A crisis to learn by

The situation in Ukraine has captivated an audience jarred by the reality that there are still political actors in the world who will initiate violence without any provocation. The tenacity of the Ukrainian people and their ability to resist their super-power neighbor has forced scads of entities to reevaluate their stance on state sovereignty.

I am one of the millions turning to twitter and broadcast journalism to scrounge for the latest news clips and opinions. This is where it has been reported that Sweden, Finland and Switzerland have all come out in support of Ukraine. Since these countries have traditionally remained neutral during European conflicts, their willingness to devote resources has a double impact to a regional goal of liberal democratic governance.

A sudden crisis, whether due to a pandemic or this military incursion, provides a backlight to the duality of actors’ actions. In principle, countries stay out of the affairs of their neighbors. But when a bully shows up and violates a foundational tenet, then resources can shift to become public resources to a newly formed coalition

And this duality is not only being laid out plain to see between political entities. The borderlands between what is private and what is public is also on display in banking and financial systems. Accounts are being frozen. If the rich Russians can’t get their millions, they may not like the drag on their lifestyles. Payment communications are hampered by booting Russian banks off SWIFT. And to be sure these measures cause a loss to the business partners in the west.

Still, many say the sanctions are not enough. The dependence on Russian oil is a good-as-gold cash flow to pay for all the tanks and bullets and bombs that are being dropped on the Ukrainian people. On this evening’s news the tradeoffs being discussed involved pushing environmental advocacy to the side in order to produce and ship North American oil to Europe.

In this dynamic, instead of a public cause like the environment being pitted against the private benefits of big business, there are two valued public causes vying for resources. And in this case, it would be helpful to find where the pricing shows up in order to guide politicians in choices representative of their constituents. When is better for their people to choose safety over climate, or climate over governance, or…

Because every city budget, or country budget, or state budget is a statement on the relative demand for resources amongst the list of public ambitions. Yet the settling of the accounts is due to political jockeying or loud interest group activity. It would be more helpful to have access to a numerical framing de, one which is determined from recent tradeoffs between actors.