You've successfully subscribed to The Political Economy of Everything
Great! Next, complete checkout for full access to The Political Economy of Everything
Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.
Success! Your account is fully activated, you now have access to all content.
Success! Your billing info is updated.
Billing info update failed.

Newsletter 6-18-2021

Colin Powers
Colin Powers

Hi everyone. Thanks for subscribing. If you have the means, please consider becoming a paying member. 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) After receiving clearance from relevant municipal and national authorities, thousands of Israeli chauvinists staged a provocative march through East Jerusalem on Tuesday in celebration of what they call "Jerusalem Day." (The march commemorates Israel's capture of East Jerusalem in 1967.)

Below, you can see video footage of the proceedings. It makes for fairly grim viewing.

The rage of Belfast's Orangemen on July 12th, which I've had the (dis)pleasure of observing first hand on a number of occasions, looks tame in comparison.

(2) Details from an investigation into a 2018 drug bust in Crete are lending insight into the Captagon economy that has furnished the Assad regime, broadly defined, with enormous profits in recent years.

(For those unfamiliar, the drug in question, Captagon, typically combines amphetamine with substances like caffeine, theophylline, and paracetamol. Abuse of it within Syria skyrocketed as the civil war intensified circa 2012; its export into Europe and relevance to Assad's maintenance of elite coalitions ticked up a few years later.)

Per the OCCRP, paper trails made public from legal proceedings in a number of countries (principally Libya, Greece, and Italy) show that Syria's Captagon trade ultimately leads back to the port of Latakia and the persons of Maher al-Assad (brother of Bashar), Mudar al-Assad (cousin of Bashar), and Taher Kayali. The latter party is a mafiaso-type whose involvement in grand larceny last decade saw him sentenced in absentia to six and a half years in prison by Italian courts.

Syrian Captagon is estimated to generate revenues in the area of $16 billion per year, a figure sufficient to keep a select group of pissheads fat and happy while the rest of their countrymen face unbearable abjection.

On the state of social and economic decay in Syria today, please give Elizabeth Tsurkov's recent piece for the Newlines Institute a read.  

(3) The Belfer Center at the Harvard Kennedy School, which is predominantly financed by donations from the al-Nahyan regime of Abu Dhabi, hosted a talk in early June where two experts--Calder Walton and Joseph Braude--advocated for greater security and intelligence cooperation between Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia. In their telling, such cooperation would help to "encourage greater tolerance, critical thinking, and a mindset of institution building."

Such claims are, of course, deranged. The partnering of spooks from across MENA's main reactionary axis will yield but one thing: greater efficiency in the repression of domestic subjects. Sadly, as the discussants well know, such efficiency gains may represent these autocratic governments' best bet for maintaining power in the years ahead. Devoted to development models and survival strategies premised upon the deprivation and alienation of vast majorities, control can only be reproduced through the blunt means of surveillance/coercion.

That the Belfer Center would facilitate the ideational laundering of such horrifying proposals ought not be surprising in in view of the institution's history.  

(4) Rogelio Mayta (Foreign Minister of Boliva), KK. Shailaja (member of Kerala's Legislative Assembly and a former Health Minister), and Anyang Nyong'o (Governor of Kisumu County in Kenya) have just published an op-ed in The Guardian eviscerating the G-7's enduring vaccine nationalism.  

As they spell out, the cost of vaccinating the world is $23 billion at the very most. (If patents to be lifted on the existing vaccines, moreover, the necessary supply could likely be produced for considerably cheaper). The enormous economic consequence engendered by the continuing spread and mutation of COVID-19, meanwhile, is equivalent to at least $9.2 trillion in terms of foregone growth. In view of both sides of the ledger, even were one a monster wholly unbothered by the humanitarian cost of current vaccine production, it ought be apparent that allowing the planet to be kept hostage to the particularist desires of the pharma industry is a bad idea. It can only but be myopia, a path dependent attachment to unconditional intellectual property rights, and the death drive of a class of decadent elites that dictate our trajectory today.

(5) With elections scheduled for Saturday, Ilhem Rachidi wrote a nice piece sketching the difficult though unexceptional transition being experienced by Algeria's Hirak movement.

Similar to popular, horizontally organized outfits throughout the world, Hirak achieved enormous success in leveraging protest and direct action in order to unsettle and unseat an ageing autocrat (Abdelaziz Bouteflika in this case). In a manner also similar to popular, horizontally organized outfits throughout the world, however, Hirak has found the interregnum that followed Bouteflika's resignation far less amenable to their original tactics/capacities. The reasons are unsurprising: instituting substantive changes to any political economy, Algeria's included, requires not only the restructuring of the state and state-society relations but the reorganization of systems of work, production, and distribution. Street politics can play a role in pushing this all forward--by exerting pressure on oppositonal elements--but will hardly be sufficient in and of itself. Absent the deft and creative assembling of popular forces and no small amount of good fortune, the long war of attrition that needs to be contested against a wide range of incumbents (domestic and international) will be lost before it begins.

The assembling I refer to above is exceedingly difficult to do in spaces where domestic intelligence retains the kinds of power, espirit de corps, and self-concept that they do Algeria. Be that as it may, I fear it is still the only way to reach the future desired by so many.

(6) Over at Developing Economics, Nick Bernards has penned an abbreviated version of a recent academic publication where he interrogated the World Bank's agricultural credit programs across time.

In the piece, Bernards documents how the Bank evolved from an institution explicitly aiming to correct market failures when it came to agrarian economies in in the global south--which it once did by directly providing low-interest, fixed-rate credit facilities to big farms and smallholders otherwise excluded or subjected to usurious lending rates by commercial banks--to an institution actively working to unleash market forces on these communities. Once the Bank became devoted to the liberalization of interest rates in the late 1970s, first operationally then ideologically, Bernards shows how it was functionally made partner to a policy regime that wound up squeezing farmers dry throughout the world, and that helped drive the rural-urban migratory waves that crystallized into expansive slums with time.  

Mad Craic

(7) If once evincing some skillfulness in hiding his ignorance and frequently horrid politics, Andrew Yang has been getting exposed more and more since he began his campaign to be New York's next Mayor. During a televised debate last night, he delivered the following zinger: "Yes, mentally ill people have rights, but you know who else has rights? We do!"

The quote is taken somewhat out of context, but jeez, c'mon.

(8) Over at the G-7, olde Diamond Joe delivered the goods on Wednesday. Speaking on Russian election interference across the world, he posed the following, umm, hypothetical: "How would it be if the United States were viewed by the rest of the world as interfering with the elections directly of other countries and everybody knew it? What would it be like if we engaged in activities that he (Putin) engaged in? It diminishes the standing of a country."

Memory hole America is the funniest America.

Great Craic

(9) George Eaton has written a brief piece on the potential end of the neoliberal era, and the immanent (re)emergence of national capitalisms. Defo worth a read.

(10) Here's a video of a cat, a farmer, and a cow. I won't say any more:

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.