Economists use something called the Gini coefficient to measure inequality. It is a scale that runs from zero to one, with zero indicating total equality (everyone makes the same amount) and one indicating total inequality (that is, one person gets all the income and everyone else gets nothing). As the chart above shows, the Gini coefficient rose over the last quarter century in seventeen OECD countries.
What may be most remarkable about the numbers is that income inequality was up not just in traditionally higher income-inequality countries such as Mexico, the United States, and Israel, but also in traditionally lower income-inequality countries such as Germany, Finland, and Sweden.
The fact that income inequality is up almost across the board might seem to suggest that globalization and technology are to blame rather than the specific tax, spending, and regulatory choices that individual countries make. After all, globalization and technology are universal in their impact while countries follow very different national economic policies.
The OECD’s economists, however, say that the jury is still out on the causes of greater income inequality. Which brings to mind something I read once to the effect that if you lay all the world’s economists end to end you will never reach a conclusion. So let the argument continue.
The views expressed in this article are solely those of James M. Lindsay.
Bashar al-Assad has accepted a six-point plan put forth by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan to “end” the crisis in Syria. We’ll see how that goes. Russian president Dmitri Medvedev has vowed support for the plan. This marks a change of tone if not substance in Russian policy. Moscow vetoed a toothless UN Security Council resolution on Syria just last month, claiming it was another Western attempt at “regime change
Some critics argue that Russia’s opposition had a more base motive: a desire to continue selling weapons to Syria. Which leads to a question: Who are the market leaders in the international arms trade? Thanks to the Economist, we know the answer—and it’s not China. The United States and Russia top the charts of arms dealers, with Germany, France, and Britain far behind. Not surprisingly, countries sell more to their friends. The number one destination for U.S. arms exports is South Korea. Germany sells a lot to Greece (and gives it a lot of money as well); France is cozy with Singapore, and Britain has a friend in Riyadh. Don’t expect the international demand for weapons to ease any time soon.
The views expressed in this article are solely those of James M. Lindsay.
President Obama got himself into hot water this week when he was overhead telling Russian president Dmitri Medvedev he would have “more flexibility” on issues like missile defense after the November election and that incoming Russian president Vladimir Putin should give him “space.” President Biden famously called the signing of Obama’s health-care bill in 2010 “a big f***ing deal.” Parents of young children were not pleased.
Obama’s critics have blistered him for this week’s gaffe, because, well, that’s what critics do.
He’s baaaaaccck! Vladimir Putin, who stepped down in 2008 as Russia’s president after serving two terms, won yesterday’s Russian presidential election going away. He captured a reported 64 percent of the vote, well above the 50 percent he needed to avoid a run-off election but seven percentage points below what he captured in his last presidential run in 2004. Politicians give speeches all the time. Most of what they say is quickly forgotten, or perhaps better never said in the first place. But occasionally a politician gives a speech that defines an age. That is precisely what happened on March 5, 1946 whenWinston Churchill
spoke at tiny Westminster College
in Fulton, Missouri. He gave the world what became the central metaphor of the cold war: the iron curtain.
Churchill was in Missouri at the encouragement of President Harry Truman, who had grown up down the road in Independence and who introduced him when he spoke at Westminster College. “Winnie” was no longer prime minister by the time he came to campus. In July 1945, just two months after he led Britain to victory over Germany, British voters tossed him and his Conservative Party out of power. But his electoral defeat had hardly dimmed his star power in the United States. FULL POST The six Americans charged with violating Egypt’s civil-society laws finally got to come home
. The National Democratic Institute
and the International Republican Institute posted more than $4 million in bail to get the travel ban that the Egyptian government had on their employees lifted. (Germany’s Konrad Adenauer Foundation posted another half a million dollars in bail to get its two employees out of Egypt.) The accused all pledged that they will return to Egypt in April when their trial on charges of failing to register their NGO with the Egyptian government and taking money from a foreign entity is scheduled to resume. Fat chance that happens. FULL POST
Foreign service officers posted in embassies and consulates around the world send cables to Washington every day. Much of what they write is forgotten even before it is read at the State Department. A few cables gain notoriety when they are leaked to the public. Almost none help change the course of history. But the cable that George F. Kennan sent to his State Department superiors from Moscow on February 22, 1946 did just that. Hopes in the United States were high during the winter of 1945-46. World War II had ended with the defeat of Japan and Nazi Germany. Many Americans expected that Washington would build on the relationship with its wartime ally, the Soviet Union. They shared the conclusion that Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower reached visiting Moscow in 1945: “Nothing guides Russian policy so much as a desire for friendship with the United States.” But by late fall 1945 the alliance began to unravel as Moscow pushed to carve out a sphere of influence in the Balkans, a prelude to what would become Soviet domination of Eastern Europe. A few presidents have loved the job. Teddy Roosevelt said “No president has ever enjoyed himself as much as I have enjoyed myself.” Most other presidents, though, have found the job demanding, perhaps too demanding. James K. Polk pretty much worked himself to exhaustion. Zachary Taylor, the hero of the Mexican-American War, found being president harder than leading men into battle. Dwight Eisenhower had a heart attack from the stress of leading the Free World.Many presidents express relief once they can be called “former president.” This trend started early. John Adams
told his wife Abigail that George Washington looked too happy watching him take the oath of office. “Me–thought I heard him say, ‘Ay, I am fairly out and you fairly in! See which of us will be happiest!”
Andrew Johnson, who was impeached by the House but acquitted by the Senate, returned to Capitol Hill six years after leaving the White House as senator from Tennessee. When an acquaintance mentioned that his new accommodations were smaller than his old ones at the White House, he replied: “But they are more comfortable.” Rutherford B. Hayes longed to escape what he called a “life of bondage, responsibility, and toil.” Xi Jinping visits the White House Tuesday
. One of the topics on the agenda is the future of Chinese investment in the United States. It may sound like a pedestrian topic, but it has the potential to be politically explosive.China certainly has a lot of money to invest overseas. That’s one of the benefits that comes with being a creditor nation that sells the world more than it buys. As the chart below shows, China has more than $68 billion in overseas investments, up from less than $10 billion six years ago. (China is still a piker compared to the Netherlands—$3.78 trillion in outward foreign direct investment in 2010—let alone the United States—$3.91 trillion in overseas investments, also in 2010. That’s the benefit of getting a decades-long, if not centuries-long, head start.) FULL POST
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