Publications

2011
Liberty's Exiles: American Loyalists in the Revolutionary World
Jasanoff, Maya. 2011. Liberty's Exiles: American Loyalists in the Revolutionary World. Knopf. Publisher's VersionAbstract
At the end of the American Revolution, sixty thousand Americans loyal to the British cause fled the United States and became refugees throughout the British Empire. This groundbreaking book offers the first global history of the loyalist exodus to Canada, the Caribbean, Sierra Leone, India, and beyond. Following extraordinary journeys like the one of Elizabeth Johnston, a young mother from Georgia, who led her growing family to Britain, Jamaica, and Canada, questing for a home; black loyalists such as David George, who escaped from slavery in Virginia and went on to found Baptist congregations in Nova Scotia and Sierra Leone; and Mohawk Indian leader Joseph Brant, who tried to find autonomy for his people in Ontario, Liberty’s Exiles challenges conventional understandings about the founding of the United States and the shaping of the postrevolutionary world. Based on original research on four continents, this book is at once an intimate narrative history and a provocative new analysis—a story about the past that helps us think about migration, tolerance, and liberty in the world today.
Ferguson, Niall. 2011. “Wanted: A Grand Strategy for America”. Publisher's VersionAbstract

“The statesman can only wait and listen until he hears the footsteps of God resounding through events; then he must jump up and grasp the hem of His coat, that is all.” Thus Otto von Bismarck, the great Prussian statesman who united Germany and thereby reshaped Europe’s balance of power nearly a century and a half ago.

Last week, for the second time in his presidency, Barack Obama heard those footsteps, jumped up to grasp a historic opportunity … and missed it completely.

In Bismarck’s case it was not so much God’s coattails he caught as the revolutionary wave of mid-19th-century German nationalism. And he did more than catch it; he managed to surf it in a direction of his own choosing. The wave Obama just missed—again—is the revolutionary wave of Middle Eastern democracy. It has surged through the region twice since he was elected: once in Iran in the summer of 2009, the second time right across North Africa, from Tunisia all the way down the Red Sea to Yemen. But the swell has been biggest in Egypt, the Middle East’s most populous country.

In each case, the president faced stark alternatives. He could try to catch the wave, Bismarck style, by lending his support to the youthful revolutionaries and trying to ride it in a direction advantageous to American interests. Or he could do nothing and let the forces of reaction prevail. In the case of Iran, he did nothing, and the thugs of the Islamic Republic ruthlessly crushed the demonstrations. This time around, in Egypt, it was worse. He did both—some days exhorting Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to leave, other days drawing back and recommending an “orderly transition.”

The result has been a foreign-policy debacle. The president has alienated everybody: not only Mubarak’s cronies in the military, but also the youthful crowds in the streets of Cairo. Whoever ultimately wins, Obama loses. And the alienation doesn’t end there. America’s two closest friends in the region—Israel and Saudi Arabia—are both disgusted. The Saudis, who dread all manifestations of revolution, are appalled at Washington’s failure to resolutely prop up Mubarak. The Israelis, meanwhile, are dismayed by the administration’s apparent cluelessness.

Last week, while other commentators ran around Cairo’s Tahrir Square, hyperventilating about what they saw as an Arab 1989, I flew to Tel Aviv for the annual Herzliya security conference. The consensus among the assembled experts on the Middle East? A colossal failure of American foreign policy.

This failure was not the result of bad luck. It was the predictable consequence of the Obama administration’s lack of any kind of coherent grand strategy, a deficit about which more than a few veterans of U.S. foreign policy making have long worried. The president himself is not wholly to blame. Although cosmopolitan by both birth and upbringing, Obama was an unusually parochial politician prior to his election, judging by his scant public pronouncements on foreign-policy issues.

Yet no president can be expected to be omniscient. That is what advisers are for. The real responsibility for the current strategic vacuum lies not with Obama himself, but with the National Security Council, and in particular with the man who ran it until last October: retired Gen. James L. Jones. I suspected at the time of his appointment that General Jones was a poor choice. A big, bluff Marine, he once astonished me by recommending that Turkish troops might lend the United States support in Iraq. He seemed mildly surprised when I suggested the Iraqis might resent such a reminder of centuries of Ottoman Turkish rule.

The best national-security advisers have combined deep knowledge of international relations with an ability to play the Machiavellian Beltway game, which means competing for the president’s ear against the other would-be players in the policymaking process: not only the defense secretary but also the secretary of state and the head of the Central Intelligence Agency. No one has ever done this better than Henry Kissinger. But the crucial thing about Kissinger as national-security adviser was not the speed with which he learned the dark arts of interdepartmental turf warfare. It was the skill with which he, in partnership with Richard Nixon, forged a grand strategy for the United States at a time of alarming geopolitical instability.

The essence of that strategy was, first, to prioritize (for example, détente with the Soviets before human-rights issues within the U.S.S.R.) and then to exert pressure by deliberately linking key issues. In their hardest task—salvaging peace with honor in Indochina by preserving the independence of South Vietnam—Nixon and Kissinger ultimately could not succeed. But in the Middle East they were able to eject the Soviets from a position of influence and turn Egypt from a threat into a malleable ally. And their overtures to China exploited the divisions within the Communist bloc, helping to set Beijing on an epoch-making new course of economic openness.

The contrast between the foreign policy of the Nixon-Ford years and that of President Jimmy Carter is a stark reminder of how easily foreign policy can founder when there is a failure of strategic thinking. The Iranian Revolution of 1979, which took the Carter administration wholly by surprise, was a catastrophe far greater than the loss of South Vietnam.

Remind you of anything? “This is what happens when you get caught by surprise,” an anonymous American official told The New York Times last week. “We’ve had endless strategy sessions for the past two years on Mideast peace, on containing Iran. And how many of them factored in the possibility that Egypt moves from stability to turmoil? None.”

I can think of no more damning indictment of the administration’s strategic thinking than this: it never once considered a scenario in which Mubarak faced a popular revolt. Yet the very essence of rigorous strategic thinking is to devise such a scenario and to think through the best responses to them, preferably two or three moves ahead of actual or potential adversaries. It is only by doing these things—ranking priorities and gaming scenarios—that a coherent foreign policy can be made. The Israelis have been hard at work doing this. All the president and his NSC team seem to have done is to draft touchy-feely speeches like the one he delivered in Cairo early in his presidency.

These were his words back in June 2009:

America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles—principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.

Those lines will come back to haunt Obama if, as cannot be ruled out, the ultimate beneficiary of his bungling in Egypt is the Muslim Brotherhood, which remains by far the best organized opposition force in the country—and wholly committed to the restoration of the caliphate and the strict application of Sharia. Would such an outcome advance “tolerance and the dignity of all human beings” in Egypt? Somehow, I don’t think so.

Grand strategy is all about the necessity of choice. Today, it means choosing between a daunting list of objectives: to resist the spread of radical Islam, to limit Iran’s ambition to become dominant in the Middle East, to contain the rise of China as an economic rival, to guard against a Russian “reconquista” of Eastern Europe—and so on. The defining characteristic of Obama’s foreign policy has been not just a failure to prioritize, but also a failure to recognize the need to do so. A succession of speeches saying, in essence, “I am not George W. Bush” is no substitute for a strategy.

Bismarck knew how to choose. He understood that riding the nationalist wave would enable Prussia to become the dominant force in Germany, but that thereafter the No. 1 objective must be to keep France and Russia from uniting against his new Reich. When asked for his opinion about colonizing Africa, Bismarck famously replied: “My map of Africa lies in Europe. Here lies Russia and here lies France, and we are in the middle. That is my map of Africa.”

Tragically, no one knows where Barack Obama’s map of the Middle East is. At best, it is in the heartland states of America, where the fate of his presidency will be decided next year, just as Jimmy Carter’s was back in 1980.

At worst, he has no map at all.

 

 

Feldman, Noah. 2011. “Sometimes, Justice Can Play Politics”. Publisher's VersionAbstract

What is it about those robes? They are only flimsy bits of wools, enlivened in a few cases by some very European lace at the collar. Yet the moment our Supreme Court justices put them on, a segment of the concerned public imagines that they have become priests consecrated to the sacred order of the Constitution.

Recently, Justice Antonin Scalia has been criticized for meeting with a group of (gulp) conservative members of Congress and accused of participating in an event organized by the conservative billionaire Charles Koch. Justice Clarence Thomas has been excoriated because his wife, Virginia, last year took a leading role in organizing Liberty Central, a Tea Party offshoot that received anonymous, First Amendment-protected donations (she has since stepped down). He also belatedly amended 13 years’ worth of disclosure reports to include details of his wife’s employment.

Justices are required to disclose their income sources and those of their spouses. But the core of the criticisms against Justices Thomas and Scalia has nothing to do with judicial ethics. The attack is driven by the imagined ideal of the cloistered monk-justice, innocent of worldly vanities, free of political connections and guided only by the gem-like flame of inward conscience.

It was not ever thus. John Marshall, undoubtedly the greatest chief justice ever, spent his first month on the court as the secretary of state of the United States. That’s right, the chief justice and the secretary of state were the same person — an arrangement permitted by the Constitution, which only prohibits members of Congress from holding other offices. Marshall’s most famous decision — Marbury v. Madison, which established the principle of judicial review — arose from Marshall’s own failure as secretary of state to deliver the obscure William Marbury his commission as justice of the peace in the waning hours of the Adams administration. No one cared.

The political activities of the justices increased over time. Charles Evans Hughes, who would later become another great chief justice, resigned from his first stint as associate justice on June 10, 1916, to run for the presidency on the Republican ticket. Although this represented a separation from his judicial role, the Republican convention had begun at the Chicago Coliseum on June 7; Hughes did not resign until the nomination was in the bag.

In 1948, Americans for Democratic Action tried to draft Justice William O. Douglas as a Democratic presidential candidate. In their political literature, they used excerpts from his Supreme Court opinions, which (his colleagues noted privately) sounded suspiciously like stump speeches. (In the end, he decided against a run.)

Equally important, in the pre-monastic age, justices often took on politically charged government responsibilities when the world needed them. Their experiences in public service not only helped the country, but informed their subsequent jurisprudence.

Justice Robert Jackson, a valued player in Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s regular poker game (and a hero to many court observers today), took a year away from the court to serve as the chief prosecutor at Nuremberg, a presidential appointment. Later, when the Supreme Court had to decide whether German detainees convicted by United States war crimes tribunals were entitled to habeas corpus rights, Jackson did not recuse himself. Instead, he wrote the opinion in Johnson v. Eisentrager, the case that formed the precedent for the extension of habeas rights to the detainees at Guantánamo Bay.

Justice Owen Roberts was chosen by Roosevelt to head the commission investigating the attack on Pearl Harbor. What he learned made him one of only three justices to defy Roosevelt and dissent from the court’s shameful decision to uphold the wartime internment of more than 100,000 Japanese-Americans who had been convicted of no crime at all.

The 1970s saw the beginning of a retreat by the justices from public engagement with national affairs. Some of this was defensive. In 1969, Justice Abe Fortas, one of Lyndon Johnson’s closest advisers on Vietnam even while on the court, had to resign after revelations that he had been on retainer to a financier under investigation for securities violations. The next year, Gerald Ford, then the House minority leader, sought unsuccessfully to impeach Douglas for taking money from a nonprofit foundation.

Yet, probably the greater reason for the justices’ growing circumspection by the early 1970s was that the Supreme Court was taking its most active role ever in running the nation’s affairs: when the court ruled against Richard Nixon in the Watergate tapes case, it effectively forced a president from office. Empowered to break a president (making one had to wait until Bush v. Gore in 2000), the justices sought to deflect attention from the obvious fact that they were political.

The disengagement from public life that followed has had real costs. Isolated justices make isolated decisions. It is difficult to imagine justices who drank regularly with presidents deciding that a lawsuit against a sitting executive could go forward while he was in office, or imagining that the suit would not take up much of the president’s time. Yet that is precisely what the court did by a 9-to-0 vote in the 1997 case of Clinton v. Jones. The court’s mistaken practical judgment opened the door to President Bill Clinton’s testimony about Monica Lewinsky and the resulting impeachment that preoccupied the government for more than two years as Osama bin Laden laid his plans.

Today, even the justices’ minimal extrajudicial activities come in for public condemnation — some of it suspiciously partisan. Does anyone seriously think Justice Thomas would become more constitutionally conservative (if that were somehow logically possible) as a result of his wife’s political activism? It is true that Justice Thomas voted to protect the anonymity of some corporate contributions in the Citizens United case. But this vote reflected his long-established principles in favor of corporate speech. The personal connection was nowhere near close enough to demand recusal, any more than a justice who values her privacy should be expected to recuse herself from a Fourth Amendment decision.

After all, Martin Ginsburg, a model of ethical rectitude until his death last year, was for many years a partner in an important corporate law firm. But surely no one believes that his career made his wife, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, more positively inclined toward corporate interests on the court than she would already be as a member in good standing of America’s class of legal elites.

Justice Antonin Scalia, for his part, naturally spends time with like-minded conservatives including Representative Michele Bachmann and Charles Koch. But when the brilliant, garrulous Justice Scalia hobnobs with fellow archconservatives, he is not being influenced any more than is the brilliant, garrulous Justice Stephen Breyer when he consorts with his numerous friends and former colleagues in the liberal bastion of Cambridge, Mass.

A FEW years ago, many insisted that Justice Scalia should not sit in judgment of Vice President Dick Cheney’s claims to enjoy executive privilege, noting that the two had been on the same duck-hunting trip. Justice Scalia memorably explained that the two men had never shared the same blind. He could as easily have pointed out that before President Harry Truman nationalized the steel mills, he asked Chief Justice Fred Vinson, a poker buddy and close friend, if the court would find the action constitutional. (Vinson incorrectly said yes.)

The upshot is that the justices’ few and meager contacts with the real world do little harm and perhaps occasionally some good. Justice Anthony Kennedy makes an annual trip to Salzburg, Austria, to discuss ideas with European and other global judges and intellectuals. This contact is often invoked to explain why Justice Kennedy occasionally cites foreign law (a taboo for Justice Scalia) and why his jurisprudence has been relatively liberal on such matters as gay rights and Guantánamo.

It is absurd for conservatives to criticize the cosmopolitan forums where judges from around the world compare notes. And it is absurd for liberals to criticize the conservative justices for associating with people who share or reinforce their views. The justices are human — and the more we let them be human, the better job they will do. Let the unthinkable be said! If the medieval vestments are making people think the justices should be monks, then maybe, just maybe, we should to do away with those robes.

 

The Globalization Paradox: Democracy and the Future of the World Economy
Rodrik, Dani. 2011. The Globalization Paradox: Democracy and the Future of the World Economy. W. W. Norton. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Surveying three centuries of economic history, a Harvard professor argues for a leaner global system that puts national democracies front and center.

From the mercantile monopolies of seventeenth-century empires to the modern-day authority of the WTO, IMF, and World Bank, the nations of the world have struggled to effectively harness globalization's promise. The economic narratives that underpinned these eras—the gold standard, the Bretton Woods regime, the "Washington Consensus"—brought great success and great failure. In this eloquent challenge to the reigning wisdom on globalization, Dani Rodrik offers a new narrative, one that embraces an ineluctable tension: we cannot simultaneously pursue democracy, national self-determination, and economic globalization. When the social arrangements of democracies inevitably clash with the international demands of globalization, national priorities should take precedence. Combining history with insight, humor with good-natured critique, Rodrik's case for a customizable globalization supported by a light frame of international rules shows the way to a balanced prosperity as we confront today's global challenges in trade, finance, and labor markets.

Jasanoff, Sheila. 2011. “A Living Constitution.” Science Magazine. Science Magazine. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Sequencing the human genome provided a powerful new way to represent human identity, and the moral implications of that re-representation are just beginning to unfold.
The Future of Power
Nye, Joseph S., Jr.. 2011. The Future of Power. PublicAffairs Books. Publisher's VersionAbstract

In the era of Kennedy and Khrushchev, power was expressed in terms of nuclear missiles, industrial capacity, numbers of men under arms, and tanks lined up ready to cross the plains of Eastern Europe. By 2010, none of these factors confer power in the same way: industrial capacity seems an almost Victorian virtue, and cyber threats are wielded by non-state actors. Politics changed, and the nature of power—defined as the ability to affect others to obtain the outcomes you want—had changed dramatically. Power is not static; its story is of shifts and innovations, technologies and relationships.

Joseph Nye is a long-time analyst of power and a hands-on practitioner in government. Many of his ideas have been at the heart of recent debates over the role America should play in the world: his concept of "soft power" has been adopted by leaders from Britain to China; "smart power” has been adopted as the bumper-sticker for the Obama Administration’s foreign policy. This book is the summation of his work, as relevant to general readers as to foreign policy specialists. It is a vivid narrative that delves behind the elusive faces of power to discover its enduring nature in the cyber age.

Naples-Mitchell, Joanna. 2011. “Perspectives of UN Special Rapporteurs on their Role: Inherent Tensions and Unique Contributions to Human Rights”.Abstract
This article evaluates the role of United Nations special rapporteurs through a systematic
 study of the perspectives of mandate-holders. Qualitative interviews with current and
 former rapporteurs and their assistants reveal that three central tensions inherent in
 the rapporteur’s task give the rapporteur room for individual experimentation. First, the tension between UN affiliation and independent status allows the rapporteur to
 determine his/her orientation toward the UN. Secondly, the tension between
 competing obligations to treat sovereign states as partners and as adversaries forces
 the rapporteur to develop innovative strategies to address national sovereignty.
 Thirdly, the tension between the universal scope of thematic mandates and the
 impossibility of realising that scope enables the rapporteur to travel between specific
 contexts and international norms. The unparalleled autonomy afforded by the position
 enables rapporteurs to define rights in real time, responding to situations as they
 unfold rather than after the fact. For that reason, any reform of the special procedures
 system should preserve the role’s unique features. Rather than expend political will
 on ambitious structural changes, reform advocates should focus on increasing
 funding, resources, and pressure on states to cooperate.
Joanna Naples-Mitchell is a former Undergraduate Associate (2009-2010).
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Lost in Transition: Youth, Work, and Instability in Postindustrial Japan
Brinton, Mary C. 2011. Lost in Transition: Youth, Work, and Instability in Postindustrial Japan. Cambridge University Press. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Lost in Transition tells the story of the “lost generation” that came of age in Japan's deep economic recession in the 1990s. The book argues that Japan is in the midst of profound changes that have had an especially strong impact on the young generation. The country's renowned “permanent employment system” has unraveled for young workers, only to be replaced by temporary and insecure forms of employment. The much-admired system of moving young people smoothly from school to work has frayed. The book argues that these changes in the very fabric of Japanese postwar institutions have loosened young people's attachment to school as the launching pad into the world of work and loosened their attachment to the workplace as a source of identity and security. The implications for the future of Japanese society—and the fault lines within it—loom large.
Siegel, Jordan I, Amir Licht, and Shalom Shwartz. 2011. “Egalitarianism and International Investment.” Journal of Financial Economics. Publisher's VersionAbstract
This study identifies how country differences on a key cultural dimension—egalitarianism— influence international investment flows. A society’s cultural orientation toward egalitarianism is manifested by intolerance for abuses of market and political power and a desire for protecting less powerful actors. We show egalitarianism to be based on exogenous factors including social fractionalization, dominant religion circa 1900, and war experience from the 19th century. We find a robust influence of egalitarianism distance on cross-national flows of bond and equity issuances, syndicated loans, and mergers and acquisitions. An informal cultural institution largely determined a century or more ago, egalitarianism exercises its effect on international investment via an associated set of consistent contemporary policy choices. But even after controlling for these associated policy choices, egalitarianism continues to exercise a direct effect on cross-border investment flows, likely through its direct influence on managers’ daily business conduct.
Keyssar, Alexander. 2011. “How Americans Vote.” Election Law Journal: Rules, Politics, and Policy 10 (4). Election Law Journal: Rules, Politics, and Policy: 471-473. Publisher's Version Download Paper
Jasanoff, Sheila. 2011. “Constitutional Moments in Governing Science and Technology.” Science and Engineering Ethics. Science and Engineering Ethics. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Scholars in science and technology studies (STS) have recently been called upon to advise governments on the design of procedures for public engagement. Any such instrumental function should be carried out consistently with STS’s interpretive and normative obligations as a social science discipline. This article illustrates how such threefold integration can be achieved by reviewing current US participatory politics against a seventy-year backdrop of tacit constitutional developments in governing science and technology. Two broad cycles of constitutional adjustment are discerned: the first enlarging the scope of state action as well as public participation, with liberalized rules of access and sympathetic judicial review; the second cutting back on the role of the state, fostering the rise of an academic-industrial complex for technology transfer, and privatizing value debates through increasing delegation to professional ethicists. New rules for public engagement in the United Sates should take account of these historical developments and seek to counteract some of the anti-democratic tendencies observable in recent decades.
The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism
Skocpol, Theda. 2011. The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism. Oxford University Press. Publisher's VersionAbstract
On February 19, 2009, CNBC commentator Rick Santelli delivered a dramatic rant against Obama administration programs to shore up the plunging housing market. Invoking the Founding Fathers and ridiculing "losers" who could not pay their mortgages, Santelli called for "Tea Party" protests. Over the next two years, conservative activists took to the streets and airways, built hundreds of local Tea Party groups, and weighed in with votes and money to help right-wing Republicans win electoral victories in 2010.

In this penetrating new study, Harvard University's Theda Skocpol and Vanessa Williamson go beyond images of protesters in Colonial costumes to provide a nuanced portrait of the Tea Party. What they find is sometimes surprising. Drawing on grassroots interviews and visits to local meetings in several regions, they find that older, middle-class Tea Partiers mostly approve of Social Security, Medicare, and generous benefits for military veterans. Their opposition to "big government" entails reluctance to pay taxes to help people viewed as undeserving "freeloaders"—including immigrants, lower income earners, and the young. At the national level, Tea Party elites and funders leverage grassroots energy to further longstanding goals such as tax cuts for the wealthy, deregulation of business, and privatization of the very same Social Security and Medicare programs on which many grassroots Tea Partiers depend. Elites and grassroots are nevertheless united in hatred of Barack Obama and determination to push the Republican Party sharply to the right.

The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism combines fine-grained portraits of local Tea Party members and chapters with an overarching analysis of the movement's rise, impact, and likely fate.

Enderlein, Henrik, Christoph Trebesch, and Laura von Daniels. 2011. “Sovereign Debt Disputes: A Database on Government Coerciveness During Debt Crises.” Journal of International Money and Finance. Journal of International Money and Finance. Publisher's VersionAbstract
This paper measures “debt disputes” between governments and foreign private creditors in periods of sovereign debt crises. We construct an index of government coerciveness, consisting of 9 objective sub-indicators. Each of these sub-indicators captures unilateral government actions imposed on foreign banks and bondholders. The results provide the first systematic account of debt crises that goes beyond a binary categorization of default versus non-default. Overall, government behavior and rhetoric show a strong variability, ranging from highly confrontational to very smooth crisis resolution processes. In a preliminary analysis on the determinants of coercive behavior, we find political institutions to be significant, while economic and financial factors play a lesser role. These results open up an agenda for future research.
Garip, Filiz. 2011. “Discovering Diverse Mechanisms of Migration: The Mexico-U.S. Stream from 1970 to 2000”.Abstract
Migrants to the United States are a diverse population. This diversity, captured in various migration theories, is overlooked in empirical applications that describe a typical narrative for an average migrant. Using the Mexican Migration Project data from about 17,000 first-time migrants between 1970 and 2000, this study employs cluster analysis to identify four types of migrants with distinct configurations of characteristics. Each migrant type corresponds to a specific theoretical account, and becomes prevalent in a specific period, depending on the economic, social and political conditions. Strikingly, each migrant type also becomes prevalent around the period in which its corresponding theory is developed.
Garip, Filiz. 2011. “Repeat Migration and Cumulative Remittances as Mechanisms for Wealth Inequality in Mexico”.Abstract
To evaluate the distributional impact of remittances in origin communities, prior research studied how migrants’ selectivity by wealth varies with migration prevalence in the community or prior migration experience of the individual. This study considers both patterns, and examines selectivity separately in low and high prevalence communities and for first-time and repeat migrants. Based on data from 18,042 household heads in 119 Mexican communities from the Mexican Migration Project, the analyses show that (i) first-time migrants in low prevalence communities come from poor households, while repeat migrants in high prevalence communities belong to wealthy households, and (ii) higher amounts of remittances reach wealthy households. These results suggest that repeat migration and remittances may be mechanisms for wealth accumulation in the study communities. Descriptive analyses associate these mechanisms with increasing wealth disparities between households with and without migrants, especially in high prevalence communities. The study, similar to prior findings, shows the importance of repeat migration trips, which, given sustained remittances, may amplify the wealth gap between migrants and non-migrants in migrant-sending communities. The study also qualifies prior findings by differentiating between low and high prevalence communities and observing a growing wealth gap only in the latter.
Barro, Robert J. 2011. “How to Get That AAA Rating Back”. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama have at least one similarity. They both were confronted by great economic challenges when they became president.

Mr. Reagan's immediate challenge was that inflation and interest rates were out of control. He met this great test by allying with the Federal Reserve chairman, Paul Volcker, in accomplishing a return to price stability, even through the 1982 recession when the unemployment rate hit 10.8%.

Reagan's success is not in doubt. Inflation and interest rates were reduced dramatically, and the recovery from the end of 1982 to the end of 1988 was strong and long with an average growth rate of real GDP of 4.6% per year. Moreover, Reagan focused on implementing good economic policies, not on blaming his incompetent predecessor for the terrible economy he had inherited.

Mr. Obama was equally in position to get credit for turning around a perilous economic situation that had been left by a weak predecessor. But he has pursued an array of poor economic policies, featuring the grand Keynesian experiment of sharply raising federal spending and the public debt. The results have been terrible and now, two and a half years into his administration, Mr. Obama is still blaming George W. Bush for all the problems.

Friday's downgrade of the U.S. credit rating by Standard & Poor's should have been a wake-up call to the administration. S&P is saying, accurately, that there is no coherent long-term plan in place to deal with the U.S. government's fiscal deficits.

The U.S. Treasury could have responded in two ways. First, it could have taken the downgrade as useful information and then focused on how to perform better to earn back a AAA rating. Instead, it chose to attack the rating agency as incompetent and not credible. In this respect, U.S. officials were almost as bad as Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who responded to warnings from S&P and Moody's about Italian government debt by launching police raids on the offices of the rating agencies in Milan last week. The U.S. Treasury's response also reminds me of Lehman Brothers blaming its financial problems in the summer of 2008 on evil financial analysts and short-sellers.

The way for the U.S. government to earn back a AAA rating is to enact a meaningful medium- and long-term plan for addressing the nation's fiscal problems. I have sketched a five-point plan that builds on ideas from the excellent 2010 report of the president's deficit commission.

First, make structural reforms to the main entitlement programs, starting with increases in ages of eligibility and a shift to an economically appropriate indexing formula. Second, lower the structure of marginal tax rates in the individual income tax. Third, in the spirit of Reagan's 1986 tax reform, pay for the rate cuts by gradually phasing out the main tax-expenditure items, including preferences for home-mortgage interest, state and local income taxes, and employee fringe benefits—not to mention eliminating ethanol subsidies. Fourth, permanently eliminate corporate and estate taxes, levies that are inefficient and raise little money.

Fifth, introduce a broad-based expenditure tax, such as a value-added tax (VAT), with a rate around 10%. The VAT's appeal to liberals can be enhanced, with some loss of economic efficiency, by exempting items such as food and housing.

I recognize that a VAT is anathema to many conservatives because it gives the government an added claim on revenues. My defense is that a VAT makes sense as part of a larger package that includes the other four points.

The loss of the U.S. government's AAA rating is a great symbolic blow, one that would cause great anguish to our first Treasury secretary, Alexander Hamilton. Frankly, the only respectable reaction by our current Treasury secretary is to fall on his sword. Then again, "the buck stops here" suggests that an even more appropriate resignation would come from our chief executive, who, by the way, is no Ronald Reagan.

Frieden, Jeffry, and Menzie D Chinn. 2011. “The Downgrading of a Debtor Nation”. Publisher's VersionAbstract
The Treasury can cry foul all it wants, but the decision by Standard & Poor’s to downgrade America’s credit rating by one notch last Friday, and the subsequent plunge in the stock market, are serious symptoms of a loss of confidence—an assessment that is fundamentally political, not economic.

There is little question about the technical ability of America to make good on its debts—but there are grave questions about the political system’s ability to resolve our nation’s financial problems.

The debt-ceiling deal between President Obama and Congressional Republicans merely staved off a crisis of confidence for the moment. It does not address our immediate need to avoid falling back into recession, or our longer-term need to raise enough revenue to pay for the social spending Americans want.

Moreover, the deal sidesteps the fundamental challenge the country now faces: who will pay to fix what was broken during the past decade by irresponsible tax cuts, ruinously expensive wars, failures of regulation and the resulting housing and financial booms and busts?

In the short term, the plan cuts a bit of discretionary nondefense spending, a category that in fact has not grown particularly rapidly. This is a mistake. With unemployment at 9.1 percent, and long-term joblessness at record levels, we need more spending, not less. But the agreement all but rules out new spending to boost the economy, at a dangerous time. The chances of a double-dip recession are growing—and a further slowdown will increase, not reduce, the budget deficit.

The longer-term spending and revenue commitments are no better. Certainly spending, in particular on Medicare and Medicaid, needs to be restrained. But the deficits cannot be reined in without tax increases, and the “framework” does little or nothing in this regard. The S. & P. decision to downgrade reflects, in large part, the expectation that Republicans will not allow the Bush tax cuts to expire.

The recent skirmishes all dance around the central issue: the United States is in the midst of the world’s largest debt crisis. The Treasury now owes the public almost $10 trillion, including $4.5 trillion to foreigners—and that doesn’t include what households and companies owe. For decades to come, Americans will face the core problem of every heavily indebted nation: who will bear the burden of adjustment?

Countries borrow for many purposes: canals and railroads in the 19th century, factories and highways in the 20th, and in the last decade, a housing and financial boom in Europe and America. When the projects don’t pan out and the debtor country falls into crisis, what happens to the accumulated debts? Who pays? Creditors or debtors? Workers or investors? Rich or poor? The European Union is tearing itself apart over this question, which divides creditor nations from debtor nations and which divides groups within nations. The American variant of this conflict is just beginning.

Perhaps, some Americans believe, we can shunt the adjustment costs onto foreigners. Indeed, our creditors worry that the United States will reduce its debt burden the old-fashioned way, by inflating it away. A few years of moderate inflation, and a weaker dollar, would significantly lessen the real cost of servicing the country’s debts—at our creditors’ expense.

But adjusting to the reality of America’s accumulated debts will inevitably require sacrifices at home. The battle over who will be sacrificing has already begun, albeit under veils of rhetoric. The Republicans seem unconcerned about stimulating recovery, and primarily concerned that none of the long-term costs of balancing our budget be paid by upper-income taxpayers. No surprise: unemployment among the one-third of Americans with the highest incomes is barely 4 percent, while for the lowest third it is more than four times that level.

The Democrats, for their part, seem content to insist that the adjustment burden not fall on beneficiaries of government spending, whether public employees or recipients of social spending. This reflects their base in the labor movement, the public sector and the poor.

We lost the first decade of the 21st century by squandering our wealth and borrowing as if there was no tomorrow. We risk losing this decade to an incomplete recovery and economic stagnation.

An economically responsible, politically feasible distribution of the costs of working our way out of the crisis will require higher taxes, a more efficient tax code, and restrained growth of social spending, particularly Medicare. To ignore these realities, and the contentious choices they entail, is merely to postpone the inevitable day of reckoning—and probably to make it worse.

Nye, Joseph S., Jr.. 2011. “The Right Way to Trim”. Publisher's VersionAbstract

The recent debt deal will slash the defense budget over the next decade. And if Congress can’t agree on an additional $1.5 trillion in cuts, the law’s “trigger mechanism” will lead to deeper reductions in military spending. The initial cuts will not imperil America’s national security, but the deeper cuts could.

The administration of George W. Bush nearly doubled the defense budget following 9/11. With the winding down of Mr. Bush’s two wars, we could cut our ground forces to 1990s levels, reduce the planned purchases of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, make greater use of cheaper drones and other technologies, and deal with the escalating costs of the defense health care system — without serious damage to national security. Indeed, President Obama’s budget had already planned for $400 billion in defense savings by 2023.

But it is not enough to tinker with the defense budget. We also need to rethink how we use our military power. Unlike the state of affairs during the cold war, the United States and its allies today account for over 70 percent of world military expenditure. The No. 1 power no longer has to patrol every boundary and seek to police every country. Opponents of defense cuts are raising the specter of isolationism and the weakening of American power. But there is a middle way.

At the height of the cold war, President Dwight D. Eisenhower decided against direct military intervention on the side of the French in Vietnam in 1954 because he was convinced that it was more important to preserve the strength of the American economy. Today, such a strategy would avoid involvement of ground forces in major wars in Asia or in other poor countries. While it will take time to extricate ourselves from Mr. Bush’s post-9/11 strategy, we must start, as the National Security Strategy of 2010 states, “by recognizing that our strength and influence abroad begins with the steps we take at home.” Eisenhower could have said that — and no one could accuse Ike of being an isolationist.

Counterinsurgency is attractive as a military tactic but it should not lead us into a strategy of nation-building in places where we do not have the capacity to engineer change. The maxim of avoiding major land wars in poor countries does not mean withdrawing our military presence from places like Japan and South Korea, or ending military assistance to countries like Pakistan and Egypt. Some analysts call this “off-shore balancing,” but that term must mean more than just naval and air force activity. For example, in Japan and South Korea, our allies pay a significant portion of the cost for basing American troops there because they want an insurance policy in a region faced with a rising China and a volatile North Korea.

Over the course of this century, Asia will return to its historic status, with more than half of the world’s population and half of the world’s economic output. America must be present there. Markets and economic power rest on political frameworks, and American military power provides that framework. Military security is to order as oxygen is to breathing: underappreciated until it becomes scarce. That is why the new bipartisan Congressional commission must provide the revenues that allow America to continue to play this vital role while avoiding the trap of overly ambitious nation-building.

Such a strategy is also sustainable at home. The British historian Niall Ferguson, an enthusiast for empire, lamented at the time of the Iraq war that the United States lacked the capacity for empire because of three domestic deficits: personnel (not enough boots on the ground); attention (not enough public support for long-term occupation); and financial (not enough savings and not enough taxation relative to public expenditure). He was correct.

Lacking a stomach for empire or colonial occupation is one of the important ways in which American political culture differs from that of imperial Britain. Americans like to promote universal values. But rather than succumbing to the temptation to intervene on the side of “the good,” we can do it best by being what Ronald Reagan called “a shining city on a hill.”

The alternatives we face today are not an untouchable defense budget or isolationism. A smart strategy for preserving America’s power and global role will depend on wisely tailoring our foreign policy to fit the cloth we have. Eisenhower knew this well.

Barro, Robert J. 2011. “The Coming Crises of Governments”. Publisher's VersionAbstract

The global crises of financial and housing markets are now being superseded by new crises of governments. The fiscal challenges for the weaker members of the eurozone are early warnings, as are analogous problems in American state governments weighed down by unfunded pension and healthcare liabilities. Without action, this new crisis of state competence could soon become just as damaging as its recent financial predecessor.

This week's US debt deal, along with the prospect of debate on fiscal solutions in the run-up to the 2012 elections, provides some room for optimism. But America's fiscal problems have deep roots. The recession of 2007-2009 stemmed from the unprecedented bust in the housing market, driven by reduced lending standards and propelled by congressional pressures on private lenders and the reckless expansions of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. It is, however, important to recognise that this mistake is now understood and will not be repeated.

In the aftermath of the debt ceiling agreement there will be calls for further stimulus for America's economy. This would be a grave mistake. In the financial turmoil of 2008, bail-outs by the US and other governments were unfortunate, but necessary. However, the subsequent $800bn American stimulus package was largely a waste of money that sharply enlarged the fiscal hole now facing our economy.

President Barack Obama's administration has consistently overestimated the benefits of stimulus, by using an unrealistically high spending multiplier. According to this Keynesian logic, government expenditure is more than a free lunch. This idea, if correct, would be more brilliant than the creation of triple A paper out of garbage. In any event, the elimination of the temporary spending is now contractionary and, more importantly, the resulting expansion of public debt eventually requires higher taxes, retarding growth.

I agree that budget deficits were appropriate during the great recession and, for that reason, the kind of balanced-budget rule currently proposed by some Republicans should be avoided. However, since government spending is warranted only if it passes the usual hurdles of social rates of return, the fiscal deficit should have concentrated on tax reductions, especially those that emphasised falls in marginal tax rates, which encourage investment and growth.

Despite relief at the debt-ceiling agreement, America's fiscal situation remains deeply problematic. Any attempt to head off a crisis of government competence must begin with serious long-term reform. Reductions in the long-term path of entitlement outlays have to be put on the table, with increases in ages of eligibility a part of any solution.

We also need sharp reductions in spending programmes initiated or expanded by Mr Obama and his extravagant predecessor, George W. Bush. Given the inevitable growth of the main entitlement programmes, especially healthcare, increases in long-term federal revenue must be part of an overall reform.

So what, specifically, can be done? An effective future tax package would begin by setting US corporate and estate tax rates permanently to zero, given these taxes are inefficient and generate little revenue. Next, it would gradually phase out major "tax-expenditure" items, such as tax preferences for home-mortgage interest, state and local income taxes, and employee fringe benefits.

The structure of marginal income-tax rates should then be lowered. Marginal rates should particularly not increase where they are already high, such as at upper incomes. The bulk of any extra revenue needed to make up the difference should then be raised via a broad-based, flat-rate expenditure tax, such as a value added tax. A rate of 10 per cent, with few exemptions, would raise about 5 per cent of gross domestic product.

Of course, such a new tax would be a two-edged sword: a highly efficient tax, but politically dangerous. To paraphrase Larry Summers from long ago, we don't have VAT in the US because Democrats think it is regressive, and Republicans think it is a money machine. We will get VAT when Democrats realise it is a money machine, and Republicans realise it is regressive. Obviously, I worry about the money machine property, but I see no serious alternative for raising the revenue needed for an overall next-stage reform package.

The raucous debt-ceiling debate represents a good start in forging a serious long-term fiscal plan. Substantial additional progress will be needed, sadly much of which will probably have to await the outcome of the next US election. Yet progress must be made - or the impending crises of governments, signalled by possible downgrades of US debt, will make the 2008-2009 recession look mild.

Elkins, Caroline M. 2011. “Strong Evidence”. Publisher's VersionAbstract

The work of a Harvard history professor has bolstered the case of a group of elderly Kenyans who are seeking reparations from the British government for rape, castration, beatings, and other abuses that they say were part of systematic colonial-era efforts to suppress Kenya’s Mau Mau uprising.

The case passed a critical milestone in July when a British judge allowed it to move forward despite government arguments that, if the abuses happened, the current government isn’t liable for colonial transgressions.

The Kenyans are former detainees in British prison camps set up during the 1950s Mau Mau rebellion, which set the stage for Kenyan independence in 1963. The plaintiffs allege that their abuse came at the hands of British jailers in what was a systematic and government-sanctioned campaign to break the rebellion.

Though there had been talk of reparations for colonial atrocities for years, the case was given new life by Professor Caroline Elkins’ Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain’s Gulag in Kenya. The book, published in 2005, blended government documents and eyewitness accounts to tell a compelling story of a horrific, systematic campaign by the British colonial government to crush the rebellion not only in the field, but through abuse of those held in camps around the country.

“Caroline’s work has been absolutely fundamental to the case,” said Daniel Leader, a barrister for the London law firm Leigh Day & Co., which is representing the former Kenyan detainees. “She was uniquely responsible for beginning to change the public’s understanding of that period in history….The victims are forever in her debt. She put their stories on the map.”

It was Elkins’ work, Leader said, that indicated that the abuse was not only systematic, but known by the British government in London.

George Morara, program officer for the Kenya Human Rights Commission, which has worked to identify plaintiffs who could bring the case before the courts, said that Elkins’ research built an important foundation that allowed the case to move forward.

“Without her seminal work,” Morara said, “this story wouldn’t have come to the fore.”

Elkins’ critics, however, have charged that, though there may have been abuses in the system, there was no systematic effort by the government to abuse detainees.

The July 21 ruling denied a motion to dismiss the case on the grounds that the current British government has no responsibility for actions by the colonial government in Kenya. While the judge didn’t rule on the merits of the case itself, the decision represents a key victory for the former detainees.

“I have decided that the claimants have arguable cases, fit for trial,” High Court Judge Richard McCombe wrote in a summary explaining his judgment. “I emphasize that I have not found that there was systematic torture in the Kenyan camps nor that, if there was, the U.K. government is liable to detainees, such as the claimants, for what happened. . . . I decided that the FCO [Foreign and Commonwealth Office] have not established that the claimants are bound to fail.”

The decision sets up a hearing on a second government motion to dismiss the case, Elkins said, this one based on a statute of limitations for such cases. The court can make exceptions to the statute of limitations, however, and Leader said the plaintiffs will use examples of other atrocities cases that have been prosecuted long after the acts were committed to illustrate that a fair trial is possible. Should the case clear that hurdle, expected in early 2012, Elkins expects the trial itself to begin next spring or summer.

In addition to revelations contained in “Imperial Reckoning,” Elkins and two other historians acting as expert witnesses have submitted lengthy reports to the court; they’re also reviewing thousands of pages of previously undisclosed, colonial-era documents the government has brought forward because of the case. Elkins said the experts’ review of these documents has already yielded numerous memoranda that further substantiate both her thesis of systematized violence and the witness testimony she collected recounting abuse and torture in the camps.

For Elkins, the court decision and the new documents substantiating her work provide a bit of vindication. Though her book garnered a great deal of praise in the U.S., winning the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction, it was also attacked in both Britain and Kenya as inaccurate and based on unreliable witness testimony.

Elkins said she’s grateful for those at Harvard who stood by her while, as a graduate student, she worked on her dissertation, which was the basis for “Imperial Reckoning,” and when, as a junior faculty member, she endured the attacks on her work.

In 2006, Morara and the Kenya Human Rights Commission began interviewing veterans in hopes of bringing a case to British courts. Three men and two women were chosen, one of whom, Susan Ciong’ombe Ngondi, has since died.  The four remaining plaintiffs, Ndiku Mutua, Paulo Nzili, Wambugu Wa Nyingi, and Jane Muthoni Mara, are all elderly, in their 70s and 80s. The case was filed in 2009.

The case itself seeks an apology from the British government for abuse in the camps and establishment of a welfare system for former detainees, some of whom, Leader said, were unable to have children due to their treatment. In Kenya’s traditional culture, where children provide for their elderly parents, detainees’ inability to have a family leaves them with little means of support, he said.

From a historian’s viewpoint, the case is one of what actually happened versus what people say happened, Elkins said. The government and its supporters have dismissed the firsthand testimony and eyewitness accounts of those who suffered, compounding what occurred in the detention camps decades ago.

“It’s now a duel between colonial-inspired history and revisionist history,” Elkins said. “On top of it all, some have called the people who survived these horrific tortures liars. The British government behaved badly in Kenya, and many have continued to do so in an effort to conceal or minimize colonial abuses.”