Prosperity or illusion?

In this reading from CDCP, the author claims that world has gone better over the past 200 years. He shows that although people generally don’t think so, that is not an accurate reflection of reality, but a result of their ignorance of statistical data. He first mentions the percentage of extreme poverty (Daily income < 1.9$), which has continuously decreased. He then examined literacy rate, which increased from 10% to 85%. The other variables, such as health, measured by infant mortality rate, freedom, measured by Polity IV index, as well as fertility and education, have all improve over the years. At last, he also mentioned the elephant chart.

An article from the Guardian on Oct.10/2018 highlights Nigeria. A UN General Assembly side event was held in New York. The article mentions that Omobolanle Victor-Laniyan, Head of Sustainability at Access Bank Plc noted that the Nigeria needs to accelerate inclusive growth and also prioritize strategic investments to achieve demographic transition and reduce poverty and inequalities. Specifically, the government plans to invest in the country’s infrastructure in order to stimulate the growth of human capital and to facilitate growth in technology and health care.

What are the relationships between the different variables measured in the reading?

The reading seems to suggest that different measurement indices showed simultaneous improvement over the course of time. The relatively strong correlation between health, literacy, freedom, education, demographic transition, as well as low poverty rate, implies that there might exist a positive feedback loop between the variables. In other words, there is “endogeneity” between them. This is illustrated in the News article about Nigeria, which is trying to ameliorate poverty and improve its technology by pushing demographic transition. However, it is also important to note that fertility rate tends to increase with improving living conditions.

The reading seems to suggest that different measurement indices showed simultaneous improvement over the course of time. The relatively strong correlation between health, literacy, freedom, education, demographic transition, as well as low poverty rate, implies that there might exist a positive feedback loop between the variables. In other words, there is “endogeneity” between them. This is illustrated in the News article about Nigeria, which is trying to ameliorate poverty and improve its technology by pushing demographic transition. However, it is also important to note that fertility rate tends to increase with improving living conditions.

  1. J.Tyler Dickovick, Jonathan Eastwood, Current Debates in Comparative Politics, (Oxford University Press, 2018), 42-55.
  2. Adenike Fagbemi, “Stakeholders Say Technology Can Accelerate Nigeria’s Development,” Stakeholders Say Technology Can Accelerate Nigeria’s Development, https://guardian.ng/news/stakeholders-say-technology-can-accelerate-nigerias-development/.

If Nigeria is so rich, why are Nigerians poor?

In the chapter “If Nigeria is so rich, why are Nigerians so poor”, Campbell first provided a overview of Nigerians’ low living conditions, as indicated by their high infant mortality rate, far-below poverty line income, as well as early marriage age for women. Campbell then provided to dissect the current political and socio-economic situation of Nigeria. Careful analysis showed that poverty of ordinary Nigerians are potentially linked to the unequal wealth distribution as a result of oil industry. It is also evident, according to Campbell, that the dysfunction of the government, mainly corruption for local governments and short-sighted policies from the central government.

A BBC article from 6 months ago highlighted the anti-corruption campaign in China. Although anti-corruption is not a new topic in China, the coming of power of president XiJingPing led to greater emphasis and further development of the agenda. The newly formed “watchdog” organization, the NSC (State Supervisory Commission) will be monitoring any individuals of political power, even including non-party members.

Can democratic consolidation come before democratic transition?

The measurement of democratic consolidation is closely related to the substantive definition of democracy. Many democratic countries, including Nigeria, suffer a low rating in such measurement despite being democratic. It is not implausible that shortcomes of these countries, including poverty, corruption, and social exclusion can destabilize their political system. Sometimes authoritarian and unitary system, such as China, are more reliable and efficient in improving nations in these aspects. Thus, it is possible to conceive democratic transition that follows “democratic” consolidation carried by authoritarian regimes. However, the major issue of such system is that the authoritarian regime will likely succeed in staying in power if they do manage to improve its country in these standards, a good example being China again.

  1. Dickovick, James Tyler, and Jonathan Eastwood. Comparative Politics: Classic and Contemporary Readings, (New York ; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017).
  2. “China’s Anti-Corruption Campaign Expands with New Agency.” BBC News, BBC, 20 Mar. 2018, www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-43453769.

Adam Smith and Free Trade

In this excerpt from the Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith focuses on the division of labor, as well as nations’ restraints on importation.(1) He first illustrates the high efficiency of the division of labor by using the pin-making example. He argues that there are three ways in which dividing labor enhances work performance. First, workers will become well-trained in their jobs because they perform the same tasks. Second, they don’t waste time passing between projects. Last, the invention of machineries facilitates production. Smith explained that the division of labor resulted from humans’ propensity to exchange goods. After that, Adam Smith proceeds to argue against government’s’ restrictions on importations. He claims that importing cheaper products from foreign country is usually beneficial to a state’s economy, and that restrictions on the free market will be harmful.

    An article from the New York Times highlights the tariff war between China and the U.S.(2) After President Trump issued 200 billion dollar tariff, China retaliated back with 110 billion tariff on goods produced in the U.S. Specifically, China targeted states in the Midwest. For example, it placed tariffs on whisky, because Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell’s home state, Kentucky, is dependent on whisky. There was also tariff on cranberries because Paul Ryan is from Wisconsin, which is a leading producer of cranberries. In addition to China, Mexico, Canada, and the E.U., all took aim at whisky.

Is relying on the free market an optimal decision in all circumstances?

Adam Smith seems to think that to maintain positive economic development, the market should be kept free from governmental control at all times. However, the trade war between China and the U.S. shows that sometimes sacrificing the freedom of the market can yield political-economic results that may benefit states in the long run.

1.Smith, Adam. “The Wealth of Nations” Hackett Publishing Company, 1993.

2.Eduardo Porter, and Karl Russell. “Firing Back at Trump in the Trade War With Tariffs Aimed at His Base.” The New York Times, 3 Oct. 2018, www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/10/03/business/economy/china-tariff-retaliation.html.

Getting Majoritarianism Right

In the reading “Getting Majoritarianism Right”, Meisburger focuses on Proportional Representation (PR) and Middle East and North Africa (MENA) He argues that PR has several drawbacks that makes it not suitable for developing or emerging democracies in MENA.(1) First, PR will worsen social divisions in MENA because party leaders focus on interests of their group much more than on the public welfare. More, because party leaders, not the constituents, decide the party’s candidates, the candidates might not be representative of the district. Another danger of PR is that it might promote extremism. In a PR state, a small political party scattered around the country can gain quite a significant number of seats in the legislature. This increases the danger of an extreme ideology or interest group taking over the legislature. Meisburger also argues that while PR promotes the formation of parties in developing democracies, not necessarily democratic ones, while SMD might be more helpful in this case.

An article from the New York Times touches upon a religious conflict that took place in Egypt.(2) On Friday, a group of militants opened fire at three buses filled with Christian pilgrims right after they left a monastery. Six pilgrims were killed during the attack, and nineteen were wounded. In response to this attack, Egypt said on Sunday that it had killed 19 militants linked to this ambush. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack.

Is PR suitable for countries with deep sectarian conflicts?

For countries in MENA, such as Egypt, religious conflicts between Islam, Christianity, and Judaism, or between different branches of Islam, are so severe that a PR system would further divide the countries by creating opposing political parties based on interests of religious or ethnic groups.

  1. Timothy M. Meisburger “Getting Majoritarianism Right The Journal of Democracy 23:1 (2012), 155-163.
  2. Declan Walsh, “Egypt Says It Killed 19 Militants After Deadly Attack on Christians,” The New York Times, November 04, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/04/world/middleeast/egypt-militants-coptic-christians.html.


Inquiry into Authoritarianism with Lee Kuan Yew

This conversation between Fareed Zakaria and Lee Kuan Yew started off as an investigation of Lee’s ideology, but it gradually induced arguments from both sides.(1) Lee finds certain facets of America attractive and worth following, such as the social and political openness, while rejecting total individual freedom in fear of “moral decay”. He believes that culture is the dominant factor behind societal development. In particular, Lee prefers the Asian cultures’ emphasis on family to Western cultures’ faith in governmental influence, arguing that families are more ephemeral and pervasive and thus impact the society more. His proposal that only those between the age of 40 and 60 can vote stems from Confucian filial piety. He also advocates a balance between multiculturalism and interchangeability. Overall, Lee’s arguments seem to serve as the foundation of his political philosophy, as they necessitate certain authoritarian traits of Singapore, including a strict criminal system, Confucian ideals, and national unity.

A recent BBC article talks about Singapore’s focus on tidiness and hygiene.(2) The “Clean and Green” policy was established by Lee Kuan Yew decades ago to improve health conditions and city appearance. Even with 56,000 registered cleaners, there still are many organizations for volunteer cleaning. In addition, fines over tens of thousands are issued each year as punishment for littering alone. The growth of life expectancy from 66 to 83 is said to be correlated to the “Clean and Green” policy.

Lee believes that culture is more impactful than government, but how can government steer society progression by influencing culture?

Long-term policies can change the nations’ culture because of the change in everyday habits. However, a more thorough influence must be exerted through the educational system. Although this approach seems inherently authoritarian or even totalitarian, it exists to some degree in many democratic societies. What really differentiate them is freedom of speech and civil society, which ensure the protection of various opinions.

Dickovick, James Tyler, and Jonathan Eastwood. Comparative Politics: Classic and Contemporary Readings, (New York ; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017), 69-79

McDonald, Tim. “Capital – The Cost of Keeping Singapore Squeaky Clean.” BBC, BBC, 29 Oct. 2018, http://www.bbc.com/capital/story/20181025-the-cost-of-keeping-singapore-squeaky-clean.