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


The World is Flat- Part 1 of 6


My review of :

Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat is an explosion of anticipation, excitement and intriguing surveillance of the past, ongoing and future implications of a flattening world. Readers of this book are able to sit on Friedman’s shoulders and peek on as he recounts his never-ending journey around the world, beginning as early as 1989 when he visited Berlin as a journalist and saw the Berlin Wall with just a small hole in it. Later, the demolition of this wall, becomes the marker for the ‘official’ onset of globalization and the effectively, the flattening of the world. When Friedman talks about flattening, he means, "the digitization, virtualization and automation of more and more everything" to create a "a global, web-enabled platform for multiple forms of collaboration", enabling "individuals, groups, companies and universities anywhere in the world to collaborate- for the purposes of innovation, production, education, research, entertainment, and alas, war-making-like no creative platform ever before"(204). Globalization it seems is one of those premises which everyone recognizes at mention, but is hard to describe in a few words.

To further extrapolate on globalization, and what created it, The World is Flat proposes ten flatteners that are responsible for creating the end result of globalization as we know it. These flatteners are ; the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the introduction of the first mainstream Internet browser, the introduction of work flow software, uploading, outsourcing, offshoring, supplychaining, insourcing, in-forming an technological ‘steroids’. During Friedman’s journey around the globe, he draws his insights and corroborates his ideas with the advice and experiences of myriad global citizens, from young and ambitious call center representatives, to experienced CEOs of cutting-edge companies. He also admits to using the technologies afforded him by globalization, such as the Internet from which he gathered not just research material, but likely translated an African proverb and tracked down a copy of the Communist Manifesto. These information channels vary greatly in their ability to influence one’s visualization of globalization, and the competition between virtual sources and human sources is stiff, especially as Friedman paints vivid pictures of speeding through a Chinese countryside at speeds of 150m/ph while catching wireless signals on his laptop.

Friedman sufficiently supports his choice of the Berlin Wall collapse as the first force that began to level the global playing field. He shows the effect of the collapse on not only the citizens of the USSR who were trapped behind the wall, but also on the other global citizens who were on the outside of the wall. The collapse physically brought together the people on both sides of the wall, although Friedman contends it did more than that. “It tipped the balance of power across the world toward those advocating democratic, consensual, free-market-oriented governance, and away from those advocating authoritarian rule with centrally planned economies”(52). Friedman interprets the collapse beyond the obvious social effect of unifying people and the economic effect of opening up trade possibilities; he sees the opportunity for a larger, more open, geopolitical field.

Get more Friedman


The Clash of Civilizations

My review of pages 1-15 of the article :

For one and a half centuries after the Peace of Westphalia created the modern international system, wars and conflicts were engaged by monarchs, emperors, and other such heads of state. These leaders were motivated by personal or familial desires such as continuity of ruling and expansion of territory. As nation-states developed, conflicts were engaged in my peoples, rather than individual leaders. WWI emphasized the varying ideologies in the world's nation-states, and as such, once again the battle lines shifted to reflect ideological differences, culminating in WWII and continuing on to the Cold War. Post-Cold War, the international political arena began to include the over-looked non-Western nations, and in 1993, Samuel Huntington hypothesized that the basis of conflict in the all-inclusive world would now be culture. Nation-states will continue to be the guiding structures, as compared to a reversal to conflicts between national leaders; but varying civilizations will cause global conflict.

Huntington defines a civilization as a cultural entity which generally has similarities with other cultures within a relatively defined geographical form, such as a nation, but yet differing from relatively foreign culture . For example, he points out the minor differences, but great commonalities between Northern Italian and Southern Italian cultures versus Italians and Germans. Short of identifying ourselves as members of certain species, the broadest cultural entities to which we belong, are our civilizations. These civilizations are of varying sizes and just as their members, will be dynamic, as individuals redefine themselves.

Huntington states that the reason civilizations will clash will be the interaction between the seven or eight major civilizations, namely Western, Confucian, Japanese, Islamic, Hindu, Slavic-Orthodox, Latin American and possibly African civilizations. To explain why the differences among civilizations will take center stage, Huntington first explains that these differences are real and basic. By this, he means that members of each civilization can relate to each elemental difference, and can define themselves at least somewhat, based on that element. These elements could be religion, culture, language and others , all tied by the fact that they took years to develop, and thus are unlikely to be abandoned soon. Although differences may not necessarily translate into conflict, they often do, and according to the article, civilizational differences have resulted in the most prolonged and violent wars of time.

The second reason why civilizations will become more prominent is that people from different civilizations are coming into ever closer contact and this more intimate contact will bring into focus the inherent differences. While Huntington does not explicitly state it, I believe globalization is the force responsible for the more intimate contact between civilizations. This view could present a new perspective of discussing globalization , since current discussion tends to focus on either the diversifying or homogenizing effects of globalization.

The third propeller of the clash of civilizations is what is referred to as "economic modernization" and the ongoing social change in various parts of the world, both of which Huntington expects to weaken the nation-state as a basis of identity. In place of nation-stated, people will are themselves by religion, an element that is far more transcendental to most people than nation-state identity.

The fourth propeller is essentially the clash between the Western and non-Western nations. At the time of writing this article, Huntington believed the West was at the peak of its power, and simultaneously, there were 'grass roots' movements in various civilizations across the world. The combination of one civilization being at its peak, with the increasing fervor of other civilizations to affect the world in new ways, would lead to a momentous crossroad in the power to affect.

The fifth propeller of the clash harks back to the first one, which is based on the high personal regard and commitment that lends itself to cultural identity , versus economic status or political ideology. The last propeller is the rise of economic regionalism evident over a decade ago, and more evident today in the European Union and American Union.

Huntington predicts that the clash of civilizations will occur at two levels; the macro and micro levels. At the micro level, specific groups along civilization fault lines will conflict about exactly where the lines are drawn, while at the macro level, the dominant nation-states in different civilizations will battle for the international spotlight. Thus far, there have been conflicts along fault lines such as ; the West vs. Islam, Protestant vs. Catholic Europeans Christianity vs. Islam. In Africa, the fault lines lie between Christianity vs Islam vs Animism. One important distinction made between the contact within civilizations is the violence that abounds historically. Ethnic cleansing in Eurasia is a large source of cultural violence and continues to be so today.

In the article, Muslim Indian author M. J. Akbar predicts that the next the clash of civilizations and battle for a new world order will be instigated by Islamic confrontation of the West. Considering esoteric knowledge, I am not convinced that the Islamic world is the instigator, but rather the vehicle of confrontation ,which already began with the attacks of 9/11.

Disarmament and Arms Control in Africa

My Review of the article;

The article aims to review and identify the successes and failures of the measures taken by African nations in the issue of arms proliferation. The 3 main measures adopted by most African nations have been; creation of inter-state controlling agencies, bilateral arms collection & destruction processes, as well as reforming arms control legislation. Lamb and Dye begin by acknowledging that "The arms trade lacks transparency, which makes it impossible to analyze the exact nature and dynamics of this global enterprise" (3). Illegal transactions are either disguised as legal ones using forged documents, or entirely concealed in the shipment of legal goods. There is also limited information available to the public on African nations' imports and exports of arms.

The three most conflict-prone regions of Africa are reviewed in the article, which demonstrates that UN Security Council Resolutions have been markedly ineffective in deterring various factions and even governments from illicit arms dealing. In the case of Somalia, foreign aid aimed to the national Transitional Federal Government (TFG) aimed at helping the government defend itself from the opposition, has been discovered to end up in the hands of the opposition groups themselves. In Darfur, even after the eventual restoration of state government, officials have been found to incorporate aspects of pro-government militia into their forming security troops.

There is no international agreement that currently governs international arms trade, however, in the year 2000 the 53 member states of the Organization of African Unity met in Mali and drafted an international declaration against the illegal proliferation, circulation & trafficking of small arms and light weapons. This was to be followed by national implementation, which has been more successful in some states than others. Regional agreements have also been reached in West, East and South Africa. While the formal structures required by the West African ECOWAS convention have been established, actual implementation is yet to begin, perhaps due to the fact that only 6 of the required 9 states needed to legally bind the convention have ratified it.

Southern Africa’s SADC arms control protocol was the first legally binding regional agreement, and seems successful thus far, despite concerns about its source for funding being NGO's and donor governments. Like ECOWAS and SADC, East Africa’s RECSA receives a large portion of its funding from external sources, which leaves continued operation in doubt. Nonetheless, RECSA has set more specific guidelines and targets, such as the branding of government SALW with ID numbers kept in a RECSA database. Regional organizations have also been created for better implementation, however, conflict in Darfur, Somalia and the DRC have kept the demand high for SALW.
While acknowledging the solutions attempted by African nations in the past decade, it is obvious that there is much more work to be done and funds to be raised towards achieving pronounced success. The proliferation of SALW represents a step back for every step forward taken towards sustainable peace for African nations. The lack of funding for state organizations that aim to reduce this proliferation is also a setback and does not lend to the successful capture and destruction of illegal SALW.

Lamb and Dye comprehensively review both the failing and successful points in the African disarmament effort, shedding light on the frequently ineffective, and the unrecognized successes. This review is important to this course because it links globalization to the arms proliferation in Africa. In the discussion of setbacks to arms control, the issue of smuggling often arises. Smuggling of illicit SALW has likely become more effortless when aided by far-reaching communication and knowledge networks facilitated by globalization processes. The violation of arms embargoes was evident in all 3 conflict-prone regions examined, and often attributed to violation by neighboring nations of the country under embargo.

Globalization has as a strong point, the encouraged relationships between otherwise detached nations. With economic and political relations, comes dependency, and such dependency, when negative, can be an influence in foreign states funding the opposition faction in a conflict-prone nation. In one case, the article mentions that Somali opposition factions may be funded by private donors from the Middle East- an example of the negative effects of economic relationships encouraged by globalization. While globalization’s positive effects are present, this article suggests that the negative effects are magnified and even overshadow the positive ones in certain regions of the world.

Find the article here
More on arms proliferation... nuclear arms in Africa? you bet!

This map depicts countries who have signed the African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone (Treaty of Pelindaba) as of Aug 2009..not enough

International Relations Theory; Realism v. Idealism

My review of pages 1-15 :

The book begins by prefacing that there are no universal definitions for the idealist and realist theories. Nevertheless, the reader of the article must be introduced to generally accepted characteristics of both paradigms. The idealists tend to believe in altruistic human nature, the possibility of improving civilization, the un-inevitability of war, and the necessity for multi-lateral international efforts to eliminate war and injustice worldwide. Realists tend to believe that morals and virtues are a hindrance to the pursuit of national power, and that the effectiveness of policies should be judged on the basis of serving national interests, rather than adherence to the aforementioned principles. More controversial, are the realist views that humans are intrinsically evil, with their most prominent evil being their quest for power, and thus economics are simply a means to achieve power. Furthermore, national political allies are not reliable, and neither are international organizations; international law is not be seen as a source of protection for nation-states.

Criticisms of Realism begin by explaining that its proponents adopted it at a time when it may have been more relevant, but as the international political arena has changed, the applied perspective has not. Realism was more applicable during the middle part of the 20th century, before WWII and until the end of the Cold War, when international relations were typified by power struggles, imperialistic goals and arms races. After the end of the Cold War, when conflict was no longer a dominant feature of international relations, many realist theories became irrelevant. As a result, the realist paradigm loses its ability to predict future relationships between nation-states. As realism and the real world grow farther apart, realism also loses its ability to accurately describe the present international arena.

One important aspect to consider is that Kegley mentions is that Realism tends to prescribe policies that lead to war rather than peace. I believe that this can be explained by the fact that the perspective with which we view a situation tends to guide the decisions we make about it. As such, if a realist believes that war is inevitable, they will likely propose policy that might not necessarily cause war, but that is neglectful of the preventability of war. After all, why would a Realist try to prevent war, if he/she thought it was going to happen anyway? Instead the Realist might focus on profiting economically and socially from the war. Incorporating a moderately positive outlook on international politics is an important part of realizing positive solutions to international problems. A looking glass that is negatively tinted will darken the view on the opposite side of the glass, which is why Realist policies tend to propagate into reality the same problems that they consider imminent in the world.

In their criticism of Realism, liberalists more specifically revisit the effect of democracy on international relations, Woodrow Wilson’s principle of self-determination, and the shifting roles of nation-states brought about by globalization among other challenges to Realist rhetoric. While the article does not mention the term ‘globalization’ I believe that globalization is reason enough to re-evaluate the paradigms used to analyze international relations. Although the current cycle of globalization began at the turn of the century, it began to reach its heights after the Cold War, when the focus of the world shifted.

The explosion of globalization to include previously ignored countries, should have spurred the search for a new paradigm, if only because new nation-states were participating in the arena. Admittedly, Kegley begins to pose these questions in 1994, and it is still unclear which paradigm dominates. I believe that the emerging paradigm must incorporate the truly realistic and moderately optimistic values of both the Realist and Idealist paradigms.
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