Idle Thought           last week in January, 2019

What if this past weekend were the beginning of the end for the orange haired baboon?  And, in the process, the GOP were so damaged that even a Pence presidency couldn’t do much harm, and we gained a president in 2020 who was smart, thoughtful, respected intelligence and loyalty to allies and was up for repairing the extraordinary damage, domestic and international?

Someone who might say something that would remind us of these lines -

“Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans, born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage, and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world. Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”

Similar and different – an occasional reflection

As huge economies with large and diverse populations, occupying about the same land area at about the same range of latitudes, China and the US have many similarities.  Similarities extend to many elements of culture and institutions, good and bad.  The similarities are often surprising; the differences confuse us, but may be a source of new perspectives. 

 

Domestic and foreign affairs in 2018 – Xi, CCP, DJT, GOP – Part 6 of 5

Public Morality  - not our finest hour

 

We come to public morality.

"...the spirit of liberty is the spirit that is not too sure that it is right; the spirit of liberty is the mind which seeks to understand the minds of other men and women."

 Learned Hand  “The Spirit of Liberty” speech at “I Am an American Day” ceremony, Central Park, New York City (21 May 1944)

 

Similar and different – an occasional reflection

As huge economies with large and diverse populations, occupying about the same land area at about the same range of latitudes, China and the US have many similarities.  Similarities extend to many elements of culture and institutions, good and bad.  The similarities are often surprising; the differences confuse us, but may be a source of new perspectives. 

 

Domestic and foreign affairs in 2018 – Xi, CCP, DJT, GOP – Part 5 of 5

 

The Anarchic International Systemdestabilize the world

 Xi and Trump are destabilizing the world, and not only because of the tariff conflict.

As John Mearsheimer reminds us, there is no supra-arbiter of conflict between states.  Realism in international relations suggests that fundamental relations can only be based on domestic interests and an interpretation of what other states might do in their own interest.  Political disagreements with other states - nominally power equals as independent countries – are difficult to address without a hegemonic leading country. There can only be balancing of interests.  And there is no question that the world is looking at a rising China and declining US and wondering about great power conflicts and the Thucydides Trap and how hegemony will play out.

 

Cultural Economy

In the old days, before about 1890, there was no field of economics.  There was only political economy, rightly reflecting the link between institutions and laws and the incentives they created.  As Acemoglu and Robinson pointed out in Why Nations Fail, what we call economics arises from the interplay of culture and institutions, and to think that economics is the same for all is to think poorly.

I want to point out some of the ways in which economic thinking can differ across cultures, and explain some of what we see in development in China, and in foreign countries with Chinese companies. 

Economic issues are necessarily paramount for any national leader.  Right now, both Mr. Xi and Mr. Trump derive their legitimacy from promises to achieve national greatness again, and for both, this fervent hope has much citizen – that is, cultural - support.  For Trump, the political slogan is Make America Great Again; for Xi, Made in China 2025, or perhaps, Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era.  

Similar and different – an occasional reflection

As huge economies with large and diverse populations, occupying about the same land area at about the same range of latitudes, China and the US have many similarities.  Similarities extend to many elements of culture and institutions, good and bad.  The similarities are often surprising; the differences confuse us, but may be a source of new perspectives. 

 

Domestic and foreign affairs in 2018 – Xi, CCP, DJT, GOP – Part 4 of 5

 

Harmony and Trust -  civility, social capital, civil society

I want to discuss how these three features of modern society – civility, social capital, and civil society – are now similar in Mr. Xi’s China under CCP domination and Mr. Trump’s US, under GOP domination.  This is by no means a extended look, although this piece is longer than I intended.

Guo jin min tui is the Chinese phrase that expresses policy cycles over centuries – the state advances, the private retreats.  When the state is strong, the room for private initiative declines.  Both Mr. Xi and Mr. Trump would do well to consider the implications in this aphorism.  Both are putting private ideas and private investment and the future of their societies at risk, despite their proclamations to the contrary.  Lucian Pye told us how that works, more than thirty years ago. 

Similar and different – an occasional reflection

As huge economies with large and diverse populations, occupying about the same land area at about the same range of latitudes, China and the US have many similarities.  Similarities extend to many elements of culture and institutions, good and bad.  The similarities are often surprising; the differences confuse us, but may be a source of new perspectives. 

 

Domestic and foreign affairs in 2018 – Xi, CCP, DJT, GOP – Part 3 of 5

Tariff and Tribute - sic transit gloria

Actions by Xi and Trump seem to exhibit astounding ignorance of how the world works – Xi on the relationship culture that is necessary to get things done in the absence of rule of law, Trump on basic econ that should have been learned before his time at Wharton.   Both are substantial disruptors of prior practices that were never codified, but followed by general agreement among prior generations of thoughtful leaders. 

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