The Shortcomings in Trump’s Foreign Policy

Donald Trump has been a very unique presidential candidate, to say the least, and his uniqueness stretches all the way to his positions on foreign policy issues. His position on foreign policy involves: building a wall on US Mexico border and making Mexico pay for it, defeating ISIS, and establishing new immigration controls to boost American wages. At face value all of these ideas, except maybe building a giant wall on the southern border, may seem like good ideas. After all, boosting American wages would mean that Americans can buy more stuff, right? Well, this is actually not true.

Boosting American Incomes

Trump’s plan to boost American wages would actually hurt the US’ economy and cause American incomes to decline. The reason for this unexpected outcome is that limiting the possibilities of immigrants to gain employment means that lower wage positions will go to Americans. These Americans will demand higher pay than the formerly employed immigrants. Since business owners will be forced to pay employees higher wages, the cost of goods will increase. This means that all Americans will be paying higher prices for goods. As a result, Americans would have less discretionary income. This would lead to demand for higher cost services declining and could further lead to a decrease in employment among higher salaried careers.

Building a Wall

Trump’s proposal to build a wall along the Mexico border would be incredibly costly, costing around $15 billion to $25 billion. Mexico’s president, Enrique Peña Nieto, has also said that Mexico is not paying for a wall at the US border. Despite President Nieto’s statements, Trump continues to say that Mexico will pay for the wall. However, Trump actually has no way to effectively force Mexico to pay for the wall. Additionally, Trump’s plan does not take into account the many underground trafficking tunnels, which could be used to smuggle drugs and people. These underground tunnels are at times very sophisticated and large. For example, US law enforcement officers found a tunnel that ran all the way from Tijuana, Mexico to San Diego, California.

Defeating ISIS

Trump’s plan to defeat ISIS is even worse than his plans to “boost American wages” and stop illegal immigration. This is because his plan to defeat ISIS is largely non-existent. The only thing it says on Trump’s website about defeating ISIS is that Trump will:

Work with allies in the Middle East and “pursue aggressive joint and coalition military operations to crush and destroy ISIS, international cooperation to cutoff their funding, expand intelligence sharing, and cyberwarfare to disrupt and disable their propaganda and recruiting.”

The big problem here is that Trump’s statement is not very specific; he does not explain how he will do any of the things he outlines. Trump claims that he isn’t being specific because he doesn’t want the enemy to know his plan, but I’m not buying this. I think Trump isn’t being specific because he does not actually have a plan to defeat ISIS, which is understandable since Trump does not have much experience, if any, in developing international policy. His experience is in business, not international politics. Additionally, if Donald Trump actually had a plan, then one would think that he would at least give a little outline or sneak peak of his plan, but he has yet to do this.

Overall, when looking at foreign policy, Trump does not seem to be well suited for the position of President of the United States of America. His foreign policies would not only hurt the US economy, but they also seem to be vague and not well thought out.

Image Source: IB Times

Do Air Strikes Stop Terrorism?

Last month, a Pentagon official confirmed that ISIS’ Minister of Information was killed in an air strike. Earlier this year, other ISIS leaders were also killed in air strikes, including regional leader Hafid Saeez Khan and ISIS’ former number two in command, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani. Although several alleged terrorists have been killed with air strikes, ISIS has still been functioning well and terrorism in the west has not shown any signs of slowing down. So are the air strikes really stopping terrorism?

The air strikes are hurting ISIS’ oil supply, but they may also be creating unintended problems, such as helping ISIS and other terrorist organizations in recruiting more members and increasing the amount of lone wolf terrorist attacks. There are several reasons these air strikes may be leading to these unintended consequences. One reason is that many terrorist organizations recruit people by claiming that the West hates Muslims. US air strikes on Muslims certainly does not refute this assumption and could actually promote this accusation. Additionally, being killed in an air strike could be perceived as martyrdom. This perception of martyrdom could send a distorted message to individuals that terrorists are actually activists fighting against western oppression and are dying for a great cause. In effect, motivating individuals to support ISIS and other extremist groups by either going to Syria or carrying out lone wolf terrorist attacks.

There’s also nearly no way air strikes could deter terrorist behavior. Similarly to there not being any evidence that a death penalty stops crime, creating deterrence by killing terrorists doesn’t even make sense, since many modern day terrorists are willing to commit suicide. If a terrorist is willing to commit suicide, then how would an air strike deter the individual from engaging in terrorist behavior. Additionally, some terrorists believe that they will be rewarded in the afterlife for carrying out terrorist attacks. If the individual truly believes that they will be rewarded for their terrorist behavior, then threatening to kill the person would not stop the person from committing terrorist acts.

So if air strikes don’t deter terrorism, lower morale, or stop ISIS’ ability to function, then what is the point of using the extra judicial tactic of air strikes? I don’t know. Maybe the US government believes that air strikes are a good tactic in the war against terrorism. But, I’m not sure if air strikes are really that effective, or even ethical.

Image Source: CNN

How Terrorists Use The West For Financing and Recruitment

Although ISIS is an enemy of western countries, the terrorist organization actually receives funding and recruits from these countries. In fact, one of ISIS’ largest sources of income comes from selling artifacts to Europeans and Americans. According to Newsweek, ISIS controls over 1/3 of Iraq’s archaeological sites. After the terrorist organization excavates these archaeological sites, they smuggle the artifacts through Iran, Turkey, and Syria and sell them on the black market.

ISIS also makes a significant amount of money from kidnapping foreigners. Many of these victims are from England, France, Spain, and the United States. When ISIS kidnaps these individuals they hold them until an incredibly high ransom is paid. In fact, France has paid $14 million in ransoms for kidnapped journalists. On the other hand, the United States and UK have continued to not pay for the release of hostages. This has led to American and UK hostages being beheaded while French hostages have been spared. American officials have issued a statement about this, saying that they are not paying for American hostages because it “makes it less likely that Americans will be taken hostage.”

A large amount of Americans have also been attempting to join extremist organizations. In fact, U.S. officials estimate that over 100 Americans have tried to join Syrian militant groups. CNN tells the story of how a nineteen-year-old American woman named Shannon Maureen Conley pled guilty to a terror charge at a federal court. She was arrested at Denver International Airport during April 2014. Conley was planning on traveling to an ISIS camp. When questioned by investigators, Conley said that she met ISIS member Yousur Mouelhi on the internet and planned to marry him. Mohammed Hamzah Khan, another prospective ISIS recruit, was arrested and charged with attempting to provide material support to a terrorist organization. Much like Conley, Khan was attempting to go to Turkey and was arrested at an American airport.

Terrorists may see the West as an enemy, but they ironically need the West to gain support and financing. While knowing this, US law enforcement agencies have been working with foreign law enforcement agencies to stop the funding of terrorism and the recruitment of westerners but this has not stopped the threat of terrorism. However, if law enforcement discovers new techniques of stopping terrorist recruitment and financing then the terrorist threat may greatly decrease.

Image Source: KUTV

Why Federal Deficits Are Not Always Bad

The federal government’s balance sheet is not like that of a private citizen’s, it shouldn’t always be balanced. There are certain times when running a deficit may be the best course of action. As a matter of fact, running a deficit is often a part of fiscal policy.

Federal deficits can help the government deal with the business cycle. The business cycle consists of four phases — growth, peak, recession, and trough/depression. In order to ease the economic tensions that occur during the business cycle, governments use deficits as a part of fiscal policy. The government runs the deficit by increasing expenditures either through buying goods, providing the public with subsidies, decreasing taxes, or some sort of combination of the three. The government’s increase in expenditures causes an increase in demand. This increase in demand leads to businesses experiencing increased profits. As a result, businesses do not lay off as many people during the recessionary phase.

On the other hand, if the federal government tried to always have a balanced budget, the business cycle would create larger fluctuations in the economy. For example, during the recessionary phase a larger numbers of workers would be laid off. However, federal deficits do have consequences. If the debt to GDP ratio is large enough then this could lead to problems like the ones seen in Greece. Additionally, there is actually not much reason to run a deficit when the economy is not in or near the recessionary phase.

So what about the US’ current debt situation. Although the US government does have debt, even when the US is not in the recessionary phase, the US has been able to handle its debt due to the strength of the US economy. The high revenue to debt ratio also allows more developed states, such as the US, to maintain higher levels of debt. Additionally, the US has been borrowing money at record lows, as a result the debt to GDP ratio should decrease over time. This means that the US may be able to wait longer to address its debt problems.

But how do we know when a state has too much debt? Investor confidence is one measure. Investor confidence often has a strong impact on the economy of states and can be a good way to determine how much debt is too much debt. For example, since interest rates, which have a relationship with investor confidence, on US treasury bonds are relatively low it would be reasonable to say that the US’ stability and developed economy outweigh the US’ high debt levels. However, this does not mean that the US can just racket up debt. The US debt will have to be addressed. If it continues to rise without being addressed then eventually the debt will get too large and lead to problems for the US economy, such as decreased employment and decreased levels of investment.

A Brief Psychoanalysis of Donald J. Trump

The U.S. president elect, Donald J. Trump, has surprised many people with his appointments, appointing Stephen Bannon as his chief strategist, Ben Carson as the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and Rick Perry as the Secretary of Energy. But should we really be surprised by these appointments? Probably not. Throughout Trump’s campaign he has exuded classic narcissistic characteristics, including a sense of insecurity (obsessing over people insulting him and the size of his hands) and a strong sense of self grandiosity (believing that he knows more about terrorism than military generals and that “nobody knows more about debt” than him). In light of Trump’s propensity for egocentric behavior, it is reasonable to make predictions about Trump based not only on his past behavior, but also on the narcissistic personality.

Overview of the Narcissistic Personality

A key part of the narcissistic personality is splitting, seeing things in more of a black and white view. Things cannot be somewhat good or somewhat bad, one or the other is the only option. Trump exemplifies this by vilifying entire groups of people. For instance, Trump once said, in regards to Mexicans, “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” Trump has also taken hard line stances on most issues, failing to acknowledge that several political issues, such as international trade, have both positives and negatives.

Narcissists also create an enhanced self-image to cope with their own insecurities. Some of Trump’s insecurities are obvious, such as his insecurities over the size of his hands. In fact, when a magazine published something about the size of Trump’s fingers, explaining Trump as “a short-fingered vulgarian,” Trump repeatedly sent photos to the publication in order to explain that his hands were not “abnormally stubby.” Trump’s insecurities are also exemplified in his interactions with the media. For example, in regards to the scrutinization and satirization that politicians often go through, Trump has shown an uncanny ability to take the satirization and scrutinazation as personal insult, similar to authoritarian leaders. An example of this is Trump’s behavior towards Saturday Night Live and other satirical outlets.

What We Can Expect From Donald Trump

Due to Trump’s need for reaffirmation, to build up his grandiose self, Trump will likely surround himself with sycophants. Surrounding himself with people that tell him what he wants to hear has already been happening, evident in Trump’s political appointments. Why would Trump choose Rex W. Tillerson as Secretary of State instead of Mitt Romney? One reason may be that Romney has a history of disagreeing with Trump, which means that Tillerson is more likely than Romney to tell Trump what he wants to hear. We can expect the same behavior from Trump in the future; political positions are most likely to go to the sycophants not the most qualified.

It may also be tough for Trump to communicate diplomatically with other political leaders, considering that Trump may see adversarial leaders as purely bad, which could lead to increased military activity. Increased military activity seems more likely when taking into consideration the amount of military generals appointed to Trump’s cabinet. Additionally, foreign policy may become increasingly reactionary, meaning that Trump may react more strongly and negatively toward specific behaviors, such as terrorism and anything seen as an attack on him or his fellow Americans. Glimpses of these reactionary policies can already be seen. For example, Trump has advocated torturing the families of terrorists and banning Muslims, two policies that can actually increase terrorist recruitment rates.

Conclusion

Trump will certainly be different from previous US presidents. The biggest difference may not be that Trump had a career as a business man or that Trump has no experience in politics, it may be Trump’s psyche, which seems to be further down on the narcissistic side of the scale than many past US presidents. However, only time will tell what Trump will actually do, but I would be very surprised if Trump switched emotional course and became less egocentric.

Image Source: Time Magazine

War is Bad for the Economy

It seems to be common knowledge that war is good for the economy. After all, following World War II the US was no longer in a recession. However, this view is false. War is actually bad for the economy. The reasons that destruction is bad for the economy is explained in Economist Claude Frédéric Bastiat’s broken window fallacy. The broken window fallacy explains that destruction does not benefit the economy. Bastiat explains this by providing the example of someone breaking a window.

An excerpt from Bastiat’s work “That Which Is Seen, and That Which Is Not Seen:”

Have you ever witnessed the anger of the good shopkeeper, James B., when his careless son happened to break a square of glass? If you have been present at such a scene, you will most assuredly bear witness to the fact, that every one of the spectators, were there even thirty of them, by common consent apparently, offered the unfortunate owner this invariable consolation: “It is an ill wind that blows nobody good. Everybody must live, and what would become of the glaziers if panes of glass were never broken?

The spectators in Bastiat’s example are explaining that the shopkeeper’s broken window provides the glazier with an increase in income. The spectators believe that this increase in income benefits society. Bastiat goes onto explain that the spectators are ignoring the fact that the broken window causes the shopkeeper to lose money. What results from the broken window is an exchange of money between the shopkeeper and the glazier, as a result, society is no better off with the broken window. Society is actually worse off since the window lost value.

The belief that war is good for the economy is another version of the broken window fallacy. How can deaths of thousands of people and the destruction of infrastructure be good for the economy? It isn’t good for the economy. During wartime, the economy loses labor, resources, and infrastructure. These losses can never be recuperated.

When looked at from a global perspective, war in one country means that the global economy will be working less efficiently. While one country may experience a boom after war, another country will be experiencing the impacts of destroyed infrastructure and resources. In fact, all countries that were involved in war will at least have to deal with the impact of the loss of labor. Additionally, during wartime economies shift towards producing more wartime materials that do not promote economic well being, such as weapons. As a result, resources that could have been used to promote well being are wasted on the production of wartime materials. As Bastiat would say “if that which is not seen is taken into consideration,” then war would obviously be considered bad for the economy.

Image Source: Life Magazine

Climate Change Will Devastate The Global Economy

On September 27, 2016 a devastating typhoon caused Taiwanese highways, schools, and stock and foreign exchange markets to close. Taiwanese news agency Focus Taiwan, has explained that the Typhoon’s wind speeds reached up to 191 kph. This storm exemplifies the terrible consequences of climate change. In fact, climate change has caused tropical cyclones to increase in intensity for over the last 40 years. However, increasing world temperature not only affects weather patterns, it also affects the global economy.

The main problem that climate change creates in the world economy is the loss of resources. Due to climate change, sea levels are rising and the amount of flood, droughts, and wildfires are increasing. Wildfires have steadily increased in frequency and duration since the 1980s. Sea levels are rising at higher rates, 1.2 inches per decade. Rainfalls are much more intense than they were 50 years ago. And droughts have increased in length and extremity since the 1970s.

As storms, wildfires, floods, and droughts increase, highways, schools, and financial markets will be shut down more often and infrastructure will be damaged. This will result in the loss of time and productivity. Investment in certain areas will also decrease due to the perceived risk in areas that are severely impacted by climate change. This loss in investor confidence could even lead to more problems in the economy, such as more economic shocks.

But is it all really doom and gloom? Is there a way to reverse the deleterious effects of climate change? Well, unfortunately, no. There isn’t a way to reverse the effects of climate change. However, we can stop it from getting even worse by making greater efforts to lower our use of oil and other materials that hurt the environment. Companies could also participate in agreements to lower pollution, such as cap and trade and other market based approaches to improving the environment.

Image Source: The Daily Conversation

Why Does North Korea Isolate Itself?

Due to North Korea’s isolationism the world doesn’t know much about the country, however we do know a little about North Korea’s economy. The North Korean economy is rife with problems, such as the misallocation of resources and a reliance on”emergency” international relief. Many of the state’s citizens are also malnourished and the nation operates under total government control. Nearly every aspect of the North Korean economy is state owned, including property, domestically produced goods, imports, and exports.

North Korea’s government sets all production levels and nearly all of the state’s GDP comes from state owned businesses. The state’s resources are further drained by the country’s songun policy. Songun policy holds that the military is the first and most important part of the state. This policy leads to the issue of resources being drained by the military. North Koreans do not have any say in changing the government’s policies because there are only two groups in the state that hold any power, the Worker’s Party and the Korean People’s Army, while all being under the ultimate control and power of the totalitarian leader Kim Jong Un.

An examination of North Korea’s command and control economy easily reveals why the nation has difficulty feeding its own citizens. Setting production levels instead of using a free market that sets its own levels of production based on demand has led to the misallocation of resources. This missallocation of resources combined with North Korea’s songun policy has led to a decrease in the production of food and other goods and services that people in other states take for granted.

Many of North Korea’s problems also come from the state’s decision to isolate itself. For example, North Korea’s isolationism means that the nation can’t trade with most other states. As a result, North Korea can’t take advantage of the economic benefits that come with free trade, such as decreased prices of goods and services. This leads to the question of why would a state choose to shut itself off from the rest of the world during today’s time of increasing globalization. Much of this deals with Kim Jong Un and the state’s ruling Worker’s Party.

While members of the ruling Worker’s Party may have a privileged position in North Korean society, they are unlikely to promote change in North Korea due to fear of Kim Jong Un. Much like his father, Kim Jong Un keeps North Korea under tight control. In fact, during 2014 Kim Jong Un ordered the killing of 10 senior Worker’s Party officials. The Kim family’s historically tight control over the North Korean population shows that many of the state’s problems are largely a result of the Kim family’s leadership. That’s not to say that if Kim Jong Un came out of power that anyone better than him would take his place. Someone outside of the Kim family may be just as bad or worse than Kim Jong Un. However, the Kim family’s psychology is a great factor in the state’s poor performance.

When we look at Kim Jong Un and his fathers we can see that they all conducted similar activities and likely shared similar traits. They all conducted purges in order to kill anyone they suspected of being a potential rival or threat. Sometimes they even claimed that the victims of their purges were foreign spies. The Kim family also pushes a propagandistic ideology that peddles the narrative that the Kim family is divine. From looking at the purges and the North Korean ideology, one can see that historically the Kim family has been insecure and has felt a need to be worshiped. While in an average individual insecurity and the longing to be worshiped have a small impact on society, when manifested in individuals that have large amounts of power this can have a huge impact on a nation and can create terrible problems that are incredibly hard to solve.

Image Source: CNN

How Illegal Immigration Is Good for the Economy

Many people may be surprised to learn that unauthorized immigration benefits the US economy. In fact, Economist Gordon H. Hanson, has explained that stopping unauthorized immigration may cause a net drain on the US economy. Unauthorized immigration benefits the US economy by providing employers with low wage labor. Low wage labor keeps the costs of producing goods down which leads to lower costs for the consumer. This means that not only are Americans able to purchase goods for lower costs, but so are foreigners. As a result, US exports are higher due to more globally competitive prices. However, if employers didn’t hire unauthorized immigrants, then the cost of production would rise, prices would increase, and exports would decline.

An example of the problems that can arise when rates of unauthorized immigration decrease can be found in the state of Arizona. Many economists agree that Arizona’s economy took a hit after the state cracked down on unauthorized immigration. However, some argue that the benefits that come with reducing unauthorized immigration, such as lower government spending on health care and education for unauthorized immigrants and the employment of more US born labor, outweighs the economic costs that accrue from cracking down on unauthorized immigration. Contrary to popular belief, research shows that this is not true.

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) conducted a study where researchers performed simulation analysis to determine what the effects would be on the economy if the unauthorized immigrant population decreased or if the unauthorized immigrant population increased. Results showed that an increase in the unauthorized immigrant population would lead to the increased employment of unauthorized immigrants at lower wages which would lead to increases in agricultural outputs and exports. However, a decrease in the immigrant population would lead to several problems in the US economy.

USDA research results show that along with a decrease in unauthorized immigrant labor there would be a labor shortage of farmworkers by 3.4 to 5.5 percent. Long run effects of decreased immigrant labor include an increase in wages for low paying positions and a decline in aggregate income. The reasons for a decrease in aggregate income include a relative decrease in production in the long run and the redistribution of employment from higher income positions to lower income positions. The long run relative decrease in production means that production would not only decrease in the agricultural industry, it would decrease throughout the entire US economy. This would result in the reduction of incomes for higher wage positions.

Overall, the USDA found that decreasing unauthorized immigration by a significant amount would badly affect the US economy. In fact, the benefits that come from decreasing unauthorized immigration would not outweigh the negative effects that decreasing unauthorized immigration would have on the US economy. So if lawmakers want to decrease unauthorized immigration, then they must first come up with a well thought out plan on how to handle the detriments associated with decreased levels unauthorized immigration.

Are Sanctions Making Russia Stronger?

The US and many European countries have placed sanctions on Russia in response to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine. However, the current sanctions on Russia may actually be increasing group solidarity, the cohesiveness of the Russian population. By increasing group solidarity, sanctions on Russia are actually having unintended consequences.

According to the Pew Research Center, Russians have record high confidence in President Putin’s ability to handle international affairs, while the Russian population’s view of foreign world leaders has plummeted. There are several possible reasons for this. One possible reason is that the state-run news media in Russia may broadcast international events in a way that favors Putin and the Russian government. Another possible reason is that the Russian government has been promoting a narrative that says that the west is trying to hurt Russia.

In light of the Russian government’s narrative, sanctions may be perceived simply as a way to hurt Russia and not as a way to force Russia to move troops out of Ukraine. When the narratives of the state-run news media and Russian sanctions are combined, this results in the Russian population displaying more support for their leaders and less support for foreign world leaders. Therein solidarity is displayed. Why would I support someone that wants to harm my country? This is the question members of the Russian population are forced to ask when they are convinced by the Russian government’s narrative and see that European countries and the US placed sanctions on Russia which in turn hurt the Russian economy.

SanRDue to the group solidarity created by sanctions and the Kremlin’s narrative, Putin may not succumb to the pressures of sanctions. This is what we have seen thus far. So far the sanctions have increased political support for Putin. Sure 73% of Russians say the economy is in poor shape, but Putin’s approval rating is 82%. His approval rating even increased during the Ukraine crisis and sanctions have failed to bring his approval rating below 80%. So sanctions are not really placing pressure on Putin. In fact, withdrawing troops from Ukraine may hurt his approval rating since it could be seen as succumbing to the wills of the nations that are trying to hurt Russia. If Putin wants to be elected, and what politician doesn’t want to be elected, then he doesn’t need to change anything he’s doing. This is true as long as solidarity in Russia is high.

As long as solidarity in Russia increases, the use of sanctions on Russia will be largely ineffective. The only way for sanctions to become effective would be for the Russian population to understand or believe that the Russian government is lying about the motives and actions of the US and other nations. This would lead to the Russian population no longer supporting President Putin.

Image: War in Donbass, By ВО «Свобода» [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commonshttps://picasaweb.google.com/102652274152528116947/12062014#6024400883891185522