Intelligence Agencies and Control

Since Edward Snowden, we know how much intelligence agencies, especially the US’ and its allied intelligence agencies, collect about ordinary citizens. Nothing is private and everyone can become the target. Is that something we should be worried about? Should we be worried about the absolute power enjoyed by intelligence agencies? If so, why isn’t anyone doing anything about it?

We are living in volatile times with terrorism, human trafficking, child abuse, and other cruelties always present. While intelligence agencies cannot prevent tribal massacres, such as happened in Nigeria in January of 2015, they can prevent terror attacks in developed nations and fight human trafficking as well as child abuse. One clearly needs to weigh the benefits of empowering intelligence agencies (giving the government unchecked power) against the impact this has on democracy and the political maturity of society.

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Are Current Issues Too Complex for Democracy?

First, it needs to be said that I am a strong supporter of Winston Churchill’s statement: “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time”. I fully believe in the value of democracy and I would not want to have it any other way.

But, recent events in democratic countries have allowed for doubt that the intelligence of the masses will guide humanity safely and peacefully through time: the rise of right wing parties in Europe and a general disenchantment with politics. Continue reading

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Perceptions and Discourse

The Sino-African investment discourse in the broader topic of African development has two major narratives: Firstly, China as the savior of Africa’s development after decades of failed Western development aid, and secondly, China as the devil, who exploits poor weak African states. For a bachelor thesis, I went to explore the perceptions involved in this issue in the Zambian construction sector.

After plenty of research and an extensive literature review, the dominant position in (Western) academia seems to perceive China as the devil, who exploits African states. Chinese involvement in Africa does not live up to Western standards in terms of labor standards, safety standards and environmental standards. This is a general problem with foreign partners, but Chinese firms stand out as the scape-goat. While doing research locally in Zambia, I did not find these problems even after searching hard for these problems.

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Perfect Competition and Lack of Economic Alternatives

Classical Economics relies on Monopoly models, Oligopoly models, and Perfect Competition. Their predictive power and accuracy are up for discussion, but they do help (especially economics students) to illustrate and explain macroeconomic behavior. During a recent stay in Zambia, I observed the consequences of lacking alternatives for economic actors.

A basic assumption to the model of Perfect Competition is that a firm will exit the market in the long-run, if losses occur. Instead of taking these losses, the firm will use its resources for more profitable activities. This seems obvious as a company will be unable to pay its bills and eventually will have to claim bankruptcy. But what if economic alternatives are not available? Industries are crowded out from within, spreading potential profits to a large amount of people, leaving only very little profit for entrepreneurs or even producing losses for the whole industry. Consequently, it prevents capital accumulation, entrepreneurial incentive, and potentially economic, social, and political growth. Providing employment in order to “uncrowd” these industries might help to create growth by creating entrepreneurial incentives and allowing capital accumulation. I encountered two striking examples of such crowded industries during a stay in Zambia, which I will describe below. Continue reading

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Has the EU’s Carbon Trading Scheme Failed?

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“ETS, RIP – The failure to reform Europe’s carbon market will reverberate round the world” – The Economist, 2013

The European Union’s cap-and-trade scheme aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions has been proclaimed dead not only by The Economist. Is it really that bad? We take the United Nation’s point of view that human made greenhouse gases accelerate Global Warming. The success in the first international emission trading scheme, and until today also the world’s largest, is therefore a major milestone in fighting greenhouse gas emission. If it failed, this would be a major setback for emission reduction. So has it really failed as The Economist states? Continue reading

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Germany’s and Italy’s labor market reform leading up to the Global Economic Crisis of 2008

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While southern Europe is still struggling with the European debt crisis, Germany’s economy has, despite minor dents, not come to a halt and so far has withstood any recessive tendency. Especially in Germany, people seem to see a connection between Gerhard Schröder’s Agenda 2010, which was a labor-market reform, which began in 2003. The implementation occurred mainly until 2005 and focused on a liberalization of the labor market. A Japanese researcher even claimed to have found the exact impact, which these reforms have on Germany’s current economic success (Spiegel Online, 2013).

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Security versus Privacy

“Those who surrender freedom for security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.”

– Benjamin Franklin

Edward Snowden has created quite some stories in the news. The discussion on these topics is good and important, but I am missing two major points:

The United States hypocrosy has long been obvious when it came to human rights, torture, and freedom. Especially when facing its Asian counterpart China, the US has always applied two standards. While a lot of people seem to have gotten used to this double standard, a very big hypocrisy became public when Edward Snowden leaked information about the NSA and its data collection methods. Even more so, when officials in and outside the US defended those programs. Obama himself stated that, “you can’t have 100 per cent security and also then have 100 per cent privacy and zero inconvenience”.  Like other leaders, he acknowledges that a certain degree of intrusion into private lives is necessary for the society’s safety. Continue reading

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