Project Syndicate "Against the Current"
Russia’s Nonprofit Spies
| Wednesday, March 29, 2017
LONDON – Nothing so riles Western opinion about Russia today as its law on foreign agents. Enacted in July 2012, the law requires all non-commercial organizations (NCOs) engaged in (undefined) “political activities” to register with the Ministry of Justice as “carrying functions of a foreign agent.” A follow-up measure in 2015, the Undesirable Organizations law, required any such NCO to identify itself publicly as a “foreign agent.”Continue reading...
The wording is peculiar and significant. What, after all, are the “functions of a foreign agent,” in common parlance, except to serve the interests of a foreign power? Indeed, Russia’s law effectively prevents NCOs not under state control from carrying out any activities in the country. Certainly, the
Another Reset with Russia?
| Tuesday, January 24, 2017
LONDON – The question of the West’s relationship with Russia has been buried by media stories of hacking, sex scandals, and potential blackmail. The dossier by former British spy Christopher Steele about US President Donald Trump’s activities in Moscow some years ago may turn out to be as credible as the claims that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction – or it may not. We simply don’t know. What is clear is that such stories have distracted attention from the task of bridging the diplomatic chasm now dividing Russia and the West.Continue reading...
It’s hard for a Westerner, even one of Russian ancestry like me, to warm to Vladimir Putin’s Russia. I hate the way his government has used the “foreign agent” law to harass and effectively close
Economists versus the Economy
| Friday, December 23, 2016
LONDON – Let’s be honest: no one knows what is happening in the world economy today. Recovery from the collapse of 2008 has been unexpectedly slow. Are we on the road to full health or mired in “secular stagnation”? Is globalization coming or going?
Policymakers don’t know what to do. They press the usual (and unusual) levers and nothing happens. Quantitative easing was supposed to bring inflation “back to target.” It didn't. Fiscal contraction was supposed to restore confidence. It didn’t. Earlier this month, Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England, delivered a speech called “The specter of monetarism.” Of course, monetarism was supposed to save us from the specter of Keynesianism!
With virtually no usable macroeconomic tools,Continue reading...
Slouching Toward Trump
| Saturday, November 12, 2016
LONDON – The Republican establishment has gone into overdrive to present President-elect Donald Trump as a guarantor of continuity. Of course, he is nothing of the sort. He campaigned against the political establishment, and, as he told a pre-election rally, a victory for him would be a “Brexit plus, plus, plus.” With two political earthquakes within months of each other, and more sure to follow, we may well agree with the verdict of France’s ambassador to the United States: the world as we know it “is crumbling before our eyes.”
The last time this seemed to be happening was the era of the two world wars, 1914 to 1945. The sense then of a “crumbling” world was captured by William Butler Yeats’s 1919 poem “The Second Coming”: “ThingsContinue reading...
LONDON – The most dramatic economic effect of the United Kingdom’s Brexit vote has been the collapse of sterling. Since June, the pound has fallen by 16% against a basket of currencies. Mervyn King, the previous governor of the Bank of England, hailed the lower exchange rate as a “welcome change.” Indeed, with Britain’s current-account deficit running at over 7% of GDP – by far the largest since data started being collected in 1955 – depreciation could be regarded as a boon. But is it?
Economists would typically argue that the way to balance a country’s external accounts is through a fall in its currency, which would make imports more expensive and exports cheaper, causing the former to fall and the latter to rise. Higher import pricesContinue reading...