The Columbia Critic

A place to debate anything we want to. We'll talk Columbia campus issues. We'll talk up the homosexual problem. We'll talk China. And we'll talk without resorting to partisan rhetoric. We may be left. We may be right. But we aren't going to be quoting any party line. We're leading the discussion. But feel free to chime in. Hannity and Colmes this is not.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Economic Interdependence: Key to the Forging of a Union

The forging of a new nation is a process that has continually presented itself over the course of history. Certain historical and philosophical themes arise out of their various simulacre, however each permuation offers some unique perspectives on what is later often taken for granted. This essay seeks to delinate some historical particularities of economic interdependence and the part they often play in the formation of a new government.
In looking at the history of the United States during its inception and formation, one must recognize that the process was long and arduous and success wholly uncertain. A great deal of disagreement was expressed as to how the individual states would relate to one another and under what level and degree of governance they would exist. The Anti-Federalists, Jefferson and Henry and the like, argued that creating a centralized federal government would threaten individual rights and that the President would become a King, de facto if not de jure. The congress under the Articles of Confederation was weak however. It had few powers, no ability to levy taxes and thus no ability to fund an army, repay debts, or extend protectionist barriers. This was further underscored by Shay's Rebellion, which the congressional government was unable to quell due to its inability to raise an Army. In light of this, the Federalists argued for the construction of a Constitution of the United States that favored a stronger centralized government, with the very important powers to levy taxes, regulate commerce, and raise a military.
Eventually the Federalists won out, and the constitution was ratified by the states. The reason for this success, however, was not some utopian vision or the expression of purist democratic ideals, but economic viability and commercial advantage. The United States was able to form a nation because of the economic ties that bound the states together, and in a broader sense the North and the South. The northern states depended upon the South for raw materials and agricultural products. The southern states depended upon the North for manufactures and finished products. It was the success of the North-South trade relationship that generated the incentives for independence from Britain in the first place. It allowed the United States to be self sufficient and showed great potential for becoming an expansive and powerful economic system in its own right. And so, the United States had incentive to exist as a united government. One of the main reasons that much of South America was fractured once Spain left, and why many South American governments today continue to fail so drastically is that this economic incentive did not exist. Spain's trade system in the new world was monodirectional and not very diverse. The focus for the longest time was on gold and nothing else. When agricultural and other means of trade were introduce and developed, however limited, the system of trade remained monodirectional between the individual colonies and Europe with little intercolonial interatction. The US by contrast had a trade triangle with Europe that allowed for a great deal of product flow through the thirteen colonies.
What all of this implies is that the one of the greatest forces in the formation of a new government is that of economics and trade. What, then, does this mean for Iraq as it attempts to strengthen and extend fragile bonds between its three main populations in the creation of a new democratic Iraqi republic. Iraq's economy is dominated by the oil sector, which has historically provided over 90% of foreign exchange earnings. The dominating oil region is that of the Kurds in the north, which Iraq overtook in 1990. Other primary sectors, those with the most potential for domestic trade, include agriculture, forestry, and mining. Unfortunately these industries have been poorly developed. Only about half of Iraq's arable land is under cultivation, and so despite its abundant land and water resources Iraq imports a large percentage of its food. Further, because of ethnic politics and infighting, valuable Kurdish farmland in the north has contributed little to the national economy. President Hussein also did much to discourage domestic market production in all of Iraq's major economic sectors. As such, Iraq has very little established incentive, in the form of internal economic ties, to maintain a united government. This leaves the country with only its historical legacy, which with decades of brutal dictatorship leaves much to be desired, and the shared security argument. Will this be enough to maintain a newly-forged democratic society? Only time will tell.


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