Friday, April 17, 2015

Ancient Chinese capitalism

An interesting post on Quora by an old China hand

If I could only share one thing from China I think it would be the Chinese philosophy of Daoism. A lot of people think that capitalism has no respectable political theory behind it but the philosophy of Daoism is over 2500 years old and articulates the theory of libertarian government and laissez faire economics a mere two millennia before Adam Smith.

The political philosophy of an Emperor governing by doing as little as possible, by dismantling all government programs like rice storage and irrigation works. The economic theory that if left alone, farmers will grow what is needed, by responding to climate and soil and market prices. Goods in excess in one place or period, will be transported or stored so as to fetch a higher price where they are more needed. Without the government lifting a hand, goods in excess in a place of plenty will be transferred by merchants to a place of drought or shortage. Without the government building stores and compulsorily seizing crops against a bad winter, merchants will buy the cheap grain and store it to be sold when supply runs out.

Hence the complete lack of need for the traditional strong central government prescribed by the Confucian system. It was tried in the Early Han and worked brilliantly, but the scholars hated the idea of a rich merchant class which could compete with them for privilege and status, so they had a big meeting and got the Emperor to abandons Daoist economics for government monopolies which they could control for their own benefit.

Just think, if the Emperor had seen through the scheming scholars, China might have become capitalist half a millennium before Europe!


China, Not America, Rescues Its Own Citizens Stuck in Yemen

As the situation in Yemen continues to deteriorate, consider this striking contrast between the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the United States.

One country dispatched naval forces to evacuate its citizens from the collapsing Middle East state. In the process, they evacuated citizens from 10 other countries, including Great Britain, Japan and Germany.

The other country closed its embassy nearly a month ago, but did not evacuate its own citizens who remained behind. Instead, it told them that they were on their own, providing information for contacting other nations’ embassies. That country’s foreign ministry spokesperson observed that the use of military assets would only raise the level of risk.

Which country did which?

It might surprise you that the country that actively evacuated citizens from multiple countries was the People’s Republic of China. Or that it was the American State Department whose spokesperson Marie Harf dismissed the idea of using American military assets to evacuate its citizens.

The Chinese Navy, of course, has been steadily expanding its capabilities, so we should not be surprised that it can conduct such operations.

What is surprising is that the U.S. Navy, whose recent messaging centered on the tagline “A force for good,” should be so absent from the evacuation effort. It’s certainly not because the U.S. is absent from the region.

Indeed, even as Chinese and Indian naval elements have been evacuating citizens from various countries, the American military has been providing assistance to the Saudis, who are conducting airstrikes into Yemen.

One can only wonder what the administration sees as its primary responsibility. As it pulls out the stops on the Iran deal, there are American citizens in Yemen who are undoubtedly wondering where they fit on government priorities.



Income Inequality: Married Couples With Kids Make Average of $107,054

If American politicians wanted to drive down the income of the American people and make this a poorer nation — and they actually studied the government's own data about who does well financially in the United States — they would seek to advance policies that discourage traditional family life and child-rearing.

Married couples with children under 18 years of age, according to the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey (Table HINC-04), made an average household income of $107,054 in 2013 and a median household income of $85,087.

"A married couple, as defined for census purposes, is a husband and wife enumerated as members of the same household," says the Census Bureau in its list of definitions used in the Current Population Survey.

How do a husband and wife with kids compare to Americans living in other social arrangements?

Well, married couples with no children under 18 had an average household income of $91,870 in 2013 and a median household income of $70,995. That was about 86 percent of the average household income and 83 percent of median household income earned by their married counterparts who did have children under 18.

Unmarried couples with children under 18 had an average household income of $65,337 and a median of $50,031. That was only about 61 percent of the average income and 59 percent of median household income of their married counterparts.

Unmarried couples with no children did only a little bit better, with average household incomes of $76,609 and median household incomes of $62,126. That was only about 72 percent of the average household income and 73 percent of the median household income of married couples with kids.

Nonfamily male householders with no minor children had an average household income of $53,217 and a median of $36,600. That was only about 50 percent of the average household income and 43 percent of the median household income of married couples with kids.

Nonfamily female households with no minor children had an average household income of $39,781 and a median of $26,355. That was only 37 percent of the average household income and 31 percent of the median household income of married couples with children.

Of course, many young unmarried Americans who have no children today will get married and have children in the future.

The Census Bureau data shows that Americans who become part of a married couple follow a higher household income trajectory than those who live alone or in nonfamily households.

According to the bureau's Table HINC-02, married couple families with householders 24 years old or younger have an average household income of $48,275 and a median household income of $41,360.

By the time these married couple families are in the 35-to-39 age bracket, their average household income surpasses six figures at $104,696 and their median household income is $83,609.

The median income of married couple families peaks at $94,780 in the 45-to-49 age bracket and the average income peaks at $118,190 in the 50-to-54 age bracket.

According to the Census Bureau married couple families spend their retirement years (65 and over) with average ($74,978) and median ($53,856) household incomes higher than the overall average ($72,641) and median ($51,939) household incomes for all age brackets.

By contrast, the median household income of nonfamily households peaks at $48,269 when the householder is 30 to 34 years old and the average household income of nonfamily households peaks at $61,436 when the householder is in the 25-to-29 age bracket.

Male householders living alone hit a peak median household income of $41,187 when they are 40-to-44 years old and a peak average household income of $57,110 in that same age bracket. That is only about 43 percent of the peak median income ($94,780) of the married couple family and only about 48 percent of the peak average income ($118,190) of the married couple family.

Why do married couples with kids have higher household incomes?

Perhaps it is because they are not primarily driven by greed but something quite the opposite: a willingness to make sacrifices so their children may live better lives.

It is telling that married couples with children tend to end up with higher incomes than people who only need to maintain a household for themselves.

And it is a telling irony that some politicians would like to redistribute wealth from the former type of household to the latter while making fewer people dependent on themselves and their families and more dependent on government.



Congress Scores Political Victory Over Obama in Iran Deal

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee forced Barack Obama to back away from his one-man approach to negotiations with Iran. Under Sen. Bob Corker’s leadership, the committee on Tuesday passed a bill that would require Congress review Obama’s deal with Iran before lifting sanctions against the country. The bill passed 19-0 and is expected to pass both chambers with veto-proof majorities.

Before the bill broke out of committee, Obama lobbied Congress to stay out of his dealings with Iran and its nuclear program. Now, Obama’s saying he may sign the legislation, cowing to the rightful demands of Congress.

But Corker’s bill is far from perfect. Conservative commentator Noah Pollack tweeted, “The way Corker & Graham wrote their bill, Obama will win Congressional approval of Iran deal with only 34 votes. Ponder that.”

In other words, a decision not to approve Obama’s bill faces the challenge of herding all the cats of Congress in the same direction. The Wall Street Journal argues the ideal role of Congress is to pass a treaty because nuclear deals should not be sealed with talk and a handshake. Corker’s bill is a victory, but merely a political one.



The Armenian genocide was also a jihad

by Jeff Jacoby

UNLIKE SOME of Pope Francis's other headline-generating pronouncements, his description of Turkey's mass murder of 1.5 million Armenians during World War I as "genocide" was anything but inadvertent.

Speaking at the Vatican during a Sunday mass to mark the centenary of the slaughter, the pope said it is "widely considered the first genocide of the 20th century" — a quote from Pope John Paul II, who used nearly the same words in 2001. But Francis went further, equating the destruction of the Armenians to the Nazi Holocaust and the Soviet bloodbaths under Stalin. And he linked the genocidal Ottoman assault on Armenia, the world's oldest Christian nation, with the epidemic of violence against Christians today, especially by such radical Islamist terror groups as ISIS, Boko Haram, and al-Shabaab.

Turkey reacted angrily, recalling its ambassador to the Vatican and accusing Francis of distorting history and spreading prejudice. On Twitter, the Turkish foreign minister denounced the pope for fueling "hatred and animosity" with his "unfounded allegations." That was no surprise, given the government's vehement history of denialism on the subject. To this day, the use of the word "genocide" to describe the killing of the Armenians is a criminal offense in Turkey, and Turkish diplomats labor mightily to defeat genocide-recognition efforts worldwide.

The journalist Thomas de Waal wrote recently in Foreign Affairs that "no other historical issue causes such anguish in Washington." The political debate over "the G-Word" has consumed countless hours, even as the historical debate — as the pope suggested — has been largely resolved. As de Waal explains, Turkey is so adamant for reasons both material and psychological. Some Turkish politicians fear that acknowledging the Ottoman-perpetrated genocide could trigger claims for financial reparations or territorial concessions. But beyond that is "the emotive power of the word," which was coined in the wake of the Holocaust and is indelibly linked in the public mind with the absolute evil of the Final Solution. "No one willingly admits to committing genocide," writes de Waal, and many Turks seethe at "being invited to compare their grandparents to the Nazis."

Yet Turkish authorities weren't always so reluctant to accurately label the genocidal evil unleashed against the Armenians a century ago.

Talaat Pasha, the powerful Ottoman interior minister during World War I, certainly didn't disguise his objective. "The Government … has decided to destroy completely all the indicated [Armenians] persons living in Turkey," he brusquely reminded officials in Aleppo in a September 1915 dispatch. "An end must be put to their existence … and no regard must be paid to either age or sex, or to conscientious scruples."

US Ambassador Henry Morgenthau, flooded with accounts of the torture, death marches, and butchery being inflicted on the Armenians, remonstrated with Talaat to no avail. "It is no use for you to argue," Morgenthau was told. "We have already disposed of three quarters of the Armenians…. The hatred between the Turks and Armenians is now so intense that we have got to finish them. If we don't, they will plan their revenge…. We will not have the Armenians anywhere in Anatolia."

If some of them survived, it wasn't for lack of effort by the killers. Of the roughly 2 million Armenians living in the country in 1914, 90 percent were gone by 1918. The death toll was well over one million; innumerable others fled for their lives. To read eyewitness descriptions of the ghastly cruelties the Armenian Christians were made to suffer a century ago is to be reminded that the jihadist savagery of ISIS and al-Qaeda is not an innovation.

That key fact is one the pope, to his credit, refuses to downplay: Armenians were victims not only of genocide, but also of jihad. In imploring his listeners on Sunday to hear the "muffled and forgotten cry" of endangered Christians who today are "ruthlessly put to death — decapitated, crucified, burned alive — or forced to leave their homeland," Francis was reminding the world that the price of irresolution in the face of determined Islamist violence is as steep as ever.

The jihadists of 1915 murdered "bishops and priests, religious women and men, the elderly, and even defenseless children and the infirm." The world knew what was happening; the grisly details were extensively reported at the time. Just as they are now, and with as little effect.



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