Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Cato Once Again Misses the Obvious

This can’t be by accident….

In a commentary entitled “How Ukraine Can Move Forward,” Dalibor Rohac manages to write nearly 900 words on the roots of the current crisis in Ukraine without once mentioning the contribution of the Unites States government. 

There, now you know the punch-line.  You are free to skip the rest, if you like.

For the rest of you, let’s start with… who is Dalibor Rohac?

Dalibor Rohac is a policy analyst with the Cato Institute’s Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity. His work focuses on international political economy and development. Before joining Cato, he was an economist at the London-based Legatum Institute, where he worked on topics ranging from the Eurozone crisis to economic transitions in the Arab world. Rohac has worked at the Office of the President of the Czech Republic, has been a research associate at the Centre for the New Europe in Brussels and was a Weidenfeld Scholar at Oxford University. He is a Junior Visiting Fellow at the Max Beloff Centre for the Study of Liberty, University of Buckingham, and an Economics Fellow at the Institute of Economic Affairs in London.

The Centre for the New Europe appears to now be defunct; however an interesting tidbit is to be found here:

The Centre for the New Europe (CNE) was a free-market think tank based in Brussels, and focused on EU issues such as economic growth, managing environmental change, health and welfare policy, competition policy, and innovation. Most recently, it was headed by Stephen Pollard, a British journalist and policy expert who previously worked at the Fabian Society and the Social Market Foundation.

The Fabian Society:

The Fabian Society is a British socialist organisation whose purpose is to advance the principles of socialism via gradualist and reformist means.  The society laid many of the foundations of the Labour Party and subsequently affected the policies of states emerging from the decolonisation of the British Empire, most notably India and Singapore.

Originally, the Fabian society was committed to the establishment of a socialist economy, alongside a commitment to British imperialism as a progressive and modernizing force.  Today its viewpoints are more social democratic.

The Social Market Foundation:

The Social Market Foundation (SMF) is a British public policy think-tank based in Westminster, London. It was set up by supporters of David Owen after the Social Democratic Party (SDP) was disbanded in the late 1980s. It aims to promote and produce policies supporting the “social market”. This was the concept of the SMF’s first publication.

Now on to his commentary:

…to really understand where Ukraine is headed, it’s important to understand the roots of the unrest that led to the ousting of President Viktor Yanukovych.

This shouldn’t be so difficult, should it? 

Rohac lists several factors:

First, the country’s oligarchic elite, which ruled the country for the past two decades, cared little about the prosperity of ordinary Ukrainians.

Second…Ukrainians simply lost patience after their government effectively followed instructions from Moscow and canceled the broadly popular association agreement with the EU.

That’s it. 

Now, while each of these two points may contain significant truth, is this really all?  Did Dalibor miss the recent vulgarities?

Where is the backstory of US so-called diplomacy that contributed to these events?

Suffice it to say, given the obvious misdiagnosis, the proposed treatment is meaningless:

For example, the country’s energy sector combines state ownership with heavy subsidies, which are wasteful, unsustainable, and contribute to the country’s dependence on imports of natural gas from Russia. The situation can be remedied if energy markets are deregulated and privatized and if private investors start exploiting domestic natural gas sources.

Bankruptcy law needs reform as well.

But it’s not hard to see that the essence of the Ukrainian problem is institutional. It lies in the fact that for far too long the government at large was effectively run like a money-making enterprise for a narrow group of cronies and oligarchs.

Oh, there is a novelty not to be found anywhere in the more enlightened west – government run as “a money-making enterprise for a narrow group of cronies and oligarchs.”

Rohac ends with a real whopper:

The reality is that it’s probably unreasonable to expect the United States to be involved in any leading way in the Ukrainian transition — after all, the future of Ukraine is for Ukrainians to decide…

Is it possible to write such nonsense with a straight face?  Is it possible to be so blind to the obvious realities of the situation in Ukraine?

Yes, if you happen to work for the Cato Institute, “a public policy research organization — a think tank – dedicated to the principles of individual liberty, limited government, free markets and peace.”

Gary North said it well regarding conservative think-tanks: “The Washington Beltway: Sinkhole for Donors' Funds” (emphasis in original):

Here is the warning: if an organization is inside the Washington Beltway, do not send any money. It doesn’t need any money. It has enough donors who are doing that, donors who are terminally naïve, and will keep sending the money.

The problem with most ideological think tanks is simple to describe: they are trying to gain political leverage. The closer they are to Washington DC, the more they are trying to gain this leverage at the top of the pyramid of power, or at least the visible pyramid of power.

There is nothing about “individual liberty, limited government, free markets and peace” at Cato.  Rohac offers example # 2,134,873.

1 comment:

  1. As I recall, the EU deal would have doubled every Ukrainian's utility bill. That cannot have been as popular as Mr Rohac imagines.