Sunday, May 5, 2013

Why Can't the Third World Get It Together?, Why Calling Out Bigots Isn't Anti-Freedom, Is Obama a Lame Duck?

Why Do Some Nations Fail?
I apologize to my dear readers for the lack of recent writing.  I have been sitting on the beach in Jamaica, enjoying the sunshine and pondering the issues of our world (okay, I didn't spend most of the time pondering, I probably spent more time swimming and drinking, but I did think enough to get the idea for this post.)

One of the things that always strikes me when I visit a place like Jamaica is the poverty there.  The per capita GDP in Jamaica is just over $9,000 compared to close to $50,000 for the US and an average of $32,000 for the Euro-zone.  Even second-world countries like Russia and Brazil have per capita GDP's in the $12,000 to $15,000 range.  So, despite some wealthy land owners, Jamaica is poor, very poor.

But why?  There are tremendous natural assets in the country.  It has some of the most coveted beach-front property and nicest weather in the world, leading to a very robust tourism industry.  It has natural resources with huge natural bauxite deposits that has led to a robust export-industry.  It has a great climate for agriculture, leading to strong production of sugar, bananas and plantains.  Yet it is very poor.

The answer is all about infrastructure.  Education is a mess in the country, with only 73% of kids making it through primary school, with less than 50% graduating from high school and even fewer enrolling in college.  The system of finance is poor, with a far less robust system for accumulating and effectively distributing capital than the first world.

A country realizing its economic potential always comes back to a few things, but I'll remind the reader, as these are the investments that should guide our government.  What is required for economic success is:
(1) A robust system of property rights, including intellectual property (i.e. patent law)
(2) A complete end-to-end system of finance that effectively distributes capital to good ideas from venture capital to bond markets to banking, which includes credible financial controls (i.e. you can trust financial statements from potential investments)
(3) A solid system of physical infrastructure - roads, bridges, trains, ports, etc.
(4) An educational system that equips the workforce with needed skills
(5) Strong investment in basic scientific research

In the US, for all our issues, we still compare favorable to most of the world on these measures, although our physical infrastructure and investment in basic science could use some work.

Calling Broussard a Bigot Isn't Anti-Free Speech
People get confused about what free speech means sometimes.  Our first amendment, which I hold very dear, ensures that people are able to express their points of view without interference from the federal government.  Unlike, say, Germany, where you can be arrested for saying you support the Nazis, in the US, the government won't come arrest you for saying you like Adolf Hitler.

What free speech is NOT is a license to say things free from criticism.

Following Jason Collins announcement that he is gay, a significant event in that he is the first man in a major team sport at the top level to come out of the closet in the US (albeit Collins future prospects in the NBA were unclear as he is at best, an aging sixth man without a contract), ESPN Analyst Chris Broussard stated:
"If you're openly living that type of lifestyle, the Bible says you know them by their fruits, it says that that's a sin.  If you're openly living in unrepentant sin, whatever it may be, I believe that's walking in open rebellion to God and Jesus Christ."

Broussard is certainly entitled to his opinion.  He is legally entitled to express it.  But I'm not obligated to show him any respect.  Nor is ESPN obligated to continue to employ him.

Broussard is a bigot, and we should say it.  It is not intolerance to shun the intolerant.  Saying that we have to listen to Broussard's point of view and respect it is absurd.  If an ESPN analyst said that the reason that there are far more white quarterbacks than black despite African-American's overall dominance in the NFL because black people are stupid, he would be fired and shunned, not congratulated on expressing his point of view.

You may not consider what Broussard said as equivalent to racism but I do.  And calling bigots bigots is an important part of driving the social conditions that don't tolerate homophobia.  If homophobia becomes as socially unacceptable as racism or Nazi-party membership, that will be progress.  The bigots will have a right to speak but we will all ignore them.

By the way, kudos to Kobe Bryant for his strong statement of support for Collins.  Kobe, for all his personal shortcomings, showed real leadership in his unequivocal support.  He is still a major superstar and the rest of the NBA looks to the response of players like Bryant.

Lame Duck Already?
Presidential second terms tend to be more quiet because, almost by definition, Presidents are lame ducks from the day of their second inauguration.  President Obama has seemed more lame than most in the start of year 5 of his Presidency.

Gun control?  He couldn't even get a bill passed that was sponsored by 2 NRA members and supported by 90% of the Senate.

Immigration reform?  We can hope, but don't bet on it.

Sequester replacement?  He is nowhere.

Climate control?  Is anyone even TALKING about it?

The President's lack of a relationship with congressional leadership is showing, including in his own party.  It's an open question whether the President will get anything significant done in term number 2.

Blame the GOP all you want, but President Clinton had the same issue in the last 6 years of his Presidency, but got things done by tracking to the center.

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