IJWP 38:4, December 2021

IJWP 38:4, December 2021



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Edited book , Notes
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In this final issue of International Journal on World Peace, Don Trubshaw introduces the topic of institutional resilience and peace. Given the behavior of social institutions during the Covid pandemic, the social problems caused by dictators or single-party states, and the recent debates over “wokism” and free speech, this may be the most important topic of our time.

Social institutions permeate modern life: governments and their agencies, banks, manufacturers, hospitals, universities and schools, churches, and clubs. Institutions are founded for a purpose, guided by values, and evolve and change over time. Resilience refers to their ability for self-maintenance as they evolve and their environment changes.

Institutions are social systems, and systems theory helps in understanding them. Institutions require both elites and workers, members, or citizens. Performance and resilience relates to the proper relationship and feedback between the two.

As a Minnesotan, as I read this article, I thought of the failure of the FBI to stop the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington because elites in the FBI failed to respond to feedback from field agent Coleen Rowley about the suspicious behavior of Zacarias Moussaoui. The elites at FBI headquarters were more worried about their jobs and procedures than a field report related to the actual mission of the FBI. That institutional failure cost over 3,000 lives.
Trubshaw, a social theorist, argues that managers of institutions have an important role to play in mediating feedback and ensuring the flow of information between elites and workers so they do not drift apart or lose sight of the institutional mission. He states that institutions face three external threats: loss of long-term viability, susceptibility to risk-taking and manias, and ideological capture.

Some institutions are created around a purpose that disappears, for example making buggy whips after automobiles replace horse-drawn buggies; or, the British Department of Colonies after colonies were given independence. The death of an institution can be painful for everyone who loses their job. It has been particularly difficult for liberal democracies to terminate government agencies that are not put out of business by the market.

The second threat, susceptibility to risk-taking and manias, caused me to think of the wild speculation by banks in the stock market before the Great Depression and the constructive response of the government with the Glass-Steagall Act and the creation of the FDIC (1933). These were exemplary acts of legislation that (1) required banks  to engage in banking rather than speculating and risk-taking with institutional resources, and (2) provided that if banks collapsed the savings accounts of customers would be reasonably guaranteed. This held banks accountable to middle-class consumers, and prevented the greed and temptation of elites to misdirect resources for personal gain.

The Glass-Steagall Act kept banking within the bounds of its social purpose until some provisions were repealed by the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (1999). This was done by lobbying that made way for the Citibank-Traveler’s merger enabling banks to engage in mergers and acquisitions with depositor’s money. This reopened a Pandora’s box that led almost immediately to Enron, Worldcom, and other scandals, followed by the massive subprime lending crisis created by unregulated private-label securitization (PLS) conduits, typically operated by investment banks. The legalization of no-interest mortgages for up to three years and reduced regulation on Fannie Mac and Freddie Mac contributed to the economic collapse and the need for the TARP bailout. However, the reinstallation of Glass-Steagall provisions never occurred, and the complex band-aid legislation in the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and the Dodd-Frank Act advantaged large banks and corporations and penalized small local and community banks with expensive reporting requirements.

This deregulation of banking and mortgages and the hijacking of new regulation by lobbies for large banks is an example of how resilient institutions can become fragile, dysfunctional, and harmful. The “crony capitalism” evident in the TARP bailout, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, and the Dodd-Frank Act show how the US government elites are making laws disconnected from the well-being of its citizens.

In the US, the FDA is another institution run by elites that have become disconnected from the original purpose of making sure drugs are safe and available. We currently struggle with high drug prices and corrupt patent processes that allow corporations to claim patents on drugs produced with taxpayer funded grants. Feedback from consumers is being ignored or fought by the pharmaceutical industry. For example, the new Covid treatment, molnupiravir, will cost consumers or the government $700 per treatment while it only costs $17 to manufacture. This drug came out of Drug Innovation Ventures at Emory (DRIVE), a not-for-profit LLC owned by Emory University, which received over $30 million in federal grants. It was licensed by venture capitalists, who then licensed worldwide rights to Merck.

The administrative or managerial role for a resilient FDA in this case would be to reconcile disconnected elite interests with the public interest. One simple solution would be for Congress to pass a law that would deny patents on products developed with the help of government funding. That public funding would put the product in the public domain.

The first two threats to institutional resilience have been the primary focus of most articles on this topic, so Trubshaw focuses more on ideological capture. He argues that, since ideological takeovers are often in direct conflict with the purpose of an institution, and seek to use institutional resources and power for other purposes, they inevitably lead to institutional collapse. The first example I thought of relating to ideological capture is some university departments where “wokism” and/or “cancel culture” is strong.

Universities have a traditional purpose of facilitating the search for truth. Academic training involves learning about a field of study from its founding purpose and evolution to the present “state of the art.” In preparing a doctoral dissertation and its defense, one is asked to make a contribution to the field through research and study on the dissertation topic. Producing a good dissertation requires a free debate of ideas, the merit of the thesis, and a defense of the conclusions before a committee of professors. Methods of strict documentation are required. This process provides institutional resilience in a specific field of study.

The examples I have used show how important resilient social institutions are to peace. Without such institutions the 9/11 attacks, economic collapses, and expensive and dysfunctional approaches to a pandemic have occurred. This is why, at the outset, I referred to the need to understand and create resilient social institutions as a key factor related to peace in our time.

This issue also contains two articles related to South Asia. The first is “Causality between Insurgency and Economic Development: A Study on Tripura, India” by Sanjib Banik and Gurudas Das. Tripura is in the isolated northeast corner of India, surrounded on three sides by Bangladesh. Insurgency began in the 1980s and began to wane around 2014. The authors did a statistical analysis of the relationship between insurgency and economic development. This is a difficult problem because lack of economic means contributes to insurgency, and insurgency makes economic development more difficult.
The authors found that while insurgency has a negative impact on economic development, economic development has little impact on insurgency. Thus, other factors like political autonomy and cultural identity must be studied to curb insurgency, as economic development, which policymakers often promote, does not reduce it.

Our third article, “Sri Lanka’s Relations with Pakistan, China, and the US and its Implications for India,” by Ramkishan S. Awad and B. D. Todkar examines the strong ties between Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and China. The root of these alliances stems from the civil war in Sri Lanka (1983-2009) in which India did not help the Sri Lankan government fight the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Even though India is Sri Lanka’s largest trading partner, large numbers of Tamils live in Southeast India, and support for Sri Lanka would have aggravated internal unrest there.

Pakistan gave military assistance to Sri Lanka for which the government has been grateful. Pakistan has become a major Chinese partner in China’s Belt and Road Initiative in which highways and sea routes surround India. Sri Lanka, just a few miles off the coast of India, has now given China approval to build a port in the city of Hambantota. While this initiative is publicly promoted as trade-related, there is potential for the Chinese military to use this port and others for military and political expansion. One consequence of China’s growing presence and encircling of India is that India has grown closer to the US as an ally to help balance the power of China in the region.


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