Betraying Syria, betraying peace

The Russian-crafted deal only gives Assad more time to win his civil war
The monster and the coward

The monster and the coward

It is a testament’s to the West’s declining role as masters of the globe that it is no nearer to helping bring an end to the Syrian conflict despite having all the means to do so. Let me be upfront about it: Bashir Assad needs to get the shit bombed out of him. Plain and simple. This is not Iraq, when a war was constructed from spurious evidence (the case of the invisible WMDs), dubious motives (oil), and hegemonic intentions (nation-building). The Syrian case involves a country with no strategic value to the West but whose regime has embarked on a war of indiscriminate annihilation against its own people with whatever weapons at its disposal, including what even the most deluded Assad-apologist moron knows is the case: chemical ones. If there was ever a case for an intervention, this is it, a case far stronger than even the intervention in Libya. Although time has yet to tell whether the campaign against Qaddafi was a resounding success, it did provide a framework for a type of intervention that could please hawks and doves alike: limited in scope and duration, no boots on the ground, a clear objective, and no permanent occupation plans so that the country could decide it’s own fate. No, nobody likes military interventions, but under the assumption that every so often one could be justified, this type of scenario seemed to fit the bill nicely.

Who needs global policemen?

Instead we have the West cowering under the fear of its own electorate, and later humbled diplomatically by the world’s true grand master of realpolitik. The first issue I can partly sympathize with: military interventions are costly, and with Western economies strained to the limit by their own self-created fiscal crisis it is understandable that electorates of both sides of the political spectrum might by be wary of yet another military campaign. But this argument was even stronger back in 2011 and yet they went for it anyway. What’s even less fathomable is how these very same electorates – particularly conservatives – insist on keeping military spending ring-fenced from budget cuts when there’s no will on their part to ever engage. In the port of Rosyth in the Firth of Forth (once the nerve center of British naval might), two 70,000 ton aircraft carriers are being built with a price tag of £6 billion. Why an island nation with delusions of middle-power grandeur in the post-Cold War era still thinks it needs this advanced weaponry is beyond me if it seemingly doesn’t plan on ever using it. Perhaps to defend the sprinkle of sheep farmers in that desolate rocky wasteland known as the Falklands halfway around the world while millions of Syrians get killed, maimed or are forced to flee their homes. Or perhaps it simply needs to prop up BAE Systems’ bottom line if the Saudis ever start refusing the company’s billon-dollar bribes. Continue reading

How Ronald Coase can get you laid

Transaction costs may be the reason you're striking out with the opposite sex

Economics has much to teach us, as it is a discipline that transcends the boundaries of its traditional domains, offering its dazzling insights to people of vastly different professions. At least that’s what I used to tell girls. Ronald Coase, the Nobel-prize winning economist who recently passed away at the tender age of 102, may well have been a hit with the ladies during his day if he had applied his new institutionalist theories to the art of seduction. Believe it or not, there is much scope for adapting his intellectual legacies into answering the most important question of a young red-blooded man’s life: why do I keep failing miserably when I hit on girls in a night club?

Economist. Ladies man.

Economist. Nobel laureate. Ladies man.

Transaction costs explained

Coase may not have come up with the idea of transaction costs, but he was the first to offer a rigorous framework for its understanding. A transaction cost is essentially the cost of undertaking an economic exchange, one that is necessary to correct any market imperfection arising from that exchange. Bottled water is a fine example of this. How do you know that the water you are drinking actually comes from some natural spring in the Swiss Alps or is actually nothing but recycled toilet water? Most of us do not have a personal chemistry lab in our basement to test the purity of the water we consume; we must simply assume that the contents of the bottle are what the producer says they are. And the producer has all the incentive to cut down his costs by lying to us. Of course, consumers are smart enough to doubt the producer’s claims and will therefore not buy the bottle of water at all, thereby making such a market impossible to sustain. Continue reading