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Saturday, September 22, 2018

A Deal with China: Did the Vatican Lose Its Soul?

In September, 2018, the Vatican and the Chinese government reached “a provisional deal” that would end “a decades-old power struggle over the right to appoint bishops in China.”[1] In regard to the power struggle itself, the deal “would mark a major victory for China.”[2] In regard to spreading Catholicism globally, the Vatican stood to gain both in terms of souls and money. Protestantism had been spreading fast in China, whereas the number of Catholics at the time was 10 to 12 million.[3] The question is therefore whether the Vatican ceded too much for the promise of access to the world’s most populous nation.

1. Jason Horowitz and Ian Johnson, “China and Vatican Reach Deal on Appointment of Bishops,” The New York Times, September 22, 2018.
2. Ibid.
3. Ibid.

Expansion at Volkswagen: Minimizing Risk in E.U.?

It is perhaps common among gigantic corporations, such as the major automobile manufacturers, to assume that current profitability is likely to be augmented by expansion. Economies of scale are presumed to outpace diseconomies as even a large company expands. At a more basic level, it is generally assumed that if a company is not expanding, it is necessarily facing its downfall. The notions of equilibrium and steady state are fundamentally at odds with the more, more, more mantra of mammon. Accordingly, it can be asked whether efforts to strengthen a company’s equilibrium are more in line with long-term profitability. The very expression, strengthening an equilibrium is étranger or foreign to business parlance.

The full essay is at "Volkswagen in 2012: Minimizing Risk in the E.U."

John Kerry: An American Politician

Just after President Barak Obama announced that he would nominate Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts to be the U.S. Secretary of State, the E.U. Secretary of State (Minister of Foreign Affairs), Catherine Ashton, welcomed the prospect of working with Kerry. Whether she knew it at the time or not, she would be working with an American politician. After all, Kerry had already run for the American presidency. To be sure, he was not taking up the foreign affairs post to build his resume. I believe he genuinely wanted the job. The problem is, is trying to please all the people all the time, a politician's patina (or deeper?), best in foreign affairs? In this essay, I focus not on this question, but, rather, on the patina itself in the case of John Kerry so the underlying problem behind the question of fit with foreign affairs can be more transparent to the wider public.

U.S. President Obama nominates U.S. Sen. John Kerry to be U.S. Secretary of State.    Reuter
The full essay is at: "An American Politician."

Friday, September 21, 2018

Preparing for the U.S. Presidency: Build a Resume

How should an aspiring candidate for President of the United States go about attaining that esteemed office?—an office whose occupant was regularly referred to as “the leader of the free world” when part of that world was behind an iron curtain. Mitt Romney spent six years of his life campaigning for the job only to lose it to an incumbent whose record on “pocket-book issues: was mixed at best. Perhaps it is possible to want something too much. Fortunately, a more substantive alternative is also possible.

Hillary Clinton as U.S. Secretary of State.           
The full essay is at "How to Prepare to be President of the United States: Build a Resume."

Luring Business: “Job Creators” in Texas

As of December 2012, Texas was giving out more financial incentives—mainly in the form of tax breaks and subsidies—to business than was any other American state. The government was handing out around $19 billion annually, while at least $80 million was being spent in the U.S. overall, according to the New York Times. Although at the time Texas had half of all the private-sector jobs created in the U.S. during the preceding decade, the Times points to “a more complicated reality behind the flood of incentives.” It cannot simply be assumed that good jobs will be created.

The full essay is at "Luring Business to Texas."

China or USA: Which Will Rule Trade?

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) announced at its meeting in November 2012 that it would host negotiations among its members on “a sweeping trade pact that,” according to the New York Times, “would include China.” The trade agreement would include not only the ten countries that are in the association, but also six other countries that have free-trade agreements with the association. In addition to China, those countries include Australia, India, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea. Half of the world’s population would be included in the pact. Notably absent is the United States. This is no accident, as the Obama administration’s own proposal for an eleven-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership excludes China. In other words, the contending proposals may be more about a “control battle” between two contending empires—the United States and China—than anything else. Moreover, which proposal succeeds could say something about whether China succeeds the United States as the hegemonic super-power of the twenty-first century.
Barack Obama and Wen Jiabao: A contest of wills at the East Asia Summit in 2012.   Jason Reed/Reuters

The ECB as the E.U.'s Bank Supervisor: States in the Driver's Seat

Although the establishment of a federal regulator of major banks in the E.U. was as yet not approved by the European Parliament or ratified by the governments of states using the euro as well as any other states opting in, the European Council of Ministers signed off in December 2012 on an amendment that would give the European Central Bank authority over banks that have at least €30 billion in assets, make up more than 20% of their state’s economic output, or operate in at least two states (i.e., interstate banking). At the very least, three banks per state would come under the central bank’s oversight. Other banks would remain the responsibility of state regulators. This is an interesting “working out” of federalism, distinctively European-style.
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble at the E.U. Council of Ministers discussing the bank supervisor amendment.     WSJ
The full essay is at "The European Central Bank."

Exaggeration on the U.S. Economy “Going Over the Cliff” after the Financial Crisis of 2008

As the U.S. Government faced down its own deadline in 2012 before the Bush tax cuts would expire and across-the-board budget cuts would commence, the Federal Reserve, which had been struggling to prop up the economy by buying bonds and keeping interest rates low, would, according to the Chairman, Ben Bernanke, be largely powerless to do more in the face of a recessionary policy on taxes and spending. "We cannot offset the full impact of the fiscal cliff," he said of the Fed. "It's just too big." That he had written a doctoral dissertation on the Great Depression and had specialized on it as a professor at Princeton lends a lot of weight to his judgment on the matter. However, he had also managed to be re-appointed to the Fed and thus knew how to play the game. In the case of the automatic budget cuts, major power-brokers, specifically in the military industrial complex, had a lot riding on Congress and the White House making a deal that would obviate the cuts in defense spending. The chairman of the Fed could have been carrying their water.
Ben Bernanke, Chairman of the Federal Reserve, in front of the lights.   Reuters

Honeywell’s David Cote: Carrying the Water in Washington

In the midst of the talks in Washington in 2012 to avoid the so-called fiscal “cliff” with a bipartisan deal, the Wall Street Journal reported that David Cote, the CEO of Honeywell, a $48 billion “industrial giant,” was at the time “the business executive most in the middle of the fiscal-cliff debate.” The Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D., Mont.) said, "People on both sides of the aisle are sending messages through Dave. He's become an active participant.” For a sitting CEO to have ensconced himself so deeply among the power-players in Washington did not come controversy-free. Even though his company had a vested interest that a deal be reached, the matter of his involvement raises larger implications, positive as well as negative.
David Cote, CEO of Honeywell. Civic duty or getting "his people" back in line in Washington?       Bloomberg News
 The full essay is at "Honeywell's CEO in Washington."