Posts Tagged ‘economics’

Is this 1789 ?

Sunday, August 30th, 2015

ruling

In 1789, the French Revolution began. How ?

On May 5, 1789, Louis XVI convened the Estates-General. Almost immediately, it became apparent that this archaic arrangement—the group had last been assembled in 1614—would not sit well with its present members. Although Louis XVI granted the Third Estate greater numerical representation, the Parlement of Paris stepped in and invoked an old rule mandating that each estate receive one vote, regardless of size. As a result, though the Third Estate was vastly larger than the clergy and nobility, each estate had the same representation—one vote. Inevitably, the Third Estate’s vote was overridden by the combined votes of the clergy and nobility.

The essay of Angelo Codevilla in American Spectator in 2014 described a similar phenomenon in 21st century America. American citizens begged for control of illegal immigration and crony capitalism.

As over-leveraged investment houses began to fail in September 2008, the leaders of the Republican and Democratic parties, of major corporations, and opinion leaders stretching from the National Review magazine (and the Wall Street Journal) on the right to the Nation magazine on the left, agreed that spending some $700 billion to buy the investors’ “toxic assets” was the only alternative to the U.S. economy’s “systemic collapse.” In this, President George W. Bush and his would-be Republican successor John McCain agreed with the Democratic candidate, Barack Obama. Many, if not most, people around them also agreed upon the eventual commitment of some 10 trillion nonexistent dollars in ways unprecedented in America. They explained neither the difference between the assets’ nominal and real values, nor precisely why letting the market find the latter would collapse America. The public objected immediately, by margins of three or four to one.

Today, we have a situation in which the Muslim world of the middle east is being overrun by a radical faction of Muslims who call themselves ISIS.

Richard Fernandez, whose writing I read every day, has another good discussion of what is happening and likely to happen in the future.

The anniversary of the U.S. war against the Islamic State passed with little notice. It was August 7 of last year that President Obama authorized the first airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq, a campaign he expanded a month later to include targets in Syria. So far this month, the president has delivered remarks on the Voting Rights Act, his deal with Iran, the budget, clean energy, and Hurricane Katrina. ISIS? Not a peep.

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America is in Play

Friday, August 28th, 2015

trump

Peggy Noonan has a column today that has lots of people talking.

I have been pessimistic about the future of the country for a while. Recently, I have been very pessimistic.

One of the arguments for the impossibility of an event is lack of previous failure. “It never failed before and thus can never fail ever”. The Washington Post’s editorial board invokes a variant of this logic to refute Donald Trump’s border policy, arguing there are so many illegal immigrants it is too expensive to deport them all, leaving no alternative but to accept more.

Naturally, the WaPo is certain they know what could happen.

A useful case study is California, whose economy accounts for about 13 percent of U.S. gross domestic product and whose 2.6 million undocumented workers include almost a tenth of the state’s workforce.

Well, guess what ? Peggy is talking to Hispanics.

Something is going on, some tectonic plates are moving in interesting ways. My friend Cesar works the deli counter at my neighborhood grocery store. He is Dominican, an immigrant, early 50s, and listens most mornings to a local Hispanic radio station, La Mega, on 97.9 FM. Their morning show is the popular “El Vacilón de la Mañana,” and after the first GOP debate, Cesar told me, they opened the lines to call-ins, asking listeners (mostly Puerto Rican, Dominican, Mexican) for their impressions. More than half called in to say they were for Mr. Trump. Their praise, Cesar told me a few weeks ago, dumbfounded the hosts. I later spoke to one of them, who identified himself as D.J. New Era. He backed Cesar’s story. “We were very surprised,” at the Trump support, he said. Why? “It’s a Latin-based market!”

What is going on ?

On the subject of elites, I spoke to Scott Miller, co-founder of the Sawyer Miller political-consulting firm, who is now a corporate consultant. He worked on the Ross Perot campaign in 1992 and knows something about outside challenges. He views the key political fact of our time as this: “Over 80% of the American people, across the board, believe an elite group of political incumbents, plus big business, big media, big banks, big unions and big special interests—the whole Washington political class—have rigged the system for the wealthy and connected.” It is “a remarkable moment,” he said. More than half of the American people believe “something has changed, our democracy is not like it used to be, people feel they no longer have a voice.”

I could not agree more. I keep recommending Angelo Codevilla’s essay in American Spectator. I even saved it on this blog because Spectator dropped it for a while. Now it seems to have become such a topic of conversation that it is back on their web site.

I have even been saying that we need a revolution, and maybe it is coming.

“It is accepted that primary schools have increasing numbers of pupils, which causes all manner of problems, but what is frequently not referred to is why we have such a boom in numbers.

“And the answer is unlimited immigration into this country. It hits some areas harder than others but there cannot be many primary schools in the country which have not been affected at all,” said Mr Nuttall, UKIP Education spokesman.

Wow ! That is Britain ! I will be in Britain in little more than a week and it will be interesting to have this conversation with my friends, a retired British Army physician and his wife. We will go to Belgium while avoiding the Chunnel to avoid rioting at Calais as “migrants” try to invade Britain though the Chunnel in search of the Dole.

finn_calais_port__3080803k

This might even be the start of the West trying to save itself from the predicted Suicide.

In 1964, as today, it is very easy to see how a thinking person might see the intellectual drift to the left as a move toward societal suicide. For liberalism is a cry for the supremacy of general good intentions over the practical application of common sense. Burnham said that liberals are often driven by “profound non-rational, often anti-rational sentiments and impulses.” Ideas like the welfare state and leniency on criminals to facilitate rehabilitation may have sounded good coming out of the mouth of a liberal, but they were disastrous in practice.

Burnham’s book, “Suicide of the West”, was in effect a warning that leftward drift would ultimately destroy all affluence and freedom in the world. Fortunately, many of the readers of his book heeded Burnham’s cry and helped stem the leftward movement of policy and ideas in America.

Is it ending ?

Here We Go !

Monday, August 24th, 2015

ghost

UPDATE: Here is a good description of what I think is coming.

The US stock market is being buoyed upward by technology shares that are pure luxury items, a bit like the China Ghost Cities.

America’s technology darlings aren’t exactly making good on Silicon Valley’s legacy. Microsoft, Cisco, IBM and a few other businesses of the old guard have a reasonable claim to being the companies that run the world, but Twitter and Facebook? Not so much – whatever their crazy valuations.

You see, as much as global financial concerns are going to hit tech companies harder than other sorts of enterprise, so too will their own lack of ambition. The ugly truth is that Silicon Valley has largely given up trying to fix big problems and has retreated into photo-sharing apps and productivity tools. That may sound harsh, but just look at some of the absurd and pointless startups that are getting vast checks written and tell me that founders don’t need a kick up the ass and a reminder that no one has solved batteries yet.

I have been pessimistic for several years. That may be just my own psychological makeup but I am not the only one.

California is getting a bit agitated about what is happening in China.

Gyrations in the stock market have taken California’s fragile finances for a ride before — when the dot-com bubble burst, when the Wall Street crash sank the national economy less than a decade ago.

So when the market continued its dive Monday, state officials began glancing around for their seat belts.

More than most states, California depends heavily on taxes from the wealthy, pulling about half of its income tax revenue from just 1% of residents in recent years.

California is a top down society because it depends on income tax. Texas doesn’t and its state government is funded by sales tax, which everyone pays, even illegals.

The Obama Administration has been playing a Ponzi Scheme for years.

A Ponzi scheme is a fraudulent investment operation where the operator, an individual or organization, pays returns to its investors from new capital paid to the operators by new investors, rather than from profit earned by the operator.

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Socialism is running out of other people’s money.

Saturday, August 1st, 2015

Socialism is on its last legs except for college faculty lounges. Venezuela is now seizing private companies’ facilities.

“There is an economic war here and this company, Polar, is at the heart of it. They hide products from the population, and inflate their prices!”
The government had first notified the landlord of plans to expropriate the industrial park in 2013, Nestle spokesman Andres Alegrett said by telephone from Caracas on Thursday. Nestle used the facility to dispatch about 10 percent of its products in the country, supplying sweets and drinks to the western side of Greater Caracas, he said.

Nestle is no stranger to Socialism. Jonah Golberg noted Nestle’s connection years ago.

About ten years ago I went on a junket to Switzerland and attended a talk with the CEO of Nestlé. Listening to him, it became very clear to me that he had little to no interest in free markets or capitalism properly understood. He saw his corporation as a “partner” with governments, NGOs, the U.N., and other massive multinationals. The profit motive was good for efficiency and rewarding talent, but beyond that, he wanted order and predictability and as much planning as he could get. I think that mindset informs the entire class of transnational progressives, the shock troops of what H. G. Wells hoped would lead to his liberal-fascist “world brain.”

Yes, Nestle has a history of cooperation with various do-gooder initiatives although it has kept its eye on profits.

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Here We Go ! California’s coming bankruptcy.

Friday, July 31st, 2015

Today, the Orange County Register has has a nice piece on why California is Illinois with sunshine. The California economy, while described by Democrats as the tree that grows money, is actually very fragile and susceptible to economic panics like 2008 and the coming national insolvency.

Within the span of only 11 years, the hole at the bottom of California’s state and local pension funds increased a staggering 3,046 percent.

The monstrous growth of the gap between what public agencies have promised workers upon retirement and what they actually have – from $6.3 billion in 2003 to $198.2 billion in 2013, according to figures gathered by the state controller’s office – matters to all Californians, reformers argue.

The article suggests that it must be filled with better investments, this in a state that chooses political criteria for pension fund investments, or the difference has to be made up by taxpayers.

Because in California, the promises made to public workers on Day One of their employment can never, ever be broken – at least, not outside of federal bankruptcy court. And even in court, officials from Vallejo and Stockton and San Bernardino did not request permission to modify these burdens, fearing they’d have trouble attracting and retaining workers if the city next door offered something better.

In Illinois, the new governor tried to modify pensions but was rebuffed by the state Supreme Court.

A judge on Friday struck down the state’s landmark pension law that sought to fix Illinois’ $104.6 billion government retirement system debt, declaring the measure unconstitutional and clearing a path for a showdown in the Illinois Supreme Court.

Sangamon County Circuit Court Judge John Belz agreed with public employee unions and retirees who challenged the December 2013 law, maintaining that it “without question” violates the state constitution’s provision that a public worker pension cannot be “diminished or impaired.

The Tribune approves of this decision which was upheld by the Supreme Court but it is a disaster and will probably lead to an Illinois bankruptcy filing within two years.

Notice that California’s pension hole is deeper than Illinois’ which has the reputation of a corrupt and poorly managed state while California had an undeserved reputation as an economic powerhouse.

Unfunded liability is not debt and shouldn’t be viewed that way, said a spokesman for Californians for Retirement Security, a coalition of unions trying to protect the current system.

Sure and promises are not intended to be kept except by those who were promised something.

“For citizens and taxpayers, unfunded pension liabilities are actually more of a burden than bonded debt,” said David Crane, a research scholar at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research. That’s because they tend to rank higher in priority in bankruptcy proceedings than other kinds of debt and are repaid first. He pointed to New York City’s woes in 1975, when it suspended interest payments on debt but kept paying pension liabilities.

That’s what they say now but there is a big “haircut” coming for the whole country, I believe, and pensions will be just part of it when the national debt becomes unsustainable. Just ask Greece about that.

Meanwhile Los Angeles becomes a third world city as the middle class leaves the state. Who do they think will pay those taxes ?

Greece is going glimmering.

Sunday, July 5th, 2015

Greeks

I’ve been planning trip to Greece for months. Back in January, I decided to wait until the Greek monetary crisis was closer to resolution. Finally in May, I made reservations for September. I even posted my plans here.

Well, today it may be all going glimmering. The Greeks have apparently voted NO to the EU deal.

Greece has overwhelmingly rejected Europe’s latest bailout package, plunging the country’s future in the Eurozone into jeopardy.

With most of the votes counted in a referendum that will shape the future of the continent, the ‘No’ campaign has a staggering 61 per cent of the vote – 22 points ahead.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande called for an EU crisis summit to find a ‘solution’ for Greece, with leaders set to meet in Brussels on Tuesday.
Thousands of anti-austerity voters took to the streets in celebration as the leader of the pro-EU ‘Yes’ campaign resigned, with an official announcement of the final result imminent.
But German politicians warned of ‘disaster’ as they accused Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras of ‘tearing down bridges’ between Greece and Europe.

Now what ?

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White Privilege.

Thursday, July 2nd, 2015

microaggression

The subject of “white privilege” is very much in the news there days.

Administration officials at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University have reached an agreement with student activists to force “mandatory power and privilege training” on incoming students during orientation.

The group, which calls itself “HKS Speaks Out,” will have a meeting this week with the dean of the Kennedy School, David T. Ellwood, to discuss the funding for the compulsory training and to “make sure this training is institutionalized” throughout the school, reports Campus Reform.

Who is this group behind the “white privilege” training session ? Well, they are disgruntled students.

The movement, called HKS Speaks Out, began in October after students expressed having “really negative classroom experiences,” according to Reetu D. Mody, a first year Master in Public Policy student and an organizer of the movement. She said the group has amassed about 300 student signatures, or about a fourth of the school’s student population, on a petition that calls for mandatory privilege and power training.

Reetu

She can’t breathe. She is a Congressional staffer but I can’t find out whose staff. Democrat if not Bernie Sanders.

Steve Sailor is not impressed.

Harvard U. is full of people who clawed their way into Harvard, so it’s not surprising that they often can’t stand each other. Fortunately, 21st Century Harvard students have a vocabulary of whom to blame for any and all frustrations they feel. From the Harvard Crimson:

Kennedy School Students Call for Training To Combat Privilege in Classroom

Whiteness !

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I wonder if that Confederate flag will become a symbol of freedom.

Saturday, June 27th, 2015

Confederate_Rebel_Flag.svg

The hysteria is in high gear over the Confederate battle flag. The controversy began with the the shooting of nine people in the Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC by a schizophrenic young man. South Carolina is, of course, the first state to secede from the union after Lincoln’s election in 1860. Since the Civil War, South Carolina has been ruled by the Democratic Party until the past few years when Republicans have elected the governor and legislature. In 1962, in an act of defiance, Governor Fritz Hollings (D) presided over the placing to the Confederate flag on the capital building. The flag was subsequently moved to a Confederate memorial on the capital grounds by a Republican governor.

Meanwhile, Fox News’s Special Report noted this fact during one of the show’s “All-Star Panel” segments with host Bret Baier alluding to it as well as how a Republican was in office when the flag was taken down from the dome and moved to the Capitol’s grounds as a compromise in 1998.

The shooter appears to me to be a paranoid schizophrenic who lived in appalling conditions with a weird father who seemed to care little about his welfare.

The hysteria about the Confederate flag seems to be a planned assault on southern states and on conservative politics. The fact that the South was ruled by Democrats until very recently is also an issue for these people who resent the recent appeal of the Republican Party. The cry of “Racism” seems a bit exaggerated when there is a trend recognized even by the leftist New York Times of black families moving back to the southern states.

The percentage of the nation’s black population living in the South has hit its highest point in half a century, according to census data released Thursday, as younger and more educated black residents move out of declining cities in the Northeast and Midwest in search of better opportunities.

The share of black population growth that has occurred in the South over the past decade — the highest since 1910, before the Great Migration of blacks to the North — has upended some long-held assumptions.

Both Michigan and Illinois, whose cities have rich black cultural traditions, showed an overall loss of blacks for the first time, said William Frey, the chief demographer at the Brookings Institution.

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Is the Republican Party Worthwhile ?

Sunday, June 14th, 2015

hillary

Today, an interesting column was published suggesting that, if the Republicans don’t beat Hillary, they should just disband the party.

I think this makes some sense. We have an attractive group of candidates and some valid issues, including the economy and foreign policy. She is a terrible candidate.

Add this to the mounting scandals, polls showing a lack of trust for her, the historical difficulty of political parties winning three presidential elections in a row, and the deep bench of fresh-faced Republican options, and the GOP should be in prime position to win the next election.

But the next election will test whether demographic headwinds are too much for Republicans to overcome.

Maybe the country is just not serious about issues anymore.

She brought up Republican skepticism on climate change and opposition to abortion, saying “they shame and blame women rather than respect our right to make our own reproductive health decisions.”

She blasted Republicans for supporting policies that would increase deportation of immigrants and for “turn[ing] their backs on gay people who love each other.” She lashed out at Republican support for voter ID laws. “I’ll fight back against Republican efforts to disempower and disenfranchise young people, poor people, people with disabilities and people of color,” she said. And she argued that, “Fundamentally, [Republicans] reject what it takes to build an inclusive economy. It takes an inclusive society.”

Some of us read history and can recall that the Whig Party dissolved over the issue of slavery. The history of the Whig Party was of a party devoted to economic progress. It was also a party of opposition. Lincoln, when a Whig, opposed the Mexican War at some cost to himself.

The work of the Whigs was, as (James G.) Blaine admitted, negative and restraining rather than constructive. Still, “if their work cannot be traced in the National statute books as prominently as that of their opponents, they will be credited by the discriminating reader of our political annals as the English of to-day credit Charles James Fox and his Whig associates—for the many evils they prevented.” If that is true, then we have not had very much in the way of “impartial” histories of American politics since Blaine’s day.

Also true. Particularly Coolidge and Harding were slandered by the Progressives of the New Deal and its apologists.

Part of the success of Schlesinger’s casting of antebellum America as Jacksonian lay in Schlesinger’s identification of Andrew Jackson and Jackson’s Democratic party with Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the New Deal. To this day, one comes away from The Age of Jackson with the clear sense that Jackson and the Jacksonians embodied democracy and championed the interests of the “common man,” while the Whigs were the voice of selfish elite interests, and looked like nothing so much as forecasts of Herbert Hoover and Robert Taft.

The Republicans have had hardly better treatment by the news media of today than the Whigs by the Progressives.

[T]he question arose whether the Whig complaint against Jacksonian Democracy might have had more substance to it than it had seemed.

That question rose first in one of the genuinely pathbreaking works of American political history, Daniel Walker Howe’s The Political Culture of the American Whigs (1979).

The Whigs sound more like Republicans today than those of the 19th century.

Howe reintroduced the Whigs, not as Eastern elitists bent upon wickedly obstructing the righteous class-leveling justice of Jackson/Roosevelt, but as the “sober, industrious, thrifty people,” as the party of the American bourgeoisie, attracting the economic loyalty of small businesses and small commercial producers, and enlisting the political loyalty of those who aspired to transformation. Transformation was the key concept. It made the Whigs optimistic and serious all at once, since it embraced both the religious moralists and moral philosophers of the established denominations and colleges who preached personal and moral transformation as well as the upwardly mobile professionals who found in the dynamic world of international commerce the opportunity to escape from rural isolation and agrarian drudgery.

Sound familiar ? The Whigs were the party of railroads and canals that linked commerce across the country. Their fall from power, and from grace, occurred as the culture broke apart in the colossal struggle with slavery.

it was the Whigs who advocated an expansive federal government—but it was a government that would seek to promote a general liberal, middle-class national welfare, promoting norms of Protestant morality and underwriting the expansion of industrial capitalism by means of government-funded transportation projects (to connect people and markets), high protective tariffs for American manufacturing, and a national banking system to regulate and standardize the American economy.

The question today is whether the Republican Party can cope with the rapid debasement of the culture with gay marriage and bizarre aberrations like transexual exhibitionism.

The Democrats seem to be succeeding with their new emphasis on the strange and the bizarre.

Jackson’s Democrats came off as frightened, snarling, and small-mindedly anticapitalist in mentality. Jacksonianism glorified agriculture and defined wealth as landholding, and its interest in the “common man” was limited to building defenses around an agrarian stasis—simple subsistence farming, trade in kind, and no taxes, banks, or corporations—that would never be threatened by the demons of competition or the fluctuations of markets. Linked to this preoccupation with stasis and personal independence was the Jacksonians’ resistance to public declarations of morality.

Andrew Jackson fought a duel with a man who criticized his wife, Rachel, who had some controversy regarding her previous marriage.

During the presidential election campaign of 1828, supporters of John Quincy Adams, Jackson’s opponent, accused his wife of being a bigamist, among other things.

Here is Holt’s story of the Whigs, in as compressed a fashion as possible: Rather than being a branch out of the root of Federalism, the Whigs evolved like the Jacksonians from the original Jeffersonian Republicans who triumphed in the “Revolution of 1800.” They were originally an opposition faction to Andrew Jackson in the 1820s, but they detached themselves as a separate organization in 1834 under the leadership of Jackson’s nemesis, Henry Clay of Kentucky, and took the name Whig to underscore their opposition to Jackson’s high-handed near-dictatorship in the presidency. They cast themselves first as republican antimilitarists.

The modern Republican Party has adopted national security as a core issue but it was not always so. Democrats dominated military subjects from 1912 until Lyndon Johnson when the party revolted over the Vietnam War. Republicans fought the Civil War over slavery, the basic reason of the party, but the rest of the century was one of peace and only Theodore Roosevelt, a figure of the early Progressive Movement, was interested in war. His career really took wing with the Spanish-American War, which was not a “war of necessity” shall we say.

The 1837 economic panic also set in place the two principal mechanisms for Whig electoral success, which were (a) to concentrate public attention on the failings of Democratic politics and (b) to scoop up the largest percentage of new voters in every presidential cycle. It is a significant point in Holt’s description of antebellum parties that American voters, once recruited to a party, rarely switched allegiances over time. What was critical in each presidential cycle, then, was to energize the existing Whig voter base by throwing their policy distinctives into sharp contrast to the Democrats’ and by organizing new voters.

Can the Republicans, or a succeeding party, interest new voters ? The welfare state did not exist prior to the New Deal and this has warped American politics in new and unprecedented ways.

[W]henever it made the mistake of relying on charming personalities to head tickets or making generous accommodations with the Democrats on major issues [it lost ground]. But keeping such focus steady was an ideological problem for Whigs. They prided themselves on being a coalition of independent thinkers, unlike (in their imagination) the disciplined faithful of the Democrats, and they did not hesitate to turn on each other with divisive and disheartening abandon. Linked to that, the Whigs valorized the image of themselves as statesmen rather than (like their opposite numbers) party hacks who loved politics only for the power political office conferred.

The similarity is striking. There are differences, of course,. The issues of the 1850s were not the same as they are now but there is a theme to be kept in mind.

What finished the Whigs was their failures, not over national policy questions, but in the state and congressional elections in 1854 and 1855, where the new parties could get the most ready purchase on the electorate. No longer did Whig voters, galvanized by Democratic awfulness, take their votes to Whig candidates to express their disgust; they could go to the Know-Nothings, to the Free-Soilers, the Republicans, and so on.

Third parties are no solution to the problem of the Republicans. I think the Tea Party must capture the party mechanisms and oust the representatives of The Ruling Class. If that does not occur peacefully, it may occur with violence.

The Energy Crisis in Africa.

Sunday, May 3rd, 2015

india-solar-power-2012-640x426

This is a powerful piece on the cost of environmental extremism to the world’s poor.

The soaring [food] prices were actually exacerbated (as the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN confirmed) by the diversion of much of the world’s farmland into making motor fuel, in the form of ethanol and biodiesel, for the rich to salve their green consciences. Climate policies were probably a greater contributor to the Arab Spring than climate change itself.

The use of ethanol in motor fuels is an irrational response to “green propaganda. The energy density of biofuel, as ethanol additives are called, is low resulting in the use of more and more ethanol and less and less arable land for food.

Without abundant fuel and power, prosperity is impossible: workers cannot amplify their productivity, doctors cannot preserve vaccines, students cannot learn after dark, goods cannot get to market. Nearly 700 million Africans rely mainly on wood or dung to cook and heat with, and 600 million have no access to electric light. Britain with 60 million people has nearly as much electricity-generating capacity as the whole of sub-Saharan Africa, minus South Africa, with 800 million.

South Africa is quickly destroying its electricity potential with idiotic racist policies.

Just to get sub-Saharan electricity consumption up to the levels of South Africa or Bulgaria would mean adding about 1,000 gigawatts of capacity, the installation of which would cost at least £1 trillion. Yet the greens want Africans to hold back on the cheapest form of power: fossil fuels. In 2013 Ed Davey, the energy secretary, announced that British taxpayers will no longer fund coal-fired power stations in developing countries, and that he would put pressure on development banks to ensure that their funding policies rule out coal. (I declare a commercial interest in coal in Northumberland.)
In the same year the US passed a bill prohibiting the Overseas Private Investment Corporation — a federal agency responsible for underwriting American companies that invest in developing countries — from investing in energy projects that involve fossil fuels.

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