Christopher Caldwell: Europe’s Other Crisis
For twenty years, European policymakers have wrung their hands and fretted that America’s attention was turning towards Asia. Only in the last two or three years has this actually been the case. For Europe, insoluble foreign policy problems await. Europe is not rich enough in natural resources to withdraw from the world, but for the first time in half a millennium it is not strong enough to engage with the world either. This being so, Laqueur is as mystified at the behavior of Europe’s leaders in the face of mass immigration as the terrorist al-Suri was at impunity for jihadists: “It is difficult even in retrospect to establish what the authorities in these countries were thinking—that uncontrolled immigration did not involve major problems; that the economic, social, and cultural problems would be solved; that the immigrants would one day disappear or be well integrated?”
One often has the sense in reading about contemporary Europe that one is reading about the period between the two world wars. Not the small outbursts of evil that prefigured cataclysmic war, but the small outbursts of naïveté that might well have been forgotten in light of what followed: the Kellogg-Briand pact to abolish war, the Oxford Union’s resolution never to fight for King and country in 1933, and so on. Europe’s problem is not that bad people have been indulging their animosities, but that good people have declined to observe that animosities exist in the first place. Over decades, Europe has undertaken high-stakes experiments with both demography and democracy. Breakdown has been the result. It is going to have to be faced squarely.
FP: This is not “the other” crisis, there is only one crisis, the one that unavoidably—given enough time—accrues to dominant powers. The leaders’ behavior that so mystifies Laqueur is itself a component of decline, as is the EU and America’s corporate welfare state and foreign overstretch.
Mitt Romney apologized Thursday morning for pranks he helped orchestrate in high school that he said "might have gone too far," including an incident in which he pinned down a fellow student and cut his hair.
The presumptive Republican presidential nominee was responding to an article published a few hours earlier by The Washington Post documenting the episode with first-hand accounts from Romney's classmates at the Cranbrook Schools in Michigan.
"Back in high school, I did some dumb things, and if anybody was hurt by that or offended, obviously I apologize for that," Romney said in a live radio interview with Fox News Channel personality Brian Kilmeade. Romney added: "I participated in a lot of hijinks and pranks during high school, and some might have gone too far, and for that I apologize."
Romney's campaign hastily scheduled the radio interview for the candidate to call in from Omaha, where he is holding a campaign event later Wednesday, to respond to The Post's report.
Romney said the incident involving cutting the hair of John Lauber, whom some students suspected was gay, occurred "a long time ago."
"I don't remember that incident," Romney said, laughing. "I certainly don't believe that I thought the fellow was homosexual. That was the furthest thing from our minds back in the 1960s, so that was not the case."
FP: Excuse me, he did what???!!! Romney apologized for high school pranks? And this is the guy who will beat Obama? Who will stand up to China and Russia and radical Islam? Please, give me a break. This would be laughable if it weren’t so pathetic. If Obama and Romney are the best that America has for leaders, what else to expect other than decline?
The logic is simple. If by leveraging housing stock — using the stock as collateral — the process of mortgage securitisation encouraged subprime lending to people who (arguably) couldn't afford them, could leveraging commodities in the same way be encouraging equally uncouth lending practices?
Leave the massive commodity operators aside for a minute — though, that's not to say they are not being impacted — and consider smaller corporate entities that utilise commodities in their daily manufacturing processes.
It's always been common practice for commodity inventory to be financed by banks by being pledged as security for the loans in question.
The problem comes if such enterprises, instead of using the inventory for general business purposes, are encouraged to stockpile for the sole purpose of liquidity provision and the opportunity to punt on the underlying commodities themselves. It's a process which arguably artificially pumps up demand for the underlying inventory.
Bundle all those loans together, meanwhile — ideally into a product that can be sold to buyside investors seeking exposure to commodities — and suddenly you've got a direct source of funding for an ever-more speculative game.
FP: The corporate welfare state operates via increasingly more frequent bubbles, where the financial system practically steals public funds coming (by creating the bubbles) and going (by being bailed out). The government is complicit by providing cheap funds, bailouts. refraining from preventive regulations and from punishing those who commit fraud in the process.
Commodities is only one of the potential new bubbles, together with high education (Wall Street has been investing in private universities too) and student loans.
As the breaking-newsfeed title suggests, the piece, on the face of it, is anecdotal and seemingly light-hearted--a collegiate Ripley's Believe It or Not! about the overscheduled lives of today's Harvard undergraduates. More than ever before, it would appear, these poised, high-achieving, fantastically disciplined students routinely juggle intense academic studies with what can only seem (at least to an older generation) a truly dizzy-making array of extracurricular activities: pre-professional internships, world-class athletics, social and political advocacy, start-up companies, volunteering for nonprofits, research assistantships, peer advising, musical and dramatic performances, podcasts and video-making, and countless other no doubt virtuous (and résumé-building) pursuits. The pace is so relentless, students say, some plan their packed daily schedules down to the minute--i.e., "shower: 7:15-7:20 a.m."; others confess to getting by on two or three hours of sleep a night. Over the past decade, it seems, the average Harvard undergraduate has morphed into a sort of lean, glossy, turbocharged superhamster: Look in the cage and all you see, where the treadmill should be, is a beautiful blur.
FP: Remember my often pronouncement on the replacement of education by indoctrination and vocational training? The other day I commented on the former regarding the African and Afro-American studies. The above is evidence for the later, which is particularly of business, law and medical schools, but is fast infiltrating the rest of the academia. Almost everything is resume building rather than intellect development.
See also How I Became A 21-Year-Old Business Executive. Note in particular that the following at the beginning of the article:
This is a guest post by Star Hughes, edited for clarity. It is part of an ongoing series exploring youth in the office.
Elliott Abrams: Israel and Iran: The Grounds for an Israeli Attack