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Post Autarky: Spain, North Korea, and Elsewhere
Created by John Eipper on 02/11/19 6:45 AM

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Autarky: Spain, North Korea, and Elsewhere (Jose Manuel de Prada, Spain, 02/11/19 6:45 am)

In Spain, autarky (is that the most common spelling?) only caused misery and suffering while it lasted.

The years of "estraperlo" (black-market traffic) are very vividly remembered by many of the older people in rural Spain, and I have recorded some interesting oral history material during my interviews in Palencia, León, and elsewhere.

I don't think autarky has ever worked anywhere.

It looks to me that only in a continent-wide country, like the US or Australia, it could to a certain extent be successful.

For the ravages of autarky in North Korea, I greatly recommend The Accusation, by Bandi, a collection of short stories smuggled from North Korea a couple of years ago.

Very good literature, as well as a glimpse into how awful life is for most of the population of that unfortunate country.

It is the book Donald Trump should read while he flies to Hanoi for his next meeting with Kim Jong-Il (although, sadly it is a well known fact that The Donald's attention span while reading does not go beyond a couple of paragraphs in large print).

JE comments:  It is spelled autarky, one of those very serious words that has a goofy spelling (like the old version of Hindu--Hindoo.)  "Autarchy" also exists in English, but it's authoritarian or totalitarian rule.  To be sure, the two often go together.

Experiments with autarky over the years offer fascinating history lessons.  One of the most interesting, Paraguay under the Francia and López dictatorships.  José Manuel de Prada has summed up the concept perfectly:  it never works.  On the other hand, what is planet Earth other than one large autarky?


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  • Franco-Italian Crisis; Autarky in WWII Italy (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 02/12/19 4:23 AM)
    Italy is the nation with the fourth-largest gold reserves. The first is the US with 8134 tons, Germany 3378, IMF 2814, Italy 2452 (plus 141 given to the European Central Bank), France 2435, China 1828, and Russia 1506.

    In recent days, some representatives in Parliament have asked about the legal situation of the gold.


    The director of the Bank of Italy confirmed that only 44% of the gold is stored in Italy, while 56% is abroad, of which 43.3% is in the US, 5.7% in the UK and 6% is in Switzerland. The director then candidly added that in order to know who is the real owner is, it would be necessary to ask the European Central Bank .


    The ECB has already stated that the Italian gold cannot be touched, while the present Italian government is convinced that the Italian gold belongs to Italy's citizens and not the ECB.  (Apparently the new government has not yet understood what the European Union is.)


    I have already mentioned some reasons why Italy is sick and tired of Macron's attitude, his insults, his political and economic outrages, but what has upset the young fellow seems to be the political meeting of our VP Di Maio, leader of the Five Star party, with some leaders of the Gilet Jaunes in the run-up the next European Parliamentary Elections.


    The withdrawn French Ambassador has not yet returned to Rome. This truly is the lowest point in Italian-French relations since WWII.


    I still remember the first and only French naval bombing. I was sleeping and the exploding bombs woke me up. It was on 14 June 1940. Italy had declared war but also said that it would remain on the defensive. Instead a powerful French fleet with 4 cruisers, 11 destroyers and 4 submarines plus 8 airplanes attacked Savona and Genova, causing some casualties and damage, but they were pushed back by 4 small MAS torpedo boats in front of Savona and by the torpedo-destroyer Calatafimi in front of Genova. It was a great show of "French grandeur" in this naval battle and I still laugh at such a powerful fleet.


    Concerning autarky, may I say that complete autarky is impossible, as no country has all the necessary resources within its borders, but in time of war practically all nations practiced some kind of autarky. For instance, some old relatives of my wife from New Jersey complained that during the war they could not find good Italian prosciutto any more. Who said that in the US the home front did not suffer?


    However in Fascist Italy (and also in Nazi Germany) autarky worked very well. The idea was to become self-sufficient, pushing with all possible means the development of industrial, scientific and agricultural progress. A "green economy" was started (but then after the war for many years forgotten), with the use of water, solar, volcanic power to avoid as far as possible the use of hydrocarbons.


    A curiosity: following the stupid self-defeating sanctions imposed on Italy by the Empire against Russia, we cannot export among many other things the famous "mozzarelle di bufala."  But by now the Russian markets are filled with Russian mozzarella and we lost the market.


    JE comments:  We'll take your cheese, Eugenio!  (What can I say?  I love cheese.)


    Eugenio, what do you make of this FP article from yesterday, which suggests that Five Star is stirring things up in France in order to restore its "radical credentials" among the folks at home?


    https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/02/11/italys-populists-have-lost-their-luster-theyre-looking-to-france-to-win-it-back-macron-di-maio-gilets-jaunes-yellow-vests-m5s-five-star/


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    • Is the Five Star Movement Maintaining its Popularity? (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 02/13/19 12:47 PM)
      I would say that the FP article on the Five Star Movement (cited by John E on February 12th) is fairly objective.

      But you have to be careful. The tendency for politically correct people is to demonize the Five Stars and the Lega by any means, as their coalition government no longer wants to be the usual lackey of the Empire (but without any change of alliance), or of the lousy well-fed bureaucrats of the so-called EU.


      In the latest regional elections in Abruzzo on Sunday, the Lega jumped to 27.5%. In March 2018 it was at 12%. At the same time, Five Stars got only 20% while last year it was 41%.


      However, the supporters of Five Stars are generally not showing up at local elections. In fact the voter turnout was only 53%, which is low for Italy.


      Personally I am happy about the good performance of the Lega (now national and no longer regional and secessionist), but until the European elections of May 26th, it is not wise to offer any conjectures.


      JE comments: Eugenio, is Five Stars beginning to fulfill any of its promised environmental initiatives? And what about a topic I'd like to discuss further: "degrowth," or what the French call décroissance?  No US politician would survive for ten minutes with such a platform.

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  • Trump's Attention Span: We See What We Want to See (from Ric Mauricio) (John Eipper, USA 02/12/19 4:58 AM)

    Ric Mauricio writes:



    José Manuel de Prada wrote on February 11th: "It is a well-known fact that The Donald's attention span while reading does not go beyond a couple of paragraphs in large print."


    For a "well-known fact," I didn't know that. But we do have hard evidence that the President does have limitations: 280 characters.


    Here is what I've found in many people. When they believe in something, they will only read, listen, or watch anything that will bolster that belief. They refuse to even look at anything that may shake their beliefs. This is true with religion, including atheists, which is a religion in itself. Very true with politics. That is why the president only reads the National Enquirer or watches Fox News.


    In fact, I was just talking with a good friend of mine about the state of the investment markets. He pointed at a chart (MACD of the Dow Industrials) and indicated to me that the markets were poised to sell off. Of course, this is what he was wishing and so, in looking at the chart, this is what he was seeing. I looked at the chart and could not see what he was seeing. That's when I realized that he was placing his own bias onto the chart. When I look at a chart, I let the chart tell me what is happening, not trying to influence my reading with my personal wishes or bias. That is why, when people ask me where I think the market is going, I answer that I have no idea, but I will let the markets (i. e. charts) tell me where it may be going.


    JE comments:  Yes, it's called observer bias, but I'm proud of what I've come up with in the title of Ric Mauricio's post:  WSWWWS (we see what we want to see).  But WAIS doesn't work that way.  We make you see what you don't want to see.  As I remind our readers once a year or so, if you agree with everything you read, you must be at some other website.


    So Ric--where are those blasted markets going?  My late father was fond of channeling J. P. Morgan:  they will fluctuate.

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    • Confirmatory Bias and Its Dangers to Democracy (Henry Levin, USA 02/17/19 4:02 AM)
      I think that the standard terminology for what John E calls "observer bias" is confirmatory bias. See: Lee, J. K., Choi, J., Kim, C., & Kim, Y (2014) "Social media, network heterogeneity, and opinion polarization," Journal of Communication 64 (4), 702-722.

      The social media promote the targeting of information to reinforce confirmatory bias and close minds to other perspectives. It is a particular challenge to the societal need to create democracy among the young where it is becoming more and more difficult to expose the young to a common set of values and democratic roles of civic participation.


      I published a short piece this past year on which I have been receiving sympathetic responses. School choice is a good response to private goals of families in accommodating their children, a theme emphasized by charter schools and other forms of school choice. But it is incomplete without a common experience that prepares the young to embrace their rights and responsibilities of a democratic society. Babies are not born to democracy.  Making the transition from narrow self-interest to civic participation focused on the "public good" is a serious social challenge (witness Hungary at this moment), which is undermined by public schooling based upon political ideology, religion, cultural, and philosophical beliefs that undermine the commonweal rather than forming one.


      I have written this concern in the context of the charter school movement, just seven pages and a bibliography: "Charter Schools: Rending or Mending the Nation."


      JE comments:  Henry Levin's "Rending or Mending" is a chapter in Iris Rotberg and Joshua L. Glazer (eds), Choosing Charters:  Better Schools or More Segregation? (2018).  Drop me a line if you're interested, and I'll send you the file with Hank's essay.


      Is education today undermining the commonweal instead of forming one?  With this pointed question, Hank reminds us (powerfully) that education is not just about instilling STEMy stuff.  It's a vital part of constructing functional societies.


       

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  • Konfusing Korea's Kims (David Duggan, USA 02/12/19 5:52 AM)
    Isn't it Kim Jong-Un, now?

    JE comments: David Duggan never lets a typo go unchecked. Yes, José Manuel de Prada should have said Jong-Un (not Jong-Il) in his post of February 11th.


    Speaking of Lil' Kim, he just got a new toy.  Sanctions, schmanctions.


    http://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/26423/what-sanctions-kim-jong-un-gets-another-new-limo-this-time-an-s600-mercedes-maybach


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