Friday, November 20, 2009

The Sociology Series: Part 2- Family

In a sociology course I am enrolled in, we are discussing the family through a global perspective, which got me thinking about family in the micro-perspective. I set out to answer these questions:

Why is the family so important for people and societies?  What do we learn in families? What forms to families take? What about the alternative family forms, such as same sex marriage? What are the social and political implications for society of legalizing same sex marriages?
A family is the smallest unit of society in which we arrange ourselves. We are born into families , we live our lives influenced by the cultural values  we learn from our families, and when we depart, we are mourned by our families.  As human beings, we connect to other humans during  the course of our lives through alliances known as relationships. The first relationships that we build in life however are relationships with our families whom we live  with and interact with every day. It is often found in psychology that our adults lives are immensely affected by both relevant and seemingly irrelevant experiences from our childhood. During our childhood, we learn from and in our families, how we will live our lives 'outside'. Based on the relationships that we create within our families, we seek out either similar or dissimilar  ones with other members of other families  to whom we have something different{from their familial relationships} to offer and vice versa. These families and the relationships between them, be they economic or social band together to form societies. Without our families to serve as the 'base camp' for cultural values and human relationship, integration with other members of society would be difficult, and perhaps even impossible.

Family forms have taken different patterns over time, although all the present  ones have existed before in historic times. The nuclear family is perhaps the most common, and is defined by a mother, father and their children. The nuclear family sometimes is defined by a single parent, and in the modern world, perhaps by two parents of the same sex. While there is resistance to consider a family with same-sex parents a nuclear family, I believe that a nuclear family is structurally characterized by the presence of two parents, regardless of gender. The principal characteristic is that the group is united by parenthood. By default of the definition of two parents, nuclear families are characterized by polygamy, which is the marriage ot only one spouse. The extended family is still common in many traditional societies today, and is defined by a grouping of additional relatives such as  aunts and grandparents with the nuclear family.

Polygamy, the marriage of more than one spouse is a cultural aspect  that has become less socially acceptable in the modern world, especially with the progress made on women's rights. This is because polygamous marriages were often found to be patriarchal and ignorant of the right of a woman to choose. The polygamous family does not easily fall into the category of either nuclear or extended family.

With the creation of new families over times, rules for descent are usually established in families and societies. In  patrilineal descent, inheritance is transferred between father and son. In matrilineal descent, inheritance is transferred from a mother's brother to the children of that brother's sister. According to Dr. Nelson's Sociology in the Global Perspective, both systems of decent have disadvantages to the members of the family .The patrilineal descent risks the end of the line of descent if there are no male heirs, and the matrilineal descent places too much pressure on fathers.

Democratic movements such as gay rights movements and increasing individualism across the world have led to alternative forms of family organization. Those who no longer view marriage as a necessary event to signify their long-standing relationship are  choosing more and more  to cohabitate. Those in homosexual relationships  choose to cohabitate anyway because the law does not allow them to officially pronounce their relationship with a marriage. The increase in divorce rates over the past two decades may also have led some to simply cohabitate, perhaps because it gives them a sense of more personal freedom.

The subject of same-sex marriage is the most popular in today's discussion of family life. The proponents believe that two parents of the same sex can provide the same quality of child-rearing that two heterosexual parents can. Opponents counter that this is untrue, that two parents of different sexes have different and important values to offer to child-rearing. I believe that good parents, regardless of sex will provide the quality child-rearing that the child needs. It is the personality of the parent, not their sex, that determines whether they will provide their child a well-rounded and healthy  childhood. Legalizing same-sex marriage would  reduce the tension and resulting violence against brought about by the same-sex relationships  debates, It is also likely to increase social tolerance of individuals towards those who may not agree with their ideals which can make for more harmonious social relations. This harmony could also translate to the  political area, where once legalized{same-sex marriage} , the focus on same-sex debates could be shifted to issues that are more pertinent to the basic needs of every member of society. The basic needs of a person have been brought under threat by the economic crisis, and it is important that this issue be resolved because the livelihood of many is at stake.

 Sociology in Global Perspective, Lynn Nelson ISBN: 0-9663792-0-9

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Pollution in China- Worse than you think

Villager of Fan Jai Zhuang in Anyang City, Henan province, reaches for an elusive thirst-quenching gulp while engulfed in a heavy fog created by the neighboring steel-making furnace with the two only separated by a wall

I saw these pictures today and I was speechless. I have heard of athletes arriving for the 2008 Olympic games in Beijing and putting on masks as soon as they exited the airport. I have heard first-hand accounts of people visiting metropolitan China and being overwhelmed by a feeling of fatigue and congestion while there. But these pictures shocked me and remain ingrained in my mind more than any other depiction. How can any human let this happen to another human?

The images are by photographer Lu Guang who won the 2009 W. Eugene Smith Grant in Humanistic Photography. His collection is titled "Pollution in China" and requires an inhalation of a deep, breath of un-polluted oxygen before viewing.



Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Sociology Series: Part 1- Gender Inequality

The Payoff from Women's Rights

Based on the article by Isobel Coleman
Foreign Affairs, Vol. 83, No. 3 (May - Jun., 2004), pp. 80-95

Isobel Coleman, a Senior Fellow at the Council of Foreign Relations attributes many aspects of society wealth to women and their role in society. Reducing gender disparity is correlated to fighting poverty, economic progress and a generally better quality of life. While these are grand results from simply reducing gender disparity, Coleman  focuses mostly on the democratizing effect of educating women . In the article, increasing girls' and women's education lowers birth rates & infant mortality rates provides for better birth outcomes (higher birth weights)  and leads to better child nutrition. These are just some of the health benefits, while economic ones include more family-focused investments of household income , higher per capita income and even better outcomes from microfinance loans. Female education increases their civil liberties and Coleman assumes, would lead to other democratic reforms such as giving women a political voice as well as more control over economic resources. The current status of society in nations that have implemented policies to reduce gender disparity versus those that have not, is compared to show the differences. Turkey and Tunisia fall into the former category, boasting higher literacy rates for women, and women in positions of national political power. Nigeria, Indonesia, and some nations in the Middle East are not close to achieving either of the two progresses and encounter high tension whenever  the advancement of women is brought into question. Coleman states that "women are critical to development, good governance, and stable civil life" (82).

A key strength of this article, is that Coleman provides a full-circle illustration of the possible  positive outcomes of reducing gender disparity. The most obvious issues that come to mind on the subject of women's civil liberties is their political voice. While it is important that they voice their political opinions, it makes more sense to first educate women, so that they can voice well-thought, academically diverse opinions which may have a greater impact on improving their lives and those of their families. I believe that education is the foundation for a better quality of life, because the material factors that improve our lives all begin as ideas. Education serves many purposes, the two most important being; first stimulating the mind so that it is perpetually in a state of creation, and then exposing it to spheres of  information and experience which combine to build a knowledge base. Politicians of non-democratic governments who are in the position to create policies which increase women's education may be more concerned with the ignorant idea of repressing women so as maintain their stereotypical position as housewives and inferiors to men. Simultaneously, they may be facing the issue of rocketing birth rates without the economic resources to attend to a rising population. The correlation between supporting better primary education for women, and reducing birth rates in poverty-stricken parts of society, is not instantaneously obvious for many political leaders. The correlation however, at a large scale in India and other developing countries. A thought that comes to mind, is that education that affects the life cycle (birth rates, infant mortality rates etc) does not necessarily mean education focused on these subjects. For example, a women can be educated on the benefits of having fewer children, and make the same educated decision as a woman who simply attended secondary school. What I mean is, even the opportunity to be more educated in any area can be inspiring to a young woman,  who might otherwise find herself restricted to the role of caretaking. The first woman, who learned about the danger of having more children than she can care for may decide not to have more than two children, because her economic and emotional resources cannot allow it. The second woman, who may not have had the same lesson, but who graduated from primary school, may choose to have only two children, because she would like to continue on to secondary school as soon as the children begin attending school. In both cases, education has reduced the birth of children into homes where they may not have received adequate care. It is important to recognize this, because there are developing countries where there is a presence of reproductive education  that is not complemented by an even higher level of general education.

The conflict paradigm of sociology can be used to analyze the issue of gender disparity, because it associates social inequities with systemic flaws, rather than accepting them as part of society. The conflict theory focuses on the inequality of power in a society, which allows some to rise into dominant positions, and others to be dominated. When applied to gender disparity, it is revealed that the gender gap disallows women from even having the opportunity to escape the realm of those who are dominated. Lack of education, lack of control over economic resources, and repression of the female political opinion leaves women unequipped to compete with men for dominating positions. While dominance can be viewed in both positive and negative lights, there is no doubt that having women in dominant political and economic positions has more documented positive benefits over stereotypical chauvinist-engineered disadvantages.

This article has reminded me about the wealth of possibilities that women in developing can surpass and taught me about the rarely mentioned fortes of women in aspects such as money management. According to the article, Lawrence Summers, a former chief economist at the World Bank once stated that educating girls may be the investment that yields the highest returns in the developing world. Considering that women comprise a larger population than men in the world and in most societies, I agree with Summers, that focusing on this part of the population could manifest in tremendous ways globally.

Monday, November 2, 2009

TKK- Toa Kitu Kidogo

Toa Kitu Kidogo is a Swahili phrase for "give me a little something" that is used to refer to under-the-table transactions and generally refer to corruption in politics/business.

The Senegalese government is accused of taking part in TKK with an IMF official, in September. IMF representative Alex Segura ended his 3 year term in Senegal, and boarded a flight to Barcelona with a $250,000 "gift" from Senegal's Prime Minister Souleymane Ndene Ndiaye. Segura claimed he did not realize it was a cash gift until airport x-ray machines detected it. The prime minister until recently had vehemently denied the existence of any such gift, while the IMF representative claims he could not return the gift once he discovered it as cash, because he did not want to miss his flight.

Apparently, the negligible cost of postponing a flight for a few hours is too much to pay compared to the benefit of accepeting an illegal gift. The gift was illegal, simply based on its nature, but how can one ignore the fact that it came from the seemingly corrupt prime minister of a country enrolled in the IMF's HIPC program. HIPC is the Highly Indebted Poor Countries Initiative founded by the IMF in 1996  to eradicate unsustainable debt in poor countries and supposedly lift these countries out of poverty. The IMF pats itself on the back at saying"


Debt relief is one part of a much larger effort, which also includes aid flows, to address the development needs of low-income countries and make sure that debt sustainability is maintained over time. For debt reduction to have a tangible impact on poverty, the additional money needs to be spent on programs that benefit the poor.
Boosting social spending. Before the HIPC Initiative, eligible countries were, on average, spending slightly more on debt service than on health and education combined. Now, they have increased markedly their expenditures on health, education, and other social services. On average, such spending is about six times the amount of debt-service payments.
Reducing debt service. For the 35 countries receiving debt relief, debt service paid, on average, has declined by about 2½ percent of GDP between 1999 and 2007. Their debt burden is expected to be reduced by about 90 percent after the full delivery of debt relief (including under the MDRI).
Improving public debt management. Debt relief has markedly improved the debt position of post-completion point countries, bringing their debt indicators down below those of other HIPCs or non-HIPCs. However, many remain vulnerable to shocks, particularly those affecting exports as seen during the current global economic crisis. To reduce their debt vulnerabilities decisively, countries need to pursue cautious borrowing policies and strengthen their public debt management.

Maybe the training for IMF reps assumed everyone knew the meaning of 'social spending" for a country. The  the CIA World fact book  estimates that in 2009, 51% of Senegal's population lives in poverty. The $250,000 farewell gift to Alex Segura is the equivalent of approximately 111 million Africaine francs(Senegalese currency) as of 11/02/2009. This is corrupt misuse of taxpayer funds  and outright disregard for human life considering the state of Senegal's economy.

1st image

Saturday, October 24, 2009

It's that time of the semester..

This weekend and the next one and a half weeks will be incredibly busy- I have several exams next week in addition to two papers I have to write. I have been working on a paper I have due in my Asian Government & Politics course. Its a Comparative Politics course, and for the term paper, I chose to write about civil liberties in East Asia, specifically about internet access freedoms in China and Singapore. Believe it or not I was having a hard time finding sources even with the notorious internet access issued in many parts of China. Anyway I doubt I will be able to update for about a week but as soon as I can, I will. I have an article written by Francis Fukuyama on the conundrum of foreign aid and corrupt politics in Africa, that I have been wanting to read and review.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet - Part 3 of 3


In closure..
Global warming and climate change in general have implications for energy production, furthermore Klare asserts that "the greatest effect of global warming on the energy equation probably will be to force leaders to place greater emphasis on the development of alternative fuels"(60) . This is an extremely important responsibility for the government to undertake, but one that is possible, if a state government can leverage its resources and remain focused on the goal. Worldwide, there are environmentalists in every country advocating renewable sources of energy, but Klare admits that they have not received the attention that they deserve and so instead of government officials seriously pursuing them as energy alternatives, Klare predicts that they will most likely look to more familiar resources such as natural gas and nuclear power first. They must realize that although natural gas may seem to be an alternative, it is in declining supply and will only lead to another energy race a few decades into the future.

State governments have the power to rally their people behind a cause and the financial resources to jump start concerted efforts to solving a problem. Klare compares the current race to find and secure energy reserves to the arms race of the Soviet Union era, which brings one to the realization that the only way to finitely end the current energy race and prevent nationally debilitating ones in the future, is to find and switch to renewable sources of energy. Resource nationalism is currently focused on oil, gas, and coal, which are not renewable sources of energy. Meanwhile, land, which is inarguably the most important natural resource, is ignored, as the population in some countries reaches inordinate levels. The appropriation of land seems to escape the minds of all, and it poses the question as to whether governments will be willing to focus on the management of resources which do not translate into immense profit as oil and gas do.

Presumably, the primary reason for resource nationalism over privatized resource management is the belief that state governments will manage resources in accordance with democratically arrived- at state interests. Government budgets should allot for research to find methods for producing ethanol; methods which do not require the corn to be planted on farmland, which as Klare points out could be used for farming basic food crops (61). The officials in charge should earn the trust of their citizens by making the management process transparent, allowing the people to speak up when they do not favor certain decisions. Most importantly, resource nationalists must find somewhat equitable methods of sharing national wealth with citizens, whether it is via the availability of merit-based employment at all levels of resource management, or investment in the infrastructure of a country. Resource nationalism could lift the curse from nations that find themselves in the resource curse, but it could also detain them there.

I hope you have enjoyed my review of Michael Klare's Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet and that my review has helped you to further understand the geopolitical implications of resource use in the world today.

To find my other reviews of books such as Thomas Friedman's The World is Flat ,check on the history links to the left.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet - Part 2 of 3


So it goes that..
Natural resources have historically propelled nations into hysteria over acquisition of rich lands and turned men into greedy gold-diggers. Given a state government's control over military forces, can a government, {whether democratically or otherwise elected} be trusted by its people to resist the temptation to use military force in pursuit of foreign energy? Resource nationalism entrusts many responsibilities to a nation’s governors, especially in an age when the growth and success of a nation is symbiotic with its production and consumption of energy. The decisions made by those entrusted to, could lead to either the protection of a nation’s resources as exemplified by Vladimir Putin, or the advancement of personal agenda, as is evident with Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez. To apply military power to forcefully obtain foreign energy and to endanger civilians is to misapply a nation’s resources and interests. There is worldwide stipulation that President Bush's main motive for seizing control of Baghdad was to either directly obtain energy resources or to break the political and economical systems down, only to play a controlling/highly influential part in the rebuilding of Iraq's national oil legislation. This stipulation is backed by documents in The National Energy Policy passed by the Bush administration in 2001, specifically calling for "a more assertive government role in helping American energy companies overcome barriers to investment in foreign oil and gas ventures"(24).

It would seem that the efforts of the government in national energy management would be directed towards finding alternatives to foreign energy sources in-state, rather than finding methods to ‘bargain’ for more foreign energy. Later, in his 2006 State of the Union address, as Klare notes, Bush acknowledged America's addiction to oil and called for accelerated efforts in finding energy alternatives, although government spending tells a different story. While former President Bush may have spoken these words, the country’s military presence in Baghdad spoke louder about the interests of the administration. Even worse, the administration rallied public support under the guise of protecting Americans and the rest of the world from a tyrant hoarding weapons of mass destruction. The invasion required a substantial deployment of troops from the U.S. and its allies, some of whom remain in the oil rich lands of the Middle East. The average American or British citizen may understand the need for oil and even be aware of its diminishing supply, but they may not have supported the invasion of Iraq had they known that their country was invading another and imposing its political system on its people, with the intent to unfairly rob it of its natural resources.

Perhaps they would have, we may never know, for a vote is not democratic if it is based on misinformation. The lesson in this case is that resource nationalism could simply be a misleading term to describe state robbery and misapplication of national power to obtain natural resources, and that those who govern must be held up to the revealing light in whenever the governance is questionable.

Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet brings to mind the natural resource curse described by Joseph Stiglitz in Making Globalization Work, as having afflicted nations such as Nigeria, Venezuela and Sudan. These nations, although rich in natural resources, are populated by a majority of poverty-stricken people. The profits from the country’s boundless resources are distributed among corrupt government officials or the brutally selfish insurgents who overthrow them, or are carted back out in personal foreign investments and to Swiss bank accounts. To the low and middle class citizen of any country that is wealthy in natural resources, the biggest cause of concern is whether those who manage the wealth of a shared land will also share the harvest.

Ironically, the same laws created to give a person the right to own property, maybe the same laws that allows a tycoon or supersized institution to acquire all the land on which natural resources sit. Nonetheless, one can be hopeful, that if the resource nationalism were in place, the state would be inclined to distribute the profits somewhat equitably, rather than relying on the unlikely philanthropy of the private hands that seize the resources for their sole interests.

More on Michael Klare


Monday, October 12, 2009

Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet- Part 1 of 3


 "Four centuries ago, as the conquistadors roamed through South America, it was the search for gold that drove the clash of empires. A hundred years later, as the great powers fought over the West Indies, it was the quest for land that could gro sugarcane. Today, the key commodity is oil"- Adam Hochschild, author of King Leopold's Ghost

 I will review :

On January 2 , 2008, the price of oil hit $100 a barrel after flirting with that milestone high for months in the previous year. Today, October 12 2009 at 11:30am EST, the price of oil is $73.30 a barrel. It has been a painfully slow decline for American commuters and travelers alike, a period that brought about new vocabulary such as the 'staycation". While the price has indeed fallen, oil consumers worldwide should not be lulled into a sense of comfort- the decline is temporary and price hikes will be the norm. Current geopolitical affairs are characterized by battles between the major powers over this ever dissipating non-renewable resource. Klare's admonition is stark, and appropriate - the world must cooperatively reduce its consumption of non-renewable resources and redirect the balance of world power to a more productive political goal, or battles will escalate into wars, in which all eventually be losers.

Part 1
America is addicted to oil, and the rest of the world is to varying degrees, just as physically dependent on oil and other natural resources. These resources are necessary to sustain what Michael Klare calls “the international sinews of the global economy; planes, trains, trucks & ships that carry goods and people from one region to another". Developed world powers continue to rely on the same energy sources they discovered decades ago, while rising powers demand vast amounts of energy from old and new sources across the world. Add to these factors the proven diminishing supply of resources in most of the world’s reserves, and an exponential equation is formed. The solution is the fastidious and equitable management of the current and future supplies of energy and a truly collective effort towards developing alternative and renewable sources of energy. It may take several pages worth of calculations to arrive at this solution, depending on who is doing the math.

This begs the question, who should manage the energy? Klare brings up the trend of resource nationalism, describing it as “the management of energy flows in accordance with vital state interests” (23). State management of energy could indeed prove to be the better choice for energy administration as compared to the private industry; however, the government may not be a perfect fit, as some questions beg to be asked. Supported by Michael Klare, we can attempt to determine the challenges that resource nationalism would face and hopefully identify potential candidates for this form of energy management.
Despite the proliferation of democracy across borders through globalization, there remain some countries which have yet to adopt more egalitarian principles. So what are the implications of state-governed energy if the government came to power in less than democratic methods?

A government that does not prescribe to democratic or at least egalitarian practices likely does not value the rights of its citizens, and can be expected to follow up on previously used unjust methods to secure a nation’s profits for select elite. Such is the unfortunate demise of many third-world countries whose governments are riddled with corruption and whose officials are unchallenged by the masses due to the threat of incarceration, and even death. The severity of the crisis in America’s financial sector that has led to a nation-wide recession can partly be ascribed to the extent to which international finance powerhouses roamed Wall Street untamed. To the same effect, governments in control of a nation’s energy resources could bloat with power and rule unchecked, especially if power-hogging is the norm.
American investors, with all the unlimited knowledge and democratic freedoms, still found themselves helpless at the discovery of cooked books and deceivingly profitable instruments. The lesson to be gleaned from this is that an entity of power, whether private or public, must be checked and balanced in some way by its people- those who are the basis for the entity’s operation. Resource naturalism would not be a good fit for a non-democratic society, even if that society appears to be functioning sufficiently. The true test of a sufficient society is its ability to resolve issues when they arise, and the extent of resolution is reduced when the majority of the people are powerless.

More on Michael Klare


Sunday, October 11, 2009

Philanthrocapitalism and the Bottom Billion- Part 4


Finally, bake in an oven at global warming temperatures for two or three decades..
If there is one word that is associated with Africa and the plight of most of its nations, it is corruption. A fact that is not known to many however and that Collier reveals is that developed and powerful countries typically play a role in the continuation of this problem. It is disappointing to hear that China which more than any other developing/developed country is given credit for adequately preparing for globalization and grasping the opportunities provided, is part of this despicable practice. This booming country is responsible for bailing out many unworthy individuals and institutions in exchange for natural resources which it does not possess. Bishop & Green speak about the effectiveness of philanthropy against political and social factors such as corruption which lie within the receiving nations. At one point, the two authors speak about the redundancy of these countries receiving aid only to have it robbed back in less perceptible and publicized ways.

Countries which are exploiting the three development traps discussed by Collier should be held accountable to their actions and exposed for the robbers that they are. This brings to mind a statement by Bill Gates, whereby the billionaire philanthropist promises to increase the level of transparency within his foundation in order to increase the honesty of its business. The same level of transparency should be the objective of all policymakers in the global community, beginning the most influential leading as role models. It is possible that the corruption between governments is just as detrimental, if not more than that which is occurring within governments, because inter-governmental affairs involve high-stakes contracts which barter millions of people and billions of dollars.

Collier confirms the damage that the robbers are doing, when he says, “Don’t count on trade to save the bottom billion” (87). This is a surprising admonishment, given the history that trade has for converging nations and stimulating the global economy. Given the revelation of corruption in Collier’s book, perhaps trade will be useless to the bottom billion because instead of nations trading commodities, the bottom billion who have already been robbed of their social, political and entrepreneurial freedoms will be robbed again, as they are now, when their corrupt politicians are once more paid to keep the state of affairs away from the international eye. In regards to trade policy, he states, "It is stupid to provide aid with the objective of promoting development and then adopt trade policies that impede that objective"(160). This is a stark reminder that trade agreements are negotiations. Wealthier nations are more influential and thus can negotiate terms that are more favorable to them. This seems like it would be the situation in any to party negotiation, but global trade agreements have immense consequences and will never be useful if they are created to demean the efforts of developing nations.

Collier proposes two notable solutions to lifting the bottom billion out of their predicament; ‘breaking the natural resource barrier’, and ‘breaking the reform impasse’ (177). In reference to breaking the reform impasse, one suggestion would be to offer protection to those who are brave enough to confront the corrupt and unjust individuals and institutions that govern their nation. As outsiders, influential countries should impose serious sanctions to enforce the human right to a better life as well adjudicating the transgressors in the International Criminal courts. Concerned global citizens must hold their policymakers accountable to representing the honest intentions of the majority. Citizens of developed countries who are able to attain higher level educations and social welfare protections can speak up for the bottom billion, where philanthrocapitalism is yet to affect, and celanthropists are yet to call attention. The global issues discussed by the two books will require freeing the bottom billion from their traps, the tools of philanthrocapitalism and most importantly, the attention of the other five billion.

Hope you have enjoyed my review.

More on Mathew Bishop, Michael Green and Philanthrocapitalism

Paul Collier

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Philanthrocapitalism and the Bottom Billion- Part 3


Collier goes on to state that “Ethnic minorities are just as likely to rebel with or without discrimination" and that two Stanford scientists who conducted research on 200 ethnic minorities also found that the same is the case of inter group hatreds (20). This statement rests on the assumption that the previous one which finds no relation between political repression and civil war, is true. In this train of thought, if civil war was not incited by political repression, then it was not necessarily affected by discrimination either. There is a connection between civil war and discrimination which is missed however, because of the disassociation between political repression and discrimination. Typically and most recently, ethnic discrimination is viewed as a social issue, despite the fact that it was historically a politically based as well. The political component of society- the government- is then involved in either promoting or denouncing discrimination; the former choice is effectively a form of political repression. Civil war or regional conflict is inevitable after prolonged ethnic discrimination and political repression.

In the discussion of rebel recruitment, Collier names professor Weinstein of Stanford University whose findings indicate that rebel leaders find themselves in a position where they must choose between two types of recruits. There are those who are driven by a mission to actually bring out (perceived) social justice versus psychopaths on a path of destruction. According to Collier, an alarming 3% of the general population in any society are estimated to have psychopathic tendencies. Presumably, a large portion of the 3% is lining up to be recruited in the bottom billion countries during the seemingly never-ending cycles of civil war. These facts lead one to infer that the conflict trap creates its own web of institutional entrapment. For example, the psychopathic 3% of the population hoping to be recruited could otherwise seek medical care, rather than suffer the deterioration of their disease; but the conflict-bound region in which they live does not allow for hospitals to qualitatively serve the community. The portion of the remaining 97% that is in line is easily attracted by rebel theories likely due to the lack of employment and other positive social reinforcements in the community which stem from the inability to attract business owners and developers to a conflicted region.

After analyzing the conflict trap, the natural resource trap, the land lock trap and the governance trap, Collier asserts that the bottom billion have missed the boat of opportunity that was brought by the current wave of globalization. Unfortunately, he also surmises that the bottom billion will have to wait until the next wave in order to ride it and reap the benefits. Collier estimates that this wave will hit the shores of the bottom billion when the gap between Asia and the bottom billion is wide enough to attract business to the latter. Though no one can guess just how long this will take, instead of waiting for this next wave, the book might explore whether it is possible to induce the next wave faster so that the bottom billion may begin to catch up. The process could begin with the extensive review of the unsuccessful tools used previously in philanthropy combined with heightened awareness of the bottom billion, hopefully leading to a focused and united transition to philanthrocapitalism. The two books connect in this way; Collier identifies the bottom billion and why are they are who they are, and Bishop & Green discuss the people and methods capable of making a huge impact on uplifting the billion.

More on Mathew Bishop, Michael Green and Philanthrocapitalism
Paul Collier


Thursday, October 8, 2009

Philanthrocapitalism and the Bottom Billion- Part 2


Philanthropists today, celanthropists especially, have the ability to bring important world issues to the attention of the average American, in a way that politicians and lobbyists have not compete with. Despite the advantages of media such as the internet, business and entertainment rock stars have a quality about them that sets them apart from the integral congressman. I believe that part of this is the slightly reduced faith of American citizens in their politicians, which has led them to seek role models elsewhere. The successful investment banker who had meager beginnings and now executes board meetings of his/her own Fortune 500 company is appealing to the average aspiring, hardworking employee.   

Popular celebrities simply have their own ways of casting their fans under enchanting spells which compel them to pay attention to whatever the celebrity agenda may be. Bishop & Green note that throughout history, the responsibility for social welfare has been shared both my citizens and their governments. In the Victorian era, generous philanthropists endowed hospitals and universities some which are world-renowned to this today. There is no express statement in the book confirming the authors’ opinion on whether philanthrocapitalists will solve today’s world issues, although there is certain assertion that he current era of philanthropy surpasses the previous ones in opportunity.

In my opinion, philanthrocapitalism is the best proposition for solving global issues such as poverty, hunger and disease. While capitalism and democracy have uplifted some countries, some have been left behind, even sunk lower into destitution. The bottom billion that Collier refers to need more than just the traditional philanthropy to catch up. The funds provided by philanthropists combined with the financial tools of capitalism and armed with the far-reaching influence of celanthropists form a three-pronged weapon that can begin to have effect today and arm the citizens of developing countries on their way out of the bottom billion.  
Paul Collier sets about the goal of introducing the bottom billion and explaining the factors that have contributed to placing them in this predicament. It is impossible to discuss any subject in the global arena without denoting globalization, and Collier duly acknowledges this, yet also explores other reasons why the some countries have diverged away from development, while others have converged. Generally, Collier speaks of various traps which have either physically or symbolically entrapped the citizens of the countries comprising the bottom billion. The conflict trap refers to the stagnation in growth which certain countries seem unable to escape due to constant regional conflict. While exploring the conflict trap, Collier states that “There is basically no relationship between political repression and the risk of civil war"(20). I disagree with Collier’s statements because they likely consider the effects of political repression when present during the examined conflict. 

Realistically, people are repressed for many years before any large scale, violent signs of public outcry are made. The actual repression itself may have ceased by the time a civil war is incited, but the state of affairs once the protagonist has ceases still serves as a form of repression to the people. As well, it seems extremely unlikely that a society living in political harmony could suddenly erupt in conflict without repressive provocation.  


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Philanthrocapitalism and the Bottom Billion -Part 1


Philanthrocapitalism by Matthew Bishop and Michael Green examines the new wave of philanthropy, characterized by wealthy entrepreneurs and influential icons using the resources and catechisms of capitalism to aggregate the products of philanthropy as we know it. Featured philanthrocapitalists such as Bill Gates and George Soros treat their exercise in philanthropy more like an enterprise, than an extra-curricular activity.

The Bottom Billion by Paul Collier brings to attention the forgotten citizens of the world who reside in 5/6 of the world population classified as developing countries. The bottom billion are impoverished and live in resource-poor nations, where conventional development strategies have failed. Collier identifies how the bottom billion have come to be and aims to propose solutions outside of the failing methods in place today.

One book focuses on the external fight for the poorest world citizens,based on the resources being transferred in, while the other speaks from within that destitute realm, conceivably providing a more intimate analysis of the resource management post-transfer. In my analysis, I hope to extort the assumptions and disparities in their evaluation of the issues plaguing developing countries and to perhaps arrive at comprehensive solutions.

Like my review of Thomas Friedman's The World is Flat, I intend to post my reviews in several parts.

Part 1
I was thoroughly excited to begin the reading and especially to hear Matthew Bishop and Michael Green outline just how the rich could save the world. According to Bishop & Green, philanthrocapitalists are different from their precedents in that they give in ways that utilize the benefits of a capitalist society, in order to give a gift that keeps on giving. They have amassed their fortunes, large and small, and now can leverage various factors which they enjoy as a result of their success. Today, philanthropists and celanthropists are giving to myriad causes, and Bishop & Green discuss the possibility of measuring the true effect of the generosity.

Consistently throughout the book, philanthropists of the 21 st century are compared to those of previous ones, such as Andre Carnegie and Andrew Mellon. One particular subject that is germane to any period of philanthropy is the arts. Admittedly, most of the major artistic institutions of our era are the direct result of the contribution of a generous philanthropist, and without them, our education would be lacking. Briefly, Bishop & Green question the necessity for philanthropic contributions to subjects such as the arts, during the simultaneous demise or larger social establishments such as public schooling. This is an issue that was under-emphasized in the book especially given the large donations quoted as having been assigned to artistic causes. One of the endowments of democracy is the freedom to do whatever one wishes with their money, however in times of widespread economic disaster, whether in our nation or abroad, philanthropists should be encouraged to donate to those causes which protect and prolong the most worthy cause of all- basic human life.

Here the two authors could have performed a theoretical comparison of the effects that donation to the arts versus to famine for example, has on human life. In the long run, the arts are indeed an important part of life, but it can be objectively argued that in the short run, one is more important or at least productive than the other. For instance, a $200,000 donation may purchase one work of art for a museum, which will then have to attract patrons to its gallery, who over time will develop an appreciation for the work and its artists. At the same time, the same amount of money could be used to provide groceries to several poverty-stricken families for an entire year and furthermore, the advantage of a favorable exchange rate can be used to multiply the benefits to a disadvantaged in developing countries. If the goal is to describe ‘how the rich can save the world’ one effective method would have been to highlight the most productive expenditures from philanthropy.

Bishop & Green’s “Philanthrocapitalism” comes at a timely juncture in relation to the increasing harvest of the seeds of capitalism and heightened necessity for dynamic philanthropy. Dynamic philanthropy is different from traditional giving in that it takes advantage of valuable economic, political and social situations in order to maximize or at least attempt to maximize, the rewards of donation. In fact, this book would have relevant during the late 90’s when many young millionaires were made almost overnight in the glossy skyscrapers of Silicon Valley. There is a marked difference in the significance that this book would have had shortly following the dot com boom(before the bust) and the past four to five years , encompassing the period during which the book was written. The variance is the fact that in the time since then, globalization has flattened the world, exposing more global citizens to capitalism and democracy. As a result, philanthropy can now be transformed into philanthrocapitalism and globalization can serve as the platform through which philanthropists can be reached and their donations can be mobilized.

The global community is constantly changing in social, political and economic aspects, but the one trend that seems to be increasingly popular is the trend towards capitalism, albeit on different levels. Therefore, not only is the discussion in this book relevant today, it is pertinent to future philanthropists residing throughout the global community.

More on Mathew Bishop, Michael Green and Philanthrocapitalism
Paul Collier


Monday, October 5, 2009

The World is Flat- Part 6 of 6


In conclusion..
A key variance in both books is the discourse on globalization’s effect on the environment, repeatedly mentioned in Making Globalization Work , and given special attention in the sixth chapter. Again, Stiglitz finds a somewhat poetic way of describing the universal environment shared by all and the danger posed to it by the actions of some. He calls it the “tragedy of the commons”, a description that combines the commonality of a resource and the impending disaster created hen an individual fails to consider the ramifications of their actions on another individual, thereby leading to abuse of common resources(161). Several conservatory and reparative ideas are presented, but I believe Stiglitz needn’t say more when he says, "No issue is more global than global warming: everyone on the planet shares the same atmosphere"(166). If a statement as simple and as directive as this does not highlight the curse and joy of global interdependence, then nothing can.

Friedman and Stiglitz have both rendered excruciating insights into globalization, albeit with different goals. It appears that Friedman is concerned with emphasizing the aspects of globalization that have happened thus far, unbeknownst to the average consumer, why they have happened, and how these elements could continue to evolve in the near future. The World is Flat is a jolt to those who may have been sleepwalking while globalization was reshaping the world, and a tribute to the ten flatteners responsible for doing so. It is an informative journey shining the spotlight on globalization, its capabilities, and possible consequences.

In stark contrast, Making Globalization Work seems to represent the post-honeymoon phase of globalization. It seeks not to shine a spotlight on globalization, but to shine a light through it, to expose the impediments that have prevented what is possibly the greatest collaboration of global communities from becoming a success for all, or at least most. Stiglitz painstakingly reminds the reader throughout his mission, of the developing countries, of the have-nots of this world, stressing that we as a people enjoying the benefits of a collaboration at the expense of others, are “morally compelled” to take action to rectify the present imbalances(59).

More on Friedman

Hope you have enjoyed my review of this book. Which book would you like to see me review next? Which top 3 books do you think are most pertinent to the discourse on globalization?

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The World is Flat- Part 5 of 6


Rather than force an economic system on a country, Stiglitz advocates making trade more fair using various changes, some more agreeable to the advanced industrial nations than others. One example of a reform that would likely be unpopular with developed countries would be to treat developing countries differently in the drafting of international trade agreements. What Stiglitz means, is that this time around, the agreements should be tilted in favor of the developing countries, especially on topics such as agriculture, on which the vast majority of those in developing countries rely on. Making Globalization Work displays Stiglitz’ adept experience, as he identifies the precise issues in trade liberalization today. In chapter three, the following non-tariff barriers typically used by the advanced industrial countries to deceive trading ‘partners’ in international agreements are revealed: safeguards, dumping duties, technical barriers & the rules-of-origin. All of these non-tariff barriers are aimed at reducing or completely eliminating the imports of a country that threatens to compete with a nascent industry of a country.

In the reforming of international trade, Stiglitz restates the importance of good governance, saying, “The governance of international affairs is at the heart of the failures of globalization. The problems of unfairness start in the beginning: with the setting of the agenda. We have seen how the past focus on manufacturing has moved to high-skill services, capital flows, and intellectual property rights. A development-oriented trade agenda would be markedly different"(97). Several times, Stiglitz also suggests the creation of justifiably, independent international panels to oversee many collaborations, including the drafting of treaties to prevent any more unproductive bilateral agreements.
Technology in The World is Flat is on display in amazing caliber almost everywhere that Friedman journeys, and just as well,   in Making globalization Work , Stiglitz reaffirms the magnitude of possibility brought by technology can provide to the developing countries how are yet to enjoy it. Under the fourth chapter topic “Patents, Profits and People”, Stiglitz exposes the powerful peoples’ exploitation of patents and other intellectual property rights to make excessive profits in the name of giving merit where it is due.   Intellectual property rights vary immensely from physical property rights =, because the former protects an intangible asset, making the boundaries of justice and injustice   difficult to ascertain, he explains. In particular, the U.S and the E.U are using intellectual property rights to prevent developing nations from partaking in innovation, in order to extend the time span of profits and even to create monopolies. These intricacies may not have been obvious to Friedman as he surfed on a Japanese laptop available with only Microsoft software, but beyond the amazing flattening across the world, destructive factors like those discussed by Stiglitz continue to favor flattening in the favor of the prosperous.
As if the developing countries did not have enough challenges to rise above, Making Globalization Work reveals a distressing phenomenon; ‘the Natural Resource Curse’. It is a curse that befalls developing countries which are rich in natural resources, often richer than the developed countries’, but are unable to utilize these resources to rise to the same echelon. Paradoxically, Stiglitz describes these countries as being “wealthy countries with poor people”, something which he says ‘provides greater insight into the failures of globalization and its possible remedies’ (135). He goes on to diagnose the curse as typically having two major causes; the misappropriation of public wealth, often followed by the reckless investment of the garnered wealth by the few who control it. The prescription bears seven measures that address everything from environmental damage to eliminating the great evil; corruption. 

More on Friedman


Saturday, October 3, 2009

The World is Flat- Part 4 of 6

In this way..  
After noting these five issues with globalization, Stiglitz goes on to discuss the underlying forces and the institutions behind these issues, and each time following the discourse with a section titled “Making Globalization work”. This section contains Stiglitz’ suggestions on reforming the particular globalization problem in discussion, and the first problem tackled by Stiglitz is the effect, or lack thereof, of globalization on poverty. A positive effect on poverty is seen in China where millions of people have been lifted out of poverty. Stiglitz attributes the booming country’s progress, to its semi-conservative, slow movement to open up its markets to imports, and to what the book refers to as “hot speculative money”- that which seeks high returns in the short run, rushing into a country during a short wave of optimism and rushing back out at the first hint of trouble (pg 10).This view differs from Friedman’s, which points to China’s rapid adaptation of technologies such as wireless connectivity and cell-phone use per capita, even suggesting that the U.S. is lagging behind in these exact areas. 
Stiglitz pays special attention throughout his book, to the existing and necessary international institutions that are and should govern he various aspects of a successfully globalizing world. Friedman gives statistical data on present and future job losses and recommends that that nations and their work forces find methods of catching up to avoid being ‘creamed’ by the flatteners. Stiglitz on the other hand does a spectacular job of offering theoretical proposals intended to change the way that we think about the issue first, and then practical measures which can be implemented on a new way of thinking. For example, in reforming the effect of globalization on poverty, Stiglitz first asks that we consider the pervasiveness of poverty. We are asked to recognize that simply opening up markets in developing countries will not eradicate the issue of poverty. In this case, reasonably conditional foreign assistance and debt relief from truly committed global leaders is necessary to provide developing countries a clean slate to base their new policies on. Furthermore, given all the aid available, these countries will not flourish unless they literally clan, which is why Stiglitz stresses correcting the problem in trade liberalization by making international trade agreements fair.
Stiglitz accurately insists that poverty is so globally pervasive, that it heightens the need to help millions of poverty-stricken citizens immediately. For the foreign aid to work and international agreements to become fair, fundamental principles must also be reviewed, one of which Is the recognition of the limitations of trade liberalization. The main limitation of liberalization is the fact that it will not work for every country and every economy. When the U.S and Europe saw success with trade liberalization, they were convinced that this model would lead progressive economies to success as well. The result of this assumption came to be the Washington Consensus, a broader policy framework whose key components were trade and market liberalization and which was forged on consensus of the IMF, the World Banks and the U.S Treasury. The consensus was supposed to represent a set of policies that would best promote development; however, it remained a failure for Argentina and other hopeful Latin American countries. 
Early on, in Making Globalization Work , Stiglitz starts to weigh the importance of easily overlooked tenets such as governance in a collaborative process. He states, “There is a consensus, at least outside the U.S. on the dangers of unilateralism and on the 'democratic deficit' in the international economic institutions. WWI made clear our growing global interdependence”(18). Stiglitz goes on to assess the progression of various developing countries under the advice of the Washington Consensus and free-market capitalism, and fearlessly charges the IMF with failure in its goal of stabilizing the world economy. Countries that have followed the advice of the IMF and the World Bank have not prospered as expected.  More Friedman TBC...

Friday, October 2, 2009

The World is Flat- Part 3 of 6


And so..
Compared to the sober, earnest voice of Joseph Stiglitz beguiling his readers to view the world through the forgotten lens of the have-nots, Thomas Friedman’s tone is a striking contrast of the same topic; globalization. Friedman conjures up an image of a child at an amusement park, amazed to see all sorts of new, thrilling rides that are nothing similar to the familiar backyard swing; this young child sees many opportunities for unexplored fun before him, and begins to visualize just how much ‘fun’ is to be had as he skips through the park. On the other hand, Stiglitz conjures up the image of an older child, an early teen perhaps, who although excited about being at the park, has already been on many of the rides and is read to offer suggestions as to how to make the rides more fun. Stiglitz takes a completely different approach to globalization; he speaks as a former Chief Economist of the World Bank and Chief of Council of Economic Advisors during the Clinton administration. 

Albeit the fact that both books likely relied heavily on research, The World is Flat is written more in the character of a educating charge, while Making Globalization Work reads like the analysis of a veteran amidst a long mission, after exposure to both sides of a conflict. The most striking element of Stiglitz’ writing voice is his sincere concern for the citizens of developing countries; those who have been bypassed by globalization. These are global citizens whose corners of the world were either not flattened by Friedman’s forces, or who have not had a chance to reap the benefits of the flattening.  
Stiglitz determines that globalization began about 150 years ago when nation-states across the globe began to strengthen in identity and boundaries. In the U.S. this strengthening was realized as the government took a more central role in the regulating the economy and developing the country’s infrastructure and young technologies. This ‘version’ of globalization seems to stem from a mostly economic necessity for the nation-state to assert its position, and then evolving to accommodate the changing societal and political spectrums. In effect, as we are able to look back over more recent years, Stiglitz proclaims, “ Economic globalization has outpaced political globalization” (20).   In following Stiglitz’ discussion of globalization, it is extremely important   to note one component of his discourse; that there is a serious problem with the way globalization had played out so far, and the clock on reform is ticking. The general problem with globalization as Stiglitz sees it, is that it is producing “unbalanced outcomes both between and within countries…and these global imbalances are morally unacceptable and politically unsustainable” (8).
Having first-hand experience in making economic and political assessments allows Stiglitz to pinpoint the problems in globalization. He identifies the unfair rules of the global ‘game’, stating that they are specifically designed to benefit the advanced industrial countries (the U.S. & Europe).In distinguishing between developed and developing countries as they are affected by globalization, Stiglitz notes that the sovereignty of developing countries has been taken away…and as a result, democracy has been undermined. 

While Friedman talked about the exposure of free-market capitalism to more people after the collapse of the Berlin Wall, Stiglitz highlights that economic systems have been forced upon developing countries- typically the Americanization of economic policy & culture. Part of the problem is also that “globalization advances material values rather than values such as environmental concern or concern for life itself”, and the culmination of these issues results in more losers than winners in the benefits of globalization (9). 

More Friedman


The World is Flat- Part 2 of 6


As I was saying.. 
The collapse of the Berlin Wall most symbolically represented the collapse of the Soviet Empire and Communist rule, after which democracy would become the dominant political system. The contrasting systems both advocate their own economic policies, supposedly aimed at equality, but as Friedman notes, “Communism was a great system for making people equally poor, while Capitalism made people unequally rich” (52). While the wall was toppling down brick by brick, the United States was making large strides in the information revolution, marked by the introduction of the personal computer in 1985.

It is interesting that Friedman separates the various parts of the information revolution as different forces, rather than clustering two or three into one. In the case of the second flattener, the introduction of the first mainstream internet browser, Netscape, the emphasis is on the transformation of a novel technology used exclusively by scientists and computer experts, to a mainstream technology with a user-friendly interface. Netscape made it possible and easier for the average computer novice to access and use the internet. Symbolically, this indicated the beginning of accessible modern innovations which would typically be restricted to academics and government agencies, to the general public. In fact, this increasing transparency of information is evident is confirmed by an officer in Baghdad who lamented the flattening of the military hierarchy. As a result of the ever increasing use of technology and the respective need for people to monitor the technology, more information is available to lower-level officers than was the case before.

After the introduction of an internet browser that makes the Internet a more useful information channel for the public, it is necessary to take technology one step further, to enable changes that further flatten the globe. Workflow software is extremely sophisticated, and seeks to synchronize business processes with the goals of efficiency, labor cost reduction and capital cost reduction in mind. Friedman credits work flow software with “enabling business processes to flow not only between companies, but between continents as well, with an explosion of experimentation and innovation expected to produce many new products and services, as well as a demand for more tailored, proprietary software and IT systems to drive them forward” (91). A great example of this demand and the response in the form of global, interconnected business processes astounds Friedman when he interviews the CEO of an animation studio in San Francisco. The typical animation project starts with design and direction in the San Francisco where the studio is located, the writers’ network in from their homes (Florida, London, New York, Chicago, L.A and San Francisco) and the animation of the characters is done in Bangalore, with edits from San Francisco (79). At this point, Friedman notes that the first three flatteners create a “rudimentary platform” upon which the remaining seven forces emerge.

‘Uploading’, the fourth flattener, is another marker that Friedman uses to emphasize the ever-increasing accessibility of the Internet’s capabilities to global consumers. While the Internet provided connectivity, and Netscape allowed users to design, display, and manage data, the ‘uploading’ milestone marked the balancing of the producer/consumer scale in terms of information. Where most users had been consumers, utilizing the tools that were presented them on the web, uploading tipped the scale so that consumers could become producers of media as well, uploading their own content to share with their global neighbors. Both in the western world and in Asia’s up and coming countries, this transition has been fronted by malleable and tech-savvy youth. The residual flattening forces represent the tremendous changes in the manufacturing, human resources, and information arenas, each one heralded by a particular country or even company. 

China, the leading beneficiary in both outsourcing and off-shoring, has manufacturing advantages said to have benefited U.S. consumers in the form of billions of dollars in cost savings, and benefiting the Federal Reserve by helping it keep interest rates down longer, thus allowing more capital into the economy. It is unfathomable that China can have such effects on the American economy but these are just the effects of a flatter world; the more we communicate and create inter-dependent social, economic and political systems,, the more it seems, we are likely to sneeze and contaminate another country with our cold.

More Friedman

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