The Rising Tide of Nationalism

The global elite adopted a consensus centered on democratized political institutions and liberalized economic systems after the Iron Curtain fell. This consensus gelled in an era of rapid technological, social and economic evolution. Globalization, the information revolution, and terrorism have shaken the post-World War II status quo to its core and created anxiety in industrialized and developing countries. This anxiety has facilitated the rise of nationalism as a potent political force, which creates three primary challenges to world order.
It has been said that “history does not repeat itself, but it often rhymes.” The rising tide of nationalism in previous eras has empowered authoritarian leaders. Authoritarian leaders have proven to be threats to world order, primarily due to their disregard of the rule of law and international norms. The Russian incursion into Georgia in 2008 is a recent example of an authoritarian leader thumbing his nose at the international establishment.
Authoritarian regimes have a disastrous record on domestic human and political rights, with examples ranging from the use of chemical weapons by dictators in the Middle East to the suppression of political opposition by President Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela.
Nationalist political movements are also more hostile to liberal trade policies. Free trade has lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty in the developing world.

Industrial economies enjoy the benefits of lower prices for goods and specialization of labor. But a rising tide hasn’t lifted all boats. The working class in industrial economies have felt left behind by globalization and trade. These citizens blame rising economic anxiety on free trade, which creates an incentive for political leaders to adopt anti-trade and nationalistic rhetoric and policies. The British referendum to exit the European Union is one such example.
Protective tariffs and other anti-trade policies are harmful to all economies and increase the threat of armed hostility. Nations who trade with one another are less likely to engage militarily with one another. Germany’s relative pacifism in response to recent Russian aggression in Eastern Europe can be explained at least partially by the trade relationship between Germany and Russia. The trade relationship between China and the United States has prevented an escalation in military hostilities over disputes in the South China Sea.

The facilitation of authoritarian leaders and hostility to free trade policies are domestic threats attributable to nationalism. The threat to international cooperation is the most acute and troubling in the long-term. Perhaps the three most pressing issues of our time- nuclear nonproliferation, terrorism, and climate change- will require international cooperation. Nationalist political movements make it more difficult for leaders of nations to engage in the diplomacy necessary to address these issues, especially when substantial concessions are necessary.
Such movements demand that leaders “look tough” and “stand up for us” by not “giving in” to “enemies.” Any practical and sustainable climate change accord would require some degree of economic sacrifice by China, India and the United States, among others. This economic sacrifice is difficult for leaders to pitch to domestic political audiences in the most benign circumstances, and impossible if the domestic political culture includes a large nationalist faction.
The rising tide of nationalism is a phenomenon that threatens the political, social, and economic well-being of all citizens. The Europeans learned this lesson the hard way one century ago. Moreover, this tide will prevent world leaders from tackling the pressing global issues of our time. Our successors may learn this lesson the hard way one century from now.

The Grinch on Broadway and Links

1526434_353920764750966_1767807648_nWe came across some last-minute tickets to Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical at The Majestic Theatre last night. I misplaced my Playbill, but the actor who played the Grinch knocked my socks off.

There’s nothing quite like a night at the theatre followed by a self-indulgent Romeo y Julieta with Angel’s Envy on the Hotel Valencia balcony. Some of our fellow patrons thought I was a server, which amused me. A glass with a dab of bourbon in one hand and a half-smoked cigar in the other. If anyone can find a job where that behavior is acceptable or encouraged on the clock, let me know. Here are some links:

Rachel Held Evans examines why many biblical literalists tend to focus on homosexuality rather than other biblically-condemned acts:

Though it affects more of us than we tend to realize, statistically, homosexuality affects far fewer of us than gluttony, materialism, or divorce. And as Jesus pointed out so often in his ministry, we like to focus on the biblical violations (real or perceived) of the minority rather than our own.

Johns Hopkins professor David Lampton examines a shift in China’s governance in Foreign Affairs:

According to the German sociologist Max Weber, governments can derive their authority from three sources: tradition, the qualities and charisma of an individual leader, and constitutional and legal norms.

China…has gone from being ruled by strongmen with personal credibility to leaders who are constrained by collective decision-making, term limits and other norms, public opinion, and their own technocratic characters. As one senior Chinese diplomat put it…”Mao and Deng could decide; Jiang and the current leaders must consult.”

So I’m a huge fan of The Great Gatsby, The Wolf of Wall Street, and Leonard DiCaprio. Rachel Syme compares the two 2013 films in the New Yorker:

In Fitzgerald’s narrative, Gatsby dies for our sins, for the sins of the men and women floating about like moths through his blue gardens who can hit and run in cold blood and live to play polo another day. In Belfort’s, it is Belfort causing the car accidents (and the helicopter accidents, and the yacht accidents), and he walks away without so much as a scratch. Scorsese leaves it up to the audience to be Carraway, to recoil in horror at the debauched behavior of the rich and run away from the theatre with a nauseous feeling and a raging hangover. And, of course, this is where the whole thing runs into trouble.

robin_hoodUniversity of Arizona professor Lane Kenworthy argues in Foreign Affairs that the political future of the United States is inevitably socially democratic:

There is surely a level beyond which public social spending hurts economic growth. But the evidence indicates that the United States has not yet reached that level. In fact, the country is still probably well below it.

[C]lear thinkers on the right will eventually realize that given Americans’ desire for economic security and fairness, the question is not whether the government should intervene but how it should do so. An expansion of social programs would not necessarily mean more government interference in markets and weaker competition.

George Mason economist Don Boudreaux worries about redistribution, but not because he is greedy:

Do you [proponents of ‘redistribution’] not worry that creating government power today to take from Smith and give to Jones — simply because Smith has more material wealth than Jones — might eventually be abused so that tomorrow, government takes from Jones and gives to Smith simply because Smith is more politically influential than Jones?

I once read a passage in my Constitutional Criminal Procedure seminar that satirized the Court’s interpretation of privacy and the Fourth Amendment. I can’t find it for the life of me. But Rebecca Rosen discusses the gist, albeit far more solemnly, in The Atlantic:

We daily convey our information to third parties — Google, our cell-service provider, Facebook. For most people in America today, eschewing disclosures of this kind would leave them unable to go about their daily business. Can it really be that participating in life, the economy, and society require a forking over of one’s claim to a ‘reasonable’ expectation of privacy?

Yuletide Reading and Links

1495490_352111591598550_810066280_nChristmas is always a good time to catch up on reading. I’ve gotten to sit down with my Kindle for more time in the last week than I had in the previous three weeks. I’ve been making my way through Malcolm Gladwell’s David and Goliath,  The Wall Street Journal had an awesome $12.00 for 12 weeks Christmas subscription special, I’m starting to make my way through the books I received as gifts, and Buzzfeed has some awesome Home Alone articles. Some interesting passages for today.


From David and Goliath:

The psychologist James Grubman uses the wonderful expression “immigrants to wealth” to describe first-generation millionaires—by which he means that they face the same kinds of challenges in relating to their children that immigrants to any new country face.

Zachary Karabell laments the Internet’s hatred of optimism while offering his own defense:

Optimism is simply the certainty that any human progress to date has been a product of our collective ability to understand how things work and to craft solutions. The conviction that the present is a prelude to a bad future negates that collective ability. Yes, we may indeed be at the end of the line, but by angrily dismissing optimistic arguments we are likely to fail more rapidly.

In a TNR cover piece about Syrian dictator Bashar Al Assad, a former advisor gives some perspective:

“He’s more clever than all the Western and U.S. politicians, for sure,” Ayman Abdelnour, a close adviser to Assad before he fell out of favor and fled into exile, told me. Abdelnour then recalled—by way of explaining why Assad was so difficult to take down—something the young president would tell his inner circle about their foreign adversaries. “They are here for a few years,” Assad would say. “My father, seven presidents passed through him.”

Chiara de Blasio, incoming first daughter of New York City, released a Christmas Eve video in which she admitted that she is in recovery for alcohol and drug abuse. Texan-turned-New Yorker Jessica Huseman gave her take:

Admitting drug addiction as self-medication for depression is an obstacle not many successfully hurdle — especially not so publicly. But it is a choice that presents a lot of loaded political questions for the family.

New York City joined other cities by extending its smoking ban to include e-cigarettes. Councilman James Gennaro, who co-sponsored the legislation, gave some insight into why:

Just seeing people smoking things that look identical to cigarettes in subway cars, colleges and public libraries will tend to re-normalize the act of smoking and send the wrong message to kids.

Some Public Health professors at Columbia have a different take:

The evidence, while still thin, suggests that many e-cigarette users, hoping to kick the habit, use e-cigarettes as a safer alternative to tobacco. Research also suggests that e-cigarettes may be better at helping to sustain smoking cessation than pharmaceutical products like nicotine patches or gums.

Speaking of smoking cessation, a really good advertisement for it: