politics

“The benefits of globalisation are widely dispersed, often unseen and thus all too easily taken for granted

– The Economist

Globalization has become a buzzword used to describe the international exchange of ideas, products, political movements, music and many other aspects of culture. While the world has changed dramatically as a result of this phenomena, disentangling what that means and how good it is, is an overwhelming feat.

The Economist took this challenge and tackled the pros and cons of globalization in its “Special report: The world economy”. Through a series of articles the magazine argues that globalization, on the whole, is a positive force that must be embraced but that must also be managed with better policy.

Specifically, the magazine proposes a “three-pronged agenda” for the course of globalization including  demand management, active labor-market policies, and competition.

Demand Management.

The magazine proposes that workforce retraining and adequate immigrant integration are critical to fortifying dynamic economies.

Workforce retraining

  • “Too little effort and money has been expended on taking care of those who have been hurt by the opening up of markets. America in particular makes little attempt to assist people find new jobs to replace lost ones.”
  • “Members of the OECD…set aside an average of 0.6% of GDP a year for…job centres, retraining schemes and employment subsidies—to ease the transition to new types of work. America spends just 0.1% of GDP”
  • “Jobs and pay have been greatly affected by technological change. Much of the increase in wage inequality in rich countries stems from new technologies that make college-educated workers more valuable.” Government-led retraining must support less educated workers left with fewer employment opportunities.

Immigrants

  • “Along with trade, migration is one of the two main sources of public anxiety about globalisation” however, it’s important to remember that immigration enriches the workforce [by raising] average productivity and living standards”.
  • “To deal with the tension between immigration and the welfare state, three rules suggest themselves. First, make benefits conditional on having paid into the system. Second, tie the funding of local public services to local tax revenues to ensure an automatic response to an influx of migrants. Third, restrict migration to prime-age, skilled workers who are more likely to get jobs and less likely to lose them in a recession”
  • A lesson from America’s engagement with Mexico is that a formal system for low-skilled immigration, perhaps with fewer entitlements than for skilled workers, is far preferable to turning a blind eye to informal migration.

Active labor-market policies.

Politicians should work together to end imprudent international corporate tax breaks and should understand that creating trade barriers would hurt the poorest.

Capital

“For developing economies, capital mobility is a conduit for new technology, management know-how and business networks. It also allows investors to vote with their feet, encouraging governments to follow prudent regulatory, monetary and fiscal policies.” However, “rather than imposing discipline, access to foreign capital seemed to allow countries to get into bigger messes. Whereas academics argue about the pros and cons of free movement of goods or people, they now mostly agree that liberalising capital flows can sometimes do more harm than good”

 

The growing practice of using offshore investment to avoid corporate tax might make capital mobility the target of popular anger, alongside trade and immigration.

“Many people see footloose global companies and deregulation as the handmaidens of the worst kind of corporate practice. Yet economic ills such as weak real incomes, inequality and immobile workers may be partly due to a failure to liberalise product markets further…Deregulation is almost always a difficult task. Those whose interests are hurt by such reforms protest noisily. The political costs quickly become apparent, whereas the gains may not become clear before the next polling day…. In an age of insecurity, it is hard to persuade anyone that they should give up such protections for the greater good”

 

“A study…suggests that in an average country, people on high incomes would lose 28% of their purchasing power if borders were closed to trade. But the poorest 10% of consumers would lose 63% of their spending power, because they buy relatively more imported goods”

Market

 

Factory jobs peaked in the 1970s, but manufacturing output has continued to increase. Indeed, America’s share of world manufacturing output, on a value-added basis, has been fairly stable at a bit under a fifth for the past four decades. Thanks to advances in technology, fewer workers are needed to produce the same quantity of goods. But since trade with lower-cost countries and technological change have similar effects on labour-intensive production in the rich world, it is hard to disentangle their effects.

“America has run a trade deficit every year since 1976. But this does not mean that America is ‘losing’ at trade, as Mr Trump suggests…a trade surplus is not a virility symbol”

“In most rich countries, particularly America, the trade deficit widens when GDP growth is strong, and shrinks during recessions. To balance trade, Americans would have to invest less or save more. Neither would create jobs”

“Almost two-thirds of the new jobs that will be added to America’s economy in the next decade will be low-skilled or mid-skilled jobs, according to a projection by the country’s Bureau of Labour Statistics. Such demand may not easily be met by indigenous workers, even at higher wages”

Competition. 

“Competition policy needs to become more vigorous” to break with current industry concentration.

“A landmark Supreme Court judgment in 2004 said monopoly profits were the just reward for innovation. That has made it harder for trustbusters to root out rent-seeking or block mergers”

 

There must be greater competition with large firms so that “startups can thrive and incumbent firms are kept on their toes…the growing habit of big tech firms to swallow startups that might become rivals is worrying. Such deals often suit both sides—the buyer gets the innovation and the startup makes a lucrative exit—but the practice saps dynamism from the economy”

Without competition, there is “less chance of the dynamism that boosts productivity (and earnings) and creates new job opportunities”

The article goes on to make the following recommendations:

  • As borders have been steadily opened up, policies needed to complement globalisation have not kept pace, particularly in America. They need to catch up.
  • Dani Rodrik, of Harvard University, argues that a good way to build public support for globalisation would be to link trade pacts with agreements on, for instance, the taxation of multinational companies. Such a deal would give national governments more rather than less policy autonomy.
  • In America and Britain, a strong case can be made for locking in low-cost long-term funding to finance a programme to fix potholed roads and smarten up public spaces. Private pension funds with expertise in infrastructure have a role to play in such schemes.
  • Skeptics say that those who stand to lose from globalization are given little thought when trade deals are signed. That is a fair point. But there is also a risk of the opposite error: that the enormous good that free trade has done for the bulk of humanity in both rich and poor countries over several decades is forgotten at times when people are feeling anxious about it.

A wave of anti-establishment and anti-globalization parties across Europe are on the rise. Many have called for referendums on their membership to the European Union following suit with Brexit. Before any (further) reckless decisions are taken, politicians, policy-makers, and citizens should consider that “closing borders to trade, capital and people would cause great harm and do very little to tackle inequities in the economy” in fact, “blocking imports would only entrench the market power of rent-seeking firms, further harming the prospects for higher productivity and pay.”

** The primary source is The Economist’s “Special report: The world economy”. All quotes have been taken from the report.

Read original article: http://www.economist.com/news/special-report/21707837-how-make-economic-liberalism-fairer-and-more-effective-reset-button

 

Not intended to be a comprehensive study of globalization, rather a quick read of The Economist’s take on this global matter.

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No.

No Colombian, likely no citizen anywhere, would reject peace in preference to war.

Though the vote has largely been compared to producing a ‘Brexit’ level surprise by the international press, I would argue that the (almost) 50/50 vote may effectively represent just how conflicted Colombians are as they decide the terms that would end the 50-year war.

screenshot-2016-10-06-22-36-56Referendum result. Courtesy of El Tiempo.

Why would a Colombian vote ‘no’?

A few reasons…

  • Close to 6 million people were displaced from their homes as a result of the FARC. They likely voted.
  • Over 220,000 people have died – their grieving family members were also voting.
  • Almost every Colombian has a personal story of somebody who was kidnapped, extorted, or who simply disappeared at the hands of the FARC. These people voted.

The New York Times may have explained the ‘no’ vote best:

The war has lasted so long that it might have been difficult for many Colombians to forgive the FARC. “The adults that were born before the war now number very few,” said Juan Gabriel Vásquez, a novelist who voted for the deal. “As a society, we are a massive case of post-traumatic stress, because we have grown up in the midst of fear, of anxiety, of the noise of war.”

That may create the impression that Colombians may be bitter and unwilling to forgive the FARC for the damage they have done. But that is clearly not the case as 48.8% of Colombians voted for peace.

Accepting peace, at what cost?

The official question on the referendum ballot was “Do you support the final accord that concludes the conflict and constructs a sustainable and durable peace?”

colombia-peace-vote-plebiscito-paz-1068x712

Referendum ballot. Photo courtesy of The Bogotá Post.

To many Colombians it may have read as “Do you find that the terms of peace offer justice for the atrocities the FARC has committed?” or perhaps “Does this agreement offer justice with the group that [kidnapped / killed / tortured] your [cousin / friend / parent]?”

The 50/50 vote represents just how difficult it may have been for Colombians to answer this question – both as a personal resolution and a political strategy for their country.

To answer, citizens should have looked to the 297-page agreement that details the FARC’s reintegration into civic society.  But in most every case, that did not happen.

The New York Times explains that “voters face a problem in any referendum: They need to distil difficult policy choices down to a simple yes or no…voters typically solve this problem by finding what the political scientists…have termed ‘short cuts’. The voters follow the guidance of trusted authority figures or fit the choice within a familiar narrative.”

Colombia’s referendum was no exception.  A major point of tension is the misinformation that was shared by the ‘No’ campaign led by former president Alvaro Uribe. The campaign’s scare tactics may have swayed the vote in the end.

Nonetheless, it’s worth examining a few of the highlights of the agreement and how they have been received:

  • Expected and widely accepted:
    • The FARC’s fighters would disarm handing over weapons to the United Nations
    • The FARC would declare all the monetary and non-monetary resources that have formed part of their war economy and will use those resources towards reparations
    • The government pledged under the peace agreement to invest substantial resources in improving the country’s rural areas.
  • Slightly Controversial
    • Demobilized fighters would also receive financial aid from the Colombian government to help them reintegrate
    • The accord creates 16 seats in areas battered by the conflict where only locals (in areas where the FARC are likely favored) will be able to run.
  • Very Controversial
    • The rebels would automatically attain legal political representation via a political party with 10 guaranteed seats in the country’s Congress. 5 in the 166-seat house of representatives and 5 in the 102-seat senate.
    • The deal would allow rebels to avoid jail time if they confessed to their crimes. Those who confess to crimes would not serve any prison sentences.

A FARC member explained that by accepting the accord they would get “rid of the arms and become politicians…. but would not lose [their] structure. [They would] be at the ballot boxes [next] time.”

The sentiment among some was that by offering automatic political representation to a rebel group who has undermined democracy, Colombians would be giving the country away and perhaps also giving into the FARC. A voter in opposition to these terms felt that “There’s no justice in this accord…if ‘no’ wins, we won’t have peace, but at least we won’t give the country away to the guerrillas. We need better negotiations.”

Indeed…

“It is…hard to accept that FARC leaders who were responsible for holding hostages in chains for years on end, or for terrorist bombs against a Bogotá club and defenseless villagers, should end up in congress rather than in jail” – The Economist

But still, Colombians want peace.

So, who is to blame for this ordeal?

Colombians have taken to social media to blame each other for the outcome. They should be looking at the leaders of government instead.

President Santos and his negotiators had the responsibility to offer an accord that would satisfy the majority of Colombians. It did not.

santosSantos accepts defeat. Photo courtesy of NYT.

Even if the referendum passed by a small margin, it could still have been a failure.  To attain a final, sustainable peace, Colombians must be genuinely convinced and ready to participate in the reintegration of ex-guerrillas.

A 51% win is hardly a legitimate basis on which to build peace, especially an inclusive one. As former director of the National Commission of Reparation and Reconciliation, Eduardo Pizarro stated, “we can’t make peace with only half the country”. If nothing else, the plebiscite has shown that a more inclusive pact needs to be sought, and although this seems like a daunting task, it could also constitute an opportunity for a rapprochement between the divided political sectors of the country. – The Bogota Post

It will be important to understand the objections and concerns of the ‘No’ voters and to incorporate them into the dialogue of peace. This should have happened years ago.

Adam Isacson from the Washington Office on Latin America explains that “if poor or botched reintegration programs fail to offer opportunities to former child combatants, Colombia’s powerful paramilitaries and trafficking groups may offer them a tempting alternative”.

Isacson reminds us that signing a peace accord will be the easiest part of any peace process. Offering reintegration programs, retraining projects, education scholarships and fulfilling law-abiding lifestyles to ex-guerrillas whose skills are best suited for organized crime would take years, perhaps decades. Peace can only succeed if effective systems are in place to support complete reintegration into a law-abiding civic life.

If Colombians are not content with the terms that would bring guerrillas into cities – it might be best not to bring them at all. A hostile welcome would certainly discourage ex-guerillas to effectively reintegrate.

Better negotiations are in need.

It is widely understood that Colombians who voted against the accord were largely voting for better, more just terms. Not against peace.

How to do that will be a major challenge for the president who has announced that the unilateral ceasefire expires October 31st. Thankfully, neither the FARC nor the government are prepared to return to war.

“I will not give up,” declared Mr Santos in a televised address. The FARC’s top commander, Rodrigo Londoño Echeverri, known as Timochenko, said the guerrillas would “use only words as a weapon to build toward the future”. – New York Times

Critically, President Santos will need the help of the man who led the campaign against the accord: former President Alvaro Uribe. Some analysts speculate that a “weakened Santos can only rescue the accord by inviting Uribe to directly negotiate a solution to the impasse with the FARC”.

Santos must work with the opposition to produce the terms he should have offered in the first place. His failure to meaningfully integrate critics into four years of negotiations have put him in this situation, hopefully, his ability to engage detractors can produce a different result.

Santos must find a platform to share new terms with the Colombian people and re-engage peace with more popular terms.

What’s the Silver Lining?

Colombian leaders have the opportunity to create a final, just, and persuasive peace accord that offers Colombians terms they will feel compelled to live with.

The international community dreads that Colombia’s peace process was unsuccessful because it is a failed model for peace to share in other areas. That should not be the takeaway.

This ‘no’ should be interpreted as democracy at its best. Politics, peace, and justice are complex. We should celebrate iteration on this process as representing an opportunity to execute peace within the framework of an inclusive dialogue and with sustainability in mind.

Colombians have returned to the streets to show their peaceful support of continued negotiations.

paz4
A peaceful demonstration in favor of continued peace talks after the referendum. Photo courtesy of El Tiempo

We may not have gotten “Peace at Last” in the headlines this time around – but the opportunity for peace may still be around the corner. We must work towards peace in unity every day until the opportunity ceases to exist.

Time is running out. Still, we stand strong, we stand with hope.
#AcuerdoYa

screenshot-2016-10-07-15-28-01Photo courtesy of El Tiempo.

Sources:

Why Referendums Aren’t as Democratic as They Seem http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/05/world/americas/colombia-brexit-referendum-farc-cameron-santos.html?ref=americas

Colombia and Its Rebels Want Peace, but How Has Never Been Less Clear http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/05/world/americas/colombia-farc-rebels-peace.html?ref=americas

Deep Scars and Complacency Defeated Colombia’s Peace Deal http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/04/world/americas/colombia-rebels-farc-santos-uribe.html?ref=americas

Colombia Peace Deal Is Defeated, Leaving a Nation in Shock http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/03/world/colombia-peace-deal-defeat.html?src=me

Aching for Peace, but Also Justice, Colombians Weigh Deal With FARC http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/26/world/americas/colombia-farc-peace-deal.html?mtrref=www.nytimes.com

Colombia’s ‘No’ to Peace Deal Could Hit U.S. Aid http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2016/10/04/world/americas/04reuters-colombia-peace-usa-aid.html?ref=americas&mtrref=www.nytimes.com&mtrref=www.nytimes.com

A chance to clean up http://www.economist.com/news/briefing/21707921-all-its-imperfections-and-complexities-agreement-between-government-and-farc

Saving Colombia’s peace agreement http://www.economist.com/news/americas/21708156-no-one-wants-return-war-voters-have-blocked-path-peace-saving-colombias-peace

A messy but necessary peace http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21707930-colombians-should-vote-approve-peace-deal-farc-messy-necessary-peace

Colombia war victim denounces lack of ‘solidarity’ after peace deal rejected http://colombiareports.com/colombia-war-victim-denounces-lack-solidarity-peace-deal-rejected/

What next? Post-plebiscite questions and possibilities http://thebogotapost.com/2016/10/04/next-post-plebiscite-questions-possibilities/

Colombian President Meeting Rival Uribe in Bid to Save Peace http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2016/10/04/world/americas/ap-lt-colombia-peace.html?ref=americas&mtrref=www.nytimes.com

Why Referendums Aren’t as Democratic as They Seem
www.nytimes.com/2016/10/05/world/americas/colombia-brexit-referendum-farc-cameron-santos.html

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, cities tried to respond to [internal] issues with active government–what historians have labeled progressivism. Despite the persistence of corruption, widespread poverty, and racial discrimination, cities increased municipal expenditures, professionalized their administration, and constructed buildings and infrastructures that supposed the most vibrant and successful era in American urban history. in the late twentieth century, by contrast, the response to similar issues was the withdrawal of active government, evident in reduced federal funds, reliance on market based solutions to urban problems, and the need to turn to private initiatives, like special service districts to carry out public functions, such as street cleaning and security. The results are everywhere to be seen, in homelessness on city streets, poverty spreading outward to inner suburbs, uncontrolled sprawl eating up open space, crumbling infrastructure, gross inequity on public education, the future of urban finance mortgaged to casino gambling, the incapacity to prevent or respond effectively to the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and the subprime mortgage crisis. The widely heralded comeback of American cities is thing and fragile. If you move away from shiny center cities, it is not nearly so visible. Look at city budgets, and it does not seem nearly so robust. The question, What is an American City? has begun to elicit both a cacophony of definitions and an array of intelligent and promising ideas about ow to respond. But we have yet to see a powerful and pervasive new urban progressivism. Clearly,, though, without the will to forge an effective and coordinated political response, the future of American cities, however defined, is unlikely to be as buoyant as their past.

Michael B. Katz, “What Is An American City?” Dissent 56, 3 (2009)

Throughout all the courses I have taken in the political science umbrella some stand out to me as having truly changed the way I understand politics, social movements, and people. Here is my list of recommended articles that have changed the way I perceive the political world.

  • “The Prosperous Community: Social Capital and Public Life” by Robert D. Putnam
    Question it tackles: What is the importance of trust in a community and how is it related to the success of a state?
  • “War making and state making as organized crime” by Charles Tilly
    Question it tackles: What is the difference between a mob violence and governmental violence?
  • “The Third Wave” by Samuel Huntington
    Question it answers: How has democracy come about around the world?
  • “Polyarchy” by Robert Dahl
    Question it answers: What are some paths towards democracy
  •  “Types and functions of parties” by Richard Gunther and Larry Diamond
    Question it answers: How important are political parties? What types exist?