Borders in a Flat World

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Moisés Naím writes that we might need to rethink traditional notion of borders (via Foreign Policy blog);

“Where is the real U.S. border, for example, when U.S. customs agents check containers in the port of Amsterdam? Where should national borders be marked when drug traffickers launder money through illegal financial transactions that crisscross the globe electronically, violating multiple jurisdictions? How would border checkpoints help record companies that discover pirated copies of their latest offering for sale in cyberspace -- long before the legitimate product even reaches stores? And when U.S. health officials fan out across Asia seeking to contain a disease outbreak, where do national lines truly lie?

Governments and citizens are used to thinking of a border as a real, physical place: a fence, a shoreline, a desert or a mountain pass. But while geography still matters, today's borders are being redefined and redrawn in unexpected ways. They are fluid, constantly remade by technology, new laws and institutions, and the realities of international commerce -- illicit as well as legitimate. They are also increasingly intangible, living in a virtual and electronic space.”

But is geography and nation state not relevant in this age of globalization? Some like Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawn sees in the erosion of borders as evidence that the nation state is merely a phase of development that most developed countries are now close to the end of. Just recently we saw the creation of another state in the Balkans.

The idea of erosion of borders is important to the theses that Moises points out in his book, Illicit- How Smugglers, Traffickers and Copycats are Hijacking the Global Economy;

It took 400 years to import 12 million African slaves to the New World. In just the past 10 years 30 million people have been trafficked in SE Asia alone. The “people trade” affects at least 4 million humans valued at $10 billion a year.

Related Links;

Moises Naim at the World Bank, with Fareed Zakaria, discussing his book at Council on Foreign Relations.

How Much Do National Borders Matter? By John F. Helliwell; a professor at the University of British Columbia, has made a thorough study of trade across the Canadian-American border.He found that a Canadian province in 1996 was 12 times more likely to trade merchandise and 40 times more likely to trade services with another Canadian province than with an American state of similar size and distance. Interprovincial immigration was 100 times more likely, after adjusting for income difference and population sizes. Mr Helliwell’s research showed that the Free Trade Act, which came into effect in 1989, did have an impact: the ratio for traded goods had fallen from about 20:1 to 12:1 by 1993. But the level has held steady since. Although the figures are less reliable, Mr Helliwell also estimates that “trade densities” within countries in the European Union are around six times greater than those between members of the EU.

Good fences; In a recent edition of Foreign Affairs, Peter Drucker pointed to the long list of people—Immanuel Kant, the liberals of Austro-Hungary and Mikhail Gorbachev—who have argued that economic interdependence would prove stronger than nationalist passions. In many cases, right was on their side. “But whenever in the last 200 years political passions and nation-state politics have collided with economic rationality, political passions and the nation state have won.” New nationalisms may yet develop; but at the moment the nationalism bound up with states still survives. For a nation to mean something normally means it needs a state, or a share in one. And for a state to mean something it needs a border.

Some references for researching on borders;

International Boundary Study

The Issue Correlates of War (ICOW) Project; project is a research project that is attempting to collect systematic data on contentious issues in world politics. More detail on the project's goals and theoretical underpinnings may be found in the papers generated by the project

International Boundaries Research Unit

Borderbase (see the Border Crossing Hitlist)

International Court of Justice

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This page contains a single entry by Paul published on May 29, 2006 10:28 PM.

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