The Comparative Constitutions Project has collected data from 720 of the 800 or so constitutions written since 1789. The shortest constitution, for example, is that of Jordan at 2,270 words while the longest is that of India which at 146,385 words is more than twice as long as the next longest constitution and considerable longer than the US constitution at 7,762 words. The New Zealand constitution grants the fewest rights, namely zero, while the Bolivian constitution grants the most rights at 88.
Among the rights in the Bolivian constitution are “Every person has the right to health.” That does seem ambitious, although I cannot guarantee the translation perhaps it says health care in the original? There are also rights to homes, sewers, and telecommunication services. I cannot go along with those but I do think this is an advance:
Neither the public authority, nor any person or body may intercept private conversations or communications by an installation that monitors or centralized them.
Venezuela offers almost as many rights in its constitution as Bolivia, 81 according to the data. Nevertheless, I think I would feel more secure in my rights living in New Zealand than Bolivia or Venezuela. A constitution with a long list of rights is a bit like a prenup with a long list of rights, looks good on parchment but parchment does not a marriage or a constitution make.
For failing to broadcast sufficient levels of Canadian-made pornography — and failing to close-caption said pornography properly — a trio of Toronto-based erotica channels has earned a reprimand from the Canadian Radio-television & Telecommunications Commission.
Wednesday, the CRTC issued a broadcast notice saying AOV Adult Movie Channel, XXX Action Clips and the gay-oriented Maleflixxx were all failing to reach the required 35% threshold for Canadian content.
Based on a 24-hour broadcast schedule, that translates to about 8.5 hours of Canadian erotica a day.
There is more here, and for the pointer I thank TH.
Stephanie Predel, a stick-thin 23-year-old freshly out of jail, said she was off heroin. But she knows precisely where she could get more drugs if she ever wanted them — at the support meetings for addicts.
“I can get most of my drugs right at the meeting,” she said. “Drug dealers go because they know they’re going to get business.” She added, “People are going into the bathroom to get high.”
Bennington, a pre-Revolutionary town of 17,000 people, presents another face of the heroin epidemic that has swept through Vermont.
There is more here. This article suggests that the crackown on prescription drug abuse helped fuel a surge of interest in heroin. And here is a story on Vermonters for a New Economy.
The piece is here, here is one excerpt:
The only case of economic coercion succeeding in a similar case in history was the 1956 Suez crisis. In that case, Britain, France, and Israel withdrew their forces from the Suez Canal following a U.S.-inspired run on the pound sterling. Except that the Suez case is not at all similar to Russia/Crimea. Britain was a treaty ally of the United States; not so much with Vladimir Putin’s Russia. The Suez was far away from British soil; the Crimea is just across the Sea of Azov. And, perhaps most importantly, Britain was in a fragile economic state trying to protect a fixed exchange rate. Russia’s economy has its problems, but a shortage of hard currency reserves ain’t one of them.
So the conditions under which sanctions would force Russia’s hand in Ukraine are far from ideal. The proposed sanctions coalition is equally flawed, however, as my FP colleague Colum Lynch has noted. European Union leaders are not exactly keen on the idea of broad-based economic sanctions, for understandable reasons. Britain needs Russian finance capital; the rest of Europe needs Russian energy. France is traditionally the most hawkish country in Europe, but that country is too busy planning to export warships to Russia to organize European sanctions.
And here is Dan’s conclusion:
Sorry, but the fact remains that sanctions will not force Russia out of the Crimea. This doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be imposed. Indeed, there are two excellent reasons why the United States should orchestrate and then implement as tough a set of sanctions on Russia as it can muster. First, this problem is going to crop up again…
Second, while sanctions cannot solve this problem on their own, they can be part of the solution. Over the long term, Russia does need to export energy to finance its government and fuel economic growth. Even if planned sanctions won’t bite in the present, the anticipation of tougher economic coercion to come is a powerful lever in international bargaining.
My earlier post on Drezner on sanctions is here.
Amy Goldstein reports:
The new health insurance marketplaces appear to be making little headway in signing up Americans who lack insurance, the Affordable Care Act’s central goal, according to a pair of new surveys.
Only one in 10 uninsured people who qualify for private plans through the newmarketplaces enrolled as of last month, one of the surveys shows. The other found that about half of uninsured adults have looked for information on the online exchanges or planned to look.
…The McKinsey survey shows that of people who had signed up for coverage through the marketplaces by last month, about one-fourth described themselves as having been without insurance for most of the past year. That 27 percent, while low, compares with 11 percent a month earlier.
There is more here. You will note that a low rate of sign-up is distinct from a rate of sign-up skewed toward the elderly and the sick. In this sense we still do not know how the new law is doing, though in a broader sense a low rate of sign-up should not be considered good news.
That is the title of a useful article by Matt Qvortrup (or here, both possibly gated). Here is one excerpt:
To be sure, the British were not adverse to using the referendum as a tactical means of international politics (for example, in the case of the referendum in Moldova in 1857 — where the referendum was a convenient excuse to curb the influence of the Russian Empire after the Crimean War). Here at the request of the British, a poll was held to unify the two territories Moldavia and Walachia (previously an area that had been under Turkish Suzerainty, though often dominated by Russia) under the name Romania. However, it should be noted that the referendum was anything but free and fair; “Intimidations and arrests were not infrequent” and up to “nine-tenth of the population were denied the right to vote,” and that the vote only was held after some “bizarres manoevres diplomatiques.”
Here is an older (free) historical book on the employment of plebiscites to determine sovereignty. Here is the new, well-timed, and not free March 2014 book by Matt Qvortrupp, on same topic. Qvortrup, by the way, helped design the referendum for South Sudan.
Mexican security officials this week launched a major crackdown on the cartel’s business smuggling iron ore to China, which another senior government figure confirmed had become more profitable for the Knights Templar than drug running.
There is an FT article here. The smuggling accounted for 44 percent of the iron ore produced in Mexico. And why smuggle iron ore? The New York Times adds:
Chinese buyers, law enforcement officials have said, have been pressured into buying ore from the gang under threats.
Furthermore many of the mines were not legally registered or the iron ore was stolen. There is more detail here, and here is another exotic sentence:
In a scene that could have been imagined by Gabriel García Márquez, last Christmas three Sinaloa drug cartel members were arrested in a cock fighting farm close to Manila.
The broader question here is whether “drug gangs” could find new outlets for their shenanigans, if drugs were to be legalized or decriminalized. For more on that you can read this older MR post.
By the way, via Craig Richardson, here are photos of a Chinese ghost town in Angola.:
Kilamba is an enormous and largely empty housing development 30 km (18 miles) from Luanda,the capital city of Angola, designed to accommodate 500,000 people, with a dozen schools and other facilities. As of July 2012 only 212 houses had been sold, due to difficulties in obtaining mortgages. The cost is reported as US$3.5 billion, financed by a Chinese credit line and repaid by the Angolan government with oil. The city of Kilamba is a government project that coincides with President Jose Eduardo dos Santos 2008 election pledge to build one million homes in four years. (He just didn’t promise people would live there.)
And what happened to Hong Kong and Tibet?
The Guardian: An enterprising association of sex workers in Barcelona has angered some of Spain’s most prominent feminists by offering an “intro to prostitution” course in response to what its members say is a growing number of women turning to sex work in the wake of Spain’s financial crisis.
…Four hours was too little time, she said, to cover a list of topics such as dealing with the stigma of prostitution, sex tricks, filing tax returns and marketing. A second day will be held this month because of high demand. “Nobody else can teach these things,” said Borrell. “Not psychologists, anthropologists or political scientists – only prostitutes.”
In related stories, this piece on the legal, mega-brothels of Germany is well produced.
Akos Lada has a new research paper (pdf) on this question:
Does sharing the same religion, civilization or racial proximity lead to more peaceful relations between countries? This paper argues that cultural similarity can actually cause wars, which occur to combat diffusion. This new theory of war combines the models of Acemoglu and Robinson (2006) and Fearon (1995), and shows that cultural similarity can lead to more warfare when old elites are afraid of losing their position to a newly inspired citizenry, as these elites try to destroy the external source of inspiration. The microfoundation for inspiration is derived from revealed information about the income level under given institutions, which are assumed to have positive correlation with cultural proximity. On the empirical side, I present case studies on the 1848 Revolutions, the 2013 Korean Crisis (using content analysis of official North Korean articles) and on the First World War, as well as statistical analysis on all the wars of the last two centuries.
Here is Lada’s blog post on Ukraine and Russia. Excerpt:
Perhaps because a more democratic Ukrainian government may serve as an example to Russian citizens of how culturally-similar people can be alternatively governed. As history shows, a dictator with an army does not wait for this to happen.
Jason Furmans says yes, here is one bit:
Looking back at the history of poverty and the tax code in the last several decades reveals some important lessons for expanding opportunity and combating poverty going forward, including the value of having a pro-work, pro-family tax code. The most important new prospect in this area is expanding such an approach for households without children, a proposal that President Obama included in his 2015 budget, and an idea that is also being advanced across the political spectrum, from Senator Marco Rubio to Bush Administration economist Glenn Hubbard to Isabel Sawhill at the Brookings Institution.
It becomes more analytical after that. Here are some further basic facts about EITC extension. Here is a 2009 study (pdf).
Right? That is just one piece of fallout from the current crisis. As an American, with little at stake in Ukraine per se, I am glad the country gave up its nuclear weapons, so as to limit the risk of broader conflict. But if I were a Ukrainian citizen, my view would be somewhat different.
Here is an interesting study by Robert Stephen Mathers (pdf) on the denuclearization of Ukraine. It appears to have been written as a term paper for Martin Felstein in 2003. Excerpt:
The back and forth negotiations about Ukraine’s nuclear status would finally end in Moscow in January 1994 with the signing of the Trilateral Statement by Presidents Clinton, Yeltsin and Kravchuk. The agreement held Ukraine to the promise of “the elimination of all nuclear weapons, including strategic offensive arms, located in its territory.” In exchange for these concessions, the U.S. and Russia agreed to preserve Ukraine’s territorial integrity (a primary concern for Ukraine) and ensured that no state would use or threaten to use military force or coercion against it…Ukraine’s main concerns were finally met.
It seems the value of a formal NATO guarantee is falling as well. Rapidly. Various Eastern European countries are asking for stronger or clarified U.S. guarantees. What are they thinking in Latvia? Taiwan? Japan? How about the Israelis negotiating with John Kerry?
For the pointer I thank Bill Badrick.
Second, one of the stated ambitions of both TPP and the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is reduction in non-tariff barriers, which in most cases add substantially more to goods costs than tariff barriers. According to estimates by the World Bank, for instance, American tariff restrictions on agricultural imports are relatively low on the whole, at just 2.2%. But the tariff equivalent of an all-in measure of restrictiveness, which takes into account non-tariff barriers, jumps to 17.0%. The all-in rates for many of the partners in TPP negotiations are substantially higher; Japan’s all-in tariff equivalent on agricultural imports is 38.3%. South Korea’s is 48.9%. Australia’s is 29.5%.
Third, “implicit protection of services” does indeed impose additional costs. For instance, the cost to foreign providers of some crucial transport and shipping services within the American market is basically infinite. Services account for four times as much economic output as goods production in America but only around one-fifth of American trade. Many services aren’t tradable, of course; haircut tariffs will not be on the TPP agenda. But a growing array are. And rules on service trade have barely changed at all in two decades. TTIP and TPP (as well as the Trade in Services Agreement) are aimed at updating rules on services trade to make it easier to sell insurance, or financial and consulting services, or IT and environmental services, and so on, across borders. Now maybe these deals are “really about” intellectual property, and all-powerful Hollywood has convinced the government to expend a lot of time and effort setting standards for services trade, the better to provide a smokescreen for its own nefarious activities. But I doubt it.
Investment is another key item on the agenda. At present rules on cross-border investment can be pretty ad hoc; a firm interested in buying shares in a business in another country often needs to be careful not to buy too much or not to invest in politically sensitive industries, lest the investment invite political scrutiny. TPP is working to reduce the scope for ad-hockery in interference in investment, which I think we would generally consider to be a good thing. TTIP is as well (that’s what the “I” is all about).
There is more here, useful throughout. I would add that this is also a foreign policy initiative and it will, if successful, allow various smaller countries in the region to resist pressures from various larger countries in same said region.
A good system of property rights establishes clear borders. Clear borders reduce disputes, encourage investment and promote efficient trade. Software patents, however, often fail to define clear borders. I am one of the amici in a amici curiae brief to the Supreme Court (regarding Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank) on software patents that makes this point:
Such abstract claims as “displaying data in
frames,” “recommending media based on past choices,” “reproducing information in material objects at a
point of sale,” or, as in the present case, using “a third
party . . . to eliminate ‘counterparty’ or ‘settlement’
risk,” simply cannot be reliably construed to define a
reasonable area of covered technology. See Wang, 197
F.3d at 1379; Interactive Gift, 256 F.3d at 1323; Pinpoint, 369 F. Supp. 2d at 995; cf. CLS Bank Int’l v.
Alice Corp. Pty. Ltd., 717 F.3d 1269, 1274 (Fed. Cir.
A general counsel at a technology startup
would be hard-pressed to describe any concrete
bounds or permissible follow-on innovations to her
fellow engineers in the face of such claims. Any
software that resulted in a similar functional result
could be construed as infringing, and any investment
in the commercialization of those technologies could
inevitably carry liabilities, risks, and costs whose
magnitudes are impossible to predict in advance.
Thus, the property system that ostensibly exists to
assure investors that long-term rents are secure does
the very opposite, casting a pall of uncertainty over
the viability of any commercial product that happens
to be adjacent to a lurking abstract claim.
Eli Dourado and I note that the Federal Circuit seems to have quite willfully disregarded the intent of the Supreme Court regarding patents on abstract ideas and I think this case may provide further pushback from the SC.
Commercial drones such as the one that left her and two friends with bruises are prohibited in the U.S. That hasn’t stopped a proliferation of flights nationwide that’s far beyond the policing ability of the Federal Aviation Administration, which is laboring to write long-awaited rules governing flights of unmanned aircraft. Drones, which are available online and at hobby shops, have been used to film scenes in The Wolf of Wall Street and to deliver flowers. They’ve been sent aloft to inspect oil-field equipment, capture sporting events, map farmland, and snap aerial photographs for real estate ads.
Some operators plead ignorance of the law. Others claim their flights are permitted under exemptions for hobbyists. Flying model aircraft below 400 feet and away from populated areas is generally permitted, provided it’s for recreation only. There’s not much the FAA can do to stop people from flouting the rules.
There is more here, from Bloomberg Businessweek.