It is impossible to deny that all of us underestimated the resurgence of India’s Congress party. It is also equally clear that undaunted by soaring heat and a long and exhausting campaign, roughly 420 million voters have produced the best possible outcome for India in what was the largest election of world history.
Multiple factors are always involved in producing a clear outcome in Indian elections, but these elections will be widely read as a moment of national redemption and renewal and a retreat, though not the end of, parochial political noise. India’s economic downturn and security dilemmas require political stability and national resolve. Whether that is why the electorate produced such an unexpected verdict in favor of the Congress alliance remains unclear, but the election results will take India in that direction.
The wisdom of the electorate is often congratulated for such results. Only with greater election statistics, which will come later, can we establish the existence of such wisdom. It is, however, beyond doubt that a rising power like India, located in a dangerous neighborhood, needs such luck. Both South Asia and the world will be a better place as a result.The victory of the Congress alliance needs to be put in historical perspective. Right since the birth of the Indian republic -- indeed, right since the freedom movement—India’s tallest leaders have always intuitively grasped what their greatest challenge was: how to stitch the nation’s diversities together.
It was called nation-building to begin with. Of late, it has come to be viewed as giving the various groups a share in the power structure.Historically, more than any other political organization, the Congress party has understood the centrality of this task. In terms of language, it was always federal, incorporating the various regional diversities into its internal structure. In terms of religion, it sought to bring Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Christians together.But in terms of castes within Hindu society, India’s divided majority community, the challenges have been unexpectedly formidable. The Congress sought to put the upper castes, middle castes and the ex-untouchable Dalits together, but sandwiched between the upper castes and Dalits and feeling uncomfortable with both, the middle castes, the largest demographic category of Indian society, started leaving the Congress in the 1950s and 1960s.
By the 1990s, the migration of middle castes from the Congress in much of Northern India was nearly complete. In two of India’s biggest states, Uttar Pradesh (UP) and Bihar, the Congress was decimated by the mid-1990s.
Once the middle castes and later the Dalits formed their own political parties, Muslims and the upper Hindu castes also did not wish to back a losing horse. They left the Congress, making its hold over power in Delhi extremely shaky.Basically, UP’s size is so huge that without substantial support in UP, it is extremely hard to form a stable government in Delhi.
The electoral revival of the Congress party in UP is the biggest news of these elections. It means a return of substantial parts of the Muslim community and upper castes, in addition to some middle castes. It also signifies weakening of lower caste parties that had begun to worry even those, who supported the ideology of social justice and greater power for lower castes. Unlike the plebeian parties of Southern India, the lower caste parties of UP, and also the neighboring Bihar, had become passionate advocates of a rather coarse form of identity politics. Arguing that “Robin Hoods” corrected social injustices on the ground, they openly celebrated “Robin Hoods”, inducted them in large numbers in their parties, and gave them offices.
Identity politics came to overwhelm law and order, governance and policy seriousness. The shock delivered to such parties in Northern India in these elections almost certainly represents new citizen aspirations for governance and development, not simply an embrace of caste identity.The defeat of the Communists, especially in West Bengal, also represents a triumph of national purpose. During 2004-2008, India’s Communists were noted for their resistance to economic reforms and nuclear deal.
It is one of the hidden transcripts of Indian politics that in West Bengal, the Communists also represented a regionalist aspiration. Right through the 20th century, Kolkata and Delhi had an uneasy relationship. Kolkata was the center of British India till 1912, when the capital moved to Delhi. Since then, Kolkata and Bengal in general have felt an increasing erosion of power.The victory of a Congress alliance in West Bengal brings Kolkata into the national mainstream for the first time in over three decades. Two of India’s historic cities—Kolkata and Delhi—will now have a much better conversation, a development worth applauding.Finally, these elections have boosted the fortunes of Rahul Gandhi as a national leader and deepened the anxieties of the BJP about its future. In a coming-of-age press conference two weeks ago, Rahul Gandhi made two arguments with clarity and passion.First, economic growth, he said, is a necessary (though not a sufficient) condition for poverty removal. No politician of consequence in India’s mass politics (as opposed to its elite politics) has made this argument openly on public stage for decades.
Second, he argued that internal elections were a pre-requisite for the revival of the Congress party, especially in UP but also elsewhere. For more than three decades, the discipline of political science has had a professional consensus on this point. It is striking to see a rising political figure agree so much with what the intellectuals and researchers have been saying.The rise of the Congress in UP is mostly due to Rahul Gandhi’s efforts. Many of the national gains of the Congress will also be attributed to his electoral campaign.
The Congress party now has a leader not only known in the country for the accident of his birth, but also one whose politics appear to be based on ideas and arguments. For a whole variety of reasons, combining mass appeal with serious arguments has not been easy in Congress politics for a long time. The Congress also has other younger-generation leaders of promise.In contrast, the BJP’s future appears to be very shaky. Its current leader is too old to have the energy to lead for long, and the next in line is Mr Modi, Chief Minister of the state of Gujarat. Mr Modi, a hero of Gujarat and of the right wing of the party, is a deeply divisive figure.
In March 2002, he presided over the greatest massacre of Muslims in independent India. The BJP’s future is unlikely to be bright, unless it gets rid of its anti-Muslim prejudice and becomes a Tory or Republican-style right-of-centre party. If Mr. Modi takes over the leadership of the BJP, this historical challenge is likely to be more elusive than ever.
The 2009 elections redeem a pluralist and inclusive view of India, defeating narrower visions. The elections also promise political stability. When the campaign began in March, it was hard to imagine such a benign outcome for the country, South Asian region and the international system.
The author is professor of political science at Brown University. His books include Ethnic Conflict and Civic Life: Hindus and Muslims in India, and Midnight’s Diaspora.
If financial crises were distributed along a bell curve—like traffic accidents or people’s heights—really big ones wouldn’t happen very often. When the hedge fund Long-Term Capital Management lost 44 percent of its value in August 1998, its managers were flabbergasted. According to their value-at-risk models, a loss of this magnitude in a single month was so unlikely that it ought never to have happened in the entire life of the universe. Just over a decade later, many more of us now know what it’s like to lose 44 percent of our money. Even after the recent stock-market rally, that’s about how much the Standard & Poor’s 500 index is down compared with October 2007.
Financial crises will happen. In the 1340s, a sovereign-debt crisis wiped out the leading Florentine banks of Bardi, Peruzzi and Acciaiuoli. Between December 1719 and December 1720, the price of shares in John Law’s Mississippi Company fell 90 percent. Such crashes can also happen to real estate: in Japan, property prices fell by more than 60 percent during the ’90s.
For reasons to do with human psychology and the failure of most educational institutions to teach financial history, we are always more amazed when such things happen than we should be. As a result, 9 times out of 10 we overreact. The usual response is to introduce a raft of new laws and regulations designed to prevent the crisis from repeating itself. In the months ahead, the world will reverberate to the sound of stable doors being shut long after the horses have bolted, and history suggests that many of the new measures will do more harm than good. The classic example is the legislation passed during the British South-Sea Bubble to restrict the formation of joint-stock companies. The so-called Bubble Act of 1720 remained a needless handicap on the British economy for more than a century.Human beings are as good at devising ex post facto explanations for big disasters as they are bad at anticipating those disasters. It is indeed impressive how rapidly the economists who failed to predict this crisis—or predicted the wrong crisis (a dollar crash)—have been able to produce such a satisfying story about its origins. Yes, it was all the fault of deregulation.
There are just three problems with this story. First, deregulation began quite a while ago (the Depository Institutions Deregulation and Monetary Control Act was passed in 1980). If deregulation is to blame for the recession that began in December 2007, presumably it should also get some of the credit for the intervening growth. Second, the much greater financial regulation of the 1970s failed to prevent the United States from suffering not only double-digit inflation in that decade but also a recession (between 1973 and 1975) every bit as severe and protracted as the one we’re in now. Third, the continental Europeans—who supposedly have much better-regulated financial sectors than the United States—have even worse problems in their banking sector than we do. The German government likes to wag its finger disapprovingly at the "Anglo Saxon" financial model, but last year average bank leverage was four times higher in Germany than in the United States. Schadenfreude will be in order when the German banking crisis strikes.We need to remember that much financial innovation over the past 30 years was economically beneficial, and not just to the fat cats of Wall Street. New vehicles like hedge funds gave investors like pension funds and endowments vastly more to choose from than the time-honored choice among cash, bonds and stocks. Likewise, innovations like securitization lowered borrowing costs for most consumers. And the globalization of finance played a crucial role in raising growth rates in emerging markets, particularly in Asia, propelling hundreds of millions of people out of poverty.The reality is that crises are more often caused by bad regulation than by deregulation. For one thing, both the international rules governing bank-capital adequacy so elaborately codified in the Basel I and Basel II accords and the national rules administered by the Securities and Exchange Commission failed miserably. It was the Basel system of weighting assets by their supposed riskiness that essentially allowed the Enronization of banks’ balance sheets, so that (for example) the ratio of Citigroup’s tangible on- and off-balance-sheet assets to its common equity reached a staggering 56 to 1 last year. The good health of Canada’s banks is due to better regulation. Simply by capping leverage at 20 to 1, the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions spared Canada the need for bank bailouts.
The biggest blunder of all had nothing to do with deregulation. For some reason, the Federal Reserve convinced itself that it could focus exclusively on the prices of consumer goods instead of taking asset prices into account when setting monetary policy. In July 2004, the federal funds rate was just 1.25 percent, at a time when urban property prices were rising at an annual rate of 17 percent. Negative real interest rates at this time were arguably the single most important cause of the property bubble.All of these were sins of commission, not omission, by Washington, and some at least were not unrelated to the very considerable political contributions and lobbying expenditures of the financial sector. Taxpayers, therefore, should beware. It is more than a little convenient for America’s political class to blame deregulation for this financial crisis and the resulting excesses of the free market. Not only does that neatly pass the buck, but it also creates a justification for . . . more regulation. The old Latin question is highly apposite here: Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?—Who regulates the regulators? Until that question is answered, calls for more regulation are symptoms of the very disease they purport to cure.
Five Weatherhead Center Undergraduate Associates were among several Harvard College seniors who received the Thomas T. Hoopes Prize for outstanding scholarly work or research this year. The winners of the prestigious prize include:Killian Clarke for his submission titled "Saying 'Enough': The Impact of Authoritarianism in Egypt on the Kefaya Movement"—nominated by Professor Jocelyn Viterna and Professor Emad Shahin.Ana Ines Mendy for her submission titled "The Origins of Dominican Anti-Haitianismo: The Effects of the Haitian Revolution on Dominican National Identity (1791-1801)"—nominated by Professor Vincent Brown.Noah Nathan for his submission titled "Institutional Change, Ethnic Identity, and Conflict in Northern Ghana"—nominated by Professor Nahomi Ichino.John Sheffield for his submission titled "The Anatomy of the Iron Fist: Police Violence in Democratic Latin America"—nominated by Professor Steven Levitsky.Leah Zamore for her submission titled "We Can No Longer Wait: The UN Refugee Agency and Involuntary Repatriation Refugees"—nominated by Jacqueline Bhabha.For a full list of the award recipients, please go to the original article on Harvard University's Gazettte.
For immigrants, politics can play a significant role in determining whether and how they assimilate. In Bringing Outsiders In, leading social scientists present individual cases and work toward a comparative synthesis of how immigrants affect—and are affected by—civic life on both sides of the Atlantic.
Just as in the United States, large immigrant minority communities have been emerging across Europe. While these communities usually make up less than one-tenth of national populations, they typically have a large presence in urban areas, sometimes approaching a majority. That immigrants can have an even greater political salience than their population might suggest has been demonstrated in recent years in places as diverse as Sweden and France. Attending to how local and national states encourage or discourage political participation, the authors assess the relative involvement of immigrants in a wide range of settings. Jennifer Hochschild and John Mollenkopf provide a context for the particular cases and comparisons and draw a set of analytic and empirical conclusions regarding incorporation.Download sample chapter: "Modeling Immigrant Political Incorporation" (PDF 80.84 KB) by Jennifer Hochschild and John Mollenkopf.
Industry representatives would have you believe that the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act enacted last month spells the end of the credit card as we know it. President Obama’s proposal last week to create a Consumer Financial Protection Agency to enforce the law has increased the industry’s concerns.
But the example of cards issued by credit unions puts the lie to these claims. Credit unions largely conform to the new rules already, while profitably maintaining the basic features that users know and love.The credit card act is under fire for limiting a number of fees commonly used in credit card contracts, like the charge for going over the credit limit and the increased interest rate that applies once a borrower has missed a payment. These changes might look like a boon for the average card user, but industry advocates claim that fees on delinquent borrowers subsidize the perks for those who pay on time. Take away the lucrative fees, the argument goes, and credit card issuers will be forced to ax free plane rides, slash generous credit limits and impose hefty annual dues for all.Some in the industry even say that profitability would require issuers to charge interest from the moment of purchase, thus eliminating the grace period of interest-free lending that borrowers have long enjoyed.These fears are largely unfounded. We have performed a study that compared credit cards issued by investor-owned banks to those issued by customer-owned credit unions. We found that credit unions are less likely to charge the fees and penalties that the new act hopes to eliminate — and when they do, they charge less than other issuers.
While virtually all banks and other for-profit issuers increase the interest rate if the borrower fails to make a minimum payment on time, most credit unions do not. Similarly, credit union fees for exceeding the credit limit are on average just half those of other issuers. But contrary to industry assertions, more responsible card users don’t pay the price. Credit union cards actually offer lower annual fees and longer grace periods than regular cards.Is the lending model used by credit unions feasible for banks and other issuers? Absolutely. Banks and credit unions compete for customers in the same market. The primary distinguishing characteristic of credit unions is that they answer to a different group of owners: profits that are not reinvested are paid to the union’s shareholder-customers as a dividend, much as investor-owned banks reinvest or pay dividends to their shareholder-investors.
True, unlike typical banks, credit unions have the advantage of being exempt from corporate income taxes, thus some might argue that this gives them an edge. But this is a proportional tax on profits. In other words, if credit unions were not exempt from the tax, their model would still make profits, they would just retain less of them.Credit union cards are a great test case for how regular cards will perform under the new law. The evidence so far suggests that the credit card act is likely to bring about moderate, and even positive, changes. Card issuers, after all, need to retain customers. Any bank that attempts to pad its bottom line by, say, levying large annual fees will likely see its customers flee to credit unions or to banks that emulate the credit union model.To be sure, the new law will require some sacrifices. Our data indicate that rewards programs, for example, may become less generous or less common. But is this necessarily a bad thing? While you may be reluctant to sacrifice your airline miles, rewards programs are anything but free for the nation as a whole. Debt-laden and often low-income borrowers tend to pay high fees to subsidize the vacations of those who manage to pay on time.Credit union cards demonstrate that punishing fees are not an essential ingredient of profitable lending. This should help assuage fears that the credit card act will bring disaster for credit cards. Rather, it should nudge them toward the gentler credit union model that many Americans already enjoy.
This new introduction to world politics by three leading scholars offers a contemporary analytical approach based on the way political scientists study international relations today. Each chapter begins with an intriguing empirical or theoretical puzzle that sets up the chapter's analysis, and "Controversies" boxes throughout the text provide insights into some of the most compelling current policy debates.Offering an approach that is closely in line with the way that political scientists study international relations today, this framework is used consistently in every chapter to help students understand the basic topics in international relations.Each chapter begins with an intriguing empirical or theoretical puzzle to draw students in and set up the chapter’s analysis. Thoughtful pedagogy reinforces key points.
President Raúl Castro’s principal contribution thus far to the lives of ordinary Cubans has been that television soap operas now start on time. He often reminds his fellow citizens of this seemingly impossible accomplishment, after decades during which his elder brother commanded the airwaves and disrupted all public and personal schedules. But he alluded to this achievement most cleverly last December, prompting laughter with the opening sentence of his remarks before a summit meeting of the presidents of the Latin American countries in Bahia, Brazil, hosted by Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. According to Cuba’s official press reports, Castro began, “I hope that our colleague and dear friend Lula will not complain because I give shorter speeches than Chávez’s.”
The presidential summit was one stop on Raúl Castro’s first international trip since becoming Cuba’s acting president in August 2006 (when Fidel Castro was rushed to the hospital), and in that one sentence, he made several points. To most of the Latin American presidents, who did not know him well, and indeed to his fellow Cubans, he demonstrated that even a 78-year-old General of the Army could have a sense of humor. To the same audiences, but also to the incoming Obama administration, he demonstrated some distance and independence from Venezuela’s president, Hugo Chávez, notwithstanding the tight economic and political bonds between their two countries. This was only the most recent and most public instance of Raúl Castro’s reiterated mocking comparison between Chávez’s propensity to speak forever and his own much shorter and self-disciplined speeches. (Of course, all those in the audience also knew that he was poking fun not just at Chávez but at his brother, who never met a time limit he did not despise.) And, finally, he highlighted, especially for his own people, that he honors and respects the time of others.
Raúl Castro’s military style of life cherishes punctuality and efficiency. Schedules, all schedules, even those for TV telenovelas, should be observed. Even during the waning moments of Fidel Castro’s rule, the time of Cubans was frequently occupied by marches, mobilizations, and the need to listen to the logorrheic Maximum Leader. There was even a cabinet minister in charge of what Fidel Castro called the “Battle of Ideas.” Now, marches occur on designated public holidays. And the minister in charge of the Battle of Ideas lost his job in March--and his ministry was disbanded.
Economic EvolutionThe nuances in Cuban public life since Raúl became president in his own right in February 2008 are evident as well in the enactment of economic-policy reforms that were rolled out immediately following his formal installation. Consider some examples. Previously, Cubans had not been able to stay at hotels or eat at restaurants designed for international tourists, even if they had the funds to pay, unless they were on official business; now they were given access to all these facilities, so long as they could pay. Cubans had also been prohibited from purchasing cell phones and subscribing to such services unless officially authorized to do so. They were not allowed to purchase computers or DVD players. Now they were able to purchase such products so long as they had the funds. How the Cuban government adopted these changes is important. It could simply have announced a general deregulation of prohibitions regarding purchases of consumer durables, for example. Instead, the government made each of these announcements separately: one week you could stay at tourist hotels, the next week you could purchase a computer, the following week you could obtain cell-phone services, and so forth. The government even announced that some products would be deregulated for purchase in 2009 (air conditioners) or 2010 (toasters). This method of deregulating implied a desire to win political support over time, not all at once. It communicated that the government retained the right to micromanage the economy, deregulating product by product and service by service. The government also signaled that it expected to remain in office for years to come, behaving in the same way. Finally, most Cubans knew that they could have been purchasing these same consumer durables all along, albeit only on the black market. Thus the policy of postponed deregulation implied an official tolerance of some current criminality (knowing that some Cubans would buy toasters illegally in 2008, instead of waiting for 2010), because the government valued its economic micromanagement more.Whom the government sought to benefit was equally newsworthy. In its most revolutionary phase, during the 1960s, the Cuban government adopted strongly egalitarian policies. Many Cubans came to believe in egalitarian values and resented the widening of inequalities in the 1990s. Consider, then, Raúl’s reforms. Hotels and restaurants designed for international tourist markets are expensive; so, too, are computers and DVD players. When these economic changes were announced in 2008, the median monthly salary of Cubans amounted to about $17: that is, the average monthly salary was below the World Bank’s worldwide standard for poverty, which is one dollar per day. To be sure, Cubans had free access to education and healthcare and subsidized access to some other goods and services. Nevertheless, only a small fraction of Cubans could take advantage of these new economic policies, because the purchases of such consumer durables and the access to such tourist services had to be paid for in dollar-equivalent Cuban currency at dollar-equivalent international prices. (Cuba has two currencies; the peso convertible is a close equivalent to the dollar, whereas the peso is worth about $0.04.) Raúl’s government was appealing to the upper-middle-class professionals.
Making Difficult DecisionsI have emphasized Raúl’s penchant for humor and nuance because Washington and Miami have not taken much notice of these traits. At the same time, no one should underestimate his capacity for decisiveness. A salient feature in his biography is his long-standing role as Cuba’s equivalent of a chief operating officer. President Fidel Castro made the decision to dispatch some 300,000 Cuban troops to two wars in Angola and one in Ethiopia from the mid 1970s to the early 1990s, but it was Minister of the Revolutionary Armed Forces and General of the Army Raúl Castro whose officers recruited, trained, promoted, equipped, and steeled these armies for battle. The United States lost the war in Vietnam. The Soviet Union lost the war in Afghanistan. Cuban troops won the three African wars in which they fought. Cuba’s was the only communist government during the entire Cold War that successfully deployed its armed forces across the oceans. And the “worker bee” for those victories was Raúl.
Within the first calendar year of his presidency, Raúl gave another example of this decisiveness: the reform of Cuba’s pension laws. Cuban law authorized and funded the retirement of women at age 55 and of men at age 60. In December 2008, the retirement ages were raised to 60 and 65 respectively. The speed of the change signaled as well a key difference between the Castro brothers. It had long been a matter of public record that Cuban life expectancy had lengthened to reach the levels of the North Atlantic countries. Cuban demographers had also faithfully recorded that Cuba has been below the population replacement rate since 1978. They had developed various forecasts that showed that its population would age rapidly, creating a vast problem of pension liabilities, and then decline. The demographers committed only one error: they expected the demographic decline to set in near the year 2020, but the population has already declined (net of emigration) in two of the last three years.Notwithstanding this abundance of information, Fidel chose not to act. The fiscal crisis of the state was much less fun than leading street marches to denounce U.S. imperialism. But Raúl’s prompt and effective change of the pension laws, making use of information supplied by social scientists, is yet another illustration of the difference between the brothers as rulers. And, of course, the one obvious change that was not made to the pension laws demonstrates as well that even a powerful government senses some limits to its power: although the life expectancy of women is longer, the pension reform retained the lower retirement age for them. Raúl Castro doesn’t dare take a perk like early retirement away from Cuban women.
Political AuthoritarianismThe Castro brothers’ styles of rule of course show important similarities on matters that do and should matter in assessing their political regime. Cuba remains a single-party state that bans opposition political parties and independent associations that may advance political causes. The government owns and operates all television and radio stations, daily newspapers, and publishing houses. The number of candidates equals the number of seats to be filled in elections for the National Assembly. The constraints on civil society remain severe, even if there has been since the early 1990s a somewhat greater margin of autonomy for communities of faith, some of which (including Roman Catholic archdioceses) are permitted to publish magazines.The two brothers have also demonstrated a strong preference for ruling with a small number of associates whom they have known for many years. For example, when Raúl became president formally in February 2008, he had the right to make wholesale changes in the top leadership. Instead, the president and his seven vice presidents had a median birth year of 1936. Raúl went a step further. He created a small steering committee within the larger Political Bureau of the Communist Party--and the members of the new committee were the exact same seven. Raúl’s buddies are the gerontocrats with whom he chooses to govern.
Yet there are stirrings of change. Although National Assembly elections are uncompetitive, they provide a means to express some opposition to the government. The official candidates are presented in party lists; each voting district elects two to five deputies from those lists and the number of candidates equals the number of posts to be filled in that district. The government urges voters to vote for the entire list, but voters have been free to vote for some but not all candidates on the list, thereby expressing some displeasure. The number of nonconforming voters (voted blank, null, or selectively) exceeded 13.4 percent of the votes cast in the most recent (January 2008) National Assembly elections--1.1 million voters. Both the percentage and the number of nonconforming voters were slightly larger than in the 2003 election, with the largest expression of nonconformity recorded in the province named City of Havana.Yet another sign of change arises from Raúl’s own family. His daughter, Mariela Castro, has been for some years the director of Cuba’s center for the study of sexuality. This center has been principally known, however, for its advocacy for, and defense of, the rights of homosexuals, including special training for Cuban police officers, formulating changes in regulations, and disseminating information designed to create safer spaces for homosexuals.
From the 1960s to the 1980s, the Cuban government pursued very harsh policies toward homosexuals. In the early stages of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, those who tested HIV-positive were automatically compelled to enter a quarantined facility at the cost of their jobs and family lives. At the time of the Mariel emigration crisis in 1980, the government activated its affiliated mass organizations to make life impossible for homosexuals, fostering their emigration under duress. And in the mid 1960s, the government had established the “military units to aid production” (UMAP). These were concentration camps to which “social deviants,” mainly but not exclusively male homosexuals, were sent to be turned, somehow, into “real men.” The commander in chief of the UMAP was, of course, Armed Forces Minister Raúl Castro.
It is unlikely that Raúl is a closet liberal, though there is evidence that he has been a loving father. It is not impossible, however, that he regrets having served as an architect of repression over the lives of many Cubans--not just homosexuals--especially in the 1960s, but also at other times. His daughter’s work during the current decade may be an instrument for elements of social liberalism.
U.S.-Cuban RelationsRaúl Castro understood earlier than his brother that the collapse of the Soviet Union and European communist regimes implied that Cuba had to change more and faster than Fidel wanted. In 1994, in the most public difference yet between the brothers, Raúl favored liberalizing agricultural markets, allowing producers to sell at market prices, even though Fidel remained opposed. Raúl showed more sustained interest in the economic reforms of China and Vietnam than did Fidel. And by the late 1990s, Raúl began to give the speech that he has now repeated many times, most notably this April in response to the Obama administration’s beginning of changes in U.S.-Cuba policies (authorizing Cuban Americans to travel and send remittances to Cuba): his government is ready to discuss anything on the U.S. government agenda.
In January 2002, Raúl even praised the Bush administration for having given advance notice of the incarceration of Taliban prisoners at the U.S. base at Guantánamo Bay. He also praised the professional military-to-military cooperation between the two countries’ officers along the U.S. base’s boundary perimeter, as well as between the coast guards in the Straits of Florida. In August 2006, his first public remarks upon becoming acting president made just two points: he did not much like to speak in public, and he was ready to negotiate with the United States. And this April, he took the time to make it clear that negotiating with the United States about any topic did, indeed, include discussion about political prisoners in Cuban jails. He made a specific proposal to exchange such political prisoners (estimated by Cuban human-rights groups as between 200 and 300 people) for five Cuban spies in U.S. prisons.
The Context for ChangeThe pace of political and economic change in Cuba has been slow by world standards. But the pace of social change has been very fast. Cuba’s people live long lives, thanks in part to good, albeit frayed, healthcare services--free of charge. Cuban children go to school and many become professionals. Indeed, Cuba’s principal area of export growth is the provision of healthcare services to the people of other countries. Until this most recent development, however, Cuba had exemplified how a half-century of investment in human capital could generate very poor economic-growth returns. Yet Cubans since the early 1990s have demonstrated entrepreneurial capacities in creating small businesses, whenever the government has permitted them, suggesting that with better economic incentives there could be a productive combination that would lead to economic growth. Cubans can talk seemingly endlessly at officially sponsored meetings, yet they demonstrate in other settings a capacity for insight, criticism, and imagination that could readily contribute as well to much faster political transformation.U.S. policy toward Cuba for the bulk of this past decade has assisted the Castro government’s state security in shutting out information from the outside world: the United States banned the shipment of information-technology products, instead of facilitating Cuban electronic access to the world, and allowed Cuban Americans to visit their relatives only once every three years, instead of enabling cousins from both sides of the Straits of Florida to speak face to face about how a different, better Cuba might be constructed. (The United States has even protected ordinary Cubans from the Harvard Alumni Association, which could not lead tour groups there.) Perhaps the United States will stop being an obstacle to change in Cuba during the century’s second decade.
What a difference the crisis has made for the International Monetary Fund. It was just a few months ago that this important but unloved institution, a landmark of post-war global economic arrangements, seemed destined to irrelevance.The IMF has long been a whipping boy for both left and right—the former because of the Fund’s emphasis on fiscal rectitude and economic orthodoxy, and the latter because of its role in bailing out indebted nations. Developing nations grudgingly took its advice, while advanced nations, not needing the money, ignored it. In a world where private capital flows dwarf the resources at its disposal, the IMF had come to seem an anachronism.
And, when some of the IMF’s largest debtors (Brazil and Argentina) began to prepay their debts a few years ago with no new borrowers in sight, it looked like the final nail in the coffin had been struck. The IMF seemed condemned to run out of income, in addition to losing its raison d’être. It shrank its budgets and began to downsize, and, while it was handed some new responsibilities in the meantime—surveillance over "currency manipulation," in particular—its deliberations proved largely irrelevant.
But the crisis has invigorated the IMF. Under its capable managing director, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the Fund has been one of the few official agencies ahead of—instead of behind — the curve. It moved quickly to establish a fast-disbursing emergency line of credit for countries with "reasonable" policies. It ardently championed global fiscal stimulus on the order of 2 per cent of world GNP—a position that is all the more remarkable in view of its traditional conservatism on all fiscal matters. And, in the run-up to the G-20 summit in London, it thoroughly overhauled its lending policies, de-emphasising traditional conditionality and making it easier for countries to qualify for loans.
Even more significantly, the IMF has emerged from the London meeting with substantially greater resources, as well as new responsibilities. The G-20 promised to triple the Fund’s lending capacity (from $250 billion to $750 billion), issue $250 billion of new Special Drawing Rights (a reserve asset made up of a basket of major currencies), and permit the Fund to borrow in capital markets (which it has never done) if necessary. The IMF was also designated as one of two lead agencies—along with an expanded Financial Stability Forum (now renamed the Financial Stability Board)—charged with providing early warning of macroeconomic and financial risks and issuing the requisite policy recommendations.
Another piece of good news is that the Europeans have now given up their claim on naming the IMF’s managing director (as have the Americans their corresponding claim on the World Bank presidency). These senior officials are henceforth to be selected "through an open, transparent, and merit-based selection process." This will provide for better governance (although Strauss-Kahn’s leadership has been exemplary), and will enhance both institutions’ legitimacy in the eyes of developing nations.
So the IMF now finds itself at the centre of the economic universe once again. How will it choose to deploy its newfound power?The greatest risk is that it will once again over-reach and over-play its hand. That is what happened in the second half of the 1990s, as the IMF began to preach capital-account liberalisation, applied over-stringent fiscal remedies during the Asian financial crisis, and single-handedly tried to reshape Asian economies. The institution has since acknowledged its errors in all these areas. But it remains to be seen if the lessons have been fully internalised, and whether we will have a kinder, gentler IMF in lieu of a rigid, doctrinaire one.One encouraging fact is that developing countries will almost certainly get a larger say in how the Fund is run. This will ensure that poorer nations’ views receive a more sympathetic hearing in the future.
But simply giving developing nations greater voting power will make little difference if the IMF’s organisational culture is not changed as well. The Fund is staffed by a large number of smart economists, who lack much connection to (and appreciation for) the institutional realities of the countries on which they work. Their professional expertise is validated by the quality of their advanced degrees, rather than by their achievements in practical policymaking. This breeds arrogance and a sense of smug superiority over their counterparts—policymakers who must balance multiple, complicated agendas.
Countering this will require proactive efforts by the IMF’s top leadership in recruitment, staffing and promotion. One option would be to increase substantially the number of mid-career recruits with actual practical experience in developing countries. This would make the IMF staff more cognizant of the value of local knowledge relative to theoretical expertise.
Another strategy would be to relocate some of the staff, including those in functional departments, to "regional offices" in the field. This move would likely face considerable resistance from staff who have gotten used to the perks of Washington, DC. But there is no better way to appreciate the role of context than to live in it. The World Bank, which engaged in a similar decentralisation a while back, has become better at serving its clients as a result (without facing difficulties in recruiting top talent).This is an important moment for the IMF. The international community is putting great store in the Fund’s judgment and performance. The Fund will require internal reforms to earn that trust fully.
The world economy will shrink this year for the first time since 1945, and some economists worry that the current crisis could spell the beginning of the end of globalization.Hard economic times are correlated with protectionism, as each country blames others and protects its domestic jobs. In the 1930s, such "beggar-thy-neighbor" policies worsened the situation. Unless political leaders resist such responses, the past could become the future.Ironically, however, such a grim prospect would not mean the end of globalization, defined as the increase in worldwide networks of interdependence.Globalization has several dimensions, and, though economists all too often portray it and the world economy as being one and the same, other forms of globalization also have significant effects—not all of them benign—on our daily lives.The oldest form of globalization is environmental. For example, the first smallpox epidemic was recorded in Egypt in 1350 B.C. It reached China in 49 A.D., Europe after 700, the Americas in 1520, and Australia in l789.Bubonic plague, or the Black Death, originated in Asia, but its spread killed a quarter to a third of Europe's population in the fourteenth century.Europeans carried diseases to the Americas in the 15th and 16th centuries that destroyed up to 95 percent of the indigenous population.In 1918, a flu pandemic caused by a bird virus killed some 40 million people around the world, far more than the recently concluded world war. Some scientists today predict a repeat of an avian flu pandemic.Since 1973, 30 previously unknown infectious diseases have emerged, and other familiar diseases have spread geographically in new, drug-resistant forms. In the 20 years after HIV/AIDS was identified in the 1980s it killed 20 million people and infected another 40 million around the world.Some experts project that that number will double by 2010. The spread of foreign species of flora and fauna to new areas has wiped out native species, and may result in economic losses of several hundred billion dollars per year.Global climate change will affect the lives of people everywhere. Thousands of scientists from more than 100 countries recently reported that there is new and strong evidence that most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities, and average global temperatures in the 21st century are projected to increase between 2.5 and 10 degrees Fahrenheit.The result could be more severe variations in climate, with too much water in some regions and not enough in others.The effects will include stronger storms, hurricanes, and floods, deeper droughts, and more landslides. Rising temperatures have lengthened the freeze-free season in many regions, and glaciers are melting. The rate at which the sea level rose in the last century was 10 times faster than the average rate over the last three millennia.Then there is military globalization, consisting of networks of interdependence in which force, or the threat of force, is employed. The world wars of the twentieth century are a case in point. The prior era of economic globalization reached its peak in 1914, and was set back by the world wars.But, while global economic integration did not regain its 1914 level until half a century later, military globalization grew as economic globalization shrank.During the Cold War, the global strategic interdependence between the United States and the Soviet Union was acute and well recognized. Not only did it produce world-straddling alliances, but either side could have used intercontinental missiles to destroy the other within 30 minutes.This was distinctive not because it was totally new, but because the scale and speed of the potential conflict arising from military interdependence were so enormous.Today, al-Qaida and other transnational actors have formed global networks of operatives, challenging conventional approaches to national defense through what has been called "asymmetrical warfare."Finally, social globalization consists in the spread of peoples, cultures, images, and ideas. Migration is a concrete example. In the 19th century, some 80 million people crossed oceans to new homes ― far more than in the 20th century.
At the beginning of the 21st century, 32 million U.S. residents (11.5 percent of the population) were foreign-born. In addition, some 30 million visitors (students, businesspeople, tourists) enter the country each year.Ideas are an equally important aspect of social globalization. Technology makes physical mobility easier, but local political reactions against immigrants had been growing even before the current economic crisis.The danger today is that short-sighted protectionist reactions to the economic crisis could help to choke off the economic globalization that has spread growth and raised hundreds of millions of people out of poverty over the past half-century. But protectionism will not curb the other forms of globalization.Modern technology means that pathogens travel more easily than in earlier periods. Easy travel plus hard economic times means that immigration rates may accelerate to the point where social friction exceeds general economic benefit.Similarly, hard economic times may worsen relations among governments, as well as domestic conflicts that can lead to violence. At the same time, transnational terrorists will continue to benefit from modern information technology, such as the Internet.And, while depressed economic activity may slow somewhat the rate of greenhouse-gas build-up in the atmosphere, it will also slow the types of costly programs that governments must enact to address emissions that have already occurred.So, unless governments cooperate to stimulate their economies and resist protectionism, the world may find that the current economic crisis does not mean the end of globalization, but only the end of the good kind, leaving us with the worst of all worlds.
When Steven Levitsky talks politics, a boyish enthusiasm takes over. It’s hardly surprising. He fell in love with the topic at the age of 5.
The New York native’s passion for the workings of governments derived from an uncle, a social worker with a keen political eye who liked to discuss the Middle East with his young nephew.
“It’s a passion that I grew up with... and I certainly give my uncle the credit, or the blame,” Levitsky, professor of government at Harvard, said with a laugh.
The intensity is palpable when he discusses his 2003 work, “Transforming Labor-Based Parties in Latin America: Argentine Peronism in Comparative Perspective,” the book that developed out of his Ph.D. dissertation. The work examines Peronism—the political movement created by Juan Peron in the 1940s that incorporates social democracy and nationalism—and the radical shifts in its ideology during the past 30 years.
Traditionally the voice of the poor and of labor and trade unions in Argentina—and largely hated by the middle classes and wealthier sectors of society—the movement switched from a fairly statist populist party in the 1980s to one responsible for carrying out radical free market reforms in the 1990s, said Levitsky. Recently, it has shifted dramatically again, moving back toward the left.
“It’s a party that did a programmatic 180 and I wanted to explain how it did that. Political parties aren’t supposed to go from Reaganism to Ted Kennedy liberalism overnight, and that is basically what the Peronists did.”
To understand the shifts, Levitsky spent a year and a half in Argentina meeting and interviewing party members. He found that both the movement’s massive membership (deeply entrenched in the working class) and its loosely structured organization help explain the recent changes.
“The rules and procedures that structure party life: how to choose candidates, how to make decisions, how to choose a platform—all of that stuff is constantly up in the air,” he said.
But such turbulence, while chaotic, he noted, can be beneficial.“It makes for quite a bit of flexibility. It allows the party, at least under certain circumstances, to adapt much more quickly than more bureaucratic parties.”
The young professor, who never took an introductory course on comparative politics (the examination of the similarities and differences of governments) as an undergraduate at Stanford because of its “deadly boring” reputation, is dedicated to teaching the subject in a compelling way.
To engage his class, Levitsky examines four topics: revolution, economic development, democracy, and ethnic conflict, all in a contemporary context. Students compare and evaluate different theories in an effort to understand the reasons behind ethnic violence in Yugoslavia and Rwanda, social revolutions in Russia and Iran, and democratic reform in South Africa. His course’s steadily rising enrollment numbers is an indication of the effectiveness of his approach.
“Comparative politics,” he said on a recent afternoon in his cluttered office, “is inherently sexy; it’s really exciting.”
It was global political turmoil occurring in Levitsky’s formative years that drew him toward Central and Latin America.
In high school and early on in college, the drama of the Nicaraguan civil war and events in El Salvador inspired him to get personally involved. His opposition to the United States’ efforts to overthrow the Sandinistas in Nicaragua and U.S. support for the military-backed government in El Salvador led him to take part in protests, join letter-writing campaigns, and participate in what he calls his greatest contribution: “guerilla theater.” Levitsky and his friends would dress in fatigues, storm the college cafeteria, kidnap a diner who was in on the plan, and hand out leaflets that stated such abductions were a regular occurrence in El Salvador.
His interest in the conflict led to a trip to the country in 1989, where he conducted research for his undergraduate thesis; it was a trip that sealed his academic fate.“Just jumping in the middle of things and talking to people was absolutely decisive in my choice to go on and become a scholar. I had no real training in research, but the experience of being there and sticking my nose in the middle of politics was a very powerful one for me.”
Levitsky entered graduate school at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1992, about a year after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The “momentous time,” he recalled, pulled him again toward Latin America as the demise of the socialist model of the USSR forced the region’s labor-based and leftist parties to re-evaluate their approach.
“The world was really being thrown up in the air. I knew from early on that I wanted to study this question of how labor-based parties, particularly in Latin America, were responding to globalization.”
The avid Mets fan who proudly displays a baseball signed by Willie Mays on his desk, met his wife during his graduate school years. After attending one of his talks where he described Peru’s government as an “authoritarian democracy,” Liz, a Peruvian journalist studying at Berkeley for a year, challenged him a week later.
“She started ripping into my talk,” he said, “and I immediately fell in love.”
Today the couple has a daughter, Alejandra, who seems to be following in her father’s passionate political footsteps. During the primary season, when Levitsky and his wife were split about supporting Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, their then 4-year-old adamantly weighed in one morning at breakfast.
“She jumped into the discussion,” said Levitsky, “pounded her fist on the table and said, ‘No! We’re all voting for Obama!’”
Back in class, Levitsky said he hopes to impart his own passion for politics, along with a lesson about critical thinking. Surprised by how many first-year undergraduates enter his class wanting to “know the answer,” he tries to teach them “how to think critically, how to compare and evaluate different arguments.
“The vast majority of the students that I teach are not going to be political scientists,” he said. “They are going to be citizens, and here at Harvard in many cases, fairly influential and powerful citizens, so it means a lot to me to have a small amount of influence into how these guys think, and hopefully get them a little bit more engaged in politics.”
This volume argues that international human rights law has made a positive contribution to the realization of human rights in much of the world. Although governments sometimes ratify human rights treaties, gambling that they will experience little pressure to comply with them, this is not typically the case. Focusing on rights stakeholders rather than the United Nations or state pressure, Beth Simmons demonstrates through a combination of statistical analyses and case studies that the ratification of treaties leads to better rights practices on average. Simmons argues that international human rights law should get more practical and rhetorical support from the international community as a supplement to broader efforts to address conflict, development, and democratization.Appendices for the book are available below for download:
Two points about the current elections ought to be noted. First, a rather large number of parties, campaigning for votes, may give the appearance of chaos on the surface, but there is a dominant narrative that ties up the loose political threads. The central issue in these elections is: how will India’s power structure accommodate the nation’s key diversities? Second, though the overall political prognosis is confusing, some of the basic policies that will emerge are easily predictable.
The first issue—political incorporation of diversities—has, of course, never left India’s political process. Using politics to knit together a highly diverse nation has been a significant cornerstone of Indian democracy. Historically, India has had four underlying social diversities: language, tribe, religion and caste. The first two are geographically concentrated; the last two are present all over the country. Federalism is the main mechanism through which India has handled its geographically-centred diversities. However, because of their national spread, caste and religion do not submit themselves to a federal solution. Affirmative action for lower castes and personal laws for religious minorities have been the principal methods of political accommodation.In the ongoing elections, though all these diversities are playing a role, the primarily lower caste parties are especially important. Some like the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) are regional in scope, while others like the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) are showing signs of national ambition. The BSP is running from more seats than even the Congress and BJP individually. And both the SP and RJD have demonstrated unexpected assertiveness. To understand these parties in terms of the political ambitions of their leaders alone is inadequate. Even the most overtly ambitious politicians must mobilise voting constituencies. Metropolitan India has no experience of how caste operates in small towns and rural India, which constitute over 85 per cent of the country. Outside India’s big cities, lower castes have been ill-treated for a very long time, and lower caste parties have historically sought to change that through the use of State power. Depending on the region, their fight is against the upper castes or the upper OBCs.
Poverty is not just a low-income category in India. For most poor people, it comes with the denial of human dignity. The largest proportion of the poor in India has historically come from the Dalits, OBCs and adivasis, groups that have customarily suffered humiliation and discrimination in a vertical Hindu social order. Being treated badly is not the same as being poor, and that’s why the politics of poverty has taken the form of the politics of dignity. To describe its political thrust, every lower caste party has always used some version of the term ‘samman ki raajniti’. (In the US, when issues like this arose with respect to the African Americans, it was called the politics of civil rights.)Sooner or later, democracy privileges numbers. The numerous lower castes are now exercising their democratically acquired political muscle. Achieving political power in South India since the 1950s and 1960s, the lower caste parties have also made a serious political entry in the North over the last two decades. Moreover, since each region mostly speaks a different language, these parties have fragmented the country’s party system. But they are not simply important in the regions; they are now playing a significant role in the formation of a national government. Basically, little Indias are trying to negotiate their overall place in the larger India.
Until India is 50 per cent urban and/or it reaches a per capita income of $5,000, which is a serious possibility in the next 15 years, the ‘little India’ pressures in politics will continue. Until then, the two national parties will have to find ways of incorporating the democratically-induced plebeian thrust. Unlike post-Mao China, India’s villages are not yet part of the bustling Indian economy that the world has celebrated over the last ten years and will take some time to get there. Their relative lack of incorporation in rising urban incomes leads to the continuing influence of lower caste parties. Regional lower caste parties are India's version of plebeian politics.
However, regardless of which government comes to power, or its composition, India’s foreign and economic policy will remain basically unaltered—just like under the Third Front government during 1996-98. There is no fundamental political dispute in India over the country’s new economic and foreign policy direction. Serious changes in these two policy realms can be expected only if the communists become central to the next government. For economic policy, that means embrace of markets, with regulations; and for foreign policy, the new consensus favours friendship with the US, albeit with hiccups, as the basic national interests of India and the US are increasingly beginning to converge.India’s big disputes are, and will be, over religion and caste. The three most wrenching political issues in the near future can be easily predicted: whether affirmative action should be expanded to the private sector; whether India should pay special attention to better integrating its Muslims in the socio-economic mainstream; and whether propagation of religious ideas and conversion can be free and without constraints, as the Constitution currently permits. These disputes will require political adroitness.
Fundamentally, elections in India are no longer about policy disputes. They have become an occasion for various communities to negotiate a better space in the power structure. Policy discussions acquire seriousness after elections are over and governments come to power.
You might think of the little bits of good news that came out last week as the macroeconomic equivalent of the first crocuses of spring. There was the heartening word that initial jobless claims are slowing. The stock market continues its modest rebound. And some analysts are cautiously suggesting that there might be economic growth again before 2009 is out.But over at Two Arrow Street, participants in a daylong conference offered April 15 by the Weatherhead Center’s Project on Justice, Welfare, and Economics were looking at the economy through a much longer lens. The conference was called "What Just Happened? What’s Next?" and its subtitle was "An Interdisciplinary Examination of Our Current Economic Crisis."In a presentation titled “The Crisis as an Opportunity for Structural Change,” Thomas Pogge, Ph.D. ’83, of Yale University set forth his proposal for what he calls a Health Impact Fund (HIF). It’s meant to do nothing less than revolutionize the way medicines are provided to the global poor.
The fund, he explained, would reconfigure financial incentives for drugmakers. The current system rewards them for selling lifetime "maintenance" drugs to rich Westerners, rather than curative or even preventive medications to fight the diseases of the developing world. But Pogge’s fund "promises to reward... any new medicine on the basis of its global health impact."Under Pogge’s proposal, worked out with University of Calgary economist Aidan Hollis, affluent nations would chip in a share of their gross national income to support the fund. He suggested that a 0.01 percent contribution would yield about $6 billion a year, which should be a large enough pool to start the program. Each year’s pool would be divided up among the manufacturers whose drugs were listed at any given time. He foresees about 20 drugs on the list at a time.
“It’s registered and you get health impact rewards,” Pogge said. “You don’t give up any intellectual property rights.” A pharmaceutical manufacturer would, however, give up the right to a profit on the sales price. Under the Pogge/Hollis proposal, “the registrant must agree to make the new medicine available wherever it is needed at the lowest feasible cost of manufacture.”
The reward is for contributing to public health, not for selling pills, in other words. “Perverse incentives” is a phrase on the lips of many analysts of the current financial crisis: Too many actors have been rewarded for taking risks but not punished for poor performance.
But Pogge made the case that the current system of compensating drugmakers has its own perversities as well. He explained that under the current system of international commerce, a country joining the World Trade Organization must sign on to a package of accords including the so-called Trips Agreement, which covers trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights.This agreement obliges signatories to grant 20-year product patents for, among other things, drugs. This locks countries into the high-markup business model for medicine, and that, in turn makes it hard if not impossible to make drugs available at low cost.The current system provides incentives for counterfeiting, Pogge said. In the pharmaceutical world, this means making knockoffs with just enough of the active ingredient to pass for the real thing but not enough to be medically effective. Instead, these underpowered fakes help create drug-resistant strains of diseases.And by making it profitable for drugmakers to serve the poor, the Health Impact Fund would also protect against diseases such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) that fester largely untreated in the developing world for years and then burst suddenly onto the scene in the developed world. SARS apparently originated in China and spread to 37 countries, infecting thousands and killing nearly 800 during a near pandemic from November 2002 and July 2003. It could have been much worse, Pogge suggested. “We were lucky with SARS,” he said.
One challenge to the Health Impact Fund concept was raised in a question from the floor posed by Norman Daniels, Mary B. Saltonstall Professor of Population Ethics and Professor of Ethics and Population Health at the Harvard School of Public Health, who told Pogge, “A presupposition of your scheme is that we know how to measure the contribution of a specific drug. I’m not sure we do.” He went on to say that many drugs are delivered in systems, which themselves make a contribution to patient health.
Nonetheless, Pogge ticked off the advantage of the Health Impact Fund as a “focal point of structural reform”:
It isn’t driven only by concern for the poor—it helps benefit the pharmaceutical industry, too.
It’s scalable: The fund could be increased or adjusted in light of experience. And manufacturers could decide to transfer some drugs from the patent track to the fund track depending on whom they benefit.
The fund “strengthens those with objective interest in reform” and thus leads to “the empowerment of global poor.”
It is an exemplar of realistic moral leadership, genuine moralization, and global public good.It would lead, he suggested, to “a reduction in global public evil.”
Policy makers rely on a mix of government spending and tax cuts to address the imbalances
in the economy during an economic crisis, by promoting price stability and renewed
economic growth. However, little discussion appears to focus explicitly on the costs of
economic crises in terms of human lives, especially the lives of the most vulnerable members
of society, infants. This paper quantifies the effect that economic crises, periods of
prolonged economic recession, have on infant mortality. Moreover, we investigate whether
different levels of public spending on health across advanced industrialized democracies can
mitigate the impact of crises on infant mortality. We find that economic crises are extremely
costly and lead to a more than proportional increase in infant mortality in the short-run.
Substantial public spending on health is required in order to limit their impact.
The American Academy of Arts and Sciences (AAAS) today (April 20) announced the election of leaders in the sciences, the humanities and the arts, business, public affairs, and the nonprofit sector. The 210 new AAAS Fellows and 19 Foreign Honorary Members join one of the nation’s most prestigious honorary societies and a center for independent policy research. Included among this field are 17 Harvard faculty members and a Radcliffe Institute Fellow.
The academy, established in 1780 by founders of the nation, undertakes studies of complex and emerging problems. Current projects focus on science, technology, and global security; social policy and American institutions; the humanities and culture; and education. The academy’s membership of scholars and practitioners from many disciplines and professions gives it a unique capacity to conduct a wide range of interdisciplinary, long-term policy research endeavors.
Harvard’s new AAAS inductees include Philippe Aghion, Robert C. Waggoner Professor of Economics; Richard Cavanagh, adjunct lecturer on public policy; Scott Edwards, Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology and curator of ornithology at the Museum of Comparative Zoology; Paul Farmer, Maude and Lillian Presley Professor of Social Medicine in the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine; Benjamin Friedman, William Joseph Maier Professor of Political Economy; James Haber, fellow, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study; Jeffrey Hamburger, Kuno Francke Professor of German Art and Culture; Lene Hau, Mallinckrodt Professor of Physics and Applied Physics; Guido Imbens, professor of economics; Stein Jacobsen, professor of geochemistry; Jamaica Kincaid, visiting lecturer, African and African American studies and on English and American literature and language; Michael Klarman, Kirkland and Ellis Professor of Law; Carol Mancusi-Ungaro, founding director of Harvard’s Center for the Technical Study of Modern Art; Anjana Rao, professor of pathology; Mark J. Roe, David Berg Professor of Law; Gary Ruvkun, professor of genetics; Steven Shapin, Franklin L. Ford Professor of the History of Science; and Beth Simmons, director of the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs and Clarence Dillon Professor of International Affairs.The scholars, scientists, jurists, writers, artists, civic, corporate, and philanthropic leaders come from 28 states and 11 countries and range in age from 33 to 83. They represent universities, museums, national laboratories, private research institutes, businesses, and foundations. This year’s group also includes Nobel laureates and recipients of the Pulitzer and Pritzker prizes; MacArthur fellowships; Academy, Grammy, and Tony awards; and the National Medal of Arts.
"These remarkable men and women have made singular contributions to their fields, and to the world," said Academy President Emilio Bizzi. "By electing them as members, the academy honors them and their work, and they, in turn, honor us."The new class will be inducted at a ceremony on Oct. 10, at the academy’s headquarters in Cambridge, Mass.
Providing international leadership to alleviate global hunger requires our Government to have strong policies in two separate areas:
Responding to short-term food emergencies, such as the international food price spike we saw in 2008, which temporarily put up to 100 million more people at risk.
Attacking the persistent poverty that keeps more than 850 million people hungry even when international food prices are low.
In the first of these areas, the United States Government has done a good job, at least a B+. But in the second area the U.S. has done a poor job over the past 25 years, something close to an F. In 2009 America has a chance to correct this second failing grade by directing more development assistance support to help small farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Until the productivity of these small farmers goes up, poverty and hunger will not go down.
Fostering cooperation is one of the main tasks of state building in the aftermath of civil
wars, yet little is known about the effects of institutions of integration in increasing interethnic
cooperation and facilitating peace. We conducted N-person public goods
experiments with costly sanctions in the ethnically-divided city of Mostar in Bosnia-
Herzegovina to examine whether and how the introduction of institutions of integration
affects cooperation both within and across ethnic groups—in our case Catholic Bosnian
Croats and Muslim Bosniacs. Our results indicate that even a limited policy intervention
such as the creation of an integrated high school can offset the negative effects of ethnic
heterogeneity, driving up peoples' willingness to contribute to public goods. We find that
the introduction of institutions of integration is distinct from, and may be necessary for,
the effectiveness of sanctions in driving up contributions. The results of this experiment
suggest that the presence of integrative institutions can bring about cooperation even
when increased heterogeneity diminishes it, thus introducing new ways of thinking about
the role of institutions in post-conflict divided societies.
The debate on whether to return to Nato’s permanent command structure that has recently been unleashed in France—43 years after Charles de Gaulle pulled his country out—has impassioned its political class much more than the wider public.The opposition has seized the opportunity to attack President Nicolas Sarkozy on an issue where his governing centre-right party happens to be divided. But if one goes beyond the political calculations and ideological reflexes of this debate and considers the long-term strategic implications, what is at stake?In the first place common sense requires that an anachronism be eliminated and that the appropriate lessons be drawn from the fundamental changes happening in today’s world, in the US as well as in Europe. By remaining a member of Nato without taking part in its integrated military structure France has first and foremost penalised itself.
Precisely because the future of Nato’s strategy is at stake and legitimate questions must be raised about the choices to be made regarding Afghanistan, France should assume its responsibilities inside Nato and thereby increase Europe’s weight in redefining western strategy. Only from inside will France be able to assert its own interests.
But the developments in the international environment make a change of France's status inside Nato seem even more advisable, indeed necessary. The world has changed profoundly; the west is no longer as dominant as it has been for two centuries, either economically or in terms of strategic importance. The economic crisis, though global in nature, is accelerating the historic shift from the west to Asia.Moreover, Europe’s primary problem is no longer to define itself as distinct from, if not at times in opposition to, the US. That is an obsolete mindset. Today’s challenge is to form a common front by asserting our values, not against others but in co-operation with them and in recognition of an emerging multi-polarity.
Since the election of Barack Obama as president of the US these changes have been accompanied by a revolution: not only has there been a big change in the image of America in the world but the behaviour of the US vis á vis its allies has changed even more radically. Though it is too early to know whether President Obama will succeed in reinvigorating the US economy, it is not too early to support his measures and efforts to relaunch multilateralism with strong action taken by our two countries.The French population as well as the Germans—we remember the enthusiastic crowds that cheered him in Berlin—strongly support Mr Obama. France should seize the hand extended by America. Its return as a full member of Nato would constitute a strong symbolic and political act, sealing a historic reconciliation of two allies that are willing to put their common challenges above the quarrels and prejudices of the past.Europe itself is changing before our eyes. There is no contradiction between the desire to advance European defence and to "normalise" France’s status inside Nato; on the contrary, France’s position thereby would come closer to that of Britain and Germany. A stronger France inside the alliance would strengthen the European defence effort. The return of France to Nato is not a guarantee of a successful European defence, but it certainly is a necessary precondition.
This becomes all the more true considering the new challenges facing Europe such as the return of Russia, now seeking a more powerful role in the international system. We should not allow Russia to exploit potential differences between Europe and Nato. But at the same time we must seek to open a dialogue with Russia on the necessary reopening of arms control negotiations in Europe, hopefully building a new partnership. These negotiations require strong and harmonised positions within Nato.The authors of this article have devoted an important part of their lives to Franco-German rapprochement, which they consider to be a key to European unification. They regard the complete return of France to Nato as a logical step towards the European goal.They are convinced that General de Gaulle, with his pragmatic and realist vision of the world and of a Europe based on the Franco-German relationship, would be shocked to hear that his name is evoked today to oppose an adjustment that he himself would have considered natural, given the profound changes that are happening in the world.