What’s It All About Alfie?

Well I suppose it’s better to end the week on a bang rather than a whimper, so here I go with another of those posts. What really ended the week on a high note (or should I say a low one) was the US labour market. And since I am arguing that the euro-dollar parity is being driven at the moment by US labour market data, this news can only mean one thing: more upward pressure on the euro. Which makes me only want to re-iterate, and even more strongly, that an important opportunity was wasted yesterday to take some remedial action by lowering the interest rate. Remedial action which would also have supplied a much needed lifeline to Germany’s beleagured economy. But this, like so many things, was not to be.
Continue reading

Networks and Language in Europe (and More)

Many thanks to the good folks at AFOE for the invitation to guest-blog here for a while. To include a non-European and non-European-resident among this crowd is not a little humbling; I hope I do the blog justice. I have no handy bio available, so suffice to say that I’m an academic, I teach political philosophy, once lived in Germany (but not for nearly long enough), now live in Arkansas, and often stay up late trying to get our two-month-old daughter to go to sleep. For more information, feel free to peruse my own blog, W?ldchen vom Philosophenweg.

Recently I ran across a fascinating article by James C. Bennett, he of “Anglosphere” fame. The article, one of the cover features of the most recent issue of The National Interest, is titled “Networking Nation-States” and is heavy-laden with ideas and insights. Bennett is an unapologetic defender of the globalized free market, who sees politics through the prism of contract and transaction, meaning that he understands healthy polities to be those which maximize fluidity, entrepreneurship, reflexivity and innovation, with little distinctions between the political and the economic spheres. Like some others here at AFOE, I find this kind of neoliberal triumphalism wearying. But I forgive Bennett because he has such an intriguing grasp of the related issues of “space” and language in the construction of societies. Those interested in the EU, and the argument over its relationship to traditional understandings of political identity and sovereignty (which I tend to think is a complicated philosophical matter, and not simply an IR debate over terminology), would do well to think hard about what Bennett is saying.
Continue reading

Odd, But Interesting

Gregg Easterbrook of the New Republic writes:

MOSCOW LOST THE COLD WAR, BUT DREAMS OF WINNING THE GLOBAL WARMING WAR: Why won’t Russia ratify the Kyoto Treaty? It would seem very much in Moscow’s interest to do so.

The United States has dropped out of Kyoto negotiations, but most other Western nations remain in. Russia now holds the swing vote on whether Kyoto goes into effect for most Western nations except the United States. If Kyoto actually did take effect, requiring most Western nations to make dramatic reductions in greenhouse gases, Europe would inevitably end up involved in “carbon trading” with Moscow. The European Union would invest in modernization of Russian industry, in order to reduce Russian greenhouse-gas emissions; then Europe would buy the reduction credits so created. The European Union also would reduce its use of greenhouse-offender coal, substituting lower-carbon natural gas from Russia. Thus it seems Moscow and its industries would come out a winner under a Kyoto regime. Yet the Duma has been resisting ratification of Kyoto for two years, and yesterday, Vladimir Putin said he is also opposed.

Possible reason for Russian resistance–Moscow wants global warming! Much of the world might suffer, but the freezing former Soviet states might be better off. The agricultural region of Russia might expand significantly, while Siberia became reasonably habitable. If Siberia and other ice regions became reasonably habitable, global warming would effectively be expanding Russian territory by climate change, not war. And what government doesn’t want more territory?

Sidelight: Why does Germany favor the Kyoto Treaty? Not so much for greenhouse reasons but so that Berlin can shut down the country’s subsidized, politically powerful coal-mining industry. German leaders have wanted for decades to cut subsidies for coal production–even the presumably pro-labor current government wants this–because coal mined in Germany costs more than twice the world price, mainly owing to featherbedded work rules. Every move to reign in the German coal industry has been greeted by public howls. But if Berlin could blame a coal shut-down on an international obligation, and polls show the Kyoto accord is very popular among Germans, the equation would change.

+++

The sidelight is even odder and even more interesting. Hmm.