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book spotlight: beyond technonationalism by kathryn ibata-arens

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At SASE 2019 in the New School, NYC, I served as a critic on an author-meets-critic session for Vincent de Paul Professor of Political Science Kathryn Ibata-Arens‘s latest book, Beyond Technonationalism: Biomedical Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Asia.  

Beyondtechnonationalismcover

Here, I’ll share my critic’s comments in the hopes that you will consider reading or assigning this book and perhaps bringing the author, an organizations researcher and Asia studies specialist at DePaul, in for an invigorating talk!

“Ibata-Arens’s book demonstrates impressive mastery in its coverage of how 4 countries address a pressing policy question that concerns all nation-states, especially those with shifting markets and labor pools.  With its 4 cases (Japan, China, India, and Singapore),  Beyond Technonationalism: Biomedical Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Asia covers impressive scope in explicating the organizational dimensions and national governmental policies that promote – or inhibit – innovations and entrepreneurship in markets.

The book deftly compares cases with rich contextual details about nation-states’ polices and examples of ventures that have thrived under these policies.  Throughout, the book offers cautionary stories details how innovation policies may be undercut by concurrent forces.  Corruption, in particular, can suppress innovation. Espionage also makes an appearance, with China copying’s Japan’s JR rail-line specs, but according to an anonymous Japanese official source, is considered in ill taste to openly mention in polite company. Openness to immigration and migration policies also impact national capacity to build tacit knowledge needed for entrepreneurial ventures.  Finally, as many of us in the academy are intimately familiar, demonstrating bureaucratic accountability can consume time and resources otherwise spent on productive research activities.

As always, with projects of this breadth, choices must made in what to amplify and highlight in the analysis.  Perhaps because I am a sociologist, what could be developed more – perhaps for another related project – are highlighting the consequences of what happens when nation-states and organizations permit or feed relational inequality mechanisms at the interpersonal, intra-organizational, interorganizational, and transnational levels.  When we allow companies and other organizations to, for example, amplify gender inequalities through practices that favor advantaged groups over other groups, what’s diminished, even for the advantaged groups?

Such points appear throughout the book, as sort of bon mots of surprise, described inequality most explicitly with India’s efforts to rectify its stratifying caste system with quotas and Singapore’s efforts to promote meritocracy based on talent.  The book also alludes to inequality more subtly with references to Japan’s insularity, particularly regarding immigration and migration. To a less obvious degree, inequality mechanisms are apparent in China’s reliance upon guanxi networks, which favors those who are well-connected. Here, we can see the impact of not channeling talent, whether talent is lost to outright exploitation of labor or social closure efforts that advantage some at the expense of others.

But ultimately individuals, organizations, and nations may not particularly care about how they waste individual and collective human potential.  At best, they may signal muted attention to these issues via symbolic statements; at worst, in the pursuit of multiple, competing interests such as consolidating power and resources for a few, they may enshrine and even celebrate practices that deny basic dignities to whole swathes of our communities.

Another area that warrants more highlighting are various nations’ interdependence, transnationally, with various organizations.  These include higher education organizations in the US and Europe that train students and encourage research/entrepreneurial start-ups/partnerships.  Also, nations are also dependent upon receiving countries’ policies on immigration.  This is especially apparent now with the election of publicly elected officials who promote divisions based on national origin and other categorical distinctions, dampening the types and numbers of migrants who can train in the US and elsewhere.

Finally, I wonder what else could be discerned by looking into the state, at a more granular level, as a field of departments and policies that are mostly decoupled and at odds. Particularly in China, we can see regional vs. centralized government struggles.”

During the author-meets-critics session, Ibata-Arens described how nation-states are increasingly concerned about the implications of elected officials upon immigration policy and by extension, transnational relationships necessary to innovation that could be severed if immigration policies become more restrictive.

Several other experts have weighed in on the book’s merits:

Kathryn Ibata-Arens, who has excelled in her work on the development of technology in Japan, has here extended her research to consider the development of techno-nationalism in other Asian countries as well: China, Singapore, Japan, and India. She finds that these countries now pursue techno-nationalism by linking up with international developments to keep up with the latest technology in the United States and elsewhere. The book is a creative and original analysis of the changing nature of techno-nationalism.”
—Ezra F. Vogel, Harvard University
“Ibata-Arens examines how tacit knowledge enables technology development and how business, academic, and kinship networks foster knowledge creation and transfer. The empirically rich cases treat “networked technonationalist” biotech strategies with Japanese, Chinese, Indian, and Singaporean characteristics. Essential reading for industry analysts of global bio-pharma and political economists seeking an alternative to tropes of economic liberalism and statist mercantilism.”
—Kenneth A. Oye, Professor of Political Science and Data, Systems, and Society, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
“In Beyond Technonationalism, Ibata-Arens encourages us to look beyond the Asian developmental state model, noting how the model is increasingly unsuited for first-order innovation in the biomedical sector. She situates state policies and strategies in the technonationalist framework and argues that while all economies are technonationalist to some degree, in China, India, Singapore and Japan, the processes by which the innovation-driven state has emerged differ in important ways. Beyond Technonationalism is comparative analysis at its best. That it examines some of the world’s most important economies makes it a timely and important read.”
—Joseph Wong, Ralph and Roz Halbert Professor of Innovation Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto
Kathryn Ibata-Arens masterfully weaves a comparative story of how ambitious states in Asia are promoting their bio-tech industry by cleverly linking domestic efforts with global forces. Empirically rich and analytically insightful, she reveals by creatively eschewing liberalism and selectively using nationalism, states are both promoting entrepreneurship and innovation in their bio-medical industry and meeting social, health, and economic challenges as well.”
—Anthony P. D’Costa, Eminent Scholar in Global Studies and Professor of Economics, University of Alabama, Huntsville
For book excerpts, download a PDF here.  Follow the author’s twitter feed here.
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open borders – in foreign affairs!!

Nathan Smith, an economist as Fresno Pacific University, has an article in Foreign Affairs about open borders. It was a pleasure to read. Well written, judicious and provocative. A few choice clips from “A World Without Borders: Richer, Fairer, and More Free“:

These advocates, including the author, call for a regime of nearly complete freedom of migration worldwide, with rare exceptions for preventing terrorism or the spread of contagious disease. Borders would still exist in such a world, but as jurisdictional boundaries rather than as barriers to human movement. Ending migration controls in this way would increase liberty, reduce global poverty, and accelerate economic growth. But more fundamentally, it would challenge the right of governments to regulate migration on the arbitrary grounds of sovereignty.

And:

The open borders position may sound new and radical, but it is simply a call for the return of lost liberties. When the Statue of Liberty was erected in 1886, most of the world’s borders could be freely crossed without passports. Passport requirements had sometimes existed before and were still in place in backward tsarist Russia, but the more liberal governments of advanced European nations regulated migration, as modern democracies regulate speech, only rather lightly and in exceptional cases, if at all. Comprehensive restrictions on international movement, which almost everyone today regards as a normal and necessary government function, are really an innovation of the twentieth century, which emerged as liberalism gave way to nationalism and socialism in the wake of World War I.

Read the whole thing!

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Written by fabiorojas

March 15, 2017 at 12:56 pm

i am a new abolitionist

A few years ago, Tyler Cowen remarked that open borders activists were too reckless, similar to abolitionists of the past. A fervent passion for migration would trigger backlash. In response, his co-blogger, Alex Tabarrok, responded by saying that history goes to the passionate. The great changes in history are driven by groups of people who were not interested in marginal change but instead pushed for radical change:

When in 1787 Thomas Clarkson founded The Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade a majority of the world’s people were held in slavery or serfdom and slavery was considered by almost everyone as normal, as it had been considered for thousands of years and across many nations and cultures. Slavery was also immensely profitable and woven into the fabric of the times. Yet within Clarkson’s lifetime slavery would be abolished within the British Empire. Whatever one may say about this revolution one can certainly say that it was not brought about by a “synthetic and marginalist” approach. If instead of abolition, Clarkson had settled on the goal of providing for better living conditions for slaves on the voyage from Africa it seems quite possible that slavery would still be with us today.

This leads me to our situation today. We face a modern form of domination, the system of prisons and detention centers. This system is responsible for imprisoning and deporting millions of people. Like the abolitionists of the 19th century, we have to ask whether there is any justice to this system. When I ask myself if there is there any ethical difference between a “patrol” that picks people up based on their race and a border patrol that deports people from the wrong nation, I say no. It is simply a system of violence leveraged against disliked groups. Confronted with this conclusion, I recognize that abolitionism is the answer. It is the only ethical answer.

So that brings me to Tyler’s point. Yes, the advocates of open borders are the new abolitionists but open borders advocates should be proud to belong to a longer tradition of freedom. If that makes people feel uncomfortable, that’s fine with me. I’m on the right side of history.

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Written by fabiorojas

March 13, 2017 at 12:29 am

open borders day 2017

greenarrowamberborder

It is my pleasure to announce “Open Borders Day 2017.” This year, we’ll have an event in Chicago at Loyola University. It will be a panel discussion with three speakers:

  • Alex Nowrasteh of the Cato Institute will speak on the economics of migration.
  • Alexandra Filandra of the University of Illinois, Chicago will speak on racism and migration.
  • Fabio Rojas of Indiana University will speak about open borders as an issue that liberals and conservatives should agree on.

The event will be 1:30pm, March 16 at Loyola University in Chicago. Room: 4th floor, Information Commons. Please come by!!!

Also: If you are in San Diego, drop by the panel called “Is immigration a basic human right?” where GMU’s Bryan Caplan will argue for open borders against Christopher Witman of St. Louis University.

Let peaceful people move freely!

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Written by fabiorojas

March 9, 2017 at 12:58 am

doug massey discusses the insanity of border walls

I just discovered this humorous video about the problems with borders walls. Interestingly, it features sociologist Doug Massey. Recommended!

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Written by fabiorojas

February 9, 2017 at 12:13 am

obama’s final brutal act: rescinding “dry foot, wet foot”

The story of 21th century immigration in the US is a story of slamming doors shut, with one exception. For decades, the US has allowed any Cuban who could reach American land to stay there. Originally, the idea was simply to allow people travelling by boat to land ashore, then, during the Clinton administration, the Coast Guard would turn back boats, but if you somehow reach shore, or traveled through Mexico or Canada, you could stay.

Open Borders in action. Thousands upon thousands avoided the horrors of the Cuban state, with its jailing of gay people and harassment of dissidents, were given the option to live in a much more humane society. Now, Cubans will be returned, against their will. The “wet foot, dry foot” policy has come to an end. The justification? From Ilya Somin’s Washington Post column:

The main rationale for the policy change is that it is unfair to treat Cuban refugees differently from those fleeing other oppressive governments. As President Obama put it, we should treat them “the same way we treat migrants from other countries.” Ideally, we should welcome all who flee oppression, regardless of whether their oppressors are regimes of the left or the right, or radical Islamists.

But the right way to remedy this inequality is not to treat Cuban refugees worse, but to treat other refugees better. And if the latter is not politically feasible, we should at least refrain from exacerbating the evil by facilitating the oppression of Cubans. It is better to protect Cuban refugees from the risk of deportation than none at all.

If a police force disproportionately abuses blacks, it would be unjust to “fix” the inequality by inflicting similar abuse on whites or Asians. Inflicting abuse on other groups is both unjust in itself and unlikely to help blacks. Similarly, the injustice inflicted on refugees from other oppressive regimes cannot and should not by imposing similar injustices on Cubans.

If my house is on fire, you don’t throw me back in because it makes me equal with other people whose homes are on fire. You let me out and then help other people escape their fires. What a sad form of logic. Violence under the disguise of equality.

Normally, at the end of an administration, I say “good riddance” and hope for better policies. Unfortunately, I think this is just a prelude to much of the same.

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Written by fabiorojas

January 17, 2017 at 12:23 am

open borders and the rawls-munger test

While discussing a recent paper on public opinion and slavery in the pre-Civil War South on Econ Talk, Michael Munger gets into the arguments made for slavery:

Munger: …  what Montesquieu asked was this: ‘We always hear people talking about how great slavery is. And you say, well, slavery is beneficial to you and it’s beneficial to the slaves; but it’s mostly slave owners who say stuff like that.’

Russ: Which makes you think.

Munger: Well, suppose we all go into a room. And when we come out, some of us are going to be slaves, and some won’t. Now, do you still believe in slavery? And if that’s then standard, then okay. But otherwise I’m not persuaded that this is really a moral argument about how we should live our lives. And so, what’s interesting is: there are these conventions. And then there are these challenges. And I think Rawls deserves credit for having said, ‘Here’s a standard that it would have to pass.’ … I don’t know we’re going to end up believing. But if you think ‘Yes,’ then in order for you to persuade anyone else that it’s actually just, it would have to pass these sorts of tests. It’s not exactly the same thing as understanding persuasion. But it is a way of problematizing the conventions that come down to us that we just accept because they are traditions.

Excellent point. I call this the “substitution test” for an ethical argument. For any policy X, you are free to make the arguments for why people A and B should accept X. Then, you have to put yourself into the position of A and B. If you wince at X at any point, then that’s probably a good reason to think twice about X. It’s related to the Rawlsian argument that one should evaluate policy from an “original position,” stripped of our actual interests.

Application to open borders: Say you are arguing that we should shut out all Syrian refugees because we’re afraid of terrorism. If you woke up and found yourself to be a Syrian refugee, would you make the same argument? If you faced death and torture in Aleppo, wouldn’t you want to argue that not all Muslim people are terrorists? Or that collective punishment and guilt by association are wrong? Or that maybe you should be given the chance to prove that you aren’t a terrorist? Or maybe that the value of saving millions of lives outweighs a few lives lost due to a few terrorists that the police didn’t screen out? Or that you’d be willing to pay an extra tax to compensate people who were harmed by migration?

In other words, most people people in the position of the Syrian refugee would not argue for shutting the gates and voluntarily returning to the burning ruble. Instead, they would almost certainly consider much more modest policies for addressing the perceived problems with migration so that lives could be saved. There’s a lot of moderate middle ground that people ignore when they promote closed borders.

Restrictionists, the ball is in your court.

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Written by fabiorojas

December 8, 2016 at 12:31 am