Two Great Editorials in the Washington Post last weekend  

Posted by Wayne Bretski in

One is by Nawaz Sharif, the former President of Pakistan, whose government was deposed by military leader Pervez Musharraf several years ago. When General Musharraf declared the Constitution invalid a few weeks ago, it was really the latest of a series of human rights violations that includes the refusal of 160 Pakistanis the vote and the denial of governance to minority group leaders Mr. Sharif and Benzanir Bhutto; while Ms. Bhutto has in fact herself been found guilty of corruption, military autocracy, the suppression and disbandment of the judiciary, and the absence of the rule of law based on the opinions and political ends of one man should be swiftly dealt, by the denial of funds to the corrupt government. By some estimates, more unaccountable cash is given by the U.S. directly to Musharraf's government (the Pakistani military, which itself is really more of a large collection of mercenaries) than through proper foreign assistance channels. Read Mr. Sharif's comments here.

The second is Professor Tyler Cowen of George Mason, writing on the cost of the Iraq war in the form of an open letter to President Bush. After noting that a White House economic advisor was fired after estimating that the war would cost $200 billion, Mr. Cowen tells us the true amount: over $1 TRILLION. He then goes on to say

But all these figures don't quite get at Iraq's real cost. Indeed, we usually don't even frame the question the right way. We'd do better to recognize what we've lost, rather than focusing only on what we've paid.

The article is short and swift, as always with Tyler very well written and reasoned. Some may remember my opposition to the war dating back to, well, before the war, and this editorial sums up quite a few things that I dreaded: massive loss of life (huge costs) while not radically altering the Middle East and in fact empowering other rogue states (grossly insufficient rewards). But most of all, it comes down to opportunity costs. What could we have done with the available federal troops? (New Orleans and southeast coast hurricanes, California wildfires.) What could we have done with the four thousand dead soldiers, the thirty thousand wounded soldiers and the other physical and psychological casualties of war? (Brought the long arm of justice down on bin Laden, put real pressure on Kim Jung Il and/or Mahmoud Admadinejad, had happier Thanksgivings.)

And one thing that Tyler didn't touch on that I would like to is that the U.S. shovels money into Middle Eastern duffel bags at unprecedented rates. With all the tough talk from Washington about Hugo Chavez and South American oil-rich nations, with all our fumbling about in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, why are the American people NEVER asked to make a sacrifice Congress are the only American citizens who are ever asked for more money - and it's certainly not out of their pockets. Taxes are lowered while government defense spending goes through the roof. I know this is Thomas Friedman's territory here, but a gasoline tax, a so-called Patriot tax on gas that would dually benefit the environment while not lining the pockets of ayatollahs and Saudi princes?

Read Tyler Cowen's lovely argument for the real cost of the Iraq war here.

Finally, Paul Krugman has a nice post up today about the economics behind the falling dollar. If you have any interest in a discussion of interest rate policy and the resulting effects on unemployment, exchange rates, and spending markets, have a look. It's not as WONKISH as he claims at the beginning, in fact it's rather simple. The first comment appears to be knowledgeable, disagreeing with Mr. Krugman. Read the post and see what you think.


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