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Iranian authorities have denied the appeal of a Princeton University student who had been convicted on espionage charges and sentenced to 10 years in prison, the university and his wife said on Thursday.
Xiyue Wang, a history doctoral student and US citizen who was conducting dissertation research in Iran in 2016 when he was detained by Iranian authorities, was accused by Iran of “spying under the cover of research,” a claim his family and university deny.
“Iranian authorities have denied Xiyue Wang’s appeal of his conviction and 10-year prison sentence for espionage that he did not attempt or commit,” Princeton University said in a statement. “We are distressed that his appeal was denied, and that he remains unjustly imprisoned.”
It was not immediately clear when exactly Wang’s appeal was denied. News of his detention in Iran and his 10-year sentence first came in mid-July.
“I am devastated that my husband’s appeal has been denied, and that he continues to be unjustly imprisoned in Iran on groundless accusations of espionage and collaboration with a hostile government against the Iranian state,” Wang’s wife, Hua Qu, said in a statement on Princeton’s website. “Our young son and I have not seen Xiyue in more than a year, and we miss him very much.”
Iran had said Wang was an American spy.
Qu said she worries about Wang’s health and well-being while he is in prison.
“We hope the Iranian officials can release him immediately so he can resume his studies at home and so that our family will be together again,” she said.
A spokesman for Iran’s mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A State Department official declined to offer specific information on Wang’s case, citing privacy concerns.
“We call for the immediate release of all US citizens unjustly detained in Iran so they can return to their families,” the official said.
President Donald Trump has taken a hard line against Iran and his administration has vowed to counter what it sees as Iran’s destabilizing policies in the Middle East.
Last month, the White House said Trump “is prepared to impose new and serious consequences on Iran unless all unjustly imprisoned American citizens are released and returned,” though it did not specify what those consequences might be.
Throughout history, the state has justified itself on the grounds that it is necessary to protect us from others whose habits and beliefs — we are meant to believe — are dangerous. For millennia, this fiction was easy to maintain because most people interacted so little with people outside their nearly autarkic — and therefore impoverished — communities.
But, with the rise of industrialization and international trade in recent centuries, the state's claim that it is necessary to keep us “safe” from outsiders has become increasingly undermined.
Much of this is thanks to the fact that in order to benefit from the market, one must engage in activities designed to serve others and anticipate their needs. As a result, trade increases our understanding for both members of our community and even the stranger; it also makes us realize that other people are much like us. Even if they speak strange languages or have odd customs and traditions.
The Market Order and Civilization
This is in essence Say’s Law, or the Law of Markets, which states that in the market we produce in order to trade with others so that we can thereby, indirectly, satisfy our own wants: our demand for goods in the market is constituted by our supply of goods to it. In order to effectively satisfy other people’s wants we need to not only communicate with them, but understand them. If we don’t, then we’re wasting our productive efforts for a random result. Obviously, we’d benefit personally from learning what other people want, both their present wants and anticipated future wants, and then produce it for them.
So far so good. Most people (except for Keynesians) grasp this very simple point about the market — and how it contributes to civilization and peaceful interaction. But all people aren’t saints, so good, hard-working people risk being taken advantage of as they have nothing to set against such actions. Without a central power such as the state, who will protect us from such people?
Answer: the web of voluntary transactions aligns people’s interests. In the market, “bad people” are not only defrauding, stealing from, or robbing a single person or family. They are, in effect, attacking the community of interdependent producers and network of traders.
Imagine a town with a baker who specializes in baking bread that people in the town like, but that he doesn’t necessarily fancy himself. Instead, he sells the bread in order to earn money that he uses to buy from others what he truly wants. Others similarly specialize their production to produce what others want, including the baker, so that they can use part of their income to buy bread. When a thief steals from this baker, he negatively affects the town’s bread supply — and thereby also makes the baker unable to effectively demand goods from others. This affects a lot of people, not only the baker: it affects all people who wanted to but now can’t buy bread and all those who expected to but no longer can sell their goods to the baker.
The network of exchanges and the specialized production for others thus creates a community of interdependent producers whose interests are generally aligned: they have all increased their productive effort by supplying a single good that is in high demand, and thereby made everybody better off. But it also means it is in their own interest that no one is unjustly treated and disadvantaged, whether the victim of a “bad person” is an existing or potential supplier of goods they desire or existing or potential customer of the goods they produce.
They all benefit from this order, since their productive efforts are used where they do most good. But they are also all in it together — they are all affected if things go wrong. It is not strange, then, to see how towns used to spontaneously organize to deal with crime. Robbing the baker involves not only a robber and his victim: an attack on one is an attack on the community. The robber has by his very actions chosen to not partake in community — to be an outcast.
Effect of the Welfare State
What’s happened over the course of the last century with the rise of the democratic welfare state is that these market-based bonds between people within a community have been severed. With the growing state, more and more people have found positions in the economy and society where they do not need to serve others. In other words, the state has made it possible to live off what other people produce rather than contribute to satisfying everybody’s wants.
As these bonds between people are severed, the threshold to engage in criminal behavior becomes lower. But more importantly, as people do not need to rely on their ability to satisfy the wants of others, they don’t understand other people: they have no incentive to learn about their needs and wants, and they have nothing to gain personally from satisfying them. In other words, there is no interdependence and therefore less of a reason to stay away from destructive behavior.
This is exactly what we’ve seen over the course of the past century when the very large state has replaced civil society with centralized systems and market with power. The problem is that when people stop learning about each other, it is easier to resort to conflict rather than cooperation — and it is much easier to see other people as obstructions to your own happiness. Getting rid of them thus increases your share of the (now diminishing) pie, and using and exploiting others for your own benefit appears a means toward satisfaction of one’s own wants.
We increasingly see examples of this type of thinking among entrepreneurs and those who want to be entrepreneurs. They start businesses not as a means to make a living — that is, to indirectly benefit themselves according to the Law of Markets — but in order to do “what they like.” It’s a lifestyle choice that many seem to think they have a “right” to make. Even worse, sometimes they even blame their entrepreneurial failure on “society” for not being supportive enough and not appreciating what they’re offering at the price they’re demanding.
This is exactly backward: to be able to do what you like for a living is a privilege that you can enjoy only if you, by doing so, satisfy others. If you create value for others, you gain value for yourself.
In this type of society where the bonds between people are weakening, it is not strange that people find the idea of a decentralized, spontaneous order outrageously naïve. Competition is here not the sound striving to better serve others by trying different and differentiated ways of satisfying wants, but rather a zero-sum game where there are winners and losers. In this situation, whoever is willing to cut corners, lie, and deceive is immediately better off. The incentives, in other words, are for destroying value and to prioritize short-term gains even if they come at high long-term costs — because those costs may be another’s burden. It’s the very opposite of civilization and an existence that will, if left unchecked and unchanged, eventually degenerate into a Lord of the Flies-type tribalism.
It is not strange that people have a hard time understanding the harmony argument for markets in a time when the state has alienated them from productive interdependence as explained by Say’s Law. The market’s informal, spontaneous cooperation for mutual benefit has been replaced by a statist mindset, which seeks guarantees — and finds it only in formal power.
But it should be obvious from the discussion above that this is not in any sense a guarantee — especially against bad behavior. It is the opposite. Yet it should be recognized that the market also offers no guarantee, strictly speaking. But do we need one when people’s interests are aligned? All we need to trust is that people do what is good for themselves. That’s hardly naïve.
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Total US petroleum deliveries, a measure of US petroleum demand, moved up 4.9% in July from a year ago to average nearly 20.7 million b/d, the highest July deliveries in 10 years, according to data from the American Petroleum Institute.
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If you're still on the fence about whether the auto market in this country is anything but a massive bubble being propped up by extremely loose credit underwriting standards, then we think Equifax has just provided some definitive evidence that just might push you over the edge.
In discussing delinquency trends in deep subprime auto ABS deals, Equifax Chief Economist Amy Crews Cutts recently pointed out that 2016 and 2017 vintage deals are mysteriously performing more like 2007 securitizations than those underwritten in 2010.
Here's more from Bloomberg:
“Performance of recent deep subprime vintages is awful,” Equifax said in a slide show on second-quarter credit trends.
“We’re seeing an increase in delinquencies across all credit scores, but in the highest credit quality, it’s just a basis point or two,” Chief Economist Amy Crews Cutts said in an email Tuesday. “In deep subprime, the rise is more substantial. What stood out to me was the issuers. Those that have been doing this for a decade or more were showing the ‘better’ performance, while those that were relative newcomers were in the ‘worse’ category.”
And while we can't be sure, we're going to go out on a limb and suggest that the soaring delinquency rates of 2016/2017 vintage deals might just have something to do with promotions like the following one that literally offers a $1,500 discount to people with "Low Credit Scores." And, lest you think this is a joke, here is the fine print on the promotion:
"April 2017 Pricing on all new vehicles may include up to $1500 in finance rebates that have certain credit requirements to be able to claim this rebate. The finance office is Credit Score based and you must be below 620 to qualify. If you are over a 620 you must add up to $1500 to the price. Varies by make and model. Not all units are eligible for this rebate. Call Dealer for Details."
Let that sink in for a moment...this lender is actually trying to attract borrowers with lower credit scores rather than higher...on a $55,000 vehicle no less.
All of which helps to explain why this happened:
Meanwhile, Cutts seems to agree with our assessment noting that credit scores haven't really changed but lenders continue to get more and more aggressive on underwriting standards in order to keep the party going just a little longer...which sounds familiar to those of us old enough to have lived through the mortgage crisis 10 years ago.
The reason for the increase, she posited, is that lenders have loosened underwriting requirements as more firms tap into a declining market for car loans, not that there are more customers with worsening credit profiles.
"It isn’t a case of chasing a larger subprime share,” Cutts said in an email Tuesday. There’s been “almost no change in median credit scores. That means they are letting other underwriting characteristics slide,” she said, referring to the lenders that issue the bulk of subprime loans -- so-called monolines that specialize in one area of the credit market and dealer-finance companies that work specifically with car sellers.
“As soon as lenders (and the investors behind them) get overconfident that they have better models and can make excess profits by disrespecting credit risk, they always get their hats handed to them sooner or later,” Cutts said. “The mortgage market learned this lesson at the expense of the entire global financial system, and it is playing out now in a micro-level, in the ABS market for subprime auto loans.”
As we like to say, math always wins in the end...and somehow we suspect that offering $0 down, 0% financing for 80 months so deep subprime borrowers making $30k a year can purchase a $40,000 BMW doesn't actually pencil out over the long haul...
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