Supply and Demand of Government Resources

By systematically underpricing the costs of government resources through tax cuts and deficit spending, Republicans have driven up demand and consumption for those government resources.  If taxes were raised to reflect the actual cost of those government services, presumably the demand for those services would decrease.  Granted, different services have different levels of price elasticity, so demand changes would not be uniform across the state sector.  None the less, I think applying a simple microeconomic model to government services like any other good or service is a useful exercise.  In fact, this entire idea underpins Bruce Bartlett’s good attack on Republican “starve-the-beast” ideology.

Supply and Demand of Government Resources

I’ve been meaning to write more on the new START treaty and what its significance is in of itself, and, more broadly, what Republican opposition means for U.S. international relations.  This article on Libyan nuclear disarmament shows that U.S.-Russian nuclear cooperation is really the only game in town, if you want to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of terrorists:

In November 2009, six years after the government of Libya first agreed to disarm its nuclear weapons program, Libyan nuclear workers wheeled the last of their country’s highly enriched uranium out in front of the Tajoura nuclear facility, just east of Tripoli. U.S. and Russian officials overseeing Libya’s disarmament began preparations to ship this final batch of weapons-grade nuclear material to Russia, where it would be treated and destroyed.

The plan was to load the uranium onto a massive Russian cargo plane, one of the few in the world specially equipped to fly nuclear materials. On November 20, the day before the plane was to leave for a nuclear facility in Russia, Libyan officials unexpectedly halted the shipment. Without explanation, they declared that the uranium would not be permitted to leave Libya. They left the seven five-ton casks out in the open and under light guard, vulnerable to theft by the al-Qaeda factions that still operate in the region or by any rogue government that learned of their presence.

For one month and one day, U.S. and Russian diplomats negotiated with Libya for the uranium to be released and flown out of the country. At the same time, engineers from both countries worked to secure the nuclear material from theft or leakage, two serious dangers that became more likely the longer the casks sat exposed. On December 21, Libya finally allowed a Russian plane to remove the casks, ending Libya’s nuclear weapons program and with it the low-grade game of nuclear blackmail they had been playing.

The month-long crisis, never revealed by the Obama administration or reported in the press, is recorded in U.S. State Department documents obtained by The Atlantic. Those documents tell the story of frantic diplomatic maneuvering as U.S. and Russian officials pushed Libyan leaders to honor their disarmament pledge. A person with access to the cables provided them to The Atlantic in order to publicize the dangers of loose nuclear materials under the control of unpredictable regimes in unstable countries.

The fact that Republicans seem to be willing to risk loose nukes due to lack of U.S. oversight and cooperation with Russia is astounding. It also shows how casual their disregard to U.S. national security interests is when their political interests differ from national ones.

Cable News in the Developing World

I found the coverage of the Chilean mining disaster disconcerting, but could not really put a finger on why.  I found it vaguely wrong to swoop in and do a media blitzkrieg on the successful resolution of the collapse, when so many greater systemic tragedies occur all the time in Latin America, and elsewhere, in the developing world.  I had no good way of explaining this notion any better.  Maura R. O’Connor, however, articulates this line of thinking much better and uses the ongoing disaster in Haiti as an example:

CNN’s twenty-four-hour coverage of the aftermath of Haiti’s earthquake, which took an estimated 300,000 lives, doubled the network’s viewership. This coverage undoubtedly played a role in the America public’s response to the tragedy—one out of two Americans donated money to aid organizations. But little reporting has been done since then that asks how exactly that money is being spent, holds aid organizations accountable to their promises, or investigates the American government’s development and economic policies in the country. These policies, argues sociologist Alex Dupuy, have kept Haiti frozen in a destructive cycle of aid-dependence and exploitation for decades, stripping Haiti of its self-determination. “For the level of tragedy, no one’s really being very honest,” said Michael Fairbanks, a development expert, of the American and international community’s rhetoric about Haiti since the earthquake. “[Haitians] are constantly put into the position of adolescence and being infantilized so they can prey on the charity from the rest of the hemisphere.”

The longer American news outlets ignore these critical and complex issues, the easier it will become to view their occasional jaunts to Haiti with cynicism: it’s an convenient place to get B-roll of tragedy and disaster. Their coverage increases viewership, but without a moral component of responsibility towards Haitians themselves over the long-term, such coverage is basically exploitative. And over time, superficial reporting on Haiti’s problems—which plays a role in soliciting charitable donations from Americans-will arguably make the media culpable in the very system of aid-dependence and misguided development policies that help keep Haiti poor.

Cable News in the Developing World