Elections Prevent Wars by Avoiding Weak, Unpopular Leaders. Usually.

 

It has been widely speculated that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was precipitated at least partially by Russia’s weakness in general, and Putin’s weakness in particular.  Putin has been in power for over 20 years now, and has a well-earned reputation as a vicious thug.  Russia’s GDP is significantly smaller than Italy’s.  Over 30% of Russian deaths are related to alcohol.  Forty years ago, Russia was a world power that battled The United States for world dominance.  Now it is nearly a third-world country with economic problems that are horrifying and social problems that are worse.  Putin has presided over much of this descent from greatness to misery, and he is becoming increasingly unpopular among Russian citizens.

What makes this worse is that things in America are also getting worse rather than better (although obviously not on the scale of Russia), and we are led by a deeply unpopular President as well.  Our economy is struggling a bit but is still a powerhouse, but most Americans feel that America is declining, which makes them anxious and depressed.  Many Americans feel that our President may not be up to the job, and that the majority party in Congress may not have our best interests in mind.

I suspect that Putin knows enough about American politics to understand what is about to happen to Biden’s Democrat party in the midterms later this year.  I further suspect that Putin didn’t think that Biden would stop paying for Russian oil, because he wouldn’t want American gas and energy prices to go up even further before midterms.  So Putin calculated that regardless of what Biden threatened, he wouldn’t stop sending Putin American dollars for more oil.  Biden can’t return America to energy independence without returning to Trump’s policies.  Which he won’t do.  But still, he wants no increase in gas prices before the midterm elections.  So Putin figured his money supply would continue, even if he invaded Ukraine.  So far, he has proven to be right.

Ukrainian citizens and Russian soldiers are going to die because Joe Biden thought he might lose seats in the House if gas prices went up any further.  My God.

Although really, those people are going to die because Joe Biden (who appears to be unable to plan a trip to the grocery store) somehow managed to plan a remarkable Presidential campaign that led to the defeat of an incredibly successful President a week or so after the election was held.  Suppose all those who helped Biden win had failed.  This would not be happening.  It just breaks your heart to think about it.

But that’s not really my point.  My point is that even though Mr. Biden was miraculously elected with record-setting vote totals somehow, he remains deeply unpopular, and lacks the political capital to withstand any further setbacks.

If you think about it, one advantage of democracies is that we generally avoid weak leaders that lack public support.  They lose elections, and we are then led by popular leaders, with more political capital, and thus are less weak and desperate.  A weak, desperate leader of a major military power is a very dangerous man, to people all over the world.  And in general, elections fix that problem.

But not this time.  Now we have President Biden, who is so unpopular that he is absolutely desperate to avoid any further setbacks.

Even just higher gas prices.  He could tell the American public, “Hey, gas prices are going back up due to Putin’s war.  But hang in there.  I’m returning to Trump’s energy policies, and we’ll have cheap gas again in 6 months.  I’m sorry for the added cost to you and your family.  But I’ll do whatever it takes to take care of it.

People would accept that.  But Biden just can’t do that.  And despite his recent election victory, he is so unpopular that he just can’t allow any more setbacks before midterms.

So he accuses oil companies of price gouging, continues to buy Russian oil to fund Putin’s military adventures, and tries to cheer people up by finding new science to back off on COVID mask mandates.  All because he is so politically weak right now.

Like many wars, a lot of people are going to die in Ukraine because of weakness, not strength.

Noted political philosopher “Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream” recently Tweeted a line common on Prius bumper stickers:  “You cannot simultaneously prevent and prepare for war”.  That is absolutely, completely, precisely wrong.  The only way to prevent war is to prepare for war.  There is no other way.

Part of that process is building our military strength which gives people like Putin pause.  Part is electing competent, strong leaders who would give people like Putin pause.  Another part is maintaining energy independence.  It’s difficult to effectively use economic sanctions against a country whose economy you are dependent upon.  If we need Russian oil, and the Russians know that, then we have no leverage.  And the Russians know that.

Putin’s weakness makes him desperate and aggressive.  Biden’s weakness makes us vulnerable and predictable.

In college, I read History books with a very skeptical eye.  “You’re telling me that 50,000 Greeks died in a battle because of an argument over that?  C’mon – nobody’s that stupid.”

If Russia’s Ukrainian adventure goes badly, some school kid hundreds of years from now is going to read about it in a book, scratch his head, and wonder how on earth so many people died because of bad polling numbers for a couple of politicians halfway around the world from each other.  C’mon – nobody’s that stupid.

He’ll be thinking, “Putin and Biden ended up at war in Europe because they were unpopular?  Well, if they were so unpopular, then how did they win their elections?  Just vote them out, and get somebody in office who’s less weak and desperate.  Instant security and stability, right?”  A very reasonable question.

How indeed, did Putin and Biden win their elections?  If either of them had lost their last election, this would not have happened.  How did we get to this place?

And yet, here we are.

This is embarrassing.

I feel so horrible for those Russian soldiers and Ukrainian men, women, and children who are dying horrible painful deaths because of the poll numbers of politicians they don’t care about thousands of miles away.  What a reason to die.

Ukrainian #1:  “Gee, I’m so sorry that your six-year-old daughter died in the firebombing attack last week.  She was such a beautiful little girl.  My kids loved her so much in school.”

Ukrainian #2:  “Yeah, well, Joe Biden had internal polling data that suggested that he might lose a House seat in Huntington, West Virginia if gas prices went up again before the mid-terms.  And he obviously couldn’t reverse his reversal of Trump’s energy policies to get gas prices down because of mean Tweets.  So you know, it’s perfectly understandable.  Too bad, though – we’ll miss her…”

This is sick.

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  1. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Dr. Bastiat:

    Noted political philosopher “Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream” recently Tweeted a line common on Prius bumper stickers:  “You cannot simultaneously prevent and prepare for war”.  That is absolutely, completely, precisely wrong.  The only way to prevent war is to prepare for war.  There is no other way.

     

    Si vis pacem para bellum.

    Worked for the Romans for over one thousand years.

    • #1
  2. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot) Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot)
    @ArizonaPatriot

    Doc, I don’t think that Putin is weak inside Russia.

    I do think that Russia is weaker than the USSR used to be, but it has recovered quite a bit under Putin.  It’s a great power again, albeit the weakest of the three, I think.  It seems to have sufficient power to assert itself within its sphere of influence.

    Dr. Bastiat: Russia’s GDP is significantly smaller than Italy’s.  Over 30% of Russian deaths are related to alcohol.  Forty years ago, Russia was a world power that battled The United States for world dominance.  Now it is nearly a third world country with economic problems that are horrifying and social problems that are worse.  Putin has presided over much of this descent from greatness to misery, and he is becoming increasingly unpopular among Russian citizens.

    You’re right about the GDP figure, but I don’t think that you’re right about Putin presiding over a descent.  He actually presided over a remarkable recovery, after the catastrophe of the 1990s.  I think that this is the reason for Russian skepticism of “democracy,” as their flirtation with it under Yeltsin was so bad for them.

    I wrote a detailed post about this last May, analyzing data from the IMF, St. Louis Fed, and World Bank.  With the usual nifty graphs.  In summary, under Putin from 2000 to 2020:

    • Per capita GDP was up about 80%
    • Inflation was down from over 20% to under 5%
    • Unemployment was down from over 10% to under 6% (under 5% pre-Covid)
    • Government debt as a percentage of GDP was down from about 55% to about 20%
    • The total fertility rate was up from about 1.2 to about 1.6 births per woman (still a problem, but an improvement)
    • Life expectancy at birth was up 7 years

    What was the source of your impression that things in Russia are terrible under Putin?  If you can put your finger on it, you might want to be skeptical of that source in the future.

    • #2
  3. Vance Richards Member
    Vance Richards
    @VanceRichards

    Dr. Bastiat: Even just higher gas prices.  He could tell the American public, “Hey, gas prices are going back up due to Putin’s war.  But hang in there.  I’m returning to Trump’s energy policies, and we’ll have cheap gas again in 6 months.  I’m sorry for the added cost to you and your family.  But I’ll do whatever it takes to take care of it.

    But . . . I thought that inflation was caused by corporations being greedy? The fact that they forgot to be greedy from 2017-2020 is just a weird coincidence.

    • #3
  4. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    • #4
  5. Raxxalan Member
    Raxxalan
    @Raxxalan

    Three of the last four Presidents have overread their mandates badly.

    1. George W. Bush was reelected because Americans seldom change horses in mid stream.  He gave a wildly ambitious 2nd inaugural address which showed he had over-read his mandate wildly.
    2.  Barrack Obama was elected to give pretty speeches and make the US feel much better about where we had come with regards to race in America.  He decided he had a mandate to fundamentally transform America.  He may have succeeded, but he alienated a lot of people because of this attempt.
    3. Donald Trump was elected, primarily not to be Hillary Clinton, however he actually ran on things so could plausibly claim he had a mandate to pursue his policies.  He just was not necessarily an able enough politician and communicator to truly follow through.   I think he actually read his mandate correctly.
    4. Joe Biden had a mandate to not be Donald Trump, and not be Bernie Sanders.  He misinterpreted this to be that he would be the second coming of LBJ.  He has succeed in compressing the entire decade of the worst things of the 1970s into his first 13 months in office.

    Fundamentally we have had a bad run with presidents lately.  

    • #5
  6. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Something about weak men make for bad times?

    • #6
  7. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Dr. Bastiat: How indeed, did Putin and Biden win their elections?

    About that.

    • #7
  8. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    Things have not been going well lately in Russia. I came across this article (October 13, 2021) in The Hill via Richard Epstein’s column today on the Main Feed:

    In the past year, Russia had its most significant peacetime population decline of all time. 

    Since last October, Russia’s natural population has declined by 997,000, according to The Washington Post. The natural population is determined by the difference between the country’s death rate and birth rate.

    “[The] overwhelming share of this decline is associated with an increase in mortality, which is also reflected in the dramatic drop in life expectancy that fell by about 4 years,” Alexey Raksha wrote in a Facebook post about the change, per the Post. “In turn, an overwhelming share of this increase in mortality is due to Covid-19.”

    The drop comes as Russia battles a brutal fourth wave of COVID-19.

    On Wednesday, the country recorded its highest daily COVID-19 death count, with 984 fatalities reported, an increase from Tuesday’s high of 973 deaths

    Despite a rising death toll and reports that 11 percent of the country’s COVID-19 patients were in serious condition, the country has refused to lock down. 

    Some Russian regions, however, have imposed vaccine mandates for people in certain industries like health care, education, retail and government. 

    I’m not sure about cause and effect here. We could run down the covid protocols that succeeded or failed elsewhere. But the lasting impression I had from the early days of the pandemic in Moscow were long lines of ambulances waiting for admission to hospitals. 

    The pandemic has hit Russia very hard. 

     

    • #8
  9. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    MarciN (View Comment):

    Things have not been going well lately in Russia. I came across this article (October 13, 2021) in The Hill via Richard Epstein’s column today on the Main Feed:

    In the past year, Russia had its most significant peacetime population decline of all time.

    Since last October, Russia’s natural population has declined by 997,000, according to The Washington Post. The natural population is determined by the difference between the country’s death rate and birth rate.

    “[The] overwhelming share of this decline is associated with an increase in mortality, which is also reflected in the dramatic drop in life expectancy that fell by about 4 years,” Alexey Raksha wrote in a Facebook post about the change, per the Post. “In turn, an overwhelming share of this increase in mortality is due to Covid-19.”

    The drop comes as Russia battles a brutal fourth wave of COVID-19.

    On Wednesday, the country recorded its highest daily COVID-19 death count, with 984 fatalities reported, an increase from Tuesday’s high of 973 deaths.

    Despite a rising death toll and reports that 11 percent of the country’s COVID-19 patients were in serious condition, the country has refused to lock down.

    Some Russian regions, however, have imposed vaccine mandates for people in certain industries like health care, education, retail and government.

    I’m not sure about cause and effect here. We could run down the covid protocols that succeeded or failed elsewhere. But the lasting impression I had from the early days of the pandemic in Moscow were long lines of ambulances waiting for admission to hospitals.

    The pandemic has hit Russia very hard.

     

    Russia might have more co-morbidities than a dozen other countries combined.

    • #9
  10. Jim McConnell Member
    Jim McConnell
    @JimMcConnell

    Vance Richards (View Comment):

    Dr. Bastiat: Even just higher gas prices. He could tell the American public, “Hey, gas prices are going back up due to Putin’s war. But hang in there. I’m returning to Trump’s energy policies, and we’ll have cheap gas again in 6 months. I’m sorry for the added cost to you and your family. But I’ll do whatever it takes to take care of it.

    But . . . I thought that inflation was caused by corporations being greedy? The fact that they forgot to be greedy from 2017-2020 is just a weird coincidence.

    Thanks for the screenshot of two of the most witless people in public.

    • #10
  11. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos
    @OldBathos

    Biden made it clear that he was prepared to accept a grab of Ukraine territory and other concessions. He said as much. He whiffed on the Russian hacker attacks to make it clear he is toothless.  Apparently he expected a reprise of Georgia or Crimea—quick use of overwhelming force, few casualties, a land grab. A few tuts tuts from the west and we move on.

    Putin grossly overreached. The planned special forces grab of Zelensky was a fiasco. The Russian economy may never recover. I don’t know how Putin recovers (some oligarchs are probably already planning a hit) unless…

    The Saudis capitalize and jack up oil prices, which in turn gives Russia some relief. Biden wants sanctions lifted quickly so oil flows and prices aren’t even more out of control this summer pre-election so he pressures Ukraine to make concessions (no western alliances, insertion of more pro-Russian figures in govt, surrender of more territory…) so Putin saves some face and can sell oil and gas. China offers to help Russian banks as part of move to displace western financial power…Europeans in the unfamiliar position of being tougher than the US, fold.

    This sub-optimal resolution of a fiasco (that Biden helped into being) will be hailed by the MSM as a diplomatic triumph and evidence of a skill level reminiscent of Bismarck or Richelieu.

     

     

    • #11
  12. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Old Bathos (View Comment):

    Biden made it clear that he was prepared to accept a grab of Ukraine territory and other concessions. He said as much. He whiffed on the Russian hacker attacks to make it clear he is toothless. Apparently he expected a reprise of Georgia or Crimea—quick use of overwhelming force, few casualties, a land grab. A few tuts tuts from the west and we move on.

    Putin grossly overreached. The planned special forces grab of Zelensky was a fiasco. The Russian economy may never recover. I don’t know how Putin recovers (some oligarchs are probably already planning a hit) unless…

    The Saudis capitalize and jack up oil prices, which in turn gives Russia some relief. Biden wants sanctions lifted quickly so oil flows and prices aren’t even more out of control this summer pre-election so he pressures Ukraine to make concessions (no western alliances, insertion of more pro-Russian figures in govt, surrender of more territory…) so Putin saves some face and can sell oil and gas. China offers to help Russian banks as part of move to displace western financial power…Europeans in the unfamiliar position of being tougher than the US, fold.

    This sub-optimal resolution of a fiasco (that Biden helped into being) will be hailed by the MSM as a diplomatic triumph and evidence of a skill level reminiscent of Bismarck or Richelieu.

    That wouldn’t surprise me.  More’s the pity.

    • #12
  13. Mad Gerald Lincoln
    Mad Gerald
    @Jose

    Old Bathos (View Comment):
    Biden made it clear that he was prepared to accept a grab of Ukraine territory and other concessions. He said as much.

    “Minor Incursion!” 

    Good grief. Does anyone remember what Biden’s response was to the invasions of Georgia and Crimea?  I don’t.

    • #13
  14. Keith Lowery Coolidge
    Keith Lowery
    @keithlowery

    @drbastiat

    To your point:

    • #14
  15. EHerring Coolidge
    EHerring
    @EHerring

    Percival (View Comment):

    Dr. Bastiat:

    Noted political philosopher “Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream” recently Tweeted a line common on Prius bumper stickers: “You cannot simultaneously prevent and prepare for war”. That is absolutely, completely, precisely wrong. The only way to prevent war is to prepare for war. There is no other way.

     

    Si vis pacem para bellum.

    Worked for the Romans for over one thousand years.

    Can’t have a credible deterrence without a credible ability to kick butt and a willingness to kick butt. 

    • #15
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