Daily Archives: August 16, 2012

Gideon Rachman

Mitt Romney in Ohio on August 14 (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Earlier this week, the Romney camp released a warm letter of endorsement signed by scores of prominent economists, which began:

We enthusiastically endorse Governor Mitt Romney’s economic plan to create jobs and restore economic growth while returning America to its tradition of economic freedom. The plan is based on proven principles: a more contained and less intrusive federal government, a greater reliance on the private sector, a broad expansion of opportunity without government favors for special interests, and respect for the rule of law including the decision-making authority of states and localities.

Aside from the predictably conservative content, several things struck me about the economists’ letter. 

John Paul Rathbone

Julian Assange speaking in December 2011 (LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images)

William Hague, the UK foreign secretary, has said he wants to make Latin America a priority of British diplomacy. The UK’s approach to Julian Assange suggests otherwise.

Mr Assange, today granted political asylum by Ecuador, remains holed up in its embassy in London. But the foreign office has said that, under UK law, British police can storm the Ecuadorean embassy and remove him. Such action would presumably form part of its “binding obligation to extradite Assange to Sweden,” as a foreign office spokesperson put it.

Bad move. For one, the law is unnecessary. As Ecuador acknowledges, rather than raid the embassy British police could simply arrest Assange as soon as he stepped out onto London’s street, en route to political asylum in Quito. (He faces charges of skipping bail.) The law is also politically flat-footed. It casts the UK as a heavy-handed western country that considers itself above international norms (especially given the UN Security Council’s condemnation of the sacking of the British embassy in Iran). It thereby tacitly confirms the worst kinds of conspiracy theories swirling around Assange. And it allows Ecuador to play the plucky David standing up to the bullying colonial Goliath of Britain. The pose resonates throughout the region, and has similarly been struck by Argentina in its arguments with the UK over the Falklands. Expect President Cristina Fernandez to start singing that refrain again soon. 

Here’s what we enjoyed reading: