Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Being in a U.S. China Relations class, I am constantly bombarded with information about, well, relations between the two. I finished a reading today in Susan Shirk's "China: Fragile Superpower" that really made me think.

I was not very politically aware during the presidential election of 2000 and 2004, though I remember supporting one side over the other, likely because of the political opinions in my home. I do not remember much of what was at issue then, but I do remember that in 2004 and most recently in 2008 job losses to China were a big campaign talking-point. Also brought to my attention in Shirk's book was the attempt of CNOOC (China National Offshore Oil Company) to buy UNOCAL (Union Oil Company of California) that met with such political opposition in the United States that CNOOC withdrew its bid.

Both attempts to stop sales to China and to stop job losses to China are examples of isolationism or protectionism, whatever you want to call it. Both go against what we tell China to do - we are being hypocritical. Both are also NOT reccommended by economists, at least not the ones I know of.

It seems to me that the U.S. government and the U.S. people want it both ways: they want a free market economy, and they want the U.S. government to protect and control that economy. Those two things do not work together. I understand the dismay at losing jobs to China, but the thing is, no realistic approach to government or economics can prevent this. We can delay it, but only with consequences to relations with China and consequences to our own economy. I am not advocating a completely hands-off economic policy, but I do have to say I agree with my economics textbook in that there is such a thing as over-regulation.

The conservatives should be ashamed of their false advocacy of hands-off policy. When it comes down to it, they do what they think will get them the most votes.

The liberals should be ashamed of their complete lack of perspective on economic policy. We can only "protect" U.S. jobs if we damage relations and possibly our economy in the long run.

Honestly, the more I read, the more I get the sense that our politicians are disgustingly clueless AND isolationist. I know it's tempting to stay comfortable at home thinking that only the United States matters, but we are living in a bigger world with lots of other people, other cultures, and other problems. I'm not saying we should try to tackle those problems, just that we should remain open to communication to the other inhabitants of Earth.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

I Plan on Winning a Nobel Prize Next Year...

There has been a lot of discussion of Obama's Nobel Peace Prize in the last few days. I have to say, I was very confused when I first saw the headlines. I'm no longer confused, having read a few articles explaining why he won, but I do not think he deserved it.

In addittion to the overload of opinions about the prize, there have been accusations flying that Republicans have denounced the prize based on their partisanship. For the most part I think that is a load of crap. I have talked to people who stand all over the political spectrum, and not one of them said that Obama deserved the Nobel Peace Prize. It's not that these are Obama-haters, it's just that giving him the prize does not make a lot of sense.

The majority of positive opinions about the NPP going to Obama that I have seen have been either foreign or come from high-profile people, most notably Democrats. I think the press needs to stop perpetuating the "Only-Republicans-Would-Criticize-Obama" idea. Part of the beauty of our country is our ability to criticize our leaders. The idea that the worthwhile criticisms - the constructive ones - are the ones that will be considered. The system is not perfect, but that doesn't mean we should throw out any and all criticism as simply partisan-based.

Anyway, I am declaring my major this week. I have decided on Economics. I think, next year, I should get the Nobel Prize for Economics for the work I am going to do!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Recognizing Genocide

Quite a few years ago I read a book that opened my eyes to an event in world history that I have never encountered in an academic setting. The book was Forgotten Fire by Adam Bagdasarian and the event was the Armenian genocide during World War I. The book, which is definitely a worthwhile read, tells the story of a young boy who survived the genocide after watching as his family was massacred.

You may not know of this genocide; in my experience it is not taught in general history courses in high school. I think this is a deficiency in our textbooks. The massacre was by no means a small one (although the number of people killed shouldn’t really matter in the context of genocide): Ottoman Turks murdered nearly three-quarters of the Armenian Turkish population – that’s around one and a half million people.

Today, Turkey and Armenia are attempting to end a “century of hostility” with an agreement to open the border between the two countries and normalize ties that they signed on Saturday, October 11th. The agreement also provides for the creation of a “bilateral commission” to study the events of 1915 which Turkey refuses to recognize as genocide. Twenty other countries have recognized it as such, so why won’t Turkey do so?

In general, why are countries so reluctant to admit they have done something wrong? We all know what happened in Tiananmen Square, for example, but the People’s Republic of China still refuses to recognize it for what it was: violent suppression and massacre of peaceful demonstrators. The genocide in Turkey took place 70 years before Tiananmen, Turkey should be willing to admit the truth and the mistakes that were made. By admitting that it was genocide, admitting that it was a terrible occurrence, Turkey would help and not hurt their image.

Acknowledging mistakes is part of learning and part of becoming better, whether as a student, a country, or just as a person. I am much more likely to respect someone who admits they are wrong in an argument than someone who insists they are right after evidence to the contrary has been brought to light. In the same way, a country that admits there are horrendous occurrences in its past is more respectable than one who denies those occurrences. Germany does not deny the occurrence of the Holocaust during WWII; in fact it is considered a crime to deny it happened. Turkey needs to officially recognize what happened during WWI as genocide.

We all know George Santayana’s famous quote, “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Those who deny history cannot learn from it, so what’s to stop them from repeating it?

Monday, October 5, 2009

Banning of Niqab in Egypt

This is just an interesting link that kind of relates to my post about Abercrombie & Fitch and the Muslim girl who wanted to work there.