Matthew Yglesias

Matthew Yglesias is a senior editor at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, a former Prospect staff writer, and the author of Heads in the Sand: How the Republicans Screw Up Foreign Policy and Foreign Policy Screws Up the Democrats.

Recent Articles

China's Trade Deficit

Why increasing oil prices are a big problem for China, and for us.

Chinese factory workers (Imaginechina via AP Images)
A funny thing happened happened early this week while Washington was focused on the budget -- China ran a quarterly trade deficit . Yes, that's right, the currency manipulating export-mad engine of growth whose rapid advances have dominated coverage of the global economy is now a net importer. Given the amount of huffing and puffing that Americans have done about trade with China over the past several years, you might think this is excellent news. In fact, it's a sign that oil scarcity poses a severe risk to the world economy -- America's most of all. What happened? Well China didn't stop selling stuff to foreigners. It's still the world's manufacturing hub. And Chinese people didn't suddenly start gobbling up tons of American manufactured goods. That's too bad. A spike in Chinese demand for American-produced goods would put Americans to work and help push our domestic economy into a pattern of self-sustaining growth. But even though Americans are often a bit solipsistic, we're not...

What's in a Word?

A philosophical defense of blogging

Suppose you meet a previously un-contacted native tribe and begin trying to learn its language. Every once in a while, tribal members point to a rabbit and say "gavagai." You come to assume that "gavagai" means "rabbit." But what if you're wrong? What if it means "undetached rabbit part" or "temporal stage of a rabbit"? How would you know? Am I blowing your mind yet? If you're not stoned, probably not. But 10 years ago, I was a college student bewitched with the problems of philosophy, and Willard Van Orman Quine was blowing my mind as I first read his so-called indeterminacy of translation thesis. To this day, I remember the shawarma roasting in the no-longer-extant Turkish takeout joint on Mt. Auburn Street in Cambridge where I first cracked open Quine's key book, Word and Object. Back in Cambridge several months ago, I tried to stop by the place, only to find that the building had been demolished. But I could still taste the hummus. And the metaphysics. And, oh, what a metaphysics...

The Policy Apocalypse

The right's ridiculous rhetoric on Obama will have a real effect on policy.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
The question of what, if anything, differentiates a "Tea Partier" from a conventional Republican has attracted a lot of attention over the past year and a half. Research from political scientist Chris Parker sheds light on one aspect of the situation: Tea Partiers are in the grips of apocalyptic fantasies such that "6 percent of non-Tea Party conservatives believe the president is destroying the country versus the 71 percent of Tea Party conservatives who believe this to be true." In ordinary times, you might think that an over-the-top grassroots base would be restrained by party elites. But Tea Party millennialism is reinforced, not constrained, by key conservatives. Matt Continetti of the Weekly Standard published a long article this week accusing liberals of "paranoid" dislike of the billionaire Koch brothers, who have emerged as the leading money-men of the American right. But according to Continettit's own reporting, it's the Kochs who seem paranoid. David Koch said to Continetti...

Principled Action

Why the drumbeat to go to war with Libya is a bad idea

The past week has featured a slightly surreal journalistic drumbeat for war in Libya, currently wracked by a civil war that the incumbent Gadhafi regime seems to be winning. New Republic literary editor slash foreign-policy commentator Leon Wieseltier deemed the Obama administration's failure to intervene "a disgrace," while the neoconservative Foreign Policy Initiative assembled a letter headlined by Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol urging America to go to war. As is typical of 21st-century would-be war-starters, however, they didn't actually use the word. Instead, they called on President Barack Obama "to urgently institute a no-fly zone over key Libyan cities and towns" and "explore the option of targeted strikes against regime assets." This, of course, amounts to a war: American military personnel would be entering Libyan airspace, attacking Libyan aircraft and ground-based air defenses, and dropping bombs ("targeted strikes") on people ("regime assets"). These publications,...

Catch-Up Growth

Economic development is at the root of unrest throughout the Arab world -- and helping countries manage economic growth well should be our concern going forward.

A Nigerian oil disaster (Flickr/Sosialistisk Ungdom -- SU)
As the world's eyes remain fixed on political change in the Arab world, it's worth looking back to where the crisis began -- unrest over higher food prices in grain-importing countries -- to get a sense of the fundamental challenges facing the region. In the short term, the run-up in food prices was mostly driven by bad harvests in Russia and Australia. In a deeper sense, however, raising prices for both food and other commodities such as oil are all driven by a fundamental shift in the world's pattern of economic growth. To oversimplify a bit, you can think of the world as featuring two paths of economic growth. One is frontier-pushing growth, where high-tech countries dream up new ideas -- someone invents Facebook, or a better industrial robot, or a faster train. Another is catch-up growth in which a poor country prospers by copying ideas that have already been developed in countries closer to the frontier. That's what happens when an apparel factory opens up in Bangladesh or a...