Category Archives: conflicts

On Norway

Can we find a reason for the Norwegian tragedy? Northern European societies are considered among the most tolerant worldwide. Newton’s third law of dynamics states that for each action corresponds an equal and opposite reaction. Can we transfer this principle to sociology? The “Christian” terrorist who killed more than 90 people is a product of the tolerant Norwegian society indeed. Is his action the price that Norway paid to be so open and multicultural? I’m not a sociologist and I know that it is easy and dangerous to simplify in social sciences. However, what I believe is that Norway (and all Scandinavian countries) should prevent in the future these events without giving into the blackmail of the violence. That is, without renouncing to principles of tolerance, freedom and open multiculturalism which, maybe, contributed to determine the equal and opposite reaction on Utoeya island and in Oslo’s center.

I apologise if I offended anyone with my trivial analysis – all my solidarity goes to Norwegian people.

A lost occasion?

“The United Nations’ top human rights official called on the US on Tuesday to give the UN details about bin Laden’s killing and said that all counter-terrorism operations must respect international law” (Al Jazeera today)

Did USA – again – and Obama loose the occasion to show the world they are a great country indeed, and to keep the distance from the Bush-Era?

Innovation and Growth in Africa

During the MIT-Sloan School Africa Business Conference, held the past 1st of April, Mr. Okonjio-Iweala (Managing Director, World Bank) gave a  speech on innovation, in his opinion the main ingredient to spur growth in Africa in the decades to come. Putting voluntarily apart the issue of endogeneity between growth and innovation, the speaker pointed 4 strategic sectors could make the African economy take off once and for all:

  1. Agriculture
  2. Pharmaceutical sector
  3. ICT sector
  4. Arts

‘With these four sectors I have tried to show you what opportunities exist in Africa for growth through product, process, organizational or marketing innovations. And I am sure you would agree with me that there are enormous. But Africa would only be able to benefit fully from these opportunities if the governments create the right incentive framework for innovation.  Africans need the freedom and space to think and innovate. For this to happen the following things must be in place; macro-economic stability, affordable and easy access to capital, openness to trade, the appropriate competition policy laws, a solid intellectual property rights and patent laws regime and an overall good governance regime’ (Okonjio-Iweala).

In other words, institutions and governments have to support the process. Easterly points out aid ineffectiveness and debt insolvency can be explained, ceteris paribus, by instable political elites who discount heavily the future, i.e. the high probability of being suddenly divested of power make them to think about their interests hic et nunc (here and now). Could we transpose the same argumentation for innovation? Which effect will have the Meddle East’s revolutions on the discount rates of the elites to come?

It is for posterity and smart analysts to judge.

Education & Democracy

It seems to me straightforward there is a positive relationship between educational level of individuals and their aspiration to power. Then, a negative one between education and the willing to be ruled without any say in that matter. Ergo, a positive relationship exists between average national level of education and democracy. The relationship may suffer of reverse causality (the causality goes in two ways): not only more educated individuals push for and determine democracy eventually, but also more democratic countries are ruled by elected elites that are forced by the fear not to be elected again to implement policies in favour of the collectivity (among them providing education). However, history teaches, often, that who holds power is generally owner of knowledge – since Maya’s society. That knowledge that in monarchies was only a privilege of political establishment, inherited from father (king) to son (prince). Knowledge that then began to spread among the population, giving rise to a new lobby of bourgeois (middle-class) that changed the States, France and Europe since 1776. With knowledge spread universally, the ideas are heterogeneous, all equally powerful and worthy of attention. The natural result is democracy, a nonviolent and synthetic solution of conflicts otherwise flooding in a never ending state of war. Hence, if the logic above had a sense, education would cause, in the long run, democracy. Finally, after a democratic system is established, only then the reverse causality would begin its puzzling action. Just few considerations/enigmas:

1) Does the type of education matter? Is studying math stimulating the hanger of power and democracy and the anger for their lack just like literature & history are?

2) Is interest of democratically elected elites to lower the level and the quality of education in order to preserve the power in the long run?

3) Is education related with the revolutions in the Middle East? (Arab experts needed urgently!)

Like always, I positively accept insults, critics, and, mostly, I am starving for references!

Rodrik on Egypt, Tunisia and China

Suggested by my friend and blogger Edgar Salgado, an article by Dani Rodrik, The Poverty of Dictatorship, on the events in Tunisia and Egypt. How do they relate with the situation in China? I believe that a direct parallelism is hard to do – Rodrik states clearly that – but social scientists cannot hold to play forecasting the future…By the way, it seems to me China is more dynamic than its reputation suggests. I have studied in UK and met Chinese students that are coming back to their much loved country, to contribute to change it, just like I would like to change in better my Italy. I warmly welcome comments by Chinese fellows, please tell me I’m getting it wrong…


A slide-show on protesters in Egypt (by Foreign Policy)

Have a look here…

Middle East crisis…a signal for China?

What are the popular revolutions in the Arab World teaching the elites of the world? I would say, that people cannot live forever in chains, without seeing hope for the future (a guts answer). Also, that in economic crisis times autocratic regimes are under high threat of rebellion, and that the opportunity cost of the revolt lowers significantly during downturns (a kind of economic answer). Scholars did not forecast the overturning current events (Mariz Tadros on IDS’ blog). A key-question now is “Who’s next?”. In China the Arab crisis did not find a lot of space on the media, not surprisingly (The Economist). Moreover, China is growing and people’s living standards are improving impressively. However, I believe that Chinese political elites are observing at the Arab revolutions with an interested eye…how should they react when China entered in a descending economic phase – with richer and more educated citizens?