Thursday, November 28, 2013

Economic Stratification - State and International


“Capitalist production, therefore, develops technology, and the combining together of various processes into a social whole, only by sapping the original sources of all wealth -- the soil and the labourer.” – Karl Marx (Capital, 1867)

“The core dynamic of the capitalist system is the accumulation process, a process in which a portion of the profits reaped through the sale of goods and services is reinvested, swelling the capital stock, incorporating new technologies in the process, and permitting larger sales and profits in the future.” –Victor D. Lippit (Capitalism,  2006)

Global economic stratification is not a random phenomenon as “stratification by class, country, gender, race and other social categories predates the contemporary rise of supraterritoriality by several generations or even many centuries” (Scholte, 235).  When considering that the basic premise of capitalism is that an entity must have capital to generate capital through reinvestment to generate further capital, it is important to recognize that “the modern history of capital dates from the creation in the 16th century of a world-embracing commerce and a world-embracing market” (Marx, Das Capital).  The origins of global economic stratification originated from the 16th century and accelerated with industrialization, first within the state and later with developed global stratification beginning with colonialism and the transatlantic slave trade.  From a historical perspective, it can be argued that the capital generated from colonial exploitation and the transatlantic slave trade was eventually consolidated through cyclic reinvestment of generated capital from those forms of colonial exploitation and reinvested in new technologies to magnify capital accumulation through exploitation and production.  As industrialization and new technologies evolved, economic stratification within the state and across the international stage was elevated because the exploited domestic capital-less working masses and exploited states had only their labor and natural resources to generate capital while the colonizing state and the private sector capitalist with means of production could continuously reinvest generated capital into new technological means of production, exploitation, and military weaponry.

As we look at domestic stratification within the United States, “By 1991 the richest 10 per cent of the US population owned 83.2 per cent of assets” (Scholte, 238).  This stratification phenomenon is not exclusive to the United States, but is a characteristic of most states with capitalist structure or tendencies.  In Russia the “richest fifth of the population saw its proportion of national income rise from 32.7 per cent in 1990 to 46.7 per cent in 1997, while the poorest fifth had its share decline over the same period from 9.8 to 6.2 per cent” and “in the early 1990s the wealthiest fifth of the population in Brazil earned 26 times as much as the poorest fifth” (Scholte, 238).

Looking at the international stage, it can also be identified that factors of capital imperialism “have since the nineteenth century highlighted a purported inequitable stratification of countries”, especially after the end of World War II and the establishment of organizations such as the World Trade Organization/GATT (WTO), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the World Bank  (Scholte, 242).  The Bretton Woods organizations, in correlation with the WTO/GATT, began a shift in international imperialism from state on state colonial exploitation of natural resources to the imperial private sector exploitation of so-called Lesser Developed Countries (LDCs) through private sector globalization structurally enforced and stimulated by IMF and World Bank conditional loans which open up poorer states to foreign private sector investment through extraction of domestic natural resources and exploitation of cheap labor, especially with Multinational Corporations (MNCs) profiting from lower wage requirements in poorer states in order to maximize profit by moving “manufacturing from the North to the South and the East” (Scholte, 238).

The most powerful international government organizations (IGOs) and the most capital heavy Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) also contribute to global stratification among states.  One example for this argument is “the G7 governments currently control more than 45 per cent of votes on the IMF Executive Board, while 43 governments in Africa between them control less than 5 per cent” (Scholte, 244).

What are possible solutions to economic stratification within the state and on the international stage within economic globalization?  The first thing that must be considered in the basic concept of capitalism and that is the generation, accumulation and reinvestment of capital for further capital regeneration and accumulation.  This is an exploitative concept and the system of capital generation itself goes against any true altruist relief of stratification whether on the state level or international level.  Solutions to economic stratification within individual states are much more difficult to propose and implement because it requires analysis of the history of that state.  For instance, there are racial economic divides in the modern United States due American slavery.  In order to rectify the historical economic ramifications of slavery in the U.S., some sort of redistribution of wealth would have to be implemented.  Sadly, the United States government has not even issued an apology for slavery.  As for international stratification, perhaps former imperial powers that generated capital from the exploitation of colonial possessions should be held responsible, to some extent, for the conditions of their post-colonial possessions (such as Britain to Jamaica or Italy and Britain in the case of Somalia).

With centuries of capitalism and centuries of capital regeneration through exploitation and accumulation, evolving from colonial imperialism to imperialist globalization, there really is no clear cut solution to economic inequality among the most powerful capitalist states and exploited states.  Globalization is based on capital exploitation.    

Resources:

Marx, Karl.  1867.  Das Kapital: Volume One.  Accessed on November 28, 2013 from  http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/index.htm

Scholte, Jan. 2000. Globalization: a Critical Introduction. London, England: MacMillan.

Soft Authoritarianism - Russia


Soft authoritarianism is defined as “political control in which a combination of formal and informal mechanisms ensure the dominance of a ruling group or dominant party, despite the existence of some forms of political competition” (Kesselman, Krieger, and Joseph, 340).   Some scholars have assessed that Russia has fallen under the category of “soft authoritarianism” since 2008, “when Putin became prime minister” while also being elected as chairperson of the United Russia political party (Kesselman, Krieger, and Joseph, 356) . 

The Russian government structure is not vastly different from the United States.   The legislative branch is comprised of an upper and lower house, better known as the State Duma and the Federation Council.  While the State Duma, or Lower House, is “chosen by direct election”, the Federation Council, or Upper House, have members “appointed by heads of regional executive and representative organs” and this is one factor contributing to the “soft authoritarianism” label applied to the United Russia party. 

Another factor can be found in the link between president and prime minister.   The president appoints the prime minister “with the approval of the lower house of the parliament (State Duma)” (Kesselman, Krieger, and Joseph, 334).  The presidential post is limited to two consecutive terms, which changed from four year terms to six year terms in 2012, but there is no restriction on overall terms served.   This means that a president who has served two consecutive presidential terms can be re-elected to presidency after a member of his affiliated political party serves a term.    A prime example of the United Russia party control can be seen with Putin, who “recorded consistently high levels of popular support throughout his tenure and successfully managed the transition to his handpicked successor as president, Dmitry Medvedev, who won the 2008 presidential elections handily”, which resulted in Medvedev appointing Putin as Prime Minster (Kesselman, Krieger, and Joseph, 340) .  Before Putin’s re-election to presidency in 2012, Medvedev “announced at a party convention in Moscow that he would step aside for Mr. Putin, who served as president from 2000 to 2008 but was limited by the Constitution to two consecutive terms” and that he would assume the position prime minister after Putin’s re-election (Barry, 2011).  Putin has recently suggested that he may run for a fourth presidential term in 2018.

Another area of interest with Russia and the “soft authoritarianism” label is the fact that “partial or complete state ownership has remained fairly intact or even been restored after earlier privatization was carried out. (Kesselman, Krieger, and Joseph, 357).   A prime example of this would be Gazprom, the natural gas monopoly, in which the federal government controls just over 50 percent of the shares” and the fact that “Indirect state influence is also realized through the dominant ownership share in many regional TV channels by Gazprom-Media, a subsidiary of the state-controlled natural gas company” (Kesselman, Krieger, and Joseph, 358).

The following link is for a Bloomberg news report from this month that illustrates state control over Gazprom.


The following link is for a November 2013 new report that illustrates possible trouble between Putin and Medvedev, the current economic issues in Russia, and possible signs of future political and economic hard lining by Putin.



RESOURCES:

Barry, Ellen.  2011.  Putin Once More Moves to Assume Top Job in Russia.  New York Times, September 24, 2011.  Accessed on November 27, 2013.  http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/25/world/europe/medvedev-says-putin-will-seek-russian-presidency-in-2012.html?ref=dmitriamedvedev&_r=0

Mark Kesselman, Joel Krieger, and William Joseph.  2013. Introduction to Comparative Politics, 6th edition.  Boston, MA: Wadsworth.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Rise of IGOs and MNCs....and the Decline of the State


     As Samuel Huntington points out about democracy in his 1991 book entitled “The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century”, the development of Globalization has also occurred through historical waves which have increased the influence of some actors on the international stage, and reduced the influence of other actors.  Those specified historical waves or transitions favoring global economic consolidation, have occurred in conjunction with technological evolutions and with wars such as World War I, World War II, The Cold War, and now the so-called Global War on Terror.  The result of globalization has been the rapid increase in influence for Intergovernmental Organizations (IGOs) and multi-national corporations (MNCs) and the global economic system, with a notable decline in influence for individual states.  Since the main emphasis of most non-government organizations (NGOs) is to provide information in support of IGOs, I view the majority of fluctuations in these spheres of influence in direct correlation with the main international IGOs and MNCs.

     IGOs such as the United Nations have gained considerable influence on the international stage during the decades following the conclusion of World War II because “`international organizations' have developed into `global governance agencies' with a certain autonomy from states” (Scholte, 22).  The treaty organization of the United Nations, establishing international democracy aimed to correct the true equality flaws of the League of Nations, was the second attempt at international democracy and a regulated global economy.  The United Nations made improvements on the prior League of Nations by providing the five permanent member-states of the UN Security Council with a veto power that succeeded in basically establishing a collective international hegemony among the most powerful allied states after World War II.  The structure of the UN Security Council allows it to implement action against non-compliant or accused aggressor states through collective actions ranging from unified economic sanctions to collective military intervention. 

One of the most important factors concerning the increase of international influence among IGOs is the interconnectivity of globalization.  The World Trade Organization, which can economically isolate non-member or non-compliant states through consolidated trade restrictions and sanctions, is predominantly comprised of members of the United Nations.  Whether politically or militarily, international power under globalization rests on the accumulation of capital, and IGOs such as the United Nations and the WTO would not be able to wield such international influence if not for the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which establishes international currency exchange rates binding states to global trade and debt, and the World Bank, which issues conditional capital loans to so-called lesser developed countries (LCDs) in order to bring these LCDs into the global economy and to provide access for foreign private sector investment and exploitation of natural resources to include cheap labor.  In such an international web of binding capitalism, private sector multi-national corporations have also grown in international strength due to the fact that “states cannot tame the tyranny of global corporations” (Scholte, 32).  Due to international and regional trade agreements such as the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), private sector corporations are able to manufacture in lesser developed states with lower wage requirements and maximize profits by selling to consumer states with higher wage requirements, which in many cases is the origin point of the corporation itself. 

The international entrenchment of capitalist globalization, the Bretton Woods organizations, and the consolidated power of the United Nations have all contributed to the diminished amount of regulating power that the traditional territorial state has over the private sector corporations and the rise of IGOs and MNCs has caused many analysts to link “the growth of global relations to `the diminished nation-state', `the decline of the nation-state' and `the retreat of the state' (Scholte, 21).  It is this phenomenon of economic relations that has diminished the individual power of the state, and the main reason that this individual influence has been diminished is because a great majority of individual states are intertwined into the global economic system; meaning that they are unable to subsist economically if isolated from the global economy or are already enslaved under international debt through the World Bank or IMF.  The counter argument to this view is that “a state could, if it wished, extricate itself from global relations”, but this is not a realistic argument and at this juncture in international globalization, economic independence from the global economy would not be viable for a majority of states, especially post-colonial states, and certainly not a permanent option for any state (Scholte, 21).

Resources

Huntington, Samuel. 1991.  The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press.

Scholte, Jan. 2000. Globalization: a Critical Introduction. London, England: MacMillan, 21-33.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Territorialism and Capital Globalization


     The multi-faceted evolution of the international stage to Globalization has had a drastic transitional impact on territorialism since the 17th century.  When looking at historical perceptions of territory, it must be considered that “no scholarly research undertaken a thousand years ago made reference to bounded territorial spaces” (Scholte, 57).  In addition, the origins of the modern state was born from Westphalian sovereignty, and territorial boundaries were generally not recognized until “the high tide of colonialism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries” (Scholte, 57).  This evolutionary stage in territorialism was concurrent with an evolution in manufacturing and trading technologies with “the growth of mercantile and industrial capitalism, and the rise of national identities” (Scholte, 57).  Analyzing the historical rise of territorialism closely, it is important to acknowledge that “mercantile and industrial activity that dominated capitalism during this period operated almost exclusively in territorial space” (Scholte, 57).

     It is evident that the creation of territorialism was an important transition in international identities caused greatly by advancements in technology and the rise of Capitalism. It is also important to analyze and identify the current declining transitions of territorialism that have occurred, and continue to occur, due to factors in the expansion and entrenchment of capital globalization.  The weakening of territorial emphasis is evident when considering “significant parts of capitalism now operate with relative autonomy from territorial space” and “old intellectual frameworks cannot adequately address the issues of distributive justice”, two examples that have traditionally been enforced by territorial states (Scholte, 58).  No area provides a stronger example of territorial decline than the area of global economics, with a global yearly foreign-exchange turnover of $450 trillion dollars, several trillion U.S. dollars' worth of offshore bank deposits, $60 trillion dollars in annual trans-border movements of securitized funds, 44,500 trans-border companies with collective annual sales of $7 trillion dollars, and over 250 multilateral regulatory institutions (Scholte, 59).  In the age of globalization, capital is able to flow across territorial borders with ease due to international currency exchange rates set by the International Monetary Fund.

     While the consolidation of global capitalism has weakened territorialism, by no means is territorialism dead.  States still control “territorial borders, continue to exert considerable influence on flows of merchandise trade, investment and migration” (Scholte, 59).  In contrast to the capital flow across state borders, many economic exchange methods such as “currencies, credit cards and other money forms have restricted circulation within a given territorial space” ((Scholte, 59).  One of the most interesting points of sustainment for territorialism is the way states strengthen their military powers, or their closest allies, by purchasing “technologies like supersonic aircraft, missile rockets, radar and spy satellites” (Scholte, 60).  In many cases, states such as the United States will issue large sums of capital in the form of military aid to foreign state allies with the requirement placed on the recipient to purchase military technology from corporations within United States territory. 

     The international stage presents a very complex and ever transitioning power structure.  The emergence of territorialism can be argued to have been an international trend influenced by technological advancements and evolving capitalist interests and exploitation, and should be considered a trend that is not a permanent one in past or present format.  Territorial states have weakened over the past few decades to become secondary actors on a capitalist international stage dominated by intergovernmental agencies, non-government organizations often private sector in nature, and international trade organizations.  While the current trend on the international stage appears to be the weakening of territorialism in the face of global private sector capitalism, future trends of territorialism are uncertain and will certainly be influenced by new technologies, possible conflicts, possible territorial or global revolutions, and new forms of economics and government.

Resources

Scholte, Jan. 2000. Globalization: a Critical Introduction. London, England: MacMillan, 57-61.

 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Arab Spring and Waves of Democracy: Diamond and Huntington


     There is no way to determine the likelihood of successful democratic longevity for transitional Arab states based off of the generalized theories of Larry Diamond, due to a lack of consideration for exterior factors to states in transition, along with foreign influence and instigation in domestic matters of transitional states by capitalist powers.  While Diamond presents a theoretical model of nine requirements for democracy, he tends to possess a bias toward pro-western democracy and ignores the effects of post-colonial imperialism on states in inorganic transition.  Samuel Huntington, on the other hand, uses a more historical model of analysis in his theory that democracy has been spread through historical waves and provides a basis for more sound speculation that these states will indeed transition to democracies similar to the previous state transitions contained in the first three waves.

Diamond puts forth nine points that he argues are required for any democracy.  The most important requirement is that state power should be held by elected officials, not sub-groups, such as a military, that would rule by power and not be required to answer to the population.  In his 2007 paper ‘Promoting Democracy’ for the Solarium II Project, Diamond wasn’t very critical of the way that the United States turned its back on the democratic processes in Palestine, Lebanon, and Egypt when the desired results were not achieved (Diamond, 2007), nor could he have predicted that the U.S. would economically and politically support a military coup in Egypt in 2012 after the Muslim Brotherhood had won democratic elections.  Throughout his many dissertations and articles, Diamond failed to realistically focus on exterior factors such as the annual two billion dollars a year in military aid that the U.S. provided Mubarak’s dictatorship from its Camp David peace treaty with Israel, funding which has continued even after the military coup in Egypt during the initial so-called “Arab Spring” and still continues today.  Diamond also lists other requirements for democracy: constrained executive power, the support of non-violent opposition in free elections, the elimination of discrimination, freedoms of expression in opinions and speech, freedom of media, the political equality of citizens, and laws protecting the human rights of citizens.  How can the Arab world take claims of human rights by the most powerful self-proclaimed democratic states as anything except hypocrisy when the U.S. constantly flouts its UN Security Council veto against any UN resolution condemning human rights violations committed by Israel against the Palestinians?  Diamond’s theories on democracy offer no pretext to the future of these Arab states as he continuously paints the tired good-versus-evil picture of capitalist propaganda: representative democracy.

     Huntington’s democratic waves offer historical basis for determining the future of regional democracy in the Arab region.  Huntington points out important characteristics of democratic waves such as industrialization and decolonization, and World War I in the first wave; with further decolonization, economic consolidation, and international democracy imposed through the United Nations after World War II anchoring the second wave (Huntington, 1991).

It is Huntington’s third wave that seems to slightly shift focus from the patterns of the first and second waves, and the primary missing link seems to be the importance of the Cold War and the economic strangulation of the Soviet Union.  In each of the three waves, international capitalism gained a stronger global hold in the aftermath of war: World War I, World War II, and the Cold War.  The second wave, with the creation of the Bretton Woods monetary organizations and the United Nations, was the most important wave, or critical juncture, because it accelerated the decolonization process, in most cases leaving post-colonial states under some form of democracy after colonial withdrawal, and allowed the majority of those post-colonial states entry into the GATT/World Trade Organization.  With the major capitalist states and their post-colonial properties bound by the GATT/World Trade organization, it was only a matter of time before the Soviet Union fell to economic strangulation, which began the third wave of incorporating post-Soviet bloc states, now transitioning to democracy, into the global capitalist economy.  This historic third wave may have never occurred if the Marshall Plan, through World Bank and IMF capital, would not have resurrected a war-torn European economy to strengthen the second wave.  In addition, Huntington doesn’t give enough credit to the waves of technological advancements that run concurrent to these democracy-creating economic consolidation periods where accumulation of capital resulted in development of military technological advancements.  In the aftermath of the so-called Arab Spring, scholars such as Carl Gershman attempted to identify transitional Arab states as a fourth democratic wave and this might be an accurate assessment that seems to follow the patterns of the first three waves in which capitalist wars stretched the reaches of the global capitalist market.  Currently, globalization is attempting to stretch and enslave one of the final unfettered frontiers under the guise of the global War on Terror and ideologies of democracy.  The fourth wave may be imminent.

Resources

Diamond, Larry. “Between Democracy and Stability in the Middle East: Defining Priorities.” Remarks to the Weinberg Founders Conference, Washington Institute for Near East Policy, October 17, 2004.

Diamond, Larry. “Building Democracy after Conflict: Lessons from Iraq.” Journal of Democracy 16, no. 1 (January 2005): 9-23.

Diamond, Larry.  “Prepared Statement for the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations” Statement on the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank: Administration Policy and Reform Priorities Hearing Before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Washington, D.C. May 8, 2001.

Diamond, Larry. “Promoting Democracy as a Key Element of a Smart Long-Term Strategy to Undermine, Isolate and Ultimately Defeat Radical Islamic Terrorism.” Paper presented for the Solarium II Project of the Center for a New American Security Meeting, October 23, 2007.

Diamond, Larry. “Promoting Democracy in Post-Conflict and Failed States: Lessons and Challenges” Paper presented at the National Policy Forum on Terrorism, Security, and America’s Purpose, Washington, D.C. September 6-7, 2005

Gresham, Carl. 2011. “The Fourth Wave.” The New Republic, March 14, 2011, http://www.newrepublic.com/article/world/85143/middle-east-revolt-democratization

Huntington, Samuel. 1991.  The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Capital Globalization and Syria

The impact of globalization has an incisive impact of security at the individual, state, regional, and systematic levels, and that impact does not always produce a climate of harmony or collective agreement. In most occasions since the end of War World II and the establishment of the UN Security Council veto, especially after the demise of the Soviet Union and the eastward expansion of capital globalization, the most powerful of the industrialized states in the Security Council have generally been on the same page when it comes to so-called security issues, which usually holds global economic benefits for states and the private sector, that require military intervention. The case with the civil war in Syria has not been so cut and dry, and economic and political interests have been split within the permanent members of the UN Security Council in a way that has been reminiscent of the last years of the League of Nations.

Individual level:

As in any similar scenario, a civil war is a serious threat to the citizens of a state, and in the case of the Syrian Civil War “more than 115,000 people have been killed in Syria's two-and-a-half-year-old civil war, including tens of thousands of soldiers, rebels and civilians” has been reported by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights [1]. This situation is greatly aggravated when foreign industrialized states, permanent members of the UN Security Council, and the private sector corporations within their borders, are arming different sides of the domestic civil conflict. One recent example was apparent when “Russia’s state arms exporter Rosoboronexport (ROE)” lost a deal with the U.S. after it “was revealed that the company was still supplying arms to Syria”[2]. On the other side of the spectrum, the U.S. has been arming Syrian opposition groups in order to weaken the Assad regime. According to a September 2013 report by the Washington Post, “the CIA has begun delivering weapons to rebels in Syria, ending months of delay in lethal aid that had been promised by the Obama administration [3].

State level:

The civil conflict in the Syrian state, intensified if not perpetuated by foreign industrialized states with economic and political interests in establishing a new regime or maintaining the current regime in the region, has caused physical and economic destruction to the state. Before the Syrian war “unemployment was below 10 percent; now every second Syrian is without a job” and “overall economic costs of the war already surpass the [country's] annual economic output”, not to mention economic investment in Syria has plummeted [4]. Of course, regardless of which regime controls Syria after the conflict dies, the IMF and World Bank will be prepared to issue the victorious regime so-called humanitarian loans in order to open the Syrian state to foreign private sector investment (exploitation).

Systematic level:

The United Nations Security Council works well enough when the economic and political interests of the Permanent members of the UN Security Council are on the same page (or in a majority), but reminiscent of the League of Nations, it does not provide international security when the member states are at odds concerning economic and political interests.

1. Reuters, “Syria Death Toll Tops 115,000, Group Says,” Huffington Post, October 1, 2013, accessed November 17, 2013, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/01/syria-death-toll_n_4022414.html

2. Christopher Haress, “Russian Arms Deals: US Scraps Plan To Buy 15 Russian Helicopters Amid Syrian Disagreement,” International Business Times, November 15, 2013, accessed on November 17, 2013, http://www.ibtimes.com/russian-arms-deals-us-scraps-plan-buy-15-russian-helicopters-amid-syrian-disagreement-1472372

3. Ernesto Londono & Greg Miller, “U.S. Weapons Reaching Syrian Rebels,” Washington Post, September 11, 2013, accessed on November 17, 2013, http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2013-09-11/world/41972742_1_lethal-aid-syrian-rebels-chemical-weapons

4. Hilke Fischer, “Civil War Shatters Syrian Economy,” DW, October 31, 2013, accessed November 17, 2013, http://www.dw.de/civil-war-shatters-syrian-economy/a-17196882

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Culture and State Development: Japan and France


Instead of cultural explanations on how states develop, I would have to focus more emphasis on the spread of political ideologies through military intervention and capital trade, especially after the technological quickening of the 19th century concerning expanded sea navigation, trade, and military conquest. I support this theory with the fact that Japan’s first exposure and transitional assimilation to a parliamentary government, was after “the forcible entry in 1853 and 1854 of a small flotilla of American warships under the command of Commodore Matthew C. Perry into a bay some 160 kilometers (100 miles) southwest of Edo” (Kesselman, Krieger & Joseph, 196).

It would appear that Japanese culture has had a greater, and more consolidating, impact on its state policies today than French culture has implemented on modern French policies, which have long been incorporated into the various European cultures. Two differences of note would be geographic location and imperialist history. Japan is an island in the Pacific, isolated to some extent from mass immigration of foreign cultures, and France is located in Europe, sharing borders with Spain, Italy, Belgium, Switzerland, and Germany. France has not only engaged in imperialism and participated in wars highlighting religion, but has been occupied by foreign powers several times through history (England occupied territories in the 1400s, Russians occupied territory in the 1800s, and Germany occupied territory during World War II). The only time that Japan was occupied by a foreign state was after World War II, and that was by the United States, but Japan, through importation and trade, has underwent cultural influence from Korea and China in “religion, literature, law, architecture, and fine arts” to include Buddhism and the teachings of Confucius  (Kesselman, Krieger & Joseph, 195).

Japan does not have to deal with a multiplicity of ethnic groups and the history of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. As the text book states, Japan is 99.87% composed of Japanese (Kesselman, Krieger & Joseph, 192 ). Prior to the 1800s, Japan maintained a “centuries-old official policy that banned unauthorized foreigners from entering Japanese territory” (Kesselman, Krieger & Joseph, 196). France, on the hand, claims that 76.9% of their citizens are “French born”, but that does not paint an accurate diversity of ethnic groups, sometimes in political conflict, that have resulted from centuries of colonialism, occupation, and the international African holocaust (Kesselman, Krieger & Joseph, 94). The religions in France, mainly the three Abrahamic religions, are also more diverse, and conflicting in ideological nature, than religion in Japan. Since France has been historically nationalistic within the European stage, an example of domestic cultural conflict can be seen in the fact that recently “the French government imposed a national dress code” revealing “insecurity about French national identity and the relation of Islam”  (Kesselman, Krieger & Joseph, 92). France is “deeply divided by social, economic, and cultural cleavages” and this influence and turbulence more than likely has been a cause for the various transitions and multiple political parties in French government over modern history (Kesselman, Krieger & Joseph, 102).

The following link is a news video concerning the domestic French ban on the Islamic burqa or hijab from 2009 which showed the nationalistic side of French domestic policies over domestic cultural values:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-OerhhsbvZ4

References:

Mark Kesselman, Joel Krieger, and William Joseph, Introduction to Comparative Politics, 6th edition.  Boston, MA: Wadsworth, 2013.
 
 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Manipulation of Representative Democracy - The Lobby


Despite implemented ‘checks and balances’ built into the structure, representative democracy, from the legislative branch to the executive, is one of the most easily manipulated forms of government in existence and is fertile soil for the capital influence of private sector corporations and foreign governments. With two main political parties, resembling two opposing groups of football fans, often stalemated over domestic legislature and the next election, corporate and foreign interest goals are often accomplished through bi-partisan lobbying of both branches.

For our brief case study, we will focus on the foreign state government of Israel and the powerful pro-Israeli lobby in Washington which is a compilation of many domestic lobbying organizations, but led by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. The pro-Israeli lobby AIPAC basically takes marching orders from the foreign state of Israel and works diligently, with capital and political clout, to ensure that enough votes within the Senate and House (and the assigned sub-committees for the proposed interest), along with support or silence from the current presidential administration, is obtained. With this being explained, let’s take a look at how the foreign state government of Israel has 1) secured irrational amounts of annual military aid (over 3 billion dollars each year for decades) despite a growing debt to GDP ratio in the United States, 2) has secured the U.S. veto in the UN Security Council for all resolutions critical of the government of Israel, 3) has pushed foreign economic sanctions, and pushed for U.S. military regime removal, against states such as Iraq (which was a success for Israel) and currently Syria and Iran. AIPAC spreads influence on all members of Congress to support Israel, both members of the democrat and republican parties. In order to provide a picture of how capital contributions by lobbyists, whether to the foreign or private sector, impact foreign and domestic policy making in Congress, the following link is a report written by Janet McMahon of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs and provides several charts on campaign contributions by the pro-Israeli lobby:

http://www.wrmea.org/pdf/201210pac_charts.pdf

In addition, AIPAC provides fully-paid trips to Israel for both democrats and republicans. In August 2013, Democrat Joseph Kennedy, a member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Steny Hoyer, the second-ranking member of the House Democratic Leadership, along with “36 other members of Congress” received an AIPAC funded trip to Israel during the August recess. In the same month, a “delegation of 25 Republicans” was led on their free trip by Eric Cantor, the House majority leader. Who could forget the 2012 AIPAC funded trip when Republican representative Kevin Yoder decided to skinny dip in the Sea of Galilee (Steinhauer)? The year 2012 was a very successful year for AIPAC funded congressional trips with “more the 80 members of the House” partaking in the free trip (Steinhauer). Through bi-partisan influencing within Congress, the foreign state of Israel is able to achieve passage on proposed U.S. legislation such as the United States-Israel Strategic Partnership Act of 2013. In order to understand which U.S. policy makers are influenced (greased) most by the foreign lobby, it is recommended that Americans analyze which ranking members of Congress are usually present and giving speeches at each year’s annual AIPAC conference. Here are a few links from years past:

President Obama:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VF9GHmyskhg

Mitt Romney:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g_exRRS1Kig

Steny Hoyer:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rKEEaX12QAw

Eric Cantor:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CEVPPGhdqek

John McCain:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2mYX8LxONDI

The list goes on and on, and it should also be mentioned that nearly every presidential candidate fears the pro-Israeli lobby so much that they go out of their way to visit the foreign state of Israel, to make promises, during the presidential campaigning process. Yet, lobbyist organizations such as AIPAC do not wait for a presidential or congressional election in order to buy and influence future legislative votes. They are constantly scouring the colleges of America for future leaders. The following link provides a video of the AIPAC lobbyist organization recruiting future government leaders throughout the colleges of the United States:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XGoLrbJU7mk

http://israelcampusbeat.org/archives/2404/2000-faces-of-aipac/#mc_signup

Besides representing a foreign state government, the pro-Israeli lobby machine is not very different from private sector lobbyist manipulation when it comes to impacting legislation under representative democracy. Representative democracy is easily manipulated by capital influence, whether foreign or corporate, and result in policy-makers placing foreign or private sector interests before the interests of the United States and American citizens.

Although, it must be admitted that one of the reasons why this system of government is so vulnerable to manipulation is due to the apathy of the American people. Every four years, a good portion of Americans rush out to cast a presidential ballot which is basically decided by the Electoral College, but extremely low voter turn-out rates for Congressional elections, which determine policy votes, are the usually the trend across the United States. Last month, Cory Booker was elected to a Congressional seat in an election where “Less than one in four registered voters showed up to cast ballots” (Munsen).

Perhaps Capitalism and Free Trade would work better under a true democracy.

References:

AIPAC. “Our Mission.” American Israel Public Affairs Committe. Last modified November  13, 2013. Accessed November 14, 2013. http://www.aipac.org/about/mission

Associated Press. “Representative Kennedy Traveling to Israel with U.S. Congressional Delegation.” WBZ CBS Boston, August 4, 2013. Accessed November 14, 2013. http://boston.cbslocal.com/2013/08/04/rep-kennedy-traveling-to-israel-with-u-s-congressional-delegationAssociated Press. “U.S. Republicans in Israel: We Are Troubled by Obama Policy.” Haaretz, August 6, 2013.  Accessed November 14, 2013.  http://www.haaretz.com/news/u-s-republicans-in-israel-we-are-troubled-by-obama-policy-1.281512

Munsen, John. “Low Voter Turnout in N.J. Special Senate Election Shows Need to Change State Succession Law.” The Star-Ledger, October 20, 2013. Accessed on November 14, 2013.  http://www.nj.com/times-opinion/index.ssf/2013/10/editorial_low_voter_turnout_in.html

Sharpe, Jeremy.  "U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel."  Congressional Research Service, April 11, 2013.  Accessed November 14, 2013.  http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/mideast/RL33222.pdf

Steinhauer, Jennifer. “A Recess Destination with Bipartisan Support: Israel and the West Bank.” New York Times, August 15, 2012. Accessed on November 14, 2013. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/16/us/politics/16congress.html

Steinhauer, Jennifer. “House Member is Rebuked after Nude Swim in Israel.” New York Times, August 20, 2012. Accessed on November 14, 2013. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/21/us/politics/after-skinny-dipping-in-israel-rep-kevin-yoder-is-rebuked.html?_r=0

United States Congress.  “United States-Israel Strategic Partnership Act of 2013.” United States Congress.  Accessed November 14, 2013.  http://beta.congress.gov/bill/113th/house-bill/938/text
 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Brief Note on Capital Globalization,Technology, and Human Resources

One of the most vital areas of the global environment is the human population, and globalization has had, and continues to have, a major impact on our brothers and sisters, the human resource. While the correlation between globalization and technology is evident enough, it is important to further investigate sub-correlations that have made globalization possible in order to impact the population of human resources within the environment (at the hands of capitalism); the sub-correlation of technology.

“The introduction of the telegraph in 1837, the telephone in 1876, the wireless in 1895, the aeroplane in 1903, the television in 1926, the liquid-fuelled rocket in 1927, the coaxial cable in the 1930s, and the digital computer in 1946 were all key events in the period of incipient globalization”, and these archaic examples do not even begin to describe the economic technological boom of the past fifty years [1]. While it is accepted that “technological innovations have provided much of the infrastructure for globalization”; the focus of technology and globalization usually applies praiseworthy credit to the developments in computer technologies, telecommunication fields, and shipping methods as positive reinforcements into the structure of globalization. 
So how does technology influence globalization’s impact on the global human population (the environments most precious resource)? Most students of international and domestic politics understand that the general rule of capitalism is that capital is needed to generate capital. Evolution stages in technological advancements greatly impact capitalist societies, whether globally or domestically, and in turn impacts the human resources that generate capital production and profits. One historical example of this impact was the industrial revolution in the United States and the economic divide between the North, where new industrial production technology was greatest, and the South, where agricultural production still dominated. The result of the new stage of industrial technology reduced the mandatory requirements of human labor, and can be argued to have made domestic slavery an outdated mode of capitalist production. Considering new technologies that reduce the requirement of human labor against a continuously growing human population under global capitalism where capital generally becomes consolidated under a small ownership group, it is only natural to see the end result of economic inequality among the human population (domestically within state borders or globally).

[1] Scholte, Jan. Globalization : A Critical Introduction. New York, NY, USA: Palgrave Macmillan, 2000. p 100. Http://site.ebrary.com/lib/apus/Doc?id=2002945&ppg=120

[2} Scholte, Jan. Globalization : A Critical Introduction. New York, NY, USA: Palgrave Macmillan, 2000. p 101. Http://site.ebrary.com/lib/apus/Doc?id=2002945&ppg=121

The Shift From Colonialism and The Evolution of Globalization: The State, The Private Sector, The Hegemon of Treaty

The connections of the current international system of globalization are a result of centuries of political, military, and economic evolution, and consolidation, which began with the state actor, or empires such as the Holy Roman Empire and the Ottoman Empire. States, as main actors, have always conducted regional trade, as far as technology would allow reasonable trade boundaries, and that trade capability vastly expanded during the age of European colonialism and the trans-Atlantic slave trade as new technologies became available which expanded sea trade.

From the 1400s onward, states increased agendas of imperialism, often through colonialism. One example of this imperialism was during the height of the Holy Roman Empire when Portugal was awarded a trade monopoly on the West coast of Africa, via Papal Bull Dum Diversas, to supply Spanish colonies in the Caribbean with slave labor in which to exploit natural resources for trade. After the British Empire rose to new heights after breaking with the Holy Roman Empire over Protestantism, the British Empire took international exploitation and colonial trade to new levels of imperialism through territories such as North America and, the Jewel of the British crown, India. Even leading into World War I, the European states were conducting a colonial scramble in Africa.

We can actually see the 20th century evolution from state sponsored colonialism, in which the state burdened colonial expenses, toward private sector imperialism backed by collective state entities such as the League of Nations, and later the United Nations, when we look at the independence dates of post-colonial states, mostly known today by organizations such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund as Lesser Developed Nations.

The following examples of independence dates for post-colonial British territories are just a few in order to illustrate the timeframe trend:

India in 1947, (which includes the partitioning and creation of Pakistan), Burma – 1948, Jamaica – 1962, Kenya 1963, Sierra Leone – 1961, Singapore 1959, Uganda – 1962, Trinidad – 1962, Kuwait – 1962, Barbados – 1966

At the conclusion of the First World War, the League of Nations was established, with internal structural errors, to provide the blueprint for globalization. Those internal structural errors were corrected after the Second World War by allowing the victorious states permanent Security Council status with veto capability. In the aftermath of World War II, the GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) was established (which would eventually become the World Trade Organization).

“At the conclusion of World War II, twenty-three countries, led primarily by the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom, negotiated the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade” [1]

The winners of World War II set the international structure for globalization and instantly began to allow their colonial possessions independence in order to bring them into the global economy via the GATT, World Bank (originally established as the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development for conditional loans to post-colonial and war-torn states), and the International Monetary Fund (which established international currency exchange rates). One interesting note about World Bank and IMF loans is that, in addition to containing conditional terms which opens up recipient states to foreign private sector investment, the loans are issued in the strongest currencies and required to be repaid through the weak currency of the loan recipient state.

Once the international global market was firmly established, the Cold World between the Capitalist U.S and the Communist Soviet Union (which bolstered incredible private sector profits in arms production) kept the international capital system from global expansion. Looking back to the collapse of the Soviet Union, you can see the World Bank issuing loans to former Soviet bloc states and the admittance of those newly “independent” states into the GATT/World Trade Organization.

The overall difference between international connections in the past and modern globalization is that prior to the World War I and II, individual states were the primary actors. In modern globalization, collective international organizations such as the United Nations, the IMF, the World Bank, and the World Trade Organization maintain international systematic hegemony. Any state that does not assimilate into the global market can be punished by collective international (or, as the U.S. likes, unilateral) sanctions. The primary actor role shifted from the individual state to international private sector organizations that utilize the collective military hegemon of the most powerful states (linked by international treaties) to bring non-compliant states and states suffering from instability into capitalist market compliance (because foreign capital exploitation of natural resources is impossible under political instability).

[1] Brookings Institute. The WTO and GATT: A Principled History, p. 11. http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/press/books/2009/selfenforcingtrade/selfenforcingtrade_chapter.pdf

Two states that share a connection under globalization: Jamaica and Barbados

Two states that are connected through the IMF and the international global economy are Jamaica and Barbados, both post-colonial possessions of the British Empire that were allowed independence in the 1960s. Both states currently hold debt to GDP ratios well above 100% and both states have been recipients of multiple IMF loans. Jamaica recently entered into a new agreement with the IMF; Barbados is currently being pressured to enter into an new agreement.

1. U.S. and World Report news report listing the top 10 states with the highest GDP to Debt ratios:

http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2011/01/28/the-10-countries-with-the-most-debt

2. 2009 Article from the Jamaican Gleaner on the threat of downgrading the Jamaican international credit rating if that state did not secure an additional IMF loan:

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20090820/business/business1.html

3. IMF Press release on the latest 2013 IMF agreement forced on Jamaica:

http://www.imf.org/external/np/sec/pr/2013/pr13150.htm

4. Barbados received “financial assistance from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank” in 1990. Previously, loans were issued to Barbados in 1977 and 1982-83 (p.42). The following report by Dr. Andrew Downs provides a brief history.

http://www.lacea.org/WEB/country_studies/barbados.pdf

5. The last link is a November 2013 article in the Jamaican Gleaner on the pressures being placed on Barbados to accept, yet another, IMF agreement.

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/extra/article.php?id=2552

Many pro-globalization positions will use Brazil and India and positive examples of globalization, but, it appears the economic inequality that usually accompanies capitalism is present in both states. 
In India, 10% of the population owns over 53% of domestic wealth while the bottom 80% battle of less than 30% (BBC News, 2007).  The following is from the same report: "About 35% of people live on less than US$1 a day. Poverty is at its worst in rural areas and is often accompanied by high levels of illiteracy and poor health.  Nationally, almost half of children suffer from malnourishment, although infant mortality rates have declined. Almost 60% of people in towns and 20% in rural areas do not have access to proper sanitation.  Despite such problems, India has seen overall poverty decline - a shift which has been accompanied by more general improvements to living standards."

In Brazil, the CIA World Factbook states that 21.4% of the population lives under the poverty level.  In addition to the CIA World Bank Factbook, I have listed a World Bank report below that show a "Gini coefficient of 0.59 in the distribution of household incomes per capita, Brazil has one of the highest levels of income inequality in the world: (p.11)

BBC News.  Key Facts: India Rising, January 22, 2007.  Accessed from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/6257057.stm

CIA World Factbook.  Brazil.  Accessed from https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/br.html

World Bank.  Inequality and Economic Development in Brazil.  Accessed from http://www-wds.worldbank.org/servlet/WDSContentServer/WDSP/IB/2004/10/05/000012009_20041005095126/Rendered/PDF/301140PAPER0Inequality0Brazil.pdf