Archive for the ‘Political Science’ Category
Brazil is still enjoying its honeymoon in Africa, says Oliver Stuenkel of the Global Public Policy Institute, a think-tank. Still, Brazil should learn from the mistakes of others, he says. With its prominence in mining, there is always a danger that Brazil is seen as a new colonial power. Though its presence is growing, it is still paltry compared with China’s. Unlike China, Brazil does not need Africa’s resources but is more interested in diversifying its markets. There is no construction in Europe—there is nothing left to build there, laughs OAS’s Africa head, Leonardo Calado de Brito. “Africa is the place to be.”
Academics, on average, lean to the left. A survey being released today suggests that they are moving even more in that direction.
Among full-time faculty members at four-year colleges and universities, the percentage identifying as “far left” or liberal has increased notably in the last three years, while the percentage identifying in three other political categories has declined. The data come from the University of California at Los Angeles Higher Education Research Institute, which surveys faculty members nationwide every three years on a range of attitudes.
In carving out a global role for the renminbi, Chinese policymakers are proceeding deliberately. In the words of the venerable Chinese proverb, they are “feeling for the stones while crossing the river.”
The authorities’ first step was to authorize Chinese companies to use the renminbi in cross-border trade settlements. As foreign firms exporting to China accepted payment in renminbi, the currency piled up in their bank accounts in Hong Kong. That led to the next step: Foreign firms wishing to invest in China were allowed to tap those deposits by issuing renminbi-denominated bonds, and eligible offshore financial institutions were permitted to invest renminbi funds in China’s interbank bond market.
Then, last summer, China announced plans to allow banks in Hong Kong to lend renminbi to companies in Shenzhen, opening that city financially to the rest of the world. The expectation is that if financial opening works in Shenzhen, it will be implemented more widely.
Finally, as a step toward making the renminbi a reserve currency, China signed currency-swap agreements with the Philippines, South Korea, Japan, and Australia. Meanwhile, Malaysia, Nigeria, and Chile have already acquired modest amounts of renminbi reserves. Other central banks are expected to follow.
Instead of trying to directly challenge American colleges—a daunting proposition, given the political power and public subsidies they possess—the new breed of tech start-ups will likely start by working in the unregulated private sector, where they’ll build what amounts to a parallel higher education universe. A few weeks after returning from the West Coast, I watched Eren Bali spend two hours in a Washington, D.C.-area conference room listening to government officials, regulators, and representatives of for-profit higher education corporations discuss the morass of accreditation rules and federal regulations that make it hard for entrepreneurs to compete directly with traditional schools. Finally, Bali raised his hand and politely said, in effect, I don’t understand why any of this matters. I can go online right now and get everything I need to learn—courses, textbooks, videos, other students to study with—for free. And if I need to know what someone else has learned, I can look at their Linked-In profile or their blog to find out.
At a certain point, probably before this decade is out, that parallel universe will reach a point of sophistication and credibility where the degrees—or whatever new word is invented to mean “evidence of your skills and knowledge”—it grants are taken seriously by employers. The online learning environments will be good enough, and access to broadband Internet wide enough, that you won’t need to be a math prodigy like Eren Bali to learn, get a credential, and attract the attention of global employers. Companies like OpenStudy, Kno, Quizlet, Chegg, Inigral, and Degreed will provide all manner of supportive services—study groups, e-books, flash cards, course notes, college-focused social networking, and many other fabulous, as-yet-un-invented things. Bali isn’t just the model of the new ed tech entrepreneur—he’s the new global student, too, finally able to transcend the happenstance of where he was born.
Our military organization today bears little relation to that known by any of my predecessors in peacetime, or indeed by the fighting men of World War II or Korea…. This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society. President Dwight Eisenhower, Farewell Address, 1961.
President Eisenhower made these observations on the eve of leaving office in 1961. Close on fifty years ago he warned of the dangers to America—heart, body, and soul—of a threat from the militarization of US social, economic, and political life. Little heeded, the concern he raised then has had two generations to work its work ever more surely than he foresaw. The consequence today is the militarization of our foreign policy and the dominance of the military in planning and implementing broad areas of domestic policy as well. It is, in effect, a slow motion coup in which increasingly military officers and military counsel dominates strategic thinking and significant parts of the political agenda, in a reversal of Clausewitz’s dictum that war is an extension of politics. Unlike most military coup d’etat, however, this is not the result of a small cabal of military officers plotting, ala Seven Days in May, to seize the government in a bold, overnight military take over. Instead, it has been years in the making and is the result of contributions from a broad spectrum of politicians, businessmen, think tanks and lobbyists, a complacent public, and the military responding to real and genuine threats to national survival for over 70 years. This is not a story, yet, of sinister conspirators. The question is, is there any way to undo what is done and walk back from a situation that so concerned Eisenhower for the fate of the country he served so long and so well.
The court hearing was remarkable for the thoroughness with which Justice Lynn Smith examined the ethical questions before her. She received expert opinions from leading figures on both sides of the issue, not only Canadians, but also authorities in Australia, Belgium, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The range of expertise included general medicine, palliative care, neurology, disability studies, gerontology, psychiatry, psychology, law, philosophy, and bioethics.
Many of these experts were cross-examined in court. Along with Taylor’s right to die, decades of debate about assistance in dying came under scrutiny.
While barriers to entry impose costs on all firms, the costs are more burdensome to newer and smaller operators. This is why existing firms often favor regulations. University of Chicago economist George Stigler won the Nobel Prize in economics for showing that regulatory agencies are routinely “captured” and used by the firms they are supposed to be regulating.
In the nineteenth century, the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) was famously captured by the railroads it was supposed to regulate. While the commission had been created to force railroad shipping rates down, railway men soon found that they could influence the commission and get it to force prices above what the competitive market would bear. In 1892, U.S. Attorney General Richard Olney explained this point to his former employer, a railway boss:
The Commission. . . is, or can be made, of great use to the railroads. It satisfies the popular clamor for a government supervision of the railroads, at the same time that that supervision is almost entirely nominal. Further, the older such a commission gets to be, the more inclined it will be found to take the business and railroad view of things. . . . The part of wisdom is not to destroy the Commission, but to utilize it.