Tag Archives: Walter Russell Mead

“Argentina has not yet chosen to grow.”

As I previously blogged, Argentina has put in new controls to prevent capital flight. Those controls will make the problem worse. Walter Russell Mead sees the same problem.

Argentina has had more than its fair share of booms and busts. Even slight turmoil in the markets makes Argentines jittery and worried. Analysts worry that efforts to stop capital flight by the government have only made things worse.  They are right.

Argentina has long seen itself as Brazil’s chief rival for the leadership of South America.  In the last twenty years, the gap between the two has grown.  Brazil has made serious economic and institutional reforms that have resulted in a society that is both more just and more prosperous.  Argentina has lunged from one failed experiment to the next.  Brazil is trying to control capital influx; Argentina is fighting capital flight.  Brazilian companies are investing around the world and becoming recognized as leaders in a number of fields; Argentine companies are trapped in labyrinthine restrictions and have yet to make much impression in the world beyond. Brazil still faces many obstacles and problems but has made a decisive break with the futility of underdevelopment; Argentina is still stuck in the quagmire.

He is a little more optimistic than I am:

At some point a critical mass of Argentines will note the difference between the development trajectories of the two countries and build a political movement to put Argentina on a sustainable course.

In my opinion, they have no yet begun to exhaust their reservoir of self-defeating policies, and the Argentine populace seems impervious to that realization.

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“Putting green lipstick on a pig doesn’t turn that pig into Ralph Nader.”

Mead on green subsidies:

Advocates of industrial policy have been pointing to ‘smart subsidies’ for green technology as proof that government can function as an effective venture capitalist, directing subsidies effectively toward ‘sunrise’ industries.

We will probably be hearing less of those claims now as the public digests the massive excess, failure and fraud that have turned the Obama administration’s green subsidy program into a symbol of good intentions gone awry.  It turns out public policy is hard, and not every green minded NGO apparatchik is very good at hard things.

Decrying what it calls a “gold rush” mentality that primarily benefited companies like Goldman Sachs and others in need of no special help, a recent article in the New York Times surveyed a range of projects where taxpayer and ratepayer subsidies have taken all risk from the private sector and all but guaranteed large profits “for years to come.”  Even some of the companies involved in the porkfest acknowledge that things got a little out of hand; some projects that have been heavily subsidized “would have been built anyway,” they say.  The drunken sailor on shore leave style economic stimulus spending gets special attention as wasteful, misguided and lavished on corporate welfare for energy giants.

Read the rest here.

President Obama was recently asked my George Stephanopoulos on GMA if he regretted the Solyndra loan. No, he said, because you have to look at the whole portfolio of investments. They knew that some of the loans would fail, as many investments do.

First, based on recent investigations, the White House team feared that Solyndra was a failing business model before the loan guarantee was granted. Second, the government should play a minimal role, if a role at all, in venture capitalism. As was noted, many of the projects that were heavily subsidized would have been built anyway, but now the government can claim the credit for the success and growth. With that credit comes a license to spend more, and with increased spending comes increased waste.

When looking at the whole portfolio, as President Obama instructs us to do, we should see a stronger case for the government to cut many such green subsidies.

 

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Why We Celebrate Columbus Day

Courtesy of Via Meadia:

The usual grumblings attend the day on which we commemorate the most famous illegal immigrant in the history of the Americas, an undocumented wanderer from Spain who brought plagues, fire and the sword from the Old World to the New.

Columbus Day is our most confused holiday celebration, one in which the public understanding of the day has shifted the farthest from the intent of those who instituted the observance.

In American history, the fight to make a holiday on Columbus Day actually had almost nothing to do with the actual arrival of Christopher Columbus in the western hemisphere. It wasn’t about celebrating the European conquest of the Americas or the extirpation of the native tribes.

The day was made a holiday after years of lobbying as a way of recognizing the contribution of Roman Catholics and immigrants generally to American life. It is a holiday to celebrate diversity, not to commemorate the imperial outreach of Ferdinand and Isabella, a deeply regrettable couple who were notorious oath breakers, inquisitors and anti-Semites.

Columbus Day is not an imperialistic holiday. It is a celebration of American diversity, a long overdue recognition of the importance of Catholics and immigrants in American life. It is a celebration we share with our Hispanic neighbors in the New World and it is a day that testifies to our growing understanding that religious and ethnic pluralism aren’t problems for our American heritage; pluralism is central to our identity as a people.

That American Indian activists want to use the day to make a point is OK with me; they have a point to make. But Columbus Day is a holiday that was created to celebrate the dignity and equality of Americans regardless of origin or creed, and that in my view is an excellent reason for the country to take the day off.

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