Conference: Global History of Agrarian Labor Regimes, 1750 to 2000 (Harvard University)

My interest in Agrarian Labor Regimes was first awaken in my research on Opium trade in India. Since then, more readings have made me realize the complex structures behind the history of agrarian labor in a global context.

If you are also interested in the topic, the *Weatherhead Initiative on Global History (WIGH)* at Harvard University is planning a conference for *April 2013* that is focusing on changing labor regimes within global agriculture.

As posted by Blog de la AMHE by Manuel Bautista, they are interested in exploring the diversity of labor regimes, the paths along which they changed, and—most especially—the connections between these changes in different parts of the world. We are interested in work that explores the connected histories of propertied farming, sharecropping, wage labor, slavery, *cultures obligatoires*, and other such forms of labor, and how they have been connected to the spatial and social spread of capitalism.We are seeking proposals from historians, political scientists, economists, sociologists, and anthropologists at all stages of their academic career, including graduate students. We encourage proposals from those in relevant career paths or institutions outside the university. We are particularly interested in forging a global discussion of these topics, and therefore welcome especially contributions from outside North America and Europe.

The conference will try to balance broad comparative papers and revealing case studies. The Weatherhead Initiative on Global History is a newly created center that responds to the growing interest at Harvard in the encompassing study of global history. The Initiative is committed to the systematic scrutiny of developments that have unfolded across national, regional, and continental boundaries as well as to analysis of the interconnections—cultural, economic, ecological and demographic—among world societies. For further information about WIGH as well as the conference, please consult our website at http://wigh.wcfia.harvard.edu.

Proposals should include an abstract of no more than two pages and a brief curriculum vita. Please email your submissions to Jessica Barnard ( jbarnard @ wcfia.harvard.edu ) before *November 30, 2012*. Travel expenses as well as accommodation will be covered.

Holger Droessler hdroessl @ fas.harvard.edu

A GPE perspective: World’s richest woman makes case for $2-a-day pay

The top 10 most competitive economies in the world. By: The World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2012-2013

Reaction to article: Lazarus, David. 2012. She’s back: World’s richest woman makes case for $2-a-day pay. Los Angeles Times, 5. September, sec. Money.

A month ago the world’s richest woman made a comment that got everyone’s attention.  Major sensationalist papers in the globe elaborated different arguments on Gina Rinehart case for a $2-a-day pay.  But putting emotions aside, what was she really talking about?  Well, she was explaining in very rough terms what globalization is about and what is the role of competition in the global political economy.

In order to understand what Ms. Rinehart referred to, it is necessary first to briefly evaluate the history of the word competitiveness. The term is historically rooted in the writings of classical economics. Its core is the theory of comparative advantage expressed by David Ricardo in 1819, in which he underlined how countries should/do compete.  Later on, the term was used by Marxist economists starting with Marx’s “Capital: A Critique of Political Economy” where he emphasized the impact of the sociopolitical environment on economic development in a global perspective, and therefore the communist idea that changing the political context should precede economic performance. Later, in 1942 the term was integrated to the role played by capitalists and entrepreneurs in the writings of Joseph Schumpeter, who stressed their creative and economic (“economic” here refers to capital as a mean of production) role as a factor of competitiveness by underlining that progress is the result of disequilibrium, which favors innovation and technological improvement.  Further, Israel Kirzner’s emphasis on the redefinition of entrepreneurship by highlighting how global competitiveness is more about the capitalist’s innovative abilities rather than just the capital accumulated and how he/she invests it.

Ms. Rinehart’s comment reflects both the impact she plays as an actor in the global sociopolitical environment and her role as a capitalist and entrepreneur capable of generating innovation and of inciting creative destruction.

A $2-a-day pay in Africa means that many capitalists and entrepreneurs as Gina Rinehart are considering the possibility of moving their investments from less competitive continents to places in which competitiveness allow them to produce at lower costs.

Unfortunately, the region Ms. Rinehart was referring to has disincentives to competitiveness and innovation.  Competitiveness is more than just lower wages and a cheap offer of labor.  By following Ricardo, Marx, Schumpeter and Kirzner in order for Africa to become competitive in global terms the regions will require also to achieve what Stéphane Garelli in the “IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook 2012” explains as the need to also A.) Create a stable and predictable legislative and administrative environment. B.) Ensure speed, transparency and accountability in the administration, as well as the ease of doing business. C.) Invest continually in developing and maintaining infrastructure both economic (road, air, telecom, etc.) and social (health, education, pension, etc.). And finally, D.) Strengthen the middle class: a key source of prosperity and long-term stability.

Ms. Rinehart’s comments were not a call for Australians to lower their wages to a $2-a-day pay since they have already achieved other of Garelli’s requirements for competitiveness. Her comments are a very clear example on how global economy works.  If African governments manage to improve the rule of law in their territories, develop infrastructure and allow for a stronger middle class then the chances that investment will move to Africa are going to be higher.  As such, economies as Australia’s should continue producing at the same efficiency rates or improve and innovate in order to avoid losing investors. Ms. Rinehart’s comment on how “her country’s mining industry couldn’t compete with nations that are willing to pay workers less than $2 a day for their sweat and labor” is as such partially truth. Australia’s economy has many other competitive assets to offer and as such do not require to compete by offering lower wages.  The country has many other competitive assets to offer for investors.  However, as time has passed since Australia’s boom in the last decades many other countries are also trying to spur competitiveness.

There is much more to be said about this topic and on how global competitiveness allows for rising standards of life and prosperity. Also there is much more to be said on how competitiveness in other regions of the world can destroy (remember Schumpeter’s work) the not-so efficient economies of other countries that have not managed to cope with a changing global economy.

We Are Now One Year Away From Global Riots, Complex Systems Theorists Say

Remember 1989?  Well, as argued by many scholars, that years was the culmination of global interactions that “dynamized in many places of the world crisis phenomena and synchronized, the resulting transformation processes Had they been previously locates primarily in a national framework, now its global dimension is obvious. Thus began both reflect on the established order of the world is understood relationship with their respective areas of sovereignty in the resolution, as well, should be designed as the new world order.” (Read more on 1989 in a Global Perspective).

“The MIT Technology Review explains how CSI’s model works: “The evidence comes from two sources. The first is data gathered by the United Nations that plots the price of food against time, the so-called food price index of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN. The second is the date of riots around the world, whatever their cause.” Plot the data, and it looks like this:……”

Read more…

Afghanistan during the 50s vs Today

A friend in Facebook posted yesterday an interesting link that read Afghanistan of the 50s-60s”. The description of the website read that “having seen the title of the post, many probably thought that it would be about a wild, backward, medieval country with even worse living conditions…”  However, the photographs in the link failed to “demonstrated” that Afghanistan pre-1950s was some type of a paradise before the Socialist invasion.

While the images show a “decent and civilized” view of Afghanistan in the 50s and 60s they are only a glimpse of the reality of the Asiatic region and of many other European colonies around the globe.  It is a fact that the great majority of the people during colonial times lived in worse conditions than during the Cold War.

As a result of centuries of this mix, Afghanistan was one of the poorest and most illiterate countries in the globe by 1950.  The life expectancy for both men and women was of only 29 years and the average GDP/per capita inflation adjusted was of only $800.00.

By 1970, Afghanistan was still one of the poorest countries managing to increase the life expectancy to only 33 years and the average GDP/per capita to $833.00  Today, Afghanistan has some of the lowest rankings of health, education and economic growth on Earth even after decades of investments done in infrastructure by the Soviet Union during the Cold War’s competition vs the United States.

Soviet investment during the 50s in Afghanistan

 What caused this economic and social stagnation vs the rest of the World?

Afghanistan is a complex historical mix of:

  • Centuries of imperialistic control (Mongol, Mughal, British, Soviet, American) +
  • autocratic tribalism +
  • religious intolerance  +
  • control of the economy by the state +
  • regional oligarchies +
  • disrespect for individual rights

The previous only kept increasing and by 1973, Afghanistan was what some would define a modern democratic state with free elections, parliamentary ruling, civil rights, women’s rights and universal suffrage that failed to improve the life of its inhabitants.  Becoming a democratic state with a parliamentary ruling is of no help when the ruling philosophy of a country and of its ruling elite is based on the principle of freedom to violate individual rights.

The past was not necessarily better than the more recent past or the present. Afghanistan is a good example of this last sentence. Whenever  individual rights are sacrificed for the interests of national of foreign groups of interests the positive outcomes will always result in detriment of the individual.  It has always been groups of interests who benefit from the illiterate masses and historical examples explain this plentifully.

The images in the link mentioned above are inaccurate historical accounts. I consider that the following cartoon is very clear in explaining the complex and unfortunate story of the country and I invite you to study it,

Inequality in India

By 2011 the BRIC economies had some of the highest rates of income inequality adjusted to the Human Development Index among developing nations.  At the same time, the BRIC countries had consistently had the highest GNP growth versus the previous 10 years among developing nations.  How is it that there is not a parallel growth of the Human Development of its citizens?  The answer and one of the biggest challenges for the BRIC countries is the fact that a large amount of the GNP is distributed among small elites that control their market economies.

Economists and investors such as O’Neill, Krugman and others largely emphasize the expected growth of the BRIC economies as indicators of where to invest their money.  Unfortunately, they have not paid the same interest to what many other economists consider important: the human development of the people.  Fortunately, there are still some economists who since the decade of 1970 paid a lot of attention to the issues of freedom and equality.  Economists leaded by Milton Friedman, the Economics Nobel Prize of 1976, argued that economic policies should be focused in the freedom of its citizens as a primary value.  To them, stressing equality per se could lead to economic inefficiency as well as it would put in risk Freedom itself.  However, the same economist argued that it was necessary for developing economies that the government took a central role in poverty alleviation in order to keep the pace with the economic growth of its economies.  Unfortunately, this poverty alleviation is not being done in the BRIC countries and the economic difference between the poorest and the richest continues to grow. Since the 60s, a large group of economists emphasized the negative effects of not paying attention to a free and equal development in emerging markets; economists like Friedman and Hayek wrote a lot in this regard and even recently Elinor Ostrom’s ideas, who won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2009, are still not listened by those who have forgotten the importance of good governance economic policies.

India is the country in which this income inequality versus human development is more pronounced.  Currently, India occupies the position #93 with an IHDI of 0.392 and the country has descended in the rank many positions since the last decade.  Inequality in the earnings among Indians has doubled over the last two decades, making it one of the worst performers among developing economies.  Why? This is again the result of the failed attempts by the Indian government to combat corruption, bad administration and under-payments and also of the unawareness of foreign investors.

The fact that foreign investors have no interest in securing the welfare of the Indian people is a problem.  To them, the investment opportunities of this specific BRIC country are of value until they find a better economy to move their money to.  However, the real stakeholders are not the foreign investors but the Indian Government and its groups of interest who should aim to secure the welfare of all of its citizens now that they have a chance.  While the growth of this economies will continue the effect it will have in such unequal societies will result in some of the worst rates of poverty and hunger ever seen in history. By 2025 India will be the most populous country in the world but also, it will have 268 million people (20.3%) living still with less than US$1.25 a day as reported by economists in the World Bank. The Indian government should go aligned with the current trade liberalization in order to support higher productivity in the private sector and to exploit its comparative advantage of having a labor-intensive industry to foster the production of goods and services.

China & Global Oil

I am currently enrolled in the course “Oil, Power and Climate – A Global Perspective” with Dr. habil. Peter Gärtner who is an specialist in Global Studies, North-South relations, democratization, development theory and policy, law and globalization with a regional focus in Latin America.

As part of our initial discussions we were required to present a review of the current status of the main importers and exporters of oil.  My selection was China and its raising demand of energy resources in order to continue providing for the world the largest amount of goods ever made in history.  Indeed, the numbers I found of China were astounding and the forecast of its increase for the next ten years is even more astonishing.    As forecasts show, the United States is soon to lose its hegemonic position in the world as the largest economy due to the fact that since 2010 it was China the world’s largest energy consumer (and its growth continues to further grow).

For the last six months I have been paying much attention to literature in the Asia region and I have started to draw a new world map that has South East Asia and the Pacific at its core. I foresee a semester full of Asia related topics and I will most certainly enjoy focusing in that area.

I share with you the handout with the latest figures and updates on China that I prepared for a discussion.  The file is accessible online and can be downloaded as a PDF: http://issuu.com/condottiero/docs/oil-china-lgpr

Global integration of trade

National Geographic is running a wonderful website on Globalization, the international exchange of goods, services, cultures, ideas, has brought increased wealth for many and transformed forever the way humans interact. But while its roots may be in commerce, globalization‘s effects can be very personal.

Advances in communication and transportation have created a rich, unprecedented mixing of cultures throughout the world. But there is a drawback. As international travel, economic migration, and the global spread of music, films, and literature bring more people than ever into intimate contact, human diversity is vanishing.

A shared language is perhaps the most profound expression of group identity and a critical tool for passing cultural knowledge from one generation to the next. But globalization is about integration. Whether by choice, by circumstance, or under duress, thousands of cultural and linguistic traditions are disappearing as their new generations adopt dominant national and global languages.

Workers, from wealthy consultants to unskilled laborers, are also on the move as never before. Some migrants are encouraged by host countries or regional agreements; others avoid official avenues and often live a shadowy, parallel existence once they arrive. Immigration is high, but it is economic migrants—seeking work more than a new homeland—who define our age.

Read more from them here: EarthPulse by National Geographic