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Summary of The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (Part 3)

June 28th, 2010 Comments off

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In this setting, a member was recognized to speak for only five minutes with debate equally divided between the proponents and opponents of the bill and controlled by a presiding officer chosen by the Speaker. On May 17, 2001 the Speaker designated the Honorable Doc Hastings as this such presiding officer, and the majority floor manager, John A. Boehner, opened with a prepared statement detailing the purpose of the legislation. Overall throughout these proceedings, twenty-seven amendments were introduced off of the Rules Committee report, five of which failed by record vote, twelve passed by voice vote, and ten passed by record vote. Voice votes in this legislative process most often occur when a floor manager has no objections to the amendment, while a controversial vote will be conducted under recorded vote to obtain a precise ruling. The amendments as introduced to the floor were relatively narrow, contradicting the statement that more often in modern politics to obtain a particular outcome “[A] rule gives members a choice among comprehensive substitutes but bars votes on narrow amendments, to focus the debate on alternative approaches, on the big choices rather than the picky details,” (Sinclair 24). The most difficult challenge presented to the legislation occurred when Republican Rep. Peter Hoekstra attempted to expunge annual testing from the bill, and although receiving heavy support from conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats, the amendment was ultimately rejected as defeat was blamed on intense lobbying by White House officials in another behind-the-scenes maneuver similar to those mentioned prior (Austin). After general debate and amending have been resolved, the Committee of the Whole rises and reports back to the house, where amendments must again be voted on and approved by the House. At this stage, on May 23, 2001, Representative Owens moved to recommit the amended bill with instructions to the Education and Labor Committee in an effort to add money to renovate schools and reduce class size by hiring more teachers, but this proposal was rejected (Austin). The final version of H. R. 1 was passed by a recorded vote of 384-45 on May 23, 2001 with a total of thirty-four Republicans, ten Democrats, and one Independent voting against the package. Once the legislation was passed, a motion to reconsider was made and laid upon the table on May 23rd at 7:24pm to ensure that the issue could not be reopened, and from here, the legislation was then sent to the Senate.

On May 25, 2001 the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 was received in Senate, read twice, and placed on the Senate Legislation Calendar under General Orders. The Majority leader, by motion as specified by Sinclair, removed the legislation to be considered from the calendar, and the measure was laid before the Senate floor on June 14, 2001. In this instance, legislation reported by the Senate committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions had already approved a seven year reauthorization bill (S1-S. Rept. 107-7) in committee which had included Bush’s provisions to test students in grades three through eight in reading and math, a companion to the House-passed bill H. R. 1 and thus allowed for bypass of committee referral, a frequent method of bringing legislation forward more quickly according to Sinclair’s description of the new legislative process. However, the modified measures essential to S. 1 as reported out of committee were not exactly congruent to H. R. 1 as sent out by the House, and therefore, many provisions were made to the House-born bill before full Senate approval could be accomplished. According to Austin, “despite bipartisan spirit, sharp differences emerged between Democrats and Republicans over how much leeway to give states in spending federal money and how many federal education programs should be consolidated,” (8 -3) both important discrepancies that surfaced between the Senate and House version of this bill. During the period in which the bill was being debated on the Senate floor, Senator James Vermont, Chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and the measure’s flood manager, quit the Republican party and thus shift control in the Senate to the Democrats and making Senator Edward Kennedy the new chairman (Austin). As a result of anticipation by Bush and congressional Republicans of a hard fought series of negotiations following this transition in majority leadership, the administration “opened a back channel” and ranking Republican Senators began meeting with centrist Democrats including Joseph Lieberman and Evan Bayh, yet another example of secretive negotiations that have increased in frequency in recent congresses (Austin). After approximately six weeks of floor debate, the Senate passed the No Child Left Behind legislation on June 14, 2001 by a vote of 91-8 after submitting the amended version for its own bill. Five days later, the measure was amended by the Senate by unanimous consent based on the principle that the Senate is not a majority-rule chamber like the House after passage. No holds as an obstacle frequently utilized by a more modern political process as described by Sinclair were enacted, and thus, the Senate was able to do this act of business as with many others by unanimous consent, “both an acknowledgement and an augmentation of the power of senators as individuals” as determined by Sinclair (45). As in this case, unanimous consent agreements have become increasingly individualized pertaining to a specific bill to accommodate individual senator’s demands in the modernized legislative process. Also according to Sinclair, major legislation is particularly likely to encounter an extended debate-related problem, such as a hold or filibuster, in recent decades; however, this did not occur with the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. Additionally, it is proposed in Unorthodox Lawmaking that in major legislation, a high number of amendments are introduced and voted on by the recorded method, although such actions did not occur in this bill.

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Summary of The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (Part 4)

June 28th, 2010 Comments off

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After the bill had been drafted and approved, a conference was requested with appointments of conferees Kennedy, Dodd, Harkin, Mikulski, Jeffords, Bingaman, Wellstone, Murray, Reed, Edwards, Clinton, Lieberman, Bayhn, Gregg, Frist, Enzi, Hutchison, Warner, Bond, Roberts, Collins, Sessions, DeWine, Allard and Ensign, and this message on Senate action was sent to the House on July 11, 2001.

On July 18, 2001, Sponsor and Chairman of the Education and Workforce Committee, moved and was later approved 424-5 that the House disagree to the amendment placed on H. R. 1 and thus, a conference was organized. The Speaker of the House appointed conferees for consideration of the house bill and Senate amendment, and modifications committed to conference who included Boehner, Petri, Roukema, McKeon, Castle, Graham, Hilleary, Isakson, Miller, George, Kildee, Owens, Mink, Andrews, and Roemer on the afternoon of July 18th. Between July 19 and December 11, a series of conference meetings were held to reconcile the different bills produced in each chamber. Neither version of the bill as passed would have worked in the current political and education situation, as according to the Congressional Research Service, the Senate passed version would have deemed every school in both North Carolina and Texas a failure and subject to reorganization (Austin). As a result of this complication and based on the fact that while the Senate had voted to significantly increase the overall number of ESEA programs from fifty-five to eighty-none, the House passed version would have streamlined the overall number to forty-seven (“House-Senate Education Conference Approves President’s Reading Initiatives”), instead of melding the two agreements, the conferees were given the task of devising a new one. This particular conference worked in subconferences consisting of a small group of both House and Senate Republican and Democrat members, as specified in Sinclair’s description, due to the unwieldingness of such a large overall conference. By November 30, both houses had worked out all the major issues in dealing with testing, accountability, and financing, but had been encumbered with a small point. Conducted behind the scenes deep within the Capitol building as means of avoiding regulations specified by the Sunshine rules, enigmatic negotiations took place between conference leaders as does often occur when a stalemate often requires leadership intervention in modern politics described by Sinclair. On December 11, 2001, the conferees finally agreed to file the conference report, and two days later, the House passed agreed with the modified bill by a recorded vote of 381-41. The conference report was next considered in the Senate by Unanimous Consent on December 17, 2001 and was agreed to by a Yea-Nay vote of 87-10 the following day.

On January 8, 2002 H. R. 1, the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 was signed into Public Law No. 107-110 by President George W. Bush in a ceremony in Hamilton, Ohio, the home district of Sponsor Rep. Boehner with the four principal negotiators Boehner, Miller, Gregg, and Kennedy on hand. “I decided to sign this bill in one of the most important places in America – a public school,” stated President Bush, pen in hand, “Today beings a new era, a new time for public education in our country. Our schools will have higher expectations – we believe every child can learn. From this day forward, all students will have a better chance to learn, to excel, and to live out their dreams,” (President Bush Signs Landmark Education Reforms into Law”).

Many of the modern lawmaking principles described in Barbara Sinclair’s Unorthodox Lawmaking were evident in the amendment and passage of H. R. 1; however, I feel that my case is a poor example of the new legislative process. Because the Senate is considerably smaller in membership, its less hierarchical and less formal nature, lending individuals great power was evident in this piece of legislation, but there were no threats of hold or filibuster, common obstacles in modern congresses. A sequential committee referral in the House rather than a simple designation of primary committee also diverged from Sinclair’s explanation of current politics. In the Senate, very few amendments were made to their version of the bill, and I did not encounter any queen or king of the hill provisions, and I found no instance of self-executing rule in the House.

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Summary of The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (Part 5)

June 28th, 2010 Comments off

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These elements of lawmaking in addition to others previously mentioned provide evidence that although the procedure implemented in the passage of H. R. 1 was that of a modern Congress, it did not fit much of the specific criteria outlined by Barbara Sinclair for her new legislative process.

Works Cited

Austin, Jan, ed. Congressional Quarterly Almanac Plus. Vol. LVII 2001. Washington, D. C. Congressional Quarterly,

Inc. 2002

Boehner, John “Is School Choice the Best Solution to Our K-12 Education Problems? We Must Close Achievement

Gap. ” Roll Call. 26 Feb. 2001. Academic Universe. Lexis-Nexis. University of North Carolina Lib. Chapel Hill. 20

Nov. 2004 <http://www. lexis-nexis. com>

Broder, David S. “Long Road to Reform; Negotiators Forge Education Legislation. ” The Washington Post 17 Dec. 2001,

(Washington, D. C. A-1. Academic Universe. Lexis-Nexis. University of North Carolina Lib. Chapel Hill. 20 Nov.

2004 <http://www. lexis-nexis. com>

Feehery, John and Pete Jeffries, “House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL) Endorses President’s Education Proposal. ”

Speaker’s Press Office. 2001. 22 Nov. 2004 <http://edworkforce. house. gov/press/press107/first032201. htm>

“House-Senate Education Conference Approves President’s Reading Initiatives, Other Aggreements. ” News from the

Committee on Education and the Workforce. 2001. 22 Nov. 2004

<http://edworkforce. house. gov/press/press107th/hr1agreements92501. htm>

“H. R. 1, No Child Left Behind: Questions and Answers. ” House Education and the Workforce Committee. 22 Nov. 2004.

<http://edworkforce. house. gov>

“Issue Summary: H. R. 1 Enhances Accountability. ” House Education and the Workforce Committee. 22 Nov. 2004.

<http://edworkforce. house. gov>

“Issue Summary: H. R. 1 Helps Close the Achievement Gap. ” House Education and the Workforce Committee. 22 Nov.

2004. <http://edworkforce. house. gov>

Lara, Dan and Dave Schnittger. “Boehner Praises Education Reforms in H. R. 1 as Education Debate Begins on House

Floor. ” News from the Committee on Education and the Workforce. 2001. 22 Nov. 2004

<edworkforce. house. gov/press/press107/hr1boehnerfloor51701. htm>

Schnittger, Dave and Heather Valentine. “House Approves Landmark Education Reforms: No Child Left Behind

Measure ready for Senate Passage, Then President’s Signature. ” News from the Committee on Education and the

Workforce. 2001. 22 Nov. 2004 <http://edworkforce. house. gov/press/press107/confrepthousepass121301. htm>

Schnittger, Dave and Heather Valentine. “President Bush Signs Landmark Education Reforms into Law. ” News from the

Committee on Education and the Workforce. 2002. 22 Nov. 2004

<http://edworkforce. house. gov/press/press107/hr1signing10802. htm>

Sinclair, Barbara. Unorthodox Lawmaking: New Legislative Process in the U. S. Congress. Washington, D. C. CQ Press.

“Transforming Federal Role in Education for the 21st Century: Hearing on H. R. 1, H. R. 340, and H. R. 345. ” News from

the Committee on Education and the Workforce. 2001. 22 Nov. 2004

<http://edworkforce. house. gov/hearings/107th/fc/hr132901/w132901. htm>

United States. Cong. House of Representatives. House Rpt. 107-069: Providing for the Consideration of H. R. 1 The No

Child Left Behind Act of 2001. 16 May 2001. 107th Cong. House Bill 1. 26 Nov. 2004 <http://thomas. loc. gov/cgi-

bin/cpquery/? &db_id=cp107&r_n=hr069. 107&sel=TOC_0&>

United States. Cong. House of Representatives. To Close the Achievement Gap with Accountability, Flexibility, and

Choice, So That No Child is Left Behind. 2002. 107th Cong. House Bill 1. 22 Nov. 2004 <http://thomas. loc. gov/cgi-

bin/cpquery/? &db_id=cp107&r_n=hr069. 107&sel=TOC_0&>

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Summary of The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001

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Although education is traditionally a state and local responsibility, the federal government first became involved with its policies in the mid-1960’s and remains an active component even today, thus giving way to a presidential proposal entitled “No Child Left Behind” in 2001. Up until this bill proposal, Washington had spent nearly $130 billion since 1965 and more than $80 billion in the past decade alone in an unsuccessful effort to close the achievement gap between disadvantaged students and their more affluent peers (see “Issue Summary: H. R. 1 Enhances Accountability”). A recent study by the American Legislative Exchange Council demonstrated that while per pupil expenditures had increased nationwide by 22. 8% over the past twenty years, little improvement has been made towards equity of education. From this data, it becomes clear that money is alone will not increase achievement, programs must be held accountable to obtain the desired results (“Issue Summary: H. R. 1 Enhances Accountability”). The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 as proposed by President George W. Bush was designed to reduce bureaucracy, provide additional flexibility to states and school districts to “tailor spending to programs that meet the unique needs of students and eliminate programs that divert resources from school. ” (“Issue Summary: H. R. 1 Helps Close the Achievement Gap”), and to allow local school districts to transfer up to fifty percent of federal education dollars they receive as long as they demonstrate results in an effort to cut “red tape. ” According to a summary issued by the House Education and Workforce Committee, H. R. 1 (the No Child Left Behind Act) was designed to establish a comprehensive accountability system, asking states to build on their existing assessment tests by designing and implementing annual math and reading tests for students in grades three through eight with an amount of federal money designated to redesign tests already in place. Additionally, this act requires that school districts annually report to the public on academic performance as measured by these assessment tests in each school of their jurisdiction, providing information on how students are doing in comparison to those in other schools in the district and across the state, graduate raters, and teacher qualifications to assist parents in judging how their local school stacks up against others statewide. If a low performing school as defined by the state does not make adequate yearly progress after three years of poor testing, students in the failing school are eligible to receive a scholarship for outside private tutoring to transfer to another public school (“H. R. 1, Questions and Answers. ”). States that also fail to show adequate yearly progress will additionally be subject to losing a portion of their administrative funds. Thus, according to the issue summary “By establishing a system of rewards and sanctions for states and school districts to hold them accountable for increasing student achievement, H. R. 1 would, for the first time, demand real from public schools that receive federal education resources,” (“Issue Summary: H. R. 1 Helps Close the Achievement Gap”).

–more–>

The conception of and pathways utilized by implementing major legislation, one may assume, are labored over desktops in an intellectual public spectacle of a congress chamber; however, one may have never guessed that in reality the key principals of H. R. 1 were first discussed hundreds of miles outside of Washington in an Austin, Texas meeting room, when the President-elect, George W. Bush, invited members of both parties to discuss education reform, a prominent item at the top of his agenda (Lara). Moving away from traditional lawmaking and into a new era of “unorthodox lawmaking” as coined by Barbara Sinclair, the United States government is increasingly establishing foundations for, and resolving disputes on legislation in less formal settings. A statement given to the House floor by John Boehner, further affirms the existence of these surreptitious actions in stating “This process began last December – before President Bush was technically even “President Bush,” (Lara). Although this December 2000 meeting laid the groundwork for the President’s “No Child Left Behind” legislation, two key congressmen, George Miller, senior Democrat on the House Education Committee, and Senator Edward M. Kennedy (Austin) were left out of the proceedings, both of whom would later become significant components in the passage of this bill.

The results from this initial furtive meeting and many others materialized in the House of Representatives on Thursday, March 22, 2001 when Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio introduced H. R. 1, the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 by simply dropping the bill into the “hopper” (Austin). Opening with a broad statement of purpose for this legislation, Mr. Boehner articulated a comprehensive legislation which served to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 under the terms specified by President George W. Bush. Also a noteworthy element of his opening speech included ensuring a definitive goal designed by the legislation to, “In short: H. R. 1 will give students a chance, parents a choice, and schools a charge to be the best in the world,” (Boehner). Following the introduction of this bill sponsored by House Education and Workforce Committee Chairman John Boehner and seventy original co-sponsors (Feehery) to the House of Representatives, House rules require that the piece of legislation be assigned a number and referred to a committee with appropriate jurisdiction. As announced on March 22, 2001, the date of legislative introduction, House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert stated, “I reserve H. R. 1 for the President’s education proposal because I believe that improving our schools should be a top priority for this Congress. ” (Feehery 1). The following day, as described by Sinclair, the parliamentarian determined a referral for the newly named H. R. 1 to committee under the supervision of the Speaker. In most instances, these bipartisan committees which take on a particular bill act as the primary “shapers” of the assigned legislation, thus placing a relatively high degree of importance on which committee(s) receives the bill upon its final legislative outcome. Rather than being sent to one committee in each chamber, many measures in the House, including H. R. 1 of the 107th Congress was considered by several committees sequentially.

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Summary of Milward’s “The Economic Effects of the Two World Wars on Great Britain” and Cooley & Ohanian’s “Postwar British Economic Growth and the Legacy of Keynes”

June 7th, 2010 Comments off

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As early as the mid 1700’s, the British led the world in economic mass production. Britain had truly been the “workshop of the world,” and was the dominant economic figure of its time. However, starting with the First World War, many changes occurred in the British economy. The wars required the full effort of the production of the nation, and mobilized its manufacturing resources to provide for the war effort. This situation provides an interesting case of the dramatic effects of a nation’s economy becoming engulfed in war. Studying this case can lend insight into the effects of war on the international balance of trade, and also on a localized level.

–more–>

Economic change began with the First World War, continued through the second, and had lasting effects in the post-war era. Alan S. Milward details the changes during WWI and WWII in The Economic Effects of the Two World Wars on Britain. His book describes in detail the particular domestic and international impacts relating to the economic status of the UK. Thomas F. Cooley and Lee E. Ohanian investigate these impacts during the years after WWII in Postwar British Economic Growth and the Legacy of Keynes. They pay particular attention to the way the British government handled finance during and following the Second World War, and discover the lasting effects of its efforts. The two works complement each other, with Milward’s book and Cooley’s article providing an encompassing view of the large changes from these wars that affected Britain for a large portion of a century. They show that the wars caused Britain’s decline from international trade, while simultaneously economic status of the lower and working classes.

Milward argues that the two world wars caused numerous economic and social changes in Britain, most importantly Britain’s decline from status as the primary manufacturing exporter of the world, reform in social health services, and changes in income distribution. He formats his work in an extended essay structure, first addressing the importance of the changing interpretation of the history of the topic, and then discussing the separate domestic and international economic impacts of the war. His methodology is sound, calling on primary research by numerous individuals, and citing hard numerical data to support his claims.

Milward shows in the work that income distribution was changed in two distinct ways. First was the dramatic increase in income for agricultural workers in Britain. Efforts by German blockades in WWI forced the British government to incentivize increased crop production, causing 3 million additional acres of arable farmland at a time when the crops produced there were in high demand. This in turn caused a greater volume of domestic foods to be sold at higher prices, putting more money in the pockets of farmers. World War Two also saw an increase in their earnings. By the time of WWII, a law passed guaranteeing a minimum wage for agricultural workers, allowing their income to increase seven and a half times between 1938 and 1949.

The second change in income distribution was a result of rapid factory mechanization. Starting in WWI, unskilled laborers saw a constant improvement in their earning power. They saw higher employment levels and greater regularity and formality of employment. Additionally, the unskilled replaced the former jobs of many semi-skilled workers. These factors contributed to a reduction the income gap between working class individuals and the middle classes.

Milward points out the lasting effects of social health service reforms. Most interestingly was the WWI’s impact on the formation of Britain’s National Health Service. The increased levels of organization in the country due to the war prompted inquiry into the “ill-organized public effort” of medicine. He makes an interesting point that this lasting change allowed by a brief shift in political power brought about by the changing economic conditions of the war. In this way, a tremendous social impact was created due to the unique conditions of the war.

Perhaps the most important economic impact of the wars was Britain’s decline from the role of the world’s chief manufacturing center. WWII in particular caused a great change in the pattern of trade worldwide. Britain’s earlier economic powerhouse had relied on its ability to “continue to earn even in wartime conditions the wherewithal to pay for the imports which sustained its economy,” requiring the island to continue to export goods as well. The great draw on manpower for the wars meant that production effort shifted away from exports and trade in order to provide supplies. Decreases in foreign investment and pressure from German submarine attacks compounded the change. This manufacturing gap was filled by the United States, which provided manufactured war goods to Britain during both wars, and continued to provide commercial goods after the wars were over. In this way, Britain lost its foothold as the primary “workshop of the world.

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Summary of Milward’s “The Economic Effects of the Two World Wars on Great Britain” and Cooley & Ohanian’s “Postwar British Economic Growth and the Legacy of Keynes” (Part 2)

June 7th, 2010 Comments off

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Milward argues his points well, based on numerical data and the statistical research of many individuals. His sound arguments allow him to give accurate information with a clear level of detail on Britain’s economy during the two wars. Cooley, on the other hand, focuses on the time period following WWII. This war imposed a tremendous financial burden on Britain’ economy; Cooley investigated different possible methods to pay for it compared to the actual payment scheme used by the British government. He argues that the high tax rate Britain utilized after the war was very costly, and impeded economic performance after the war.

Cooley’s method differed greatly from that of Milward, in that it was primary research based on a mathematical model. Cooley’s method compares Britain’s economic data from the time after the war to predicted data if Britain had instituted other financial policies. He wished to investigate the potential of the tax system that had been suggested by John Maynard Keynes, which called for high tax rates immediately following the war, versus a “tax smoothing” policy that defers the costs by means of government borrowing. These are both compared against the actual policy employed, that utilized aspects of both theoretical policies.

The format of the work begins with an overview of the government’s financial situation at the time. During the 200 years preceding WWII, the British government had traditionally used the tax smoothing policy relying on heavy borrowing to pay for the wars. However, at the time, Keynes, a prominent economist, criticized government economic policy and suggested a system relying on sharp increases on taxes of capital income. This would immediately cover the cost of the war, instead of postponing it for later decades. The government ended up following much of Keynes’s advice, but not all. Nonetheless, the financing of WWII represented a striking change in public finance for Britain.

The paper then divulges the details of the mathematical model used to predict economic performance for both Keynesian and traditional financial schemes. The model is used to predict capital stocks, government spending and output, economic investment and consumption, among other factors. After giving thorough and detailed descriptions of the mathematical methods used for the research, the paper states the conclusions made by it. Cooley successfully proves his points, basing his argument off of real world data and mathematical models. He is able to objectively prove his argument based on these facts.

Cooley finds that the policy suggested by Keynes would have been dramatically more costly than the one followed by the government. Furthermore, tax-smoothing policy would have been much less costly to the British economy than the actual policy employed. However, the welfare implications of the policy followed were just as good as those for the tax-smoothing policy. The lower and working classes were not hurt by the economic policy followed. This finding agrees with Milward’s work, demonstrating that the lower classes ultimately benefitted from the wars. Despite the overall damage to the economy, the income gap was reduced, the lower and working classes ended up with a higher standard of living.

The two works provide an encompassing viewpoint on the effects the wars had on Britain’s economy. They provide a prime example of how total war can disrupt a nation’s foothold in foreign trade. Furthermore, they describe the local impact, describing the manner in which the lower classes were able to benefit from changes during these wars even while the overall economy suffers. These changes are indeed thought provoking. One is lead to question whether the United States would have gained its manufacturing economy without the gap left by Britain because of the wars. The latter half of the twentieth century may have played out very differently, had the wars not occurred. Britain may still have been a world economic leader. Additionally, one is led to wonder if similar domestic effects resulting from other wars. Even if a country is not ravaged or defeated in a war, will there be lasting social effects? Do special conditions during a war allow political changes that would otherwise not occur, such as the National Health Service? If one is to generalize the conclusions coming from Britain’s example, it seems that wars can have a far reaching impact long after they have concluded. The First and Second World Wars disrupted Britain’s economic structure, and produced lasting forces of change.

Sources:

1. Milward, A. The Economic Effects of the Two World Wars on Britain. 2nd ed. Hong Kong: Macmillan, 1984.

2. Cooley, Thomas. "Postwar British Economic Growth and the Legacy of Keynes. " The Journal of Political Economy 105 no. 3 (1997): 439-472.

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Cash 4 Clunkers: Scam 4 Taxpayers

August 6th, 2009 No comments

If you’ve been following the news at all, you have probably heard your fair share of Obama PropagandaRama. One such item on the ObamAgenda is the Cash for Clunkers scheme, where the government puts up the funds for a $4500 credit toward the purchase of a new car if someone brings in a “clunker” to the dealership. The objective, so the Obamanauts say, is to put more fuel efficient cars on the road AND save the auto industry in America.

Bollocks. What a massive load of bollocks. If you think that paying someone to destroy wealth is beneficial to anyone except the payee (and anyone else sitting on the gravy train along the way), you need to seriously reevaluate whether you should be forming opinions on economic issues at all.

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FAQ: Anarchy in Somalia and its relevance to Anarchism/Statelessness

May 9th, 2009 Comments off

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[First revision. Please use the comments form to send your suggestions for addition, removal, or revision!

For very informative videos about Somalia echoing the information contained herein and much more, please see Stefan Molyneux of FreedomainRadio’s 2-part “True News: Somalia” series, available on YouTube: Part 1, Part 2. ]

Every now and then, Somalia pops into the news for one reason or another. The mainstream media’s view is that it is a place where chaos and warlords reign, and poverty is widespread. In the public eye, it is probably imagined to be a place with AK47-armed militiamen in the backs of pickup trucks, with child soldiers, genocide, and the like. Yet little is known by Westerners about what the real picture in any 3rd world country is like, much less one with institutions as rich as those in Somalia especially institutions which threaten the dominant international political paradigm. “Peace in Somalia” is interpreted by most to mean the restoration of Somalia’s national government this is what the paradigm commands!

Yet in the 15 years between the collapse of Somalia’s government and the first attempts to truly reinstate the federal government via military campaign, the gains Somalia has made without a state have been ignored. Further, nearly all recent major military conflicts in Somalia have been the direct result of the attempts of external forces (the U. N. Ethiopia, etc. to impose a new government created in exile. Unsurprisingly, it is these conflicts that appear in the news as the consequence of anarchy, intended to scare you, the viewer, into further accepting your own submission to your own government. If you do not submit, the news tells you, it will be like living in Somalia. –more–>

Q: What exactly makes/made Somalia anarchistic, or stateless?

Since the fall of the tyrannical government of Siad Barre in 1991, Somalia has not had a permanent national government. Despite this, much of Somalia can not really be adequately characterized as truly stateless. In recent years, control over Somalia has primarily been a battle between 2 major factions, the externally backed Transitional Federal Government and the internally-grown and ambitious Islamic Courts Union. However, the following facts about Somali society suggest some reality of statelessness.

Across the whole of Somalia, laws are neither created nor enforced by any central authority. In fact, the laws are based on the Xeer, a traditional set of laws unique to Somalia. Legal behaviors are defined in terms of property rights, which also means that the legal system is restitutive (or compensatory) rather than retributive (or punitive).

Furthermore, the Xeer completely stands against any form of taxation. Enforcement is carried out either by traditional clan structures or private police forces, both of which are voluntarily funded. While the more primitive elements of Somali life (clan allegiance, religion, etc. are obviously evident in these seemingly anarcho-capitalistic institutions and thus do not make them the best model for a voluntary society, the simple existence of this state of affairs contradicts common notions about the necessity of the state.

Q: Isn’t Somalia a totally messed up place?

By most absolute measures, yes. But so are many other countries in the world, including those even directly modeled after “Western Democracies,” the supposedly ‘best’ forms of government. The real question to ask is.


Q: How has Somalia improved since its central government collapsed in 1991?

Here’s a brief roundup of the positives that have persisted in Somalia, despite political conditions that many critics of statelessness claim would entail an uninhabitable state of nature. While some improvements may be attributable to world technology trends rather than statelessness, something must regardless be said for the fact that improvement is even taking place in the dreaded state of anarchy threatened by those in power if we abandon them.

Law and Order:

  • Some urban areas of Somalia, like Mogadishu, have private police forces.
  • Other areas rely on traditional clan-based legal structures to serve in the function of both criminal and civil law.
  • Taxation is conspicuously absent, yet customary resolution methods still resolve disputes between individuals.

Infrastructure:

  • Electricity is available in less populated areas that lacked electricity before 1991.
  • The prior regime, as in many 3rd-world countries, had a state-backed telecom monopoly that became unenforceable after the regime collapsed. Now, Somalia has telecom services among the best in Africa. A mobile phone call in Somalia is typically less expensive and higher quality than any other in Africa.
  • Mail service is also provided privately.

Education:

  • The majority of schools are privately provided, sustained by fees (around $10/month).
  • The number of primary schools has nearly doubled since before the Somali civil war.
  • Primary school enrollment increased by 28% between 2002 and 2005.

Economy:

  • The post-Barre Somali currency has been stable compared to its prior performance; the obvious reason for this is that currencies are most often debased by government-powered inflation in the form of money printing. Indeed, the arrival of the Transitional National Government to Somalia in 2000 was accompanied by the importation of 30 billion foreign-printed shillings, which caused a currency collapse.
  • Somalia’s media industry has grown rapidly since 1991, growing competing newspapers and radio stations in almost every major area.
  • Prior to the collapse of the government, the Somali national airline had only one airplane. At present, there are fifteen airlines and over sixty aircraft.
  • Overall, two studies (Leeson and Powell et al. conclude that Somalia’s economy has improved favorably in its stateless condition, particularly relative to other African nations.

This isn’t intended to be a thorough representation of all of the good that has come about in Somalia as a result of the central government’s collapse, though it can be at some point.

Q: But if anarchy is so good, how come Somalia is still messed up (and doesn’t look like it’s becoming utopia any time soon)?

The first and most important point in response to this is that in any situation, the absence of government merely represents freedom from centralized coercion. But countries and societies aren’t made up of systems; they’re made up of people first. The collapse of a coercive national government can easily be replaced by many small organizations that use the same level of coercion, and it’s no surprise that warlords sprung up to fill the void in Somalia. The people of Somalia didn’t suddenly change overnight; they were still the same people from that same messed up African nation’s history.

Here are some of the factors stacked against Somalia being a fully peaceful and voluntaristic society:

  • Centuries of Islamic rule, and later partial Ottoman rule (2 things which did not bode well for a society’s stability and modernity after the 17th century).
  • Colonial predations, first by the Portuguese; then by Britain, France, and Italy in the late 19th century. The level of British investment into improving the portion of Somalia they controlled was small in comparison to that of the Italians, creating a rift that would contribute to the tension that would result in later civil war.
  • The makeup of post-World War II Somalia being the result of the regular arbitrary partitions, the consequences of which we know well from similar partitioning in the Middle East.
  • Powerful influence of Soviet aid and ideology, which was assisted greatly by U. S. military aid to hostile neighbor Ethiopia.
  • Almost textbook 3rd-world “revolution” in 1969 under the leadership of Siad Barre, resulting in a powerful central government and the elimination of all things “counter-revolutionary. With it came an attempt to also destroy Somalia’s traditional clan-based dispute resolution methods (which uncoincidentally play an important stabilizing role in Somali anarchy today).
  • Destructive, socialistic economic policies that, as in most similar cases, left the economy of Somalia in shambles following the withdrawal of Soviet aid. (The Soviet Union actually shifted its support in 1978 to rival Ethiopia, abandoning Somalia. )
  • American support for brutal dictator Siad Barre following Somalia’s abandonment by the Soviet Union.
  • International aid attempts creating Somali dependence on the foreign dole, and undermining domestic agriculture (as is the case with nearly every case of foreign food aid). This food aid also became a political weapon for Barre, whose engineered famines helped solidify his power as the distributor of food aid.
  • Misguided attempts at foreign aid following governmental collapse; deployment of “peacekeepers” resented by Somalis; shifting of food aid powers from central government to clan warlords. Foreign aid may very well have continued to provided the resources to fuel a conflict that would have otherwise ended.
  • The 2000 creation and attempted installation of a new government in Somalia in exile backed by the U. N. (currently known as the Transitional Federal Government), whose arrival has ultimately strengthened the Islamic Courts Union by creating yet another reason to fight.

So hopefully that gives you a general idea of just how screwed up Somalia is.

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FAQ: Anarchy in Somalia and its relevance to Anarchism/Statelessness (Part 2)

May 9th, 2009 Comments off

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It’s not a country full of enlightened people; it’s a country full of highly superstitious people (hence the Islam). Yet despite this, the freedom offered by the large vacuum of power has offered comparative gains, even in country plagued by villainous warlords. Remember, it’s almost the same exact Somalis, except without a state; when there was a state, the bad guy was at the top and calling all the shots with the army and police at his disposal.

By removing that state, the bad guys now have to compete on a more level playing field with the actually decent and well-meaning people of Somalia. And while some of the bad guys are still around (we can’t expect them to disappear overnight with a history like Somalia’s), the decent people have shown the success a voluntary society can bring, even among individuals who don’t necessarily have the most rational beliefs.

Irrational religious people, as much nonsense as they believe, have to eat, drink, and do basically most things that other humans do, too. As long as you want to live and prosper, you are bound by rationality to some degree.   And Somalia has simply become a better place to live and prosper as a result of greater economic freedom.

Q: But. pirates!

Ah yes, the infamous pirates of Somalia. Lions, and tigers, and bears, oh my!

The pirate story is as follows: in the Gulf of Aden, pirate groups have formed to capture merchant ships traveling nearby in order to collect a hefty ransom on the crew and cargo. Certainly, this is a clear cut case of theft. We all certainly agree that the pirates aren’t entitled to using violence and stealing for any reason whatsoever.

What’s really suspect is any criticism of what they’re doing by, well, anyone. Commonly ignored is the history behind these pirates: notably, the pillaging of the Somali fish stocks by foreign trawlers, endangering the livelihood of the very fishermen who form the pirates’ top recruiting pool, and the dumping of toxic wastes off of Somali shores by EU countries on the cheap (for the full story, read Johann Hari’s piece in the Independent).

Surely, two wrongs don’t make a right. I don’t believe in collectives, and hence don’t believe that an merchant of some European nationality has to pay for the actions of “his” government, which doesn’t necessarily represent any of the moral obligations he has generated as an individual.

The problem  is really the criticism by countries which do the very same thing that the Somali pirates are doing, but only in a more organized fashion. According to the mainstream view of these Somali pirates espoused by said countries, it’s immoral for Somalis to do it because a) they’re black, and b) they don’t have uniforms. This isn’t explicitly stated, of course; everything is couched in terms of “theft” and “international law” and so on.

What types of ships are the pirates attacking? Sometimes those ships are carrying foreign aid none other than money stolen from taxpayers to be given toward causes they probably wouldn’t agree with if they knew about them. This is the same foreign aid that strengthened the Biarre regime in Somalia as it strengthened regimes all across Africa by destroying domestic agriculture and giving the powers that be complete control over the food supply. While the pirates don’t care about this, it’s ironic that the West accuses Somali pirates of theft and destruction, when that is exactly what foreign aid is made of and accomplishes.

But the hypocrisy is much deeper than just foreign aid. Toxic waste dumping and fish poaching off the coast of New York would result in a severe American military response. According to the mainstream view, the Somalis don’t have a central government sanctioning their patrolling of territorial waters, so when they do it, it’s illegal piracy.

So let’s say, for simplicity’s sake, that Somali piracy is not about patrolling territorial waters and that it’s about arbitrary acts of seizure. I’m sure the pirates would advocate these acts of seizure as indeed being in some collective Somali interest. So when American ships interdict and seize ships in accordance with American environmental protection standards, trade embargoes, customs taxes, outright prohibitions (e. g. narcotics), etc. those too are arbitrary acts of seizure done in the name of national interest. When AMERICA does it, it’s national defense. When blacks without uniforms do it, it’s illegal piracy. The only thing justifying both acts is someone’s say-so. The only reason that this one-sided and hypocritical story wins out in our supposedly “objective” media is that one party is holding all of the guns.

Q: If you like anarchy so much, why don’t you move to Somalia?

Because it sucks there (for a wide variety of reasons beyond its political organization, as outlined above).

Typically, anything that isn’t one of the limited and mainstream “CNN” choices of political philosophy is going to hear these types of accusations of hypocrisy. These accusations naturally fail to respect the nuances of the view being attacked a crude form of sophistry that is often met with thunderous applause. (Kinda like this exchange between Ron Paul and Rudy Giuliani way to miss the point, Rudy applauding morons! )

The simplest thing to point out is that “anarchism” denotes a wide variety of very different views. One mostly false stereotype of anarchism is that it is a political philosophy, much like socialism, communism, or fascism. While this may be true of some strains, it’s important for any rational person to sufficiently differentiate the person with whom he/she is speaking. After all, you wouldn’t want a Muslim you were arguing with to stereotype you as a warmongering Westerner just because you say that you’re American.

The anarchism I espouse is merely a consequence of the philosophy of rationality and personal freedom that comes first. It is not a prescribed system that should be imposed it is just the state of affairs that arises once people start behaving rationally. That the state of affairs in my ideal world would be stateless, and can thus be termed “anarchy,” is more of an afterthought than a central goal. The individual’s pursuit of happiness comes first, in a way that also universally respects the rights of others.

Unfortunately, we live in a world filled with irrationality and coercion, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t rational choices to be made. There’s certainly nothing rational about putting the cart before the horse. A voluntary society (i. e. “anarchy”) is not an end in itself; it’s just that living in one would make one live a happy and moral life. ANARCHY IS NOT THE GOAL. GLOBAL UTOPIA IS NOT THE GOAL. A happy and moral life is the goal. So moving to Somalia certainly wouldn’t be much help to anyone trying to live a happy and moral life, given the misery and poverty there.

In summation, the central thesis of this FAQ is not that Somalia is utopia; it is most certainly not that Somalia meets every rational standard of respect for human freedom; it is that Somalia’s unique condition of statelessness has enabled Somalia to attain equal, if not superior, levels of stability and prosperity compared to its similarly-situated African neighbors. This success is, again, despite a number of factors that would otherwise make it another African hellhole (history of colonial domination and post-colonial meddling and intervention, irrational and dogmatic mysticism (i. e. Islam and general tribalistic baggage), hostile neighbors, etc. )

Given that taxpayers observing successful living without a massive government is a threat to massive governments, lots of resources are mobilized to frame world issues as if there is a speeding train coming for us which can only be stopped by government superheroes. Next time you hear about anything anarchy-related in the news, expect a healthy dose of vilification from the mainstream media. Soon enough, you’ll be watching cartoons rather than CNN.

[Special thanks for this article go to Wikipedia, one of the world’s greatest time-savers in terms of research aggregation. The benefits of decentralization even helped to write this article!

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The Christian Right isn’t the only Enemy of Science

April 3rd, 2009 2 comments

I just ran into an older post on Grey and White Matter (James’ blog) today that caught my eye, and reminded me once more of the linguistically bewildered world in which we live. The post was in reference to Obama’s purported championing of “science,” in the wake of the undoubtedly anti-science Bush administration. Read more…

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