you just being cheeky or do you think there’s a serious problem with what Governor Perry said?
HUNTSMAN: I think there’s a serious problem. The minute that the Republican Party becomes the party – the anti-science party, we have a huge problem. We lose a whole lot of people who would otherwise allow us to win the election in 2012. . . .
HUNTSMAN: Well, I don’t know if that’s pre-secession Texas or post-secession Texas. But in any event, I’m not sure that the average voter out there is going to hear that treasonous remark and say that sounds like a presidential candidate, that sounds like someone who is serious on the issues. . . . I think when you find yourself at an extreme end of the Republican Party you make yourself unelectable.
Nor is there any truth to incessant right-wing claims that Texas is a Mecca for new jobs. Texas’ unemployment rate ranks 24th in the country — slightly worse than New York’s — and the state’s unemployment rate would be much worse if it wasn’t for the fact that, as a major oil producer, Texas’ economy benefits enormously from an era of sky-high gas prices. “The Dallas Fed has found that, every time oil prices rise 10 percent, Texas gets a 0.5 percent GDP bump.”
So Huntsman is absolutely right to call out Perry’s record, which has been an almost unbroken streak of extremist statements, failed policies and economic misery.
The only thing we need in here is more company. We don’t need your sympathy, we need your company.
The U.S. Park Police have decided to take a get tough attitude with those protesting the Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline:
On a phone call late this afternoon, U.S. Park Police told organizers of the sit-in that the jail time was expressly intended as a deterrent for future participants.
The Park Police were especially concerned that sit-ins would continue during the week of events beginning on August 28 surrounding the dedication of a new memorial to civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., one of the greatest exponents of creative nonviolence.
In multiple phone calls and in person meetings before today’s sit-in, the Park Police had previously assured organizers that participants in the protest would be facing a “post and forfeit” situation, meaning they would pay a $100 fine and be released the same day. While participants in this morning’s sit-in were trained the evening before to prepare for the worst, many were operating on the “post and forfeit” assumption due to police assurances.
Yet Brill wants us to believe that unions are the primary — even sole — cause of failing public schools. But hard evidence for this is scarce. Many of the nation’s worst-performing schools (according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress) are concentrated in Southern and Western right-to-work states, where public sector unions are weakest and collective bargaining enjoys little or no protection.
I think the dialogue on this tends to get turned upside down. There are a lot of reforms that K-12 education needs in the United States. Since strong teacher’s unions do in fact exist, they often take a prominent role in avoiding these reforms. But that’s a question of union leaders not liking reformers and reform proposals. Some people turn this around through a process of resentment and decide that breaking the unions should be the goal of reform. Not only is there little evidence to back this up, it doesn’t make any sense as a matter of logic. You can’t have an education system without having providers of education services. And the fact that the interests of service providers and the interests of the public are sometimes at odds has nothing in particular to do with labor unions. Unions act as a kind of red cape for some people in some contexts, just like for-profit colleges do for other people in other contexts, and federal contractors do for other people in yet other contexts.
But there actually isn’t any systematic way around this fact. If every school was a charter school, then the charter school operators would be lobbying for as much funding and as little accountability as possible.