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

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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.

Course on Human Action starts tomorrow!!!

Starting Tomorrow:

Human Action, Part 1

Instructor: David Gordon
Cost: $79 (50% off!)
Dates: September 12 – November 6, 2012
Length: Eight weeks

Register Now!

It is perhaps the most important and profound book ever written. Yet how many, in their attempts to read it, have been stopped in their tracks by Part I? In those 7 chapters, Mises lays out the philosophical underpinnings of economics and social philosophy. So they are crucial for understanding the rest of the treatise. Yet, for the reader not versed in philosophy, the technical terminology and references can be daunting.

In this course, David Gordon will clearly explain everything you need to know to make sense of the concepts presented in these chapters. He will define the terms, provide background for the references, and make clear exactly what it is that Mises is saying in these passages.

If this classic has been sitting on your shelf or in your Kindle, just waiting for you to tackle it, there is no better way to start than with this course, which will be followed by subsequent courses taught by Mises Academy faculty, covering the rest of Human Action.

Lectures

The video lectures are online. Lectures will be Wednesday evenings, 6:30-8:00 pm Eastern time. They will be recorded and made available for enrolled students to download.

Reading:

All readings will be free and online. A full hyper-linked syllabus with readings for each weekly topic will be available for all students.

Grades and Certificates

The final grade will depend on quizzes. Taking the course for a grade is optional. This course is worth 3 credits in our own internal system. Feel free to ask your school to accept Mises Academy credits. You will receive a digital Certificate of Completion for this course if you take it for a grade, and a Certificate of Participation if you take it on a paid-audit basis.

Refund Policy

If you drop the course during its first week (7 calendar days), you will receive a full refund, minus a $25 processing fee. If you drop the course during its second week, you will receive a half refund. No refunds will be granted following the second week.

Register Now!

About David Gordon

David Gordon is a senior fellow at the Ludwig von Mises Institute. He was educated at UCLA, where he earned his PhD in intellectual history. He is the author ofResurrecting Marx: The Analytical Marxists on Exploitation, Freedom, and JusticeThe Philosophical Origins of Austrian EconomicsAn Introduction to Economic Reasoning, and Critics of Marx. He is also editor of Secession, State, and Liberty and co-editor of H.B. Acton’s Morals of Markets and Other Essays.

Dr. Gordon is the editor of The Mises Review, and a contributor to such journals as AnalysisThe International Philosophic Quarterly,The Journal of Libertarian Studies, and The Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics.

The role of Ethics, Economic Power and Political Power in Big Corporations

Today in class we had a short discussion on which is the economic and political power of Corporations and Transnational Companies in the Global Political Economy as compared with the power that have states and governments.  Undoubtedly, the scope and array of political activities of  companies is huge and their economic activities are even more diverse.

More so, the power of these corporations to shape culture, politics and media is widely studied and written about in books, journals and documentaries. What is usually not mentioned is that these huge and powerful companies have acquired political power by the use of their profits for the sake of protecting their interests.  These interest and the means used are subject of ethical judgement.s

Generally, the political power to which we usually identify this corporations is that of lobbying.  However, many other ways of achieving global economic and political power are open for corporations by allying with ruling governments, offering loans and investment for countries and/or new cities; but also by the enforcement of specific news agendas and in the Media to inform citizens.

It is of particular interest for me the ethics of the political and economic power that a company has.  The pursuit of profit is the goal of a company by the provision of services to its consumers.  It is profit which fuels a company to continue growing and providing services.  However, this activity of pursuing profit is subject for ethical judgements that historically have been judged by/from immoral philosophical backgrounds. (For further information on what I consider to be Morality or Ethics please visit: http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/morality.html)

The pursuit of profit is a moral action when undertaken in consistency with the respect of individual rights.  As such, a company should and can influence politicians by lobbying when it considers it necessary for them to increase their profits.  The lobbying that is ethical is that which doesn’t creates privileges but that which eliminates regulations on competition that was previously benefiting special interest groups.

Historically, the role that Corporations and Transnational Companies have had  should be analysed in context when judged about its morality or immorality.  Thousands of pages of research that demonstrate how corporations have used its political power to achieve special privileges can be found everywhere.  The immorality of the actions of many corporate managers has been demonstrated and data on how they have violated human rights can easily be found in newspapers.  But this is not an absolute; just because some (or most) of the companies have violated and abused of their economic and political power it doesn’t make of them to be intrinsically evil or corrupt.

Corporations are not humans.  However, corporations are managed by humans whom depending on their philosophies of life can respect or violate individual rights and disobey the rule of law.  It are only those companies which act ethically which at the end of the day will profit the most and benefit the rest of society in a positive sum game.  Those companies and their managers who are willing to violate rights and act unethically have brought the Global Political Economy into zero sum game results in which only one side of the exchange has benefited.

And here, once again, the enlightment of Ayn Rand comes to play particular interest when identifying which is the difference between economic power and political power.  As well, as what is ethically correct for a company to do or not to do.

Rand wrote that,

What is economic power? It is the power to produce and to trade what one has produced. In a free economy, where no man or group of men can use physical coercion against anyone, economic power can be achieved only by voluntary means: by the voluntary choice and agreement of all those who participate in the process of production and trade. In a free market, all prices, wages, and profits are determined—not by the arbitrary whim of the rich or of the poor, not by anyone’s “greed” or by anyone’s need—but by the law of supply and demand. The mechanism of a free market reflects and sums up all the economic choices and decisions made by all the participants. Men trade their goods or services by mutual consent to mutual advantage, according to their own independent, uncoerced judgment. A man can grow rich only if he is able to offer better values—better products or services, at a lower price—than others are able to offer.

Wealth, in a free market, is achieved by a free, general, “democratic” vote—by the sales and the purchases of every individual who takes part in the economic life of the country. Whenever you buy one product rather than another, you are voting for the success of some manufacturer. And, in this type of voting, every man votes only on those matters which he is qualified to judge: on his own preferences, interests, and needs. No one has the power to decide for others or to substitute hisjudgment for theirs; no one has the power to appoint himself “the voice of the public” and to leave the public voiceless and disfranchised.

Now let me define the difference between economic power and political power: economic power is exercised by means of a positive, by offering men a reward, an incentive, a payment, a value; political power is exercised by means of a negative, by the threat of punishment, injury, imprisonment, destruction. The businessman’s tool is values; the bureaucrat’s tool is fear.

And by this she meant that economic power is always ethical because it pursuits a reward for men everywhere and anytime (in the entire process of designing, production, transportation and distribution of products and services).  And as such that the political power of a company appears when the businessman becomes a bureaucrat or lobbyist that uses the power of government to achieve privileges for himself and his company.

This discussion comes from observing the following table which presents the GDP-PPP of the Top 100 Economies in the World (2009) which was prepared by the World Bank.  Particularly relevant from this table is the fact that among the top 100 economies the authors included also the largest companies in the world in base of their Revenues-PPP (2009).  In position #32 appears Royal Dutch Shell as the largest company of the list with revenues of 458 billion dollars and it is followed by ExxonMobil in position 35 with 426 billion dollars.  These two companies had Revenues-PPP in 2009 which surpassed the size of the GDP-PPP of countries like Venezuela (#48), Greece (#52) and Switzerland (#53).

Even though is not commonly done; I have always studied Global Political Economy by remembering clearly what is ethical human behavior and what is not.  Starting from this point then I try to understand what is or can be the effects of a government’s or corporation’s decisions in real world cases.  Unfortunately, the ruling ethical code among Academics today considers it to be evil to pursue profit, self-interest, individualism and collaboration in order to create positive sum games in global exchange.

Indeed, historical examples are not the best reference for illustrating how we can benefit from an Objectivist ethics perspective when understanding the role of Companies in Global Economy.  However, it is this lack of many examples which should make it easier for us to identify how a Businessman success depends on “his intelligence, his knowledge, his productive ability, his economic judgment—and on the voluntary agreement of all those he deals with: his customers, his suppliers, his employees, his creditors or investors. A bureaucrat’s success depends on his political pull.” (Rand, The Ayn Rand Letter, III, 26, 5. 1971-76).

Now, it is time for me to continue reading history and seeking for those few exemplary examples of ethical businessmen who have given us the best products and services in positive sum games for the entire world.

Graph: Poverty In The U.S. By The Numbers

The people at http://visual.ly/ prepared a very complete graphic with information regarding the state of poverty in the United States in 2010.  Just two years after one of the worst financial depressions the country had seen, the numbers of how 46.2 million people lived in poverty are impressing.  The graphic includes information regarding race and ethnicity, family, gender, State by State and Past and Present figures.

Supreme Court upholds Obamacare. Recommended analysis on its short & long-term effects.

Today, Americans who Love Freedom lost a battle against the Welfare State.  In a historical decision, the Supreme Court decided to support Obamacare and to extend the devastating track of health care regulations in The United States of America.

The effects of Obamacare will represent higher costs, less competition, less innovation, more bureacracy, and decreased quality.  and in the long run, the result will be the complete destruction of American health care, as the system’s problems are inevitably blamed on our ‘private’ health care system and a fully socialized ‘single payer’ medicine is offered up as the only cure as explained, Yaron Brook, the Director of the Ayn Rand Center.

To learn how today’s decision will impact your life in the short and long term, I invite you to read the following articles that were collected by the Classical Liberal network Kosmos with the opinions of some the most important Libertarian and Classical Liberals:

While Freedom lost a battle today; the fight for a limited government that protects individual rights, including the right to private property, will continue and we will not stop.

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,