Author Archives: jtellerelsberg

Mutually assured hypocrisy w/r/t Iran’s nuclear weapons

This morning’s reports on French President Chirac’s statement that, according to the NYTimes,

“what is dangerous about this situation [Iran acquiring a nuclear bomb] is not the fact of having a nuclear bomb,” he said. “Having one or perhaps a second bomb a little later, well, that’s not very dangerous.

“But what is very dangerous is proliferation. This means that if Iran continues in the direction it has taken and totally masters nuclear-generated electricity, the danger does not lie in the bomb it will have, and which will be of no use to it.”

Mr. Chirac said it would be an act of self-destruction for Iran to use a nuclear weapon against another country.

“Where will it drop it, this bomb? On Israel?” Mr. Chirac asked. “It would not have gone 200 meters into the atmosphere before Tehran would be razed.”

There’s no doubt that this represents lame politics on Chirac’s part, since, if this is his true belief, he shouldn’t have been suggesting otherwise before now (or after, with his bungled attempts at retraction).
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The Second Best Theory of Tortilla Prices

I don’t think that Tim Haab at Environmental Economics subscribes to the Econ-Atrocities, but by happy coincidence he’s written a blog post that would fit perfectly in the series. His topic is the Mexican government’s response to serious inflation in the cost of tortillas, which are a primary staple of the Mexican diet, and poor Mexicans (of which there are plenty) are getting hit by these price hikes like a punch to the gut. Should the Mexican government pursue a policy of price caps for tortialls? The “Theory of the Second Best” offers an interesting angle of analysis. I’ll let Tim explain it himself, but as a teaser here’s a bit of his conclusion:

If the price cap is a response to another inefficient policy, then the price cap may actually improve efficiency. The first best solution would be to remove the policies creating the inefficiently high corn prices. The second best solution might be to create a new policy to counteract the effects of bad policy. That’s the Theory of Second Best.

This all makes best sense as part of his full post, so go read it (it’s not long, so it won’t hurt).

On Carter on Israel, Palestine, and Apartheid

Any present or past President has got to be used to being scorned, so the hue and cry now erupting over Jimmy Carter’s new book on the Israeli-Palestinian misery can’t be terribly surprising for him. I haven’t yet had a chance to read the book and so am not in a position to endorse or reject or somewhere-in-the-middle it. Still, some of the reaction is so clearly based on attacking Carter himself, rather than the content of his book–indeed it seems to be attacking Carter instead of attacking his arguments–and that’s just plain wrong. An example.
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Polanyi’s labor market blastocyst

Over at the Boston Review, Michael Piore and Andrew Schrank’s recent article (“Trading Up: An embryonic model for easing the human costs of free markets“) on labor in Latin America offers a spot of good news. They’ve been studying labor inspections throughout the region, from the Dominican Republic to Mexico to Brazil and Chile, and say they’ve found “an emergent model for reconciling market and social forces.”
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Annals of unexpected consequences: gay escort to halt global warming?

For all that social sciences are able to figure out patterns of behavior, there’s one thing that guarantees a continuing need for old fashioned history analysis: the existence of totally unpredictable twists and turns in culture and politics.

Now I can’t say with any confidence that the recent fall from grace of Rev. Ted Haggard, until this past Thursday the president of the huge and hugely influential National Association of Evangelicals and leader of a megachurch in Colorado Springs, will be one of those surprisingly pivotal events. But there’s a distinct possibility that his outing as a repeat customer of male prostitution could lead to major changes in US policy and cultural attention towards global warming.
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