29 July 2010

Iranian Regulatory Fail

From Cameron Abadi at Foreign Policy Passport.

One of the dubious accomplishments of the Islamic Republic of Iran is how much it's succeeded at making criminality utterly banal. The government has made so many prosaic things illegal - from certain hairstyles, to satellite transmissions -- that consistent enforcement is impossible, and hypocrisy is endemic. Rule-breaking is so ubiquitous that Iranians often don't even feel compelled to hide their flouting of the law... So you go into the supermarket, and next to the cashier you'll see a stand holding Hollywood new releases that wouldn't make it past the censors.

Or...you'll drive on the highway past people selling contraband puppies off of truck beds... Dogs are technically illegal in Iran, but in a tacit acknowledgement of the popularity of the puppy black market, the government hasn't barred the sale of dog food.

Running a comprehensive regulatory state is rather harder than most people--both advocates and opponents--realize.

28 July 2010

Obama's Next Big Mistake

Back in 1994, my undergrad mentor commented to me that Bill Clinton was making a serious error in "nationalizing" the midterm elections. By "nationalizing," he meant making them a referendum on himself. That was just one of many instances where I wasn't convinced at first, but later came to realize my mentor had a considerable amount of political wisdom.

I see Barack Obama making the same mistake. The Republicans are, as a matter of course, trying to make the elections a referendum on Obama because as the sitting president, the perpetual #1 issue for voters--the economy--can politically be laid at his feet. Obama would be wise to try to try to downplay the referendum aspect, but instead he seems to be accepting it.

In electoral politics, it's always crucial to remember