Now in Actual Work

As Threatened, er, Promised

Or, Not Pervasive, but maybe Persuasive or Practical?

So here’s what I’ve come up with as an op-ed proposal. It lacks a strong policy argument, but hopefully uses that perspective trick to good effect.

For the forgetful, here’s the prompt again:

a proposal for a New York Times opinion piece which applies a major finding from your research to a current public policy problem. … it must describe a full op-ed that you might write, and explain its relevance to current events.

Any and all thoughts heartily welcomed.


“Not so Fast, We’ve Been Here Before”: An Op-Ed Proposal

In 1841, an ex-President and former Secretary of State declared his support for British forces in the “Opium War,” Britain’s war with China over Chinese trade restrictions and closed markets. Though many commentators, then and now, cited the opium trade as the casus belli, John Quincy Adams told a Boston audience that the motive went deeper : “The cause of the war is the Ko-tow! – the arrogant and insupportable pretensions of China, that she will hold commercial intercourse with the rest of mankind, not upon terms of equal reciprocity, but upon the insulting and degrading forms of the relation between lord and vassal.” In Adams’s view, the political despotism of China’s government found its worst expression in illiberal trade policies; and that these restrictions on foreign merchants, Americans prominently among them, justified war.

More recently, another Secretary of State gave a speech calling for all nations to recognize a basic “freedom to connect” to the internet. Made in light of Google’s decision to stop censoring search results in China, Secretary Hillary Clinton’s remarks were a pointed rebuke of Chinese policy. Condemning government censorship of the internet, Secretary Clinton argued that “from an economic standpoint, there is no distinction between censoring political speech and commercial speech.” By linking political and economic liberty together, and critiquing China on both fronts, Clinton’s remarks strongly echo Adams’s speech of almost 170 years before.

This op-ed will argue that U.S. officials would do well to understand the deep historical resonance of American calls for economic and political liberty in China. Though Chinese censorship is indefensible, an awareness of how American calls for reform in China themselves spring from complicated roots in national economic interest and Western imperialism can only improve Sino-American relations.

Image cite: The Suss-Man (gone for the weekend), “Project 366 – 78/366 Diplomacy,” Flickr, CC License

Adams Family

JQA, the Universe, And Everything

Or, For He’s A Quite Dour Fellow, Which Nobody Can Deny

the bouncing birthday boy
the bouncing birthday boy

This blog would be terribly remiss if it failed to note that today, the eleventh day of July, is John Quincy Adams’s birthday. So let’s pour one out for Old Man Eloquent.

Though as Jeremy Dibble over at the MHS blog, The Beehive, demonstrated today, JQA has a certain … knack … for deflating even the happiest of occasions.

Via Jeremy, here’s JQA’s diary entry on the most important birthday of them all, the forty-second, (in 1809; good lord that man lived for ever). Adams, as you’d expect, was his usual lighthearted self :

The year of my life now expiring has been marked by a continuance of that persecution which the combined personal enemies of my father and myself, had unrelentingly pursued the year before. It has appeared in various forms, some of them singular enough; but its effect has been to impel me into more general notice and estimation throughout the country. … I pray for clearness of intellectual vision to see the right path – for the necessary courage to pursue it; and for the Fortitude and the Temperance to bear with equanimity the vicissitudes of its Fortunes, whether adverse or propitious. Grant, O God, that I may do good to my Country and to Mankind! And deal with me, and mine, if it be they gracious will, in Mercy.

Yeah, you can totally see why he rocks that party hat so hard. And that it’s probably no coincidence he shares a birthday week with one Jean Cauvin

In any case, between celebratory toasts of madeira and guilt, you should check out the wonderful things that Jeremy, and the rest of the folks at MHS, are doing with their blog and twitter feed.