Depressing articles

1. India seems to be following China in an authoritarian direction. But does anyone care? Here’s how a correspondent at The Economist characterizes the West’s reaction to Indian censorship:

The doubters also underestimate the limpness of Mr Modi’s Western allies. America, Britain and the rest may express some small concerns, from time to time, about minority rights and press freedoms in India. But what matters to them is the vast economic potential of the Indian market and their longing for an Indian bulwark in the West’s struggle for supremacy with China.

Last month Britain’s especially limp prime minister, Rishi Sunak, suggested he did not “agree at all” with the unpublished report’s characterisation of Mr Modi. There has been no full-throated backing in London or Washington for the bbc, let alone for Mr Modi’s far more vulnerable Indian victims. Fair enough, you might say; geopolitics is a rough game. But next time Banyan hears a Western leader congratulating Mr Modi on their countries’ “shared democratic values”, his stomach will turn.

2. Not from The Onion (Putin envy):

3. The National Review has an excellent article discussing the Biden’s administration’s shameful lack of support for Ukraine:

Meanwhile, here in the West, the same old pattern continues: The Ukrainians beg for tools to win the war — from fighter jets to long-range-missile systems to additional training by special-operations personnel — and the Biden administration’s response amounts to “Not yet, but maybe later.” The Ukrainians are bleeding now, but Biden and his team have plans for a lot of help to arrive in 2024 and 2025.

Read the whole thing.

4. Russia is moving into a Chinese style Cultural Revolution, with family members informing on each other, and children as young as 10 being arrested for not being sufficient patriotic. This FT article is worth reading:

‘Total distrust’: rise of the Russian informers

Teachers, neighbours and even family members are turning to Soviet-style denunciations in wartime Russia.

And China may be doing the same.

5. The Economist reports that Russia’s best people have fled the country, leaving two factions to fight it out:

For one thing, the 500,000 people who have fled are among Russia’s best educated and most dynamic. They may not have had any say in politics even before the war, but their voices were nonetheless audible. No longer. Political debate, to the extent there is any in Russia now, occurs not between those who oppose the war and those who support it, but between “patriots” and “turbo-patriots”, who criticise Russian commanders for not being brutal and aggressive enough.

(I suppose there were Germans who didn’t think Hitler was tough enough on his opponents.) The article is quite long, but worth reading.

6. Twitter’s new free speech policy doesn’t apply to India:

Twitter blocked 122 accounts belonging to journalists, authors, and politicians in India this week in response to legal requests from the Indian government. On March 23, the government issued a request for 29 more Twitter accounts to be blocked, as per data on the Lumen database — a collaborative archive which collects legal complaints and requests for removal of online material. The development follows a police crackdown and a subsequent internet shutdown in the north Indian state of Punjab to arrest separatist figure Amritpal Singh Sandhu. The government has declared Sandhu a fugitive and he is on the run. The current internet and SMS suspension in the state, enforced on March 18, affects 27 million people.

7. People in China’s wildlife trade have an incentive to blame lab leaks:

Yet individuals and companies who benefited from the wildlife trade resisted the [2003] curbs fiercely. Within months restrictions had been relaxed; business soon bounced back. By 2010 Zhong Nanshan, a doctor who became a hero during the SARS crisis, was warning a session of China’s rubber-stamp parliament that the wildlife trade’s resurgence was increasing the risk of a new disaster. . . .

Since 2020 the government has once again stepped up efforts to solve the problem. That year Xi Jinping, China’s president, said that eating wildlife “without limits” was a “bad habit” that had to be junked. China has imposed a fresh ban on consuming exotic animals. But Mr Li, noting that trading creatures for other reasons is still allowed, wonders how long even that prohibition will last. He says the wildlife industry retains powerful influence within the government.

The argument that a leaky laboratory may have been responsible for unleashing covid on the world has benefited traders of exotic animals. They see a chance to avoid blame for a pandemic that has killed millions. 

You won’t find me deflecting attention from China’s wild animal markets.

8. China apologists often argue that China’s GDP is dramatically lower than reported in official figures, thus making China seem like less of a threat to the US. But China’s official figures suggest that it’s only slightly richer than Mexico. If it is in fact poorer than Mexico, then how is this possible?

Last year Mexico’s economy minister said some 400 companies were interested in relocating facilities from Asia to Mexico. Andrés Benavides of Daikin, a Japanese air-conditioning manufacturer, says the company is moving some of its production for the American market from Thailand to Mexico. It plans to hire 2,000 people in Mexico over the next 18 months. The company has also brought lines of manufacturing down from the United States. A big draw is the availability of labour. And manufacturing wages are far cheaper in Mexico than in China.

So China’s poorer than Mexico, but Chinese wages are far higher? Please explain.

9. With the 21st century move from neoliberalism to nationalism, growth is declining. Here’s the FT:

The global economy is in danger of suffering a lost decade of growth, which would be even more severe if the current financial turmoil sparked a global recession, according to new research from the World Bank. . . .

Indermit Gill, the World Bank’s chief economist, said the fall in the level of sustainable growth was caused by “less work, less investment and less trade” than in the more rapid periods of growth and development in the 1990s and 2000s.

The bank projected that the growth rate the global economy could sustain this decade would be only 2.2 per cent a year for the rest of this decade, down from annual rates of 2.6 per cent between 2011 and 2021 and 3.5 per cent in the first decade of this century.

10. The Economist has a good article on America’s attempt to sabotage China’s economy:

Critics of America’s approach say that it is not just harming its own companies, but also hindering the development of technologies that will benefit all humanity. It will certainly raise costs for companies in the affected industries. The sanctions drive also risks making America look like a bully. Preventing Chinese nationals from participating in high-level quantum-science research might slow the development of quantum computing in China, notes Mr Parker, but it would also erode the notion of American openness. “I was totally shocked,” says a Chinese economist of the fdprs imposed in October, “It goes against everything I was told: free trade, a rules-based order, open competition.” 

America “looks like a bully” because it is a bully. (As is China.) In another article, the Economist suggests that pharma might be the next Chinese industry that the US seeks to destroy, in its attempt to kneecap an economy serving 4 times the US population:

Washington is abuzz with talk of its next “target”: what to feed into the FDPR machine? One idea is to take aim at China’s biomanufacturing industry, which makes drugs and their components. 

11. Meanwhile, Israel goes from bad to worse:

Mr Netanyahu still had to spend long hours begging his more radical coalition partners not to abandon him. The price he had to pay to Itamar Ben-Gvir, leader of the ultra-nationalist Jewish Power party, was to promise a “national guard”, in essence a publicly funded private militia, which would come under the control of Mr Ben-Gvir’s national-security ministry.

Many in Israel’s security establishment think this will be another of Mr Netanyahu’s empty promises. But only a few months ago it was unthinkable that Mr Ben-Gvir, who has been convicted of backing Jewish terrorist outfits, could become the minister in charge of the police.

A private militia controlled by Israel’s racist ultra-right. What could go wrong?

12. This is from Reason:

Melissa Henderson, the Georgia mom handcuffed, arrested, and thrown in jail for having her 14-year-old babysit her younger siblings in the early days of COVID-19, has prevailed in her legal ordeal. . . .

Henderson is now a free woman with two problems still hanging over her head. The first is the time and money it will take to seal and expunge the arrest record, jail record, and court files, so she never has to mention it on employment or background checks. The second is that her ex-husband has just filed for custody of their two young children, based partly on her arrest. Her GoFundMe remains open to help defray the costs of both these battles.

And you wonder why people feel a need to be helicopter parents.

13. Anti-Chinese hysteria has reached the point where it’s become a sort of mental illness. Many states are so paranoid about China that they are banning the sale of farmland to Chinese firms:

The furor is striking, considering China’s modest holdings. Chinese entities own fewer than 3 out of every 10,000 acres of privately held American land, according to U.S. Agriculture Department figures. Tiny Luxembourg owns more.

But lawmakers say the Chinese government could use future deals, including by private companies, to conduct espionage or imperil the nation’s food supply.

LOL. Like they’d need to buy farmland to spy or to poison our food supply. Let’s hope AGI can save us; otherwise I see little hope for this crazy country.



24 Responses to “Depressing articles”

  1. Gravatar of Brett Brett
    7. April 2023 at 10:05

    1. It’s a futile hope. India is closer to Russia than they’ll ever be to the US, and they genuinely put a big premium on the “non-alignment” stuff as well as being a Great Power. Modi’s government does not want to be a junior partner in an alliance with the US.

    3. They certainly waited too long to get Ukrainians trained on western aircraft and equipment, although it’s hard to tell how useful it would be. From what I’ve heard, they could probably get them to a basic level of flying capability with stuff like F-16s in 6-9 months, but they’d get cut to pieces by anti-air defenses.

    11. If you’re going to do Proportional Representation like Israel’s government, you really need minimum vote sizes (IE no seats unless your party gets 10% or more of the vote) and mandatory voting. Even better still would be an actual constitution beyond the Basic Laws.

  2. Gravatar of Sean Sean
    7. April 2023 at 10:08

    Actually attacking Mexico doesn’t seem like that bad of an idea. We are running 100k+ overdoses per year. A war would not costs nearly that many lives. The American military should be able to defeat the cartels fairly easily. We should get Mexican permission but seems rather obvious they’re not capable of winning that war alone. Eliminating the cartels would be a huge utilitarian gain. No more excessive deaths from violence in Mexico, no more fentanyl, a lot of regions cleared of the cartels could significantly increase development. Mexico is unable to establish a monopoly on violence but we should be able to.

    If we were just talking about cocaine and heroin then we could do nothing. Fentanyl is different. We are essentially already in this war. We just are not fighting it.

  3. Gravatar of Sean Sean
    7. April 2023 at 10:11

    While legally these are Mexican borders they lack control over these regions and their more like an autonomous zone.

    The threat of war alone should be enough to get the cartels out of the fentanyl game.

  4. Gravatar of Allenaro Allenaro
    7. April 2023 at 11:32

    “Twitter’s new free speech policy doesn’t apply to India”

    Free speech on the internet never applied to India, nor did it apply to China or most of Europe where “hate speech” is illegal. Tech companies are told they cannot do business in those countries unless they agree to cooperate with government censorship requests.

    But I guess to left-libertarians “Indians don’t enjoy free speech rights, so Americans shouldn’t either har har har” sounds like a logical pro-liberty argument.

  5. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    7. April 2023 at 11:42

    Sean, “Actually attacking Mexico doesn’t seem like that bad of an idea.”

    Not sure if you’re trolling . . .

    Allenaro, “But I guess to left-libertarians “Indians don’t enjoy free speech rights, so Americans shouldn’t either har har har” sounds like a logical pro-liberty argument.”

    I don’t know any, but I rather doubt it.

  6. Gravatar of LC LC
    7. April 2023 at 12:57

    Thank you Scott for taking time to link to articles and summarize. I have gotten a lot out of them.

  7. Gravatar of RAD RAD
    7. April 2023 at 17:02

    7. People in China’s wildlife trade have an incentive to blame lab leaks:

    FYI (2023-03-29): “Chinese researchers release genomic data that could help clarify origin of COVID-19 pandemic” (via TWiV 997).

  8. Gravatar of RAD RAD
    7. April 2023 at 17:42

    3. The National Review has an excellent article discussing the Biden’s administration’s shameful lack of support for Ukraine

    The counter-offensive will start sometime after the spring mud dries (NYTimes):

    We should know by the end of May whether or not Biden and Co. dropped the ball, IMO. If Ukraine has a large supply of the new 150km GLSDB munition for the HIMARS and M270 then the lack of ATACMS will be moot, again IMO, but “no battle plan survives first contact with the enemy”. Time will tell. I’ll join the finger pointing mob if this conflict hasn’t been mostly settled on the battlefield before the fall mud returns.

  9. Gravatar of logan logan
    8. April 2023 at 05:16

    “So China’s poorer than Mexico, but Chinese wages are far higher? Please explain.”

    Massive mis-pricing due to government intervention leads to real GDP being much lower than nominal GPD. This happens mostly through China’s SOE’s which account for 1/3 of the economy and are notoriously unproductive. As well a real-estate bubble that produces ghost-towns that have high nominal value but low actual value.

    Because foreign businesses must pay the high nominal wage, the costs they face are higher than Mexico. Because Chinese citizens only benefit from real GDP (i.e. do they get a home they would want to live in), the experience an economy that is poorer than Mexico.

  10. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    8. April 2023 at 08:05

    Logan, I don’t think you know what “nominal” and “real” mean. It’s nonsensical to compare nominal and real levels.

  11. Gravatar of Sean Sean
    8. April 2023 at 18:35

    Whether I’m right or wrong I don’t know. But was not trolling. Just looked at the issue. The cartels are a plague. Mexico is either incapable or too many pockets being paid and on both sides of the border are immense human suffering.

    If you end the cartel issues you also end a lot of illegal immigration to the US. We would be capable of establishing a monopoly on violence which is a requirement for economic development. Narco tanks aren’t going to stand up to US army equipment.

    If you just look at an issue from a neutral view there’s some reasonableness to it.

  12. Gravatar of Sara Sara
    9. April 2023 at 04:35

    Just keep in mind that Sumner is a big supporter of Lula Da Silva, whose a former member of the Sao Paulo forum, which is the political front for the drug cartels, so it shouldn’t be that surprising that he would seek to undermine any effort to deal with the cartel problem along the border.

    In this post, Sumner also contradicts himself.

    He claims, on the one hand, to be so afraid of Russia that he’s willing to send our young boys, and billions of dollars in armaments to a country 8000K away, yet on the other hand he thinks it’s a good idea to permit the CCP, a totalitarian regime that harvests Organs from the Falun gong, that sterilizes Uighurs, and that within the last three years has publicly, and at the highest levels, threatened India, Japan, Australia, U.S., Canada, Denmark, Vietnam, Philippines, Taiwan, and Mongolia… to just waltz into any country they please and buy up farmlands. He claims questioning this motive, which is a global pattern, is somehow ‘anti-chinese” or “chinese hysteria”. He also believes that we should let the cartels continue to engage in human trafficking across the border.

    It should be clear that the only hysteria is coming from Sumner. Everyone else in the world is simply using their commonsense.

    The CCP has killed Indian soldiers along the border; they’ve imprisoned Japanese and Canadian diplomats on trumped up charges; surely, these countries have a right to be concerned; when they buy up farmlands in Brazil, then of course Brazilians have a right to wonder whether their food supply will be weaponized by a regime run by tyrants (same for Americans).

    Bottom line: giving a totalitarian regime control over a countries farmland, and therefore their subsistence, is only something a low IQ person would permit.

    Sumner often wonders why so many people call him an idiot. Well, this is why.

    Can you imagine if this was Russia buying up farmlands. Sumner would have a heart attack. He’d wake up with night sweats. He’d be shaking from head to toe. He’d probably call for nukes. He’d tell us Trump planned it all. He’d tell us it was a secret plot to undermine our food supply and that Trump and Putin made the arrangement in a hidden bunker miles below the earth’s surface in the dead of night.

    In summary, he is obtuse and probably insane. He has no understanding of the concept of self determination, no understanding of the threat imposed by permitting external actors to harness the power of the agriculture industry, and other vital industries to bring a country to its knees; and furthermore, he has no understanding of what constitutes “evidence”. He continually makes ridiculous and false claims surrounding the war in Ukraine. Indeed, all he ever babbles about is false flag operations, yet whenever you ask him to provide one piece of evidence — just one — he hides.

    Nothing. Nada. Zip. It’s pathetic. His research and analysis is not even worthy of an undergraduate student.

  13. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    9. April 2023 at 05:57

    Sean, If this is such a great idea, why not have the US military wipe out all the drug gangs in America?

    “We would be capable of establishing a monopoly on violence which is a requirement for economic development.”

    Because that worked so well in Iraq?

    Sara, You said:

    “Just keep in mind that Sumner is a big supporter of Lula Da Silva”

    I just keep in mind that Sara is delusional.

  14. Gravatar of Sean Sean
    9. April 2023 at 17:06

    It might be a bad idea. Honestly there’s no will in America or political power (Feds can’t control California etc) to put every fentanyl dealer in jail. But we would target the cartels in Mexico and stop the supply.

  15. Gravatar of Edward Edward
    10. April 2023 at 03:07

    It’s funny that Sumner rights this, and two days later China is mock invading Taiwan again.

    But nothing to worry about. You should let them buy more farmland.

    Because you know…they are so innocent. They like you so much.

  16. Gravatar of Todd Ramsey Todd Ramsey
    10. April 2023 at 05:16

    Scott, on 3, do you support increased US involvement in the Ukraine war? Why is it any of our concern when one country attacks another?

    I’m honestly trying to understand your position, so a couple more questions:

    Would you support US involvement if Sudan attacks South Sudan (or vice versa)?

    How do you feel about Switzerland’s historical position of neutrality? Should they have been taking sides all along?


  17. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    10. April 2023 at 10:48

    Todd, Yes, I think we should support any country that is the victim of aggression (with weapons, not necessarily troops). World peace is increasing important going forward, as the threat of nuclear war is rising. And Russia is by far the biggest threat to world peace; no other country comes close. If Russia succeeds in Ukraine, they won’t stop there.

    Countries should not be allowed to invade their neighbor and annex land. That’s how the world used to work (the US did this to Mexico), but that model simply doesn’t work in the 21st century. It can lead to disaster.

    Switzerland had a good policy during the long period where the rest of the world was highly militaristic. Now Switzerland is gradually moving closer to the EU, which is appropriate.

  18. Gravatar of SK SK
    14. April 2023 at 12:13

    A Chinese economist saying something about free trade; well have to take that with a grain of salt; and as to Israel the press is about as objective re Bibi as they are in the US with regard to Biden; which is to say not very. Better views from Israeli papers which are critical of him, but yet more balanced in views.

  19. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    14. April 2023 at 14:42

    I’ll say this about Bibi, he’s nowhere near as bad as some of his coalition partners.

  20. Gravatar of postkey postkey
    15. April 2023 at 23:52

    ” Anti-Chinese hysteria has reached the point where it’s become a sort of mental illness. ”

    ‘Like’ ‘Chinese fentanyl’?

    ‘Just posted article “ American Made” Chinese fentanyl made in the United States. This was part of my evidence to the DEA. This came from a cartel member. “ Fentanyl is being manufactured and sold state side”. I gave you this in 2016 the FBI covered up. The DEA took their cut. ‘?

  21. Gravatar of Jon Jon
    16. April 2023 at 09:35


    I am not confident in your logic for #8.

    1) China has large geographic differences. The high wage workers are in the special economic zones — largely in coastal china and amount to just several cities. International firms have their production in those area, wages are pushing toward US levels.

    2) Movement to the SEZ cities is nearly impossible due to the Hukuo system. So there are significant labor shortages in the SEZ. There is only about 50M people living in the SEZ out of a population of 1.4 billion.

    3) China is very poor outside of the SEZ cities.

    So your stylized facts are not too convincing. If China GDP/capita was below Mexico, it could well be the case that wages in the SEZ are at G7 levels.

  22. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    16. April 2023 at 10:44

    Jon, That describes China a few decades back, but modern China is quite different. The SEZs are no longer a major factor.

    “China is very poor outside of the SEZ cities.”

    This is no longer true. I’ve travelled to China many times, so I speak from experience.

  23. Gravatar of Todd Ramsey Todd Ramsey
    17. April 2023 at 05:43


    Do you support U.S. involvement in Sudan? What should we do?

  24. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    17. April 2023 at 11:05

    Todd, Military? No. If involvement means trade, I’m OK with that.

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