Wednesday, May 14, 2008

PeP Links and Random Thoughts

Bob Barr is running for president on the Libertarian Party ticket. However, Bob Barr is no libertarian. He is a small government conservative. So while he is a critic of the expansion of executive power and the war in Iraq there are areas he is where he significantly departs from libertarian priorities: he is a hardcore drug warrior, anti-immigration, and a social conservative. Actually, Barr represents basically what the conservative coalition candidates have been about until Bush: an unrealistic fiscal plan (heavy on tax cuts/heavy on spending cuts) as a sop to Grover Norquist and business conservatives, skepticism/hostility of government (and military intervention abroad) to entice libertarians, and an emphasis of hostility towards gays and a firm pro-life position to appeal to social conservatives. In a tight election, I think Barr's presence would be a significant problem for McCain, much more so than Nader was for Gore. He cannot be dismissed out of hand as fringe character (he was a significant player in the Republican party till not too long ago). Nevertheless, I think Obama (or in the off chance that Clinton snatches the nomination away) will trounce McCain, thus Barr's impact is likely to be irrelevant.

Go read Cato-Unbound's lead essay. The topic is the resource curse. The author, Leif Wenar, proposes approaching the resource curse as a property rights issue. His premise is that a given country's resource is the property not of the government but of the people. What he is getting at is that every country should have some sort of trust fund like in Alaska where people are reaping the dividends of extracted resources. I think that's a great idea, but his proposal for bringing a resource trust about are troubling on many dimensions and impractical. He presents the scenario of Sudan selling $3billion of oil to China and plowing the money into its civil war/ethnic cleansing. The US would create a trust for the Sudanese people and impose tariffs on Chinese imports till there was $3 billion in the fund. It's one of those ideas that strikes you as novel, sort of an aha moment, and then of a sudden you realize its massive flaws. For instance, how do you get the money to the Sudanese people? What if you actually get money into the hands of actual Sudanese as opposed to the government only to find that they use the money to arm themselves? Should Europe impose tariffs on US imports to fund a trust for Iraqis? What if the Sudanese use the monies received to invest in infrastructure or education? etc. Anyhow, it's an interesting if clumsy attempt to grapple with a very serious problem.

Anne Applebaum makes the case for intervening in Burma. I guess if we are invading Iraq for among other reasons to promote democracy, why not invade a country for strictly humanitarian reasons. This is the dangerous logic that Iraq has spawned. I don't know quite what one does. Do you fly over Burmese airspace and carpet bomb them with food, clothing and medicine? I do think these types of tragedies are situations where the US should be grabbing onto to try to improve our international reputation.

Over at Gristmill they have a good rundown on McCain's cap and trade plan. The takeaway is that it is nowhere near as serious as Obama's plan but does pass the laugh test. A low bar admittedly, but I have low expectations for McCain. For me a cap and trade is clearly inferior to a carbon tax, and a cap and trade that does not auction permits is piss poor. Though, sometimes piss poor is an improvement (which is possibly the case).

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