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Joseph Bricker

The UAE: Kindergartener Among Nations

Much ink has been spilled on the diplomatic mud-slinging match between Canada and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). For those who have not been following: for refusing the UAE’s airlines additional landing rights, Canada was kicked out of a crucial military base in the Emirates at a cost of $300 million, and Canadian visitors are now subject to thousand-dollar entry visas.There are two issues at stake here. The first — largely ignored by commentators — is that even if this were just about landing rights, there are good aviation reasons for refusing them. But the second is that the UAE’s puerile, bullying behaviour has made this about far more than it originally was.We are told by a fifty-float parade of commentators — from Bob Rae to the UAE’s Gulf Times — that Canada’s refusal to increase landing rights is an issue of fairness, or of increasing air and trade links between our two countries. It isn’t.Let’s look at what the UAE were requesting. At present, Emirati airlines have the right to land six times weekly in Toronto, which they have chosen to divide evenly between Emirates (flying to Dubai) and Etihad (flying to Abu Dhabi). Most rumours have it that the UAE requested at least daily flights to Toronto for both of these airlines — in other words, at least a doubling of capacity. Regardless, it should be noted that even now, anybody who wants to fly to the UAE from Toronto has plenty of ways to do it.So why might the UAE want two times the landing slots? To see why, you need only look at Emirates’ business model. The carrier operates an all-widebody fleet, which, according to my rough calculations, currently contains 49,000 seats worth of capacity. They also have a further 75 500-seat A380s on order, as… Read More

America Needs More Democracy

WASHINGTON – To accuse a leader of “flip-flopping” is one of the most tiresome charges in politics. For one thing, the words themselves are a desperate cliché. To paraphrase Martin Amis, it is the journalistic equivalent of a novelist writing “she rummaged through her handbag” – a terribly unoriginal way of phrasing a terribly frequent occurrence.More importantly, it is often a misplaced accusation. Most of the time, I have no problem with politicians changing their minds, and I should hope that the people elected to represent me might occasionally do that. As John Maynard Keynes famously asked an opponent: “When the facts change, I change my mind. And what do you do, Sir?” Often, politicians have access to facts and information that electors do not, and are better placed to make decisions. That is the point of representative democracy.Yet perceived “flip-flopping” can have huge political consequences, for it is often seen as rank dishonesty or simple political opportunism. That is why many British Columbians were angry about the Harmonized Sales Tax: not because Mr. Campbell imposed a new but economically justifiable impost, but because he appeared to have put off announcing an unpopular tax hike until after the election.But enough about this country; let’s look at the land that gave us the term. If you want to know why the American political system is so sclerotic and broken, just look at how and why American politicians are so often punished for changing their minds.Congressmen are elected every two years. There are two elected houses of Congress. Judges, attorneys-general, and even state treasurers are often elected. And yet another independent branch of government can judicially gut legislation. American politicians thus cannot make tough decisions, cannot reach out across the aisle, and cannot easily change their positions. In consequence, America’s political classes… Read More