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Monday message board

January 15th, 2007

It’s time, once again for the Monday Message Board. As usual, civilised discussion and absolutely no coarse language, please.

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  1. gordon
    January 15th, 2007 at 09:19 | #1

    US economist and blogger Brad deLong is depressed about the poor performance of NAFTA in improving the well-being of Mexico and lots of Mexicans. In the linked piece he makes the interesting remark: “Our current systems of politics and economics, around the world, are legitimized not because they are just or optimal but because they deliver a modicum of peace coupled with rapid economic growth and increases in living standards.” So this means that “current systems of politics and economics” aren’t legitimate if they don’t deliver? I wonder if he realises what he said?

  2. wilful
    January 15th, 2007 at 09:45 | #2

    That sounds about right. Singapore is a happy yet undemocratic country (‘legitimate’ in the eyes of its residents) because it delivers its residents peace and wealth. The USA is less ‘legitimate’ in the eyes of many of its residents because it’s not as successful in delivering those items. The Howard government is popular because it has taken credit for rising living standards, despite not being particularly big on all of those things that academically or classically are meant to deliver legitimacy, such as being open and transparent and spending our dollars wisely.

  3. January 15th, 2007 at 09:56 | #3

    Thanks for the article Gordon, a good read. I spent some time in the mid-90′s looking at NAFTA and have spent some time in Mexico. I certainly feel that like most international treaties and trade deals things never end up going as well or as badly as optimists or doomsayers predict. I suspect if you did a close examination of Mexico and the impact of NAFTA you would find significant regional disparities within the Mexican economy. In otherwords some regions such as the southern state of Chiapas has long been extremely poor and there may not have been a significant improvement however other regions such as Baja California Sur bordering the US would have done extremely well.

    Frankly, it astounds me that there is still even a debate about the merits of free trade considering it has been one of the biggest global drivers of wealth creation. The problem for developing countries is not free trade but rather when farmers in rural France or Iowa or Japanese rice growers in Japan influence government policy to prevent free trade. Yet another example of why more government not less is the problem.

  4. January 15th, 2007 at 13:03 | #4

    I think that’s a misreading. Delong isn’t making an assertion about what does or does not make a state/economy ethically legitimate, but about what makes it legitimate in the other, Congress of Vienna sense.

    That is, a regime is legitimate if enough people think it is, give it the benefit of the doubt and so on, so that it has resources to spare to ignore or deal directly with any dissidents. That may be a spurious ethical source, so long as it is sufficiently accepted – but obviously the more ethical the more (utilitarian) better.

    That’s the groundwork. Now look again at what Delong asserted: in this light, it means that a system that does not deliver will (ethically rightly or ethically wrongly) erode that base of acceptance.

  5. observa
    January 15th, 2007 at 15:01 | #5

    Speaking of the pros and cons of belonging to international clubs, I see John Bolton is testing the waters on a United Liberal Democratic Nations (well sort of if you read between the lines)
    http://www.news.com.au/story/0,10117,21058476-401,00.html?from=public_rss
    On PML’s point it is quite true that too broad a church can fail to deliver and thereby lack legitimacy for the membership.

  6. still working it out
    January 15th, 2007 at 18:10 | #6

    “I wonder if he realises what he said?”

    I believe he knows what he is implicitly saying. If I remember correctly his focus is economic history and I my general interpretation of his thinking from reading his blog quite closely is that he attributes peaceful modern societies in large part long generally sustained economic growth (correctly in my view). He has posted quite a few times on the link between poor economic performance and disastrous political problems and seems to see it as argument in favour of treating economic growth as a moral issue. He very aware that poor economic growth correlates with major political problems.

  7. Jill Rush
    January 15th, 2007 at 19:58 | #7

    If we are comfortable we won’t worry about our freedoms. That must be why it has been so quiet about all of the Australian political parties who were deregistered on 27 December and have barely rated a mention in the media and the ID card which is insecure but contains a lot of information about us is about to be introduced. Big Brother will be truly watching us all while making it harder to have anything other than main stream opinions.

  8. January 15th, 2007 at 21:02 | #8

    For a perspective on ID card issues, try here.

    But tell us more about deregistered parties. For myself, I would much rather have arrangements in which no parties had special status. That way, there would be less politician priesthood mediating between voters and what happens, and there would be a more realistic safety valve; consider what would have happened if only Pauline Hanson could have got everything out of people’s systems as an independent, with no residual One Nation Party.

  9. January 15th, 2007 at 22:26 | #9

    A tangential thought to the thread: I have been wondering about the economic significance of professional sport in the Australian economy. I am guessing that the major football codes and cricket would have turnovers in well in excess of $100 million. It seems to me that those and similar sports, perhaps excluding horse and dog racing, would have some sort of measurable economic significance. The capacity to generate revenue would I suspect be a function of competitiveness, so for example it would seem to me that Australian cricket might have an economic interest in the health of English cricket. It just seems to me that economists might have answers and opinions about this type of speculation.

  10. pablo
    January 16th, 2007 at 20:44 | #10

    While on the subject of political parties, I wonder if you could get a bi- or multi-partisan agreement in the run up to an election for zero electronic media advertising. The increasing obsenity of publicly and privately funding campaigns, the rorts, the cynicism is something that is reaching an end point in my view. The example of Iemma and Debnam arguing over debating – sitting or standing, the mis-use of government (re: tax) funds for party political purposes ( green energy tv ads running currently in NSW);the Pauline Hanson Australian Electoral Office payout. The issue is reaching absurd levels akin to the US monstrosity. Access to electronic advertising is largely the driver. So why don’t we do something about this elephant in the room?

  11. Bring Back CL’s blog
    January 17th, 2007 at 10:06 | #11

    I rarely read fiction but each christmas I read Lord of the Rings ( must be the greatest ever novel) and the Dune series.
    This year I started the Dune series and found apart from the first ,Dune and the last two the others were frankly boring.
    Is this merely old age setting in.

    I am finding the West Wing better and better as they concentrate on the primaries. Who could not who has been involved, directly or indirectly, in elections.

    What is more the good guys make mistakes and the bad guys win as well.
    Real good stuff for lovers of US politics

  12. gordon
    January 17th, 2007 at 11:41 | #12

    P.M.Lawrence says (a propos of the deLong quote at the beginning of the thread):”…a regime is legitimate if enough people think it is, give it the benefit of the doubt and so on…” I’m not sure that is what deLong said (though it may be what he meant). Rather than counting heads to determine legitimacy, I took deLong to mean that it is open to each and every Mexican to decide for him/herself whether the existing regime is legitimate, and if any individual decides that the regime isn’t delivering “… a modicum of peace coupled with rapid economic growth and increases in living standards”, that individual could determine that the regime is illegitimate and take appropriate action. This might include “illegal” actions.

    The issue of legitimacy is implicitly raised earlier in the deLong piece from which I quoted, where he says: “After stealing the presidency of Mexico from the true choice of the voters — Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas — Carlos Salinas de Gortari decided at the start of the 1990s to pursue policies of “neoliberal reform.â€? There is a Wikipedia article on Cardenas which mentions these events.

    Putting the two quotes together, DeLong’s point seems to be that even if you believed Salinas de Gortari did “steal” the Presidency from Cardenas, the Gortari Presidency could still be regarded as legitimate if it delivered the successes deLong mentions – essentially peace and prosperity. But deLong seems to leave this decision open to each individual. It strikes me as an extremely unguarded (but very interesting) remark, for two reasons. First, deLong’s peace and prosperity benchmark is elastic – how much peace and prosperity? Peace and prosperity for whom? Second, if individuals can decide for themselves whether a Govt. is illegitimate or not according to deLong’s benchmark, why can’t they decide for themselves whether to adopt deLong’s benchmark itself?

    Unguarded or not, deLong’s remark is realistic. In the real world, that is exactly the way things do happen. Many Puritans decided in the seventeenth century that the English Govt. was illegitimate, and left. Later, other Puritans joined a revolt. There is also a parallel with any country subject to a foreign-controlled puppet Govt., whether wartime France (occupied or Vichy) or contemporary Iraq. Though legally illegitimate, such a Govt. might conceivably deliver peace and prosperity. DeLong may think such an achievement renders it legitimate, but he has left the way open to argue about whether it has delivered enough and/or whether some other benchmark should be adopted. Most of all, he has left it up to the individual. DeLong has legitimised revolution.

  13. gordon
    January 17th, 2007 at 12:26 | #13

    In my dreams, Tesco and Marks & Spencer (M&S) could be replaced by Coles and Woolworths, and this story from The Independent (16/1/07) could be about Australia and not the UK. Winning cricket matches seems a poor compensation, somehow…

    “…Tesco has already stated its corporate commitment towards reducing climate change by, for example, pledging to invest £100m in sustainable environmental technology; halving its energy use per square foot by 2010; and reducing the amount of carbon dioxide produced per case of product delivered by 30 per cent by 2009.

    But Tesco’s plans have so far stopped well short of promising to make its business carbon neutral – the pledge made by Marks & Spencer in the £200m “eco-plan” it unveiled yesterday.

    Stuart Rose, M&S’s chief executive, said he had “signed my life away in blood” in terms of the group’s commitment to tackle the “enormous challenges of climate change and waste”. Calls from private investors flooded the lines to his office yesterday, he said, welcoming the move, despite the inevitable cost.

    M&S intends to reduce its carbon emissions by 80 per cent by 2012 by using more renewable energy and doubling the amount of food sourced from the UK and Ireland within 12 months. It will only offset its energy needs “as a last resort” to cover the environmental hit from air freighting products such as out-of-season blueberries to its stores.

    It intends to slap a sticker on all products flown in by air to see if that encourages shoppers to switch instead to locally-grown alternatives…”

  14. gordon
    January 17th, 2007 at 12:28 | #14

    In my dreams, Tesco and Marks & Spencer (M&S) could be replaced by Coles and Woolworths, and this story from The Independent (16/1/07) could be about Australia and not the UK. Winning cricket matches seems a poor compensation, somehow…

    “…Tesco has already stated its corporate commitment towards reducing climate change by, for example, pledging to invest £100m in sustainable environmental technology; halving its energy use per square foot by 2010; and reducing the amount of carbon dioxide produced per case of product delivered by 30 per cent by 2009.

    “But Tesco’s plans have so far stopped well short of promising to make its business carbon neutral – the pledge made by Marks & Spencer in the £200m “eco-plan” it unveiled yesterday.

    “Stuart Rose, M&S’s chief executive, said he had “signed my life away in blood” in terms of the group’s commitment to tackle the “enormous challenges of climate change and waste”. Calls from private investors flooded the lines to his office yesterday, he said, welcoming the move, despite the inevitable cost.

    “M&S intends to reduce its carbon emissions by 80 per cent by 2012 by using more renewable energy and doubling the amount of food sourced from the UK and Ireland within 12 months. It will only offset its energy needs “as a last resort” to cover the environmental hit from air freighting products such as out-of-season blueberries to its stores.

    “It intends to slap a sticker on all products flown in by air to see if that encourages shoppers to switch instead to locally-grown alternatives…”

  15. Jill Rush
    January 17th, 2007 at 21:48 | #15

    PM Lawrence
    There were 19 small parties deregistered for not winning a seat in Parliament and also for having titles with the words green, Labour etc. They were fringe and many were single issue and some have indicated that they will seek registration again – although this is by no means certain. However apart from Crikey and the SMH I have heard nothing else. The increase in electoral officers in the election year to deal with emails suggests that all avenues to reelection will be explored by the incumbents. I had always assumed that the reason that emails weren’t responded to was that there is no excuse for many of the actions of the incumbents and that it was not laziness but tactical not to write and defend the indefensible such as the indefinite detention of David Hicks and the unfair Industrial Relations laws.

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