Monday, April 7, 2008

Economic theory ignores reality

Richard Rahn made the common mistake of confusing academic theory with reality when he wrote “citizens of the United States are better off buying Chinese-made shirts and the Chinese are better off buying U.S.-made Boeing 747s” (“Trading in recklessness,” Commentary, Wednesday). He is updating David Ricardo’s two-centuries-old example of England trading cloth for Portuguese wine.

In Ricardo’s day, textile manufacturing was the spearhead of the Industrial Revolution. A static world of comparative advantage where England would dominate manufacturing was called “free trade imperialism” by those who were not content to accept their assigned place in a lower economic tier. Other powers, including the United States, eventually surpassed British industry by adopting economic nationalism. The same applies to Mr. Rahn’s modern example. The Chinese are not content with just selling shirts. They are building their own aerospace industry, mandating the transfer of technology and a share of production from Boeing (and Airbus) to speed their effort. They wish to be producers, not merely consumers, of advanced products.

International economics is about competition, with everyone striving to increase wealth and power. In a dynamic world, comparative advantage is created, not just discovered in nature as the classical economists Mr. Rahn quotes seemed to believe. Government policies promoting investment, research and exports are part of this competition. So are policies that protect national champions who can lead the way to future progress and expansion. Mr. Rahn would have Americans assume a passive role in this intense international rivalry, but that is a prescription for defeat ” and the reason the United States is running trade deficits of more than $700 billion a year. The harmonious world of academic theory is nowhere in sight.


Senior fellow

U.S. Business and Industry Council


On our own soil

I would be more impressed by Alan Nathan’s condemnation of Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s comments about World War II if the brave black soldiers Mr. Nathan mentioned hadn’t come home to a country that wasn’t totally free for another 20 years (“Politics of race,” Op-Ed, Tuesday). When conservatives talk about oppression in other lands, do they realize that there is a generation of grandparents in this country that experienced it right here on this soil? How people deal with it can be debated, but to gloss over it as if it’s easy to forgive and forget is insulting.



Terrorists target aid programs

Harlan Ullman writes that in order to stem Muslim radicalization in Pakistan, the United States should make “the fight against the militants Pakistan’s war, not America’s” (“What about Pakistan?” Web site, Op-Ed, March 29). Certainly, this prescription is apt. However, substantially increasing U.S. direct economic assistance is far from certain to achieve success.

Last year, Taliban leaders in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) convinced the local population that an Islamabad-sponsored polio vaccination program was actually a U.S. attempt to sterilize Muslim children. As a result, 24,000 children did not receive a vaccination and the head of Pakistan’s vaccine program was assassinated. Unfortunately, this type of reaction to U.S. assistance programs is commonplace in the Pakistani-Afghan border region.

Given the track record of U.S. aid programs in FATA, will more U.S. dollars create greater security or more instability?



Hypocrisy and home-schooling

I appreciated Cheryl Wetzstein’s analysis in the article “Home-school ruling centers on protection,” (Nation, Thursday) for exposing the real motivation for a California court’s proposed restrictions for home schooling. Previously, home-schooling advocates denounced the ruling as government meddling that would stifle the innovative home-schooling community. As I expected, this response was one-sided and opportunistic. Unlike Ms. Wetzstein, many advocates failed to mention what provoked the ruling.

The Children’s Law Center of Los Angeles intervened on behalf of two home-schooled students who sought to escape abuse and neglect in a home-school environment. The intent of the ruling was to provide children with education, safety and well-being, regardless of their choice of schooling.

Curiously, home-schooling advocates fail to practice what they preach in regard to government meddling. I have met many advocates locally who work for the dreaded government or a contractor whose livelihood depends upon the government. Also, let us not forget Rusty Yates, whose ex-wife killed all five of their children in 2001. While the Yateses home-schooled their children and complained of government influence in the public schools, he had earned his living from NASA, a government agency, since graduating from college. Mrs. Wetzstein finally highlighted the advocates’ contradictions and duplicity.



Clintonian dissembling

To Michelle Malkin’s excellent account of presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Clinton’s propensity for “congenital dissembling” of the truth (“Truth deficit disorder,” Commentary, March 29), I would add that the multifaced senator from New York also finds herself in a threefold political mess of her own making, from which she may not be able to exit gracefully.

In her many ploys to win the Democratic Party’s nomination, Mrs. Clinton portrayed herself in contradictory terms: first as a strong woman who is the most eligible because of her alleged experience, then as a frail woman brought to tears by boorish male opponents and finally as a victim again, this time at the hands of debate moderators who, in her view, were unfair to her. When these ploys failed dismally, the Clinton machine embarked in a scorched-earth campaign to bring down the upstart Sen. Barack Obama by injecting fear of a black candidate in Muslim dress whose middle name is Hussein.

In dismissing Mr. Obama’s win in the South Carolina primary simply as a fairy tale and equating it to another black candidate’s win there years ago, former President Bill Clinton effectively introduced race and identity politics into the campaign, obviously designed to define Mr. Obama as a black candidate who could win only in states with predominantly black populations. This, however, only succeeded in exacerbating race issues, thus mobilizing the black community and thousands of young people to vote for the young and charismatic senator from Illinois.

Also, while Mrs. Clinton criticizes Mr. Obama for associating with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, she still has not denounced a diatribe by the Rev. James Manning, a supporter of hers, for calling Mr. Obama “trash” because he was born to a “trashy white woman.”

Trying to boost her foreign policy credentials by falsely saying she was under sniper fire in a war zone in Bosnia during her 1996 visit may prove to be Mrs. Clinton’s Waterloo. In her desperate attempt to portray herself as a brave and courageous woman “ready to lead from day one,” she shows her disdain for the military she often uses as props.

The big picture in the Clinton campaign shows her lifelong ambition of becoming president slipping away as she is caught in perhaps the most disastrous of obfuscations of the truth: Snipergate.



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