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Public opinion has moved very quickly there against Italy:

UPDATE: I misread the poll. These numbers are consistent with what we have seen in the past: a solid majority against independence.

UPDATE 2: Italian police have also arrested 24 Venetian secessionists on charges of “terrorism,” that is, George Washington-style rebellion. Italy is one of the cases I discuss in my book as being at higher risk of secessionist violence than Scotland, Wales, Puerto Rico, the Faroes, Quebec, or Flanders, because unlike these others it has no legal means for secession.

Too Early?

Charlie Cook (National Journal) has some initial thoughts on the 2016 GOP candidate (his “Republican Bracket”). I always find Cook interesting. One particularly odd observation:

“Sometimes after losing two consecutive presidential contests, parties become more pragmatic and move toward the center. Other times, they double down on ideology. Logic would argue for a GOP move toward a center-right nominee for 2016.”

Question to contemplate: How can one move from McCain and Romney to the center right?

Charles Koch’s response to the recent anti-Koch efforts on the part of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.  Jonathan Chait is unimpressed (and I am unsurprised).

The White House’s control of the visual record of the Obama presidency—a great frustration for the AP and the press corps more generally—has its limits (in this case, David Ortiz and Samsung).

Public opinion continues to shift in important ways on drug policy (Pew Research), supporting legalization and treatment over incarceration. Meanwhile, national policy continues to lag.

Now that the numbers are in on Obamacare, many advocates are declaring victory. As E.J. Dionne notes: “The fact that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) hit its original goal this week of signing up more than 7 million people through its insurance exchanges ought to be a moment of truth — literally as well as figuratively. It ought to give everyone, particularly members of the news media, pause over how reckless the opponents of change have been in making instant judgments and outlandish charges.”

I think Greg Sargent has it right when he cautions about making instant judgments based on these numbers: “The significance of the seven million number has always been overstated, in both policy and political terms. It doesn’t tell us much about the law’s long term prospects, which will turn on the demographic mix and on how the marketplaces function in individual states. Similarly, it would not have meant much for the law long term if it had fallen short of seven million.

A review of Errol Morris’s new documentary on Donald Rumsfeld “The Unknown Known.” A good sentence: “While it is unlikely that Mr. Rumsfeld would describe himself as a postmodernist, he does seem to be invested in the obscurity of truth and the indeterminacy of meaning, and to believe that what we know is constructed by language rather than reflected in it.”

Morris’s recent series in the New York Times was quite interesting. Has anyone seen the documentary yet?

If you knew that a person believed that corporations primarily like to outsource production to poor countries to get lower labor costs, what would you predict about that person’s view on whether the minimum wage has significant disemployment effects?

Just from my observation of the world, I would predict that people believing that low labor costs drive outsourcing also likely believe that the minimum wage has no significant disemployment effects. Yet the first view depends on a position either that labor demand is nearly perfectly inelastic (unresponsive to wage rate), or that labor markets are monopsonistic, while the second view depends on the position that labor demand is highly elastic (responsive to wage rate), and implies that labor markets will be fairly competitive, not monopsonistic (because entry is easy).

This combination of beliefs therefore seems to be an example of what Tyler Cowen calls the fallacy of mood affiliation.

For what it is worth, my view is that labor demand is moderately elastic over a long time frame and that labor markets are competitive, and therefore that permanent increases in the minimum wage that include inflation indexing have nontrivial disemployment effects, while labor costs are similarly a nontrivial but not overwhelming consideration in outsourcing decisions.

I delivered this brief talk to a Model UN conference at Dartmouth on March 28. Here is the text of my remarks.
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My topic for tonight is “The Right to Self-Determination in International Law and Practice.” The right to self-determination is one of the most controversial concepts in international relations today. The government of Russia has cited it as a justification for its annexation of Crimea following a doubtfully free and certainly unfair referendum in that territory. The government of Catalonia has cited it in its effort to hold a truly democratic referendum on independence from Spain later this year. What does the right to self-determination mean in international law? And how well does international practice actually conform to international law?

The right to self-determination of peoples is found in the original United Nations Charter, which states among its purposes, “To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace.” The two original UN human rights instruments, the ICCPR and ICESCR, also guarantee the right of self-determination to “all peoples.”

But what is a “people”? That was left undefined. The UN developed a list of “non-self-governing territories” whose status was to be monitored. Originally, the right to self-determination for these territories was not meant to include a right to immediate independence. Article 73 of the original UN Charter merely provides that member states administering non-self-governing territories ensure their “political, economic, social, and educational advancement,” and assist the “progressive development of their free political institutions.”

In the 1940s and 1950s, anticolonial movements emerged in Africa and Asia to fight for immediate independence, and frequently faced stiff military opposition from their imperial masters. The major colonial powers gradually realized that they could not prevent many of their territories from claiming independence. Only in 1960 did the UN adopt the “Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples.” This resolution affirmed that the right of self-determination meant that every non-self-governing territory was to have a chance to decide its own political status, whether integration with the metropole, a status of “free association” with the metropole, or independence.

The criterion for determining whether a territory belonged on the list for decolonization was that it be “geographically separate” and “distinct ethnically and/or culturally from the country administering it.” This criterion has come to be known as the “salt water test”: only if a territory is separated from its metropole by salt water does it have the right to self-determination under international law.

Clearly then, the right to self-determination under international law was never meant to be applied to secessionists in the classic sense. It was a tool for decolonization. This fact does not mean that secession is illegal under international law, only that member states of the United Nations are not required to give secessionist regions the opportunity to determine their own political status. Russia’s justification for its forcible seizure of Crimea is therefore wrong.

International law itself is merely the creation of the governments that happen to exist on the globe. It would be surprising if existing governments were to set up a legal framework for their own dissolution. The “salt water test” is morally arbitrary, and it does not seem to have any rationale in conflict prevention or reduction.

There is another concept of the right to self-determination: a moral concept. Last year, Continue Reading »

  1. Vera Kichanova, Russian libertarian (and anti-Putin) activist, says Putin will only benefit from a “new Cold War.”
  2. A new peace agreement for the Mindanao region of the Philippines has been officially signed. Here are the key provisions, with detailed explanations.

Extensions

For those who failed to sign up for Obamacare, the administration has provided a list of 17 ways you can get an extension. Apparently the extensions will be granted on the honor system (check a box, and we will trust you). If none of the justifications for extensions apply, you may only have to wait a few days. As HHS explains: “Categories that warrant special enrollment periods may be added in the future if other appropriate circumstances, as determined by CMS, become known.”

Megan McArdle tries to make sense of the latest delay given that it appears that total signups will be close to the Congressional Budget Office’s projections of 6 million. The most troubling scenario: the Young Invincibles are not signing up.

here’s the really worrying scenario: The demographics haven’t budged, or have only barely improved from earlier months. The White House knows that means that big premium increases are in the offing for 2015, and they’re hoping to head them off at least temporarily with this delay. Extending open enrollment, which is essentially what they’re doing, would then be a desperate play to get more young, healthy customers into the exchanges, and perhaps to make it a bit harder for insurers to raise rates. In some states, insurers have to file preliminary rate increases in May. And thanks to this latest extension, they won’t have final data to back up any requests for a premium hike.

David Nathan and Susan Levine (Politico) have provided a brief history of Obamacare delays for those who would like to see the latest adjustments in context.  One can only assume that this history will need to be revised in the near future.

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