National Security Protected by Freedom: In Trade

National security depends on the nation’s ability to compete in a global market. Individual freedoms of consumers and manufacturers play a huge role in determining how competitive the country is. If individuals are forced to buy certain products (due to lack of choice) then there is not a free market and the competition of products is compromised–tipping the scales of power internationally. In western developed countries, we see that free trade is championed, but it is not truly practiced. Pure free trade means that the market is not hindered or tampered with by government or organizations that would have the power to do so, but many developed countries exercise protectionist practices to keep their nations healthy; but this is only because they can afford to do so. Free trade means giving the power to the consumer (not the government), who is able to act rationally and choose what to buy based on his or her values and budget. This creates a market that is most efficient and caters most to people’s needs and wants, creating a more satisfied community with a comfortable standard of living. Developing countries are advised to practice free trade because of its capability to lift a country out of poverty, but developed countries are not allowing a free market to do its job


In class we watched The Trade Trap-Ghana. One issue discussed was that imported maize was cheaper than domestically grown maize. This caused domestic poultry farms to buy the imported maize so that they could compete with the cheaper imported chickens! Production prices of the domestic maize and poultry were high because of lack of technology and infrastructure in Ghana. Another issue was that of bananas and pineapples. On one hand, the bananas did not meet standard length and weight requirements, while on the other hand pineapples had too much chemical residue as set by the European Union. These standards are technical barriers that cause free trade to crumble. Let the consumer decide what they are buying by giving them all the product’s information and the choice to buy or not to buy. If they want to support the Ghanaian farmers so that they can develop into a healthier country, let them! In the video report, James Wolfenson, the World Bank president, called developed countries “hypocritical” because they spend subsidies on their own agriculture while telling developing countries to enter the market…how can they do that when they cannot compete, which is the very essence of the free market? The mercantilist policies of European Union members to subsidize their own crops is out-balanced with their contribution to developmental aid to Ghana and other countries. This clearly eliminates free trade principles and keeps the international playing field in a structuralist system with developed nations as the wealthy getting wealthier and the developing nations as the poor who cannot dig themselves out.


In recent years, oil and gas have been highly valuable commodities. According to our text, Introduction to International Political Economy by David N. Balaam and Bradford Dillman, the authors recognize Algeria to be one of the globe’s “middle-to low-income oil exporters” and also consider Algeria a developing country (p. 352).

          According to Reuters, Algerian “energy wealth means state finances are not under heavy pressure. This makes Algeria potentially very attractive to a wide range of foreign companies, if barriers to doing business can be removed.”  These trade barriers must be avoided through the use of free trade, a policy strongly supported by economic liberals (Algeria currently is working toward more of an economic liberal approach to trade). In implementing free trade and relationships with other free trade states, the governments would not interfere or place regulations and standards on oil services and companies, which in turn, should help Algerian oil exporting businesses, thus it would help Algeria establish and maintain a higher gross domestic product.

Authors Balaam and Dillman cite international trade as an “engine to growth” and also believe that “becoming integrated into the global market economy” through trade would prove to be beneficial to developing countries and countries struggling economically (p. 275).  When countries can trade with less barriers and restrictions, their freedom to trade is expanded and their national economic security is enhanced.


Nicaragua’s economic freedom score is 56.6, making its economy the 110th freest in the 2013 Index. However, its score is 1.3 points worse than last year, with declines in the control of government spending and labor freedom outweighing improvements in investment and fiscal freedom. Weakened infrastructure means that Nicaragua is plagued by a lack of property protection rights that stops any private sector from really emerging in the economy. Anti-free market policies continue, bolstered by economic and political populism that drives income redistribution and class warfare that are used to justify the large presence of the state in the economy, under the illegal presidency of Ortega. The inefficient regulatory structure hinders expansion and diversification of the products. The lack of access to long-term financing precludes dynamic growth in the market, and the investment  lacks transparency that makes it difficult to regulate where the money goes, or that it even reaches the populations its trying to help. Nicaragua currently supports eight Free Trade Zones throughout the country and the majority of the factories within these zones are American or Taiwanese owned. Although these factories do employ thousands of workers who would otherwise be unemployed with no means to support their families, the wages are so low that this system simply perpetuates the cycle of poverty. Without giving them access to the global market, and ending our own autocratic tendencies at the expense of these developing nations, how can we expect any actual development to occur?


Cambodia is a country with a rough past, including civil conflict and little economic growth. It is growing now, though, but there are still issues to be fixed. One would be the issue of land ownership. Because of Khmer Rouge years, the Maoist movement that ran from 1975 to 1979, the land records in Cambodia were destroyed. Land ownership is now very ambiguous, and it is hard to prove that someone owns the land they are living on. Because of this, big companies such as Phnom Penh Sugar, a sugar company, has been able to have land afforded to them by the government and pushed the farmers that lived there already off their lands. This makes it difficult for the country’s small farmers to grow. To add to that, nearly all of Cambodia’s sugar goes to the EU, who have set the minimum price for imported sugar well above the rest of the world’s prices. This makes it even harder for the smaller companies to grow enough sugar for the world market. If the minimum price is high, that means that unless there is enough demand, it is less likely to be bought. Participating in free trade would free the smaller companies from this demand and help them grow, which in turn would help the country and fix the land issue, as the government is less likely take control over a large company’s land than a small farmer’s.


64223_574189292630866_2087745727_nIn our text, on page 274, there is a table for different strategies of development, and economic liberalism is featured. Notice that it is the only one that includes a suggestion of democracy. This is because economic liberalism puts the power in the hands of the consumer to decide what is best and encourage that sort of industry and service into the global market. The individual freedoms of democracy and free trade can help LDC’s (less-developed countries) develop into the country they can be. National security depends on its country’s constituents to drive its economy and this is only possible through free trade. In relation to developing countries, this means that the global powers of the world must not engage in mercantilist policies that block access to free trade for developing nations, as seen in our examples. Free trade is the best way for a country to transition from an LDC into a developed country.


Censorship as a form of national security


   As citizens, we know the government does many things in order to “protect” us and in recent news, their methods of protection have been revealed. But the government isn’t the only one shielding information from the public. Both citizens and the government use information as a tool, but how can we decide what to use this information for? In our textbook, authors David N. Balaam and Bradford Dillman make the argument that information can “both empower and disempower: in the hands of citizens it can become the fuel for political revolution, but in the hands of governments it can be used to surveil and police society” (240). The mediator between the average citizen and the government–the media–is also guilty of withholding significant information from the masses, as well. Because news channels dictate what information their shows give, it can lead to biased updates rather than factual, non-opinionated updates. Censorship has become an issue as of recently and although the government uses it as a tool to protect, it can be somewhat unethical. Although it can interfere with our rights, some censorship is necessary to protect the masses.



“It was for the best…”

        In the movie Too Big To Fail, we see the many important players and systems occurring in the 2008 financial crisis and the Lehman Brothers Collapse. But what was most informative to me was the role of the media within the movie. There was no brave journalist ready to defend his right to the truth by uncovering some big bad secret, but instead, it seemed the media was a tool in the hands of the major players, like Paul Paulson, the then Secretary of Treasury.  “What do we tell the media?”, was a common line, or at least idea, during the film. And the answer was never the truth, or anything like it. On principle alone, this would seem to be abhorrent, the government hiding secrets from us and taking away our right to know the truth. However, had we known what was occurring, we naturally would have pulled our money from these banks, to better protect it in our own hands, and sent the whole entire system into collapse and cause catastrophic results for the entire globe. By skewing our perception of the situation, our government was trying to protect us in the long run. Does that make it right? For the sake of financial security for National Security, how much is too much or too far?


The Bias in Your Morning News

   News reports are very interesting things. They are meant to inform people of what is going on in the world today, whether it be another report on the biggest trend on Twitter or the government shutdown. The media is a very influential thing for most Americans. What we watch shapes how we view events going on in the world today. However, the media does not give out unbiased reports. New stations today are known to be biased towards certain viewpoints, which means the new report their viewers get isn’t just simply a reading of the facts. It’s turned into a very opinionated reading of either only the facts that fit their view or a reading of the facts that has been twisted to fit their view. This is not fair to the general populous, as we as citizens have a right to know the unbiased report of what is going on in our country. However, one cannot force the media to say what they want, as everyone also has a right to freedom of speech. So where’s the middle ground? How can the everyday American receive an unbiased news report while not infringing on the media’s right to free speech?


The Individual vs. The Media

    Journalists have a “code of ethics” which says that they should always deliver “fair, and comprehensive” reporting. In this code, “public enlightenment is the forerunner of justice and the foundation of democracy.” This is because the public body needs to know as much as they can about what concerns themselves and their country in order to make educated decisions for themselves and their country. But, it is often difficult to separate yourself from your biases. We all have biases because we all have histories, backgrounds, experiences, and heritages forming our opinions. Those opinions shape how we view and present information. Two major news networks are publically known to have political leanings: MSNBC and Fox News. MSNBC typically leans in the liberal direction and Fox in the conservative. Simply by looking on their respective websites we can see this! On MSNBC the top stories on the right on October 18th were “NJ embraces gay marriage,” “Tea Partier on pols: ‘They’re all whores,’” and “Obamacare: The ultimate survivor.” Likewise on the Fox news website on the same day: “Small Businesses Sound Off on ObamaCare Definition of “Full Time,” “Concerns mount over rapid expansion of food stamp program,” and “Heating Prices on the Rise: How to Save Cash this Season.” While these stories may cater to a specific audience, stories like the government shutdown earlier this month are, of course, covered by both, but with varying angles. While it is important for the United States of America to have correct and unbiased news, I’m not sure it is possible to have exactly that. In fact, it might even be better for the population to be able to choose from which networks it receives its information and understand the biases each network has.

    On the other hand, those networks can use those assumptions to give people the wrong impressions of the real story. Jon Stewart is a political satirist who likes to compare the news networks and likes to point out “absurdy.” In this interview, Chris Wallace asks Jon Stewart if he thinks his show is biased. Stewart interestingly says that he thinks his show just points out the hilarity of it all, but not to push any agenda. Both show hosts exercise their right of freedom of speech because they express what they think the public should know. Stewart responds to an accusation of Diane Sawyer giving biased information by saying that it is  “sensationalist and somewhat lazy and I don’t understand how that’s partisan.” Maybe not giving all the information is not necessarily rhetorical, but accidentally misinformative. However, if the news is going to inform its audience, it should do so to the fullest extent, and both Wallace and Stewart agree on this. But it is funny how they agree on that point but not how they each deliver that point. In this picture, the censorship of the photo definitely highlights what the networks want their audience to know.

That lack of full story changes the entire story for the people. Sensationalism is also a huge way the media decides how to frame a story. The saying, “if it bleeds it leads” really describes how the media cater to people’s fascination with extreme situations. I think to be a conscious society member we have to mediate our biases and be open to hearing different points of view as that is the only way our political tendencies can be addressed and neutralized.

    Through our research, many questions have been raised regarding what’s ethical and what crosses a line with censorship. From the idea that the government censors media for the benefit of the whole, to the other side where we, as individuals, don’t have access to unbiased media. We have a right to free speech and the media outlets have a right to free press, but can they coexist in anything other than a utopian society? In our imperfect world, the only thing we can do is understand and be aware of who and what is putting on the face of the news we are consuming.

Money, Money, Money: It’s a Rich Man’s World


The big issue in the news as of now is whether or not the US will raise the debt celling or default on its debts. However, when I say the US, I mean all the people in Congress and the government. The citizens of the US, who this will probably affect the most, really have no say in what is decided. For as much as the US is touted as a place where everyone has a say in the government, that’s not exactly true. The average person has no say in what Congress decides to do over the debt crisis, or even over how long this shutdown will last. And if Congress can’t make up it’s mind by this Thursday, the Treasury has reported that it will run out of money to pay the bills. Which could cause the stock market to drop, restart the recession, and cause rates on loans to rise higher, among other things. All of which infringe on the individual’s freedom to be able to use their money how they like. The security of the market will be shot, all over something that citizens have no say in.

National debt has proven to be not only a headliner in the news, but has also become a matter of national security. Since the end of World War II, the United States has been serving as the hegemon. In our text, Introduction to International Political Economy, hegemonic stability theory states that “international markets work best when a hegemon (a single dominant state) accepts the costs associated with keeping them open for the benefit of both itself and its allies by providing them with certain international public goods at its own expense” (38). Although our country has been considered the hegemon for so long, that status has recently been threatened. Due to our extreme debt to China, they have more economic power over the US and may replace us as the hegemon. This poses a threat to our national security because it ultimately places China in control of our debt


Moody’s Investors Services, more commonly known as Moody’s, provides international financial research on bonds issued by commercial and government entities and, with Standard & Poor’s and Fitch Group, is considered one of the Big Three credit rating agencies. For the first time in its history, in 2011 the US was downgraded from a triple A rating, shocking and outraging the American government. It seems unreasonable that the hegemonic power of the globe could face any consequences from an outsider rating. And yet, these “opinion” based ratings, could mean serious damage to our economic security. In October 1995, the school district of Jefferson County, Colorado sued Moody’s, claiming the unsolicited assignment of a “negative outlook” to a 1993 bond issue was based on Jefferson County having selected S&P and Fitch to do its rating. Moody’s rating raised the issuing cost to Jefferson County by $769,000. Moody’s argued that its assessment was “opinion” and therefore constitutionally protected; the court agreed, and the decision was upheld on appeal. But without a good opinion from these agencies, even America could lose its good reputation, and face enormous damages in trade relations as investors pull out and countries find other nations to trade with.

Too Big to Fail is a book published in 2009 (later made into a movie in 2011) on the Wall Street financial crisis of 2008 starting with the collapse of Lehman Brothers (global financial services firm). In short the story highlights the problems and decisions the government and major finance corporations faced when the economy-as-we-know-it nearly collapsed. The causes of the crisis are too complicated to isolate, but they include Wall Street speculation, mortgage and short-term credit loaning, and financial shock and panic. Because our financial system in the United States depends so much on “trust,” if the general public withdraws their money in a hurry, the banks cannot function as they do and the system collapses. In Introduction to IPE, 6th Ed. by Ballam & Gillman, the Structuralist Perspective chapter says, “Once the working class believes that the system is legitimate, it will believe that it is appropriate and just.” This is what the whole economic system is based on: blind compliance and faith of the masses.

It is very easy to see this situation through the eyes of a Marxist. The richest and smallest portion of society (the bourgeoisie) controls the national security by keeping the proletariat in obedience. If the economy were to fail, the greater part of the population cannot get the food and resources they need to survive causing a revolution to overthrow that class and reinstate a more equal system of distribution. As it happened, the government interceded as much as it thought necessary (to honor economic liberalist ideals of limited government intervention, but still implement mercantilist practices to maintain the strength of the nation) to preserve the status quo. The government of the United States is not separate from the companies that run the economy because when the companies go under, the government rescues them in order to sustain the unequal system of proletariat exploitation. Investment through stocks and bonds into the government further support this rich-man control over the government, because only people with money to spare can invest in big corporations and government pursuits. The solution to the crisis as displayed in Too Big to Fail, movie, was to merge the companies and make them bigger. It seems the only direction our system of investment and competitive gain can take is one of further growth and entrapment. What power do we as individuals have on a monster controlled by money?

What does healthcare mean for security?

In order for nations to function healthily, its citizens need to be healthy. If a disease can wipe out millions, it is a major concern of the state, because a state needs its populace to function. Even government officials aren’t immune. The United States is concerned with public health through inoculation and sanitation, trade relations, and domestic policy.


Vaccination from epidemics and public sanitation are essential in maintaining a thriving population. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that vaccines are the best defense against infectious diseases and has lead to the nearly eradication of smallpox and wild polio virus. The worst outbreak in 1918-1919 killed an estimated 50 million worldwide. If you scroll through this timeline of epidemics and vaccines, you will notice the correlation between a boom in population and a boom in diseases, which makes sense. While inoculation is only concerned with certain diseases, water supply and sanitation really control the health of a society. One of the earliest studies of public sanitation was when Dr. John Snow in 1854 noticed that the people who drank from the Soho District Street pump in London were more likely to get cholera. Increasing awareness and improving science lead people to demand healthier conditions and tougher governmental regulations since then. As far as the health of a society goes, the government has to step in regulate waste, but it can’t always require vaccinations. While school systems may require its students to be immunized, the H1N1 virus vaccine of 2009 was not mandatory despite its pandemic capabilities. The public’s skepticism of government power is demonstrated by people like Melissa McCarthy, who even said the vaccine caused her children to be autistic. The government’s duty to protect the public, and the individuals’ rights to choose what’s best for them are usually reconciled on the public sanitation point; but sometimes the individual has to give up person freedoms and take a vaccine to ensure the health of those around them.


The Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreements, proposed by the US, works in the favor of our capitalist ideal (see Lenin’s quote on page 89 of Introduction to International Political Economy, 6th Edition by Balaam and Dillman, “Monopolist capitalist combines—cartels, syndicates, trusts—divide among themselves, first of all, the whole internal market of a country, and impose their control, more or less completely, upon the industry of that country.”); that is, to make money and to keep as much power for our own nation as possible. These agreements, proposed to many countries with a weak stance to refuse the dominant power that is the US, would like to allow big pharmaceutical companies the ability to keep patents on vital drugs, longer than the initial 20 year agreement. In addition, several of the provisions being pushed by the U.S. facilitate the practice of so-called “evergreening,” where pharmaceutical companies undermine access to affordable medicines by using a variety of tactics to extend monopoly protection on drugs for diseases like HIV.

For example, companies obtain multiple secondary patents on a single drug so that even when patents on the original compound expire, the product is protected for years by a thicket of patents that prevents procurement of more affordable generic versions. Countries that sign the TPP will have to amend their patent laws to abide by whatever provisions are in the final agreement. If the TPP were signed today with the proposals pushed by the U.S. included, it would be extremely challenging for countries to limit the abusive practice of evergreening. And this would sign the death warrant of those developing nations whose people will die without easier and more affordable access to these medications.

This is an example of dependency theory because the nations such as the U.S. are motivated to keep the underdeveloped countries in dependence on foreign pharmaceuticals. This theory is further explained on page 90 from Introduction to IPE, 6th Edition, by Balaam and Dillman: there have been different sequences of dependency through time as explained by Theotonio Dos Santos, and now we are living “structure of dependence today based on the postwar multinational corporations.” And some of these multinational corporations are pharmaceutical like Bayer.


MP900321095The government shutdown that occurred just this week has had not only the country in an uproar, but has confused the rest of the world. What country would voluntarily shut down their government and make them vulnerable? For that’s exactly what this shutdown has done. Looking at this situation from how it impacts national security and individual freedom, there are no positives. The job of the NSA, if they are still open, just got harder. This shutdown has weakened the United States’ position internationally, and that fact has made keeping the US secure that much harder. Not to mention that the security of the US’s already struggling economy is shot. And the situation for the individual is not much better, if at all. An estimated 800,000 government workers have been furloughed, and major governmental businesses and groups that people depend on have been shutdown. Citizens who depended on the government for food are now out of luck. The freedom of the individual has been restricted even more so over something that they had no control over.

The recent shutdown is an apparent example the American government’s failure to agree on federal spending and the GOP’s rejection of the proposed universal healthcare, or the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare”. With similar healthcare systems successfully implemented in many of our allied countries, it can be hard to understand why so many disapprove of the act.

Some who reject the idea of universal healthcare attribute their disapproval to the fact that their freedom is potentially being imposed upon. The ACA requires that everyone (healthy or unhealthy, young or old) file for health insurance, otherwise pay a fee. Although this may be an invasion of one’s freedom, we have concluded these violations of freedom can be forgiven. National healthcare is a form of national security implemented in order to protect people, used for the benefit of individuals, therefore is reconciled.


In 2011 Contagion was released amidst other movies that have underlying pandemic concepts (like I am Legend, and Perfect Sense). The concept of a disease so deadly and uncontrollable is definitely scary and a threat to national security. As the government works on new ways to keep its population healthy, so too does the individual have the responsibility to stay healthy. While in the U.S. it is unclear how far the government should go to ensure the health of its constituents, it is fairly clear that to benefit everyone, an individual has to think about more than themselves. The transnational patents would actually be doing society worse in the long-run because like in the movie Contagion, disease has no discrimination between nationality; countries can be seen like individuals, in this case, because to benefit one, you must benefit all.