Government economic intervention, not globalisation, behind ethnic conflicts

September 30th, 2008 - 4:04 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, September 30 (ANI): If you believe that economic globalization and liberalization are to blame for a sharp rise in interethnic violence across the world, better think again, for a new study from McGill University negates this suggestion.
Dr. Stephen Saideman, who led the study with his former Masters student David Steinberg, has found that the more government intervention there is in the local economy, the more likely interethnic violence and rebellion becomes.
The researchers say that the likelihood of interethnic violence is lesser in economically open societies.
“Our study counters the idea that a liberalized economy is worse for ethnic groups. Minorities are more likely to be on the outside of the political system,” said Saideman, associate professor and associate director of graduate studies in the Department of Political Science, and Canada Research Chair in International Security and Ethnic Conflict.
“So, if the government is involved in the economy, minorities are more likely to be affected by the whims of the state than by the whims of the market,” he added.
The researchers analysed their own findings along with the Minorities at Risk dataset compiled by their colleagues at the University of Maryland.
Their analysis showed that government intervention in the economy leads to a spiral of political competition among groups to gain control of the state, and the economic spoils it distributes.
“Thus groups on the outs feel threatened because they have no control, which can lead to open rebellion, while those who are in power become terrified of losing control, as occurred in Serbia. Before the war the Serbs controlled a large hunk of the Yugoslav political system and it was their fear of losing it that led to war,” Saideman said.
He insisted that their findings were reasonably consistent in virtually every society they studied, regardless of political system.
“We”re not just talking about command economies like the old Soviet Union or Yugoslavia. We control for regime type, so whether a country is a democracy or not, statistically and probabilistically, the more government involvement there is in the economy, the more likely ethnic conflict is,” he said.
While the chances of interethnic violence are somewhat higher in less-developed economies, Saideman said that intergroup tensions could erupt even in the industrialized world as a result of government intervention.
“Ironically, look at how the government of the United States is now in the process of buying up a large hunk of the economy to bail out Wall Street. In the future this will give people who are denied loans or who have other economic grievances an incentive to blame the government. They won”t consider factors like oil shocks and housing bubbles, it will all be laid on the government’’s doorstep,” he said. (ANI)

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