A Brief History of the Venezuela Border Crisis

Venezuela recently asked the United Nations to arbitrate its standing border dispute with Guyana. I linked to an article about this in the last post. I find this to be a fascinating story because it harkens back to colonial times when Venezuela was a new nation and Guyana was still a British colony. As an undergrad I wrote about the border dispute that would become known to historians as the Venezuela Border Crisis of 1895-1899. The Venezuela Border Crisis would ratchet up tensions between the United States and Great Britain and push a jingoistic and increasingly imperialist United States down a path of war with Britain. This post is a brief summation of a paper I wrote in 2003.

After the collapse of the Spanish Empire in America, Britain superseded Spain as the predominant economic power in the New World. As an emerging power, the United States (particularly after the Civil War) was eager to challenge Britain for dominance, and to establish themselves as a hegemonic power in the western hemisphere. During the mid to late 19th century, the United States challenged Britain in several areas throughout Central and South America-ranging from Nicaragua, to Belize, to Venezuela.

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Map and land claims on border between Venezuela and British Guyana [3]

Britain had been in a border dispute with Venezuela since 1814 when Britain acquired the colony of Guyana from the Netherlands. Eventually, in 1835, the British surveyed the western border of Guyana with Venezuela. [1] The border that they drew became known as the Schomburgk Line. Venezuela immediately disputed this claim.

Later, in 1876, Britain, to gain access to newly discovered gold, extended it claims west beyond the Schomburgk Line.  Again, Venezuela disputed the border. Venezuela appealed to the United States asking them to invoke the Monroe Doctrine and declare Britain’s claims invalid. Continue reading

Everything Wrong with Economics

In Bloomberg View, Leonid Bershidsky reflects upon France’s 35-hour work week:

“France’s famous 35-hour workweek is in its death throes: Bloomberg News reports that an increasing number of companies are using the country’s timid labor reform, introduced this year, to get around the requirement. It doesn’t mean the experiment failed, but it has probably outlived its usefulness. […]

So one might wonder why France should keep a rule that doesn’t have a discernible economic effect and can, in any case, be bypassed.” [1]

Bershidsky touches upon something that most mainstream economists miss or simply don’t care about: Continue reading

Of Course Borders Matter

Many political scientists have written about the decline of the state. According to many, globalization and the increasing power of NGOs have made states and the borders that they uphold increasingly irrelevant. This is true to a certain extent, but states and borders are still the dominant players in the geopolitical arena and they matter tremendously. Nicholas Rostow from the Foreign Policy Research Institute, published an essay entitled, “Why Borders Matter.” In this article Rostow argues that borders are important and underpin the current global order and therefore they should not be changed.

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Border gate between Israel and Palestine. [2]

Continue reading

Living Well in a World with Ten Billion People

Heinz-Wilhelm Strubenhoff, of Brookings, analyzes the current state of global food production and tries to answer the question “Can 10 billion people live and eat well on the planet?” In this article by Brookings,Strubenhoff concludes that, yes, we can produce enough food for 10 billion people. He argues that this can be done by limiting waste in developed countries and by increasing the productive capacity of farms in developing nations.  Continue reading

Advertisers Should Pay You

 “Advertising is a natural resource extraction industry, like a fishery. Its business is the harvest and sale of human attention. We are the fish and we are not consulted. […]

Commercial speech has traditionally been seen as merely instrumentally, and hence contingently, valuable (for economistic reasons I discuss below). However – despite the rather obvious fact that corporations are not people who burn to speak their mind, and can suffer no indignity from censorship – commercial speech has increasingly usurped the moral halo of free speech between persons. Commercial speech used to be understood straightforwardly as a privilege that could be legitimately regulated and constrained to meet society’s interests. It is now being seen as a right, something which trumps all ordinary considerations of social welfare. […] Continue reading

The Geopolitical Implications of the Iran Deal

Both President Obama and Ayatollah Khomeini have said that the Iran deal does not represent a general rapprochement between their countries, and that their foreign policies will remain unchanged. However, the agreement will have several important impacts.

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First, at least for the short term war will be avoided. War has been avoided, that is unless Israel takes Senator John McCain’s advice and “goes rouge,” and bombs Iran. (C-SPAN)

Secondly, the deal will have political and economic impacts within Iran. Iran has suffered through over ten years of increasingly withering sanctions. These sanctions have devastated the Iranian economy and severely devalued the Iranian Rial. This deal may prevent the economic collapse of the region’s largest country. This in itself is good for the people of Iran, however it may also benefit political moderates. Reaction in Iran to the deal with the United States is roughly divided between moderates and hardliners: “Reaction to the deal highlighted the splits between moderates and hardliners in Iran. Conservative politicians and news outlets expressed skepticism about both it and the intentions of the world powers, while moderate politicians and news outlets portrayed it as a big opportunity for the country.” (Reuters) If the economy improves as a result of the sanctions having been lifted, President Hassan Rouhani and his moderate allies could earn much political capital that could then be used to push some of the reforms that they want. (Huffington Post) Although, economies are complex systems and it is no guarantee that the economy will improve as a result of sanctions being lifted. If there is no marked improvement in the economy, moderates who support the deal could be punished in the polls. The real test will happen in 2016 during the parliamentary elections. According to one analyst, “The moderates have now delivered a massive victory that had not been possible before. The question is – can they translate this into victory in upcoming polls in Iran?” (Reuters) If there is no improvement in the daily lives of the people, the moderates could be discredited and the hardliners may benefit in the end.

Thirdly, this deal will likely lead to shifting interests and alliances within the region. Continue reading

Is it Time to Redraw the Borders Between the States?

The blog Maps on the Web recently posted this: 51st U.S. state called North Colorado. It is an article with a map of a hypothetical new state called North Colorado; it also includes a link to an article explaining the situation. The gist of it is that people in certain counties of Colorado are upset with the policies being implemented by the legislature in Denver, which they feel are detrimental to their interests. Additionally, these counties feel that their interests are diverging from the rest of the state. The solution that some have devised is to separate themselves into a new state so they can be free to pursue their own path.

There are a number of proposed states similar the one in this article. Usually it involves a part of an existing state that wishes to become independent, examples are: southern Illinois wants to separate from the Chicago dominated north, northern California wants little to do with the southern part of their state, southern Virginia wants to be separate from the increasingly liberal north, and now northeastern Colorado can be added to this list. The driving factors here are usually the same: dissatisfaction with a government that people feel does not represent them or look after their best interests. Continue reading