The Consociational Model

Lijphart’s article discusses constitutional design and government organization in regards to divided societies in which he recommends a “consociational model” in which political institutions share power among different identity groups. He claims that the power sharing model is the only model able to be adopted by divided societies. While describing his “one-size fits all” model, Lijphart highlights nine areas in which constitutional writers have choice and gives his opinion on how to craft the most effective constitution for a divided state.1

President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines wants to change the constitution in order to both introduce federalism as well as change the central government from a presidential system to a presidential-parliamentary one, however people suspect he may have an ulterior motive. Duterte believes that federalism will move money and power away from Manila to poorer parts of the country and foster peace between the diverse groups the country inhabits. Duterte also hopes that the parliamentary system will foster party politics. Despite Duterte’s wishes, he has found difficulty finding support in Congress. Critics of Duterte worry that the controversy about the transition of the constitution will lead to a corruption of the executive branch.2

Is democracy an effective regime of government for countries with significant diversity and if not, what would be a better regime?

India and Nigeria are both countries with very diverse populations and a history of political unrest that has improved with the implementation of a democratic regime. One of the leading political problems both these countries face is whether or not groups (based on things such as ethnicity, religion, party, etc.) are receiving representation in the government. There are many factors to take into consideration when it comes to ensuring individual group receive representation in a democracy. Constitutions determine whether or not there is a system of power sharing. There can be both a division of power between central and local governments (federalism) or power sharing between parties which is determined in the elections. A proportional representation system allows voters to elect representatives based on parties whereas in a member district system votes elect representatives based on the individuals.


 

  1. Arend Lijphart, “Constitutional Design for Divided Societies” Journal of Democracy 15(2): 96-109 (2004) Found in J. Tyler Dickovick, Jonathan Eastwood Comparative Politics: Classic and Contemporary Readings (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017) 177-186.
  2. “The president of the Philippines wants to change the constitution” The Economist, June 30, 2018. https://www.economist.com/asia/2018/06/30/the-president-of-the-philippines-wants-to-change-the-constitution.

 

Asymmetric Federalism may be a solution to regional conflict

Kane’s article about Iraq’s Federalism Quandary describes the struggle over power, territory, and resources within the state, leading to the question of what type of federal structure should exist. The 2005 Iraqui Constitution describes the country as a federal state but gives a large amount of autonomy to groups such as the Kurds. Other providences begin to desire a similar amount of autonomy which risks the state partitioning into several individual bodies. The authors suggest a system of asymmetric federalism to solve the political issues that revolve around both cultural differences as well as oil.1

Ethiopia has a system of ethnic federalism in place that came to be after a fifteen-year civil war. This system has caused several problems from its beginning. It has forced people to align themselves with only one ethnicity even if they are mixed heritage and the different territories don’t have equal populations to rule over causing disputes over borders. Experts believe that these partitions due to ethnic identities have caused more harm than good and that the state’s unity may be at risk.2

How can a system of asymmetric federalism be used to solve political disputes in a multi-national state?

Federalism, the division of power between central and local governments, creates a check on the central government as well as allowing people of different regions to be better represented. In a system of symmetric federalism, the level of autonomy for each regional government is the same. On the other hand, a system of asymmetric federalism grants different levels of autonomy to each regional governing body. An asymmetric system would allow larger ethnicities to have greater self-governing abilities which are important if aspects such as their religion cause them to have specific sets of values. Also smaller regions who don’t have the ability to afford things such as a military would be protected by the central government with lower autonomy.  However, with the varying levels of autonomy, groups with lower levels of autonomy may strive to earn more leading to a segregated state.


  1.  Sean Kane, Joost R. Hiltermann, and Raad Alkadiri, “Iraq’s Federalism Quandary,” The National Interest, (March/April 2012.)
  2. Ethiopia’s Ethnic Federalism is being Tested” Economist (October 7, 2017) https://www.economist.com/middle-east-and-africa/2017/10/07/ethiopias-ethnic-federalism-is-being-tested

Threat of the removal of NAFTA

In ITMC’s excerpt on ‘Political Economy’ Dickovick and Eastwood define political economy as the relationship between politics and economics on both a national and international level and how they affect one another. The authors describe the different ways in which the wealth of a state’s economy is operationalized using measurements such as GDP and PPP. They then go on to discuss how these measurements don’t represent the inequality or lack of wealth distribution of a state. The authors introduce the theories surrounding both market-based and state-based economies. Those who believe free markets or neoliberalism cause economic success believe that too much state involvement can be damaging to economic growth because government officials act in self interest. On the contrary, those who believe economic success is due to strong states and their interventions in the economy don’t believe that free markets lead to economic decline but instead believe that low-quality states and poor state interventions do.1

 

Mexico’s incoming president López Obrador previously criticized free-market politics and NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement). However once Canada and the United States agreed to revise the twenty-four year old agreement the president elect jumped on board saying that the agreement looks to be beneficial for Mexico’s economy. Threats of the removal of the trade agreement by the Trump administration worried the Mexican government because NAFTA created a successful export economy in Mexico. On the other hand, the agreement hurt millions of farmers and other local businesses. Due to this Mexico’s poverty rates have ceased to move and economic growth is still below other Latin American countries.2

 

Is there a way to operationalize the economic conditions of a state that also represent the lack of distribution and inequality that is apparent in many modern states?

 

Both free markets and strong state interventions have led to economic growth depending on the condition of the state. For both causation theories of economic growth the ultimate factor of whether or not a state will be successful economically is the strength of the state. A failing state, no matter the role the government plays in the economy, will not show significant economic growth because the government and the country’s institution are failing to protect its citizens. Iran, which is ranked 52nd on the FSI, has negative GDP growth.


  1. J. Tyler Dickovick and Jonathan Eastwood, “Political Economy,” Comparative Politics: Integrating Theories, Methods, and Cases, (2017).
  2. Elisabeth Malkin, “Mexico’s New Leader, Once a Nafta Foe, Welcomes New Deal,” The New York Times, (October 01, 2018.) https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/01/world/americas/nafta-mexico.html?rref=collection/sectioncollection/world&action=click&contentCollection=world®ion=rank&module=package&version=highlights&contentPlacement=2&pgtype=sectionfront. 

Too big too fast?

India’s Party consists of two major parties–the INC and the BJP– as well as smaller left-leaning communist parties and regional parties tied to ethnic and religious identities. The INC dominated the political system for a long time, similar to Mexico’s PRI, and was pro-national independence had a social democracy ideology. The BJP party supports a pro-Hindu national identity as well as neo-liberal economics and in recent years had gained a majority in the legislature. The smaller parties of India can be found creating coalition governments with either the INC or BJP to gain power over the legislature.1

 

Unlike the United States Supreme Court which only hears around 70 cases a year, the Indian Supreme Court can hear up to 700 cases a day. Due to India’s large and growing population and the youth of their democracy which consists of many ethnic and religious divides India’s court often has difficulty in reaching a decision. Similar to the judicial branch, India’s parliament also can often be found in argument rather than agreement. The people have become fed up with the government’s inability to reach conclusions causing them to fail to provide many basic services.2

 

With two major parties dominating Indian politics, are the rights of minorities really being both represented and protected and do the political parties help or hurt the government’s struggle to reach agreements?

 

In order to represent all of  India’s many religious and ethnic identities, the government has a system of asymmetric federalism. Along with local governments that represent the regional differences of India’s population, India’s smaller political parties serve to represent these different identities. However, with two major parties which are in support of national independence and Hinduism consistently dominating parliament the smaller religions and ethnicities struggle to find their voice in politics. The INC and BJP parties need to take into recognition that their campaigns may not be representing the entirety of the population and seek to address this concern in the future.


  1. Patrick H. O’Neil, Karl Fields, Don Share, “Cases In Comparative Politics”, 6th ed. W.W. Norton & Company (2018) 475-484.
  2. “Hundreds of Cases a Day and a Flair for Drama: India’s Crusading Supreme Court” The Economist. (Sept. 27, 2018) https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/27/world/asia/india-supreme-court-modi.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fasia&action=click&contentCollection=asia&region=stream&module=stream_unit&version=search&contentPlacement=2&pgtype=sectionfront

The Sleeping Giant

After being called the “sleeping giant”, China is undergoing both recent and rapid changes, especially in the economic sector. Mao’s rule which consisted of significant cultural changes and alteration to Marx’s ideas of communism including liberal economic policies has lead people to believe that Chinese society has weakened the authoritarian regime. China’s Communist Party (CCP) has direct control of the government with a parallel organization of the CCP and the Chinese government.1

 

At age 101, the man who was able to criticize both current leader Xi Jinping as well as former leader Mao while being a member of the Communist Party, passed away. Li Rui cautioned that Xi’s ideas resembled Mao’s suppression of individual thought. Rui compared them saying they both attempted to establish a cult of personality. In 1958 he was selected by Mao to be his personal secretary. Soon after Rui was imprisoned for voicing his criticism of the party. Despite his imprisonment, Rui usual went untouched after criticizing the party. Many believed his role of being one of the original revolutionaries as well as his close relationship to Xi gave him a “get out of jail free card” when criticizing the regime.2

 

What strategies do both democratic and authoritarian regimes use to ensure their legitimacy by keeping the people happy?

In China there is a parallel organization of the Communist Party and the Chinese government with roles in the government reflected roles of the party. This structure has allowed to the Communist party to have total control of the government. With many authoritarian regimes giving elites release valves to ensure their support of the regime, China gives high ranking members of the party this privilege. Li Rui was able to voice his concerns and criticism freely solely because of his association with the current leader Xi Jinping. In democratic regimes, pleasing elites isn’t a strategy used to establish the regimes legitimacy, however, federalism is. In countries such as Nigeria, federalism has been used to suppress factions of people from rising up against the government. In Nigeria they attempted to please their multi-national population by moving the capital to a more central location as well as giving the northern region the ability to follow Sharia Law.


  1. Patrick H. O’Neil, Karl Fields, and Don Share, Cases in Comparative Politics, 6th ed. (New York ; London: W.W. Norton Et Company, 2018), 387-424.
  2. Ashitha Nagesh, “Li Rui: The old guard Communist who was able to criticize Xi Jinping” BBC News, February 17, 2019. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-47265411

Free Speech, Free Lies

In Lance Wallace’s The Importance of Critical Thinking he discusses the difficulty groups with differing opinions have when engaging in meaningful conversation. Wallace believes the reason for this is that people often think in the black and white rather in the more difficult grey area. In addition not everyone is comfortable with the skill of critical thinking.  The solution Wallace suggests to this problem is that people need to be more open-minded.

While the internet has created the ideal space for free speech to prosper with sites like Wikipedia, reports show that free speech may be under attack. Governments have taken control of several news outlets and increased the censorship within social media. Corruption has also taken its toll on free speech with reporters and journalist from countries like Mexico being assassinated for speaking their mind. As well as corruption and government interference in media, the difficulty people have with indifference and opposing opinions has also affected the freedom of speech. Many western democracies thrive on free speech which pushes authoritarian regimes to cripple it.

 

Why is critical thinking essential to a democratic society and how can be used to protect free speech?

 

According to the procedural  definition of democracy, there is a set of political rights and civil liberties that determine if a democratic society is truly democratic. Although the political rights mostly have to do with elections, civil liberties address that strong democracies need to allow freedom of speech, access to information, and the ability to assemble. If a democracy increases the restrictions of these freedoms it would be considered democratic breakdown. This freedom of opinion and the expression of that opinion is what allows the multiple party aspect of a democracy to be successful. Critical thinking and an open mindedness allows there parties to debate and coexist peacefully.


  1. Lance Wallace, “The Importance of Critical Thinking,” The Atlantic, (May 9, 2009).
  2. “Under Attack,” The Economist, (June 4, 2016). https://www.economist.com/leaders/2016/06/04/under-attack

Tragedy of the Climate

In Garrett Hardin’s “Tragedy of the Commons”, he addresses the concern of overpopulation in regards to the limited resources and ask is there is a way to avoid the damage caused by overpopulation without giving up the privileges humans are able to enjoy. He explains how humans seek to “maximize their own gain” without taking into consideration how they are impacting the greater population. Hardin connects his “tragedy of the commons” to environmental issues such as pollution and seeks to find a solution to this “no technical solution problem.”1

Over the past two decades, several countries have adopted the practice of putting a price on carbon dioxide emissions with the hopes to reduce pollution in a world where climate change is a significant problem. Several European countries as well as Canada, Mexico, and Australia have put a price on these emissions however the charge doesn’t seem to be making a large impact rather just adding another payment for these companies. Canada’s new emission program is the most ambitious charging $15-$30 per metric ton of carbon dioxide. However, if China passes their new program they will surpass Canada to have the largest carbon program in the world.2

Is a democratic or authoritarian regime more motivated to combat the issue of climate change and which is more effective with their efforts?

While putting a price on carbon emissions may be effective in raising awareness for global warming, it doesn’t necessarily provide a solution to the rapidly increasing problem. In authoritarian countries such as Russia, the government has established corporatist relationships and many of the large companies are owned by Putin’s friends. Putin is probably less inclined to tax people who he handed a business to making a solution such as carbon pricing ineffective for a large number of countries. In Britain on the other hand, being a leader in the industrial revolution which lead to a significant portion of the current pollution, has been able to lower their emission with such pricing programs.


  1. Garrett Hardin, “Tragedy of the Commons” Found in J. Tyler Dickovick and Jonathan Eastwood, Comparative Politics: Classic and Contemporary Readings (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017).
  2. Brad Plumer and Nadja Popovich, “These Countries have Prices on Carbon. Are they Working?” New York Times, April 2, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/04/02/climate/pricing-carbon-emissions.html 

Putin…The Reigning King of Russia

 

Image result for steven levitsky

Levitsky and Way’s article describes competitive authoritarianism, a type of hybrid regime. Competitive authoritarianism regimes possess many democratic institutions such as elections and civil liberties however, they are often violated or abused to an extent and frequency that separates them from being democratic. The authors list four arenas of democratic contestation in which opposing forces from a competitive authoritarian regime might challenge: the electoral arena, the legislative arena, the judicial arena, and the media. The article provides the various paths that can lead to competitive authoritarianism suggesting that this type of hybrid regime can result from decay of both a democratic as well as a authoritarian regime.1

 

Although Russia holds a presidential election every six year, current President Vladimir Putin has managed to rule longer than any Russia leader since Stalin. This article from the Economist explains how Putin has managed to hold office for so long despite the occurrence of elections in Russia. Being able to control the media and well as eliminate competition has allowed Putin to convince the people that there is no other alternative. The article describes the elections as less of an election and more of a coronation for the “reigning king”.2

 

How can holding elections provide the head of government of an authoritarian regime legitimacy?

 

According to the procedural definition of democracy, a regime must have free and fair elections to be considered democratic. In a competitive democracy, the regime will often hold elections for office but they will most likely not be free nor fair. In Mexico, the PRI party was dominant and in rule for several years. Although Mexico held a presidential election, the PRI manipulated the election so they would win without fault. Similarly, Russia holds elections but Putin has managed to hold office for several terms because he has control over both the media and the competition


  1. Steven Levitsky and Lucan Way, “The Rise of Competitive Authoritarianism” Found in J. Tyler Dickovick, Jonathan Eastwood Comparative Politics: Classic and Contemporary Readings (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017).
  2. “Why Vladimir Putin is Sure to Win the Election” The Economist, May 16, 2018. https://www.economist.com/the-economist-explains/2018/03/16/why-vladimir-putin-is-sure-to-win-the-russian-election.

Global Acceptance of Homosexuality

A survey done by the Pew Research Center of 39 countries regarding the acceptance of homosexuality finds variance based on region, age, gender, and religiosity. European countries and countries in both North and Latin America were more accepting of homosexuality than African countries and Muslim nations. Homosexuality was found to be more accepted in countries where religion was less of a central part of their lives. Along with religiosity and region, age and gender had an affect on the acceptance of same sex marriage with women being more accepting than men and the younger generations more accepting than the older ones.1

Dolapo Badmos, a high ranking Nigerian policewoman from Lagos, cautioned gay people living in Nigeria to leave or face criminal prosecution via social media. In Nigeria the Same Sex Prohibition Act criminalizes homosexual clubs and organizations with a possible up to 14 years in jail for violating the law. Although the law was condemned by several humans rights organizations, 90% of Nigerians support the enforcement of the law. Badmos received many responses to her post of people showing their support for the continued enforcement of the law.2

File:Pride in London 2016 - LGBT people of African origin parading in Trafalgar Square.png

How does access to the Internet and social media affect the ways in which people view homosexuality and other societal controversies?

In both European countries and the US and Canada, a majority of the population accepts homosexuality. In most of these countries, social media and the Internet is easily accessible and used often. On the contrary, in countries such as Russia or China where the media and or Internet is controlled or regulated by the state, only about ⅕ of the population accepts same sex marriage and in countries with similar accessibility to Internet, there are even laws prohibiting homosexuality. In countries where the Internet is liberated from the state, the population is more likely to be accepted of homosexuality and other LGBTQ controversies whereas countries with more regulated media is more likely to reject them.


  1. “The Global Divide on Homosexuality.” Pew Research Center, Washington D.C. (June 4, 2013).
  2. Aanu Adeoye, “Nigerian police officer tells gays: Leave country of face prosecution” CNN, January 23, 2019. https://www.cnn.com/2019/01/23/health/nigeria-police-gay-prosecution-warning/index.html.

Putin = Russia?

Venezuela suffered a great loss when president Hugo Chavez passed away in March of 2013. His funeral gathered large crowds consisting of people even from the lowest classes of society. These people were there to say goodbye to the man who has given them a political identity. Many woman considered Chavez not only as their president but also as their, father, brother, and husband. With Chavez’s personality and character being engraved into the political scene, the election for his successor becomes heavily based on support from Chavez fans. For those who mourn Chavez, Maduro was the clear candidate yet his lead was not secure. Opposing candidate Capriles gained momentum in the election closing the gap. Despite the result of the election, either candidate would find themselves in a difficult situation due to the dysfunction of the state.1

Legally a Russian president can only serve for two consecutive terms but this regulation did not create a problem for Putin. In 2018 Putin was elected for his second-second term as president of Russia. In 2024, Putin’s term will be up and he will be forced to leave office. Due to Putin being such a central part of Russia’s political scene, many fear what is to come when Putin steps down from office. Although many people cannot imagine a successor for Putin because he has wiped away most if not all of the viable competition, people fear what will happen if Putin doesn’t step down becoming the next tsar.2

Is it possible to have a peaceful and effortless transition of power in a personalistic regime?

In many authoritarian regimes, the personality of the leader is often reflected in the regime. Many political scientist categorize this type of regime as personalistic authoritarianism. Often in a personalistic regime, the people worship the ruler and many see the leader not only as the “government” of the state, but even as the regime itself. In both present-day Russia and pre-2013 Venezuela, the population could not image a country without the leadership of their presidents. This type of regime can cause problems not only when the character is in power but rather when the leave office because their personality is so ingrained into the regime. The best option for a smooth transition may often be a person with similar ideals and goals as the exiting president, however, this does not guarantee a smooth transition.


  1. Boris Munoz, “In the Shadow of Chávez,” The New Yorker, (April 13, 3013).
  2. Shaun Walker, “2018 Election is no problem for Putin–but what about 2024?” The Guardian, (February 6, 2018). https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/feb/06/2018-election-is-no-problem-for-putin-but-what-about-2024.