Hey! Check This Out–the Politics Edition (2022)

A thread posts or links about current events that don’t warrant a separate thread.

The first one I have is an NYT article about U.S. law firms cutting ties with clients–Russian oligarchs, specifically. That’s the good news. Apparently, Putin’s invasion is enough for these firms to put their values or at least their reputation ahead of profits. (Then again, if there wasn’t such strong public backlash, they may not have cut ties.) The bad news is that these wealthy oligarchs will likely find some firm, in the U.S. or West, to take them as clients. This is likely to be an ongoing weakness in the U.S. and Europe. I really hope I’m wrong about this last point.

3 thoughts on “Hey! Check This Out–the Politics Edition (2022)

  1. Is the West Laissez-Faire About Economic Warfare? from War on the Rocks. I thought this was an interesting article, although I need more time to process it. One main idea is that the use of sanctions in lieu of using the military can have significant effects on global economic system, and can actually instigate aggressive behavior. For example, the article explains the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in the 30s in this way:

    The Japanese military elite believed that “the fate suffered by imperial Germany — a national model since the Meiji restoration — at the hands of the Allied blockade had grave implications for their own country.” The invasion of Manchuria was intended to “create a resource-intensive industrial base” in order to give Japan the means to resist sanctions during a “future continuous war.”

    Countries will not only consider military actions to make them resilient to economic warfare, but they may not fully integrate their economy with the global one, which will likely make the global economy less efficient.

    There’s more to digest, but I will mention one other point. The article suggests that the West and other countries that use economic warfare with a “shoot-first-ask-questions-later” approach–that is they’re not really thinking carefully about political and economic implications and consequences these effects will have.

    Here’s another War on the Rocks article that discusses the ways in which economic sanctions can lead to riskier actions.

    ***

    On a related note, the first article references another interesting article from the Guardian about a way to deal with inflation now. Again, I’m not sure I fully understand it, but the author suggests the use of price controls as temporary measure, to deal with inflation. She points to the use of price controls after WWII, where the situation was similar (e.g., bottlenecks in supply chain, pent up demand, companies raising prices to increase profits). My vague understanding is that the government implementing price controls on certain products, preventing companies for gouging consumers, will slow inflation, giving time to resolve other issues leading to inflation (like supply chain problems).

  2. To get a better understanding of inflation, I tried reading op-eds by economists like Paul Krugman and Lawrence Summers. I found them too difficult for me to understand. Fortunately, the following podcasts helped.

    First, NYT’s The Daily had a podcast explaining inflation in the 1970s. The one big takeaway for me: Inflation becomes a huge problem once businesses and consumers begin to believe inflation is something that will continue into the future–that is, people expect prices to continue to rise–to the degree that their present behavior changes. Specifically,

    The seller asks more than he needs, helping to cover the cost increase that’s sure to come. And the buyer buys now because the price will only get worse later.

    People began to change the way they thought about their money, the way they thought about inflation.

    Why aren’t people saving these days?

    The psychology is, well, tomorrow everything is going to cost me more. It’s an inflation cycle, so I better buy now and the heck with saving.

    So Americans began to feel like their money wasn’t going to go as far because prices were so high and they began to ask for higher wages to cover their rising expenses. And you saw that as companies had to pay more, they started charging more to cover their costs. And we ended up in a situation where prices and wages were in this upward spiral and they were kind of chasing each other.

    In other words, a vicious cycle begins. And once that occurred, the way to stop this–slowing down the economy by raising interest rates–was a long, painful process.

    (There’s a ominous part that pertains to Biden. Carter appointed Paul Volker as the FED chair–in spite, or because of, the fact that Volker said he’d raise interest rates, evenn if it would slow the economy. The plan worked–eventually–but in the short term it caused economic pain. My impression was that this contributed significantly to Jimmy Carter’s 1980 loss to Reagan. Carter may have sacrificed his presidency for something that ultimately was best for the country. I hope Biden doesn’t have to be in that position.)

    The second podcast is from the Ezra Klein show, specifically his recent interview with Larry Summers. I’m not finished with this, but what I listened to was helpful.

    I still don’t think I have a great grasp of the causes and solutions for the current inflation, but these two podcasts helped a lot.

  3. How Politics Poisoned the Evangelical Church from Tim Alberta in theAtlantic.

    This is an in-depth report about politics and the evangelical church–mostly focusing on the deleterious impact of Trumpism on the evangelical chuch–although it also features pastors who have pushed back against this, as well as pastors who have attempted to be apolitical in their churches.

    The article is thorough and balanced, but it just occurred to me that they don’t factor in progressive Christians. Is there a way that Progressive politics poisons or hurts the church? I’m wary of promoting political positions, either on the right or left, in churches–particularly if they’re attached to specific public policies. It can be really hard to know which ones are appropriate for Christians to embrace and to what degree the church should embrace them.

    In any event, I think this is a good article for American Christians to read and discuss.

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