Derek Newberry

Looking Back On 9/11, Looking Forward to the Challenge of Inclusion

WTC siteI was thinking of what to express as the United States enters a fifth year of reflection on the WTC attacks in 2001. Instead of getting into the charged debates over which countries were okay to invade, who has or has not told the truth and the like- instead of engaging in discussion over what role the US should play in the world, I want to focus on what role marginalized peoples everywhere can and should play in the global system (be it economic, political or social).

When 9/11 comes up in debates, pundits and scholars often wrangle over what the long-term causes of these attacks were; what drives ?terrorists?? Is it pure hatred for US incursion or the American lifestyle? Is it the result of a hopeless nothing-to-lose attitude fostered by poor living conditions and little upward mobility? Many academics argue that data shows there is no correlation between poverty and terrorist acts (see, for example, this recent UNC paper). This may be the case, but even these studies have found something interesting- that there is in fact a correlation between political violence and social cleavages within a society. As the Piazza paper I linked above shows, countries with heavily divided political factions, for example show a greater level of unrest largely attributable to the exclusion that can occur if a rival faction takes power.

When I read this, it seemed to make sense to me- political violence is bred in places like Colombia, Sudan and Israel/Palestine where social and political cleavages run deep and where each faction seems to have much more to lose than, for example, PRIstas in Mexico or the PT in Brazil. The threat of exclusion fosters fear and resentment in those who are marginalized. I would be interested to see studies on this because it seems to be a powerful force among diverse groups of individuals that are concerned with or outright reject the emerging global system of democratic government and open economic networks.

The general Latin-American experience servesecon 1 as an interesting experiment for this phenomenon, as most countries in the region have been through the economic liberalization push of the past few decades.
Polls from The Economist show disappointing results in terms of the populations? attitude toward these changes; many Latin-Americans do not believe democracy is the best form of governance (a majority in some places, like Brazil) and many believe that market reforms such as privatization are not beneficial. Economist Gary Becker writes in his blog that this can largely be attributed to the way capitalism has been conducted in these countries, where ?companies with close connections to the government gain economic power not by competing better, but by using the government to get favored and protected positions.?

In the Economist poll, Latin-Americans by far rate unemployment as the most pressing problem in their country. With such widespread exclusion from the benefits of economic reforms and democratic governance, is it any surprise that there would be such disillusionment with these systems? As Amartya Sen argues, real development and growth fosters greater freedoms, access and capabilities for the widest group of people. Is there a direct comparison between the sentiments of Latin-Americans frustrated with markets that do not serve them, the communities in the Middle East looking on approvingly at attacks like those in New York and London and the rebels of Darfur? Not necessarily, maybe more of a psychological or emotional link, the manifestation of rejectionist or frustrated attitudes at a system that from their perspective seems like a force working more to marginalize them then include them and deliver benefits.

I’m more interested in some of the proposed solutions (whether partial or complete) to these problems, be it encouraging BOP models that include the underserved in international markets, diplomacy that creates sentiments of unity between the US government and various Muslim cultures, or a government that represents Sudan’s major ethnicities. Again, I would like to see any research on the effects of marginalization and how much it serves as a root cause of the situations I mentioned; I have always felt at least from the BOP angle that the most powerful element of this poverty-alleviation model is its focus on connecting the poor with markets that they previously had no access to.

This question goes far beyond this blog and even the greater NextBillion community, but I would be interested to hear other thoughts on how powerful inclusion is in fostering a more positive attitude toward global markets. As we look back at September 11, 2001, I propose to reflect on the role people have in the political, economic and social networks that now seem to touch everyone on the planet in one way or another- and to contemplate how we include or exclude different groups from having a sense of personal empowerment or control over their own livelihood. In essence, can we bring everyone into these networks we have formed to the point where rupturing them in any way would be inconceivable?