In August, 2007, I moved from Brooklyn to Washington for what was supposed to be a four-month internship at Foreign Policy. When I wrote my first post on Passport, then the only blog on a website that looked like this, it would have been hard to imagine that I would finally be writing my last one after six years; more than 40 print issues; a redesign; a new blog; three offices; countless fact-checks, Morning Briefs, lists, Flashpoints updates, homepage meetings, Global Thinker bios, and slideshows; not to mention two presidential elections, the global financial crisis, the Arab Spring, Wikileaks, two Vladimir Putin presidencies, and innumerable Vladimir Putin slideshows.
Today is my last day at FP. In a little over a week, I'll be heading across Dupont Circle to join Slate as a staff writer. I'll be writing more about my new project over there soon, but for now I just want to say how incredibly lucky I've felt to be a small part of the growth of this magazine for the last six years.
New employees and visitors to our office often seem surprised at how small our staff is. Given the scale and quality of the product FP puts out every day, it is a small group, and the whole thing only works because of how insanely brilliant and dedidated the editors, bloggers, reporters, business staff, designers, tech wizards, and interns who work here are. I've been in awe of my friends here every day and I can't wait to see where they take FP next.
And thanks of course to all of you for reading. Keep on fighting the War of Ideas, comrades. I know that together, we will be victorious.
Raghuram Rajan, a former IMF chief economist and former University of Chicago professor, has just been tapped to head the Reserve Bank of India.
Rajan has been on FP's radar for quite some time. Under the then-more-culturally-relevant headline "Rajan Against the Machine," FP speculated in 2003, shortly after he was hired at the IMF, that "the fund [might] have unwittingly hired its own Joseph Stiglitz, the former World Bank chief economist who became a fierce critic of the free-market orthodoxy of both his institution and the IMF."
It didn't quite turn out that way. Rajan is still very much a Chicago-style economist, though he has been willing to challenge orthodoxy at times. He is probably best known internationally for his prescience on the global financial crisis: He was pilloried at a high-level economics conference in 2005 for giving a presentation titled "Has Financial Development Made the World Riskier?" in which he argued that incentives in the financial system had become badly skewed.
In a 2008 FP interview, he discussed whether the crisis had altered his free market beliefs:
We're not fundamentalists who think that markets exist without any intervention. We understand there's a solid bedrock of government regulation that is needed to make a free market work. The mistake some people on the extreme right make is that they think that's not needed. It is needed, but we say also that when regulation fails and the market sort of creates its own crisis, that becomes the opportunity for those who are anti-market and anti-competition to come in with a host of proposals to essentially defeat the market and to shackle it in the future.
And that's really my fear about this particular crisis. The more government intervention there is to bail out the system without private-sector participation, the more the public opinion will be, This is a one-way street. They feast in good times, and theyre bailed out in bad times. And the results will be to the financial sector's own detriment because the public will want overregulation rather than underregulation.
In 2010, he discussed the risk of contagion from Greece's financial crisis with FP's David Kenner:
Essentially, you move from a situation where these guys had the implicit support of the EU to where they're all on their own bottoms. Then the market will have to look at each of these markets individually and ask if we can trust them to repay.
Of course, the countries that are individually fine should be OK, and the countries that are at the center of the euro area, where there is still some solidarity, may still be OK, but the countries that are at the periphery will be more problematic. Maybe this goes on to Portugal. Probably not to Spain, but it's not unthinkable -- Spain has a huge level of unemployment, and while its government debt is still relatively low, the potential for it to rise is substantial.
[If Krugman] denies a role for government housing policies or for monetary policy, or even warped banker incentives, then to what does Krugman attribute the crisis? His answer is over-saving foreigners. In short, countries with trade surpluses, such as Germany and China, had to reinvest their resulting financial windfalls in the United States, pushing down U.S. long-term interest rates in the process, and igniting a housing bubble that eventually burst and led to the financial panic. But this is only a partial explanation, as I argue in my book. The United States did not have to run a large trade deficit and absorb the capital inflows -- the claim that it did sounds very much like that of the over-indulgent and over-indebted rake who blames his creditors for being willing to finance him. U.S. policies encouraged over-consumption and over-borrowing, and unless we understand where these policies came from, we have no hope of addressing the causes of this crisis. Unfortunately, these are the policies that Krugman wants to push again. This is precisely why we have to understand the history of how we got here, and why Krugman wants nothing to do with that enterprise.
Although I believe that the basic ideas of the free-enterprise system are sound, the fault lines that precipitated the crisis are indeed systemic. They stem from more than just specific personalities or institutions. A much wider cast of characters share responsibility for the crisis: it includes domestic politicians, foreign governments, economists like me, and people like you. Furthermore, what enveloped all of us was not some sort of collective hysteria or mania. Somewhat frighteningly, each one of us did what was sensible given the incentives we faced. Despite mounting evidence that things were going wrong, all of us clung to the hope that things would work out fine, for our interests lay in that outcome. Collectively, however, our actions took the world's economy to the brink of disaster, and they could do so again unless we recognize what went wrong and take the steps needed to correct it.
In a report last year, the Pew Research Center noted a marked increase in legal restrictions on the practice of religion around the world. The report found that "The share of countries with high or very high restrictions on religious beliefs and practices rose from 31% in the year ending in mid-2009 to 37% in the year ending in mid-2010" and that three quarters of the world's population live in countries with "high government restrictions on religion." (That stat's due largely to China, but still.) These included not just laws in theocratic or autocratic regimes, but new restrictions in democracies such as Switzerland's 2009 minaret ban.
A new paper in the journal Political Studies by three Israeli political scientists suggests that this trend is an ironic byproduct of globalization, which has "has increased interpersonal contact between individuals from culturally diverse backgrounds." Rather than increasing tolerance, this new interaction actually "induces perceived threat to a hegemonic religion, which leads to more restrictions on religious freedom."
Using globalization indicators including communications, trade, tourism, and diplomatic contact for 147 countries, they find a correlation between a country's global oppenness and legal restrictions on religion.
One would assume that there's a saturation level at which religious minorities are no loner perceived as a threat by the majority, or at which religious minorities are simply more integrated into their communities, but things may get significantly worse on this front before they get better.
Friedemann Vogel/Getty Images
Edward Snowden has now been granted temporary asylum in Russia for one year, ending his 39-day stay in the transit lounge Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport. The Russian government's position is that Snowden finally "entered" Russia only yesterday, when he left the terminal. Back on June 25, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had responded to U.S. extradition requests by saying that Swowden had not technically actually entered the country as he had "not crossed the Russian border."
But are air passengers actually in stateless limbo until they go through passport control? Are airport lounges really aeronautical Hamsterdams where the laws of no nations apply?
Not exactly, according to Ruwantissa Abeyratne, a lawyer at the U.N.'s International Civil Aviation Organization. In an article for the Journal of Transportation Security, Abeyratne examines the Snowden case in terms of international law, in particularly the 1944 Chicago Convention on Civil Aviation, the primary treaty governing international air travel.
The treaty states that "every State has complete and exclusive sovereignty over the airspace above its territory" and that "for the purposes of this Convention, the territory of a State shall be deemed to be the land areas and territorial waters ajaecent thereto under the sovereignty, suzerainty, protection or mandate of such State."
It goes on to specify that "the laws and regulations of a contracting State as to the admission to or departure from its territory of passengers, crew or cargo of aircraft... shale be complied with by or on behalf of such passengers crew or cargo upon entrance into or departure from, or while within the territory of that State."
In Abeyratne's view, this suggests that from the point of view of international law, "the transit lounge at the airport in Moscow is as much a part of Russia as the Kremlin." Therefore, the lounge is "within the control and jurisdiction of a State, unless the State excludes that jurisdiction in its local laws, much to its disadvantage and deficiency in logical reasoning. Immigration control does not determine a State's territory or its jurisdic-tion over person in the territory of that State."
Taking this view, Snowden actually entered Russia on June 23, when his plane landed at the airport and has been in Russian territory, subject to Russian law.. It's all something of a moot point as Russia likely never intended to extradite him and has now granted him legal asylum, but given that Snowden's not the first person to find himself in this stituation, it's probably a question worth settling.
SAEED KHAN/AFP/Getty Images
The philosopher Ernest Gellner once wrote that in modern society, "A man must have a nationality as he must have a nose and two years; a deficiency in any of these particulars is not inconceivable and does from time to time occur, but only as a result of some disaster, and it is itself a disaster of some kind. "
Earlier this week, the New York Times carried the fascinating obituary of Garry Davis, a man who tried to defy that rule, cutting off his own legal nose:
On May 25, 1948, a former United States Army flier entered the American Embassy in Paris, renounced his American citizenship and, as astonished officials looked on, declared himself a citizen of the world.
In the decades that followed, until the end of his long life last week, he remained by choice a stateless man — entering, leaving, being regularly expelled from and frequently arrested in a spate of countries, carrying a passport of his own devising, as the international news media chronicled his every move.
His rationale was simple, his aim immense: if there were no nation-states, he believed, there would be no wars.
There was a bit of hucksterism to Davis' crusade -- he sold more than half a million "world passports, unrecognized by all but a small motley handful of countries -- but he also practiced what he preached, traveling the world without formal documentation for nearly 65 years, being arrested and expelled numerous times in the process. "Davis spent decades spreading his message, slipping across borders, stowing away on ships, sweet-talking officials, or wearing them down, until they let him in," the obituary reads.
According to the Times, David had recently had World Passports sent to Julian Assange at the Ecuadorean embassy in London and Edward Snowden at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport. Neither of these two men are actually stateless -- Snowden's passport has been revoked but he's still a U.S. citizen -- but they're certainly locked in a similar kind of geopolitical limbo.
Davis' wanderings highlighted just how tricky it is to be stateless in a world of nation-states. The U.N. may have declared that "Everyone has the right to a nationality," but almost no one -- certainly not the estimated 12 million stateless people in the world today, chooses not to have one.
Tomorrow, Robert Mugabe will attempt to win reelection for yet another five-year term as president of Zimbabwe. Though he's seemed impressively spry on the campaign trail recently, his age is certainly a factor in this vote after a series of recent health scares. At 89, Mugabe, who has brutally ruled Zimbabwe as prime minister or president since 1980, is already the second oldest head of state in the world (Shimon Peres, the largely ceremonial president of Israel, has him beat by about 200 days) and has outlived the average Zimbabwean male's life expectancy by 35 years.
At this point, Mugabe's legacy for Zimbabwe's democracy, health, and economy is pretty clear. But his attempt to stay in office until he's 95 -- he'd still be just shy of the all-time record set by former Malawian President Hastings Banda who lost an election at the age of 96 -- raises the question of how age changes a national leader's behavior.
A 2005 paper from the Journal of Conflict Resolution by Michael Horowitz of Harvard, Rose McDermott of U.C. Santa Barbara, and Allan Stam of Dartmouth, looks at the impact a leader's age has on the likelihood of him or her starting a war. There are a couple of potential causal factors here. In the case of male leaders, testosterone decreases with age, potentially making a leader less aggressive. On the other hand, there's a line of though proposed by Robert Robins and Jerrold Post in their book When Illness Strikes the Leader, which holds that when leaders' health is in question, their time horizons shorten, giving them the desire to solidify their legacy by taking bold action.
The results in the paper are a bit mixed. Looking at 100,000 interstate pairs between 1875 and 2002, they found a "statistically significant relationship between the age of the leader of state A and international conflict. As the age of the leader of state A increases, the initiation and use of force against state B becomes more likely." This would seem to support the time horizon explanation.
However, when they looked specifically at "personalist" autocratic regimes -- those in which political power is centered around one charismatic leader, the trend is reversed. As the Castros and Kims of the world age, they're less likely to initiate international conflicts, perhaps supporting the biological explanation: these are, after all, the regimes in which a leader's personal preferences and temperament matter the most.
It would be interesting to look at age impacts a leader's propensity to use force against domestic opponents. While Mugabe has embroiled Zimbabwe in international conflicts -- the disastrous intervention in Congo for instance -- from Matabeland to the 2008 election, the worst violence of this regime has always been aimed at Zimbabweans themselves.
Mugabe's government would also seem to be an example of another phenomenon discussed recently on the blog: the revolutionary regime that never seems to leave the stage.
ALEXANDER JOE/AFP/Getty Images
Researchers from the Catholic Univeristy of Leuven in Belgium looked at data from the English Premier League -- the soccer league with the highest number of international players -- to look at differences in the number of penalties collected by players from different regions of Europe. If you believed the stereotype that southern Europeans were picking up the most penalties... well, yeah you're right:
The positive and statistically significant coefficient for the Southern Europe dummy indicates that southern European players have more disciplinary points than British players. The negative and statistically significant coefficient for the Northern Europe dummy indicates that northern European players incur less football penalties on the field than British players.
However, that's not the end of the story. It turns out that Southern European players pick up fewer penalties the longer they stay in the league. Specifically, "one additional year of English Premier League experience reduces the disciplinary points for Southern European players by around 5%, as compared to the reference category of British players."
The authors write that "after paying the consequences of playing according to their home set of norms during their early seasons in the English Premier League, migrant football players adapt their behavior to the local standards."
I do wonder if there's any chance referee bias plays a role here. Studies of NBA officiating have shown evidence of racial bias in foul calls. It may very well be true that Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese players are used to a rougher style of play, but could the refs also be more likely to call them out on it -- especially when they're new in the league?
Clive Mason/Getty Images
Medieval Irish scholars: What can't they do for us? Having already "saved civilization," they're now providing important insights into how geological activity can cause weather events, expanding our understanding of global climate change.
In a paper published by Environmental Research Letters, a team of U.S. and Irish researchers use the Irish Annals -- documents of recorded events written by scribes in Irish monasteries from the fifth to the 17th centuries -- as a dataset for the occurence of rare weather events. Specifically, the authors are interested in evidence for the theory that atmospheric ash from volcanic eruptions was responsible for known climate anomalies from the period -- in particular the so-called "little ice age."
The Irish accounts are particularly useful because of their descriptive detail and specificity of dates. In total, 83 unique cold events were reported in the Annals, 65 of which were considered reliable.
Here's one such account from the Annals of Ulster, written in 818:
There was abnormal ice and much snow from the Epiphany to Shrovetide. The Boyne and other rivers were crossed dry-footed; lakes likewise. Herds and hunting-parties were on Loch Neagh,(and) wild deer were hunted. The materials for an oratory were afterwards brought by a large company from the lands of Connacht over Upper and Lower Loch Erne into [Leinster]; and other unusual things were done in the frost and hail.
And from the Annals of Connacht in 1465:
Exceeding great frost and snow and stormy weather this year, so that no herb grew in the ground and no leaf budded on a tree until the feast of St. Brendan, but a man, if he were the stronger, would forcibly carry away the food from the priest in church, even though he had the Sacred Body in his hands and stood clothed in Mass-vestments.
The authors found that 53.6 percent of the identified cold events correspond with known volcanic events, which they say is nearly impossible to attribute to coincidence.
Why does this matter? The authors write that "determining the extent to which human activity drives future climatic variation requires knowledge of past climate, allowing us us to ascertain the boundaries of natural variability and to test the veracity of models preciting future climate." Developing accurate climate records for particular regions can tell us more about how "individuals and societies experience climate and plan for extreme weather." These days we're more worried about unusual warming than cooling, but the local priests may still want to keep an eye on the kitchen during the Feast of St. Brendan.
Can we get the Irish monks on the eurozone crisis next?
Via National Affairs
Photo by Flickr user Mad Mod Smith
War of Ideas is a blog on the theory behind the practice of global politics. Foreign Policy associate editor Joshua E. Keating brings you the latest research, data, and intellectual debates from around the world.