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17 April 2016


Disappointing Nuclear Sanctions Relief

Secretary of State Kerry and Foreign Minister Zarif should be most disappointed that all the work they put into the agreement between the U.S. and Iran has resulted in no significant increase in economic benefits for Iranian consumers or industry.

The domestic political situation in the U.S. is indeed partially responsible for the reluctance of U.S. and European banks to encourage their corporate clients to do business with Iran.

The revenge of the bureaucrats in the U.S. for the Iranian U.S. embassy hostage crisis has been to encumber trade with Iran.  Moreover, trade with Iran has become less important to the U.S. and Europe in the last thirty-seven years, when Chinese and Indian industrial growth, Russian gas, U.S. fracking, and other developments have transformed international economic relations.

 

22 March 2016


Readjust Labor for Effects of Free Trade

Businesses ought not to be punished for moving production to low labor-cost countries, because they suffer from it for political reasons.  Business should be incentivized to change production methods in order to take advantage of the higher education and skills of U.S. labor.

Government intervention in the market is needed to minimize the external costs of readjusting the labor force to the new requirements of lower-cost labor competition caused by free trade.  Incentives must be provided to influence businesses to respond to the political demands of displaced workers.  The market itself is unable to supply such incentives in time.  Readjustment required by free trade agreements has been estimated to take as long as ten years.

26 February 2016


Three Reasons We Appear to Be Sicker Now Than Before

People my age seem to have more afflictions than I remember my parents’ generation suffered from.  There are at least three reasons I have this impression:

1)      Medical diagnosis methods and technology are vastly improved.  There are many more illness conditions nowadays, although it may be that we have just identified more of them.

2)      Communications have much expanded our personal awareness of the afflictions of our fellow human beings; in days past we were just not cognizant of how badly off the rest of humanity was.

3)      All of us are living much longer than our predecessors.  Because we are older, we experience many illnesses that our predecessors never lived long enough to encounter.

Would we trade longer lifetimes for fewer illnesses?  As long as our faith in the advances of science lasts, I guess not.

18 February 2016


2016 Campaign Philosophy

The 2016 Campaign for the U.S. Presidency is a struggle of three philosophies of government.  Bernie Sanders’ pursuit of the Democratic nomination is based on an ideological commitment to socialist themes that include income equalization and expansion of government as the tool of popular will.  The Republican contest among  Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Donald Trump is being fought to prove the most likely candidate to shrink the government’s capacity to interfere with unfettered free enterprise.  Its ideology is the virtue of a competitive marketplace. 

The middle ground is sought on the Democratic side by Hillary Clinton and on the Republican side by John Kasich.  Clinton and Kasich both see government as a useful tool for carrying out the will of the people, but only in its place.  They share popular goals but vary in their confidence in government to serve those goals.  Hillary’s strength is in her femininity, strong personality and experience, and in her association with a previous successful President.  Kasich is a highly qualified but weak contender. 

Americans may be seduced by ideologues in Primary elections because the range of Party faithful and Primary enthusiasts is much narrower than the full electorate.  The Republican Party Convention may select a right-wing ideologue, as it has in the past.  But it is hard to believe that the Democrats will risk an election on Bernie Sanders for purely ideological reasons.

12 January 2016

Too Soon for Reforming the Political System

What is the likelihood of success for President Obama's call in his 2016 State of the Union address for reform of the country's political system?  His appeal for easier voting processes (Internet voting?) and for elimination of state majority party control of voting district definition are going to be long, drawn-out affairs, if they are ever undertaken.  The status quo is much too advantageous to the parties in power to be sacrificed to a crusading lame-duck White House occupant. 

If President Obama wishes to insert his waning public infuence into the 2016 election in order to reform the political system, he'd better get started.  It is not likely that Hilary Clinton would join forces with him and threaten her establishment support; so Senator Bernie Sanders would have to be the vehicle for pushing these reforms, unless Obama were to wait until the election is over.  It's probably wisest not to confuse the Presidential Election campaign with such a transformative issue, anyway. 

Therefore, if the 2016 State of the Union address signals any Presidential policy for Obama's last year in office, it only says that he will fight to maintain what he believes to have been his legacies up to now--like preserving ObamaCare, re-establishing Cuba diplomatic relations, implementing the Iranian nuclear deal, and closing Guantanamo (?). 

02 January 2016


Obama’s Closing Strategy on Iran

U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, showed that at least between them the common interest of their two countries was best served by ignoring the idle threat of former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to develop a nuclear weapon and reaching a mutual accord that will return U.S.-Iran commercial relations to the limited openness that prevailed in 2005.  President Barack Obama has apparently decided temporarily to disregard Iran’s recent violation of international prohibitions on building ballistic missiles in order not to jeopardize implementation of the nuclear deal.  Together these steps are probably enough to considerably relax restraints on trade between the two countries without formal approval by either the U.S. Congress or the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.  It is up to the electorate in each country, which ultimately is credited with having final say in these matters, to make these steps lasting.

07 August 2015


Conflict Later Isn’t Necessarily More Cataclysmic

David Brooks stated in his OpEd article in the August 7, 2015 NYT that the Iran nuclear deal only makes more likely a cataclysmic conflict between the Western powers and Iran in the future.  Wouldn’t a military confrontation with Iran today be just as cataclysmic?  If so, the alternative made possible by the deal is that that event would not have to take place for at least another ten years. The delay offers the prospect that something might change the attitude of the Iranian regime in the meantime. 

Given the history of popular rule in Persia over the millennia that prospect does seem to be unlikely.  Nevertheless, as long as we devote the vigilance that successful fulfillment of the accord demands from the U.S. and its allies, Iran should not have a stronger nuclear arsenal after the minimum ten-year delay than it has right now.   Therefore, conflict in ten years to prevent resumption of Iran’s nuclear build-up would not be any more difficult then than now, and our ability to combat a nuclear-armed foe should have improved during that period.

Life is like that.  Postponing the inevitable is the only rational choice, whether it be drought in California or cataclysmic conflict in the Middle East.

 

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