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Newsletter 12-3-2021

Colin Powers
Colin Powers

Hi everyone. Thanks for subscribing. If you have the inclination, please pass this newsletter around to others who might enjoy the read. Now onto this week's edition of No Craic, Mad Craic, and Great Craic.

No Craic

(1) Don't mean to beat a dead horse with this but I have a hard time getting the austerity shocks on the horizon for most low and middle income countries out of my craw. At a time when the economies of these countries are already facing significant aggregate demand gaps, the instituting of spending cuts is only going to drag growth curves down even further below potential. Squeezing public revenues on the back-end, it'll end up imperiling the fiscal health of many of the relevant states, too.

According to Stubbs and Kentikelenis, austerity awaits eighty-three countries around the world come 2023.

(2) In 2020 and for the first time ever, the mass of human-made stuff exceeded the dry weight of all life on earth. The graphic below, put together by Visual Capitalist, lays out how this came to pass pretty clearly. Not included is a second illustration which shows the weight of plastic vs. the weight of the entire animal kingdom. You can probably guess who comes out on top (plastics, by a 2x margin).

(3) If there are youthful, aspiring folks reading this that are thinking of going into peace and reconciliation work with the UN or its fellow travelers, I'd recommend you give this brutal critique of Joshua Craze a read.

Craze traces the rise of the modern peace industry to the halcyon days of the early 1990s. Animated by the same triumphalist spirit as were the domestic and international politics of the day--hashtag democracy and free markets 4eva--he contends that the international community's interventions in domestic and international conflicts throughout the world came to be structured around a naive, indubitably technocratic and elite-oriented approach. More recently, he notes how a fetishized concern for "local" participation also came to grip the peace-builder discourse, though without ever making a meaningful difference in said locals' lives. All things told, he breaks down the shortcomings of UN-y peace and reconciliation as follows:

"Peacebuilding will (always) find itself at the behest of its donors. And while Peace Inc.’s goal is the end of war as such, peacebuilding now forms part of a global system in which violence is kept at acceptable levels, as social forces are neutralized. In Samuel Moyn’s new book Humane: How the United States Abandoned Peace and Reinvented War, he cites Leo Tolstoy, worrying that humanitarianism could entrench war by making it palatable. Peace Inc., similarly, has made violence acceptable, as long as it does not threaten the inter-state order."

(4) More than two thirds of the wealth expansion that resulted from the fiscal and monetary responses summoned by the federal government and Federal Reserve in the United States in response to olde CoV-Var 2 have accrued to the country's wealthiest decile. About a third of the wealth gains got nipped up by the wealthiest 1% alone.  

(5) Facebook and Google don't merely amplify global misinformation: they directly fund it through paying tens of millions in ad dollars per year to bankroll clickbait actors, as Karen Hao breaks down in a recent piece for Technology Review. These arrangements had especially devastating effects in Myanmar, where they wound up subsidizing the operations of clickbait farms spreading virulent anti-Rohingya content.

(6) Our pals in the UAE--who in the last two weeks managed to lock up a seat on the UN Security Council and get one of their nationals, Inspector General Ahmed Naser al-Raisi, appointed President of Interpol despite his being a subject of interest within a number of torture-related legal investigations--were allowing China to secretly build a military facility near Abu Dhabi until Uncle Sam, their erstwhile ally, got wise and forced them to shut it down. According to the Wall Street Journal's reporting, Abu Dhabi is trotting out the line that they were simply unawares of the military nature of China's dilly-dallying at the site in question.

M F'ers truly give no shits, its kinda admirable.

Mad Craic

(7) I'm as for public sector employment as the next guy, don't get me wrong. Nevertheless, upon learning Tunisia's public sector wage bill will eat up 61.9% of the state budget this year, I must say, even my jaw dropped a bit.

The problem for Tunisia isn't that so many people are employed by the state or state-owned enterprises (SoE) in and of itself, but that an increasing share of jobs with the gov't or the SoEs are almost wholly bereft of developmental utility. This is no bueno, especially when the IMF has you by the balls.

(8) At the video linked to below, people's champ and friend of the pod Juan Guaido--the once and future king of Venezuela--gives a speech on an expectantly shoddily constructed dais. He handles himself like a real pro when his stage props start falling to the ground.

Great Craic

(9) Below you can see some birds doing that real cool thing where they fly into and out of formations (murmurations, they are called it seems).

Have a great weekend.


Colin Powers

Colin received his PhD from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in 2020. He is a two-time Fulbright Fellow.