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Don Harris
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Posner seems to suggest two countervailing pressures: (1) concentration of wealth and income, and (2) expansion of the social safety net which helps prevent a slide into poverty, or for those already poor, a slide into destitution. One can easily see political instability arising from an extreme concentration of societal resources, and Posner has hinted at such in earlier posts. True, inequality is advanced by a parasitic financial sector, monopolistic practices, rentiers, etc., but also by structural forces (globalization, technological change) that hollow out the middle and working classes. What happens to our democracy when all that sustains the bulk of the population are insecure low wage jobs and governmental support? At a minimum, the bonds that unite us grow weaker (already happening) and our politics grows ever more brutal (ditto). Can a new equilibrium, a new social contract, one with the promise of long-term stability, develop from this?
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Posner faults the lack of consistency in U.S. foreign policy over the past 80 years, and then uses that inconsistency to advance the "we didn't do it then, so why should we do it now" argument. (In fairness, that is not Posner's only proposition.) I wonder if such an argument makes any sense in the U.S. when presidents come and go every 4 or 8 years and there is no constitutional requirement for consistency in foreign policy, the never mentioned Peace of Westphalia notwithstanding. I'm also curious about Posner's closing statement: "I would prefer that we refrain from military activities that do not hold substantial promise of advancing at reasonable cost policies reasonably deemed essential to the security and well-being of this country. In other words, we need to prioritize—cold-bloodedly." Should we refrain from "essential" security measures that are unreasonably costly? Does everything, even survival, comes down to a cost-benefit analysis? Finally, does Posner really believe the Holocaust was none of our business until Hitler declared war on the U.S.? Here is an alternative to the Doctrine of the Peace of Westphalia: taking action to end the mass slaughter of innocents whenever possible.
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I wonder whether Obama may be using this moment to calibrate the extent to which the administration can rely on Congress and the American people for support should an invasion of Iran be deemed necessary to destroy its nuclear weapons program. We are told that such an invasion would be a large, complicated enterprise, possibly involving special forces. It could last months and get bloody rather quickly. There also could be Iranian reprisals on American soil or, more probable, against American interests in the region. There was a time when politics in the U.S. ended at the water's edge. Not today. One reason is the 24/7 full-throated outrage of the Republican base (older white males) over their loss of primacy and prestige. The vitriol, amplified by Fox et al., is just too loud and too poisonous for Congressional Republicans (even the moderates) to ignore. The absolutists peaceniks in the Democratic caucus aren't helping matters either. And there's a new twist: our newly vocal (mostly by way of leaks) military leaders and planners are frightened by the prospect of a war with Iran, as well. The American message now transmitting to Israel is clear, succinct, and undeniable: you are on your own. America can live with a nuclear-armed Iran.
Toggle Commented Sep 9, 2013 on Bombing Syria? Becker at The Becker-Posner Blog
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Having read this blog for a number of years, it seems to me that Posner has migrated to the left. His more recent writings show an greater concern with the effects of policy on people of modest means and a willingness to question the aims of conservative economic and legal doctrines. Becker has softened as well, but only just a little, and mostly under the prodding of Posner's analyses. Now if Posner would just let go of his obsession with IQ as a fixed trait in spite of the evidence which suggests a considerable plasticity in human intelligence throughout the life course. In any event, there is often something to learn from reading this blog. Thank you, Gentlemen!
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Aug 12, 2013