Archive for the ‘History’ Category

Adam Smith for our troubled times

Saturday, June 23rd, 2018

An old joke is that a classical book is one that everyone cites, but no-one reads. By this measure, each of the two books that Adam Smith wrote are classics. If his followers today took time to read then, they would disagree with much of what he wrote. (more…)

intellectual property theft by developing countries

Thursday, April 12th, 2018

Dean Baker has posted a blog that nicely complements yesterday’s TdJ on “the rise of China“.

[I]t was largely the United States that has set the rules in this story and it is demanding ever more money for items protected by its patent and copyright monopolies. We do this through our control of trade arrangements, most importantly the WTO …. These rules were about forcing developing countries to pay more money to companies like Pfizer and Microsoft for everything from drugs and medical equipment to seeds and software. ….
(more…)

John Bolton’s wartime experience

Thursday, April 12th, 2018

John Bolton, Donald Trump’s National Security Advisor, is known to be a keen advocate of war, with a dislike for all things international, including the United Nations. He has never met a war that he didn’t like. I was curious to see whether he had any military experience, so looked up his biography in Wikipedia. I discovered that, like his former boss, George W. Bush, he avoided service in Vietnam by enlisting in the National Guard. He served in the Maryland National Guard for four years, then in the US Army Reserve for two additional years. In those days, without political connections it was difficult to join the National Guard, because that was a way to avoid the draft, and service in Vietnam. (more…)

the rise of China

Wednesday, April 11th, 2018

FT columnist Martin Wolf has a long essay in today’s Financial Times on China as an emerging superpower and the potential for destructive clashes with the USA. It is balanced and well-written, exceeding even the high standards I have come to expect from Martin. (more…)

the leadership styles of JFK, GW Bush and Donald Trump

Thursday, March 22nd, 2018

Today, while searching for information on varied topics, I came across an old interview with Ted Sorensen, a lawyer who was speechwriter for and close adviser to President John F. Kennedy. This segment caught my attention. (more…)

crony capitalism with Chinese characteristics

Tuesday, February 27th, 2018

FT columnist Martin Wolf warns us of the danger of China’s return to strongman rule, even though the framework “strange though it may sound (and indeed is) — communist capitalism”.

Mr Xi has discarded the attempt by Deng Xiaoping to institutionalise checks on the power of China’s leaders — itself a reaction to the wild excesses of the era of Mao Zedong. What is re-emerging is strongman rule — a concentration of power in the hands of one man. It now looks a bit like “Putinism with Chinese characteristics”.

Martin Wolf, “Xi’s power grab means China is vulnerable to the whims of one man“, Financial Times, 28 February 2018 (gated paywall).

the high risk of nuclear conflict

Sunday, January 21st, 2018

This frightens me.

[The US, according to a draft document seen by the New York Times, is] on the point of revising its defence policy — to allow the use of nuclear weapons … in response to “attempts to destroy wide-reaching infrastructure, like a country’s power grid or communications, that would be most vulnerable to cyberweapons”. ….

[This] demonstrates how seriously the US is now taking the threat of cyber warfare; and is clearly designed to massively increase America’s deterrence capacity.

At the same time, however, the policy shift carries considerable risks. By lowering the bar to the first use of nuclear weapons, it makes nuclear war more thinkable. The dangers of such a move are increased because concerns about nuclear proliferation are mounting — with North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme making rapid progress, and both Pakistan and Russia incorporating the early use of nuclear weapons into their war-fighting plans.

Gideon Rachman, “Nuclear weapons are a risky defence against cyber attacks“, Financial Times, 19 February 2017 (gated paywall).

racial prejudice and contact with minorities

Wednesday, January 17th, 2018

I recall reading several studies of the US and UK that show a negative correlation between anti-immigrant prejudice and the proportion of immigrants in a community. A new study of the UK by economists from Tilburg University in The Netherlands and the University of Sydney in Australia contributes to this research, and shows that the effects are persistent. Worryingly, though, persistence is weaker in areas that received less subsequent in-migration.

Here is the authors’ conclusion: (more…)

Donald Trump’s path to the presidency

Friday, January 12th, 2018

[David] Frum, a former speech writer to George W Bush and one of the most articulate “Never Trumpers”, asks how a man like Trump could have reached high office in the first place. One answer is that Trump does possess real skills. Among these is an almost diabolical knack for divining other people’s resentments — perhaps because he is riddled with so many of his own. Trump often tries out different applause lines at rallies and sticks with the ones that resonate. Such market testing appears to work. He has an ability to identify with people who feel slighted. [Michael] Wolff describes how … many years ago, Trump was asked to define “white trash”. He replied: “They’re people just like me, only they’re poor.” …. (more…)

Against the Grain

Wednesday, January 10th, 2018

Yale University political scientist James C. Scott has published a fascinating, but controversial book titled Against the Grain. It is the second book by him that I have read, and I confess that it disappointed me. It is too libertarian, too biased for my taste. Not until the last chapter (seven) did his thesis become clear. Here are some brief extracts from the introduction and that final chapter where the author clearly explains his main thesis. (more…)