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Latin America’s Socioeconomic Relationship With China: Is Development Still Possible?  

Enrique Dussel Peters

The socioeconomic and political relationship between Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) with China has become increasingly significant for both since the beginning of the 21st century. This article analyzes proposals by the United States and China in their bilateral relationship and the political effects of their increasing tensions on LAC. Consistent with the proposed framework of analysis of the socioeconomic LAC–China relationship—at least in terms of trade, financing, overseas foreign direct investments, and infrastructure projects—the article examines in detail these conditions, as well as providing an in-depth example of trade. The final part of the article discusses the important potential and challenges of China for LAC’s development and concludes that so far, and based on the in-depth analysis of the trade relationship, the LAC–China relation is closer to a core-periphery than to a South–South or win–win strategy. The document proposes to understand that the political economy within the United States, particularly of its private sector, have shifted substantially against China. In addition, the structure for analysis of the LAC-China relationship in the 21st century with a concrete structure of analysis in terns of trade, financing, Chinese overseas foreign direct investments (OFDI) and infrastructure projects. In light of current discussions, the analysis suggests for the inclusion of a group of new concepts –such as the “the new triangular relationships” and the “globalization process with Chinese characteristics” with a group of effects in LAC. The impact of the increasing China-United States tensions, from this perspective, generates massive challenges in LAC, independently of their diplomatic relationships to China.

Article

Party Finance in Latin America  

Kathleen Bruhn

Modern representative democracy cannot function without political parties, however rudimentary. Parties in turn cannot function without money. The subject of party finance is therefore central to the construction of contemporary democracies. Latin American countries have attempted to meet the challenges of preserving democracy while providing for political parties across three main areas of financial regulation: provision of public finance, regulation of private finance, and limiting campaign spending. In all three areas, transparency (reporting), oversight, and enforcement of existing legal regulations remain important problems for the health of the political system. In the late 20th century, Latin American countries increasingly turned to public finance as a way of supplementing existing systems of private contributions. This trend seems to have been inspired both by a desire to reduce the inequalities inherent in Latin America’s socioeconomic structure and by efforts to contain and prevent episodes of scandal and undue influence generated by private contributors. Public finance particularly benefits small parties and parties with fewer connections to the wealthy sectors that tend to dominate private contributions. Public finance may contribute to the institutionalization of both party organizations and party systems, but it may also weaken the dependence of parties on their members and supporters in ways that undermine representation. Private finance in Latin America remains largely obscure. We know that relatively few private donors account for the lion’s share of party donations, but it is unclear in many cases exactly who donates, or what their money buys. It is therefore difficult for voters (and analysts) to determine the structure of party obligations to donors and to hold parties accountable. Partly as a result, drug money is believed to have penetrated the political systems of many Latin American countries, especially but not exclusively at the local level. Campaign spending limits, including limits on the duration of campaigns and campaign advertising, have been employed in some cases to try to contain costs and thus reduce the incentives of parties to seek out private donations, especially of questionable origin. Lax enforcement, however, limits the impact of these initiatives.

Article

Proxy Wars: Implications of Great-Power Rivalry for the Onset and Duration of Civil War  

Indra de Soysa

Theories of civil war focus largely on factors internal to countries, generally ignoring the systemic effects of superpower rivalry during the Cold War, or great power politics associated with regional rivalries and ambitions. The question of the importance of proxiness of civil wars potentially challenges notions of commitment and time-inconsistency problems associated with explanations of why rational agents fail to find less costly bargains compared with fighting costly wars. Great powers often influence the politics of lesser powers by supporting sides in contentious politics as a means to achieve foreign policy objectives relatively cheaply. Models of civil war that focus exclusively on in-country ills, thus, would have very limited predictive power. It is argued here that great powers influence the politics of other nations without bearing the costs of direct involvement by supplying the logistics that allow the feasibility of rebellions. Examining these issues is all the more critical today because the multipolar world emerging out of the Cold War era promises to generate proxy struggles in many strategic places. While the study of civil war moves in the direction of disaggregating in order to understand micro processes associated with rebellion, it might be prudent to examine the interplay of factors between the micro and macro processes in multilevel models because the feasibility of fighting over not fighting is likely to be decided at higher rather than lower levels of aggregation. How to cauterize great-power machinations in civil war must in turn become a primary focus of international institutions, such as the United Nations, for strengthening instruments that would curtail external influences that propagate civil wars.

Article

Power and National Capability  

Brian Crisher

Power is a crucial concept for international relations scholars. Of particular importance for those interested in understanding foreign policy is knowing how power manifests as national capabilities. Understanding the relationship between power and capabilities allows for comparison and contrast of the various foreign policy tools leaders have at their disposal as they attempt to achieve their goals. Despite the importance of power, scholars still debate the best means for conceptualizing and operationalizing the concept. The all-encompassing nature of power makes it difficult to focus on a single characteristic. This article focuses on three main aspects of power: military, economic, and soft power. Each section gives an overview into the current state of research into the various aspects of power. The discussion on military power emphasizes operationalizing military might and issues with innovation. The section on economics focuses on economics as a source of power and a tool for coercion. Finally, the last section focuses on noncoercive aspects of power, better known as soft power. The article ends with some suggestions for future research.

Article

Real Property Tax in Local Public Finance  

Yilin Hou

The real property tax (RPT) is a major, stable revenue source for local governments to provide basic public services. The quality, quantity and reliability of public services in a locality are key indicators of the living standards. The service responsibilities require local governments to maintain stable revenues. RPT is a tax on owning and holding land and structures on land, and RPT is a very old tax, dating back to ancient times when land and products thereof were the most important assets. RPT has been used by governments of all countries throughout history, although with huge variation in formats and ways of use. Despite numerous pitfalls in its design and administration, RPT has remained a pillar of local revenue, accounting for a high percentage of total local revenue. Thus, it is important to understand RPT and its roles in local public finance. RPT was mistakenly dubbed the worst tax, a misnomer that has caused misperception of the tax that should be corrected. RPT is one essential pillar of a modern tax system. The design and maintenance of an optimal RPT should follow six principles. The complexity of RPT is with key aspects in its administration, with the weakest link in property value assessment. Exemptions and limitations add to the complexity of RPT, causing unintended consequences. From a panoramic view, RPT has adapted to changes of the society and economy; it still holds prospects as an optimal tax and remains the cornerstone of accountable and sustainable local public finance.

Article

Taxation  

Ryan J. Tonkin

Taxation is perhaps the most important mechanism for realizing a conception of distributive justice. It also confronts citizens with the coercive power of the state in an immediate way. Yet there exists no widely accepted theory of tax justice. This is partly explained by the protean character of modern taxation: taxes allocate resources, create incentives, fund public goods, address collective action problems, and more. As well, claims about fair taxation always implicate technical and practical considerations alongside their normative dimensions. Historically, experts in the technical and practical (such as economists and policymakers) have more readily engaged this tangle of considerations than experts in normative theory (such as philosophers), although that is beginning to change. The results of the engagement are fragmentary and often inconsistent. However, the fragments can be roughly sorted into two broad approaches to questions of tax justice. The first approach assesses taxation as an institutional interference with a pretax allocation of resource entitlements. It conceives of the collective tax burden as a social invoice that must be fairly distributed across that pretax allocation. Thus, various principles of distribution follow: the tax burden should be distributed according to ability to pay, or benefits received, and so on. But the second approach argues that the project of fairly distributing the tax burden is misconceived for two reasons. First, it is myopic in its assessment of particular taxes without considering how those taxes fit within the broader institutional arrangement. Second, it presumes an existing allocation of resource entitlements with which taxes interfere. In a modern state, however, taxes are antecedent to, and so already presumed by, any allocation of entitlements. Instead of attending to a fair distribution of an illusory tax burden, the second approach conceives of taxation as constructive social architecture. Accordingly, it holds that taxes should be assessed in terms of their contribution to a distribution that satisfies the appropriate principles of justice, whatever those principles may be.

Article

Predatory Government and the Feasibility of Rebellion: A Micro Logic of the Capitalist Peace  

Indra de Soysa

The idea that civil war has to be feasible to occur, and that feasibility is largely a function of the availability of lootable income has gained wide acceptance in the specialized literature on civil war. A parallel debate exists on whether or not liberal, capitalist economies produce a lower risk of domestic conflict. A micro logic for why capitalist economies are less likely to break down in armed conflict is offered to bridge these two literatures. It argues that autarchic economic policies often associated with predatory states drive investment in the shadows for capturing rents from market-constraining policies. The survivability of groups is based on infrastructures of violence and escape rather than simply the availability of lootable income. Free-market economies are far less likely to generate investment in this form of rebellion-specific capital that ultimately facilitates an open challenge of predatory states. Such a view of conflict is able to reconcile why internal conflicts last long, how narratives of greed and grievance coexist in conflict zones, why dominant state forces fail to stamp out insurgency, and why autarchic states are highly militarized. Any theory focused on grabbing to explain the onset of conflict should endogenize the causes of survivability, which ultimately determines how many battle deaths get generated to meet the threshold for becoming a civil war.

Article

The Political Economy of Development Finance in Latin America  

Leslie Elliott Armijo

Finance is frequently, but incorrectly, judged a technical matter best left to experts. Equally mistaken is the exasperated conclusion encapsulated in the phrase “people, not profits,” which holds that capitalism, private investors, and markets are simply evil. Finance is necessary for economic development, but also has profound, and often unexamined, implications for social and political spheres. Channels for financial intermediation may be public or private, and national or foreign, implying tradeoffs among organizational forms. Public banks typically are superior in providing public goods and implementing national strategic plans, but private banks and capital markets normally are more efficient, assuming competitive markets. Savings may be sought within the national economy or from abroad, with domestic savings implying a smaller pool yet less subsequent international vulnerability, and foreign inflows offering potential abundance at the cost of external dependence. This framing yields four ideal-types of long-term finance (LTF): national public finance from state development banks; national private finance from domestic private banks and capital markets; foreign public finance via bilateral or multilateral aid or state investment (including from non-traditional lenders, such as China); and foreign private finance sourced from global investors seeking returns. Both national public and foreign public finance dominated long-term investment in Latin America in the early postwar decades of import-substituting industrialization. In the 1970s through the 1990s, they were succeeded by foreign private bank loans, followed by crisis and retrenchment. In the 21st century global political and market conditions brought a resurgence of foreign capital, including from both global private investors and non-Western public sources. Worries about problems arising from Chinese public finance to Latin America are likely overblown, as the quantity remains small, except in some Bolivarian Alliance countries. However, private foreign inflows, strongly promoted by Western-led multilateral actors, from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to the World Bank, during the 2010s, may be more problematic. Excessive dependence on private securities markets funded by globally mobile capital often undercuts achievement of other valued societal goals such as reducing inequality and ensuring democratic accountability. Notwithstanding their predictable flaws, it may be time for a reemphasis on national, and possibly regional, public development banks.