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Nigeria Needs Trade as Much as it Needs Food

The United Nations (UN) has called for $5.6 billion in donations to fight a famine that threatens over 20 million people in Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia, and Yemen. In Nigeria alone, upwards of 5 million people face acute food shortages.

In a country of over 170 billion people, there are fewer than 5,000 tractors.

Considering the progress Nigeria has made in food security since the 1980s, the country’s placement on the list is disheartening. While the UN’s efforts might bring temporary relief, the root causes of this famine must be addressed to prevent similar crises in the future. Boko Haram might be partly responsible for this crisis, but the reality is that Nigeria’s famine is worsened by protectionist policies that restrict agricultural trade and force Nigerians to depend on insufficient domestic food production.

Restricted Food Imports

In 1983, Nigeria averaged less than 2,000 calories per person per day. By 1998, Nigeria had caught up to the global average of over 2,630 calories. However, food production has dropped in recent years because Nigerian agriculture is stuck in the past. In a country of over 170 billion people, there are fewer than 5,000 tractors. Traditional small scale farming permeates the food production In Nigeria. Small plots a couple of hectares in size account for 90 percent of domestic food production. With a growing population, such small-scale production has become insufficient.

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Cuban_cars

Cubans Want Capitalism

Cuba is sometimes idealized as a successful counter model to capitalism. This month, however, the University of Chicago’s NORC released a study about the opinions of Cuba’s population. The findings of the poll were clear: Cubans want capitalism.

The Cuban people are ready and willing to improve their lives, but the government prevents them from doing so.

This kind of information was not previously available because the Cuban government repressed information in and out of the island. As such, the study, based on in-person interviews with 840 randomly chosen adults, gives a rare glimpse into the sentiments of Cubans about the system under which they live.

Cubans on Cuba

65 percent of interviewees said they want to privatize more businesses and decentralize the economy. 68 percent see competition as a positive way to promote ideas and as a motivator to work hard. Many Cubans have an entrepreneurial mindset with 56 percent of the people planning to start a business in the next 5 years. To compare, 57 percent of Americans plan to become entrepreneurs. The Cuban people are ready and willing to improve their lives, but the government prevents them from doing so.

Further, only 13 percent of the population thinks the Cuban economy is doing well. GDP shrunk by almost one percent last year. Venezuela, one of Cuba’s main benefactors, had to reduce its oil deliveries by 60 percent due to their own economic crisis, which has had a heavy impact on Cuba’s GDP.

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Gifted Plans? What Ben Carson Could Mean For Housing Affordability

On March 2, after a month of unexpected delays, the Senate confirmed Ben Carson’s nomination to Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development in a party-line 58-41 vote. The lightly contested vote followed unanimous confirmation in committee, as Senate Democrats signaled that Carson’s nomination simply isn’t the hill they are willing to die on. With Carson now in the driver’s seat at HUD, what in the world could the soft-spoken neurosurgeon mean for U.S. cities?

As many have pointed out, Carson’s hearing testimony was vague, and his background in housing policy is sparse. Yet in Carson’s prepared testimony and at recent events, he has consistently stressed the problem of housing affordability and the need for land-use liberalization at the local level. In this regard, Ben Carson joins a cross-ideological, bipartisan consensus ranging from the progressive left to the conservative right on the urgent need for land use reform and new development in America’s cities. While HUD’s power over local land use regulation and housing is limited, here are three low-cost reforms HUD could pursue under Carson.

First, Carson could direct HUD officials to craft and disseminate model zoning reform legislation to the states. As urban history geeks may know, conventional “Euclidian” zoning began in 1924, when a committee of planning proponents drafted the Standard Zoning Enabling Act. The act provided state policymakers with readymade zoning legislation, and within a decade, most states had adopted some form of the legislation, and thousands of cities had adopted zoning ordinances.

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American Empire Will Not Be Stopped by a Blundering Semi-Isolationist President

As Donald J. Trump climbed up the polls, and into the Oval Office, to the bafflement of most, and the cheers of some, there was deluded optimism and melodramatic horror freely expressed about his plans once sworn in. The antiwar-cum-xenophobia demonstrated by many self-proclaimed isolationists meant that Trump’s bizarre policy collections had piqued their interest. But even with the relatively low standards that that mentality suggests–less war, perhaps, more domestic misery, certainly, especially when it comes to the lives of undocumented immigrants–Trump will likely fail. The non-interventionists who value the lives of immigrants, and the freedom of all people to live without police intervention remain unsurprised at Trump’s failures of international peace, even as they scorn the neocons just as much as the isolationists do.

America has been at war since 2001. In other ways, America has been at war nearly nonstop since its founding. As in so many other nation-states, the native population had to be culled and brutalized so that Westerners could flourish. Once that was mostly complete by the late 19th century, America eyed Cuba and the Philippines, and engaged in savage, now-forgotten wars in order to colonize there. World Wars one and two are defended by many people, especially the latter, but the savagery with which America fought even its most justified enemies spoke to its disinterest in a moral highground based on anything besides whatever the US says it right at whatever particular time. Korea and Vietnam, various Middle East scuffles and bombings, coups and interventions, not to mention the two decades spent trampling Iraq, Afghanistan, and now Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, Pakistan, and other places where terrorists occasionally lurk, all of this adds up to a searing black mark on the credibility of the shining city on the hill. Except that among the powerful and the silent majority in middle America, it doesn’t really diminish much of anything.

American wars have been on autopilot for at least the past decade. Mass outrage, most prominently seen during the Vietnam war, is the exceptional response to interventions abroad. And even in the “come on people now/smile on you brother”era, that war wasn’t stopped until two million Vietnamese, nearly 60,000 Americans, and countless Cambodian and Laos citizens were dead. At best, then, outrage as the life and death threat of the draft hangs over American 19-year-olds’ heads, can lead to the stopping of a war after a decade.

How to get out of the death grapple that is the war on terror remains to be seen. Or, perhaps it won’t be. In the grimmest, most borderline conspiratorial interpretations of the post-9/11 world, there is no reason for the US to ever get out of this war against a tactic, an extreme interpretation of a religion, against anyone who consider themselves against the US, and will engage in violence towards that end.

We may or may not have moved away from full-scale invasions like Iraq in 2003. However, Libya and Afghanistan have been destabilized plenty. And the residents of half a dozen other countries now find it necessary to accept the presence of silent robots hovering above them, Hellfire missiles at the ready. The American people are easily exhausted by wars, but they are also easily frightened into them. Letting a few troops, then a few more, then a few drones handle things is the easiest way to keep them distracted, but feeling safe enough.

 

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Infrastructure

What the Atlanta Highway Collapse Signals about American Infrastructure

Atlanta is already known for having some of the worst traffic in the world, and the recent collapse along a major interstate will only make congestion worse. On March 30, in the middle of rush hour traffic, a fire began under the I-85 Northbound that quickly erupted into a massive blaze, eventually causing a section of the bridge to collapse.

Less than 24-hours later, with the rubble still smoldering, the US Department of Transportation announced a $10 million award to begin emergency repairs. Despite the quick response from the DOT, it will take millions more dollars before I-85 can resume carrying 400,000 vehicles daily.

With the nation’s Highway Trust Fund rapidly approaching insolvency, the I-85 collapse and the subsequent Atlanta traffic chaos exemplify the overwhelming cost and inefficiency of public infrastructure in America.

Why So Expensive?

In the United States, transit projects are chronically expensive and time-consuming. The country’s outdated method of allowing most highways to fall under federal care, and cumbersome regulatory obstacles, is part of the reason that we continue to lag behind when it comes to international standards. Regulatory burdens also contribute to other countries’ outranking the US when it comes to securing construction permits, making new projects and maintenance even more complicated.

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