Free Syrian Army fighters in Idlib, courtesy of Freedom House/flickr
The participation of foreign fighters in the Syrian conflict is a growing concern, particularly among Western governments that are not only struggling to track the movement of their citizens, but are also fearful that those travelling to the conflict may become radicalised and return home with their extremist ideology. Recently, a UK Parliament Home Affairs Committee enquiry into counterterrorism heard from a range of experts how returning fighters pose a statistically significant risk to the security of their home countries. Research published by Thomas Hegghammer also suggests that perhaps one-in-nine foreign fighters from the West might perpetrate attacks on their home countries once they return.
In addition, several studies have been undertaken that seek to estimate the number and nationality of these foreign fighters. Consensus suggests that there are over 10,000 such fighters in Syria, with as many as 2000 (and rising) coming from Western Europe. A number of these have already died in battle or, as in the case of Briton Abdul Waheed Majeed, acted as suicide bombers. Yet, while there is certainly no suggestion that all those returning from the conflict will be radicalised, the West’s limited knowledge as to who travels and returns from Syria is alarming. » More
Flags of the world, courtesy of Ban All Nukes generation/Flickr
WASHINGTON, DC – Unlike in the past, there probably will not be large protests at the upcoming Annual Meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, or at the subsequent World Trade Organization meeting of trade ministers in Bali. But that is not because these international institutions are perceived as effective and legitimate. It is because, compared to a decade ago, they are seen as too small and impotent in the face of larger market forces to bother about.
The 2008 global financial crisis and its aftermath have caused a loss of faith not only in markets, but also in the ability of democratic governments to ensure that the benefits of market-led growth are widely shared. On economic, financial, tax, trade, and climate issues, many people around the world are fearful or angry, believing that a worldwide cabal of bankers, corporations, and G-20 elites uses insider deals to monopolize the benefits of globalization.
But few people – whether ordinary citizens or internationally oriented economists – recognize that our seemingly weak and ineffectual multilateral institutions are the world’s best hope for managing and democratizing the global market. Only these institutions are capable of preventing the elite capture and insider rents that are putting global prosperity at long-term risk. » More
Bankers walking into the City of London, one of the symbols of financialization. Image: Chris Brown/flickr
Money was invented to facilitate economic transactions and thus serve the real economy. Over the past 30 years or so, this relationship has been reversed: the real economy now appears to serve financial markets with financial crises bringing down economies. “Financialization” is the term experts use to describe this phenomenon.
As part of our Editorial Plan’s focus on international economics and finance, yesterday we described the history of the international monetary system. On Monday the ISN speculated that the growing importance of foreign direct investment and global financial markets makes the most recent wave of globalization the most impressive. What follows is a critical analysis of the evolution of financialization, which has pernicious side-effects that remain difficult to resolve. » More
Phase 1 of our Editorial Plan – a phase dedicated to tracing the structural changes occurring in the international system – has thus far mostly looked at intangibles. In other words, we at the ISN have explored, in a prism-like way, the roles of future forecasting; geopolitical thought; globalization, multiculturalism, and nationalism; evolving international norms and laws, etc., in shaping the international system. Indeed, these frameworks, processes and, yes, even ideologies may be to one degree or another ephemeral, but they have all contributed to the systemic changes we have seen in the last 20-30 years. (Even future forecasting can have a self-fulfilling prophecy component to it.) Influential as all these topics have been, however, a critic might ask when are we going to get “real” – i.e., when are we going to deal with the facts-on-the-ground reality of politics and its relationship to economics? The answer is “now.” Over the next several weeks, we will look at the past, present and future of the international economic and financial systems, we will then explore their relationship to global economic development, and we will close our enquiry by analyzing the current dynamics that exist between economics, politics and war. By looking at our three-part subject again in a prism-like way, we hope to highlight how economic and financial forces do indeed provide an impetus to wholesale change in the international system.
A tax that won't hurt, except for gamblers. Image: artuemuestra/flickr
Liberal-minded economists are usually skeptical of taxation: taxes distort markets and lead to the inefficient allocation of resources. However, some taxes are better than others, and financial transaction taxes, such as the Tobin Tax, are certainly in that category.
Now, the European Commission is getting serious about introducing a financial transaction tax. Their proposal: levy a tax of 0.1% on every financial securities transaction performed by a financial institution based in the EU. » More