What’s in a name?

by Ingrid Robeyns on August 21, 2006

Thanks for the introduction, and thanks for the opportunity to blogg about some issues that have been keeping me awake at night. I’m really glad to have this opportunity to write about them and discuss them on this forum, since my 8-months old does smile back but still it’s hard to get a good discussion going with him.

I’d like to start with a puzzle. A family of three who are living in Utrecht (the Netherlands), is driving home from a visit to Brussels, the capital of Belgium. Let’s call this family the family Pierik-Robeyns (yes, my family indeed). In Brussels, two Pieriks and one Robeyns get into the car. Two hours later, they arrive in Utrecht. They have not made a stop. No-one has left the car, and no-one has been picked up. In Utrecht, one Pierik and two Robeyns’s leave the car. How is this possible? [click to continue…]

Introducing Ingrid Robeyns

by Chris Bertram on August 21, 2006

For the next week “Ingrid Robeyns”:http://www.ingridrobeyns.nl/ will be guest-blogging here at Crooked Timber. When Ingrid is not busy trying to convince her 8-month old son to eat his vegetables, she works on topics such as Amartya Sen’s capability approach. Ingrid has just been given a big grant from Dutch National Science Foundation to do research on social justice and the new welfare state, with a special focus on parenthood, gender and the elderly. She’s Belgian by nationality, but studied and worked all over the place, including in Germany, the UK and the US, and is currently based in the Netherlands. Ingrid reports that she was once introduced to the Crown Prince of Belgium as “A great Belgian feminist”. Apparently this produced a reaction of incredulity and fear and the question “Are you _really_ a feminist?” She’s trained as an economist, but has worked in political science, philosophy and social policy. I’m sure she’ll have lots to say to us over the next week.

The Structural Power of Capital

by Henry on August 21, 2006

Dan Drezner “argued”:http://www.danieldrezner.com/archives/002859.html yesterday that the weakness of the Trans Atlantic Business Dialogue (TABD) suggests that business doesn’t have much power to shape the political agenda.

despite the impressive membership roster, this group does not appear to accomplish all that much. On issues like data privacy or genetically modified foods, the TABD has repeatedly issued stern proclamations with no effect on the outcome. … In a letter also signed by British Airways chairman Martin Broughton on behalf of the TransAtlantic Business Dialogue, the executives said it was “unacceptable” that transatlantic differences over agriculture, representing less than 3 per cent of transatlantic gross domestic product, were dictating progress on increased market access for goods and services. … After such a proclamation, any good Marxist would predict that Doha would be reborn. And, as usual, they will likely be wrong.

This is a topic that I’ve actually done research on (here’s a “piece”:http://www.henryfarrell.net/transatlantic.pdf that I wrote a couple of years ago on the relative power of the Transatlantic Consumer Dialogue and the TABD), and I think Dan is wrong here. The main reason that the TABD isn’t very influential in the grand scheme of things is that it doesn’t need to be. Business leaders on both sides of the Atlantic have plenty of access to policy makers without any need to go through the formalities of the TABD. In contrast, consumer groups had next to no official access to the US government before the Consumer Dialogue came into existence – while they still don’t have much clout in comparative terms, they have an official place at the table, which they didn’t before.

There is still an interesting question here, which is why businesses with an interest in increased transatlantic and international trade don’t have more impact than they do. But this doesn’t say anything about the structural power of business more generally. Indeed, I suspect that you could tell a reasonably convincing Marxist or marxisant story about how this demonstrates the relative strength of agribusiness as opposed to the internationalist types who make up the membership of TABD.

Dark matter

by Henry on August 21, 2006

Sean Carroll has a “post”:http://cosmicvariance.com/2006/08/21/dark-matter-exists/ at _Cosmic Variance_ on some fascinating cosmological observations which seem (Sean’s take is obviously rather more authoritative than mine) to demonstrate the existence of dark matter as comprehensively as one could reasonably hope for.

Sanctioning liberal democracies

by Chris Bertram on August 21, 2006

When I was at the ALSP conference in Dublin a while back, one of the more interesting papers was “Sanctioning Liberal Democracies” by Avia Pasternak of Nuffield College Oxford. Pasternak’s paper addresses the question of when it is appropriate to take action against liberal democracies for human rights violations. After all, as we are often being reminded, there are far worse violations of human rights going on elsewhere in the world. It might be thought that there are “double standards” here and that there is something wrong about giving special emphasis to, say, Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib. Pasternak argues that we should hold democracies to higher standards. Central to her account is an idea of a community of democratic nations and the notion that they are, in some sense, involved in a collective project to promote democracy and human rights. When one member of such a community lets the side down, so to speak, by failing to live up to its commitments, it thereby undermines that collective project and can justifiably be the object of sanctions by the other members.

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Being overqualified

by Eszter Hargittai on August 21, 2006

I was catching up with a friend recently who, after receiving a Master’s degree, decided to move to a professionally less-than-ideal location for personal reasons. She’s been doing okay by picking up work here and there, but it’s been a long process. She was explaining to me the frustrations of being told that you are overqualified for a job. I could definitely see her perspective and was nodding throughout her desciption of various recent experiences. But after the responses I received to my recent post here about outsourcing advice, I am starting to understand the other side’s position better. A few people emailed me offering their services. The problem is, pretty much all of them seem to be overqualified, which puts me in a difficult position.

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That was then, this is now

by John Quiggin on August 21, 2006

Daniel Byman and Kenneth Pollack start a lengthy Washington Post piece by observing

The debate is over: By any definition, Iraq is in a state of civil war.

and their assessment only gets gloomier from there on in, pointing to the disaster as a source of further regional conflict, a recruiting poster and training ground for terrorists, massive flows of refugees and so on. They have essentially nothing positive to suggest except for the observation (for which General Shinseki got fired before the war) that

Considering Iraq’s … population, it probably would require 450,000 troops to quash an all-out civil war there. Such an effort would require a commitment of enormous military and economic resources, far in excess of what the United States has already put forth.

Since the commitment of 450 000 troops is even less likely now than it was in 2003, the conclusion is, in effect, that the situation is hopeless.

We’re well past the point where admissions of error will do any good. Still, I’m stunned that Pollack could write

How Iraq got to this point is now an issue for historians (and perhaps for voters in 2008); what matters today is how to move forward

This was so brazen that I thought I must have got him confused with someone else. But no, it’s the same Kenneth Pollack who wrote The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq.