Sunday, June 24, 2012

War on drugs - a failure after 40 years

From The Observer -

"On 1 July, Mexicans will vote in vital presidential elections. But the issue no candidate dares to address is the cartel violence tearing the nation apart. Diplomats say the time has come to challenge drug policy – but can they get the US to agree? 

Mexico CityTwo policemen pass an anti-violence sculpture based on one made by Yoko Ono in memory of John Lennon, in Mexico City. Photograph: Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty Images

One after another, Mexico's presidential candidates sat in silence amid the grand setting of Chapúltepec Castle while, across the room, the leader of the country's movement of victims of drug war violence – a poet – chastised them.
"The 60,000 dead, the more than 20,000 who've disappeared, the hundreds of thousands of people displaced, wounded and hunted, the tens of thousands of widows and orphans that this stupid war against drugs is costing us, do not exist for you and your parties," Javier Sicilia accused. "For you, the national emergency does not exist." One after the other, the candidates promised action and showed concern, then they left. It was time to get back to the real business of running for president.
The meeting with Sicilia last month was unavoidable, given the moral weight of the movement he represents, but it was also the only time in the entire three-month campaign when the undisputed issue of the day was the drug war ravaging Mexico.
Polls show that most Mexicans consider security, along with the economy, to be the two biggest issues facing their country, but neither has featured particularly heavily. "Everybody asks me where the security issue is. Why the candidates don't talk about the economy. The elephant in the room is President Felipe Calderón's record, and that is hardly talked about," says pollster Jorge Buendía. In Ciudad Juárez, which has just lost its title as the world's most dangerous city, now ranked second, the chronicler of the violence, journalist Julián Cardona, says: "To look at the candidates speak, you would think they were talking about another country."
But whatever the politicians' speeches, Mexicans know that the country must take urgent measures now to try to put an end to the appalling violence if it is to claim the place in the world its economy justifies. And although Mexico is umbilically tied to the US war on drugs, and fights on the frontline of that war, senior Mexican diplomatic officials suggest to theObserver in private that, whoever wins the election, this must change; that there must be a major rethink and a shift towards initiatives in Latin America that challenge the "war on drugs" to which the US remains committed."
Since President Nixon declared war on drugs in 1971, Mexico and other Latin American countries have pitched in together with the US Drugs Enforcement Agency.  But drug consumption in the West is higher than ever and drug-related crime in these countries is one of the highest categories of crime.
This is another example of the Law of Unintended Consequences.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Special tax incentives lead to tax 'avoidance'

A recent hot issue in the UK is that of tax avoidance (which I am informed is legal and different from tax evasion which is not) practised by practically anyone with a reasonable income - - an article in London Times lists " From dentists to doctors and financiers to footballers, through lawyers, dressmakers and an award-winning baker: investors in tax-efficient schemes read like an A to Z of working Britain."

The reason most of these tax avoidance schemes work is because of complex tax legislation that from time to time favours investments in one activity or another.  Over the years these range from encouraging investments in forests (green!) to films and music (culture and arts?) and so forth.

These schemes seem worthwhile and important at the time, but the legislators obviously know little about the Law Of Unintended Consequences.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

If the Euro € is the answer, what was the question?

When the Euro € was created and introduced in January 1999, the belief was that those European countries who adopted the Euro to replace their national currency would find currency and economic stability; a case of shared strength, where the strong would bolster the weak.

Little did these countries know then that shared strength in the wrong circumstances turns into shared weakness, where the weak spread their weakness to the strong - a clear case of unstable equilibrium my old physics teacher would have said.

First Ireland, then Portugal, followed by Greece, maybe Spain and today, Germany warned Italy that if it did not follow the austerity measures of its government, it too would succumb.

Or, in terms of this blog, a clear case of the Law of Unintended Consequences.