ILLIBERALISM DOESN’T WORK:

Argentina offers a textbook study in why rent controls are a bad idea (Ryan Bourne, 1/22/24, CapX)

One of Milei’s first acts in his decree scrapped these damaging regulations for all new contracts. Rents will now be decided in free contract negotiation, meaning no more central bank indices capping rent increases. He’s also scrapped the three-year minimum contract length while making it legal for rents to be paid in foreign currency (i.e. dollars), providing landlords a hedge against inflation.

Already the reduced risks to landlords is leading a rebound in the rental supply. Broker Soledad Balayan has shown a 50% rise in notices for traditional rentals since the decree. A host of other sources, including the Argentine Real Estate Chamber, have confirmed large supply jumps. Perhaps unsurprisingly, reports show new rental prices falling, by between 20 and 30% so far.

Economists have frequently cautioned against traditional rent controls that apply caps on rents within and between tenancies. But in recent years there’s been a new drumbeat for providing more security for tenants by controlling rents within longer, secure tenancies. Argentina’s experience provides a textbook warning of how this policy can backfire, and more grist to Milei’s educational mill.

OTHER THAN THAT, HOW’S ABORTION WORKING OUT FOR YOU?:

China’s population time bomb is about to explode (Matthew Henderson, 1/21/24, The Telegraph)


China’s workforce is shrinking and its population aging. There are now 280 million CCP citizens aged 60 or over. Rather than Xi’s vaunted glorious rejuvenation, a massive demographic time bomb in China is ticking.

How did this develop, and will Xi be able to defuse it? Around 1980, the CCP decided that the rate of population growth was harmful and launched mandatory birth planning measures known as the ‘One Child Policy’. Negative incentives and coercive force were then used to drive down birth rates for more than 30 years. By degrees it became clear that things had gone very wrong. Traditional patriarchal bias resulted in widespread selective female abortion, infanticide and abandonment. In China there are now 110 males for every 100 females, amounting to some 34 million ‘excess’ males. The productive labour and taxes of one young worker now have to boost the state pensions of 4 retired relatives. The number of retired CCP citizens will increase more than 30% in the next decade. The current pension system simply cannot handle this.

NORTH YEMEN IS A NATION:

Yemen’s Endless Wars (James Snell, 5 May 2021, History Today)


Mountainous and dry, with a tendency to anarchy in the ample spaces between its cities, Yemen has long been hospitable to insurgency. Yet in ancient times it was home to the Sabaeans and had claims to be the biblical land of the Queen of Sheba. Its fertility and beauty were such that the Romans called it Arabia Felix, ‘happy Arabia’. The people there are mostly Arabs and like much of the rest of Arabia, became subject to the distant domain of the Ottoman sultan. The fate of the peninsula was influenced significantly by Britain, which in 1937 took the port city of Aden as the centre of its colony (on independence in 1967, it became South Yemen). Britain exercised significant influence over who ruled Muscat and Oman; assisted succession to the monarchy and imamate of North Yemen; and together with the US confirmed the al Saud family as hereditary rulers of what became Saudi Arabia. Now combined, the former North and South Yemen are together Sunni by bare majority, but the Zaidi Shia remain a large, mainly northern minority.

Since Yemen was unified in 1990, successive governments have claimed that the country can be governed as one, a right that a number of rivals currently contest. Yet the number of guerrilla wars fought in the country’s north in the last hundred years show that the old cliches about Yemen are at least partly true. Wars of insurgency take root there and, each time, the same players and similar countries are involved.

Ansar Allah, commonly known as the Houthi movement after its leaders Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi (1959-2004) and Abdul-Malik al-Houthi (b.1979), is the latest organisation to conduct an insurgency in the territory of the former state of North Yemen. The Houthis’ antecedents fought enemies, both internal and external, including Egyptian troops sent by Gamal Nasser, the president of the then United Arab Republic (UAR), in the 1960s. […]

That war began with an attempted coup. In 1962 the newly crowned king and imam of North Yemen, Muhammad al-Badr, was overthrown by a military which desired to establish an Arab republic in an age when two Arab states, Egypt and Syria, had already united as the UAR. The officers behind the coup were trained by Egypt and their efforts to usurp power were supported by Nasser.

Muhammad al-Badr was a Zaidi Shia, who drew his support from this religious group. Within weeks of the coup he began marshalling resistance among the country’s tribes.

EVIL FROM THE JUMP:

A Century After Lenin’s Death, His Evil Legacy Lives On: Believing that the class struggle justified any means, he glorified murder as a moral obligation. (David Satter, Jan. 19, 2024, WSJ)


Vladimir Lenin has been gone for a century, but the evil he did lives on. The first leader of the Soviet Union died on Jan. 21, 1924, in Gorki, Russia (now called Nizhny Novgorod), after repeated strokes. His legacy is a world whose moral equilibrium he helped to destroy.

The Soviet Union was based on Marxism, a secular religion, and Lenin was the architect of its system of antimorality. For Lenin, as he said in his speech to the Komsomol on Oct. 2, 1920, morality was entirely subordinated to the class struggle. An action was right not in light of “extrahuman concepts” but only if it destroyed the old society and helped to build a new communist society.

The effect of this theory is felt today in post-Soviet Russia, where the legacy of communism’s blanket rejection of universal morality destroyed the hope for democratic reform.

One of the oddest anti-anti-Communist tropes from back in the day was that Western Communists should be excused as “idealists” as long as they bailed on the USSR once Stalin took over. Of course, Gorbachev’s great miscalculation was that he believed the same. But once they were permitted an opening, dissidents discredited the Revolution itself, not just Joe.

FUDDIE DUDDIES:

You’ve Formed Your Opinion on EVs. Now Let Me Change It.: Frozen Teslas, unsold inventory piling up at dealerships, production woes—yet sales of electric vehicles still continue to rise. Dan Neil is here to address all your EV fears and doubts. (Dan Neil, 1/19/24, WSJ)

If you think EVs are too expensive, just wait. The mother of price wars is coming consumers’ way, as Tesla continues to leverage its low production costs to undercut the competition. Tesla watchers also expect the company to unveil its long-awaited Model 2 later this year, with a similarly long-awaited $25,000 price tag.

Charging: After a decade of self-sabotage, most automakers decided last year to adopt Tesla’s NACS charging standard in the U.S., which will allow their customers to use Tesla’s robust Supercharging network, like civilized people. Meanwhile, the Biden administration is targeting a half-million public fast chargers in the field by 2030. Pretty soon range anxiety will be returned to neurotics.

Some FUD is simply out of date. For example, the prohibitively high cost of batteries. In 2023 alone, lithium battery pack prices fell 14%, according to BloombergNEF’s Zero Emissions Vehicle Factbook—a tenth of where it stood a decade ago. The race to the bottom on cost will also eliminate the use of battery tech’s most problematic material: cobalt. Advanced lithium-iron phosphate (LFP) batteries use no cobalt and have a lot of other agreeable properties, too, including being more durable, less flammable and cheaper.

The most pernicious FUD may be the idea that EVs can’t move the needle on carbon emissions. They already are. EV adoption cut demand for oil by 1.8 million barrels in 2023, according to BloombergNEF, thereby avoiding 122 megatons of carbon-dioxide emissions.

VERSAILLES DID NOT TREAT THE ALLIES HARSHLY ENOUGH:

False Messiahs (Barnett R. Rubin, January 4, 2024, Boston Review)

Neither the British nor the Zionist movement considered the views of the people who lived in Palestine, 96 percent of them Arab. By Herzl’s own account in his diary, he did not speak to a single Arab during his 1898 visit to Palestine.

As historian Rashid Khalidi documents in The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine (2020), Balfour wrote in a 1919 memo to the British cabinet that “in Palestine we do not propose even to go through the form of consulting the wishes of the present inhabitants of the country. . . . Zionism, be it right or wrong, good or bad, is rooted in age-long traditions, in present needs, in future hopes, of far profounder import than the desires and prejudices of the 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land.” Winston Churchill, in his 1937 testimony to the Peel Commission appointed by London to make recommendations on Palestine, was more emphatic:

I do not admit that the dog in the manger has the final right to the manger even though he may have lain there for a very long time. I do not admit that right. I do not admit, for instance, that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America, or the black people of Australia. I do not admit that a wrong has been done to those people by the fact that a stronger race, a higher grade race, or, at any rate, a more worldly-wise race, to put it that way, has come in and taken their place.

Why did Zionism and many Jews accept this bargain? As Europeans, even if oppressed ones, they largely shared the virtually unchallenged assumptions of European colonial thinking. Circumstances also provided them with little choice. Given the opportunity, many—perhaps most—of the Jewish refugees from Hitler would have gone to the United States rather than Palestine. But by the 1930s, the tightening grip of anti-Semitism on the Western world convinced even erstwhile Jewish opponents of Zionism that they had no choice. Zionism’s claim that Jews could never be safe among other nations was proving true, not only in Nazi Germany but also in the “liberal” west. Jews trying to flee Nazi anti-Semitism butted up against anti-Semitic immigration laws in the United States and UK. The British—indeed Home Secretary Balfour himself—had enacted the Aliens Act in 1905, introducing immigration restrictions. The U.S. Immigration Act of 1924 was explicitly intended to stop the massive immigration of Eastern European Jews, among others. In July 1938, thirty-two nations assembled on Lake Geneva at the Evian conference to consider what to do about the mounting tide of Jewish refugees. Every delegate expressed sympathy for the refugees, but only Ecuador and the Dominican Republic offered to admit any of them.

The Mandate for Palestine given by the League of Nations to Britain in 1920—which came into effect in 1923—gave the Zionist organization legal status as “a public body for the purpose of advising and co-operating with the Administration of Palestine in such economic, social and other matters as may affect the establishment of the Jewish national home and the interests of the Jewish population in Palestine.” It also provided that the mandatory authorities “shall facilitate Jewish immigration under suitable conditions and shall encourage . . . settlement by Jews on the land.” The mandate forbade discrimination by the British in Palestine against other members of the League of Nations but offered neither protection nor any form of representation to the Palestinian Arabs.

As colonial subjects, the Palestinian Arabs, unlike the Americans or British, had no sovereign power to regulate immigration into their territory. The combination of the Nazi regime, the exclusionary consensus expressed at the Evian conference, and the British mandate on Palestine together imposed a disproportionate burden of accepting Jewish refugees on the Palestinians, whose tiny country had nothing to do with the origin of the crisis and was deprived of any means of self-government.

SIMPLE ECONOMICS:

The Clean Energy Transition May Be Cheaper Than We Thought: Cost estimates leave out some of the savings of using less fossil fuels, new analysis says. (DAN GEARINO, 1/19/24, MoJo)

The global transition to clean energy has a cost, but it may be a lot lower than the figures that sometimes get thrown around. The differences are large, amounting to trillions and even tens of trillions of dollars.

A new analysis from RMI, the clean energy research and advocacy group, identifies what its authors say is a basic flaw in many of those estimates: They don’t fully take into account the decrease in fossil fuel spending.

“This kind of narrative that there’s a massive surge in capital that’s required is simply incorrect,” said Kingsmill Bond, a co-author of the report and an analyst for RMI whose work covers the financial side of the energy transition.


The report finds that global capital spending (money used for equipment and property, among other things) on energy supply is on track to be about $2.5 trillion in 2030, up from $2.2 trillion in 2023.

“It’s 2 percent per annum growth,” Bond said. “On a net basis, it’s not much.”

And then starts paying for itself.

THE FIRST PRESIDENT OF PALESTINE:

Could Barghouti be the Palestinian to make peace with Israel? (Alain Catzeflis, 1/19/24, the Article)

For decades the international community has clung to the idea that peace in the Middle East could be imposed from the outside: essentially by American power and Arab money. Time and again this has proved a dangerous illusion. A go-between can, well, go-between warring parties. But, as every peace initiative in history shows, all you can do is take a horse to water.

Ami Ayalon is a straight-talking Israeli war hero with the ageing good looks of a combat veteran from central casting. Ayalon headed both Shin Bet, Israel’s security service, and the country’s navy. He thinks he has the answer.

Ayalon believes the Palestinian who ticks all the boxes has been sitting in an Israeli jail for 22 years. He’s talking about Marwan Barghouti, the most senior Palestinian leader behind bars and by far the most popular, though not a man widely known to the world beyond.

A veteran of the 1987-93 and 2000-2004 intifadas or uprisings, Barghouti is serving five life sentences for his role in the death of Israelis during the second intifada.

Ayalon told the Guardian recently, that Barghouti is the only leader who can lead Palestinians to a state alongside Israel “because he believes in a two-state solution and because he won his legitimacy by sitting in our jails.”

Of Insurrections and Republics: Considering the plausible constitutional theory behind Sec. 3 of the 14th Amend., as well as wrestling with whether January 6th was an insurrection & if Donald Trump offered aid & comfort to the same. (JUSTIN STAPLEY, JAN 19, 2024, The Freemen Newsl-etter)


Like most of the American founders, I strongly distrust pure democracy. As John Adams once wrote, “Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes exhausts and murders itself. There never was a Democracy Yet, that did not commit suicide. It is in vain to Say that Democracy is less vain, less proud, less selfish, less ambitious or less avaricious than Aristocracy or Monarchy.”

I view democracy from a very utilitarian perspective, in that democratic processes are indispensable to a functioning constitutional republic but no more indispensable, and arguably less indispensable, than other aspects of republicanism, such as meritocracy, the rule of law, liberty, etc. I’m, therefore, less inclined to herald democracy as a principle or ideal, one that holds value and virtue in and of itself. As the quote from Adams suggests, every majoritarian democracy in history has ended in tyranny. In such attempts, the unvarnished will of the people inevitably empowered demagogues who played off the anxieties of the people toward achieving unchecked power. That’s why the American founders crafted a republic, one with checks and balances upon every exercise of power, including the voice of the people.

We often think of constitutions as limits on governing power and protections for the rights of the people. And they are that. But in the broader context of constitutional theory, the function of a constitution extends to purposes conducive to wrestling with the realities of human nature. Consider that, in any form of representative government, a limit placed on governing authority is a limit placed on the majoritarian will of the people and that protections for rights and liberties are, once again, limits placed on what a political majority can do to a political minority. A constitution is nothing more and nothing less than a circumscription of power—all avenues and repositories of power, including the people themselves.

Clearly, the purpose of a constitution’s circumscription of power is not to enable the unvarnished voice of the people. The very idea of limited governance is counter to the idea of democracy as an unadulterated good. To the contrary, the basic theory of constitutional governance recognizes pure democracy as one of the great evils to be avoided and democratic processes as, to at least a certain extent, a necessary evil. Constitutional theory, then, is not dedicated to establishing democracy as its ultimate aim but utilizes democratic processes as an ingredient toward the ultimate aim of establishing and preserving the sovereignty of a people.

What is the sovereignty of a people? That can prove to be a complicated question to answer. But the easiest and most straightforward way to understand popular sovereignty is Abraham Lincoln’s conception of a government “of the people, by the people, for the people.” Under the concept of popular sovereignty, the people, as a whole and not simply a majority of the people, are the reservoir of ultimate and supreme power in society. The authority of any form of government under such a scheme derives from the consent of the governed (by the people), and its legitimacy is maintained through representation (of the people) whose responsibility is to provide for the common good (for the people).

While democratic processes help provide a framework that assures government of the people and by the people to a reasonable degree, history has demonstrated that democracy is ill-suited to provide the common good for all people in a society. The unavoidable development of factions, the inevitable spirit of party, and the inescapable shortfalls of majority rule all guarantee that the effects of pure democracy cannot ever be conducive toward the common good. There must be auxiliary precautions enshrined in a political compact, a constitution, that checks and balances majoritarian power if the common good of the people can even become a possibility. Further, even government of the people and by the people is impossible through majoritarian democracy, because, once again, we’re talking about all of the people, not simply government by whichever faction or interest can cobble together a 50+1 majority.

Sovereignty, not democracy, is the ultimate aim of constitutional governance, and sovereignty, as I’ve demonstrated above, is aided by democratic processes but only secured through a strong and well-constituted form of limited government. The sovereignty of a people relies upon a constitution that is maintained as the supreme law of the land and effectively checks and balances the exercise of all power, especially the power of majorities. And this is my crucial point: the sovereignty of a people is assaulted, rather than preserved, if the provisions of a constitution are discarded or defenestrated in the name of democracy.

The Right frets about liberalism lacking a “common good” but the requirement of republican liberty that laws be applied universally enforces one.