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Dutch Caribbean Resist Terms of Coronavirus Aid

Silveria Jacobs Eugene Rhuggenaath
Prime Ministers Silveria Jacobs of Sint Maarten and Eugene Rhuggenaath of Curaçao answer questions from reporters in The Hague, July 10 (ANP)

The prime ministers of Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten have turned down conditions to qualify for as much as €1 billion in coronavirus aid from the European Netherlands. A cabinet meeting in The Hague on Friday, which the leaders of the three islands attended, failed to reach a compromise.

The Dutch have proposed appointing a three-person panel to oversee reforms to which the aid is tied. The Caribbean islands consider this an infringement of their autonomy.

Eugene Rhuggenaath, the prime minister of Curaçao, went so far as to accuse The Hague of having “an agenda for the takeover and control” of the islands, echoing the rhetoric of pro-independence parties that supported violent protests against spending cuts two weeks ago, which prompted the Dutch to deploy troops to support the local police. (more…)

Biden’s Housing Plan Emulates Europe

Seattle Washington
Homes in Seattle, Washington, April 21, 2011 (Harold Hollingsworth)

One of the areas in which I think America should emulate Northwestern Europe is housing.

Stagnant wages, restrictive building codes and underinvestment in construction have caused home prices to rise faster than wages in eight out of ten metro areas in the United States.

Young Americans are one-third less likely to own a home at this point in their lives than their parents and grandparents, delaying their wealth accumulation and possibly family formation. Among young black Americans, homeownership has fallen to its lowest in more than sixty years. Americans of all ages are less likely to move, which has contributed to a decline in social mobility and an increase in regional inequality.

I like the Dutch system, which is a combination of government-built social housing rented out at below-market prices and rental subsidies, which can reach up to a third of the average rent and for which about one in five households qualify.

Turns out that’s close to Joe Biden’s plan. (more…)

Standing Up to Cancel Culture

Empire State Building New York
The Empire State Building in Manhattan, New York (Unsplash/Gaurav Pikale)

You wait for three years for the center-left and center-right to make common cause against the extremists on either side and in the course of a week it all happens at once:

  • Yascha Mounk has created a community and newsletter in defense of liberal democracy called Persuasion, which includes left-wing thinkers, such as Sheri Berman and Thomas Chatterton Williams, as well as Never-Trump conservatives Jonathan Haidt, David French and David Frum.
  • Seventeen academics have started the blog Radical Classical Liberals.
  • The Neoliberal Project has launched the Center for New Liberalism, a center-left think tank and pressure group.
  • The conservative Lincoln Project is putting out the most effective ads against Donald Trump.
  • 153 intellectuals of the left and right, including Anne Applebaum, Margaret Atwood, David Brooks, Ian Buruma, Noam Chomsky, Richard T. Ford, David Frum, Francis Fukuyama, Jonathan Haidt, Michael Ignatieff, Garry Kasparov, Mark Lilla, Yascha Mounk, Jonathan Rauch, J.K. Rowling, Anne-Marie Slaughter, Gloria Steinem, Thomas Chatterton Williams, Matthew Yglesias and Fareed Zakaria, have signed “A Letter on Justice and Open Debate” warning that cancel culture is getting out of hand and stifling free debate. (more…)

Center-Left and Center-Right Need to Team Up Against Extremists

Washington Monument
View of the Washington Monument from the General Ulysses S. Grant Memorial in Washington DC, July 3, 2018 (DoD/Reese Brown)

John F. Harris argues in Politico that the center-right anti-Trump movement could outlive the president and make common cause with the center-left.

Both oppose effort to stifle free thinking and bully those who dissent from ideological or racial orthodoxy, he writes.

James Bennet was recently forced out as opinion editor of The New York Times after he published an incendiary op-ed by Republican senator Tom Cotton. A Boeing spokesman resigned over an article he wrote 33 years ago, as a young Navy lieutenant, in which he argued against women in combat. There are countless other examples of Americans losing their jobs for holding the “wrong” opinion or for merely giving a platform to the wrong opinion.

“If we lived under some fickle absolutist king, who arbitrarily decided what was offensive, outrageous or even criminal, we’d all recognize the illiberalism of it,” Jonah Goldberg writes in his newsletter. “But when a mob arbitrarily rules the same way, we call it social justice.”

The pro-Trump right loves to hate on left-wing cancel culture, yet they have purged many Trump critics from conservative media, organizations and think tanks. Under the guise of free speech, Trump wants the federal government, not social-media companies, to decide what the likes of Facebook and Twitter can publish. So much for free enterprise. (And have Republicans considered what a Democratic administration might do with that power?)

Traditional conservatives and liberals also share an interest in propping up institutions, which the Bernie Sanders left and Trump right agree are beyond repair. The far left wants to abolish the Electoral College, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and in some cases the police. The far right wants to uproot the media, universities and the Washington “deep state”. The center-left and center-right argue for reform.

Harris wonders if the alliance will endure beyond the election:

Once Trump leaves, so too will the incentives that drove liberals and conservatives together in opposition.

But defeating Trump in November will not necessarily defeat the authoritarian right. (more…)

Sánchez Walks Fine Line Between Left and Right

Pablo Iglesias Pedro Sánchez
Spanish party leaders Pablo Iglesias and Pedro Sánchez speak in Madrid, February 5, 2016 (PSOE)

With support from the pro-independence Catalan left weakening, Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez is reaching out to the center-right.

The liberal-nationalist Citizens, who are shifting back to the center under their new leader, Ines Arrimadas, after a disastrous lurch to the right in the last election, have largely supported Sánchez’ emergency measures to cope with the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed at least 28,000 Spaniards. The party has pledged to vote for three out of four proposed recovery programs, except the one for social policy.

Even the conservative People’s Party, which only a few months ago called Sánchez a “traitor” for doing a deal with Basque and Catalan separatists and then accused him of lying about the true death toll of the pandemic, has suggested it could support some of the policies, which include tax hikes and loans to small businesses.

With tourism, normally one-sixth of the economy, drying up, unemployment is projected to reach 19 percent. (It would be worse without the furloughing system ERTE.) The central bank expects the economy will contract between 9 and 15 percent this year before growing 7-9 percent in 2021. (more…)

Sino-American Rift Gives Russia an Opening

Vladimir Putin Xi Jinping
Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Xi Jinping of China meet on the sidelines of a summit in Benaulim, India, October 15, 2016 (Kremlin)

Aside from causing a global humanitarian crisis, COVID-19 has deepened the rift between China and the United States. President Donald Trump has politicized the pandemic, calling it the “Chinese virus” and ordering the federal government’s main pension fund to stop investing in China.

Military conflict remains unlikely. Escalation is likely to be economic and political — which is still costly, and gives America’s other nuclear-powered adversary, Russia, a chance to strengthen its ties with Beijing. (more…)

Should Scotland Become Independent?

Pap of Glencoe Scotland
Cottage at the foot of the Pap of Glencoe in the Highlands of Scotland (Unsplash/Max Hermansson)

Scottish public opinion is moving in favor of independence with several recent polls giving the separatists a 1- to 7-point lead.

Independence lost in the 2014 referendum by 10 points, but Britain’s exit from the European Union, and the growing likelihood that it will end the year without a trade deal to replace its access to the European single market, has many Scots wondering if they might not be better off leaving the UK in order to rejoin to EU.

The answer is probably still no. (more…)

Why Netanyahu Won’t Annex the West Bank

Benjamin Netanyahu
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits a security check point in the West Bank, February 6 (GPO/Haim Zach)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s declared intention to annex the West Bank has sparked intense debate in Israel. Although many Israelis seem to favor annexation, the consensus among security experts, including military professionals, is that such a move would have severe negative repercussions for the Jewish state’s security, its standing in the world and the prospects of peace with the Palestinians.

They fear Netanyahu will pander to right-wing voters, emboldened by the American president, Donald Trump, whose own peace plan would allow Israel to annex up to 30 percent of the West Bank, including the Jordan Valley, in exchange for ceding territories on the Egyptian border to a Palestinian state. (A part of the plan Netanyahu has, unsurprisingly, said nothing about.) (more…)

Barcelona Without the Tourists

Barcelona Spain
The sun sets on the Hotel W in Barcelona, Spain (Unsplash/Leyy M)

Tourism in Spain has come virtually to a standstill as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

For many residents of Barcelona, Spain’s top tourist destination, it is a relief.

The city welcomed 9.5 million tourists last year, up from under two million in the 1990s. That’s almost six times its population (1.6 million)!

Most come during the summer, when I normally avoid the old medieval city and Barceloneta beach. (The beaches north of the Olympic Harbor, which were created for the 1992 Olympics, are usually less crowded but still busy.)

Now Barceloneta is actually nice. Cops constantly check to make sure sunbathers keep two meters distance, so crowding is impossible. The xiringuitos (tapas bars on the beach) have free tables. La Rambla, which is otherwise so packed it’s impossible to get through, is now pleasant for a stroll. (more…)

Dutch Deploy Troops After Riots on Curaçao

Dutch frigate Van Amstel
The Dutch frigate HNLMS Van Amstel sails under the Queen Juliana Bridge in Willemstad, Curaçao (Ministerie van Defensie)

The Netherlands is deploying troops on Curaçao, one of the kingdom’s islands in the Caribbean, following several days of rioting and unrest.

The decision was taken with local police, who announced that, as a result of the deployment, a two-day curfew could be lifted on Friday. (more…)