Posts Tagged ‘China’

All About Iran: Iran’s Social Bargain, Maximal Uncertainty, and Breaking News

Friday, June 19th, 2009

Now for the best reads of the week – all Iran-related:

buy zithromax online uk Iran’s Social Bargain. Mark LeVine for Al Jazeera describes “Iran on the Brink” – with a “?” His piece offered insights none of the mountains of commentary seemed to have touched on. As an added bonus, he comments on questions of how a state legitimizes itself and how China’s response to its democracy movement in 1989 is not open to Iran today:

Cultural liberalisation became the safety valve that allowed the emerging generation of Chinese citizens to accept the continued power of the Communist party.

Needless to say, no such safety valve exists in the Islamic Republic, where a cultural perestroika is precisely what Ahmadinejad and his supporters in the leadership and among the people want to prevent…

In China the government struck a bargain with the people, telling them: “You can do whatever you want as long as you don’t challenge the power of the state.”

The Iranian government has over the last two decades negotiated a very different and more narrow bargain with its citizens: “You can do what you want behind closed doors, as long as you keep the music down. But we own the street and the public sphere. So put your headscarf on before you leave the house, and don’t think about challenging cultural or political limits publicly.”

That bargain has now collapsed as hundreds of thousands of Iranians have, at least for the moment, reclaimed the streets…

Iran long ago lost the singular, collective will that enabled the revolution; the protesters are no longer imbued with the idea of bi-kodi, or self-annihilation, martyrdom and complete self-sacrifice that toppled the Shah and helped the country withstand eight years of brutal war with Iraq.

how to buy Pregabalin A maximally uncertain future. David Brooks’s column this morning tries to look at the past week’s events in Iran from an historical perspective:

At these moments — like the one in Iran right now — change is not generated incrementally from the top. Instead, power is radically dispersed. The real action is out on the streets. The future course of events is maximally uncertain.

The fate of nations is determined by glances and chance encounters: by the looks policemen give one another as a protesting crowd approaches down a boulevard; by the presence of a spontaneous leader who sets off a chant or a song and with it an emotional contagion; by a captain who either decides to kill his countrymen or not; by a shy woman who emerges from a throng to throw herself on the thugs who are pummeling a kid prone on the sidewalk.

Brooks quotes on of Obama’s advisers commenting years ago:

In retrospect, all revolutions seem inevitable. Beforehand, all revolutions seem impossible.

Keeping Up To Date on Iran. Andrew Sullivan, the Tehran Bureau, and the Times’ The Lede have made themselves indispensable sources for breaking news and insights on what’s going on in Iran.

Mirror Neurons, Iran’s Fissures, Yglesian Insights, The Deficit Crisis, Rare Minerals

Friday, June 12th, 2009

Once again, it’s Friday, so it’s time for my weekend reading recommendations.

1. Mirror Neurons. Daniel Lametti explains the importance of mirror neurons in the Scientific American.

2. Iran’s Fissures. Roger Cohen has been prominently writing about Iran for the past year or so – predicting and pushing for a thaw in relations. Now, on the cusp of an important election, Roger Cohen discusses Iran:

Iran, its internal fissures exposed as never before, is teetering again on the brink of change. For months now, I’ve been urging another look at Iran, beyond dangerous demonization of it as a totalitarian state. Seldom has the country looked less like one than in these giddy June days.

3. Yglesian insights. Matt Yglesias’s blog has long been on my must-read list – but he’s offered some especially insightful observations in various contexts about the free market in recent weeks. Here Yglesias speculates about the advantages of non-profit-maximizing corporations in a free market:

After all, profit-maximization is not a natural form of human behavior. I think it’s best understood as a very idiosyncratic kind of pursuit. It happens to be one that’s economically rewarded because with money to invest tend to want to invest it with would-be profit-maximizers. Thus, in fields of endeavor where the ability to raise large sums of capital on reasonable terms is a huge advantage, a profit-maximization impulse winds up being a huge advantage.

In a later post about health care, Yglesias makes a related point:

[P]art of what’s wrong with the world is that the very same people who spend a lot of time cheerleading for free markets and donating money to institutions that cheerlead for free markets—businessmen, in other words—are the very people who have the most to gain from markets being totally dysfunctional. The absolute worst place on earth you can find yourself as a businessman is in the kind of free market you find in an Economics 101 textbook. As a market approaches textbook conditions—perfect competition, perfect information, etc.—real profits trend toward zero. You make your money by ensuring that textbook conditions don’t apply; that there are huge barriers to entry, massive problems with inattention, monopolistic corners to exploit, etc.

4. How to tackle the deficit crisis. Set off by David Leonhardt’s excellent look at the forthcoming deficit crisis, the Opinionsphere quickly took this up as a theme of the week. Noah Millman at The American Scene had the best take on how to tackle the deficit crisis – once we decide to get serious. One of the main ways he suggests is to reform the tax code:

We have an income tax that is riddled with deductions that undermine its purported progressivity, and we rely on increasingly steep progressivity to justify every additional change to said code. A 1986-style reform that eliminated many deductions and lowered rates would not only be a likely booster of the economy, but would probably raise revenue – certainly on the corporate side.

5. China’s Great Game. And of course, the Financial Times reported that China has almost cornered the world market in rare minerals needed for most high tech products. I’m looking forward to some analyst really following up on this and explaining what implications – if any – this has.

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