Wednesday, January 14, 2004

as promised, a post about the paper intended for Snidal's class. here's what he has to say about the assignment:

The most important component is a paper that analyses a problem of international cooperation and efforts (including failures) to address the problem. The goal is to take the theory that we will develop in this class and apply and evaluate it with respect to some real international issue....

so far i've got some rough notes scribbled out about ASEAN, and perhaps something to think about that arose in my chat with pstan over AIM last night. i'm still in the process of formulating a 'problem' surrounding ASEAN, though i think perhaps one along the lines of 'how does ASEAN continue to function despite all our neighbours hating us and us being afraid that they will come and kill us in our beds at night' [in perhaps more diplomatic, impenetrably social-science-language-d terms] will eventually emerge. in particular, the question of economic development and relative-gains: is ASEAN an example of a situation in which [contrary to claims that it is relative gains rather than/in addition to absolute gains that states care about] being in the 'losing' position of gaining less than your competitors is perhaps desirable [some kind of inverse of the relative-gains argument, where in this case the state chooses to be the 'loser'?] of course this is from the POV of Singapore, since we were developing rapidly and our neighbours -at the time- perhaps were not so rapid in their growth patterns.

my supposition, or proposal, or your nominalisation of choice: that Singapore has a twofold approach toward economic benefits as demonstrated through its efforts in keeping ASEAN going. [you have to admit, we do a lot of the legwork.] one: we wanted -in the 1960s and 70s- our neighbours to start growing more rapidly, close the gap in development and infrastructure, start trading with us and each other; due to the premise that (a) it would stabilise the various states which were threatening to erupt into political instability [who are we kidding here -- the only way to stay ahead of political collapse and turmoil is to make sure the entire juggernaut of a nation is moving forward economically fast enough not to fall over. like riding a bike, as the Economist likes to say.] and (b) giving them something to focus on other than the fact that they really don't like us; in fact, giving of our aid to tie them into a network of interdependence such that despite the fact that they hate us, they need us. economic interdependence, in terms of skill and advice and trade partnerships, as political and security insurance.

two: now that they have learned their lesson well we have to speed up again or we get caught. and our neighbours are good at playing catchup. so far we have managed by the skin of our teeth to stay ahead but now we need something to give us an edge again -the financial crisis of the late 1990s has given us back a breathing space, by cutting into the less resilient stretched-thin economies of our rapidly developing neighbours, and in some cases inducing a relatively extended bout of political chaos. [cue Indon.] the breathing space will evaporate within the next five years, so how can we stay competitive in a world that contains not only close competitors in our neighbourhood with cheaper labour but also a rising China and Korea and a recovering Japan? we build a stronger, tighter regional trading group -demonstrating that globalisation in trade isn't so much globalisation as it is regionalisation [oooh memories of all those essays written about 'the future of globalisation is in regional economic agreements like the EU']. there's some merit to the argument that strenth lies in numbers? going back to the relative gains argument, this is coming at it from the reverse -or traditional- side again: in terms of gain everyone is going to benefit from closer trade ties and virtually zero tariffs. but we might gain more, so we have more incentive to make this FTA -AFTA- work out for us all.

what the data tells me, at least in preliminary, is that yes, ASEAN was formed in a time of political turmoil to allow the states to stablise through growing economies [grow your way out of trouble; a typically asian way of dealing with problems. none of this cathartic working-out-the-bugs crap for us: in the words of one Amelia Sachs 'If you keep moving they can't getcha'] and as ASEAN's economic influence grows the ASEAN ministers are starting to turn their gaze toward security issues...and that yes, ASEAN's FTA is ahead of schedule, several YEARS ahead of schedule, fortituously having had its deadline moved forward several times...or is it 'fortituously'? with the 'threat/opportunity' of a rising China as a neighbour to SEA, doesn't it make more sense to get AFTA's lazy butt in gear so that we are poised to take advantage, as it were?

my thoughts on the subject are still, as you can tell, highly confused. and this post is mostly about general ideas i'm considering writing a paper abt. if anyone has suggestions on refining some kind of ASEAN-related problem, i'd be really appreciative at this point. esp since this paper is highly likely to be a twenty-pager submitted in lieu of a BA, if i choose not to write a BA next year. at this point, i'm still undecided.

i'd like to write a BA but i'll need to come up with a topic and an advisor. that means i need to be continuously thinking about it as this quarter progresses. i'm notoriously bad at things like that. so who knows. =) in the meantime, i'm gonna take this Snidal paper as insurance, hedging my bets like the good econ disciple i am...


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