Monday, July 30, 2007
In previous blog postings, I have mentioned my research with Josh Kurlantzick on ASEAN's relationship with Japan and China. One big question is whether ASEAN can play a role in the formation of a regional identity. The answer will depend on whether the grouping can consolidate its power, construct a strong charter this fall, codify universal values, and avoid being restricted by the noninterference principle. Good news today on those fronts:
During ASEAN's meeting in Manila, the group reached consensus on including provisions in the ASEAN charter for the establishment of a human rights commission. Read the Associated Press article here.
The AP reporter quotes a Singaporean official:
"We have agreed that there will be a human rights body," Singapore Foreign Minister George Yeo said after the ministers met for four hours to discuss the draft. "There was a consensus."
Yeo said details will be settled later but that the foreign ministers hoped to have everything worked out by the time that ASEAN leaders hold their annual summit in November, when they plan to approve the charter.
"I'm very optimistic," Yeo said.
And on the noninterference principle?
Some ASEAN countries fear any scrutiny of their human rights, and the group has traditionally held to a cardinal policy of noninterference in each other's affairs. Human rights groups complain that this noninterference principle fostered undemocratic governments in the region.
Friday, July 27, 2007
The glossy books on the PLA that were available at the door made clear the relationship between the PLA and the Chinese Communist Party. The first sentence of the book reads:
"The Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) is founded and led by the Communist Party of China (CPC)."
A couple of pages later, it goes on to read:
"The CPC's absolute leadership over the PLA is the eternal soul of the PLA."
Monday, July 23, 2007
Japan is acquiring weapons that blur the lines between defensive and offensive. For the Guam bombing run, Japan deployed its newest fighter jets, the F-2’s, the first developed jointly by Japan and the United States, on their maiden trip here. Unlike its older jets, the F-2’s were able to fly the 1,700 miles from northern Japan to Guam without refueling — a “straight shot,” as the Japanese said with unconcealed pride.
The summary of Onishi's article titled "Bomb by Bomb, Japan Sheds Military Restraints" mentions that this change in Japan is "rattling nerves in northeast Asia." Although Onishi only sites two top Korean officials to back up the assertion, the claim is probably true, given South Korea's suspicion of the Japanese military, North Korea's outright hostility toward Japan, and China's rivalry for regional dominance.
But what about Southeast Asia?
I wonder why the article didn't mention the other side of the coin, that in Southeast Asia, many welcome a stronger Japan to balance China. In my trip to Asia this summer, I found senior observers in the Philippines, Indonesia, and Singapore not only in support of a more assertive Japan but also in favor of a stronger Japanese military. Many see Japan as a transparent, accountable actor with a good track record.
I guess the answer you get depends on whom you ask.
This online conversation between Matthew Taylor, RSA Chief Executive, and Joel Rosenthal, Carnegie Council President, is part of a joint project on the ethics of climate change with the RSA in London and Carnegie Council.
MATTHEW TAYLOR: It is now clear that tackling climate change by reducing the consumption of fossil fuels is necessary not just to protect the environment, but also to save human lives. Climate change is an issue of global human rights. Those who have contributed least to human induced climate change will not only be the worse affected, they are also the least able to deal with the impacts. We are already seeing the first climate change refugees as land becomes uninhabitable due to rising sea levels and desertification. And without tackling climate change, other global challenges such as improving health or reducing poverty will become ever more intractable. The choice between tackling climate change and tackling poverty and disease is a false one. What would be the point of spending decades trying to eradicate diseases or reduce poverty only for climate change impacts to create new epidemics, famines and wars?
There is a perception that high consumption of fossil fuels must go hand in hand with the high quality of life enjoyed by developed nations. This does not have to be the case. We need to see a transition away from a global economy reliant on fossil fuel consumption to a low carbon economy for many reasons other than climate change. Think, for example, of the health problems associated with pollution. More urgently still, fossil fuel scarcity means governments are seeing energy supply as the key issue of national security.
Many argue, and more and more agree, that there is a moral obligation for developed countries to help developing countries make the transition to low carbon. Remember that when the Chinese build their new coal fired power station every week, it is in large part because they are manufacturing products for our domestic markets. Global justice was in part the rationale behind international agreements such as Kyoto. But we cannot simply rely on politicians to negotiate agreed targets at the international level. It is up to us to give the politicians the courage to agree sufficiently demanding targets and the will to police them, and it will be in large part up to business and individuals to deliver on the commitments their governments make.
There is no sign as yet that technology has the silver bullet. So we must start to think about how we must change our lives. In order to make this transition towards a low carbon future, consumer pressure must be brought to bear on business and government to provide the necessary infrastructure and products. Individual behaviour is shaped by external incentives, personal choices and social norms. Living low carbon lives will mean action on all fronts.
Is it enough to rely on citizens of developed countries to use consumer power to reduce the carbon intensity of our current lifestyles, or is the way we live now inherently highly carbon intensive?
What are the most powerful ways for state action, corporate and individual action to work together to foster sustainability?
Does any global framework have ultimately to accept the principle that every citizen of the world has the same limited right to the carbon?
I salute the RSA for taking up this urgent issue. The case in favor of limiting carbon emissions in light of threats to the natural environment and public health is, by now, overwhelming. While Al Gore's book and movie An Inconvenient Truth may put an exclamation point on this observation for the benefit of wide audiences and popular culture, the arguments have been well rehearsed for many years now. I agree that it is well past time for action.
So the question is, what guidance do we have for action? Philosophers give us three distinct moral principles to animate our work: stewardship, intergenerational justice, and distributive justice. Stewardship rests on the idea that man's relationship to the natural world is not one of ownership but rather interdependence. On a planet of 6 billion people, it is self-evident that resources are finite. Here in the United States, the population has risen from less than 200 million to more than 300 million just in my lifetime. Stewardship implies special care for non-renewable resources and respect for common goods.
Most of us learned as children that when we leave a place that we have visited, the place should be in as good a condition, if not a bit better, than we found it when we arrived. The principle of intergenerational justice means that we owe our heirs not only a livable planet, but also as much of the richness and diversity as we have enjoyed.
Things get more complicated when we speak about distributive justice. Distributive justice raises the question of benefits and burdens. Who pays for the burden of clean up, or the added cost of mandating "clean" technologies, especially in developing countries? Why should India or China be required to develop according to "green" standards while the U.S. and Europe most definitely did not?
Political scientists address this issue in the language of self-interests and collective action. Addressing climate change is at some level a common interest. Yet the effects of climate change will not be uniform and political units will calculate the threat in different ways. Thinking in terms of individual responsibility and the liability of specific actors is insufficient. As you point out, we need to think in terms of social connection as well.
The environment is not a distinct entity "out there"—rather, it is embedded in economic patterns (jobs) and lifestyles (consumer choices). Climate change is actually one big collective action problem. As you suggest, perhaps the best strategy is a two-pronged approach. Incentives and disincentives need to be devised to affect individual choice. Simultaneously, social structures and institutions need to evolve so that individuals acting rationally within them will promote positive change. Think small and scale up. Think big and imagine new social arrangements.
History is full of positive examples. After the industrial revolution and the environmental crises it caused, traditions of preservation and conservation emerged. Progressive reform also emerged, marrying the innovations of science and technology to better government, environmental protection, and improved lives. Sanitation, parks, protecting of ecological resources—all came about as a result of raised consciousness followed by political action.
We inherit the successes of the ecology movement of the 1960s and '70s. The achievement of that generation was astounding in its influence and reach. These successes are now a generation old. What is the post-cold war, globalization generation doing? Is it measuring up to its historic responsibilities? I fear not. But with RSA and other like-minded groups entering the arena, I have hope.
Joel H. Rosenthal
Saturday, July 21, 2007
By the way, Twitter's tag line is the humorously simple, "What are you doing?"
In the article, Thompson uses this wonderful word: proprioception (Merriam-Webster defines it as the reception of stimuli produced within the organism). He predicts that Twitter technology will be embedded in many websites and applications. I wonder if we can develop not only a sixth sense but an ethical sense from Twitter community's social proprioception.
Here is an excerpt from the Wired article:
It's like proprioception, your body's ability to know where your limbs are. That subliminal sense of orientation is crucial for coordination: It keeps you from accidentally bumping into objects, and it makes possible amazing feats of balance and dexterity.
Twitter and other constant-contact media create social proprioception. They give a group of people a sense of itself, making possible weird, fascinating feats of coordination.
For example, when I meet Misha for lunch after not having seen her for a month, I already know the wireframe outline of her life: She was nervous about last week's big presentation, got stuck in a rare spring snowstorm, and became addicted to salt bagels. With Dodgeball, I never actually race out to meet a friend when they report their nearby location; I just note it as something to talk about the next time we meet.
It's almost like ESP, which can be incredibly useful when applied to your work life. You know who's overloaded — better not bug Amanda today — and who's on a roll. A buddy list isn't just a vehicle to chat with friends but a way to sense their presence. Are they available to talk? Have they been away? This awareness is crucial when colleagues are spread around the office, the country, or the world. Twitter substitutes for the glances and conversations we had before we became a nation of satellite employees.
Mainstream, neo-liberal economic theory, which students learn in most American universities, provides basic tools for understanding the underlying mechanics such as supply and demand.
I personally enjoyed my economics classes in college and grad school, but soon realized that the real world, not the hypothetical world of economics case studies, is far more complicated and even more counter intuitive than one would conclude after reading a microeconomics text book. No surprise. Like, if people maximize utility or wealth, how does one explain charity? A cynic would say that donors get some type of benefit, such as prestige, social standing, or other side benefits. No room for altruism. I remember talking to a brilliant French economist in Tokyo a few years ago and I was trying to make sense of some of his ideas by applying rational choice theory. He scoffed and called "rat choice" passe.
Remember, the answer to any economics question is, "It depends."
Seeing Joseph Stiglitz speak in Tokyo several years ago was also an enlightening experience. The Washington consensus of free trade and low budget expenditures was not the final word on development policies? Top economists, such as Stiglitz, Jeff Sachs, Larry Summers, Alan Blinder, and Robert Reich, are drawing attention to the failings of free market economics. Some thinkers, like our friends Sanjay Reddy, Thomas Pogge, and Christian Barry, are even applying ethics to economics, and asking is this policy just... is it fair?
New York Times reporter Patricia Cohen reports on this cadre of emerging heterodox economists in an article last week titled "In Economics Departments, A Growing Will To Debate Fundamental Assumptions." You can read it here. I remember just a year ago the phrase heterodox economist was alien to some. One person asked me what that was; I simply said, "the opposite of orthodox." Oh.
Cohen's point is that "in recent months" economists are feeling less ashamed about questioning the fundamental assumptions, less fearful of being ostracized. I might put the time frame in "recent years," but here are a couple of nice snippets from Cohen's report:
For many economists, questioning free-market orthodoxy is akin to expressing a belief in intelligent design at a Darwin convention: Those who doubt the naturally beneficial workings of the market are considered either deluded or crazy.
But in recent months, economists have engaged in an impassioned debate over the way their specialty is taught in universities around the country, and practiced in Washington, questioning the profession’s most cherished ideas about not interfering in the economy.
“There is much too much ideology,” said Alan S. Blinder, a professor at Princeton and a former vice chairman of the Federal Reserve Board. Economics, he added, is “often a triumph of theory over fact.” Mr. Blinder helped kindle the discussion by publicly warning in speeches and articles this year that as many as 30 million to 40 million Americans could lose their jobs to lower-paid workers abroad. Just by raising doubts about the unmitigated benefits of free trade, he made headlines and had colleagues rubbing their eyes in astonishment.The article ends with this great story on Dani Rodrick:
Most mainstream economists think that voicing any skepticism or doubt provides “ammunition to the barbarians,” he said, and allows narrow-minded people to “hijack any argument to suit their purpose.”
Mr. Rodrik said he used to worry about this until he realized that “on any issue, there are barbarians on both sides,” so there was no point in shading an argument to “suit one set of barbarians over the other.”
“And I’ve slept a lot better since.”
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Some have argued that technology and the low cost of consumer goods have made life better in America. 30 years ago, I would not have been able to listen to my favorite music on my iPhone and rent movies online, goes the argument. But living standards in Polaski's analysis comprise access to health care, job security, and pensions.
Polaski recommends the following domestic solutions:
• Reform U.S. labor laws to give employees more influence over decisions about their wages and benefits, by fully protecting their rights to organize and collectively bargain.
• Adjust the minimum wage for the 30 million workers—one-fifth of the U.S. workforce—that earn less than the $9.80/hour required for a sole wage earner to keep his or her family above the poverty line.
• Create a modern social safety net to mitigate the impacts of globalization and rapid changes in the domestic economy. This should include better unemployment insurance and job-retraining programs, increased social security taxes to ensure the program’s viability, fully portable pension plans, and universal access to health insurance.
Friday, July 13, 2007
"Right now, it is everything goes--precisely because, yes, everything goes--no good credit checking system, no well-placed fear of violating good norms, one can get away with cheating, et cetera," Lu is quoted as saying. As I have written with Joshua Eisenman in the Globalist, a single minded focus on profit and GDP growth, has created a new rich culture in China.
The Cultural Revolution left a moral vacuum that in being filled by consumerism. "Now that many Chinese lost faith in communist ideology, getting rich has, in a sense, become the national religion," writes Parker.
Saturday, July 7, 2007
Being number one means you have to constantly look over your shoulder. Groups of bogeymen appear in the shadows and observers looking out for America’s interests are justified in assessing the potential threats they pose to U.S. power. Over the past 35 years, these groups have included China and the Soviet Union; communists; Islamic nations; China and Japan; Iran, Iraq and North Korea; China and India; and Asians more generally.
According to Barma, Ratner and Weber, China, India and Russia comprise the latest group on the watch list. The authors seem to riff off of the acronym "BRICs" that Goldman Sachs’s Jim O’Neill "dreamt up" in 2001. While O’Neill argued the economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC) combined could grow larger than the current G-7 economies by 2050, the authors suggest the accompanying growth in political influence is worth examining. Never mind that O’Neill’s BRICs was partly a marketing tool for investors—these authors are rightly concerned about what China’s rise and Russia’s political backtracking mean for international norms.
The authors’ concerns derive from characteristics they see as unique to China, India and Russia (call them RICs)—in these societies, "communal, rather than individual, traditions are strong"; "state stewardship of the economy is the dominant ideology"; and "raw power trumps contract law." But do these perceived characteristics mean that they will create a "World Without the West", with its own set of norms, rules, institutions and "currencies of power?" I offer a few factors that suggest we are not headed toward a world divided into two—the West and the rest—in the near future.
First, the World Without the West argument ignores the inevitability of economic change between the RICs. It is likely that one of the three economies will grow faster than the other two, changing their relationships and shared interests. Even the Goldman Sachs forecast for 2050 has China’s economy at 45 trillion dollars, India’s at 26 trillion and Russia’s at less than 10 trillion. The U.S. economy would be at about 35 trillion dollars. Meanwhile, the United States and Japan would remain the wealthiest (GDP per capita), while Russia would be the only RIC with wealth comparable to G-7 countries.
Second, while the authors mention states’ interests in the RICs, the three rising powers face pressures for more transparent, accountable governance from three sources—pressure from their citizens, bilateral partners and the international community. China, the one likely to have the greatest economic weight, just passed a more serious labor protection law last week and is facing calls from its economic partners all over the world for more transparency and accountability in its exports and foreign direct investment.
Investors, no matter where they are from, demand transparency and accountability. And human rights do matter in economic relationships: One of O’Neill’s recent reports talks about the roles and rights of women in the BRIC societies and their impacts on investment environments. Meanwhile, as nations acquire the capacity to contribute to global goods, calls for them to do so will grow louder.
The authors call the RICs communal and state driven, implying a model contrary to transparency and respect for human rights. But I cannot think of a better example of a communal and state driven economic success than Japan. Japan’s place in the world suggests that communitarianism is not inconsistent with supporting Western institutions.
Third, the RICs have little in common with one another at present. While China and India are manufacturing centers that are working to improve their human capital stock, Russia is banking on natural-resource-driven growth, making its economic future vulnerable to oil prices. India has a growing population, while Russia’s is shrinking and China will face a labor shortage. India is a democracy, Russia a quasi-democracy and China a single-party state. With China and Russia on the UN Security Council and Russia in the G-8, they are to varying degrees enmeshed in Western institutions. In the past week, I have tested the RIC thesis with senior Russian and Chinese experts and they said that lack of trust among the three RICs countries prevents them from teaming up in a meaningful way.
Fourth, the place of ethics in foreign policy has been growing globally for hundreds of years—and not just in the west. Justine Rosenthal and Leslie Gelb wrote in their 2003 Foreign Affairs article, "The Rise of Ethics in Foreign Policy: Reaching a Values Consensus":
Most international surveys show popular support for good governance and human rights—the liberal vision that is supposedly threatened by the RICs. Bruce Stokes, who recently gave a talk (listen here) with co-author Andrew Kohut at the Carnegie Council on their new book America Against the World, reported that, according to their surveys, "Support for democratic values is widely shared across the world." Those values include free speech, a fair judiciary and multiparty elections. Economist Marcus Noland wrote in a 2005 paper that he found a statistical correlation between acceptance of homosexuality and economic performance. Finally, groupings such as ASEAN are grappling with the need they feel for a codification of democratic values and the allowance for humanitarian intervention when necessary.
From the dawn of human history, there have been laws about the initiation and conduct of war. The ancient Egyptians and the fourth century BC Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu set out rules on how and why to begin wars and how those wars should be fought. Saint Augustine argued that an act of war needs a just cause, and Saint Thomas Aquinas believed that battle requires the authority of a sovereign power and should be acted out with good intention.
Barma, Ratner and Weber describe a mode of governing that may be attractive to individual governments but not necessarily to those governments’ citizens, the states’ bilateral partners and the international community. Moreover, they do not show how the "model" that the RICs are offering improves on current Western-led institutions, nor do they show how the RICs can solve the failures of those institutions. For the RICs to present a cohesive form of alternative leadership, they will need to be more than just big.
Friday, July 6, 2007
Since 2000 U.S. corporate profi ts have nearly doubled, from $817.9 billion in 2000 to $1.62 trillion in 2006. This rise has not been concentrated in one particular sector, but rather has been enjoyed quite widely across many industries. As a share of total national income, these corporate profits are today near 60-year highs at about 14 percent. The concentration of equity ownership in America means that higher corporate profitability may have contributed to the just discussed skewness of total-income growth.
To summarize: in recent years the large majority of American workers has seen poor income growth. Indeed, 96.6 percent of Americans are in educational groups whose mean total money earnings have been falling, not rising, since 2000. Only a small share of workers at the very high end has enjoyed strong growth in incomes. The strong U.S. productivity growth of the past several years has not been reflected in wage and salary earnings, and instead has accrued largely to the earnings of very high-end Americans and to corporate profits.
Read the full report here.
Monday, July 2, 2007
James: The "sexual revolution" that I am talking about is not about advocating sex, but it is about advocating sexual rights. This includes obviously the right to say no to unwanted sex and the right to sexual health.
Q: You have argued that these developments signal a positive development in the level of freedom in China's society. Tell me about that.
James: I believe that sexual rights are fundamental human rights and also are closely related to other political and social rights. Practically speaking, the rights to sexual privacy, to free choice of partners before marriage, and to freedom of divorce after marriage have all expanded greatly in China. This has been an important factor in the increase in the quality of life of Chinese people over the past 20 years.
Q: What is the theoretical or statistical link between sexual freedom and other freedoms in society?
James: Showing a statistical link might require too narrow of an operationalization of the terms of my discussion. What I am talking about is a causal and institutional link. Rights to sexual privacy for example are directly related to basic changes in urban governance in China. It used to be that your "work unit" and the leadership of your residential compound had a great say in how you conducted your private affairs. Now, your "company" (almost no one says "work unit" anymore) scarcely bothers with your private life, unless you happen to be a young rural-to-urban migrant in which case such interference by bosses is still a problem. Residential compounds also are now more concerned about maintaining property values than about how many girlfriends or boyfriends you have. These fundamental changes in urban social governance have led to greater rights to privacy in all areas of life.
Greater freedom of sexual expression also is related to greater freedom of expression in other matters. This conference I attended is a good example, but an even better example is the amount of self-expression on the Internet. Sexual expression is one example, but there are many areas of personal and social experience in which people can express their views with little fear of provoking a response from the state. Censorship is prevalent and sometimes harsh, and state censors are constantly improving their techniques. But the sheer volume of discourse is so great that the space of discourse can only grow. Take the example of homosexuality. It was virtually a taboo topic in the Chinese media until the advent of the Internet. Now there are numerous sites devoted exclusively to gay issues, and the sphere of gay discourse is growing steadily, despite the skepticism and lack of support from the Chinese state. To some extent the sheer volume of sexual discourse has made the topic more acceptable.
Read the full interview here.
"In 1916 and again in 1918, Congress passed laws trying to discourage child labor. The Supreme Court found both unconstitutional. So in 1924, Congress passed a proposed constitutional amendment giving the federal government the power to regulate the work of people under 18. Its opponents called it the 'federal youth control amendment.'" I guess early 20th century spin doctors were trying to make child labor protection sound unAmerican. According to the WSJ article, this amendment is still technically pending.
Twenty years later, the federal Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 limited child labor and withstood challenges from the Supreme Court. Was it because America had gained a conscience? It had something to do with civil society complaints about working conditions. But it also had to do with technological advances, making child labor less useful. "By then, market forces and new technology were already moving young children out of the labor force."
Will China take 20 years to crack down on child labor? In today's article, "Will China Enforce New Labor Laws?" Jude Blanchette of the Christian Science Monitor says the government appears more willing to enforce child labor laws after new provisions to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2008 were passed on Friday.
"As is always the case with China's laws, the real question will be in whether the new laws are enforced, how they are enforced, and against whom they are enforced," says Dan Harris, an expert at the law firm Harris & Moure. But, he adds, "there is a feeling the new labor law is more likely to be enforced than the old and, in particular, will be enforced against foreign companies."
"Since its emergence as an economic powerhouse more than 20 years ago, China has been dogged by criticisms of poor working conditions, the use of child labor and willingness to placate multinational corporations. "
Twenty years--it seems history is repeating itself.