A roundup

Snowed under

Its been a busy few weeks. Christmas and new year saw me in the States and since I got back I’ve been hard at work (round the job) on a project. Watch this space and all that…

Ive scribbled a couple of things though which have sort of fallen between the old blog and here. The Commentator, for which I’m Contributing Editor, has carried a couple of my articles this month. First was The economic reality of 2012, a look at the prospects for the global economy in the coming year. Its grim reading but then I think it will be a grim year.

Next up came an article on the coalition government’s attempts to cap the amount of benefits a family can receive to the level of the average national wage. This is such a no brainer in terms of fairness that you wonder how anyone has the gall to oppose it but there you are. I should add that The Commentator have changed the title of every item I have ever sent them. Not this time though, so read up on Why Britain is f*****

I also occasionally contribute to Global Politics and with the US Presidential race revving up I pondered the tricky question of the foreign policy of my favoured candidate, Congressman Ron Paul. Reading is most recent book I found myself wincing at times but I can put that to one side this election because the big question is not whether the US should bomb Iran but whether it will be able to afford to. Anyway, you can read all about it in the unimaginatively named Ron Paul and Foreign Policy

I enjoy writing for Middlebrow Magazine under a non political pseudonym. I try and steer clear of the sorts of topics I cover elsewhere and cover other interests like film, drama, music etc. But my article Animal spirits, Asymmetries and Austrians is a run down of some of the most popular of the spate of recent books on the economic crisis.

That’s all for now. More old rubbish is on the way so, in the words of Shaw Taylor, keep ’em peeled.


Ron Paul and foreign policy


I was in a Minnesota casino hotel room with a six pack watching the results and fallout of the Iowa Caucus. It was the closest I’ve ever come to fulfilling my teenage dream of being the next Hunter S Thompson.

Then Fox News cut away mid speech from Ron Paul, who came in third just 3% behind the nominal winner Mitt Romney, to hear what Newt Gingrich had to say. Newt had come fourth, 9% behind Congressman Paul.

Paul has been getting this sort of treatment all along. Perhaps Fox News believes, like Romney and Gingrich, that Ron Paul’s views on foreign policy place him outside the “mainstream”

The issue Romney and Gingrich were attacking him on was Paul’s opposition to the use of military force to prevent Iran getting a nuclear bomb. This is a hot button issue for the GOP candidates. Speaking after Iowa each of them, except Paul, made a point of mentioning the possibility of confrontation with Iran.

But while Paul’s stance may place him outside the mainstream of Republican presidential candidates it doesn’t place him outside the mainstream of the American public. Polling evidence indicates that opposition to action against Iran is not the sole preserve of half a dozen hippies and that support tumbles when diplomacy is given as an option.

How has Paul come to this position? He is neither opposed to war per se nor even to pre emptive war. He told an audience in Iowa that “You don’t have to wait until they have put their feet on our soil”

Paul’s opposition seems more specific than a simple pacifism. Quite simply, he doesn’t view Iran as a threat. He told the same Iowa audience that “there are no signs” that Tehran is building a bomb. Given that Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta said on CBS’s Meet the Press last night “Are they [Iran] trying to develop a nuclear weapon? Uh, no, but we know that they are trying to develop a nuclear capability,” then the hysteria directed at Paul by his neo-conservative and liberal interventionist critics seems overdone.

Paul has other reasons for not seeing Iran as a threat. He has claimed that the Iranians feel surrounded, with nuclear armed states like Israel and Pakistan on their doorsteps and US military bases in every neighbouring country. The Iranians are acting logically, Paul appears to believe, to actual threats. He spoke of his belief in a reasonable Iran again in Iowa when he said “What are the odds of [the Iranians] using [a nuclear weapon]? Probably zero. They just are not going to commit suicide. The Israelis have 300 of them.” Essentially then, Paul is expecting reasoned behaviour from Tehran.

This is more problematic. When the Iranian president says he wants to see Israel “wiped off the map” is he reacting rationally to perceived dangers or is he just a loon? Just as history shows that interventions can go badly wrong it also shows that some people are exactly as dangerous as they appear to be. Paul’s insistence on seeing unreasonable people as being as reasonable as he is could be a major weakness.

But does it matter? The fact is that with a trillion dollar deficit and a debt ceiling rising like a Fourth of July rocket, America cannot afford another war. To watch presidential candidates speculating on which country to bomb next is like watching a bunch of homeless guys peering through the window of a BMW dealership and wondering which i8 to buy.

The people up in arms about Paul’s foreign policy have got it back to front. America’s wealth was not based on its ability to project military power; its ability to project military power was based on America’s wealth.

America’s most pressing problems are not around foreign policy but the economy and Ron Paul is the only candidate who can really sort this out. Only then will the US regain the strength to consider fresh military exertions. Iran, Syria, whoever, frankly the country whose problems the next president ought to prioritise is America’s. It isn’t always the economy stupid, but in 2012 it certainly is.

This article originally appeared at Global Politics

Do Republicans want a freedom loving candidate for the White House or not?

In referring to beauty contests, John Maynard Keynes once famously said: “It is not a case of choosing those which, to the best of one’s judgment, are really the prettiest, nor even those which average opinion genuinely thinks the prettiest. We have reached the third degree where we devote our intelligences to anticipating what average opinion expects the average opinion to be.”

Ron Paul might not agree with much that Keynes wrote but, applying this insight to his presidential election bid, he might well manage a wry smile of agreement.

Congressman Paul’s liberal views on social issues and non interventionist foreign policy endear him to many left leaning Democrats just as much as his fiscally conservative government- slashing does to conservative Republicans.

He is often the Republican most liked by Democrats, and he polls well among independents. Usually, one would imagine that that would be great news if you’re aiming for the White House.

Yet the man described by an acquaintance of mine as “a crazy nutjob with very extreme financial views,” just can’t catch a break.

This weekend saw the Iowa poll of Republican presidential contenders for 2012. Paul finished second after Michele Bachmann — 28 percent to her 29 percent.

That notwithstanding, on Monday morning Fox News was running items on the GOP’s “Big Three” which included Bachmann, Mitt Romney (who polled three percent in Iowa having not campaigned) and Rick Perry (who polled 0% having not entered the race until after the poll).

Ron Paul, the man who came second, didn’t make Fox’s Big Three.

This matters. During his 2008 run for the Republican nomination Paul broke fundraising records, most of it from individuals. He put together the sort of committed activist network which helped Barack Obama to the White House, and he connected with people who are typically unreceptive to the Republican party.

Yet he was again ignored by the media — Fox News on one occasion inviting all GOP candidates except Paul to take part in a debate.

And, as with Keynes’ beauty contest, the perception that he can’t win, created in large part by the media, becomes self fulfilling. Electors regard him as a wasted vote and switch to the “mainstream” candidates.

In my view, this is America’s loss. Both liberals and conservatives in America claim to love freedom but often they only love a little bit of it.

Liberals support individual freedom over what to do with one’s body, while placing ever greater government claims over the individual’s pay slip. Conservatives, on the other hand, want freedom for the individual to do what he or she wants economically but seek government limits on the social freedoms of others.

Liberals want a woman’s right to choose and big government. Conservatives want a Constitutional ban on gay marriage, and they want small government.

Neither side seems to realise the inherent contradictions in their positions. If maximization of freedom is your guiding maxim then economic and personal freedom are indivisible, and to deny one is to deny the other.

Ron Paul, by contrast, is utterly consistent. He doesn’t want government to interfere in how you dispose of your payslip or your bodily fluids.

The Texan obstetrician is the only consistent candidate in the campaign. Freezing him out of the media will leave the race worse off.

This article originally appeared at The Commentator