End Game! An International Conference on Combating Maritime Piracy

For the moment pirate attacks are down, but piracy continues to present a major threat to world shipping. Even with greatly expanded patrolling by international navies and increased use of private security forces, there have been 48 pirate attacks, 448 seamen were held hostage by pirates, and global economic losses due to piracy topped 5 billion dollars in the last twelve months. Meanwhile, renewed political turmoil in Somalia and Yemen is sowing the seeds for a fresh generation of pirates with increasingly deadly tactics. This conference brings together two-dozen of the world’s foremost counter-piracy experts to analyze the novel legal challenges and options related to this new phase in the fight against piracy.
Date: 6 September 2013
Location: Law School, Case Western Reserve University, USA
For more information, see the conference website.

Call for Papers- International Law on Sustainable Development, Legal Experts Seminar

The International Development Law Organization (IDLO) and the Centre for International Sustainable Development Law (CISDL) will co-host, together with the International Law Association’s Committee on International Law on Sustainable Development, a Legal Experts Panel and Seminar in Rome, Italy on 15-17 June 2011.

These events will commence with an International Legal Experts Panel on Green Economy, Poverty & the Law in which we will discuss the international and domestic legal aspects of the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Brazil.

The Legal Experts Panel will be followed by a 2-day Semina on Justice, Sustainabiity and International Law which aims to provide a forum for Committee members and other invited guests to present and discuss papers on key topics, including an analysis of how the 2002 New Delhi Declaration Principles have been reflected in the decisions of courts and tribunals. The final afternoon of this in-depth seminar will be reserved to discuss recommendations for the deliberations of the UN High Level Experts Panel on Global Sustainability and plans for the upcoming UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio +20) process, and for the ILA Sophia Biennial Conference. Continue reading

Call for Papers- Enhancing Stability in the International Economic Order

The New Zealand Centre of International Economic Law (NZCIEL) will host a conference entitled “Enhancing Stability in the International Economic Order” in Wellington on 7-8 July 2011. This multidisciplinary conference will bring together scholars, business people, policymakers and research students to discuss and debate issues relating to the conference theme. The focus will be on generating innovative ideas to tackle issues that have emerged in a world surfacing from economic recession. Continue reading

Economic debates for 2010 and beyond

By Nick Li

The 2008 economic collapse will be studied for years to come by economists of all stripes. While some economists were able to look back and say "I told you so" many will be forced to rethink conventional wisdom. Alan Greenspan, who at one point was being canonized by everyone, now looks very foolish because of statements like:

Innovation has brought about a multitude of new products, such as subprime loans and niche credit programs for immigrants. Such developments are representative of the market responses that have driven the financial services industry throughout the history of our country … With these advances in technology, lenders have taken advantage of credit scoring models and other techniques for efficiently extending credit to a broader spectrum of consumers. … Where once more-marginal applicants would simply have been denied credit, lenders are now able to quite efficiently judge the risk posed by individual applicants and to price that risk appropriately. These improvements have led to rapid growth in subprime mortgage lending; indeed, today subprime mortgages account for roughly 10 percent of the number of all mortgages outstanding, up from just 1 or 2 percent in the early 1990s.

Similarly, many economists who had predicted that the next great crisis would be a collapse of the US dollar due to the accumulation of "global imbalances" (the massive US current account deficit and government debt held by foreign investors, especially sovereign wealth funds and central banks) turned out to be wrong (so far) – the financial distress that originated in the US housing sector resulted in a flight to safety to US assets and US treasuries have never been perceived as safer. Even the usually brilliant Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman, who correctly predicted the housing bubble, missed the recent speculative oil bubble. Well, I shouldn’t presume to know that Krugman is wrong – perhaps he has some as yet unpublished analysis of how fundamentals drove the large and rapid increase and decrease in oil prices since 2007 – but the fear of $200 a barrel oil that some analysts were predicting certainly seems far off.

Prognostication is always a dangerous game in economics – anyone batting above .500 would be immensely wealthy if they ever put their money where their mouth is – but we are very good at hindsight. Or so I thought until I saw the level of the debate today. Apparently our profession has yet to reach a consensus about how the US got out of the Great Depression – see the recent work by Robert Barro or Lee Ohanian. While the level of disagreement over fundamental issues can be disheartening, it is also exciting for young researchers in the field seeking to make a name for themselves. Apparently there are many more open questions than anyone thought. The debates that will be played out in Academia and in policy circles in 2010 and beyond include:

  •  Monetary policy – objectives beyond low and stable inflation?
  •  Regulating finance
  •  How to get out of recessions?

In the next few weeks I will try to lay out the lines of debate and their main proponents. Continue reading

Monetary Policy: Debates for 2010 and beyond

By Nick Li  

Whither monetary policy?

Back in 2006 it seems like the industrialized world had achieved a consensus on monetary policy. There was an independent central bank whose primary objective was to maintain price stability, either through direct inflation-targetting (say, keeping the prime rate between 1% and 3%) or through a general objective of "price stability" sometimes counterbalanced by maintaining the economy near full employment. And despite tremendous criticism from some quarters in the aftermath of the 2007-201? financial crisis and recession, Alan Greenspan and Ben Bernanke (after 2006) did exactly that, as did the European Central Bank (with the important caveat that unemployment varies tremendously across European countries and the ECB tends to be more oriented towards the biggest economies of the Euro area, especially Germany). Unemployment was around 5% in the US and inflation (as measured by the Consumer Price Index) was low and stable.

Yet in the aftermath of the crisis, there has been a lot of debate about whether the Central Banks did enough to avert the crisis and whether their role might extend beyond simply setting interest rates to maintain stable inflation, especially since with interest rates near zero, conventional monetary policy has little power to affect the economy and boost employment in the current global recession. In this article I will briefly review some of the current proposals and debates.

Continue reading

Most popular posts since July 2008

Since July 2008, this blog has been viewed over 98,276 times. I think this is a good opportunity to celebrate. In order to do so, I have listed the most popular blog articles, in terms of the number of views since July 2008. This is the Top 10 (number of views in brackets):

  1. Manipulating and measuring the political spectrum part 1: Obama and the flip flops (4619): In this post, Nick Li provided his own analysis of whether Obama had really moved to the centre on various issues, as was often suggested.
  2. Calvin & Hobbes on International Law (2513): In this post, Otto Spijkers provides an example of the lessons international lawyers can learn from comic books, especially Calvin & Hobbes.
  3. Understanding Bokito, the gorilla that escaped and attacked a woman (2290): In this post, Otto Spijkers tried to explain why a gorilla escaped from his cage in Blijdorp Zoo (Netherlands), and immediately attacked a woman that visited him on an almost daily basis in the Zoo.
  4. In Manipulating and measuring the political spectrum part 2: Political Rankings and Compasses (2266), Nick looked in greater detail at how one can actually measure the political spectrum. He looked at what constituted the ‘centre’ in US politics, and how these things were measured by the likes of the National Journal, which ranked Obama as the most liberal Senator in 2007.
  5. Political Economy of Myanmar/Burma Part 2 – what can the international community do? (1765): In this post, Nick Li assessed the steps the international community could take to alleviate the suffering of the Burmese people. He looked at the possibility of military intervention, economic sanctions, and engagement.
  6. New Online Journal: The Göttingen Journal of International Law (1553): In this post, Tobias Thienel wrote about the publication of the first issue in history of a brand new, exciting online journal: the Göttingen Journal of International Law (GoJIL). The GoJIL is the first student-run German international law review. Tobias himself was actively involved in setting up this journal: one of the articles in the first journal was written by him, and he is a member of the journal’s Scientific Advisory Board.
  7. Why the internship at UN Headquarters should be (un)paid (1549): In this post, Otto Spijkers listed all the reasons brought forward to defend the position that the UN interns should get paid for the duration of their internship. The comments to this article have slowly evolved into what can only be called an Unofficial United Nations Internship Programme Discussion Group, where various issues relating to the application process are discussed by a number of future interns.
  8. Acts of Dutchbat must be attributed to the United Nations and not to the Netherlands (1108): This post is about a number of cases before the Dutch District Court relating to the responsibility of the Netherlands for the failure of Dutch peacekeepers in Srebrenica in the early nineties.
  9. The problem with MONUC (1102): In this post, Richard Norman looks critically at the achievements and failures of UN’s largest peacekeeping mission, MONUC, which is based in the Congo.
  10. Update on Australia’s refugee policy (1034): In this post, Mel O’Brien looked critically at recent changes in Australia’s refugee policy. After looking in great detail at a speech by Chris Evans, Australia’s federal Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Mel concluded that ‘it seems the government is really planning a complete overhaul of the immigration system to render it fair and treat asylum seekers with the dignity they deserve.’

I calculated the number of hits in the morning of 25 March 2009. The blog articles that were written before July 2008 have been published once again on this new blog, but they actually first appeared on our previous blog (www.1948blog.com) which is no longer available. Unfortunately I thus cannot take into account the number of views of those posts as originally published. The posts that appeared on United Nations, Global Values, and the Individual and The Core, our previous blog efforts, are also not taken into account. They are still available on the original blogs.

Understanding the Global Financial Meltdown

By Nick Li

I confess to not being an expert on financial economics or monetary policy, so I have no original thoughts about the current financial crisis gripping the world. However, I have been trying to inform myself about what is going on. In this post I would like to suggest a few resources for non-experts to get acquainted with the origins and solutions to the current crisis, and I will attempt to describe in layman’s terms a few of the options. Continue reading

The World Electoral College according to the Economist

By Nick Li

The Economist magazine has an interesting map that shows what the US election would look like if everyone in the world could vote. Each country is like a US state, in that it gets 3 automatic electoral college votes and then additional votes proportional to population. The 50%+1 majority gets all the electoral college votes for that country. The choice of each country is based on a survey of Economist readers, so obviously this is a highly biased sample. Nevertheless the results are interesting – an overhwhelming Obama landslide 8202 to 8. Continue reading

The Invisible College

JBD_square.jpg By Nick Li

Brad DeLong is an economics professor at UC Berkeley where I go to school. I recently came across an article of his that provides his musings on the "invisible college" and he uses the phrase in his title (well before this blog was founded) – clearly the phrase coined by Oscar Schachter is beginning to enter the popular lexicon. The important background to this article is that Brad sometimes gets criticism these days for not publishing "serious" economic papers and devoting so much time to his blog, which is one of the most popular economics blogs on the web. So this article constitutes a defense of blogging as a worthwhile activity by a serious academic, and helps people like us feel less like ego-maniacs who think we have something important to say or serial procrastinators who should be doing real work (though we are those things sometimes too). The full article is reproduced below. 

CAN BLOGGING DERAIL YOUR CAREER? The Invisible College By J. BRADFORD DELONG Right now I’m looking out my office window, perched above the large, grassy, Frisbee-playing, picnicking, and sunbathing area that stretches through Berkeley’s campus. I’m looking straight out at the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s a view that I marvel at every day I wonder why the chancellor hasn’t confiscated such offices and rented them out to hedge funds to improve the university’s finances. Continue reading

Naomi Klein on the “why” of human rights violations

naomik.jpg By Nick Li

For those who haven’t read it, "The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism" by Canadian uber left-wing activist Naomi Klein is a must read for anyone interested in economics, human rights, or the world generally. One of the most interesting chapters of her book, "Entirely Unrelated," discusses the rise of the international human rights movement in the 1960s and its acute limitations. Continue reading