Now this is just delicious

Russia takes a page from NATO:

Russian investigators have launched a criminal case on charges of genocide in connection with the events in South Ossetia. Russia’s Interfax news agency reports that the Russian General Prosecutor’s Office has said Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili may also be put on trial. Igor Komissarov, deputy chairman of the Prosecutor’s Investigation Committee, said it had “initiated a genocide probe based on reports of actions committed by Georgian troops aimed at murdering Russian citizens, ethnic Ossetians, living in South Ossetia.”

This naturally provides a perfectly reasonable justification for keeping Russian troops in Georgia. After all, such a notorious war criminal can’t be permitted to hide behind his political office, as precedent established in the case of Serbia’s Slobodan Milosevic. I wonder how long it will be before some nation or collection of nations put George Bush and the neocons on trial for their undeniable war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq? That would be as amusing as it would be fitting.

The thing is, Putin is not exactly a good guy. Not even close. But the outrageously hypocritical actions of the Clinton and Bush adminstrations – don’t forget, Kosovo began as a Clinton initiative – allow him to credibly position himself as one. Believe me, he’s much better regarded by the average European than Bush is these days. The thing that too many myopic Americans can’t seem to grasp is that everybody hates #1! no matter who they are. This was true in the days of Athens and it is true now.

By the way, Stratfor saw this coming back in February in a piece entitled “Kosovar Independence and the Russian Reaction” “What is the hardest to believe — but is, of course, possible — is that Putin simply will allow the Kosovo issue to pass. He clearly knew this was coming. He maintained vocal opposition to it beforehand and reiterated his opposition afterward. The more he talks and the less he does, the weaker he appears to be. He personally can’t afford that, and neither can Russia. He had opportunities to cut his losses before Kosovo’s independence was declared. He didn’t. That means either he has blundered badly or he has something on his mind. Our experience with Putin is that the latter is more likely….”

Surge or pre-order?

Here’s a question for the impatient multitudes* who for whatever reason happen to be genuinely interested in picking up a copy of the forthcoming Summa Elvetica. Would you prefer to pre-order it directly from the publisher or would you prefer to participate in a mini-surge of the sort we did for TIA?

In contemplating this difficult question, please keep in mind that my usual policy of making the complete text available for download will apply to this book as well, so it’s not as if you won’t have options if you prefer not to shell anything out.

* Multitude means eleven, right?

Blithering ignorance

There are few things more ludicrous, or more unintentionally funny, than journalists attempting to write about economics. The ink-stained wretches may be many things, but intelligent and well-educated are not two of them. Read this paragraph and see if you can spot the glaring logical train wreck that David Leonhardt makes of what appears to be his first foray into macroeconomics:

For three decades now, the American economy has been in what the historian Sean Wilentz calls the Age of Reagan. The government has deregulated industries, opened the economy more to market forces and, above all, cut income taxes. Much good has come of this — the end of 1970s stagflation, infrequent and relatively mild recessions, faster growth than that of the more regulated economies of Europe. Yet laissez-faire capitalism hasn’t delivered nearly what its proponents promised. It has created big budget deficits, the most pronounced income inequality since the 1920s and the current financial crisis. As Lawrence Summers, the former Treasury secretary and Rubin ally from the Clinton administration, says: “We’ve probably done a better job of the last 20 years on the problems the market can solve than the problems the market can’t solve. We’re doing pretty well on the size of people’s houses and televisions and the like. We’re not looking so good on infrastructure and education.”

1. How in the name of Adam Smith does laissez-faire capitalism create a budget deficit of any kind? What is the precise mechanism by which a genuinely free market determines the tax inflows and spending outflows of a national government?

2. Given that income inequality is far worse in the tightly controlled economies of Latin America and the many severe restrictions on the not-very-free market’s operation in the USA, it is clearly incorrect, if not downright bizarre, to attempt to blame the undeniable fact of American income inequality on something that does not actually exist in America.

3. The current financial crisis is a direct result of interest rates being set at artificially low levels by the Federal Reserve. Given that the U.S. currency is a government-established monopoly protected with the full force of law, how can this possibly be interpreted as an indictment of a free market in operation?

4. What percentage of “infrastructure and education” are provided by the free market and what percentage are provided by government? To the extent that the latter is more than zero, there is obviously a limited amount of laissez-faire capitalism involved.

Regarding the article itself, it shows Obama to be the same sort of left-wing statist that we’ve seen a hundred times before. While he has some accurate perceptions on the smaller issues, he subscribes to the greatest economic foolishness of all; the idea that the national economy is a singular entity capable of being somehow improved through government management. Obama’s concept of a theme to compete with “lower taxes, smaller government” is downright hilarious:

“So what we need to bring about is the end of the era of unresponsive and inefficient government and short-term thinking in government, so that the government is laying the groundwork, the framework, the foundation for the market to operate effectively and for every single individual to be able to be connected with that market and to succeed in that market.”

Government-managed markets where no one is a loser. Yeah, that’s a theme no one’s ever tried before… and this is supposed to be HopeChange? The ending is the perfect punchline to what one finally begins to suspect was intended as a surreptitious piece of guerilla comedy all along, as Leonhardt cites global warming in contrast to all the previous environmental crises that turned out to be overheated figments of scientific imaginations.