12 July 2014

In the summer,
the clock of the South is reversed

video

Two weeks ago, at the beginning of the winter, the clock on the facade of the Congress of Bolivia in La Paz has been reversed. Its hands turn left and the numbers have been inverted to go from one to 12 anti-clockwise. Bolivian Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca, doubtless addressing the rest of the world, dubbed it the “clock of the south”. He said the change has also been made to get Bolivians to treasure their heritage and show them that they could question established norms and think creatively: “when it’s summer in the North it’s not summer here –he specified--, and the time, like the weather, must also be the other way around.” 

Of course, coordination in the measurement of time is a universal public good from which everybody can take benefit. The Bolivian “creative thinking” reminds me an insightful observation by Jon Elster about changing coordination norms:
A minimal definition of a well-ordered society is that its drivers stop when they see a red light… In Shanghai during the Cultural Revolution, the Red Guards found it unacceptable that red should mean ‘stop’. They wanted the system of traffic lights changed to make red signify ‘go’. Chou En-lai was allegedly willing to go along with the proposal, until his driver told him that red lights were easier to notice in the dark and in bad weather.”
(Jon Elster, “When Communism Dissolves”, LRB, 1990)


video

11 June 2014

80:20
Piketty disregards Pareto, Zipf

Thomas Piketty's best-selling Capital in the Twenty-First Century is rich and innovative in data, although the author’s management of some sources is now being discussed. Another matter is that his findings could be illuminated by previous work that he may have overlooked. Some light could possibly be cast over the issue of wealth distribution, for instance, from the tradition of literature on “rank-size distributions”. According to the so-called “Zipf’s law” (for the American linguist George K. Zipf, who popularized the idea in the 1940s), remarkable regularities can be observed in the distribution of disparate resources, whether population in cities, frequency of word usage --and also wealth among individuals and groups, which is Piketty's topic. 
        Zipf’s basic formula is:

Sk = S1/ks

which means that the size of the k-th unit in rank equals the size of the first unit divided by k (raised to power s). A simplified formula makes s=1, which would mean that in a population divided in groups of equal number of individuals the share of wealth in the hands of the second wealthiest group would be half the first, the share of the third group would be one third of the first, and so on. The higher the value of s, the more unequal the distribution; the formula can, thus, be adjusted for empirical data in order to fit the basic values and confirm (or not) a regularity.


         Let’s assume that a certain population can be divided in ten deciles. Zipf’s cumulative distribution looks like the Figure above. The data presented by Piketty would fit the cumulative distribution derived from s=2 rather well. This means that the top 10 percent of the population would accumulate about 62 percent of total wealth. But even more interesting is that the top 20 percent would get about 81 percent.
         The latter values are extremely close to those postulated by Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, who observed in early 20th century that 20 percent of the population owned 80 percent of the land in Italy (and viceversa, of course: the remaining 80 percent of the population owned 20 percent of the land). Pareto’s “80:20 law”, which could be considered, in retrospect, a case of Zipf’s law, has been used to understand many phenomena. [For instance, as a personal aside, in working with a research team I noted that we had written 80 percent of a paper in a certain, relatively brief amount of time, but that to complete the remaining 20 percent (which required an apparently minor effort at searching for a few new data, filling gaps, drawing Tables and Figures, footnoting, referencing, and above all, solving a few disagreements) was taking much longer].
         Piketty's main point is that the distribution of wealth in a few most developed countries has become more unequal in the last twenty years. But his data show that it’s still significantly less unequal than it was one hundred years ago, when Pareto presented his findings on the distribution of income and wealth among the population. Piketty does not mention Zipf and discusses only the so-called Pareto’s coefficients to compare the income of different fractions of the population, but he doesn't mention the 80:20 law.

COMMENTS
Thomas Piketty said...
Dear Josep, 
The point is that there's no 80-20 law: wealth inequality does vary a lot over time and across countries; they always tend to have Pareto-Zipf forms (as a first approximation), but with huge variations in coefficients; so what needs to be explained is the change in inequality, not the stability. 
Best, 
Thomas
Ecole d'Economie de Paris/Paris School of Economics

Rein Taagepera said...
Most interesting.
I have tried to find the reason behind the rank-size distribution, but could prove it only for special cases. 
Moreover, a lognormal distribution of wealth cannot fit the rank-size pattern, and vice versa.
All this is unpublished.
Rein
University of California, Irvine, and university of Tartu, Estonia

Jean Leca said...
It seems to me that Piketty is right. According to an economist friend. Zipf's law is just a manner to put the data in order. It is not a causal model whereas Piketty's is causal, thus open to disconfirmation, and I suspect it'll be disconfirmed very soon.
Jean Leca
SciencesPo, Paris

Blog:
The interesting thing is that there may always be some regularity in any distribution. Even if inequality changes, it may do it by keeping some pattern (as for changing only the power s in Zipf's formula). Why there are not, for instance, flat segments or irregular slopes not following any formulaic pattern in a distribution?

03 June 2014

This article is published in Spanish in the daily El Pais: CLICK

To the new King of Spain: 
Do like in Italy

The abdication of King Juan Carlos has been compared with those of the Queen of the Netherlands and the King of Belgium last year. But the new King Philip VI could take more inspiration from the Head of State of Italy. The Italian Republic is a parliamentary regime, in which the Head of State has ceremonial powers, such as in Spain, but not only. Like the Italian Constitution, and like the great majority of those in European parliamentary systems, the Spanish constitution states that the Head of State must also arbitrate and moderate the regular functioning of the institutions. This task has been greatly missed in Spain in recent years, when the Parliament, the Government and the Judiciary stopped functioning in accordance with their constitutional missions. Now is the time when the new Head of State could use its powers to facilitate a new wave of recovery and renewal.
The Italian President, Giorgio Napolitano, has been an example of courage, skill, sense of duty and good service to citizens, from which the Spaniards could derive much benefit. Two and a half years ago the Italian government, buffeted by a series of scandals and the prosecution of its leader, was paralyzed in front the country's economic crisis and pressures from the European Union. The Head of State then removed the Prime Minister and appointed in his place a highly reputed independent professional with experience in prestigious European institutions, who formed a government with the best specialists in each field, without a single member of any political party, but won nevertheless the support of 90 percent of Parliament. The new government was also supported by the leaders of the European Union and the United States. Italy has since had its best period of government in modern history.
According to the electoral timetable, a new election was called after a year and a half (more or less the same time remaining now in Spain to the deadline for a new call). Following that election, resistance to change by the traditional political parties made ​​it impossible the formation of a parliamentary majority, which would have required a grand coalition with members of the two major parties. But this was formed a few months later, at the cost of a shake-up of the party system . Meanwhile, President Napolitano had appointed a committee to develop public policy proposals formed by ten experts, some of which became part of the new government. It is quite remarkable that all this experience took place in a country that was known as a "party-cracy", ie, by a degree of control of party leaderships on public institutions equal or even higher than usually reported in Spain. The biggest advantage of an initiative of the Head of State is that it comes from outside the political parties, so it can be especially effective in inducing reforms that also affect the party system.
As a result of that process, the current Italian Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, heads a Cabinet of independent experts and members of the parties of the cente-right and the center-left, which, among other results, has confirmed the removal of Italy from the European Commission’s list of Southern European countries placed under the Excessive Deficit Procedure. His party has obtained the best result of all governmental parties in Europe in the recent election to the European Parliament, which may suggest that economic restructuring and legislative reforms may also accompany new policy normalization.
According to the Spanish Constitution, the Head of State may dismiss the Prime Minister, dissolve parliament, call elections, appoint a new Prime Minister, as well as the ministers proposed by the latter, personally chair meetings of the Council of Ministers, issue governmental decrees, promulgate laws and, according to the Prime Minister appointed by him, call referendums on political decisions of special importance. It is generally expected that the Head of State use these capabilities according to the election results. But in an emergency situation --as is undoubtedly the Spanish-- the powers of the Head of State are to be used, as in the Italian case, according to the letter of the constitution.
Although not required by the constitution, and if only for ceremonial courtesy, the current Prime Minister should put its resignation to the new King. The formation of a government of broad multiparty coalition, a new agreement with Catalonia, sending signals of renewal and optimism to induce capitals in exile to return and to attract new foreign investments, could be the 23-F of King Philip VI [on 23-F 1981 King Juan Carlos stopped a military coup d’etat]. That is, his legitimation, not by dynastic or constitutional reasons, but by the results of his action. Like his father needed more than thirty years ago, the new Head of State will need a legitimation of this type by a large majority of Spanish society, as well as by the international scene, to consolidate his office in the years to come.
---
Josep M. Colomer was Prince of Asturias Professor at Georgetown University.


COMMENTS
Many of the numerous comments received are private messages, so as an exception to the norms in this Blog a selection of them are reproduced without revealing the authors.

splendid article, Josep.  I imagine it will elicit quite a buzz.....
wow, that *is* interesting...

Dear Josep,
What a clever article in El País today. I wish the new King were considering this scenario. 
Cheers,

Dear Josep,
Thank you very much for your updates - it is always interesting to follow you:-)

I agree entirely with you about Napolitano's successful tenure as President.

Could you mobilize your high standards of logical thinking and gathering of good empirical data to help us to deal with the dual problem of the possibility and virtues of leadership and of  expertise + coalitions? In France to-day the dearth of leaders and the failure of majority rule are glaring, and there is no room for a Napolitano since, despite what De Gaulle wanted, the president is not "above parties" since he is now both a tool and a product of the party system. And I am not so sure that expertise, albeit invoked and called upon as if it was the new soul of the city, is more than a fetish empty of meaning by dint of being constantly manipulated by the rulers and ruled alike

Josep esta muy bueno. Se lo mandaste al príncipe?

le costó pero te hizo caso al final
Bueno, ahora has pasado a ser consejero real!!!

Estupendo el artículo.  Espero que escuche!

Echo en falta estos análisis. Hay un sector de la izquierda que hoy intenta monopolizar el debate (estéril, me temo) proponiendo un referendum Monarquía/República, ignorando el papel transformador que puede asumir Felipe VI en el actual escenario. Ni siquiera está probado que la fórmula de la República acabe per se con la actual arquitectura de los partidos, las prácticas caciquistas, and so on. Las repúblicas latinoamericanas son un claro ejemplo.

Estás proponiendo, en esencia, que el nuevo Rey exceda sus atribuciones legales para que la política evolucione en el sentido que consideras debería hacerlo. Me preocupa mucho que la mejor intelectualidad repite así el error de la generación del 98, haciendo propuestas rupturistas de las que en seguida va a desengancharse con otro "No es eso" orteguiano. 

Pedir que el nuevo rey se ponga a nombrar gobiernos, influir en gabinetes, y, en última instancia decidir "políticas" me parece lo último que necesita España, y más aún la monarquía.

Ahora veo un poco más lo que propones, como una alternativa al cul de sac al que vamos directos en la situación actual. Yo creo que el "régimen" (como lo llaman ahora) es más robusto de lo que parece. Yo sí veo instituciones que cooperan, y veo posibilidades para una futura gran coalición en Madrid, y veo factibles gobiernos de coalición en casi todos los sitios, muy sanos por otra parte... (es verdad que es preocupante el ascenso de propuestas "maximalistas", pero en esto España está muy por detrás de otros lugares).
Gracias en cualquier caso por hacernos reflexionar, 

Interesante artículo. Lo primero que debería hacer el nuevo rey es admitir la urgencia de la situación.

Bastante sorprendido con el artículo. Me "atrevo" a no estar de acuerdo en muchas cosas. 

Ets tú qui ha fet abdicar el Rei? ;)

Amb un any de retard sobre el teu anunici; 
i ara gobierno de tecnocratas? 
o eleccions a Espanya abans del Novembre? 

Mal art. S entendra a mes malament probablement  Puc acceptar el que es part d un antinc consens.  Pero funcions que es legitimen amb l eleccio, no. 

Excel.lent!!! Els monàrquics ens sentim recomfortats per articles com aquest.

Un paral·lelisme molt perspicaç. Jo també he pensat que aquesta seria la sortida, però no tenia tan clar l'instrument ni les possibilitats constitucionals. Felicitats un cop més.


28 May 2014

A more consensual, less partisan Europe

Half of the nationalist, anti-Union seats in the European Parliament come from the two countries with the oldest and highest achievement in building a nation-state: France and Great Britain. Still, for a sizeable minority of citizens in those countries, the accomplishments of their nations are more appealing than the still in the process, uncertain union of European lands. In contrast, the nationalist reaction has been contained in the axis of the former Holy German and Roman Empire, that is, in late comers to nation-building Germany and Italy, where the incumbent government’s parties have won the European election. Although with more difficulties, this has also been the case in the largest failed nation-state, Spain, in spite of the huge economic depression and social disaggregation the country has suffered in the last few years. For most people in these and in most European countries, the union of Europe is certainly more appealing than the nationalist closings and rivalries of the past.
    The emergence of a few, dispersed, mutually envious nationalist parties will not change the basic working of the European Parliament. Almost every major decision has always been made by broad consensus among the three largest parties, the center-right Populars, the center-left Socialists, and the intermediate Liberals, which will still gather together more than 62 percent of the seats in the new chamber. Multiparty cooperation relies upon broad consensus on economic policy, as has been shown by the management of the crisis by state governments led by any of the three parties, and by the diffusion of grand coalition governments (including in Germany and Italy, among other countries, and possibly also in Spain in the not remote future). The rise of the extremes will make this centrist coalition even more frequent and compact.
   The typical Europe-wide policy consensus is the opposite of the alternation of single-party governments and adversarial politics that was characteristic of the –today most probably extinct— British demeanor. But the typical Europe-wide consensus is also different from the United States checks and balances model. In the U.S., the mutual checks between the two parties in the Presidency and in Congress lead to frequent deadlocks and make decisions feasible only when party discipline is broken (as happened, for instance, with the approval of the annual budget a few months ago). In the European Union, multipartism facilitates sustained, moderate cooperation. The broad three-party majority in the Parliament is even broader in the Council, as almost all the country governments forming the Council are led by members of those three parties. The formation of the Commission with people selected by their technical expertise rather than by their party affiliation will also reflect, as always, this broad, stable majority support.
   Political party competition is likely to decrease also due to some characteristics of the new challenges of the EU’s agenda. A common market and its common currency were relatively easy to be built by broad consensus as everybody was entitled to expect to obtain benefit from them. But attaining a fiscal union and a banking union implies higher levels of inter-state conflict and more clearly identifiable winners and losers. The agreements on these matters will have to be based, more than ever, on technical expertise, rather than on adversary partisan proposals. And the decisions will have to be shared, as has happened in the last few years, by both unelected bodies of experts, such as the European Central Bank, indirectly selected top officers, such as those of the Commission, and the broad, centrist, multiparty majority in the Council and the Parliament.
   So, against the fuss in “instant” media which are always looking for surprises, the near future of the European Union is highly predictable. Political party competition is not going to be a significant feature of the system. Expert rule and consensus policy may even increase.

19 May 2014

India: Modi didn’t win
                                                                                                                  A ballot in India
Many media have greeted the results of the India’s election as a “landslide victory” for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by the next Prime Minister, Narendra Modi. The BJP is allocated an absolute majority of seats in the lower house of Parliament, a threshold that no party had achieved in the last thirty years. As also happens in the aftermath of British elections, all news focus on the distribution of seats among parties. It’s not as easy to find information about votes. In fact, the winning party received only 31 percent of votes, but an absolute majority of 52 percent of seats (a two-thirds overrepresentation). The incumbent, defeated Indian National Congress received more than 19 percent of votes but it’s allocated less than half that proportion of seats, barely 8 percent.
These awkward results are mainly the product of the British inherited electoral system, based on single-member districts by plurality rule. As frequently happens in that kind of system when multiple parties compete, parties that may have received more than 30 percent of votes in some districts have obtained zero seats because some other party got a few more votes and monopolizes the district’s representation. This time the overrepresentation of the largest party is extreme (together with a few large regional parties, they are given 30 percentage points more in seats than in the votes received).
In a previous post in this Blog, I said that democracy in India has survived and flourished, against all odds, thanks to certain political, institutional and economic changes, such as that “previous single-party dominance was replaced with a multiparty system and federal coalition cabinets have become the norm”. These features facilitated political inclusiveness of different groups of the population in a so huge and varied country, but they are going to disappear during the next few years.
When the electoral results were made public, Modi proclaimed: “I am a magician”. He will, indeed, need something close to magic to govern effectively without the support of almost 70 percent of the Indian voters –those who didn’t vote for his party.

COMMENTS

Rein Taagepera said...
The world made the same mistake regarding Hamas.
The longterm outcome depends on whether Modi is willing to understand that he was the first choice of only 31 %  and has to earn the goodwill of relatively neutral citizens who voted for other parties. 
Unfortunately, leaders often like to forget about awkward vote percentages.
Rein
U. California, Irvine

Robert Richie said...
Great post! Just tweeted it out.
best, Rob
FairVote, Washington, DC

Alfred G. Cuzan said...
I enjoy your postings.  I do find the title of this item puzzling.  The fact is that Modi and his party did win, and by any measure a 19% showing for the incumbent Congress Party is a crushing defeat.  The disproportionality of the electoral system, and the difficulties that Modi faces governing such a disparate country, are separate issues, unrelated to who won or lost.
Cordially
AGC 
The University of West Florida, Pensacola, FL

Ken Newton said...
Dear Josep,
I read your blog on Modi election result with great interest. It highlights a point made with great clarity in a recent article (CLICK) by Professor Otto I.Q. Besser-Wisser that the next and higher phase of development in advanced states is a form of democracy that is election and party free, and much the better for it.
Yours

Ken Newton (on behalf of Besser-Wisser and Prunk)
University of Southampton, UK



06 May 2014

Gary Becker
1930-2014

Gary Becker in his seminar at the University of Chicago, 
which I attended in 1988-1989

He was intellectually fearless
University of Chicago President Robert Zimmerman

The Economic Approach to Life
(My article in El Pais, Madrid, October 14, 1992)

By giving the Nobel Prize to Gary Becker, the Swedish Academy has confirmed two things: the intellectual triumph of the Chicago school in economics and the diffusion of the economic approach to the other social sciences. To give the Nobel to two outstanding Chicago boys in two consecutive years was not usual in the diplomacy of the award, which was prudently guided by balances among countries and schools of thought. But after last year [1991]’s prize to Ronald Coase, this time [1992] it has not been to a distinguished retired author, but to its most active intellectual leader.
       Gary Becker’s classical work is Human Capital, where he develops theoretical bases of human decisions for investment (and not only consumption, as it was assumed before) in education, professional training, migration and health. But Becker is better known for his applications of the so-called economic approach to other fields of human behavior. Every time Becker has opened a new field of study, he has been accused by sociologists, political scientists, legal scholars and anthropologists of “imperialism” of the economic science. Yet what he holds is that “economics” is only an approach to observe and understand the world, and not a subject limited to the allocation or exchange of material and monetary resources.
       The author of this note has had the privilege to see Becker working live and direct and to participate in the seminar that he leads with sociologist James Coleman at the University of Chicago, in an atmosphere of really interdisciplinary work, insatiable curiosity, analytical rigor, pitiless attack to mistakes, and the joy and pleasure of thinking. I can witness that Becker is as capable of destroying, brilliantly, unmitigatedly and in a few minutes, a paper by a prestigious colleague backed by several years of work, as he is of listening for hours to an unknown foreigner who presents a sketch on something on which he has never written, bothering himself with writing comments and being right on target for its further revision.
       With the tools of the economic method (the assumption that individuals have stable preferences and are utility maximizers, enter in interactions and produce market equilibria), Gary Becker had already addressed a hot issue in the United States of the late 1950s, The Economics of Discrimination. Becker showed then that free exchanges among people from different races harms only the employers of the minority group (in that case, blacks) and the workers of the majority group (whites), who are the supporters of discrimination, while the complementary groups get benefits from tearing color barriers down.
       Beyond his theoretical conceptualizations, Becker’s work is guided, thus, by the request to address relevant problems of the society of his time. For instance, in his writings on crime, he assumes that the criminal will take into account not only the legal penalty of his action, but also the probability not to be arrested, which moves the reader to revise the calculations about the proportionality between penalties and crimes and to pay more attention to police effectiveness.
       His own biography, which includes early widowhood and a second marriage, helps understand the emergence of another of his concerns, as presented in A Treatise on the Family, where he models the selective matching of partners in marriage markets, the demand of children, divorces and intergenerational inequality and mobility.
       In an early, less cited article of 1958 Becker already applied the model of market exchange to the relations between parties and voters, an approach that became dominant in more recent times. The Nobel Prize certainly back[ed] all this line of work and [gave] incentives to pursue its development.


 MORE on Becker in Spanish CLICK - CLICK

02 May 2014

Rein Taagepera:
Old rockers never retire!

Rein Taagepera has received the Constantine Panunzio Distinguished Emeriti Award of the University of California system (10 campuses) for outstanding scholarly work performed since retirement.
     Taagepera’s contributions to political science are among the most important ones in several decades to honor the word “science” in the name of the discipline. He has tried and keeps trying to change the methodological emphasis in the social sciences in a major way. His intellectual crusade is in favor of logical models with the capability to make quantitative predictions, which is the standard in any “normal science”. Taagepera has achieved to be acknowledged that this should also be the standard in the social sciences. He is better-known for his innovative contributions to the analysis of the relations between electoral systems and party systems, but actually this is only one of the several subjects in which he has successfully applied his methodology, others including population growth, arms race, and the importance of the question of size to explain historical empires, countries, cities, trade, assembly, party systems, etc.
     I knew of Rein Taagepera in 1989 from his striking book Seats and Votes, with Matthew Shugart, which changed my view about how political science could be a normal science. Shortly thereafter, in 1991, I was invited to a meeting of experts in Tallin organized by the Government of Estonia a few weeks after independence, and I was shocked when all the foreign guests were given an informative book on The Baltic Republics in which the only signed piece was the preface by Rein Taagepera. I realized that he was probably the most famous Baltic-born person living abroad, but nonetheless marveled that the rulers of the new independent countries had not chosen as their introducer, say, a military hero, a patriotic poet or a sport champion, but a political scientist! A few months later he would also become a candidate for President and an active local politician in favor of a well-designed and effective democracy.
     After that, and when he was already officially retired, we met for first time at an annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, as both of us were members of the ‘Representation and Electoral Systems’ section. Over the years, I visited the University of California, Irvine; he visited, at my invitation, the Pompeu Fabra University, in Barcelona, where his lectures attracted an unusual degree of attention from people from the departments of Economics, Political Science and Sociology; we appeared jointly in a panel at a conference of the European Consortium for Political Research in Budapest; we published journal articles in a symposium edited by him; and, especially since my move to the United States, we have been in permanent touch, sharing many comments, reviews, insights, questions and interests.
     A few years ago, Rein Taagepera obtained the maximum academic recognition in international political science: the Johan Skytte Prize, awarded in Sweden, which pretends to be the “Nobel” of political science. I think two keys of his success are his training as a physicist and his early retirement.
     His studies in physics provided him an outside point of view to really existing political and social sciences that has proven crucial to identify their relative weakness and to point out fruitful ways to pursue further research. In contrast to many scholars who completed standard studies in political science and followed a standard career in standard institutions, he has not been victim of previously shaped research programs condemned to repeat the same habits, mantras and myopias of previous generations. When he emphasizes the importance of thinking and imagining logical connections among variables before using mathematical tools, he is being the real scientist. When he calls the attention about the link between high scientific rigor and practical relevance, he is providing the best service to both science and society against irrelevant ivory towers.
     His retirement at 60 has proven extraordinarily fruitful, as is acknowledged now with the Panunzio award. Taagepera has published many more books and articles in the last twenty years than in the previous longer period with full-time jobs. During the most recent period his main focus has moved from Estonian and Baltic republics, which nevertheless he has not abandoned, to the search of scientific findings of more universal value. Many of his more recent successful publications were in fact cooked for several decades, but they have blossomed in the last few years. For instance, he had already published an article titled “a physics-inspired introduction to political science” in the 1970s, but he has completed and made publicly available his basic textbook only two years ago. As he says, the presentation of a paper in a conference in Belgium in 2005 (at 72) “was a breakthrough moment” leading to his book on Making Social Sciences More Scientific, which became an instant reference; his 2007 book Predicting Party Sizes presents the results of all his previous work on electoral and party systems and adds quite a lot, which presumably triggered the Skytte Prize; in an article in 2008 he has finally found a use for a mathematical model that –he says-- has “puzzled him since high school”; and in 2014 (at 80) he has just published “one of his top achievements” (a model of world population growth). Taagepera also has several unpublished book manuscripts and a number of papers in the making, some of them on new topics, which he has disseminated among a few colleagues and former students in search of collaboration and further work.
     The social sciences will still receive additional great benefits from Rein Taagepera if he can stay “retired” this way for another twenty or more years!
More on Rein Taagepera in this Blog: CLICK



18 April 2014


India Shouldn’t Have Elections

Yet it has. More than 800 million people have started voting during five weeks to elect the House of the People (Lok Sabha), which will appoint the Prime minister and the Council of ministers. When India became independent from British colonial domination in 1947, the general opinion was that a democratic regime could not last in such a huge, poor, illiterate, and ethnically varied country. Most prospects were as grim as that of the British tea planter who predicted, “Chaos would prevail in India if we were so foolish to leave the natives to run their own show.” Arend Lijphart acknowledged in 1996 that democracy in India "has long been a puzzle" for political scientists. Adam Przeworski and associates say in their book Democracy and Development (2000) that “What we want to know is how many countries will be ruled by democracies in the year 2030”, and they conclude that “because India has remained a democracy against all odds, we repeatedly predict it as a dictatorship”.
     Indeed, independence was immediately followed by war, provoked by the separation of Pakistan, which caused more than one million deaths. The rule of the dominant Congress Party, under the strong leadership of Jawaharlal Nehru, managed to achieve some stability. But the Congress’s governments, which implemented protectionist and interventionist economic policies, presided over a long period of economic stagnation, derisively referred to as the “Hindu rate of growth.” In fact, democracy broke down. In 1975, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi (Nehru’s daughter) declared a state of emergency. Civil rights were suppressed, thousands of opposition members were imprisoned, and hundreds of journalist were arrested. However, two years later, Gandhi reestablished legal guarantees and called a new election, which she and her party lost. Back in power at the following election, she was killed by her own guards.
     Since the late 1980s, the political system of India has experienced significant transformations. Single-party dominance has been replaced with a multiparty system, federal coalition cabinets have become the norm, and a high number of state governments are ruled by local and opposition parties. Although some ethnic and territorial conflicts persist, especially in Punjab and Kashmir, at the borders with Pakistan, violent riots have become routine incidents. Open now to foreign trade and investment, the Indian economy has burgeoned. While democracy was established in India in heavily adverse conditions, it has survived and flourished with the help of these political, institutional and economic changes. Near half of all the people in the world who live in democratic regimes are voting there right now.

You can join my mailing list for new publications here: CLICK

COMMENTS


Hector Schamis said...
First one --I read, at least-- about the puzzle was Barrington Moore, definitely before Lijphart and Prz.
My two cents.
Washington, DC, USA

Blog:
Yes, more quotations:
Barrington Moore wondered about the “strange” case of India, which had a democracy before it developed a middle class, and acknowledged that “this case stands somewhat apart from any theoretical scheme that it seems possible to construct for the others” (1966).
Robert Dahl saw India as “a leading contemporary exception to the general relation between polyarchy and modern dynamic pluralist society” (1989).


24 March 2014

Adolfo Suárez: 
Un héroe trágico
Adolfo Suarez (1932-2014)

Héroe es el que se sacrifica a sí mismo para el bien de los demás. Esto le diferencia del dictador, que hace todo lo contrario, es decir, aprovecharse de los demás, pero también del líder típico, que obtiene tantos o más beneficios que sus seguidores, y del mártir, cuyo sacrificio es inútil. Adolfo Suárez se sacrificó a sí mismo para dejar atrás el pasado y hacer que todos pudiéramos mirar hacia delante, hasta el punto de atreverse a decir, nada menos que en el momento de presentar su candidatura a las primeras elecciones: “Nunca he perseguido en mis acciones de gobierno pedir nada para mí”. Quizá le creímos porque entonces todos éramos más ingenuos, pero también es cierto que ningún político se ha atrevido luego a decir algo así.
      Probablemente el mayor acierto de Suárez en la transición fue no diseñar un objetivo, sino sólo un proceso, cuyo resultado dependería de unas elecciones abiertas –es decir, una ley “para” la reforma política, más que la reforma misma. Su motivación principal fue el deseo de abandonar un régimen político obsoleto y, en sus recordadas palabras, “elevar a la categoría política de normal lo que a nivel de calle es simplemente normal”. Negó que existiera el determinismo histórico y creyó que “el futuro, lejos de estar decidido, es siempre el reino de la libertad, abierto e inseguro”. Mirar hacia adelante, olvidar el pasado –ésta fue su actitud fundamental.
      Muchas cosas nuevas aprendimos todos de la transición. Suárez se adelantó a los estudiosos al analizarse a sí mismo y observar las dificultades de combinar la construcción de nuevas reglas institucionales con la gestión regular de gobierno, la cual sólo puede desarrollarse normalmente una vez las nuevas reglas han sido establecidas. ¡Cuántos países han enfrentado después problemas semejantes! Con metáfora insuperable, señaló que se le pedía “que cambiemos las cañerías del agua, teniendo que dar agua todos los días; que cambiemos el tendido eléctrico, dando luz todos los días; que cambiemos el techo, las paredes y las ventanas del edificio, pero sin que el viento, la nieve o el frío perjudique a los habitantes de ese edificio.” Casi lo consiguió. No está claro si hoy sería posible otra vez.
      Reflexionando después, opinó que su éxito no se había basado en un ansia masiva de libertad, ya que esa demanda era sólo minoritaria. La gente le apoyó, decía Suárez, “porque yo los alejaba del peligro de una confrontación a la muerte de Franco. No me apoyaban por ilusiones y anhelos de libertades, sino por miedo a esa confrontación; porque yo los apartaba de los cuernos de ese toro”. Interpretó así los mejores intereses de su pueblo e hizo de reclamaciones confusas un proyecto viable que casi todos pudieron aceptar.
      Cuando el pasado regresaba para provocar la confrontación y mover el proceso hacia atrás, Suárez trató de evitarlo con su total sacrificio político, es decir, con su dimisión, para evitar que “el sistema democrático de convivencia sea, una vez más, un paréntesis en la historia de España”. No lo fue; pudimos seguir mirando hacia el futuro, tratar de olvidar el pasado.
      Adolfo Suárez no sólo promulgó la amnistía de los conflictos anteriores, sino que propugnó la amnesia. Fue el político más importante de la transición, pero el único que no escribió sus memorias. Ni siquiera cuando había terminado la tarea quiso echar la vista atrás. Olvidó trágicamente, olvidó, olvidó. Afortunadamente para él, no llegó a darse cuenta de que un día acabaría regresando una nueva versión de aquella España eterna que él había querido dejar atrás.

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COMENTARIOS

Bravo professor!
Me ha gustado mucho.
Angel Gil-Ordonez

Tots els herois són tràgics. 
O no són herois. Molt bé Josep Mª.
Salvador Giner

Un titulo excelente!
Es curioso como tantos q atacaron a Suarez entonces hoy lo alaban...
Pedro Gete

Molt bo, Josep Mª. "Me apoyaron porque yo los alejaba de la confrontación, no por ansias de libertad".  Lúcid i contra els tòpics que aquests dies es diuen per aquí. 
Una abraçada, 
Francesc de Carreras

M'ha semblat extraordinari per perspicaç, original, profund i alhora àgil.
Carles Castro

Benvolgut amic,
Esplèndid article. M’ha emocionat. “El olvido y el retorno de la España eterna: hemos vuelto dónde solíamos”.
Records,
Juan Jose Lopez Burniol


20 March 2014

How Russia Got to Chair 
the World Government











The current Russian empire is a member of the Group of Eight (G-8), which is the closest thing to a world government that has ever existed, since 1997. The deal to accept Russia in the world directorate involved a new redistribution of imperial areas of influence, by which some former members of the Soviet Union (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) would become members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and eventually of the European Union (EU), as also other countries under former Soviet control in the Warsaw Pact would (Poland, Czech Rep., Slovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania). This way, NATO and the EU greatly expanded their limits eastwards. But Ukraine was implicitly left under the influence of the Russian empire (as also were Belarus, Moldova, Georgia and other former Soviet republics). Now the deal shows its latent lines of conflict. Ukraine is a disputed frontier between the European Union and the Russian Federation, but the West is formally committed to protect only the Baltic republics, not necessarily other former Soviet republics fighting for freedom and openness.
The world directorate currently known as G-8 was gradually shaped since the early 1970s, when the finance ministers and the central bank governors of France, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States began to hold regular meetings to try to secretively manage floating currency rates and coordinating the interventions of the central banks. The first “summit” of the Group, formed not only by ministerial officials on finances, but by the heads of state or government, together with their foreign affairs ministers, took place in 1975. Italy was invited to the first meeting as the temporary holder of the rotating presidency of the European Council, but it managed to stay on as a permanent member. As a kind of compensation on the other side of the Atlantic, Canada was also incorporated the following year, forming, thus, the Group of Seven. The Group also added the European Union as such a few years later, although it kept the G-7 name.
The U.S. Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, stated that the G-7 “provided a kind of political directoire of the industrial democracies… it launched a new era of institutionalized economic and political cooperation among the democracies.” Consistently, the G-7 did not consider dictatorial China’s membership. Yet, at the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 and during the initial period of liberalization, the G-7 held a number of post-summit meetings with the elected leader of the new Russian Federation, Boris Yeltsin, as a “special guest.” After Yeltsin was reelected president of Russia in 1996, the U.S. president Bill Clinton made a move. In his own words:
“I told Yeltsin that if he would agree to NATO-expansion and the NATO-Russia partnership, I would make a commitment not to station troops or missiles in the new countries prematurely, and to support Russia membership at the new G-8, the World Trade Organization, and other international organizations. We had a deal.”
Yeltsin had found the previous formula of separate meetings with the Seven unacceptable, as “it kept Russia feeling like a student taking an exam.” In the G-7 meeting in Denver, Colorado, in June 1997, Russia was formally accepted as a member of what began then to be called ‘Group of Eight’. The Russian president proclaimed: “Russia has been accepted into the elite club of states!”
Russia has never been incorporated into the regular meetings of the finance ministers of the G-7, which currently also includes the heads of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank and the governor of the European Central Bank. But Russia has participated in 17 annual summit meetings of the G-8 and hosted one (in St Petersburg in 2006). Now it’s the turn again for Russia to host and chair the G-8 summit meeting, scheduled for June 4-5 in Sochi. Suspending Russia from participating in the meeting, as some other leaders are suggesting, which may imply relocating the meeting itself, is highly risky, as it could be interpreted by Vladimir Putin as a break of the aforementioned deal. If the Western great powers don’t respect Russia membership to the world directorate, Russia may reconsider its commitment to respect NATO membership or neutrality of some countries formerly under its area of influence. Imperial rivalries are reemerging before our eyes.


COMMENTS

Eric Hershberg said...

Nicely done, Josep

Eric Hershberg
American University
Washington, DC


Anastasia Obydenkova said...

Very interesting indeed!


Anastassia Obydenkova
UPF, Barcelona


Salvador Giner said...

Josep Maria, com de costum, la teva sociogia política l'encerta,
perquè és sociologia analítica. La prochaine guerre de Crimée n'aura pas lieu.


Carles Castro said...
Una anàlisi clarificadora.
CCS