April 16, 2010
The Movimiento Al Socialismo (MAS) of the reigning President of Bolivia, Evo Morales, has won the regional elections held on April 9th of this year.(1) Morales is the first elected President of Bolivia to be fully Native American, despite the great majority of the Bolivian population being Aymará or Quechua. For most of its history, the country has been governed by a swift succession of military dictators, vassal oligarchs of the United States and assorted strongmen. Universal suffrage was only introduced in 1951 by the reformist MNR party, which was subsequently overthrown by a series of juntas.
Much of the conflict has revolved around the main economic products of Bolivia: its enormous tin mines (it is the world’s largest tin producer) and the coca leaves grown as export crop by the country’s many poor farmers, which forms the basis for the drug cocaine. Read the rest of this entry »
April 7, 2010
An important aspect of the newly emerging folk psychology, if that would be the right term, in America is the notion of a racial ladder: one which extends from ‘Asians’ at the top to ‘whites’ in the middle and ‘blacks’ at the bottom. Sometimes the argument is based on studies of IQ scores, other times the argument is based on anecdotal experiences about American colleges and universities, or about supposed Asian special aptitude for mathematics and natural sciences. These ideas are fairly widespread, and not limited purely to bar talk: even such supposedly hip ‘leftist’ magazines as Slate have contributed to it, and they are fairly prevalent at American universities too, including with the admissions departments.(1)(2) As in the Slate article, often these views are defended from accusations of racism by appealing to the fact that the folk psychology does not place whites at the top. Needless to say, this is not much of an argument, but it is commonly believed to be justified. Because of the nefarious nature of this notion, it is time to confront it with a basic understanding of statistics, which will quickly dispel most ideas of this kind. Read the rest of this entry »
April 1, 2010
The mirage of ‘creating jobs’
In this time of crisis, unemployment is once again high on the public’s agenda. In the United States, even official unemployment has reached figures as high as 10%, and in many Western European countries things are not much better. Hundreds of billions in public debt have been piled up to combat this, because every politician knows that their continuance in office depends first and foremost on satisfying the constituents’ demands, and what they demand is jobs. But here as always the limits of the liberal understanding of the world show themselves immediately, namely in the way they go about defending their employment policies. Everywhere in the Western states the emphasis is on the process of ‘job creation’ by the capitalist market system. Everywhere the one criterion for a measure or bill is whether it will or will not make the market ‘create jobs’.
A recent article in Time magazine illustrates the issue quite well. Read the rest of this entry »