In every industry, the number of unemployed workers outpaces the number of job openings. To state the obvious: To get that disparity to dramatically shrink, we’ve got a long way to go. (via National Journal)
The most densely populated, western part of the continent has sustained such profound gains in farm output that Steven Wiggins, a leading expert on agriculture, has declared that “a green revolution is already under way.” … Fewer Africans face famine now than at any time since the world began counting. While it’s true that sub-Saharan Africa as a whole still leads the world in poverty and food insecurity rates, it is also true that in Uganda in East Africa and in the 15 countries of West Africa, food production now outpaces population growth…
Based on what I’ve learned and what other Africa watchers have observed and studied, here are 10 reasons why African farmers are becoming more productive, wealthier, and increasingly essential to a sustainable food economy for the entire world.
Multiculturalism — as opposed to the notion of a multiracial society united by a single culture — has become an abject contradiction in the modern Western world. Romance for a culture in the abstract that one has rejected in the concrete makes little sense. Multiculturalists talk grandly of Africa, Latin America, and Asia, usually in contrast to the core values of the United States and Europe. Certainly, in terms of food, fashion, music, art, and architecture, the Western paradigm is enriched from other cultures. But the reason that millions cross the Mediterranean to Europe or the Rio Grande to the United States is for something more that transcends the periphery and involves fundamental values — consensual government, free-market capitalism, the freedom of the individual, religious tolerance, equality between the sexes, rights of dissent, and a society governed by rationalism divorced from religious stricture. Somehow that obvious message has now been abandoned, as Western hosts lost confidence in the very society that gives us the wealth and leisure to ignore or caricature its foundations. The result is that millions of immigrants flock to the West, enjoy its material security, and yet feel little need to bond with their adopted culture, given that their hosts themselves are ambiguous about what others desperately seek out….
Why would Anwar al-Awlaki, another U.S. citizen, whose family was welcomed to the United States for sanctuary from the misery and violence of Yemen, grow to despise America and devote the latter part of his adult life to terrorizing the United States? He certainly need not have conducted his hatred from a Virginia mosque when all of the Middle East was ripe for his activism. Was Awlaki ever reminded in school or by any religious figure why exactly America was more tolerant of Muslims than Yemen was of Christians? Or did he hate his country because it treated Muslims humanely in a way that he would never treat Christians?….
We understand the notions of both ethnic pride and hyphenated Americanism, but many of us are still bewildered about contradictory impulses: the emotional need to display Mexican decals on cars and hang Mexican flags on houses and businesses — or boo an American team at a soccer match — coupled with equally heated expressions of outrage that anyone might suggest that those who broke American law in coming to the United States would ever have to return where their hearts would “always be.” That paradox is the most disturbing — and ignored — aspect of the immigration debate: the contradictory impulse to fault the United States for a litany of sins (exploitation, racism, xenophobia, nativism) without commensurate attention to why any newcomer would wish to reside in a place that is so clearly culpable. Has anyone ever heard an immigration activist, as part of his argument for amnesty, explain why so many Mexicans do not like living in Mexico and must leave their homeland, or, alternatively, why the United States is such an attractive alternative that it demands such existential risks to reach it? How strange that most of the elites who resent ideas like the melting pot and assimilation are often those who most successfully have abandoned the protocols of the way life is lived in Mexico.
America was born as an immigrant nation. It went through many periods of nearly unlimited immigration, coupled with xenophobic backlashes when particular groups — Germans, Jews, Irish, Mexicans, or Poles — came in such numbers and so abruptly that the traditional powers of assimilation were for a time overwhelmed. But the eras of ethnic ghettoes and tribal separatism were usually brief, given the inclusive popular culture and official government efforts to overwhelm identification with the home country.
A key distinction to make is “tastes” versus “flavors.” In terms of taste—the perceptions of salty, sweet, savory, bitter, sour—humans essentially have the same innate preference the world round. John Prescott notes in his book Taste Matters, “The sweet taste of sucrose in water…is optimally pleasant at around 10-12 per cent by weight (approximately the same as is found in many ripe fruits), regardless of whether you are from Japan, Taiwan or Australia.”
But we do not eat tastes, we eat flavors, and what makes us like flavors, says Small, is “flavor nutrient conditioning.” The upside of this process, she says, “is that we can learn to like the foods that are available to us, and avoid particular foods rather than entire classes of nutrients.” Such learning involves a complex chain of activity in the brain, all oriented around understanding what Small calls “flavor objects.” “Our brain and our behavior are geared toward learning about the object—strawberry, for example—rather than its various components. Did this food make me sick? Did this food give me energy? You learn preferences based on the entire flavor object.” Coffee, for example, is just as bitter the 1,000th time we drink it as the first, but, Small notes, “it becomes coffee. The brain has learned that coffee is not a potentially harmful signal.”
In recently presented work, Small is trying to understand, neurologically, how physiological factors can influence the way we eat: “When does the moment kick in where you like it?” Experimental subjects are exposed to novel flavors that have no calories; over a few weeks, one of the flavors has caloric (but tasteless) maltodextrin added. The “post-oral signal” coming from the gut—which is happily converting the maltodextrin into glucose—can, she suggests, alter the response to a flavor. “These post-ingestive signals are getting into the reward circuits” of the brain, “altering the way reward circuits process the flavor, and doing that quite independently of liking,” she says. In short, our liking grows without our quite knowing why.
In 2002, the U.S. military had just two kinds of camouflage uniforms. One was green, for the woods. The other was brown, for the desert.
Then things got strange….In just 11 years, two kinds of camouflage have turned into 10. And a simple aspect of the U.S. government has emerged as a complicated and expensive case study in federal duplication.
Duplication is one of Washington’s most expensive traditions: Multiple agencies do the same job at the same time, and taxpayers pay billions for the government to repeat itself.
The habit remains stubbornly hard to break, even in an era of austerity. There are, for instance, at least 209 federal programs to improve science and math skills. There are 16 programs that teach personal finance.
At the Pentagon, the story of the multiplying uniforms has provided a step-by-step illustration of how duplication blooms in government — and why it’s usually not good….
[My favorite part:] The Navy spent more than $435,000 on three new designs. One was a blue-and-gray pattern, to be worn aboard ships. Pattern No. 8.
Sailors worried that it would hide them at the one time they would want to be found.
“You fall in the damn water and you’re wearing water-colored camouflage. What the hell is that?” said one active-duty petty officer. He asked that his name be withheld because he was criticizing a decision by the brass. “It’s not logical. It’s not logical at all to have water-colored uniforms.”
In our model, every dollar of government spending has to come from somewhere, which means it is either taxed or borrowed from the private economy. Thus the crucial issue isn’t merely the level of debt, though at some point that can become a problem. The important matter is what that additional debt is buying.
The nearby chart shows U.S. federal debt held by the public as a share of GDP since the beginning of World War II. Debt soared to well above 100% of GDP during the war, but few thought defeating Hitler and Tojo was a bad investment. Once victory was attained, the debt ratio fell rapidly along with government spending. Private growth resumed despite Keynesian predictions of doom at the time as government spending fell, and debt as a share of GDP continued its gradual decline.
The next big debt burst came in the 1980s, as the Reagan Administration sought to break both the Soviets abroad and stagflation at home. The cure was a tax cut plus more defense spending, which in the short term led to higher deficits. Even then the peak Reagan deficit was only 6% of GDP in 1983, compared to President Obama’s first term deficit average of 8.7%.
The key point is that those deficits were buying faster growth and defense goods such as aircraft carriers that would win the Cold War. As rapid economic growth returned, deficits and debt both declined….
Contrast that experience with where we are today. President Obama’s stimulus spree and the mediocre recovery have doubled the debt to an estimated 76.6% of GDP this year. This is despite a record tax increase in January. The Administration now says the debt to GDP ratio will peak in 2014 at 78.2%, but that will be true only if spending growth slows and economic growth is more rapid.
One reason to be more worried about debt now is what we’re borrowing to finance. Spending on wars eventually ends. But today most spending by far goes to social welfare payments and entitlements that are difficult to reduce. Those payments are only going to increase as the baby boomers retire, and as ObamaCare takes effect.
These income transfers spread the wealth but they do nothing to increase the growth of the economy. To the extent that they are financed by higher taxes, they retard growth by taking money that would be invested more productively in the private economy.
Mr. Summers says governments should borrow more now at near-zero interest rates to invest in future growth. But this is what we were told in 2009-2010, when Mr. Summers was in the White House, and the $830 billion stimulus was used to finance not primarily roads or bridges but more unionized teachers, higher transfer payments, and green-energy projects that have since failed. Why will it be different this time?
The most important economic chart in Western civilization. How it happened: “Respect and reward innovators and innovation.” (via AEI)
[T]he cost of regulatory rules in 2012 exceeded the cost of all rules in “the entire first terms of Presidents Bush and Clinton, combined.” (via The Weekly Standard)
In that dreary winter of 1979, the piles of uncollected trash in London’s Finsbury Park seemed to stretch for miles. The garbagemen were on strike. So too, at one time or another, were hospital workers, ambulance drivers, truck drivers, railwaymen. Also gravediggers: In Liverpool, corpses had to be warehoused as they awaited burial—yet another long queue that socialist Britain had arranged for its patient masses.
This was the “Winter of Discontent,” when Great Britain came about as close to economic collapse as at nearly any point in its peacetime history, and it was the country Margaret Thatcher inherited when, on May 3, she defeated the Labour government of James Callaghan to become Prime Minister—the first woman in the office and 49th in a line that includes some of the greatest figures of Western civilization: Winston Churchill, Benjamin Disraeli, the Duke of Wellington, William Pitt the Younger.
Thatcher died in London Monday, at age 87, having earned her place among the greats. This is not simply because she revived Britain’s economy, though that was no mean achievement. Nor is it because she held office longer than any of her predecessors, though this also testifies to her political skill. She achieved greatness because she articulated a set of vital ideas about economic freedom, national self-respect and personal virtue, sold them to a skeptical public and then demonstrated their efficacy….
And so it went for the next 11 years, as Thatcher and her government stopped printing excess money to kill inflation, cut marginal tax rates to unleash private incentives, privatized public housing so the poor could own their own homes, did away with currency, price and wage controls to eliminate the distortions they imposed on the economy, curbed runaway spending and sold off one state asset after another so they might be competently and profitably managed.
All this was done despite sharp short-term economic shocks and in the teeth of ferocious resistance, particularly from trade unions. In 1984, the coal miners union of Arthur Scargill went on strike for nearly a year. Similar strikes had brought past governments to their knees, but Thatcher, in a feat of immense courage and political skill, remained immovable and eventually won public opinion to her side. As she had famously said of herself a few years earlier (without being believed), “the lady is not for turning.”
…Deeper than this was Thatcher’s sympathy with what is best in America: freedom, enterprise, opportunity, optimism and the urge for self-improvement. No doubt this reflected Thatcher’s background as a grocer’s daughter who’d risen on her own talent and effort…. Thatcher came to power when Britain and the West were in every kind of crisis: social, economic, moral and strategic. Along with Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II, she showed the world the way out. She believed in the inherent right of free men to craft their own destinies, and in the capacity of free nations to resist and overcome every kind of tyranny and injustice.
The labor force participation rate is at its lowest percentage since 1979 (via ZeroHedge)
I’d summarize the case for the approach we’re proposing in terms borrowed from John Goodman, who has probably argued for this way of thinking longer than anyone. Simply put, people who are not on Medicare or Medicaid today purchase their insurance with money from a combination of three sources: their own pockets, employer funds (which come out of their pay), and a federal tax subsidy. The third of these today offers benefits in an arbitrary way (based on your tax bracket, employer decisions, state and local taxes, and other factors) that in practice helps the rich much more than the middle class, and the combination of the three has to be spent in a horribly distorted insurance system where costs are inflated by (among other things) the absence of transparency and consumer choice. Obamacare would make these problems worse. We propose to make the third source—the subsidy—the same for everyone, and therefore to make it available to people who don’t have it now and put at least catastrophic coverage within the reach of all. And we propose to enable the development of a competitive insurance market in which to purchase coverage. That would actually address the sources of the key problems with today’s system, rather than move even further in the direction of an inefficient and economically irrational health-care system that pulls off the extraordinary feat of being simultaneously open-ended and over-managed.
The Supreme Court ruled that buyers of foreign copyrighted works may resell them in the United States without the copyright holder’s permission, a 6-3 decision Tuesday affirming the “first sale” doctrine of federal copyright law.
The decision (.pdf) by Justice Stephen Breyer was a major endorsement of the right of a purchaser of legitimate copyright-protected works to resell or use the work without the copyright holder’s permission. That’s why used bookstores, libraries, GameStop, video rental stores and even eBay were on thin ice pending Tuesday’s decision.
But how the doctrine applied to foreign-purchased works imported into the United States had been a matter of considerable debate, with a mixture of conflicting rulings in the lower federal courts.