Category: Uncategorized

Has The Sun Set – April 24, 2013

“The empire on which the sun never sets” has declined in the 20th century immensely. The United Kingdom was the most powerful empire for many years, but for several reasons has lost its leading position. Factors that contributed to the decline include:

1. Loss of Colonies – The UK lost much of its influence through its colonies gaining independence in the past 100 years. This included India, the “jewel in the crown” of the British Empire in 1947, the Caribbean in the 1960’s and South Africa in 1961, followed by other African nations. Canada, New Zealand, and Australia repatriated their independence which included no British involvement.

2. WWI and WWII – Both World Wars proved devastating for the United Kingdom. They were some of the costliest wars in terms of finances and population loss. Britain became essentially bankrupt after WWI. The once great Royal Navy became significantly reduced in size in the 20th century as well.

3. Economic Downturns – The United Kingdom has experienced several downturns in the 20th century from when they used to be one of the wealthiest nations in the world. The Great Depression and recessions in the 1970’s and 1980’s left the UK unable to bounce back as well. The rise of the United States as the lead superpower has made many leadership aspects of the UK obsolete. China and Germany have also become regional and worldwide economic powers.

Free at Last – April 25, 2013

1. Ukraine – Before the First World War, Ukraine was a part of the Austrian Hungarian Empire. They were merely a pawn between them and Russia for many years and the Ukrainian traditions were stifled to keep them from rising up against those in charge of them. Many revolutions and political parties were formed to create independence for Ukraine but none of them strong enough to create their own independence. For many years Ukrainian civic tradition was destroyed and many intellectuals murdered. Bolsheviks fought for the cities and Ukraine went to war with Poland. Eventually Ukraine was split into two where part became part of Poland and the other part of Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. I think the lack of political democratic tradition in Ukraine and the destroying of any civic culture hindered Ukraine’s possibility of a democratic tradition post Soviet era. Even now Ukraine’s politics is very fragmented and inefficient with lots of corruption.

2. Poland – Poland has a long history of democratic tradition even though they have been occupied by other nations for lots of their history. The large amount of intelligentsia in Poland helped to keep this tradition alive. However, before Soviet rule, Poland was unable to have their own independence. Part of the country was under German rule and part was under Russian rule. After WWI, Poland became a puppet state for 2 years but was never fully realized. In 1918 Poland became an independent state called the Second Polish Republic. In 1939 Poland was invaded by the Nazis. Poland during these years though became major European centres with lots of intelligent free thinkers. During the first years, Poland was a Parliamentary Democracy. In 1935 it became authoritarian. The strong legacy of an intelligentsia class, strong civic culture and democratic institutions helped Poland become a strong democratic country post Soviet era.

3. Romania – Before Soviet rule in Romania, there was a constitutional monarchy between 1881 and 1947 called the Kingdom of Romania. However, during these years Romania became nationalist, then dedicated to peasants, then replaced by 25 different parties within 10 years. There was a lot of unrest and unemployment during these years. No one had true power and it affected the future of the country as it fell into the hands of socialists. After the fall of communism in Romania, there was still lots of unrest and many were doubtful of how well democracy could be imposed. Romania is a rural country and this affected the civic culture greatly. The government was plagued by fraud and corruption. Romania has since joined the EU which I think is good for the country to try to keep democracy.

4. Bulgaria – Bulgaria was also an agrarian country. During the early 20th century it became more modernized. It became free from Turkish rule and in 1878 and in 1908 it became a Constitutional Monarchy. it became engaged in the Balkan Wars. There was huge social problems. There was a lack of civic culture because the country was comprised of poor farmers and few landowners. Because the country was so lacking in civic culture and had backwards economies, the transition to democracy was a lot harder than expected. Many Bulgarians remain dissatisfied with their governments and many have moved away, creating a brain drain. There is a lot of corruption and governments have a hard time retaining power.

5. Czechoslovakia – After the collapse of the Habsburg Empire in WWI, Czechoslovakia became a Parliamentary Democracy, a rare success in Eastern Europe. The civic culture was strong, especially in cosmopolitan cities like Prague, and politics were stable. The economy grew strong during these years and  they had lots of industry. Czech citizens were never very fond of communism and protested. In the early years of the democratic transition were fair elections, but then the country split into two. The strong traditions of political culture and civic culture have continued to mean that stability is popular and people enjoy their freedoms in the process of democratic traditions.

A Day in the Bundestag – April 23, 2013

1. The dynamics of the multi-party system were good to learn because you see how they interact with each other in order to pass legislation. It did seem less argumentative than some of the other systems that we role played with.

2. The size of a party seemed to matter most when it came down to negotiations as opposed to ideology. This is because the size of a party determines many aspects of this, like the amount of time given for speaking and representation on committees. 

3. The effects of the electoral system on the playing field is important. This is because you must attain at least 5% of the vote in order to gain representation in Parliament. It also helps to determine speaking time and number of committee chairs a party can have. The 5% also helps to keep out extremism and keep in moderate viewpoints.

4. In my opinion there are enough parties in the Bundestag for alternative policies. If one party does not represent your viewpoints enough there are others that probably will, although maybe not extreme viewpoints that some people look for. The Germans have a fair system that allows for many viewpoints without stifling others.

5. I did not know how important a role the committees played in regards to shaping legislation within government and working with the executive.


Towards Democratic Consolidation – April 23, 2013

The path to democratic consolidation can be a tough one to go down. However there are a few indicators that a country is heading in the right direction:

-no significant political group seriously attempts to overthrow the democratic regime or promote domestic or international violence in order to secede

-when they are no longer dominated by the problem of how to avoid democratic breakdown

-the overwhelming majority of the people believe that any further political change must emerge from the parameters of democratic procedures

-political conflict within the state will be resolved according to established norms

-when democracy becomes routinized and deeply internalized in social , institutional and psychological life

-when no significant institutional actor spends significant resources attempting to achieve their objectives by creating a nondemocratic regime or by seceding from the state

-when a strong majority of the people, even in bad times, holds the belief that democratic procedures and institutions  are the most appropriate way to govern collective life

-the development of a free and lively civil society

-relatively autonomous political society

-rule of law

-state bureaucracy that is usable

-institutionalized economic society


Three Countries: Canada, United States, Russia

-Canada, in my opinion has reached democratic consolidation because I could not find one of the criteria that didn’t fit with Canada’s customs in politics or society

-The United States also has reached democratic consolidation. My only hesitation would be with some factions in the US that are trying to change political life or even secession. The United States has a long history of anti-establishmentism and I feel like it sometimes comes out. However, I do not think that these factions prove to be a verifiable threat.

-Russia, although it is a Global North country fails to hit all of the criteria that is needed for democratic consolidation. Democracy is not entrenched in the psychological mind of all Russians. Many are used to the communist ways of the USSR. There is not a free and lively political society and Putin tends to put down any threat that could threaten his leadership, including those in government and industry. There is not rule of law as many of those around leadership positions tend to skirt many laws in order to make business, and the government goes along with it. 

What is Globalization – April 23, 2013

Globalization is one of the most important and contentious processes in the world. Globalization is the idea of connecting the entire world including nation states. This happens through economy, politics and culture. It involves the integration of world views around the world and brings people closer through the sorts of processes discussed. With this interconnectivity though it means nations rely on other nations in new ways all of the time. This comes from trading goods and ideas and changes relationships of countries, sometimes in unequal ways. The United States had been a huge proponent of globalization and had led the movement. Through their actions in globalization, it is easy to compare and contrast the relationships they form. If you look at their intent and their actions it becomes easier to grasp what globalization is all about and why many people fight against it. Globalization connects the world more and more and brings everything that much closer. This interdependence between nations can be a good or bad thing depending on how you look at it and what it produces. However, you cannot deny the power that it has these days and will continue to grow in the future as technology advances and people and ideas spread.

Pick a Label – How to Categorize the World – April 23, 2013

Developed Developing World – This is my favourite way, seeing as it is based on the economic model. Although it is one of the broadest categories to label countries I feel like it has a space for each country. It can include a fully developed country like Canada as well as a developing country like India, and everywhere in between. The problem with it is also that it is very broad. Because there are only two categories it is hard to get a good idea about where that country is in terms of developed and developing but it leaves a lot of space for interpretation.

First, Second, Third World – This is my least favourite of the ways to categorize nations. It is based on Cold War allegiances and is outdated. The first world category can still apply to developed, capitalist countries. The second world label though does not apply anymore because the USSR no longer exists. The third world can apply to the developing world still but at that point, you might as well use the developed/developing world categories.

Global North / Global South – This is a newer model to me having first seen it this year. I like the idea of it and support most of it. The one aspect of it that I do not like is the idea that it relies on one nation using another to gain benefit. While it is true that some Global North countries exploit some Global South countries it certainly does not apply to all and misses the boat for a lot. It also does not account for Global South countries who are not dependent on Global North, whatever the reason may be. It could be their own internal problems that keep them as Global South and underdeveloped.

Entrenched Democracies / Transitional Democracy / Authoritarian – This is my second favourite way of categorizing nations. However, I don’t like that assumption that entrenched democracies are mostly rich. There are examples like the oil rich nations that are authoritarian and are very wealthy as well as it’s people. For the transitional countries I do believe that not having as much money does hold them back in their progress to become fully entrenched, but that is coupled with other issues. For this way to categorize, I believe you would need more categories to fit all of the nations.

The Weakness of Weimar – April 22, 2013

In the Weimar Republic, the traditional political and bureaucratic elites were stripped of almost all their power. They reformed the Reichstag and made the cabinet responsible. Elections were conducted through proportional representation which gave parties a share of the seats equal to their percentage of the vote. This made it easy for extremist parties to get their foot in Parliament. This polarized the party system and left the Weimar fragmented. Few politicians gave the new system their full support and it created a deep wedge in politics. This created bad governance and many people sought to find a scapegoat for the problems of Germany. Many small nationalist movements sprouted up. In the first couple years, the left and right attempted a number of coups. There were many anti- Versaille Treaty protests and the social, political and economic situation was very bad. There was an attempted Nazi Putsch which failed and Hitler was imprisoned. At the start of the Great Depression the three main parties saw their share of the vote drop to below 50% and their effective governance was in serious trouble. Emergency rule became permanent which is never a good thing. There was a lot of conflict and the political turmoil was similar to the social turmoil they also faced. The Nazis began to win more due to the desperation of the people and the failing society. The parties were unable to maintain order in the streets and Hitler used that to his advantage to gain a majority and change his nation.

The Federal Republic of Germany was a big change after the War. Led by Konrad Adenauer, the Christian Democratic Union began a series of modernizations for the economy and government. They were able to maintain stability through the Basic Law which differed a lot from the Weimar Republic. The economic miracle that happened in this period was due to forged links between business and politics. Adenauer centralized power as much as possible in the Chancellor’s office. There had to be broad consensus. Their democratization had ties with many countries in the world and this helped to create peace.The legislative branch is represented by the Bundestag, elected directly through a mixture of proportional representation and direct mandates, with the German Länder participating in legislation through the Bundesrat, reflecting Germany’s federal structure.

Experiences From Behind The Wall – April 22, 2013

It was a fantastic experience having Mrs. Narti speak to the class over the internet. I’ve never heard anyone who has experienced these political systems talk about communism and fascism to me directly. Before she spoke to us I really had no idea about Romania’s involvement with either system. I did not know that in Eastern Europe during communism that there were varying degrees of communism and varying degrees of how people dealt with the communists. A lot of it had to do with how well communism was accepted in that nation and what the Soviet Union needed it for.

A day in the Commons – April 19, 2013

1. Sitting opposite from one another in the House of Lords made it feel like you were actually talking to someone about an issue and not just talking at them. It helped to foster debate among people and even within the different parties.

2. The role of the “will of the majority” in democracy is to say that those in the majority should be able to make decisions for the whole society. They believe that because they are in the majority, they are entitled to a greater stake of society in where they live than others that are in the minority. It should not be respected because it allows tyranny of the majority and leaves minorities with less. No one individual or group should have more power in a society than another.

3. An MP should vote in a way that his constituents dictate, but that however should match up with the party’s ideology and the Prime Minister’s. Solidarity in Parliament is important.

4. The House of Lords needs reform in the way of elections. No one should inherit a seat in Parliament and be able to make decisions for people who they are not accountable to. Elections should be made mandatory and the abolishment of inherited seats.

5. I didn’t know the House of Lords still maintained peerage within government.

A Day In Congress – April 19, 2013

The fiscal cliff issue in the United States seems very dumb to me and feels like the politicians are creating their own drama by setting these dates.

1. As the president in the exercise, I feel I did not have the powers I should to get the budget passed, or at least the budget in it’s entirety. All congressmen should be able to set the agenda and bring up legislation but as the president I felt kind of useless.

2. The caucuses did not have much power in getting individual members to vote along party lines. The members tended to vote in bloc’s within Congress based on what they and their constituents valued instead of the Party overall.

3. Congress had the greatest amount of power in this exercise. The amount of voices and opinions seem to drown out the president’s.

4. To avoid gridlock I think the president should have more power to decide legislation rather than congress. Obama should work with his party more and unify the democratic party under one umbrella. He should try to get all of the democratic congressmen to vote along party lines so they can defeat the republicans on bills.

5. I did not know just how much the United States owes in debt to other countries and foreign investors.

6. “It seems like the most important thing to do here is not compromise on anything”