Benjamin Studebaker

Yet Another Attempt to Make the World a Better Place by Writing Things

Tag: Brazil

How Brazil Got the Worst Austerity Program in the World

Brazil’s new president, Michel Temer, has introduced austerity via constitutional amendment, freezing Brazil’s state spending at 2016 levels for 20 years, allowing it to increase only at the rate of inflation. This is really dumb–if Brazil’s population grows, or Brazil has an economic crisis, or Brazil has to go to war, it will be trapped within 2016 fiscal parameters. So as its population grows, the same level of spending will be divided across ever larger numbers of people, and if Brazil gets into major trouble it will only be able to pay for emergency measures by lashing social spending. To make matters worse, the amendment disallows its own repeal for a 10 year minimum, so there is nothing anyone in Brazil can constitutionally do about this ridiculous rule until 2027. But you know what makes this even more incredible? Temer was never elected president of Brazil in the first place. What follows is the bizarre story of how Brazil’s broken constitution empowered a man committed to an absurd political agenda.

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Great Power Graphapalooza

In the course of doing my MA at the University of Chicago, I’ve had the opportunity to take a class from John Mearsheimer. Mearsheimer is one of the most widely renowned structural realists in the international relations game today. He disagrees with much of US foreign policy since the end of the Cold War, lamenting the US’s decision to expend its energies maintaining large military presences in regions of the world that contain no threats to the United States. Mearsheimer calls for a strategy of offshore balancing, in which the United States only intervenes in critical regions in order to prevent those regions from being dominated completely by another state. Otherwise, he recommends the US save its strength. I found myself curious today about what many of the world’s region’s power relationships might look like if the United States were to withdraw militarily and allow the powers in those regions to engage in security competition with one another, and I have taken some time to run the figures and make a vast plethora of charts to share with you.

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Developing Countries Shouldn’t Host the Olympics

The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia got started yesterday. In the run-up, we’ve heard a variety of zany stories, from booked hotel rooms that for whatever reason were not ready┬áto a road so expensive it could have been paved with foie gras. The Sochi games may go off without a hitch from here on out, and I wish the Russians the best of luck, but developing countries are not good choices for hosting major sporting events, whether they be the Olympics, the World Cup, or any such thing. I say this not because the athletes and foreign press have to make do with inferior conditions (although sometimes they do), but because it is not in the interest of the citizens of developing countries for their states to host these games.

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Why are We Enemies with Iran?

An interesting question occurred to me today–why are we (we being developed countries generally, but the US in particular) enemies with the Islamic Republic of Iran? What is the fundamental problem with Iran that makes it impossible for us to trade with it, buy its oil, and otherwise maintain friendly relations with it? When I asked myself this question, I could not immediately produce a response that seemed wholly justifiable or acceptable to me. So let’s explore it further.

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