Term Paper: Politics International Trade-Offs

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[. . .] Liberals might also argue that rogue states are more likely to be reformed if they are not decimated by invasions and other aggression. Constructivism would take a similar point, arguing against a single state blindly trying to force its political structure on all other nations in the name of freedom. A constructivist would be especially horrified at the way in which current American policy does not take into much consideration the native culture and sociology of the nations it is preemptively attacking. Rather than suggest acting unilaterally to wipe out theoretical enemies in a search for supreme power, constructivism would likely suggest attempting to understand the enemy culture, and work out the boundaries and relationships that can be had between the cultures.

If, as might be suggested, these theories were not kept divorced, but all used together to analyze the situation, one would come up with a plan that allows a degree of unilateral action, such as that which occurred when Clinton bombed Iraq during his presidency, but also had a very high level of multilateral support which could be used either to build peace or --if unavoidable-- to make war. The rebuilding and support of Iraq after the war would especially benefit from constructionist thought.

A similar tough issue involves the private and public clash regarding environmental protection. Not only has Bush's unilateral action in Iraq has stirred public outcry regarding military tactics, his refusal to enter into global environmental treaties (not to mention his anti-environment rulings at home) has outraged many other countries whose environmental woes are at least partly caused by America. With just a tiny fraction of the earth's total population, America produces a quarter of the global carbon dioxide emissions, and its refusal to subscribe to environmental treaties therefore creates an almost insurmountable stumbling block to global efforts at pollution control. This may seem like a villainous action, but like every other action it has significant reasons behind it. Protecting the environment has a significant tradeoff in economic terms. Transitioning to cleaner energy levels is expensive, as is cutting down on various emissions. While big business will bear the brunt of the change, one expects that rather than reduced profits for corporations, society will witness increased prices passed down to the poorest elements of society who cannot afford a few dollars more a day for gas and foodstuffs whose prices have been raised. This tradeoff is indeed very serious, for pollution is causing numerous global problems. In addition to skyrocketing cancer rates, unexplained neurological diseases springing up around plants, and rates of water and aid pollution, failing to protect the environment has also been contributing to global climate change. As the World Watch Institute points out, the earth is unquestionably becoming warmer: "The 15 warmest years in the last century have occurred since 1980. Ice is melting on every continent. The snow/ice pack in the Rockies, the Andes, the Alps, and the Himalayas is shrinking. The volume of the ice cap covering the Arctic Ocean has shrunk by more than 40% over the last 35 years. To deny that Earth is getting warmer in the face of such compelling evidence is to risk a loss of credibility..." (Shah) This has led to more extreme weather in recent years, such as harsher hurricanes, more intense dry heat and droughts in some areas and overwhelming rains and flooding in others. It was these effects that were being fought by the Kyoto treaty which Bush failed to ratify.

Yet there is another side to this issue. According to an industry sponsored page, the treaty would have been very bad for farmers: "the Kyoto treaty could mean a 75% surge in energy prices, leading to radically higher prices for such energy-expensive inputs as machinery, pesticides and fertilizer." ("Global Warming...") They also estimated that agriculture would suffer about 8.8% of an operating increase, effectively dropping income by about 17% for farmers, and subsequently raising the price of food. A similar phenomenon would occur in other industries that rely heavily on pollution-causing machinery, and the price of fuel and food would both increase. This would likely harm the economy, and might endanger the survival of the poorest classes of society who could not afford an increase in food and fuel prices.

As the 1995 Leipzig Declaration phrased it, "In a world in which poverty is the greatest social pollutant, any restriction on energy use that inhibits economic growth should be viewed with caution." (NCPA) Similar tradeoffs exist with other forms of environmental controls which put restrictions on businesses, harm their profits, and incur prices which may be passed along to consumers.

Here too, each of the theories of international relationships may come into play. The realist would consider that the power of a nation is indicated by their wealth, and that the degree to which a nation is required to adhere to international laws is directly correlated with the degree to which they need to fear the military might of the rest of the world. As the most advanced nation in the world, America does not necessarily need to fear any nation, and can theoretically flaunt public opinion to its content. The wealth of the nation engendered by polluting industries might then be seen as more important for the time being, especially as America can afford to take care of any environmental casualties that might arise in the near future. Moreover, the realist position might suggest, as the writers of "Global warming..." do, that the Kyoto treaty was not created to stop global warming at all, but to increase the power of small nations who could not keep up with our manufacturing industry without crippling it. If everything is viewed as a power struggle, than a treaty that may harm the economy is especially to be seen as a threat. Idealists would be far more likely to embrace a mutual arrangement with other countries to control pollution, in hopes of healing the planet, because they would not be shackled by fear that their cosigners were attempting to take advantage of them. Constructivists would also be more likely to approach this in a positive pro-environment fashion, though their interest in culture might prove invaluable in discovering solutions that allowed industry and modern life to mold together. The symbolic and social value of -- for example -- gasoline powered cars and heavily fertilized but non-GMO crops are something best addressed by a constructivist position that may be able to help society itself come to terms with options.

Immigration laws are one final area in which a variety of tradeoffs exist which complicate foreign and domestic relationships. It is generally believed in America today that immigrants (both legal and illegal ones) threaten national interest by taking American jobs away from Americans, and draining state resources such as welfare. So there is at least a perceived tradeoff here between allowing immigrants to come into the country to provide cheap labor (and, one supposes, a burst of exotic multicultural power) and preserving American economic interests (and, less admirably, American racial purity). However, it seems that this tradeoff may be drastically exaggerated.

Immigrants do, indeed, take jobs. However, in most cases illegal immigrants take jobs which native people do not desire. "U.S. employers depend the cheap labor provided by illegal Mexican workers." (Andreas, 592) Meanwhile, legal immigrants are often highly skilled workers whose abilities are vital in the niches they take. "Immigrants are one-and-a-half times more likely to have a graduate degree than their native-born counterparts." (Papademetreou, 18) Indeed, working immigrants, it appears, generally pay more in taxes than they remove from the system, and "A recent exhaustive report by the prestigious U.S. National Academy of Sciences Echoes and ratifies these assessments, concluding that 'immigration produces net economic benefits for domestic residents,'" (Papademetreou, 17)

However, the same sources that defend immigration will turn around and agree that immigration can take away jobs from workers, though they benefit consumers, investors, and corporations. "The closest analogy here may be to that of trade liberalization....workers whose jobs complement those of immigrants usually benefit from immigration. However, those who compete with immigrants in uncompetitive industries and firms with low productivity will face lower wages and... restricted job opportunities." (Papademetreou, 2) Additionally, immigration can create tension in society as cultures clash.

There are several ways in which international theory can address immigration, and it is not quite as clear cut as other issues. Realism can on the one hand support immigration, suggesting that it strengthens the power of the nation to have an influx of young, strong, educated workers (with low expectations, none the less) who can fuel the economy and the military. However, this is only true insofar as this immigration does not appear to threaten the power of the nation. "The first duty of a sovereign nation is to control its borders. We do not... uncontrolled immigration is one of the greatest threats… [END OF PREVIEW]

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