Sunday, 13 March 2011

Fractured Integers: Nye & Gallagher

I'm supposed to be taking a break, and I will head out to the beach soon, but the two imported editorials in this morning's Taipei Times are outrageous.

The first, styled as a defence of President Obama's foreign policy, by Joseph S. Nye (former US assistant secretary of defense now at Harvard and contributor to PS) is a spectacular failure on its' own terms:
"Obama’s attempt at employing ‘smart power’ — integrating tools of ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ power — in the Middle East is proving to be challenging yet necessary."
Nowhere in the ensuing article does Nye even describe the President's uses of "soft power", or account for their failures or successes, let alone articulate a defence of such soft power by the President. The nearest Nye comes is with mere off-the-cuff assertions that soft power is "necessary", and, we read in Nye's last paragraph, "important" and "not easy". A perverse defence of the President by one of his opponents could scarcely have been better, which is to say, worse, than this. My only question is why this piece was chosen by the TT editors. Was it chosen to comfort Lefties covering their ears so as not to have to listen to criticism of Barack Obama? Disgraceful.

The second imported piece, from the Guardian and written by Kevin Gallagher of Boston University, is yet another repeat revolt against international trade and in favour of financial aid. I have two objections to Gallagher's article: the first is the nature of his argument viz economic development; the second is his moral collectivism so typical of the diseased wing of the Left - it is one thing to express support for, or act in solidarity with oppressed people, but to do so on collectivist terms can only be either perverse or stupid. Gallagher writes:
"China has lent over US$110 billion to developing countries over the past two years, more than the World Bank has made in three years. Relative to the World Bank, these loans come with far fewer “conditionalities” and are going to massive infrastructure projects across Africa and in places like Argentina, Venezuela and, perhaps now, even Colombia. China is loaning nations money to fund each nation’s own priorities for growth and development. China isn’t doing so out of altruism; these are not acts of sainthood. China just has a better handle on economic development."
  • Gallagher neglects to mention how that $110 billion was made available for aid and the consequences that go with how these funds were "produced" (i.e. was this money made available via taxation or through debt instruments?).
  • He neglects to mention what those "conditionalities" from the World Bank were or why they were considered important (e.g. anti-corruption measures and restraints on fiscal irresponsibility).
  • He seems to assume that money spent on infrastructure projects will necessarily lead to economic growth, or at least be "good" in some other sense. Yet infrastructure only makes economic sense in a context of domestic and international trade - trade which is increasingly manipulated by the domestic policies of the Venezuelan government at least. What good is a road if it is a road to nowhere with no little or no prospect of commerce at the end of it?*
  • He presumes the legitimacy of governments in Argentina, Venezuela and Columbia when he conflates their spending wishes with their "nation's priorities" - this alone is not only an epistemic inaccuracy (what the leaders of any given government want in any particular context is not necessarily, or even perhaps usually, what the majority of people want), but is an insult to the people of those countries and an utterly disgracful thing to say, approvingly sanctioning anti-Liberal and dictatorial regimes like that of Hugo Chavez.
But above all, Gallagher's claim that China has a "better handle on economic development" not only presumes itself, since these countries have yet to witness sizeable economic development as a consequence of Chinese aid, but taken in reference to China's own development it is willfully ignorant and amoral. Yes economic development in China is raising some people's standards of living, but it is doing so in an overtly fascist manner with the intense involvement of the State in all apsects of the economy, and a mere window-dressing institutionalization of the right to private property. The theft of land by the State, its inability to extricate itself from what can only be an unsound structure of capital investment, its' wanton destruction of the environment with not even a remote prospect of accountability - all of these things and more are inexcusably overlooked by Gallagher with that "better handle" claim.

This however, was my favourite bit:
"East Asia, on the other hand, which is known for its state-managed globalization..."
All countries have more or less "state-managed" participation in the world economy, so to single out those of East Asia as being especially known for this is like singling out a small group of colleagues for their celebrated ability to defecate...

Not only was this a ridiculous remark, but it is also noteworthy for its' contrast to how others on the Left typically lie about East Asia, for example that the exploitation of Chinese workers is due to the PRC's instantiation of "free market capitalism". So if you're on the diseased wing of the Left - great news! - you can claim China's economic growth is due to the State, and in the same breath you can also claim that China's problems are due to its "free-market capitalism". Gallagher's article is typical of how the diseased wing of the Left will search not only high, but also low - and often very low - to find specious arguments against the honest hard work of trade, along with all the difficult, unpleasant and uncomfortable consequences that come with having to adapt oneself to produce what other people are freely willing to reward in the market place.

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