4 October 2017   Leave a comment

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson held an unusual press conference today in which he denied reports from NBC News that he was close to reigning this past summer because of comments President Trump had made to the Boy Scouts of America.  Provocatively, however, he did not directly deny having called the President a “moron”.  Tillerson has been undermined by the President on several occasions, most recently when Trump tweeted that negotiations with North Korea were not worth pursuing while Tillerson was in China requesting Chinese help in supporting those negotiations.  Discord between the President and his aides seems to be endemic, but seemed also to be directed toward an exclusively American audience.  President Trump does not seem to be aware of how foreign audiences and foreign diplomats assess that discord–the net effect is to diminish seriously the credibility of the US in world affairs.

Dani Rodrik is one of my favorite economists–he is smart, intellectually nimble and creative, and engaging.  He has written an essay whose title initially caught me short: “Why Nation-States are Good”.  Economists generally have a low regard for nation-states because they impede the free flow of the factors of production and often distort markets.  Rodrik, however, points out the necessary role of nation-states to establish codes of conduct that make economic transactions possible and which allow markets to coordinate activity more efficiently.  It is a well-written and provocative essay.

Peace of Westphalia, 1648

 

On this day in 1957 the Soviet Union launched a satellite, named Sputnik, and ushered in the Space Age.   The satellite was quite small and emitted only a small beep that ham radio operators on earth could hear.  The scientific merits of the accomplishment, however, were vastly overshadowed by the strategic implications of the satellite.  The USSR proved that it could launch what we would later call an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).  The reaction in the US was dramatic–immediately Americans began to ask questions about whether the US was scientifically competitive with the Soviets.  More importantly, the US lost the strategic invulnerability sustained by the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans as ICBMs would ultimately be perfected so that the American homeland would be open to a Soviet rocket attack with nuclear weapons.

Posted October 4, 2017 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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