Sunday, December 12, 2004

Europe's contribution to the war on terror: dollars for heroin

BBC NEWS | World | South Asia | Afghanistan's opium problem

The Bush administration has a religious devotion to the idea that "markets" are "good". This is particularly ironic in a group that loathes "evolution"; of course both natural selection and market selection are fundamentally the same processes.

In the case of Afghanistan, and the US budget, the market has come up with some ingenious solutions to the problems faced by the Bush administration. I am genuinely curious as to whether Rumsfeld feels these are good solutions.

In the case of the US budget, the devaluation of the US currency seems to be transferring a chunk of the cost of funding our economic additions to europe and asia. This is a diabolically clever maneuver, yet it may have been invented by the market as much as by any Machiavellian operatives in Washington.

In the instance of Afghanistan, the US destroyed the Taleban, but enforced law (more or less) only in the capitol. The rest of the country was divided between warlords and tribes. Market forces were thus able to operate effectively, and the country rapidly rebuilt its primary comparative advantage -- the production of poppies, opium, and heroin for the european and Turkish markets.

Now Afghanistan is floating on a sea of drug dollars. Overall it seems to be doing better than expected. The Afghan people are resourceful, Karzai is a remarkable talent, the US keeps a low profile but has a powerful fighting force. Most of all, though, the money is flowing.

Where does the money to fund Afghanistan come from? Not from foreign governmental aid or investment. It comes from european drug addicts. A market solution.

So Bush, by design or by the genius of the marketplace, has funded the US economy and the post-war rehabilitation of Afghanistan through Europe (war and deficit) and (in the case of the deficit) China.


PS. That insufferable idiot, David Brooks, wrote in the NYT the other day that we communistic liberals don't "trust" the marketplace. God, that man hurts my teeth. Is his continued existence at the NYT a sophisticated (but pointless) jab at the right? Maybe some eastern elite thinks displaying the idiocy of a "respected" right wing spokesman is a service to the nation.

Nahh, I think it's just another sign of the decay of the NYT. Brooks makes even Safire, now well into his dotage, look, if not good, at least not pointless.

Sigh. Markets are not "good" or "bad". They are the most effective ways of solving local minimization problems using distributed processing. Markets are a computing technique. They are "good" or "bad" in the same way that a particular alogrithm is "good" or "bad". Markets do not have souls, they do not go to Hell or Heaven. Markets are not divine. Markets do not have values or ethics. Markets are good at "solving" problems. People, who (to a working approximation) have to decide if they like the solutions the markets deliver.

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