Friday, June 20, 2014

ISIS and Responsibility

Summertime used to promise a dry spell in the news cycle-- but the last two years it has been the season when societies crumble and blogs arise from the ashes.  This time last year, it was the NSA/Snowden scandal that was hitting the airwaves-- this summer it is the catastrophe in Iraq.  I guess the hot weather, and the occasional flashes of thirst that strike us as we motor from one air-conditioned location to the next, remind us of the vast parched lands that we are still sort of at war with in the Middle East.  Of course, the people of Iraq don't need much reminding.  Their exposure to car bombs and shootings is not governed by the vagaries of the news cycle.  Nor would the recent ISIS disaster take them so completely by surprise, the way it shocked American readers by its apparent suddenness (myself very much included).  The sectarian civil war in Iraq, often dated strictly to 2006, never really ended for them-- 8,000 people died in Iraq last year from sectarian atrocities and street terrorism, according to Bob Dreyfuss, and the numbers will be much higher in 2014.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Turkey Turns One

This week marks the one year anniversary of the first post on this blog, and I figure a year's worth of weekly posts is enough to earn me the reward of the following entirely self-indulgent exercise, in which I talk about the story of this blog up to this point rather than anything that's happening in the outside world-- assuming, of course, that this isn't essentially what I do in every post on this blog, but more on that later.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Easterly, Development, and Tyranny

"[S]hared hatreds make for strange bedfellows," said Albert Hirschman.  He had in mind the way in which Marxian and libertarian critics of economic development often make the same arguments against the very same things, usually under the false impression that they are attacking each other by doing so -- like two blindfolded duelists bayonetting the same scarecrow and both crying victory. Well, the pattern diagnosed by Hirschman has repeated itself many times in the years since.  Those of us on the Left, for instance, probably thought we had the decisive monopoly on venting spleen against the IMF, the World Bank, and other international development institutions.  How eery, then, to read David Rieff's review of William Easterly's The Tyranny of Experts in the New York Review of Books.  Here we find Easterly, an admirer of Hayek and of free enterprise, charging these very same institutions with committing "imperialism," with shamelessly supporting despots and autocrats in developing countries, and with harboring an arrogant white savior complex.  It is as if we heard the soft verses of "Silent Night" drifting to our ears from the other side of No-Man's Land. "Whatever hope is yours,/ Was my life also," Easterly's book seems to be saying.