Monday, January 31, 2011

Remediating Deviant Globalization

I've written and spoken a lot about deviant globalization, and the book is coming out in a few weeks. But I want to address an issue that people often raise with me when I introduce the concept of deviant globalization, namely: what is to be done? how do we avoid just taking a cynical view of the entire lurid spectacle? what are the possible avenues of remediation?

There are no easy solutions, but I think the short answer is, "Where possible, legalize it; when it's morally impossible to legalize it, do everything you can to reduce regulatory gaps." In other words, efforts like CITES for wildlife smuggling, or the Basel Convention for waste flows (to cite two examples), are on the right track — though the latter has huge loopholes and the former doesn't address capacity issues.

Even more importantly, the concept of deviant globalization has important things to say about what policy-makers should NOT do. Above all, policy-makers should avoid indulging locally specific moral codes, since that simply creates arbitrage opportunities for bad actors. (Not to mention political perversions: Bootleggers & Baptists, QED. Note how Humboldt County, the capital of domestic U.S. marijuana growing, voted against marijuana legalization last November.)

In short: If you can't universalize/globalize both the underlying moral principle and the enforcement capacity, then you've either got to give your moral principle up, or else accept that the uneven efforts to impose them are likely to end up empowering bad actors who will profit off of your moral outrage. (And it gets worse: these deviant entrepreneurs sometimes begin to act like termites on the very framework of the state, e.g. the Taliban, the Sinaloa Cartel, the 'Ndraghetta, etc.)

That's not a very pleasant thing for policy-makers to hear, but it's the fundamental lesson of our work. And analytically, it provides powerful predictive insights.

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