For years people have been told to expect a dismal energy future. But because of rapid free market innovation, Americans now can look forward to a future of energy abundance. The U.S. could even become a leading exporter—if Washington gets out of the way. Successive presidents and Congresses imposed controls, approved subsidies, created bureaucracies, and issued proclamations.
In the space of just 13 months, President Enrique Peña Nieto has accomplished more in terms of economic reform than his two immediate predecessors managed in 12 years. Although the so-called Pact for Mexico — the broad alliance of the president’s PRI, the conservative PAN, and the center-left PRD — is effectively a dead letter, Peña Nieto managed to obtain approval of important reforms.
On December 10, the Nicaraguan Congress approved a package of more than three dozen changes to the constitution. President Daniel Ortega claims the reforms will lay the foundation for a system of "direct democracy." But the president's critics contend that the result will be the perpetuation of Ortega's hold on the presidency and the further concentration of political power in the executive branch.
Parliamentary elections in Iraq are scheduled for April 2014. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s Shiite-dominated State of Law party is leading in the polls, having made up some ground after a disappointing performance earlier in local elections. Following the vote, Maliki is likely to be granted first crack at forming a coalition government. But the chances the next administration will be more stable than this one were never good and diminishing daily.
In a recent Reuters op-ed, Council on Foreign Relations’ scholar Edward Alden lavished praise on the Obama administration for “quietly embrac[ing] the most ambitious agenda on trade and investment liberalization in the past two decades.” Ted’s take evokes this Washington Post article from last March, in which Howard Schneider noted the emergence of a robust trade agenda and marveled at its meaning.
The strange-bedfellows alliance of the center-left PD and the center-right PdL has been weakened by votes of no-confidence in both houses of Parliament. Nevertheless, it has survived the ordeal, despite fears that the PD’s refusal to help the PdL’s founder, Silvio Berlusconi, to escape his latest legal troubles could bring an early end to the parties’ marriage of necessity.
The convergence of multiple serious economic problems, including food shortages, spiraling price increases, chronic power outages, and the limited availability of precious U.S. dollars, is contributing to a sense of disenchantment with the government. In addition, the population is troubled by a rising tide of deadly crime and deep-seated corruption; suspicions that high-ranking officials are profiting from exploitation of the distortions in the currency market are spreading fast.
I run a successful manufacturing and export business. My success depends on our ability to accurately cost the materials and services we consume. If my estimates are wrong, I won't stay in business very long. Our government has no such apparent obligation. Our tax dollars are being wasted on projects that are so out of sync with accepted norms that one wonders who is involved in these decisions.
The continued dominance of the ruling United Russia party was confirmed yet again at regional and local elections held on September 8. The opposition made a strong enough showing in major cities to suggest that President Vladimir Putin and his allies cannot take victory for granted in urban areas, but elsewhere, United Russia’s position appears to be pretty much unassailable.
I don't pay much attention to opinion polls, because they're only as good as the pollster, and many of them are faulty in one way or another. But you don't have to be a Harvard Business School graduate to realize that the average voter has little or no respect for government, from the top down.
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