Recent sanctions leveled against Iran seem troublesome, and as some (like Ron Paul) have indicated, seem to be the last or next-to-last step before armed conflict in our relations. In my case, trying to promote freedom and liberty by constricting it (to a country that would greatly benefit from it) seems counterproductive. In the case of Iraq, crippling sanctions resulted in the deaths of half a million children and women in the 1990s. Hardly justifiable. Sanctions have also failed in North Korea, Cuba, and Venezuela. No regime change is apparently imminent in either country. Instead, some of the poorest and most repressed on the earth become even poorer as their trade with other countries is restricted. A far better policy would be to follow the Golden Rule, treating other countries as we would want to be treated. This method would lead to greater peace and prosperity, and would make America the “city on the hill” it aspires to be, rather than the “king of the hill” it sometimes appears to be.
However, there is some good news to be found. For one, Turkey and Brazil tried to go the third-party enrichment route (Iran’s refusal was reportedly the US’s rationale for issuing the sanctions in the first place), and though they succeeded in getting Iran to agree to having its uranium enriched elsewhere, both countries were informed it was too late, and that the sanctions were going forward. Both boldly opposed the sanctions.
Russia and China were both interested in softening the sanctions; and soften them they did. What the UN passed was far from the “crippling sanctions” US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton promised to impose. One of the biggest reasons was that China and Russia insisted on softening the sanctions, or they would not be passed. I applaud such efforts to reduce the costliness of sanctions on a country that definitely could benefit from trade, especially at this juncture.
With President Obama’s proposed upgrade of car fuel efficiency standards (government-mandated standards, of course), I have a few bold predictions to make:
1. The administration’s estimate of an average increase of $1,400 per vehicle is far too low. A more accurate estimate would be an extra $4,000 or $5,000, what one would pay extra (at least) for a hybrid car.
2. Materials in cars would move increasingly towards polymers (plastics) and aluminum and away from steel and cast iron. Conventional illumination systems will be increasingly replaced by high-end, expensive LED systems. This could be good news for some small companies in the South, West, and Northeast, but will probably hurt even more the rust belt, which still has a fair share of iron and steel plants which primarily serve the auto industry by producing low-cost, high-quality, ultra-reliable parts. They will be driven out in a hurry. Too swift a movement towards these lighter materials will likely mean a safety problem and almost certainly a quality compromise.
3. The value of some used cars will increase as their demand will as well. A reliable gas guzzling vehicle purchased in 2014 may depreciate lower than one purchased in 2002.
Let it always be remembered that, as Henry Hazlitt would say, a good economist looks for all effects of a certain policy, and a poor economist looks at a narrow window of scope, ignoring the complete picture. Sadly we have neglected wisdom and we continually look to our tunnel-vision minded political machine to set our course for us.
All is vanity. -Ecclesiastes 1:2
Who is right about the current recession?
Most economists from the Austrian School of Economics have been saying since the beginning (before most mainstream economists admitted we were even in a recession) that this economic downturn would be long and prolonged, likely a depression. They are still saying this. None of the failed Keynesian economic policies will change this for the better. They will only prolong the agony, as Hoover and FDR’s interventions created and prolonged The Great Depression.
The Cold War taught us this: governments are not only unjust stewards of resources, but they are tragically inefficient as well. Tens of millions died, for instance, due to Communist failures to allocate food properly. If governments cannot even allocate food properly, the most basic of necessities, what makes us believe they are able to allocate capital, education, the environment, and health care (to name just four examples) more effectively than we as individuals are?
Mainstream economists have said, and some still say, that the recession will start to end this year. This is tom-foolery. We are already starting to see some mainstream shift in opinion (i.e. this news article). This shift will only continue, validating the conclusions of the Austrian School of Economics.
I sometimes listen to Radio 2 Morning on CBC in the morning commute. It’s the most entertaining radio show I have ever heard, both musically and in prose. The songs are pure, simple, subtle, and sincere, both musically and lyrically, not overly sugary, forced, or over-the-top as I find some American music to be.
Prose is frequently entertaining. Yesterday, radio host Tom Allen told about a scientific study, conducted by English scientists from the prestigious University of Oxford, which cost British taxpayers 300,000 pounds. The study aimed to ascertain whether ducks preferred water in troughs, ponds, or rain. The study pointed out that ducks preferred rain.
Many farmers in England, as you might imagine, have a difficult time with so much British taxpayer money being appropriated for such a silly purpose. English farmers have known, colloquially, that ducks love the rain, for hundreds of years. They did not need 300,000 pounds to tell them this. They are understandably frustrated.
This is a silly story which brings up some important questions which are never discussed, but which should be:
Is it just to appropriate taxpayer money for scientific research? Where in the U.S. Constitution is such explicity justified? Did our Founding Fathers support such spending? Why do taxpayers not have a say in where their money goes and how it gets spent?