ISSUE 02 SPECIAL FEATURE
FALL 2019 | ISSUE 02
Editor’s Note Mobility is not just about movement—it’s about having the freedom, power, and ability to enact movement. Over the past century, we’ve enjoyed staggering advancements when it comes to physical mobility— our continents are now crisscrossed not just by roads and bridges, but by airports, high-speed rails, and herds of Uber drivers. In other respects, however, mobility has stagnated. American visions of class mobility have given way to a rigid socioeconomic hierarchy. Around the world, refugees fleeing political instability find themselves unable to enter other countries. At our southern border, Trump calls for the construction of a wall. In this issue, Emily Yamron investigates the “geographic gradient” that defines social mobility in Santiago, linking recent metro protests to the radical free-market policies introduced under Pinochet’s dictatorship. Sarah Hall illuminates the legal uncertainty faced by country-hopping “digital nomads,” calling for the introduction of special visas toaccommodate this 21st-century cohort of transient workers. Allison Meakem argues against the opening of Berlin’s Willy Brandt airport, which has become a “relic of a past era” in light of Germany’s recent commitments to reduce carbon emissions. Finally, Noah Pirani highlights the unsustainability of the gig economy, explaining how its independent contractors have suffered from a lack of labor protection and emphasizing the need for policy reform. We hope that these articles can help to bring mobility into focus, and encourage you to consider the ways in which its presence—and absence—have shaped our modern political landscape.
–Ashley & Marianna
What’s going on at
PODCAST Season 3 of Podcast is just getting started! In our first episode of the season, we investigate the state takeover of Providence public schools. Featuring interviews with Domingo Morel Ph.D. ‘14, a scholar on school takeovers, and Paige Clausius-Parks, a senior policy analyst at RI Kids Count, this episode illustrates the myriad issues facing Providence’s schools, an explanation of the logistics of school takeovers, and analyzes the direction of Rhode Island’s intervention. Keep up-to-date on new episodes by following Podcast on Soundcloud and iTunes. CONTENT Can’t get enough of the Brown Political Review? Check out our website, brownpoliticalreview.org, where we publish political opinion-pieces throughout the semester. Here, we preview one of our favorite articles. Cartie, Matthew, and Roxanne’s pick:
In “College Sports: Affirmative Action for White People,” Matt Walsh looks at the boom in pay-to-play youth club sports teams, which have displaced the traditional youth recreational leagues around the country. He draws a connection between these expensive club teams, which are often havens for collegiate athletic recruiting, and the overwhelming whiteness of college teams in sports like soccer, swimming, and volleyball.
In “The Price of a Night Out in Providence,” Elana Confino-Pinzon exposes the sinister events that may underscore a wholesome night out at the Coliseum. Providence “is currently experiencing a resurgence of nightlife violence unique to the city,” including stabbings and shootings both inside and outside of nightclubs. ConfinoPinzon argues that the response to this upswing by the Providence Board of Licenses has been ineffectual at best. She goes on to posit the creation of a special committee to work alongside the Board and Providence police in order to develop policy strategies that will best protect citizens and clubgoers alike.
Ash’s Pick In “Medical Volunteerism,” Alexandra Wells examines the growing phenomenon of medical tourism, where American and Canadian pre-med and medical students travel to “Third World” countries to practice professional skills. She explains how this tourism can often be harmful or counterproductive, as it focuses on immediate intervention rather than long-term care, and disincentives the development of local hospitals and training of health care providers.
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Issue 02, Fall 2019
COPY EDITORIAL BOARD
EDITORS IN CHIEF
CO-CHIEF COPY EDITORS
COPY EDITORS CONTINUED
Eliza Namnoum Namsai Sethpornpong
Christopher Lewis Morgan McCordick Malini Naidu Sam Parmer Julia Pew Michael Power Benjamin Cunningham Gina Sinclair Jason Teng Gabriela Tenorio Huayu Wang Amelia Wyckoff Claire Zeller Peter Zubiago
Ashley Chen Marianna Scott CHIEFS OF STAFF Zander Blitzer Jeremy Rhee CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER Owen Colby SENIOR MANAGING WEB EDITORS Carter Woodruff Simran Nayak ASSOCIATE SENIOR MANAGING WEB EDITOR
COPY EDITORS Caleigh Aviv Rachel Avram Josephine Bleakley Cynthia Bo Huen Ng Karina Chavarria Patrick Gilfillian Bridget Griswold Zeke Hertz Joseph Hinton Chaelin Jung
Nick Lindseth SENIOR MANAGING MAGAZINE EDITOR Mary Dong CHIEF COPY EDITORS Eliza Namnoum Namsai Sethpornpong INTERVIEWS DIRECTORS Jack Doughty Glenn Yu DATA DIRECTOR Sarah Conlisk MARKETING, OPERATIONS, AND BUSINESS DIRECTOR
CREATIVE CREATIVE DIRECTORS Jeff Katz Katie Kwak ART DIRECTORS Stephanie Wu Molly Kate Young GRAPHIC DESIGN DIRECTORS Libby Marrs Jaewon Kim
Madi Ko Minji Koo Daniel Navratil Vanissa Wong
Jeff Katz Katie Kwak MEDIA DIRECTOR
Emily Skahill LEAD WEB DEVELOPER Raymond Cao
Liam Archibald Hannah Ferguson Vienna Gambol Katie Kwak Jonathan Muroya Katie Quirk Owen Rival Daimei Wu Emma Yang Molly Kate Young COVER ARTIST Sean Reece GRAPHIC ESSAYIST Michelle Perez
CONTENT BOARD SENIOR MANAGING WEB EDITORS Simran Nayak Carter Woodruff
SENIOR MANAGING MAGAZINE EDITOR Mary Dong MANAGING EDITORS Emma Blake Uwa Ede-Osifo Peter Lees ASSOCIATE EDITORS Johanna Bandler Hyun Choi Eunice Chong Sarah Hall Anagha Lokhande Allison Meakem Henry Peebles-Capin Blaise Rebman Hannah Severyns Jason Togut Emily Yamron Rachel Yan
Tiffany Chen Alexander Fasseas Ryan Frant Rose Houglet Rachel Lu Neha Mukherjee Shilpa Sajja Neil Sehgal Amelia Spalter Zachary Stern Olivia Thorson Nicholas Whitaker
Data Director: Sarah Conlisk Data Associates: Prakrit Baruah, Erika Bussmann, Ben Gershuny, John Graves, Henry Jacob, Pete Kelly, Augustus Kmetz, Michelle Liu, Samantha Randall, Daniel Ritter, Emilia Ruzicka & Mossis Su
PODCAST BOARD Executive Producer: Emily Skahill Hosts: Morgan Awner & Rachel Lim Podcast Associates: Isabel Astrachan, Leela Berman, Finn Blomquist Eggerling, Casey Chan, Jack Doughty, Sierra Fang-Horvath, Deepak Gupta, Han Hguyen, Brian Kirz, Annette Lee, Geireann Lindfeld Roberts, Ali Martinez, Moses Murbur, Catherine Nelli, Henry Peebles-Capin, Michael Seoane, Annika Sigfstead, Claire Zeller & Auria Zhang
ASSOCIATE SENIOR MANAGING WEB EDITOR
DATA BOARD CONTRIBUTING ILLUSTRATORS
Olivia Rosenbloom PODCAST DIRECTOR
Jack Doughty Glenn Yu
Media Director: Olivia Rosenbloom Content Creators: Corinne Bai, Alessandra Bianco, Jane Bradley, Ciara Carlyle, Jaden Chew, Aila Kassandra Rodriguez, John Liu, Griffin McLaughlin, Anson Shyu, Annika Sigfstead & Irene Sung
US SENIOR EDITOR
WORLD SENIOR EDITOR
Matthew Bailey Roxanne Barnes
Brionne Frazier Ellie Papapanou
TECH DEVELOPMENT BOARD
Elana Confino-Pinzon Rocket Drew Christina Ge Annie Gersh Carlie Houser Talia Mermin Maddy Noh Daniel Steinfeld Matthew Walsh Dorothy Windham
Annie Lehman Ludwig Leonardo Moraveg Basit Muhammadi Meghan Murphy Kavya Nayak Jack Otero Ava Rosenbaum Tarana Sable Amir Tamaddon Alexandra Wells
Lead Web Developer: Raymond Cao Web Developers: Samuel Wilkins, Nick Young & Melissa Zhang
ECONOMY SENIOR EDITOR
CAMPUS SENIOR EDITORS
Jackson Segal EDITORS Anna Corradi Lucia Winton STAFF WRITERS Luke Angellilo Molly Cook Simon Giordano Ariana Haji Matthew Lichtblau Clare Lonergan Noah Pirani Max Pushkin Andrew Steinberg
MARKETING, OPERATIONS & BUSINESS BOARD MOB Director: Anne Cheng MOB Associates: Regina Caggiano, Mali Dandridge, Auden Elliott, Patrick Gilfillan, Ethan Kuhl, Karolyn Lee, William Pate, Zahra Thiam & Floria Tsi
Kate Dario Allison Meakem STAFF WRITERS Siena Capone Vance Kelley Owen Kells Michaela Kennedy-Cuomo Peter Lees Mira Ortegon
THE MOBILITY ISSUE
Brown Political Review
Table of Contents
The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act by Christina Ge interview Candace Owens by Amelia Spalter
11 Tiny but Mighty by Zander Blitzer
23 At the Intersection
of Public Transit and Political Movements by Emily Yamron
30 Berlin’s Airport
Temperatures, Rising Tensions by Cartie Werthman
Elaine Sheldon by Shilpa Sajja
Misbegotten Cotton by Andrew Steinberg
Curse by Allison Meakem
26 interview John Friedman by Ryan Frant
28 Making a Living While Breaking the Law by Sarah Hall
33 The Second Death of a Salesman by Noah Pirani
Issue 02, Fall 2019
The Mobility Issue
36 Tunnel Vision by Patrick Gilfillan
38 Zero-Waste Lands by Peter Lees
Gregory H. Shill by Nick Whitaker
47 License to Toil by Anagha Lokhand
Azim Shariff by Neil Sehgal
42 Recentering Civilians by Madeline Noh
Gerónimo Gutiérrez Fernández by Neha Mukherjee & Shilpa Sajja
51 visual essay
Policing Mobility by Michelle Perez
The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act The U.S. government’s take on Hong Kong’s turmoil by christina ge ’20 , a Philosophy concentrator and a Staff Writer for BPR. illustrator emma yang ’20
In September, protesters in Hong Kong marched to the U.S. Consulate to demand that Congress pass the 2019 Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act (HKHRDA). The bill, introduced by Senator Marco Rubio with bipartisan support in June 2019, would subject Hong Kong to an annual review of “democratic ideals.” Should Hong Kong fail to meet these democratic standards, it could lose its special trading status with the U.S., as established by the 1997 Basic Law and the U.S.-Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992. The bill passed unanimously in the Senate on November 19, 2019 after violence broke out at Hong Kong Polytechnic University just two days before. While President Trump can still veto the bill with the risk of further escalation of the trade war with China, the bill offers a unique lens through which to view the current situation in Hong Kong. While the 1992 act allows the U.S. president to revoke Hong Kong’s distinct trading status under section 5722(a), its 1997 successor grants Hong Kong its “one country, two systems” status, allowing it to maintain autonomous judicial, political, and economic processes from China. The HKHRDA aims to hold China accountable for respecting Hong Kong’s autonomy while reaffirming American support for democracy and human rights. Under the HKHRDA, trade privileges would depend on the region’s
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compliance with human rights and democracy standards, which some fear could lead to sanctions in the future. In addition, the HKHRDA requires the U.S. Secretary of State to report annually to Congress on the status of Hong Kong’s autonomy from Beijing to justify its unique treatment under U.S. law. It also requires that the U.S. deny entry to and freeze the U.S.-based assets of any Chinese individual found guilty of torturing pro-democracy and human rights activists in Hong Kong. President Trump has said little about the bill and the situation in Hong Kong, though unsurprisingly, the Communist Party of China (CCP); Chief Executive of Hong Kong, Carrie Lam; and the rest of the pro-Beijing camp oppose the bill. China has said it will respond “forcefully” in response to the bill’s passage, which China sees as an undesirable manifestation of American interference in internal politics. Foreign interference aside, it seems counterintuitive that many Hong Kongers support a bill that risks their special trading status and potentially compromises their economic interests. As such, Hong Kongers’ responses to the bill have been mixed. Pro-democracy activists, including Joshua Wong Chi-fung and Denise Ho Wan-sze, have testified in Washington in support of the bill’s passage to ensure Hong Kong’s democratic freedoms. On the other hand, some activists have expressed concern about America’s long history of exploiting foreign countries under
the guise of supporting democracy, pointing to Section 3 of the HKHRDA, which articulates that the bill’s purpose is to defend U.S. interests independent of the interests of Hong Kongers. Similarly, Section 6(c)1.A of the bill “assesses whether the Government of Hong Kong is ‘legally competent’ to administer the United States-Hong Kong Agreement for the Surrender of Fugitive Offenders.” While this section seems primarily meant to protect U.S. citizens in the case that the extradition bill passes, it also includes the ability to force Hong Kong to extradite U.S. “criminals,” a power that the U.S. failed to exercise over Edward Snowden in 2013. As such, many Hong Kongers have questioned whether the bill might primarily be a means for the U.S. to prosecute its own political opponents rather than an authentic affirmation of Hong Kong’s democracy. Although the U.S. includes the extradition clause in the bill, it may not actually have teeth in Hong Kong. Extradition requests need to be agreed upon by both parties and would still need to pass through Hong Kong’s judicial system. At best, the extradition clause seems like empty American posturing. Of more concern to the protesters is the threat to Hong Kong’s special status under U.S. law, which entails “favorable trade terms, bilateral ties and recognition as a sovereign entity for the purposes of commerce, transportation, and education exchange.” Local activists write that, “just as Hong Kongers have been exploited and forsaken by the United Kingdom, American ‘allyship’ is filled with stories of betrayal. One needs only to consider the United States’ abrupt de-recognition of Taiwan’s Republic of China government as the sole legitimate representative of China in 1979, when it saw greater value in relations with the People’s Republic of China.” It is precisely this prioritization of the U.S.’s own interests, however, that ensures the security of Hong Kong’s special status. The bill answers Hong Kongers’ calls for U.S. solidarity with no real threat of sanction. The U.S. is unlikely to jeopardize its own economic interests in the region or leverage export controls, which are already covered in current U.S. trade laws. Over 85,000 Americans live in Hong
“Under the HKHRDA, trade privileges would depend on the region’s compliance with human rights and democracy standards, which some fear could lead to sanctions in the future.”
HONG KONG BILL Kong, operating over 1,400 American businesses. Notably, at $32.6 billion in 2017, the U.S. trade surplus in Hong Kong is larger than that of any other American trading partner due to special privileges granted by the 1992 Act. Therefore, it is in the best interest of the U.S. to facilitate Hong Kong’s autonomy in trade and investment. This guarantee of Hong Kong’s special trading status is important. While Hong Kong is considered to be one of the world’s freest and most dynamic economies—and one that people globally invest in and see as a gateway to China—the open economy does not benefit all Hong Kongers equally. The HKHRDA
focuses on political freedoms guaranteed by democratic ideals, which, in the eyes of Hong Kongers, might help alleviate the economic turmoil of average citizens. Due to Hong Kong’s low corporate and personal tax rates and the lack of capital gains and inheritance taxes, the government relies on land sales for revenue, where a small number of tycoons own most of the development projects. Forced to pay for rents higher than those in New York, London, or San Francisco with a minimum hourly wage of only $4.82, most Hong Kongers have little access to the wealth their own open economy brings. The general sense of economic hopelessness resonates with Hong Kong’s young
“As such, any Hong Kongers have questioned whether the bill might primarily be a means for the U.S. to prosecute its own political opponents rather than an authentic affirmation of Hong Kong’s democracy.”
population: Nearly 20 percent of the city’s population lives in poverty, 250,000 individuals await public housing, and many Hong Kongers struggle to compete with mainlanders who may be better educated or more well-off for job opportunities. In a city where “elected” officials are shortlisted by the Chinese government, massive housing inequality reigns, and young people face a bleak economic future, the HKHRDA is a window into Hong Kong’s tense political situation. While the debate of American interference in other countries’ internal affairs is not new, Hong Kong’s situation extends far beyond US intervention in preserving democracy. Hong Kong has become a central rallying point between the U.S. and China, and the bill is America’s latest push in applying pressure on China about Uighur detention camps, its commercial practices, and its various global infrastructure initiatives. At stake, however, is the economic future of Hong Kongers who see democracy as a path to security and prosperity. The HKHRDA, then, may just be the way to preserve Hong Kong’s autonomy and offer some hope to exhausted protesters.
THE MOBILITY ISSUE
Interview with Candace Owens
by Amelia Spalter ’21 illustrator Owen Rival
Candace Owens is a conservative commentator and political activist. She is the founder of BLEXIT, a movement dedicated to leading Black voters away from the Democratic Party. Owens considered herself to be politically liberal before having what she describes as a “conservative awakening” in 2016 that eventually led to the launch of her political YouTube channel, RedPillBlack, and her tenure as communications director for Turning Point USA from 2017 to 2019. Owens continues to lead BLEXIT and hosts a weekly podcast, “The Candace Owens Show,” through PragerU. Her book Blackout: How Black America Can Make Its Second Escape from the Democrat Plantation will be released on February 4th. amelia spalter You’ve often cited the left bolstering a victim mentality among Black Americans as a motivation for BLEXIT. Do you consider perpetuating this victim mentality to be a form of racism?
their own followers, and hosting their own events, which is beautiful to see. Having the audacity to think for yourself, to not hide, and to not vote quietly is a strength, especially when you are on the side of truth.
candace owens If you look at someone and say “You’re a victim,” and that person responds, “Actually, no, I’m not a victim,” and your reaction is to get angry, that says something about you. That says that you are not actually trying to help that person. You are trying to feel good about yourself. You view Black Americans as puppies that need rescuing. You walk away with a badge of honor to display: “Look, I care about the plight of the Black people.” What if we do not need you to care about us? What if I do not view myself as your victim but as your equal?
as You have been accused of being unknowingly exploited for right-wing propaganda. Who do you think is being used as left-wing propaganda?
That is the challenge I present with BLEXIT. We represent ourselves as your equals. We say “No, thank you,” to government handouts. We say “No, thank you,” to your pity party. We don’t need it. We need sensible economic policy. We stand alongside every other American, regardless of race or sex. as You’ve said you want to see an “ideological civil war.” What do you want it to look like? co It’s happening right now. Black people are actually debating ideologically, not engaging in “we all have to be Democrats” groupthink. Conservatives are starting their own platforms, gaining
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co Cardi B, she’s the biggest one. She has no idea how stupid the Democratic Party thinks she is. Her life is a conservative story; she went from nothing to something without taking any handouts. Whether you like her music or not is up to you, but her success story is actually something that is central to the core concepts of the American Dream. Yet now that capitalism has put her at the top, the Left is telling her she needs to sell socialism. There would be no Cardi B in a socialist society. It is unfortunate that she has unwittingly become a puppet for the Democratic Party. as Do you think higher education is helping or hurting America? co Higher education is hurting all of America. People aren’t learning how to think; they’re actually learning the opposite. College campuses have become islands of totalitarianism where people are scared to have a conservative thought. They’re not learning how to disagree and be disagreed with. They’re not learning how to debunk opinions or how to debate different ideas. They’re
just learning how to groupthink, and that is very scary. What’s sad about it is students do not realize that they are being victimized because they are not being prepared for the real world. The mortgage does not care about your feelings. The job market does not care about your feelings. Our college students who have to cuddle therapy puppies to cope with the outcome of a free and fair election are going to have to learn how to deal with real-life conflict. as What do you think about “cancel culture” and how have you managed to stay above it? co “Cancel culture” is about silencing critics. Everybody has something they can be “canceled” over, especially if you’re going to use political correctness as a weapon. You see kids being “canceled” at 17! Kids are supposed to be stupid and make mistakes; they learn and grow from that. A bigger way of looking at it is, if we don’t start reversing this trend, we’re going to see a rise in depression and mental disorders. People will feel they’re socially imprisoned. As to how “cancel culture” affects me, I couldn’t care less. I think I have done a good job of presenting myself as an imperfect character intentionally and purposefully because I am not perfect. I am a person who has made many mistakes. Probably the biggest one was being a liberal for the first half of my life.
TINY BUT MIGHTY How micronations could redefine sovereignty
by zander blitzer ’22 , a History concentrator and a Chief of Staff at BPR. data by sarah conlisk ’20 infographic by minji koo ’20
When Paddy Roy Bates claimed an abandoned military fort as a present for his wife Joan, the principality of Sealand was born. There was no fanfare or paperwork; Bates simply created a micronation: an “entity that claims to be an independent state but whose sovereignty is not recognized by the international community.” Micronations might seem inconsequential. After all, what can these polities actually accomplish if they aren’t recognized on the international stage? However, recognition from other countries is only part of the puzzle of statehood. Though tiny and charming on the surface, micronations actually possess a startling significance: They jeopardize legal definitions of statehood and may bolster other claims to sovereignty around the world. Some micronations are difficult to take seriously. For example, the Republic of Molossia, located in northern Nevada, was originally founded as a joke. Even more preposterous is the territory of Elgaland-Vargaland, which doesn’t actually exist: it claims sovereignty over “all border territories between all countries on earth” in addition to “mental and perceptive territories.” However, a quick glance at the websites of these countries reveals that they are entirely serious endeavors. In the eyes of their leaders, micronations are legitimate spaces, despite their portrayal by the media as trivial.
Some micronations chafe under the veneer of comedy, but others are quietly building their international credibility. One micronation that stands above the rest in terms of size and ostensible legitimacy is Liberland. Liberland existed as a no man’s land on the border of Croatia and Serbia for decades until it was finally proclaimed a free republic in 2015. Boasting seven square kilometers of land, it is territorially larger than both Monaco and the Vatican and seven times more populous than San Marino. Liberland is essentially a libertarian haven. With no taxation, stringent property rights, and self-determined individual rights, it is a model micronation—one possessed with concrete rules and regulations and a firm sense of national purpose. Micronations of Liberland’s size and scope present
an interesting conundrum for legal theories of statehood. There are two reigning theories of statehood in international law: the constitutive and the declarative. The constitutive theory claims that a state must be recognized as sovereign by other states in order to attain full legitimacy. Under this theory, micronations certainly fail. By definition, micronations aren’t recognized by the international community; otherwise, they would be “microstates,” which are similarly small in size but enjoy international acknowledgement of their legitimacy. However, the declarative theory of statehood, first articulated in the 1933 Montevideo Convention, stipulates that states must have “a permanent population, a defined territory, a government, and a capacity to enter into relations with other states.” Under this standard, most micronations pass the statehood test. This fact carries a big implication: Since the declarative theory applies to micronations, but the constitutive theory doesn’t, such polities destabilize the entire legal framework surrounding statehood. The very existence of micronations threatens the constitutive theory’s legal legitimacy. Short of forcible reconciliation with their original country through military invasion or legal challenge, these places function as states, whether or not they are recognized under the constitutive theory of statehood. Without international recognition, micronations will continue to struggle to connect with the outside world via trade or alliances with other states. However, micronations are already learning
“Though tiny and charming on the surface, micronations actually possess a startling significance: They jeopardize legal definitions of statehood and may bolster other claims to sovereignty around the world.” THE MOBILITY ISSUE
“Since the declarative theory applies to micronations but the constitutive theory doesn’t, these polities destabilize the entire legal framework surrounding statehood.”
to rely on each other, creating networks and forums to discuss and address their unique plight. International recognition then becomes an issue of semantics as micronations figure out how to exist without a seat at the United Nations. As such, the constitutive theory is becoming obsolete in that it can no longer apply to these principalities. Even more broadly, the fact that anyone can declare a parcel of land to be an independent nation has implications for more firmly established independence movements. Taiwan and Catalonia certainly could not declare themselves micronations tomorrow—for one thing, both are too large to be considered
Where Are the Micronations?
FALL 2019 | ISSUE 02
“micro.” Moreover, there would be massive political repercussions, not to mention possible violence or military intervention, if such a declaration were to be issued. However, if the constitutive theory of statehood were to be phased out, in time, places such as Taiwan or Catalonia could potentially achieve the diplomatic independence they have always desired. Though micronations such as Sealand might be seen as droll, there is no doubt that these aspiring nations could someday have an important impact on international law and even the fate of other independence movements. One day, perhaps, micronations might have a macro influence.
TU A RISING R E TEM P RISING TENSIONS Addressing climate change could help fight the war on terror by cartie werthman ’21, an International Relations concentrator and a Senior Editor at BPR. illustrator liam archibald ’20
President Trump’s sudden decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Kurdish territory in Syria has catapulted the debate over the War on Terror back to the forefront of American foreign policy. Yet as the United States prepares to leave Afghanistan, and as President Trump declares the Islamic State “defeated,” other regions already destabilized by violence face a new wave of terrorist activity stemming from a typically overlooked source: climate change. Rising global temperatures are threatening the Sahel, an expanse of land on the southern border of the Sahara Desert that already
faces precarious social and economic circumstances. The United States must treat climate change as a growing security threat and take action at home to reduce emissions and mitigate its effects. The Sahel is particularly sensitive to the effects of climate change. Temperatures are rising 1.5 times faster in the Sahel than in other parts of the planet, and violence in the region is rising with them. Record-breaking dry months have increased by 50 percent. Lake Chad, a critical source of water for 30 million people, has shrunk by 90 percent due to droughts that have crippled the region’s agricultural system. Burkina Faso, which has also faced drought, suffered 136 jihadist attacks in 2018, four times as many as the previous year. Water scarcity has shrunk the amount of land available for pastoralists, prompting herders to migrate even further into territory claimed by farmers in a frantic search for fertile pastures. The heightened tensions due to shared land and resources are compounded by “no-go” areas created by violent insurgents. As a result, much of the Sahel is in the midst of a food crisis. As rising temperatures diminish both grazing land and water levels in
“While this fight has long been categorized as an economic and environmental issue, the implications of climate change on terrorism necessitate that it be considered an issue of national security as well.” THE MOBILITY ISSUE
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CLIMATE CHANGE AND TERRORISM
RISING TEMPERATURES, RISING TENSIONS lakes supporting fisheries, agricultural yields have become unpredictable. Thirty million people are currently food insecure, and over 12 million people required emergency food aid from the United Nations in order to avoid famine in 2018. Waves of refugees place an additional strain on scarce resources. Because national borders are porous, violent conflict spreads easily from one country to another. Refugees fleeing this violence spread across the region as well: At least five million people in the Sahel were displaced last year alone, causing economic and political shocks in the areas to which they fled. The convergence of hunger and displaced persons creates a potent breeding ground for terrorist groups, which offer a semblance of stability to disenchanted youth.
military has deemed climate change a “threat multiplier.” Though the Sahel is thousands of miles from the Pentagon, terrorism there increasingly affects American military operations. Over 1,000 U.S. troops are currently deployed in Niger, Mali, Cameroon, Chad, and Nigeria to combat terrorism, and the Trump administration spends $242 million annually in military aid to those countries. While the U.S. military is supposedly only “advising and assisting” the militaries of these countries in the fight against terrorism, a series of classified programs has allowed U.S. troops to play a larger role. Indeed, four Americans providing backup for one of these classified missions were killed in Tongo Tongo, Niger in 2017. Following the fatal ambush, the U.S. military
“The convergence of hunger and displaced persons creates a potent breeding ground for terrorist groups, which offer a semblance of stability to disenchanted youth.” Take, for example, the recent actions of Boko Haram, a notorious insurgency which began in northern Nigeria. Having aligned itself with the Islamic State since 2015, the group has sought to establish a caliphate around the shrinking Lake Chad Basin and has spread into Niger and Cameroon. Though much of the American counterterrorism effort has focused on the Middle East, groups such as Boko Haram are extending their ideology and control across North Africa and the Sahel. Through food production, taxes, and restrictions on access to the already weakened agriculture system, Boko Haram has asserted power over the dwindling food supply. Boko Haram relies upon not only economic extortion but acts of violence, such as sowing agriculture fields with landmines to spread terror among the people of the Lake Chad Basin. To make matters worse, the Nigerian government’s counterinsurgency program has unintentionally damaged agricultural production, further reinforcing Boko Haram’s stranglehold on a limited food supply. Strained food production in the Sahel has also given Boko Haram an opportunity to terrorize farmers and recruit new members: The group’s access to food gives them a particularly persuasive pitch to the desperate young men in this region. As terrorists exploit these shocks of climate change to assert power, the U.S.
Rather than making progress in the fight for climate legislation, the Trump administration is backsliding. While this fight has long been categorized as an economic and environmental issue, the implications of climate change on terrorism necessitate that it be considered a national security concern as well. The Department of Defense has long considered climate change a “threat multiplier,” but the Pentagon has failed to leverage its enormous influence to combat the dangerous phenomenon. There are many such programs to choose from, including carbon taxes, cap and trade, clean energy investments, fuel standards, and local climate mitigation programs. To save the United States from two more decades of the War on Terror, the U.S. military must treat climate change as the national security threat that it is, and the federal government must respond with the same urgency it does for other security threats of this scale.
vowed to scale back missions in Africa. Yet the increasingly disastrous effects of climate change threaten to draw the United States back into a quagmire of counterterrorist operations. Climate change may be one of the more difficult obstacles in ending the War on Terror, especially since the U.S. has not implemented any federal legislation to reduce emissions and mitigate the effects of global warming. While the U.S. Department of Defense has long acknowledged the impact of climate change on national security, the Trump administration has ended military programs that deal with the impacts of climate change. Even as other cabinet officials deny the existence of global warming, former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis declared climate change a present threat, not a hypothetical. While the Department of Defense may have shielded itself from the climate deniers in the Trump administration, it has nonetheless failed to protect programs such as the U.S. Navy Task Force Climate Change, which was ended earlier this year. The Department of Defense is one of the only arms of the federal government still dedicated to addressing global warming under the Trump Administration, and its internal conflict has led it to a standstill on the issue. The U.S. is the largest historical emitter of greenhouse gases and has contributed the most to the climate crisis which we face today.
THE MOBILITY ISSUE
Interview with Elaine Sheldon
by Shilpa Sajja ’23 illustrator Owen Rival ’21
Elaine Sheldon is an American filmmaker whose work centers around the opioid epidemic. Her documentary Heroin(e) was nominated for an Academy Award and won an Emmy. This award-winning documentary follows the lives of three women—a firefighter, a judge, and a community organizer—who are working to fix the opioid epidemic in Huntington, West Virginia. She also recently released Recovery Boys, a documentary that follows the lives of four men undergoing rehabilitation. shilpa sajja Huntington is the overdose capital of the United States. How representative is Huntington of rural America and America in general? elaine sheldon Huntington is in a tri-state and tri-city region, which is what makes it a severe case. You have a drug trade that impacts three states—Ohio, Kentucky, and West Virginia—so there is just a lot of movement of drugs in Huntington, and it’s always been that way. We’ve seen this during several epidemics. The problem with that situation is that Huntington does have an economic engine with Marshall University but largely is a post-industrial town. It’s a steel town, a town that was processing coal, a town that is trying to reinvent itself. Problematically, Huntington is geographically centered in this large area where drugs are traded. ss Overdose deaths are often described as “deaths of despair.” Do you think this is an accurate way to describe the factors driving addiction? es It’s a complicated term. I don’t think it’s an inaccurate term, but it might oversimplify to make people think this is just a problem among people living in poverty. The fact is, addiction is something that can impact people of all racial and socioeconomic backgrounds. However, people who are living in impoverished areas, despite their race or culture, are often more subjected to drugs being within their community because of a lack of opportunity. Deaths of despair are something America should be looking at along with the death of manufacturing and the death of industry. When people can’t support themselves and their families,
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they are often driven into emotional and economic depression. ss In your 2017 documentary Heroin(e) you follow the lives of three women. What was your reasoning behind choosing to document their work? es These women touch the same people, whether Jan is reviving them, or Necia is helping them get into rehab, or Judge Keller is helping them get a second chance after their relapse. We wanted to see the epidemic at different levels and through multiple lenses. ss At one point, Jan Rader expresses her fear that America has “lost a couple of generations” to addiction. What is this epidemic doing specifically to the younger generations? es Three generations or more now have been impacted. Today, it’s important that the kids know they have options. We’re still in that “Just Say No” D.A.R.E. mentality in this country. We’re not really thinking about ways to make kids resilient, to make them want to live a life where they don’t use heroin at the age of 14. You can see models of how that can be done in places like Iceland, which has incorporated mandatory art classes and dance classes that keep kids active. We don’t have those things in Appalachia. We don’t have those things in West Virginia. A lot of kids are going home from the bus to drugs at home. While they might not be using them, they’re around them, and their presence is normalized to them. We are at a very critical moment in which we have to teach kids resilience. I haven’t seen anyone really crack the code on this, and it does scare me.
ss What changes can be made at a federal level to support communities like Huntington? es It’s a really good question, and I don’t know if I have the answer to it. I honestly don’t think anything President Trump can do is going to change the situation in Huntington. On the national level, they can empower the local people to do what’s right for themselves. The opioid solutions in each community look really different, whether it’s rural or whether it’s in a city. The people on the ground need agency: the first responders, the judges, the people that are actually compassionate and empathetic. I like to look at it in the grassroots way and just say that locally we can make a lot of difference if the communities have some funding to actually support rehabilitation. ss You’ve said that we need more stories of hope in regards to addiction. Why are these stories important to tell? es It’s important to share hope because there is so little of it. When people watch any issue related to this on the news, they don’t see anything but a mugshot or a needle and spoon. What does that give them to take away? Certainly, any issue can be painted as one that’s wholly negative. People have come out on the other side though, and they don’t get much attention. Addiction is portrayed in a very stark poverty-porn, drug-porn way, or with overly rose-colored glasses through which everything appears fixed. Hope, for me, is that place in between where we are very real and very honest about what we’re up against.
Misbegotten Cotton Slavery, quotas, and labor in the new Uzbekistan by andrew steinberg ’22 , an International and Public Affairs concentrator and a Staff Writer at BPR. illustrator katie kwak ’20
Pop quiz. The shirt you’re wearing—where was it made? Check the tag for the answer. Now, where did the material come from? Harder to find out, but if it’s Uzbekistan, you might want to take it off. Nestled between Asia and Europe on the once-mighty Silk Road, Uzbekistan is the world’s fifth-largest cotton exporter. Cotton, often referred to as “white gold,” has been a dominant force in Uzbekistan’s economy since Soviet leaders dubbed the country the “cotton capital” of the USSR. Yet Uzbek cotton has a bloody history: It flourished on the backs of millions of forced laborers. The Uzbek cotton harvest is one of the world’s largest mobilizations of seasonal labor. In 2018, 2.5 million people worked in the country’s cotton fields. The national government alleges that pickers work because of economic incentives or out of civic duty driven by an Uzbek tradition called khashar. However, the government continues to employ Soviet-era production quotas that coerce local officials to forcibly mobilize
citizens, constituting what many consider to be modern-day slavery. The problem started with the cotton industry’s nationalization. Although land was nominally privatized after the fall of the USSR, the government still maintained control over agricultural prices, targets, and inputs. The Soviet model lingered in other areas too—most notably in the quota system. For decades, the Uzbek government has set crop production thresholds that regional leaders must reach or face punishment. To avoid such punishment, regional leaders mobilize labor at their disposal to propel cotton production beyond its natural rate. The Uzbek cotton industry is built on the blood and sweat of involuntary labor. Under the presidency of Islam Karmov, which lasted from 1990 to 2016, the country regularly forced children and public employees, such as teachers and doctors, to pick cotton for long hours in horrid conditions. Before 2011, schools were closed from September to November so over 1.5 million Uzbek children could perform
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“The government continues to employ Soviet-era production quotas that coerce local officials to forcibly mobilize citizens, constituting what many consider to be modern-day slavery.”
backbreaking labor for the cotton industry without adequate food, water, or shelter. A surge of outrage sparked international condemnation, sanctions, and boycotts from 260 global clothing brands, reducing cotton exports by 65 percent and forcing the country to sell to secondary markets in China and Russia. In response, Uzbekistan gradually cracked down on the use of child labor, phasing it out by 2014. However, as the government recognized the industry’s national importance and profited immensely from cotton production, the quota system persisted. After Shavkat Mirziyoyev became president in 2016, Uzbekistan promised to end forced labor and issued a decree prohibiting the practice. But even though the federal government officially banned forced mobilization, it did not eliminate its root causes. While child labor has been legally abolished, the existence of quotas continues to incentivize leaders to force adult workers into the fields. A local official told Human Rights Watch in 2017 that “the government pays your salary so you will pick, or you could be asked to give up your post. You can’t refuse [to pick cotton].” Indeed, in 2017, the International Labor Organization estimated that over 330,000 of 2.6 million pickers, which included firefighters, police officers, and public water company workers, were coerced by authorities to harvest cotton. Although the number of forced laborers decreased to 170,000 in 2018, a reduction of 48 percent, the continued presence of forced labor undermined President Mirziyoyev’s declaration that “no schools, institutes, or state-funded organizations” would participate in future cotton harvests. For years, the government has demonstrated a clear disconnect between its perceived and actual role in enabling forced labor. Mirziyoyev has sounded off against the
practice, but his government has upheld a system which allows it. This is not to diminish the progress the Uzbek government has made. In 2018, the government punished 206 regional governors for forced labor violations, an increase from 2017. It also increased wages for pickers, resulting in more voluntary labor. However, in regions where bad weather reduces cotton yields, forced mobilization remains prevalent. Despite Uzbekistan’s federal push for abolishing forced labor, the institutionalized quota system perpetuates it. Uzbekistan’s complete eradication of forced labor is extremely important because the country’s future development relies on an image of modernization and deliberate improvements to its human rights record. The nation has become the “rising star” of Central Asia. Its economy grew by six percent in 2018, and foreign direct investment increased by 400 percent in 2019. Aid from the World Bank has legitimized and furthered this growth. In 2017, after Uzbekistan committed itself to eliminating forced labor, the World Bank extended half a billion dollars of loans to revamp and diversify its economy—on the condition that no forced labor would exist in World Bank-funded regions. The organization asserted the right to rescind loans if these conditions were violated. However, the presence of forced labor in unfunded areas has sparked anger from human rights groups, which denounce the World Bank for abetting a government that has not fully committed to abolishing forced labor. Uzbekistan’s quota system not only cuts the country off from multinational investment but also threatens existing monetary flows that provide stable employment and a foundation for future growth.
Uzbekistan’s growth and integration into the world economy relies on its complete eradication of forced labor, which will not happen as long as production quotas exist. Although the U.S. Department of Labor removed the nation from a blacklist of countries using child labor in 2018, it still bans the import of Uzbek cotton because of its linkages to forced labor. Likewise, Western clothing brands like Nike boycott Uzbek cotton for the same reason. No multinational clothing brand will reverse its boycott unless credible evidence exists that no Uzbek picker worked involuntarily. The quota system engenders forced mobilization, prevents Uzbekistan from integrating into the world economy, and jeopardizes its access to foreign capital. Legal challenges by human rights groups in the U.K. and European Union have called for expanding bans on Uzbek cotton as long as forced labor persists. Uzbekistan stands at the crossroads of a dark past and a promising future. Although the central government has demonstrated a “strong political will” to liberalize its cotton industry and phase out its worst transgressions, it cannot complete its transformation until it eradicates its artificial quota system. Although the state should be commended for expressing openness to abandoning quotas by 2022, this commitment does little for workers in the present. At the very least, the government must enforce its existing ban on forced labor by following through on the prosecution of officials complicit in the practice. But for Uzbekistan to expand its economic opportunities and promote the well-being of its citizens, it must fully commit to abandoning the underlying system that facilitates a form of modern-day slavery. Only then can Uzbek cotton return to global markets and clothing lines with pride.
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23 At the Intersection of Public Transit and Political Movements by Emily Yamron 26 interview John Friedman by Ryan Frant 28 Making a Living While Breaking the Law by Sarah Hall
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30 Berlinâ€™s Airport Curse by Allison Meakem 33 The Second Death of a Salesman by Noah Pirani
MOBILITY SPECIAL FEATURE
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At the Intersection of Public Transit and Political Movements
A closer look at the Santiago metro protests by emily yamron ’20, a Biology and Public Health concentrator and an Associate Editor at BPR. illustrator daimei wu ’20
Mandatory curfew, scores of tanks, and armed policemen on the street: These are some of the most iconic symbols of the Chilean dictatorship that lasted from 1973 to 1990, which remains a sharp memory in the minds of many Chileans. The dominance of those familiar images in national and international news coverage of Chile this fall was not historical remembrance but coverage of the events taking place in Chile right now. Today’s military action is in response to protests that have grown to include millions, making history as Chile’s largest-ever demonstrations. How did the country, touted as the one of the most stable in South America, fall into such chaos? The story begins with a student’s joke and 30 Chilean pesos (CLP).
After the government announced that the Santiago metro fare during peak hours would be raised from CLP800 to CLP830, an increase of roughly $0.04, an Instagram account called CursedIN, a meme page for students at the Instituto Nacional, promoted jumping the turnstiles at the Universidad de Chile station on October 4. This campaign would soon become #EvasionMasiva, a massive fare evasion. Though proposed in jest, the idea spread like wildfire. Over the course of two and a half weeks, #EvasionMasiva grew, with turnstile jumping and platform sit-ins taking place at metro stations across the city. The protests reached a fever pitch on October 18 when the government announced it would be employing a dictatorship-era law, La Ley de Seguridad del Estado (Law of State Security), to re-establish order. The invocation of this policy is central to understanding these protests and modern Chile at large. Today, Chile takes great pride in its transition from a 17-year dictatorship to democratic rule. However, much of the political and economic structure of the repressive Augusto Pinochet regime has remained in place since Pinochet himself was removed from power. These protests are not simply about 30 pesos on the metro fare— a restriction on mobility in Santiago—but
“Today, Chile takes great pride in its transition from a 17- year dictatorship to democratic rule. However, much of the political and economic structure of the repressive Augusto Pinochet regime has remained in place since Pinochet himself was removed from power.”
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about 30 years of failure in upholding democratic rule and a lack of social mobility throughout the country. The dictatorship began on September 11, 1973, fueled by fear that the economic failure of the Socialist President Salvador Allende’s government was driving the country to ruin. When Pinochet came to power, he replaced the politicians in the government and brought in a group of economists known as the Chicago
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Boys, who completely restructured the Chilean economy. Trained by Milton Friedman at the University of Chicago, the economists made radical free-market policy the norm in the country. With CIA backing, the team of economists had supported the coup before it could even take place, providing Pinochet and his cronies with blueprints for such an economic transformation. Early in Pinochet’s reign of terror, the government forcibly relocated people living in poblaciones, low-income housing settlements, in eastern Santiago to poorer areas in the south and west of the city. A direct consequence of this is visible today in Santiago’s extraordinary socioeconomic stratification. This geographic gradient underlies the metro protests and embodies socioeconomic immobility in Santiago. The stratification of the city is so stark that everything from a person’s monthly salary to their scores on fourthgrade standardized exams can be guessed with a fair degree of accuracy from just one piece of information: the metro stop closest to their home. When your address can determine so much about your life, it’s easy to see why upward mobility in Chile is uniquely difficult. It is these disparities that form the basis of much of the discontent today. There are groups within Santiago who are perfectly happy with the status quo. A proposal for a new metro line that would extend further east encountered considerable resistance from wealthy communities that lived there. In a statement characteristic of this isolationist sentiment, the president of a neighborhood association in the area where the new line was planned said, “With the metro come the delinquents.” Activists on social media and out in the streets have worked to dispel the notion that
AT THE INTERSECTION OF PUBLIC TRANSIT AND POLITICAL MOVEMENTS the Santiago metro protests are just about the metro. Rather, they claim that this is a stand against a failing neoliberal experiment that has brought grave consequences—a fractured school system, a private pension system that Chileans are mandated to pay into with no guarantee of a living retirement, privatized resources that go to corporations before citizens, and a wildly unequal private healthcare system. For wealthy Chileans, however, privatization isn’t particularly problematic. Their children go to glitzy private schools; they receive top-notch healthcare at private hospitals while on the highest tier plan of ISAPRES, the private health insurance; they have enough money to save for retirement outside of AFP, the semi-private pension system. Aguas Andinas, the private company that provides water to the city of Santiago, would never think of shutting off its water from wealthy Chileans the way it did to some areas of the city in 2016 when floods contaminated the water supply. But, of course, these privileges apply to only a select few. The top ten percent of Chileans earn an income that is 26.5 times higher than the country’s average income. Sebastián Piñera, the current President, earns 42.5 times the minimum wage; senators in the Chilean congress, 40.5 times. Eighteen percent of Chileans earn minimum wage, which translates to less than $500 per month. Moreover, 70.9 percent of Chileans earn less than CLP550,000, or about $750 per month. While $0.04 on each additional metro ride might not seem like much, it’s another punishing increase for a population already running on an impossibly tight budget. Essentially, Chileans operate in two separate worlds that run parallel to each other. The metro protests drew this divide into stark
relief. As protestors were killed by the military that marched through the streets and rolled out tanks in a manner unseen since the end of the dictatorship, and as the national electrical building went up in flames, Piñera was found putting out a different fire: He was photographed blowing out his grandson’s birthday candles in an upscale restaurant in the wealthiest sector of Santiago. While protestors have called for the resignation of both Piñera and the Interior Secretary, who invoked the dictatorship-era security law, the protests have presented little in the way of clear leadership or demands. It’s hard to imagine a quick solution to the inequality present in everything from housing to healthcare. Also concerning are growing reports that the military is torturing people in closed metro stations, reviving memories of the worst aspects of the dictatorship. Two potential solutions would address the root cause of the protestors’ grievances: a flawed Chilean democracy. First, Chileans
should consider rewriting the Constitution. When Pinochet came to power, he created a new constitution to crush dissent and bolster his designs for a neoliberal state. After the country returned to democratic rule in 1990, the Constitution remained; to this day, Chile’s primary governing document is one penned by its most notorious dictator. Though rewriting the Constitution cannot erase past or present inequality, it would be a long overdue step in exorcising Chile’s Pinochet-era demons. Another option is the creation of a Constituent Assembly, a body of representatives with seats typically reserved for underrepresented groups. The hope is that both of these solutions would work to include voices of groups that have remained socially marginalized in spite of the country’s “democratic” governance. Ultimately, it’s unclear what lasting impact the protests will have on Chilean policy. But one thing is clear: At the intersection of public transit and social immobility, Chile has reached a day of reckoning.
“The stratification of the city is so stark that everything from a person’s monthly salary to their scores on fourth grade standardized exams can be guessed with a fair degree of accuracy with just one piece of information: the metro stop closest to their home.” THE MOBILITY ISSUE
Interview with John Friedman
by Ryan Frant ’23
illustrator Owen Rival ’21
John Friedman is a professor of Economics, International Affairs, and Public Policy at Brown University. One of the foremost empirical economists of our time, Friedman is a cofounder of Opportunity Insights, a research lab at Harvard University that aims to clarify the forces affecting upward mobility.
ryan frant In his 2012 State of the Union Address, President Obama cited your research, which found that “In just one year, a great teacher can raise the lifetime earnings of a single class of students by nearly $1.5 million.” If this is the case, why isn’t funding for public education increasing? john friedman The politics of public education are tricky for lots of reasons. First, not everyone benefits equally from increased spending on public education. There are people with kids, people without kids, people who send their kids to private schools, and people who know they will not live in a district for a long time. Second, the economic benefits are not super concentrated. For instance, if we spend a lot of money to educate somebody here in Rhode Island but they take a great job in Boston, from a social perspective, that’s a great thing, but from a narrow governmental perspective, it’s not such a great thing. So just because something has a good return does not mean the political system will deliver. Also, even within education, there are a lot of different constituencies whose interests may not align exactly with the interests of the students. Teachers presumably care about their students, but all else equal,
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they want to be paid more, have greater job security, and work in better buildings. What is remunerative for teachers is not always going to be what’s best for the students, and that’s not particular to teachers; that’s true for principals, other government employees, and people in private firms. Of course, paying teachers more is probably a good thing for students, but there are other ways we can spend money on students which may be just as effective, if not more effective. This tricky policy and political environment combine to reduce spending from where it should be. rf You were the Special Assistant to the President on the National Economic Council. How was interpreting data in an academic context different from prescribing real-world fixes to the problems big data identifies? jf I learned an enormous amount in my time working in the White House about how research is consumed in the policy process. The core difference is that in academia, we get to choose the problems we think we can solve, avoid problems we do not think we can solve, and then declare victory when we think we have made some progress, whether or not we’ve actually solved the full problem. The political system is different in that you often do not choose what problems you are solving. This helped me differentiate between the types of findings that can move the needle and the types of findings which, albeit important from an academic perspective, might not have as much impact in policy settings. rf In the past, you have discussed a frightening trend: The number of people who earn more than their parents is decreasing. What has caused economic opportunity to decrease?
jf The fraction of children who grow up to have a higher standard of living than their parents has fallen from about 90 percent for children born in the 1940s to about 50 percent for children born in 1980. First, this is because there has been less growth over the years. A second, more subtle finding is that the distribution of growth across the income distribution matters. Comparing periods before and after 1980, we have seen both slower average growth and also growth that has been much more skewed towards the top end of the income distribution. If you do a statistical decomposition to measure which is more important in explaining this decline in mobility—the reduction in average growth or the increasing inequality of growth—it is this second factor.
jf Two key dimensions characterize high opportunity neighborhoods. One is educational quality. The other, more surprising dimension is what I call “community-connectedness.” To give a specific example, communities where there are more two-parent households have better outcomes for kids. It’s true that a child with two parents is more likely to do well, but that’s not the whole story. Holding fixed whoever my parents are, if I live in a community where there are lots of other households with two-parent households, I’m more likely to do better. The importance of community-based factors stood out to me as something new and surprising in the data.
rf The New York Times reported that your research with economist Raj Chetty found that regardless of students’ starting position entering college, they will have the same economic standing a certain number of years after leaving college. What accounts for this, and how should universities change their admission policies with this in mind? jf It seems like students from all backgrounds who attend university—especially selective ones—do quite well, and as a result, the primary gains are from trying to increase the number of students from diverse backgrounds who are here. There are a lot of different points in the pipeline to university that might be responsible for the lack of diversity. You could think about which students are applying to what institutions, what the admissions policies are for those students who apply, and the number of admitted students who choose to come. Our diagnosis of the pipeline will lead to different policy objectives. I hope to soon publish my research on which of these different parts of the pipeline are important generally and how that differs from university to university. That is a particular advantage of using big data—we have the granularity to make precise statements to help institutions or policymakers channel their efforts.
“The distribution of growth across the income distribution matters. Comparing periods before and after 1980, we have seen both slower average growth and also growth that has been much more skewed towards the top end of the income distribution.”
rf Your research has shed light on how opportunity differs in a measurable way depending on what neighborhood you are from. What institutional structures best maximize opportunity?
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Making a Living While Breaking the Law The legal plight of digital nomads by sarah hall ’21, a Political Science and Economics concentrator and an Associate Editor at BPR. illustrator jonathan muroya ’20
Would you pounce on the opportunity to convert the almost unbelievably aqua blue waters of Thailand into your office space? For hundreds of thousands of “digital nomads,” the answer to that question is a resounding yes. Digital nomads are the 21st century’s answer to the conventional worker, a cohort of entirely mobile wage-earners who conduct business online while “country hopping” to their hearts’ content. The nomadic business movement harkens back to the rise of individualistic travel trends (think the “Hippie Trail” of the ’60s and the surge of backpackers in the ’80s). Increased business technology and lower travel fares have led to a resurgence of this tradition, allowing contemporary nomads to travel freely while still earning a living.
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Adventurous employees looking to upgrade their monotonous workdays with a tropical beach or two may consider this lifestyle ideal. After all, the nomadic way of living offers an ample assortment of benefits, such as augmented buying and saving power, increased cultural awareness, and the lack of a daily commute. However, potential adherents to this way of life should pause before packing their bags. The digital nomad scheme has one major flaw: It’s not always legal, thanks to the sluggishness of international law and strict visa requirements. On their international escapades, digital nomads usually enter destination countries as tourists, taking advantage of visa-free rules afforded to citizens of developed countries. Depending on the country, these rules allow travelers to enter a country for 30 to 180 days strictly for tourism purposes. The terms of tourist status differ from country to country, however, as a general rule, it is not permissible to work in a foreign country as a tourist. In Thailand, for instance, the Immigration Act (1979) specifies that “foreigners entering Thailand are not permitted to work, regardless of their types of visa, unless they are granted a work permit.” Obtaining a work permit often involves a much lengthier application process
and generally requires a local employer as a sponsor. It is therefore impractical for digital nomads who are largely self-employed or work remotely for a foreign employer. In response, digital nomads usually just exploit the visa-free rules, sometimes even leaving a country only to return an hour later to reset their visa-free time in a country. Such immigration policies clearly restrict the nomadic lifestyle’s ruling tenet of effortless mobility. Digital nomads are thus trapped in a legal gray space. The introduction of new technology has completely upended the traditional definition of “employment,” as immigration laws in many countries were written before the widespread use of the internet. Realistically, digital nomads rarely get in trouble, even if they are living in a country on tourist status, as long as they don’t poach domestic clients from other firms or work directly for a local company. Still, they are breaking the law, and in a foreign context, this fact can have serious repercussions, such as steep fines and even potential deportation. Thus, countries need to revisit their immigration laws to include special provisions for digital nomads. One can look to “working holiday visas,” which allow digital nomads to live legally in a country and work remotely or even become employees of local firms. Yet working
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holiday visas are far from perfect. Indeed, these visas are selectively given to a tiny portion of the population—usually those between ages 18 and 30 or those who have recently completed higher education. Moreover, they are only available in a select number of countries for citizens of other developed countries, generally in a reciprocal fashion. Thus, despite being a better legal option than a tourist visa, the working holiday visa is not a universal solution for digital nomads. A better alternative would be a special digital nomad visa, such as the one introduced by Estonia. This specialized immigration status would allow mobile workers to live in Estonia and conduct business remotely for up to a year. The tiny country expects a large influx of nomads as a result of this new legislation. According to Killu Vantsi, advisor at the Citizenship and Migration Policy Department in Estonia’s Ministry of the Interior, the government anticipates the arrival of at least 1,400 new workers. This could be a boost to Estonia’s economy: More people, after all, translates into more local consumers. Estonia’s way of thinking should serve as a model. All nations should create a new visa specifically for digital nomads to clarify and regulate the conditions of their stay.
Indeed, the dominance of global business practically mandates that countries relax their immigration laws to attract workers from the global talent pool and retain a competitive advantage in the marketplace. Today’s technology-infused business environment is perfectly suited for the adventurous entrepreneur. Digital nomads’ uniquely itinerant lifestyle should not be hindered by unnecessary visa requirements or the fear of being deported. The modern worker must be allowed to be mobile.
“The digital nomad scheme has one major flaw: It’s not always legal, thanks to the sluggishness of international law and strict visa requirements.”
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BERLIN’S AIRPORT CURSE
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A new airport in Germany’s capital isn’t taking off
by allison meakem ’20, an International Relations concentrator and an Associate Magazine Editor and Senior Web Editor at BPR.
Ask anyone who’s ever traveled to Berlin about their airport experience, and you’ll likely be met with a groan. While Berlin’s hypermodern transit system is considered one of the best in the world, a trip to small Tegel or Schönefeld Airports is akin to being whisked into some incongruous wonderland of thawed frozen food and brutalist architecture that hasn’t undergone a facelift since John F. Kennedy erroneously proclaimed himself to be a jelly donut. Notably absent from the German capital is a flagship airport with a steady influx of transcontinental flights like those seen in Frankfurt or Munich. It’s now been 30 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, and Berlin Brandenburg Airport, or Flughafen Willy Brandt—Berlin’s aspirational “normal” airport—has still not materialized. BER’s structure is complete, but its doors remain shuttered; a slew of bureaucratic nightmares and failed safety inspections
have rendered it a stain on typically revered “German efficiency.” To this day, BER has cost German taxpayers over €5 billion, and the deficit is increasing by the second. It’s time to give in: BER is a lost cause, and the city of Berlin should seriously consider never opening it. While the airport’s present fiscal inefficacy and horrendous track record of sticking to commitments inform this call, an even more important consideration is the changing nature of transit. As Germany faces the task of dramatically reducing its carbon emissions, BER would be nothing more than a sunk cost. Instead, BER can be repurposed for good, modern causes—the building can stay, but its goal of air travel itself should be conceded as a failure. Berlin has a special, if awkward, relationship with airports. The city’s swift transition from Nazi hub to divided Cold War-hotspot has blessed—or cursed—it with an amalgamation
illustrator hannah ferguson ’20
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of small, quirky airports, from Tempelhof (THF)—Hitler’s pet project turned public park, film set, and refugee home—to West Berlin’s Tegel (TXL) and its wonky communist antithesis Schönefeld (SXF), both of which are infrastructurally stuck in the 70s. The impetus to build an airport worthy of the EU’s most populous and productive economy came shortly after German reunification in 1990. Ground was officially broken on BER in 2006, yet problems plagued the project from the outset. Chief among them was the 2008 financial crisis. Instead of waiting out the economic downturn and approaching BER’s construction with uniformity, the airport’s supervisory board, comprised mainly of politicians rather than businessmen, pushed to finance BER predominantly with public money and split the task among 30 to 40 smaller subcontractors. When BER didn’t open as planned in 2011, it became obvious that coordination between these various subcontractors had, quite literally, fallen through the cracks. After multiple successive postponements in 2012, auditors discovered that the airport had over 550,000 individual faults, ranging from broken light bulbs to defective alarm systems to violations of the fire code. Corruption, too, was at play; certain members of the board had been paid bribes to grant contracts to otherwise unsavory firms. Over the past eight years, these issues have not been resolved; in fact, they have compounded. BER’s opening date has been pushed back countless times, all to no avail. October 2020 was most recently named as BER’s “next” opening date, but Berliners remain skeptical. The airport has become a running joke in German society: In its morning email briefing, Der Tagesspiegel (a Berlin daily newspaper)
has a “count-up” from BER’s “non-opening.” The latest number well surpassed 2,700 days. Even if BER were to open, what would it be other than a stain on the name of Willy Brandt, the founder of modern German social democracy? Perhaps the biggest draw of any new airport is its ability to become an airline “hub” through which connections are routed (as opposed to a “spoke,” or destination-only airport), thereby bringing in more passengers and, in turn, capital. When conceived, BER was meant to become the hub of AirBerlin. In 2014, however, the airline sued BER for €48 million in damages due to the airport’s opening delays and false promises, and, by 2017, AirBerlin had filed for bankruptcy. It is now defunct. The hub issue distinguishes BER from other newly-opened airports, particularly
Istanbul’s, which is projected to accommodate 200 million passengers annually and become the world’s biggest airline hub. A hubless BER, by contrast, looks to be an unequivocal loss; every day, BER’s upkeep costs German citizens over €1.1 million, and some are keen to note that the overall cost of the project could have alternatively funded kindergarten education for nearly seven million children. An opening of BER would also come at precisely the wrong sociopolitical moment. Germany is in the process of drastically reducing its carbon emissions to meet its commitments under the Paris Climate Accord. As part of a newly-released €55 billion climate plan, the Merkel government agreed to begin charging companies €10 for every ton of carbon dioxide emitted in transit starting in 2021, a fee that
“Every day, BER’s upkeep costs German citizens over €1.1 million, and some are keen to note that the overall cost of the project could have alternatively funded kindergarten education for nearly seven million children.” THE MOBILITY ISSUE
will increase to €35 by 2025. Simple analysis reveals that these measures seek to hamper air travel within continental Europe, which emits nearly three times as much carbon dioxide per passenger as travel by train. The legislation would cause the cost of train tickets to decrease by ten percent, while the price of flights within the continent would surge by 74 percent. Germany’s nationalized railway company, Deutsche Bahn, is concurrently investing €156 billion in modernization efforts. And yet, somehow the hub-less BER seeks to turn a profit by operating as a spoke in intra-European airspace. When even your own government seeks to undercut you, it’s time to wake up to reality. BER’s delays have caused it to pre-emptively become a relic of a past era. Had it opened on time in 2011, Flughafen Willy Brandt could have had its hub and its heyday; however, with every obstacle and delay, the airport fades further into obsolescence. But not all is lost: A building has been built, after all—and it should be used, just not as an airport. BER already features an extensive train station, making it accessible from across all of greater Berlin and surrounding Brandenburg. It has, allegedly, now passed its fire safety inspections. It is also home to a host of coworking spaces, shops, offices, and restaurants. Why not turn it into a multipurpose public space? An art gallery, perhaps? A shopping mall? A film set? Or all of the above? Berlin is no stranger to repurposing buildings from a dark past; indeed, BER should look no further than Tempelhof, which made the drastic 180-degree turn from Nazi monument to shelter for thousands of refugees. Perhaps BER’s fate was sealed before its conception. After all, Berlin is an unconventional city, one that, throughout time, has proven unwilling to conform to imposed norms, eager to march to the beat of its own off-tune drum. Berlin has never had a traditional relationship with airports, and it doesn’t look like it ever will. But, hey, that’s part of the charm.
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“Had it opened on time in 2011, Flughafen Willy Brandt could have had its hub and its heyday; however, with every obstacle and delay, the airport fades further into obsolescence.”
The Second Death of a Salesman How the gig economy threatens upward mobility for American workers by noah pirani ’23, an International and Public Affairs and Economics concentrator and an Economics/Finance Staff Writer at BPR. data by erika bussmann ’22 infographic by madi ko ’21
The so-called “gig” economy is, for lack of a better word, gig-antic. This market, characterized by its dependence upon freelance workers and independent contractors, accounted for 94 percent of net employment growth in the U.S. between 2005 and 2015. Indeed, it’s quickly become the go-to for those in search of a new job; now individuals can babysit, drive Ubers, cater a dinner party, write code, and land a “penetration testing job”—all in the gig economy (the last one isn’t what you think). Though the gig economy is radically transforming the fundamental relationship between labor and capital—and all the while allowing millions of millennials to Postmate their oat milk in record time—it also poses an existential threat to the modern welfare state. Left unchecked, it entrenches workers’ dependency on a shrinking social safety net and threatens social and economic mobility. Interestingly, the American workforce didn’t always look like this. Prior to the 1970s, employees and their employers entered informal but trusted social contracts with
one another. Wages rose in tandem with productivity. Meanwhile, health care, steady hours, union benefits, retirement contributions, and the ability to work toward promotions within one’s firm made upward mobility a real possibility for workers. Ultimately, the safety net provided by the structure of employment left parents confident that their kids would end up better off than they did. Soon after, however, this shot at upward mobility grew elusive. Ninety percent of Americans born in 1940 saw better economic conditions than their parents, yet for those born in 1980, this dropped to just 50 percent. So what changed? Since the late 1970s, financial liberalization and global market integration have enabled companies and industries to substitute stable, long-term, and benefit-carrying jobs with more flexible and precarious forms of employment. This process, dubbed the “fissurization” of the American economy by economist David Weil, has led companies to construct vast subcontracting networks, outsourcing operations once central to their
“Since the late 1970s, financial liberalization and global market integration have enabled companies and industries to substitute stable, long-term, and benefit-carrying jobs with more flexible and precarious forms of employment.”
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THE SECOND DEATH OF A SALESMAN business practices to cheaper and less regulated third-party suppliers. The gig economy is the apogee of our fissured workforce. Admittedly, this new market structure does have certain conveniences. Gig employers tout the freedom and autonomy enjoyed by their workers, often citing the flexibility that comes with “being your own boss.” Gig work has also lowered barriers to market entry, a phenomenon best illustrated by Uber’s disruption of the taxi cartel. Drivers once had to navigate a complex certification process in order to acquire a taxi medallion. Now it takes just a few days to register as an Uber driver, demonstrating that gig networks often provide an avenue through which otherwise excluded individuals can earn a wage. But flexibility comes at a price. Market exclusion and unemployment are issues that merit serious attention, but gig jobs fail to provide a sustainable and robust solution. Uber, for instance, legally classifies its drivers as independent contractors, not employees. By making this distinction, the company exempts itself from worker’s compensation laws, meaning it doesn’t have to pay for most benefits, payroll taxes, or overtime fees. These companies treat their workers as side-hustlers, but many workers depend upon such gig work as an essential source of income. Characterizing gig work as merely a side-hustle ignores the reality of a deeply flawed system that compels individuals to work overtime just to earn a living. Another shortcoming of the gig structure is that it often prevents workers from unionizing or collectively bargaining for better working conditions. Antitrust law, originally intended to block concentrations of market power, is now used by corporate lawyers to prevent independent contractors from forming unions on the basis that such activity is price collusion. Indeed, corporate efforts to undermine unions have turned militaristic: In 2012, Walmart went so far as to hire Lockheed Martin, a defense contractor, to weed out union activity. Because of attacks like these on collective bargaining power, labor protections once taken for granted are now at risk. Health care, wage stability, and other benefits have become harder to protect. More concerningly, the government is growing increasingly reliant upon the private sector for health care and social security provision, meaning there’s no guarantee that gig workers are receiving the health benefits they need. Together, these trends are worrisome. A 2016 study from Pew Research found that 58 percent of full-time gig workers can’t afford a $400 emergency expense, compared to 38 percent of all other workers.
“While the technical details of how to protect workers from the pitfalls of the gig economy remain fuzzy, one thing is certain: organized labor must have a seat at the negotiating table.”
To address these structural deficiencies, the California State Senate recently passed Assembly Bill 5 (A.B. 5), a law that requires gig employers to reclassify their “contractors” as employees. The bill also entitles employees in the gig economy to receive California’s minimum wage, which will rise to $15 an hour in 2022. In comparison, Uber drivers currently earn an average of $9.73 an hour after expenses like gas and maintenance, according to an estimate from Vox. Unsurprisingly, A.B. 5 has faced considerable resistance. Since its passage, Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash have collectively pledged $90 million toward a ballot initiative that would exempt them from the new bill. Uber’s chief legal officer has also indicated that the company will continue to classify its driver-partners as independent contractors, and Uber plans to dispute A.B. 5’s interpretation in court. Yet even gig-employers agree that a business-as-usual approach is unsustainable. When asked about the growing income inequality between corporate executives and contracted workers, current Uber C.E.O. Dara Khosrowshahi admitted that things have “gone too far.” Khosrowshahi also acknowledged that the current social safety system is ill-equipped for today’s changing labor market. Proposed solutions to this predicament range in scope and angle. Khosrowshahi, on the one hand, believes the government should be responsible for reform. He has advocated
for a new “portable benefits” system that could account for flexible employment relationships in the gig economy. Such a system would enable independent contractors to receive benefits like health care through a plan paid for by a pool of employers. Politicians have raised other solutions. Presidential hopeful Senator Elizabeth Warren wants to require that large corporations have 40 percent of their board of directors chosen by their employees. Another presidential candidate, Senator Bernie Sanders, has proposed a Workplace Democracy Plan that would eliminate barriers to union formation and codify the distinction between independent contractors and employees. Both plans are necessary responses to the profound economic transformations of our day. While the technical details of how to protect workers from the pitfalls of the gig economy remain fuzzy, one thing is certain: Organized labor must have a seat at the negotiating table. Government officials cannot sit idly by as employers in the fissured gig economy threaten to relegate their workers to the vulnerable position of disposable input costs. In 1944, the Austrian political economist Karl Polanyi wrote, “to allow the market mechanism to be the sole director of the fate of human beings… would result in the demolition of society.” Seventy-five years later, his words still ring true—and with deafening urgency.
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TUNNEL VISION Fixing the Tri-State tunnel problem by patrick gilfillan ’21, a Political Science concentrator and a Marketing Associate and Copy Editor at BPR. illustrator molly kate young ’20
Referred to as “the single most important infrastructure project not only for this region but for the entire nation” by Governors Andrew Cuomo of New York and Phil Murphy of New Jersey, the Gateway Development Program attempts to rebuild deteriorating tunnels below the Hudson River to save the greater New York City area from financial catastrophe. The North River Tunnels lie under the Hudson River and carry approximately 200,000 Amtrak and N.J. Transit passengers to and from Manhattan each day. In addition, these tunnels are the epicenter of the Northeast Corridor (NEC) that connects Washington D.C. to Boston by rail. While these tunnels ensure the
timely travel of almost one million people daily, they are also in deep trouble. The tunnels, constructed in 1910, have not been properly maintained or revitalized since Hurricane Sandy in 2012, when saltwater flooding resulted in immense structural damage. In June 2019, the New Jersey and New York state legislatures passed identical legislation that solidified the project under the Gateway Development Commission. The Gateway Development Program is attempting the largest domestic infrastructure project in decades. The project aims to build two new Hudson River tunnels, revitalize the current North River Tunnels, and re-build the 100-year-old Portal
“The only way for the Gateway Program to move forward is for the federal government to provide the funding necessary to construct the tunnels. The federal government must support this project to prevent the loss of billions of dollars and protect the NEC from collapse.” 36
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North Bridge, which is the cause of many rail stoppages and cancellations. Unfortunately, the project, which is expected to cost nearly $13 billion, has stagnated after receiving countless funding rejections from the federal government and the Department of Transportation, both of which argue that the project is a local initiative. This political struggle neglects the needs of local stakeholders and puts partisan fighting ahead of the livelihoods of the Americans who rely on these tunnels. The only way for the Gateway Program to move forward is for the federal government to provide the funding necessary to construct the tunnels. The federal government must support this project to prevent the loss of billions of dollars and protect the NEC from collapse. It is estimated that a tunnel shutdown could cost the U.S. as much as $16 billion over four years. The loss of one tunnel would also force thousands of regular commuters to find new ways to cross the Hudson, while others would see increases in commute times.
A future shutdown of just one of these tunnels would result in the loss of thousands of jobs and threaten nearly 20 percent of the national GDP. A tunnel stoppage could also cause a recession in the greater New York City area, for the deteriorating North River tunnels connect numerous cities and local economies. As this region is home to 17 percent of the U.S. population and almost 100 Fortune 500 companies, this problem threatens both the financial security of countless Americans and the many organizations that rely on the tunnels under the Hudson River to connect them to their employees. Through the Department of Transportation, the Obama administration originally agreed to provide half of the funding—nearly $5.5 billion—if New York and New Jersey covered the remaining half of the cost. However, the Trump administration quickly abandoned this plan on the grounds that state governments were not providing enough resources. Many also believe that Trump’s actions
represent his disdain for the region’s powerful Democrats, such as Cory Booker and Chuck Schumer, who have championed the project. While President Trump emphasized his intention to invest heavily in the nation’s failing infrastructure during his campaign, the Federal Transit Administration has recently downgraded the urgency of this project to “medium-low.” Jerry Zaro, chairman of the Gateway Program Development Corporation, has even noted that “Gateway is a political pawn, plain and simple—a political hostage of Washington.” As the decaying tunnels threaten the financial security of hundreds of thousands of people and leave commuters immobile, the federal government must handle the Gateway Development Program with the urgency it deserves. As a tunnel shutdown would most likely create a regional and national recession, the Trump administration must work with the New Jersey and New York state legislatures to finance this project to protect the Tri-State Area and the NEC from economic devastation. Today,
“Jerry Zaro, chairman of the Gateway Program Development Corporation, has even noted that ‘Gateway is a political pawn, plain and simple—a political hostage of Washington.’”
Amtrak engineers believe the tunnel has a life expectancy of 20 years. As politicians continue to fight over funding for this project, the prospect of completing one of the largest rail infrastructure projects in decades remains a fantasy. Given that the Gateway Program increases access to the largest regional economy in the U.S. and ensures the safety of thousands of individuals, the federal government must tackle this national problem before it’s too late.
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ZEROWASTE LANDS Local engagement can keep cities in the recycling game by peter lees ’21, a Public Policy concentrator and a Managing Editor at BPR. data by emilia ruzicka ’21 infographic by minji koo ’20
These days, recycling is out, and recycling cynicism is in. In 2017, that cynicism peaked when China axed a decades-long agreement to purchase American recycling. This left environmentalists, policymakers, and concerned citizens wondering: Could Americans adapt and deal with their own recycling, or would most of what we “recycle” end up in the trash? For example, how much of the aluminum, steel, iron, and glass in Seattle—a city that regularly touts its environmentalism—is actually recycled in Seattle? That’s right: All of it. Wait... what? Indeed, Seattle’s success in adapting to the new recycling landscape contrasts starkly with news headlines such as “Is This the End of Recycling?” and “Since China’s Ban, Recycling in the U.S. Has Gone Up in Flames.” Seattle, alongside other cities and states across America, is pursuing an ambitious zero-waste program. In the face of doomsday predictions, these places lead the country in material
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recovery rates and prove that recycling can still work. To get there, we must focus efforts on local engagement and public outreach. The benefits of recycling are extensive, ranging from pollution reduction to energy saving to economic stimulus. For example, recycling petroleum-based plastics provides an alternative to new extraction, thus protecting the environment from damaging drilling processes. Moreover, manufacturing products with recycled aluminum as opposed to new aluminum reduces energy consumption by 95 percent, helping the environment while saving companies money. As for the economy, the National Resources Defense Council estimates that diverting 75 percent of solid waste would create 2.3 million jobs by 2030. Given these benefits, it is concerning to see a decline in American recycling following China’s “National Sword” decision, the official name for China’s recycling ban. The media’s doomsday headlines do in fact reflect a trend. In what seems like a direct consequence of National Sword, recycling plants across the country are shuttering, and cities are reducing the scope of their recycling plans. Some are even eliminating them outright. Philadelphia, for example, identified neighborhoods with high contamination rates and began sending their recycling to an incinerator earlier this year. Meanwhile, Deltona, Florida suspended its curbside recycling program due to high costs. Though nationwide assessments of waste management are lacking, one projection from the Plastic Pollution Coalition, an alliance of organizations and businesses “working toward a world free of plastic pollution,” estimated that overall recycling dropped by 4.4 percent in 2018.
But not all is lost. In some cities, this dismal trend doesn’t hold. Seattle, for instance, has maintained meaningful waste reduction since China’s ban, achieving all-time per-capita lows in terms of waste produced for the last two years. On an average day in 2018, the average Seattleite threw out about 2.16 pounds of waste, compared to the U.S. average of 4.4 pounds. Individual states have made positive strides as well. In Vermont, statewide recycling by weight rose slightly from 2016 to 2017, despite rising costs throughout the recycling industry. To figure out how these governments are defying the recycling depression—and to learn from their successes—we need to consider how they counteract two barriers to effective recycling: a lack of citizen participation and recycling contamination (when dirtied or non-recyclable items force cities to redirect recycling collections to the landfill). Certainly, citizens must understand their city’s recycling programs, and they must actively recycle for state or city programs to do any good. For example, plastic bottles are one of the easiest materials to recycle, but only an estimated third of them make it into recycling facilities due to improper disposal. Contamination also leads to higher costs, as workers must spend more time sorting recyclable material from non-recyclable. One major cause of contamination is “aspirational recycling,” or the practice of putting non-recyclable materials into the recycling bin. The pitfalls of contamination are undeniable, and they even played a role in China’s National Sword decision; China set a maximum contamination rate of 0.5 percent,
“To figure out how these governments are defying the recycling depression— and to learn from their successes—we need to consider how they counteract two barriers to effective recycling: a lack of citizen participation and recycling contamination.”
yet U.S. contamination rates reach as high as 25 percent. However varied, state and city approaches to these challenges have a uniting principle: the realization that solutions tend to come from local engagement with recycling programs. In Vermont, much of the success in fostering recycling participation can be attributed to a 2012 statewide ban on recyclable materials in landfills and to mandatory composting and recycling policies. The government also requires waste haulers to offer compost and organic waste services, and it mandates that edible foods be donated if possible. It seems to be working: Food scraps diverted to composting facilities rose by nine percent from 2016 to 2017. Similarly, San Francisco requires property owners and managers to provide differently colored bins for compost, recycling, and trash, and it enforces the policy with fines. As a result,
San Francisco has the lowest per-capita landfill waste in all of the U.S., with just 1.5 pounds of landfill waste per person per day. That’s a diversion rate of around 80 percent. Put simply, recycling mandates work. Still, some balk at the severity of a mandate, advocating instead for an incentive-based model designed to nudge, rather than force, participants towards better habits. Seattle, which has a more leniently enforced recycling mandate—single family homes pay a one dollar fine if more than ten percent of their trash is food material—supplements its mandate with a carefully considered set of financial incentives. In this system, citizens pay for the trash they produce by weight, while they pay no fees to recycle. As for contamination, which is a direct consequence of confusion or misinformation, information campaigns can be transformative. In a coordinated outreach campaign, Seattle
sends regular newsletters to residents on sustainability issues, including what to recycle, how to recycle it, and what exactly happens to their recycling when it leaves the curb. City officials have also conducted interviews with local news and radio stations to broaden the reach of these messages. So far, the city is optimistic about the impact of the approach. Taken together, the most effective recycling strategies—from Seattle to Vermont, from recycling mandates to media campaigns—are based on the understanding that local engagement with citizens works. The results are clear: The most stable regions amidst the recent recycling uncertainty are those taking a local and engaged approach. China’s National Sword tests our commitment to and capacity for recycling. If the U.S. still wants to make recycling work, we can. We just need to look to the cities and states that are weathering the storm.
Recycling of Municipal Solid Waste in the U.S.
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Interview with Azim Shariff Dr. Azim Shariff is a social psychologist whose research focuses on the intersection of morality and religion, cultural attitudes, and economics. Shariff is one of the researchers behind the Moral Machine study, the largest ever study on machine ethics, which measured social responses to decisions made by autonomous vehicles. Shariff currently holds the position of Canada 150 Research Chair of Moral Psychology at The University of British Columbia.
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by Neil Sehgal ’21
illustrator Owen Rival ’21
neil sehgal Germany is the only country to have devised an ethical framework for driverless cars. How well designed do you find this framework? azim shariff The fact that you see inconsistencies between what those ethicists have suggested and what you see in the Moral Machine shouldn’t be taken to suggest that the Moral Machine is right, that we should be following what the demos suggest. I don’t think ethics is a democracy. I think that the majority of the public could be wrong on these kinds of issues because they haven’t been trained as the hired ethicists on the German committee are. Where the inconsistency matters is in the type of pushback you’re going to get between the intuitive moral position of the populace and what the legal scholars, policymakers, and industry decide. It might be that they arrive at the most ethically correct positions, but it’s still something which is not supported by the public at large, in which case you have tension that can manifest in all sorts of different ways, including people not buying into the technology, which negates the whole purpose. Rather than saying that what the demos in the Moral Machine suggest is what we should use as an ethical guideline, it should be taken as a first step in indicating how the public thinks. So we can either figure out how to bring our trained ethical position closer to the public or figure out how to bring the public closer to our ethics professionals.
ns How can we go about bringing the public closer to the trained ethicists? Your research has found that people prefer that others ride utilitarian driverless cars that minimize the number of casualties but that they themselves would prefer to ride in driverless cars that protect passengers at all costs. How do we address these situations? as I don’t think it’s impossible because norms can change pretty quickly, especially when they are norms about novel situations that people really haven’t thought about before. One possibility is to imagine that the first wave of automated cars is not private vehicles that people own but is instead ridesharing. For ridesharing, 99.9 percent of the time, you will be a stakeholder outside of that particular car. It will be on the road, and you will be either a pedestrian, another driver, or cyclist to that particular Uber. On the other hand, 0.1 percent of the time, you’re the passenger. And if you then say, “What should the Uber do?” you’re primarily thinking about a non-passenger to that Uber. And in that sense, you might think about all the roles that you’re going to be in. “I think this Uber should not prioritize the life of the passenger relative to everybody else because usually, I’m going to be everybody else.” And that makes you recognize that even for the fraction of the time that you are a passenger, you should actually subscribe to the Uber treating all lives equally rather than prioritizing the passenger, which you happen to be in that moment. And then by the time some portion of the population has private, automated cars, they’d be totally understanding for them being utilitarian because the norms have been set. ns In the future, who will get the final word on the ethical decisions for driverless cars? as From the people in the industry that I’ve talked to, most want nothing more than to have this decision taken out of their hands. They don’t want to be held liable for ethical decisions that result in life-or-death outcomes. They would much rather it have been a government decision. They’ll say, “The government said we have to do X, so we did X,” and the government is answerable to the people in a democratic system. And as a “big government Canadian,” I think that’s probably the way to go and the way to maximize the utilitarian approach.
“And that makes you recognize that even for the fraction of the time that you are a passenger, you should actually subscribe to the Uber treating all lives equally rather than prioritizing the passenger, which you happen to be in that moment.”
Of course, it has the potential of cooling the sales of the cars if the ethics that the government regulates are in opposition to what people actually want. ns How safe do driverless cars need to be before we let them on roads at a massive scale? as One of the challenges is that from a purely rational standpoint, it would make sense to put them on the road as soon as they’re better than the average human. Because once you do that, then car accidents should start declining. Even if they’re just ten percent better than the average human, you have legitimate arguments to put them on the roads. The problem is, who’s going to buy cars that are just ten percent better? Our research shows that very few people are willing to buy a car that’s just ten percent better than the average, partially because everybody thinks they’re, on average, in the top quartile of drivers. People are not going to buy a car that is less good than they perceive themselves to be. Then you’ll need the cars to be better than the top quartile of drivers. So it’s a combination of government regulation: Your car is not allowed
on the road until it is X safe—consumer preference—I will only buy a car when it is Y safe. And the gap between X and Y, it’s probably considerable.
You might also have different situations where there aren’t individual private owners. There, it’s whether people are willing to get into the car rather than buy it themselves. When you get into an Uber, you don’t know how much better or worse the Uber driver is than you. So you decide the Uber is probably safe enough that you’re going to ride in it. That might be a different standard, but they should be better than humans, of course.
ns I don’t think it would be fair to end without asking this. Would you pull the lever and kill one person or would you do nothing and allow the five to die? as Oh, no—I’d definitely pull the lever.
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Recentering Civilians How the U.S. military could use social science to mitigate collateral damage
by madeline noh ’22, a Public Health and Anthropology concentrator and a U.S. Staff Writer at BPR. illustrator vienna gambol ’20
In 2007, the U.S. military invested in its most costly social science endeavor to date: the Human Terrain System (HTS). HTS cost the Pentagon $750 million and deployed 31 “Human Terrain Teams” into war zones in Afghanistan and Iraq before the Obama administration discontinued its funding in 2014. HTS sought to create a social understanding of a war zone’s local “human terrain” by employing social scientists to gain intel on local customs, traditions, and social and cultural norms. In this regard, HTS hoped to assist American troops in developing more contextually-attuned approaches to local interventions, thus easing cross-cultural tensions. The program was not without controversy, however, and it quickly elicited the staunch disapproval of groups such as the American Anthropological Association (AAA). But while HTS certainly presented ethical quandaries regarding the use of anthropological methods in combat, one of its core intentions—to improve cultural understanding—holds great value. This is especially true in the context of
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current U.S. interventionism and relations to local noncombatants. These individuals bear the largest burdens of war but are consistently ignored in considerations of American foreign policy. Though HTS is no more, it can be used as a future framework. To be effective, it must move away from sending anthropologists directly into war and should instead consist of expert-guided training to provide forces with cultural competence and sensitivity to civilian life. HTS may have been the most recent attempt of the U.S. military to employ anthropological expertise in combat, but it is certainly not the first time that social scientists have found themselves entangled in war. Before World War I, the British Empire used anthropologists to develop strategies for quelling anti-colonial uprisings in potential insurgent states. Similarly, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s reliance upon advice from anthropologist Ruth Benedict played a major role in developing his World War II strategy towards Japan. In more recent history, the U.S. military’s counterinsurgency (COIN) strategies have relied upon a comprehensive understanding of the socio-cultural landscapes of other nations, a “population-centric” approach that aims to address root social and political determinants
â€œThough HTS is no more, it can be used as a future framework. To be effective, it must move away from sending anthropologists directly into war and should instead consist of expertguided training to provide forces with cultural competence and sensitivity to civilian life.â€? THE MOBILITY ISSUE
of conflicts and tensions, especially concerning the so-called “war on terror.” This history of social science involvement in military strategy makes the Pentagon’s discontinuation of HTS all the more curious. In 2014, to justify the sudden demise of HTS, Army officials publicly disseminated a report arguing that ground troops no longer required the help of civilian anthropologists. Outside observers, however, argued that the program ceased due to various major administrative and organizational failures. Investigations yielded suspicion that the program was built upon
“The inclusion of social science in military training, then, serves not to exacerbate conflict but to mitigate collateral damage. ” 44
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concealed and persistent instances of fraud, ranging from fake time sheets to claims of sexual harassment. Questions also arose about new hirees’ qualifications and the origins of the operation’s funds. Most importantly, HTS raised ethical and moral concerns from its very conception. From its outset in 2007, the AAA expressed opposition to HTS, claiming that promoting the introduction of anthropologists in war zones violated its code of ethics. Collecting sensitive data about locals for the U.S. government presented a murky dilemma with regard to transparency, intention, and complacency. This quandary highlights the tension between idealism and pragmatism in military operations. Though the righteousness of American military activity can and should be called into question, the modern context and deep entrenchment of U.S. forces in combat worldwide represent a web of relations that is not easily discarded. The employment of anthropological methods in military strategy has traditionally been preoccupied with entrapping enemy combatants, but critics have overlooked the enormous potential of cultural competency
skills to mediate and improve engagement with civilians. The inclusion of social science in military training, then, serves not to exacerbate conflict but to mitigate collateral damage. While HTS was somewhat shrouded in mystery, one of its purported values was to strive towards cultural attunement. This is a necessary goal when members of different cultures live side by side and face power imbalances: For example, armed foreigners over vulnerable locals, combatants over civilians. In short: If we’re there anyway, why not do as little harm as possible? When we live and work alongside ordinary people, these neighbors deserve our respect. We can employ social science to soften the effects of military occupation and violence that cannot be dissipated simplistically or immediately. Less-than-stellar attempts to train U.S. military members in the language of cultural competence have been made in the recent past. Fort Irwin, a U.S. Army base in the Mojave Desert, is meant to serve as a re-creation of the Afghan village Ertebat Shar. Actors are hired to play fake habitants and insurgents within the 1,000-square mile locale. Notably, the “town” simulates both civilians and combatants, yet it—and most COIN operations—was created
RECENTERING CIVILIANS with the foremost intention of manipulating civilian trust and compliance through cultural competency. These processes regretfully failed to privilege civilian needs—a woeful and morally-hazardous error. The Geneva Conventions, colloquially referred to as the “laws of war,” focus on the protection of civilians who may or may not be targeted in military action with the goal of “humanizing war.” The conventions, ratified by 196 states, including the U.S., emphasize the relationship between combatants and noncombatants in warfare and stress the important concepts of discrimination and proportionality. Discrimination refers to the duty of militaries to distinguish between combatants and noncombatants, while proportionality is concerned with minimizing civilian collateral damage. Violence, however, remains rampant, particularly as warfare becomes increasingly untraditional. Culturally sensitive, civilian-oriented approaches offer a potential form of redress. This is especially important as nations such as the U.S. immerse themselves in gray zones of warfare. There are numerous recent interventions emblematic of this trend, such as a 2017 U.S.-led campaign in Raqqa, Syria against the Islamic State, which left 1,600 civilians dead. Although leading U.S. officers and commanders touted the exactitude of
their precision strikes and claimed that they prioritized civilian protection, observers tell a different story. Amnesty International emphasizes that such strikes inflict mass harm, lack precise discernment between civilians and combatants, and do not follow principles of discrimination and proportionality. These haphazard actions disregard civilian presence and emphasize how respect and dignity towards these local non-combatants are often not among the U.S. military’s priorities, thus rendering them war crimes. The U.S. is not a party to the Rome Statute, meaning that its citizens cannot appear before the International Criminal Court or be tried for war crimes. Still, the U.S. should adhere to the Geneva Conventions as part of re-establishing and mending ties with civilians, which are, at
best, extremely frayed. Social science can get us there. Advocating for comprehensive cultural knowledge within the ranks of the U.S. military feels like a murky line to cross, given the potential ethical quandaries that may arise. Though warfare and violence should already function as a last resort, it is imperative that civilians be respected if they are caught in them. Re-imagining a military strategy which adopts cultural competency training to promote increased understanding and empathy towards locals may seem like an idealistic hope, yet this strategy will prove necessary in imbuing respect and care in combatant-civilian relations. After all, civilians did not choose to find themselves in crossfire.
“Though warfare and violence should already function as a last resort, it is imperative that civilians be respected if they are caught in them.”
THE MOBILITY ISSUE
Interview with Gregory H. Shill
by Nick Whitaker ’20
illustrator Owen Rival ’21
Gregory H. Shill is a professor at the University of Iowa College of Law. His recent work has focused on transportation law and policy. Over the summer, he published an article in The Atlantic entitled “Car Crashes Aren’t Always Unavoidable,” detailing the ways in which the U.S. legal system normalized driving.
nick whitaker I find it hard to imagine cities without their car infrastructure. Reading your work, I wondered: Should we think of the dominance of cars as a mode of city transportation as a highly contingent historical fact? gregory shill It definitely wasn’t inevitable. It was highly contested at the time. Peter Norton, a historian at UVA, wrote a book called Fighting Traffic where he talks about the evolution of the purpose of the streets. Today, we think of [streets] as corridors for fastmoving vehicles. Norton shows that they were previously understood as a public space: Children would play, vendors would set up shop, and people would walk. There were still sidewalks, but it was also not only lawful but socially acceptable to linger in the street. So that change was not inevitable but rather a political choice. nw How closely do you think that the car subsidy issues are tied to other urban issues like the housing crisis, and do you think that we need to change the policies on both to fix this situation? gs It depends on the results you seek. As I see it, there are three major costs to car dependency: public health, climate change, and the degradation of the quality of life and the urban form. In the category of public health, we have 35,000 to 40,000 car crash deaths a year. We also have 53,000 deaths from car emissions. A large number of those are not from tailpipe conditions. They’re from a particulate matter—PM
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2.5 in particular—which is aerosolized by brake pads and tire wear. It can enter into our hearts and lungs. Particulate Matter causes problems from cancer to asthma to a reduction in brain function. It’s a big problem that switching to electric vehicles, for example, would not solve. Though perhaps the detrimental effects to public health and climate change could be reduced, even if we were to develop some sort of magic wand to make cars carbon neutral and to eliminate crash deaths, we would still live in a world designed for the car. There’s a great quote from a Dutch intellectual: “In the 20th century, we made it possible to go to the moon but impossible to cross the street.” nw Part of your critique seems to be that these three costs you identify—public health, climate change, and quality of life—are externalities not incorporated into the price of driving. Moreover, driving is further subsidized by other laws. So if we stopped subsidizing cars and internalized the full range of externalities of driving into the price, would that be satisfactory to you? Or do you think there are additional problems even after we internalize those externalities into the price? gs I don’t think we’re close to being there, but it’s an important question. It used to be legal to smoke in restaurants and bars. Eventually, for health reasons, smoking was banned outright. We also increased taxes on cigarettes at the same time. Right now, we don’t have a “non-smoking” area in the city, in terms of driving. You can drive basically anywhere in the city, even in areas
that are very densely built up with tens of thousands of pedestrians on the streets any given hour—Midtown Manhattan, for example. We allow cars there just like we allow them on Highway 95. I think that’s a decision that’s worth revisiting. There are some places where we just shouldn’t subject people to secondhand driving. By analogy, Bill Gates can’t smoke in the hospital, even if he’s willing to pay one billion dollars for the privilege. There is just a “no smoking” rule. You could imagine a given hospital being tempted to take the money, but basically, we don’t have a system where you can smoke if you pay enough money in a hospital. We have a system where you’re just not allowed to smoke in the hospital, flat-out. That’s a model that we should be thinking about for certain areas. nw If there were people reading this that felt compelled to take up this cause, where would you tell them to begin? gs The solutions really are political. There’s very little that personal action can do because the system creates problems requiring joint action. I would say get involved in local politics—specifically, join your local walk or bike advocacy organization. They exist in a surprising number of places, not just in big cities. They often are engaged with local leaders and will know who’s good on what issues and what the important council meetings or community board meetings to attend are. Unfortunately, it’s a situation where bad decisions were made long before any of your readers were born. It’s going to take a concerted effort to change that.
LICENSE TO TOIL
LICENSE TO TOIL Occupational licensing laws are crushing workers’ opportunities by anagha lokhande ’20, an Economics concentrator and an Associate Editor at BPR. illustrator katie quirk ’20
Rhode Islander Jocelyn DoCouto was like many aspiring entrepreneurs: hardworking, ambitious, but subject to burdensome licensing regulations that made it nearly impossible for her to earn a living. Before this summer, when Governor Gina Raimondo signed a bill exempting hair braiders from traditional cosmetology licensing requirements, Jocelyn would have had to pay $17,000 and spend 1,200 hours in cosmetology training that has little relation to her craft of African hair braiding. With the law’s passage, Jocelyn is now able to run a successful business. However, not all workers across the U.S. are so lucky.
Over the last few decades, these licensing laws have exploded due to aggressive lobbying of state legislatures by professional organizations. In 1970, about five percent of Americans were required to have a license to work. Today, that number stands at around 30 percent. The procedure for obtaining a license consists of the same general components—nationwide application fees, exams, training, and work experience—but requirements vary widely across both professions and state lines. Lower-skilled jobs tend to be regulated by the government, while higher-skilled occupations, such as law and medicine, tend to be supervised privately through
organizations comprised of the practitioners themselves. It may seem reassuring to know that your doctor, plumber, or makeup artist is licensed to practice their trade. The reality, however, is that these regulations harm both working class Americans like Jocelyn and the U.S. economy as a whole. Perhaps the most significant implication of licensing regulations is the massive upfront cost they pose to low-skilled labor. For instance, the average training requirement for a cosmetologist is 372 days, compared to the mere 33 days required to become an emergency medical technician. These requirements are often in place even for loosely-related fields
“Perhaps the most significant implication of licensing regulations is the massive upfront cost they pose to low-skilled labor.” THE MOBILITY ISSUE
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LICENSE TO TOIL such as eyebrow threading and African-style hair braiding, which are not covered by cosmetology curricula. A range of lower-skilled professions, from landscaping to home entertainment system installation to fortune telling, also require licensure. A recent national study of 102 low-to-moderate income fields found that occupational licensing laws impose an average of $209 in fees, nine months of education, and an exam. For many low- to middle-income workers, these are huge burdens. Also troubling is the complete lack of consistency in licensing requirements across state lines. Seven states require a license to be a tree trimmer. California demands that tree trimmers have four years of experience, pay $529, and take two exams, while Maryland requires two years of training and just one year of experience. Furthermore, licenses are nontransferable across state lines. Workers must not only apply for licensure but also complete the specific training modules required by their state. These disparities have adverse impacts at both the micro- and macro- levels. Not only do they restrict the ability of lower-income workers to move to areas of greater economic opportunity, but they also create inefficiencies in the distribution of human capital. These laws also have adverse impacts on both the legal and medical professions and on society at large. Private licensing organizations in both fields excessively regulate who may practice. Tight state restrictions on the “unauthorized practice of law,” for example, prevent inexpensive internet-based companies from becoming full service providers. These effects have even greater impacts in the medical field: The U.S. faces a shortage of primary care practitioners, and occupational licensing laws prohibit nurses and nurse practitioners from providing care independent of doctors. While advanced medical degrees are undoubtedly required for some procedures, in more than half of the states in the U.S., non-physician primary care providers cannot prescribe medications for the kinds of routine illnesses they are trained to handle. This means independent nurse practitioners and affordable retail clinics are crippled in their ability to provide necessary, low-cost medical care to those who need it most. Between the high upfront costs to workers and the quagmire of regulatory inconsistencies, it’s no surprise that occupational licensing laws have a number of additional adverse economic effects. The most prominent is income inequality. High costs create artificially high barriers to entry, particularly in lower-skilled fields. By restricting the number of service providers
“For many low-skilled services, market forces may simply be the best way to ensure quality outcomes, both through informal internet-based service rating websites such as Yelp as well as through demand for certifications that consumers desire.” in a given field and thus reducing competition, incumbent providers are able to charge higher fees for their work. For example, licensing is associated with 14 percent higher wages, and this effect is more pronounced in higher-skilled professions. Those who are unable to obtain licenses must either face unemployment or crowd into occupations with lower barriers to entry and lower wages. This increases income inequality because established firms and professionals, which tend to be better off, can continue charging excessively high prices, while new entrants are locked out of these higher paying jobs. But the question still stands: Despite their many flaws, do occupational licensing laws protect consumers from dangerous or fraudulent practices? Empirically, the answer is an unequivocal no. This is best demonstrated by the disparities in licensure regulations between states. Manicurists, for example, require only three days of training in Alaska and nine in Iowa. Over ten states require at least four months of training, yet there is no evidence of higher rates of dangerous manicures in Alaska or Iowa. Furthermore, and perhaps more importantly, there is no evidence that consumers have demanded stringent regulations for many lower-skilled jobs: Occupational licensing bills have been passed almost exclusively as a result of incumbent professionals’ lobbying. In recent years, Rhode Island has begun taking on the issue of licensing statutes—these laws have cost the state about 7,000 jobs and $675 million in annual economic output. In addition to the bill exempting hair braiders from cosmetology requirements passed this
summer, in 2016 Governor Raimondo signed a budget repealing over two dozen occupational license requirements across the state. While these are steps in the right direction, more needs to be done to open up opportunities for residents and attract innovation. Fortunately, several feasible solutions have been proposed to ameliorate the situation. For many low-skilled services, market forces may simply be the best way to ensure quality outcomes, both through informal internet-based service rating websites such as Yelp as well as through demand for certifications that consumers desire. Another possible alternative includes requiring registration with a state regulatory body, which displays practitioners on a publicly-available list. Improper citing of credentials or consumer complaints could result in removal from the list so that consumers would know which businesses have a high-quality service record. Service providers could also obtain voluntary professional certification to demonstrate competence. Both of these solutions would allow for consumer transparency and some central oversight without excessive requirements. Couched in innocuous language, occupational licensing laws have quietly proliferated, decreasing opportunities for vulnerable workers and placing an undue burden on consumers. The deleterious effects of these laws must be curtailed through reform at both the state and national levels.
THE MOBILITY ISSUE
Interview with Gerónimo Gutiérrez Fernández neha mukherjee & shilpa sajja What were your day-to-day tasks as an ambassador? gerónimo gutiérrez fernández One of the most important tasks is learning how to establish limits and when to differ clearly and intelligently. Some people have referred to the U.S.-Mexico relationship as a marriage. It is good, but it needs a lot of work and is not always easy. nm&ss How did President Trump’s rhetoric about Mexican people affect your work as ambassador? ggf President Trump has made a lot of public expressions about Mexico and Mexicans in general that I would just simply beg to differ from. They do not reflect what Mexico is, and they do not reflect who Mexicans are. Like any country, Mexico has challenges and has shortcomings, but the vast majority of Mexicans that come to the United States or live in the United States make a great contribution to the economy. [In terms of rhetoric], Twitter diplomacy is new, not only for Mexico but for the world. Nevertheless, we try to stay the course in the relationship and establish very clear limits with the Trump administration. After two years, I would say that we have a much more stable situation compared to the one we had in early 2017. nm&ss How has the trade relationship between the U.S. and Mexico been impacted by the Trump administration? ggf Well, as you know, we started negotiations to update and modernize the North American Free Trade Agreement. The new treaty, the USMCA (United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement), and its ratification are extremely important because at a time when there is a
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by Neha Mukherjee ’22 Shilpa Sajja ’23 illustrator Owen Rival ’21
Gerónimo Gutiérrez Fernández served as the Mexican ambassador to the United States from 2017 to 2018. He believes in fostering a strong relationship between the United States and Mexico. He is currently working to develop infrastructure in Latin America. worldwide backlash against free trade, I think that the USMCA will be beneficial. Furthermore, in the world context, it will prove that trade is the right way to go as long as we make every effort to ensure that that trade benefits everybody. All the countries that are involved have tried to make sure that the benefits of the trade agreement are really shared by everybody, and that’s not easy. nm&ss What do you see as the future of the trading relationship between the U.S. and Mexico, especially with the upcoming election? ggf Well, something very interesting happened. As you know, there was a change in government in Mexico, so there’s a new administration that has been in office for almost a year now. From a political point of view, the new administration is much more left of the yard than the previous administrations. Nevertheless, during the transition, the new administration and our administration saw very much eye to eye on the importance of the trading relationship and actually worked together during the negotiation, so the new government has continued to support trade with the United States. On the U.S. side, President Trump has, in my view, pretty much committed to getting USMCA approved. If that happens, what we will see is a very significant growth in trade and investment flows. In terms of the U.S. election, I think what’s positive so far is that in some way or another all the candidates have recognized that there’s a need for comprehensive immigration reform. That’s something that the U.S. should process, and Mexico should be respectful of that.
nm&ss What do you think is driving the number of border crossings from Mexico to the U.S.? ggf Border crossing is a centuries-old phenomenon that grew rapidly during the ’70s and ’80s. It is a result of poor economic performance on the part of Mexico. However, beginning in 2000, the number of Mexicans trying to cross the border undocumented has been consistently declining, at least until very recently. And why is that? You know, there’s certainly an issue of increased enforcement on the part of the United States, but there is also the fact that people are finding better conditions in Mexico. What has also changed is that Mexico is receiving a lot more people from Central America trying to come through Mexico and cross into the United States. Both the U.S. and Mexican governments, along with Central American countries, are trying to address this situation. nm&ss How did your role as an ambassador affect your view of the world? ggf It gives you a lot of perspective on world affairs. For one, you meet all kinds of people, like ambassadors from other countries, with whom you share views on common problems or on what is going on worldwide. The other thing is that Washington is a power center, and it will continue to be a power center, as it has representatives from 180 countries. Your daily interactions in Washington help you get perspective. nm&ss Is there anything we haven’t touched upon that you’d like to share? ggf It is always refreshing to interact with college students. I want to know what they think, where they’re going and what their main concerns are. Universities and young people will be the change in the future.
by michelle perez â€™20, an Illustration major at RISD and a Staff Illustrator at BPR.
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