Stefan Shover for the Niskanen Center: North Korea is developing an intercontinental ballistic missile that can deliver a nuclear warhead to the U.S. As with many other countries, President Trump has made it clear that this is not acceptable and, in a step toward diplomacy, last month urged the North Korean government to “come to the table and make a deal” regarding denuclearization.
The implication of this demand is that the U.S. can compel the North Korean regime to denuclearize if necessary. However, this is groundless. The U.S. does not possess any substantive economic, military or informational warfare advantage that could be used to force the North Korean government to negotiate its nuclear weapons program. The Trump administration would be far better served accepting a nuclear-armed North Korea and working toward a peaceful de-escalation of tensions.
As the deal concerning Iran’s nuclear program demonstrated, economic leverage is a stern motivator to bring about negotiations and favorable deals by the sanctioning country. Yet, the situation in North Korea today is different than the years leading up to the Iran deal. First, unlike Iran, North Korea already possesses nuclear weapons. But even if that were not the case, without any direct trade between the U.S. or its close allies and North Korea, the U.S. is unable to use its own sanctions or sanctions from allied countries as effective leverage. It must rely on China, which, as President Trump says, “could easily solve this problem” through sanctions. While it is debatable how “easily” China could force denuclearization, Trump is correct that China holds significant economic power over North Korea by purchasing 90 percent of its exports.
However, China would be particularly unwilling to enforce sanctions on North Korea. Severe economic sanctions enacted by Beijing could cause a North Korean regime collapse from public uprising and lead to a regional problem for China.
Poor kids better off when their parents are given cash
Randall Akee for the Brookings Institution: Children in poorer households are less likely to develop non-cognitive skills, contributing to intergenerational inequality. In particular, adverse experiences in childhood damage the development of these skills. A range of policy interventions, from parenting programs through early years education to “no-excuses” charter schools, are aimed at bolstering skill development and improving behavior.
But there may be a simpler way to help children in poor families develop these skills: Make their families less poor. In a new study published in the American Economic Review, my co-authors and I examine the impact of a boost in household incomes on child personality traits and behavioral or emotional disorder symptoms. We find that money matters.
Our study examines the influence of a direct, ongoing governmental transfer of about $5,800 per year to families in the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians reservation in North Carolina in the mid-1990s. The funds represent a share of the revenues of casino operations on the reservation …
The family income boost results in significant and large improvements in these disorder symptoms as well as for the personality traits.
Voluntarily contributions to U.N. no panacea
Roger Bate for AEIdeas: In a powerfully argued op-ed, John Bolton explained how one could defund the U.N. by making contributions voluntary. He then laid into the agencies he cares most about for their wide and deep array of failures.
I have no reason to doubt Bolton’s criticism of security-related agencies and U.N. practices, but he is wrong to assume that “technical agencies” such as the World Health Organization are competent and not political. The WHO is one of the more statist, poorly managed, politically driven and often technically incompetent agencies I’ve ever encountered.
But more important is whether his suggestion to move to voluntary contributions is viable. Bolton suggests that voluntary contributions would make the U.N. and its agencies more responsive to nations’ demands and make it impossible to ignore U.S. concerns.
But take the WHO. It's in many respects a terrible agency, but if it didn’t exist you’d have to invent it. We require a global body to assist with pandemic preparedness and act as a forum to agree to security rules in case of public health emergencies, such as SARS or a bird flu epidemic. The problem is that U.N. member states have their pet projects and fund these voluntarily. Nation-states want the imprimatur of WHO approval on their concerns. So funding is given voluntarily for efforts on obesity, deep vein thrombosis, and other areas that most folks would assume would not be a priority for a global health agency. The voluntary budget is now larger than the mandatory one.
The problem with voluntary contributions is they mean doing the bidding of donor nations. That would replace a wasteful, corrupt bureaucracy that often ignores U.S. concerns with one that may have competing efforts with no focus at all.
I’m not sure which is worse, but voluntary contributions are no panacea.