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Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds”– These famous words uttered by the scientist of the Manhattan project, Dr.J.Robert Oppenhemier taken from the sacred Hindu text the Bhagavad-Gita on the creation of the world’s first atomic bomb in 1945. On the 6th and 9th of August 2020 Japan commemorated the 75th anniversary of the atomic bomb droppings on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In today’s modern world which is becoming ever more polarizing, it is important to take stock of days like these and appraise the effects that nuclear weapons and weapons, in general, have had on global peace.

The modernisation of arms through the industrialisation process had led to may advancements in arms manufacturing. Weapons have become more accurate, effective and precise which have consequentially led to an increase in loss of human life. A quintessential indicator of this progress is the difference between conventional arms and nuclear arms. The advent of the nuclear bomb is representative of a complete revolution in military affairs. To put this in perspective, consider the largest traditional non-nuclear weapon, the Russian built Aviation Thermobaric Bomb of Increased Power (AVBIP) or commonly known as the “Father of All Bombs” (FOAB). This bomb uses a traditional blast to disperse its energy. The FOAB contains 44 tons of TNT (trinitrotoluene) and its blast radius is about 300 meters and can floor a small city centre to rubble. The nuclear bomb used in Hiroshima and Nagasaki had a blast radius of 16 km. Contrastingly nuclear bombs deliver their blast energy in three amalgamated ways, through a blast constituting 50%, 35% being heat and 15% through radiation. To simplify this even further, 1 kilogram of nuclear fission fuel can release 20,000,000 times more energy than 1 kilogram of TNT used in traditional bombs. Furthermore, a nuclear bomb is a generational bomb, it can wipe out an entire generation and those lucky enough to survive the blast of heat, suffer from radiation sickness and eventually perish. A nuclear bomb is a total weapon, it can desolate an entire nation, it is the Omega. The aftermath of Hiroshima and Nagasaki resulted in thousands of deaths, numbers vary but a conservative estimate is that over 250,000 people died from these bombings whereas the largest bombings during WWII in Hamburg resulted in 41,000 deaths. The sheer power of these weapons completely shifted and shuddered the global perspective on the consequences of nuclear weapons, conflict, and human loss.

Some Post-WW II analysis has highlighted that use of the nuclear bombings were part of the USA broader political and foreign policy goals, to establish the Pax-Americana doctrine. Japan was a few days away from surrendering regardless of the bombings. The USA used the bombings to demonstrate that it had won the nuclear race in light of the brewing Cold-War. Additionally, the ability to possess nuclear weapons also meant a state acquired a certain amount of power, prestige and polarity in international relations.

The remembrance of Hiroshima and Nagasaki should serve as a reference point to analyze where we are today. A nuclear bomb has not to be used since 1945 and nations have remained fairly restrained through various international laws on the proliferation of weapons such as the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) which outlaws the proliferation of nuclear weapons. The restraint on the non-use of nuclear weapons is partially down to factors such as more effective diplomacy, deeper economic integration between states and the nuclear security theory commonly known as Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD). MAD was often seen as the main reason why the Cold War never escalated. MAD essentially means, that if one nuclear state strikes another, the opposing state would have the capabilities to immediately retaliate with its nuclear weapons leading to mutual destruction. The proliferation of nuclear weapons remains a major issue in international relations. There are non-signatories to the NPT such as India, Pakistan, Israel and states such as Iran, Libya, North Korea and Syria who have signed the treaty and violated it by obtaining nuclear weapons. Any international agreement on world peace needs to include actors most likely to presage world peace, thus, states such as North Korea, Iran and brewing tensions between India and Pakistan need to be incentivised to comply with the NPT. That being said, in these cases it’s not certain that MAD would prevail in the case of rogue state behaviours like North Korea or Iran.

Additionally, there lies a structural fault in the global peace architecture of the world. The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) permanent 5 members, the body responsible for global peace is an oxymoron for peace at best. Let’s elaborate on this, the UNSC P5 members are China, France, USA, UK and Russia. They constitute the world’s largest armies, as well as the largest producers of arms, constituting 80% of global production and housing largest stockpiles of nuclear weapons. The sale of arms generates trillions of dollars per year and conflicts around the world help fuel the need for arms. How can the body trusted with world peace have such a vested interested in the production of arms? Furthermore, these P5 have refused to completed eradicated their own nuclear arms programs as this is apart of their national security strategy. This then begs the question, why should Pakistan give up its nuclear weapons program? Or why shouldn’t Iran be allowed to pursue a nuclear project if the P5 refuse to give up their arms? Thus, the P5 peace mechanism is flawed and does not have a vested interested in total global peace and thus, it is up to the rest of the global nations to pressurise the P5 to take steps towards a nuclear-free world!

By Jervin Naidoo

Jervin Naidoo is an academic at the University of Pretoria and holds an MA in International Political Economy from the University of Warwick, and is the founder of The Art of Politics.


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It’s widely been documented that countries with higher levels of income and wealth tend to exhibit lower rates of social mobility, as measured by greater intergenerational income and wealth persistence. Social mobility matters as it is both a matter of theoretical equality of opportunities (i.e. it should not matter where you were born for you to succeed (or fail) in life). A lack of social mobility erodes the foundations of sound economic growth as low growth rates and low social mobility (or high economic inequality), are likely to be related to each other. The lack of upward mobility for individuals at the lower ends of the income distribution might result in talents and investment opportunities remaining unexploited. A lack of downward mobility on the other end can cause persistent gains for a few at the expense of the many, at high-efficiency costs.

A good example of this is Mexico, who is among the 25% of countries with the biggest levels of inequality in the world. According to Oxfam, Mexico from 1996 to 2016, levels of poverty and inequality have remained constant and disposable income of the majority of Mexican households has fallen. In turn, social mobility is rigid and stratified, especially in the lower and higher ends of the income distribution. The social mobility regime in Mexico can be characterised as a pyramid where a class of big employers, top and middle-level managers and salaried employees is at the top of the pyramid,  a class of manual labourers and agricultural workers is at the bottom of the pyramid, and a class of small employers and qualified independent workers is sandwiched between them. Whilst there is a significant amount of mobility from the bottom of the pyramid to the middle, this mobility is precarious given a lack of social security, and individuals from that class face a glass ceiling that denies them further upwards mobility. On the other end, individuals from the top class are safeguarded from downwards mobility .

This situation of high inequality and low social mobility can be worsened by the effects that the Covid-19 pandemic is having in Mexico given that social distancing and lockdown measures have drastically worsened both economic and educational inequality, the two key drivers of low social mobility. According to the ECLAC, the pandemic is threatening the limited social mobility in Latin America given the increase in poverty and inequality rates in the region. One solution to the effects of the pandemic, as seen in many developed and developing countries, is fiscal redistribution. In Mexico, however, the economic recovery plan from the federal government is essentially non-existent and the risk of unemployment will affect people in the middle and lower classes the most given that around 81% of their income depends on their employment.

The importance of fiscal redistribution lies in its impact on inequality. For instance, Nora Lusting examined the redistributive impact of fiscal policy in several developing countries and found that fiscal policy always reduces inequality and so one could argue (as many have), that fiscal redistribution is especially important during the pandemic in order to mitigate some of its economic and social effects. As Lustig shows, success in fiscal redistribution is driven primarily by redistributive efforts (i.e. the level of income redistribution and the size of the budget allocated to social spending (as a share of GDP) are associated), and the extent to which transfers/subsidies are targeted to the poor and direct taxes targeted to the rich. The problem with Mexico is that, since the neoliberal reforms of the 90’s, it has been a notoriously weak State, as it has the lowest levels of both tax collection and social spending amongst comparable OECD economies. We can expect for Mexico’s fiscal policy to have a low impact on redistribution as measured by, the difference between market income, Gini coefficient and the Gini coefficient for income after taxes and transfers. Again, Mexico shows the lowest impact of fiscal policy amongst OECD members.

These figures have many in Mexico practically screaming for a more progressive tax reform that includes taxes on inheritances and higher taxes on capital gains. This would a particularly feasible time to do it given that Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) came to power with a policy platform of prioritising poor people and combating the neoliberal model of the past 30 years. AMLO’s left-wing party, Morena, also controls both chambers of the legislature and a majority of state government’s so a progressive tax reform is certainly possible. AMLO is reluctant to even think about this and instead claims that by eliminating the web of corruption that persists in Mexico and which includes law firms that help big companies evade billions of pesos in taxes, he is installing a de facto tax reform.

This hesitancy for advancing a progressive tax reform is aided by the fact that the rich, despite worrying about inequality and social mobility being too high and too low respectively have a low commitment to fiscal redistribution. Whilst people in the lower deciles of the income distribution are willing to have up to 15% of their income taxed, people on the higher decile are only willing to do so with 7.5% of theirs. So, the Mexican elites want to have their cake and eat it too and so far, the AMLO is willing to play their game.

This points towards a grim answer to the question, of “who governs?” in Mexico. AMLO came to power by promising real change, ending corruption, and the neoliberal policies that benefited only the few members of the economic elite in detriment of the poor and whilst so far, it has advanced some policies such as raising the minimum wage and signing the new USMCA deal that will guarantee better labour protection rights for Mexican workers, in the case of a necessary progressive fiscal reform he has sided with the elites, has promised to fight in favour of the poor, even the context of a global pandemic which will leave many people living in poverty and precarious conditions whilst the rich will remain being rich. 

By Julio Galido Gutierrez

Julio holds an MA in International Political Economy from the University of Warwick. He is currently working as an academic in Mexico City and is in the process of pursuing his PHD.


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The Chilean water market has been championed as the leading example of free-market approaches to managing water resources, employing the market mechanism to provide incentives that guide agents towards using resources efficiently . This post argues that free-market approaches to environmental protection, in which state regulation is largely absent, are inadequate for the protection of water resources. Chile has experienced many issues in instituting a market for water, facing resistance from local cultures while also suffering from inadequate infrastructure and institutions. Indeed, where the water markets have been active, they have produced economic gains, improving agricultural efficiency and diverting resources towards high-value uses such as mining. Yet, the water markets have been ineffective in protecting the nation’s rivers and aquifers, with profit incentives and a lack of regulatory oversight leading to unsustainable extraction and degradation of water supplies. Indeed, the markets have had negative impacts in terms of social equity too, with peasant farmers as well as urban residents being denied affordable access to water as a result of hoarding and speculation by market actors. Yet, the case study of Chile does not suggest that market approaches are entirely unable to protect water resources; rather, it highlights the fact that markets are insufficient on their own; they require rules, regulations and institutions to ensure their effective functioning.

Protecting the Environment

The environment, broadly defined, is understood simply as our surroundings; both natural and man-made . More specifically, the natural environment has been viewed as comprising of four key spheres; the biosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere and lithosphere, which interact with one another to maintain the earths functioning . This essay focuses on the protection of the natural environment, specifically upon the safeguarding of water- the key element of the hydrosphere. Water is a crucial resource for ecosystems, allowing plants to grow, providing nutrients to physical life and providing habitats for many organisms . It is also crucial to human survival and progress, allowing humans to stay hydrated, grow food and develop industries. Thus, for the preservation of the earth, and of humankind, the protection of water is of great importance.

In managing common-pool resources such as water, whereby nobody owns the resource and its use is open to all, Hardin predicted that a ‘tragedy of the commons’ would arise. From this perspective, an ever-growing population of rational, self-interested actors would make decisions resulting in catastrophe for water supplies . This is an issue of population growth as well as collective governance; in the absence of regulations and rules, users of rivers and aquifers will withdraw far more than the optimal amount , preventing the source from recharging and leading to the over-exploitation of the water supply. Indeed, the large expansion of the global population during the twentieth century, and the resultant surge in water usage demonstrated in figure 1, has put significant stress on water supplies. Resultantly, a tragedy of the commons appears to be unravelling in which population growth, over-exploitation and poor governance are leading to issues of water scarcity and pollution , as well as conflicts over access. In response, there has been growing consensus among organisations, including the World Bank and the United Nations, that water management must be reformed if we are to avert water crises.

The experience of Chile provides a particularly valuable case to analyse whether markets can be used to protect water. While Chile has a relatively abundant and stable supply of water, this supply is unevenly distributed, with the Capital, Santiago, suffering from droughts in recent times . Chile is also highly reliant on water supplies, with its economy built around the water-intensive industries of agriculture and mining . Efficient governance systems are therefore crucial for Chile, with the efficient use of water crucial to both economic and environmental sustainability.

Further, Chile poses a unique case by virtue of it being the leading example of a market based, laissez-faire approach to water management in which water rights are treated as both private property and as tradeable commodities. Under Pinochet’s military dictatorship, which championed neoliberal economic policies, the 1981 Water Code was introduced to end centralised water management and create private property rights, shifting the costs of water management onto users. This highly laissez-faire approach to water management, in which the state has little involvement and possesses minimal regulatory powers, remains in contemporary Chile. Under this system, the state grants private rights for the use of both ground and surface water; these rights are separate from land ownership and can be freely traded, loaned, transferred and mortgaged. After the state has allocated all rights to water resources, ‘future transfers of water rights are supposed to take place through the market’ . Indeed, the 1981 Water Code is unique in that it does not place any restrictions or regulations on water usage, leaving management entirely to private agents. Resultantly, the Chilean water markets have gained significant attention, often being promoted by the World Bank as a model to be emulated by other nations. Thus, the laissez-faire approach of Chile’s water management systems presents itself as a valuable case in analysing whether markets can be used to protect water resources.

Market Activity

To assess whether Chile’s water markets have been successful in protecting water resources, it is first important to investigate whether such markets exist and to what extent they can operate freely. Academics representing the World Bank suggest that the water markets have been ‘operating effectively with relatively unsophisticated conveyance technology’, granting agents the freedom to trade their water rights, with approximately 600 transactions taking place in the Santiago area alone during 1993-1994 . From these accounts, it appears that Chile has successfully established water markets in which agents are free to trade water rights. However, Bauer argues that these accounts are overly optimistic and have been based upon the potentially bias work of Renato Gazmuri; a key member of the neoliberal government that set up the 1981 Water Code. Indeed, since the publication of these earlier works, academics have argued that Chile’s water markets are relatively inactive, with numerous factors impeding its operation.

Firstly, markets have struggled to take off due to the influences of local cultures, with communities resisting the market logic and seeking to decommodify water. This is the case in the Atacameno community where local people celebrate water as a sacred subject and have reject the idea that water should be treated as a saleable item. Rather, the Atacameno people operate under local customs where there is a close tie between the community and water, with members performing rituals and carefully looking after water resources in order to preserve the community and the environment. The existence of these customs means that the sale of water rights has become akin to committing a crime, with locals, as well as mining companies operating in the area, acknowledging the internal ban on the sale of water. This demonstrates how the market cannot simply be institutionalised; the process of commodifying water and exposing it to the logic of the market has faced strong resistance from communities that value their cultures and traditions.

Further, water markets have been impeded by the fact that water is a highly complex object to commodify. Since ‘water constantly flows and changes its physical condition’, it has been difficult for Chile to formalise private property rights, thus creating uncertainty over who possesses rights to water. Indeed, for water rights and markets to be implemented, sufficient infrastructure is needed to store and transport water. However, Chile suffers from inadequate reservoir and canal systems, making it costly and difficult to store and transport water. This highlights the fact that water is a ‘fictitious commodity’ which requires special arrangements for it to become an economic good that can be traded in markets; in this case, physical infrastructure which would allow users to store and transfer their water at low cost.

Yet, the water markets are further impeded by institutional defects as well as transaction costs. Water rights are poorly defined, with the majority of rights not formally registered and great uncertainty existing over who has access to return flows in river systems . Similarly, the record keeping of rights and the oversight of transfers is deeply uncoordinated, breeding uncertainty and conflicts which further impede the functioning of the market. High transaction costs also impede the market; a lack of public information makes it difficult to find potential buyers and sellers, with many potential market participants relying on newspapers and word of mouth. This highlights the need for strong watchdog institutions to provide information, resolve conflicts and oversee the granting and maintenance of rights in order to allow the water market to function.

These factors demonstrate how, in the case of water, it is highly complicated to create markets in the first place. Sufficient institutions and infrastructure are needed for markets to function, while markets also face strong resistance from local communities who value their traditions. Yet, water markets have taken off in some areas of Chile, particularly in the North and the areas surrounding Santiago where water is scarce and demand is high. The following sections investigate whether these markets have successfully protected Chile’s water resources.

Water Markets in Action

Where active, the Chilean water markets appear to have had positive effects on the economy, as well as on the protection of water resources. The market has allowed farmers to transfer surplus water to cities, saving urban areas from having to try and capture more water for their area in times of drought. Further, transactions have allowed for the reallocation of water resources from low to high value uses, with rights transferred from agriculture to mining. This represents a potential gain in terms of both economic efficiency and growth, allowing Chile’s lucrative mining industry- the nation’s largest employer, contributing an average of 14.9% to Chilean GDP over the last 10 years – the ability to access water.

Further, the water markets have made positive contributions in terms of the efficient use of water in agriculture. Here, water trading has resulted in farmers investing in water-saving irrigation equipment, allowing them to sustain past levels of production whilst using less water, thus relieving pressure on water resources. Indeed, market incentives appear to have been key, with a 30% increase in irrigation efficiency allowing farmers to sell approximately $10,000 worth of water rights without having to scale back production. The result of investment in irrigation technology has been substantial efficiency gains, with a 26% increase in aggregate water use efficiency in agriculture.

Yet, this positive outlook has been challenged, with suggestions that the water markets have failed to protect water resources. Indeed, while the water markets have allowed for economic gains through the transfer of water between sectors, this has resulted in increased water usage. This is because water rights are transferred from agriculture, where water is used seasonally, to mining, where water is used all year round. Similarly, the market allows agents to sell wastewater to mining companies, preventing basins from being able to recharge. Thus, the existence of water markets allows for transactions that lead to overexploitation and the unsustainable use of water resources. Further, while efficiency gains have resulted from investment in irrigation technology by farmers, Bauer reports that irrigation efficiency in Chile remains low, with the small gains made coming as a result of factors other than the market, such as investments to improve crop yields. Thus, while the water markets have provided economic gains, they appear to have performed poorly in terms of protecting water resources.

The idea that the water markets have provided economic benefits while having little impact on the protection of water is reinforced by the case of Chile’s hydroelectric sector. Here, the creation of nonconsumptive water rights, which are key to the functioning of the water market, have encouraged the development of hydroelectric power in Chile. This sector is important to economic growth, accounting for 40% of Chile’s energy supply and filling the gap left by a lack of oil and gas reserves. However, these hydroelectric plants have negative impacts upon rivers and communities, causing droughts while also cultivating excess amounts of algae and reducing local farmers access to water. Indeed, hydroelectricity also affects the wider environment through the production of harmful carbon emissions which contribute to the issue of global warming. Thus, the creation of private water rights and water markets have allowed for the development of industries but have also created challenges for the protection of water resources.

Further, the existence of the water market has created incentives for agents which serve to deplete water resources. In the search of profit, owners of water rights purposely divert water into the ocean in order to create scarcity and sell their water at a higher price. This leads to a reduction in the water supply and reduces peoples access to water resources. Indeed, the water market also creates perverse incentives for people in the La Ligua and Petorca Valleys of central Chile. Here, the limited availability of water rights means that their market value high, thus creating an incentive for people to falsify water rights in order to make substantial profits. Resultantly, the market for water contributes to the issue of illegal extraction of water in Chile which sits at approximately 1,000 litres per second per year and contributes to the rapid depletion of aquifers and rivers. This highlights the need for effective watchdog institutions to monitor the use of water markets in order to ensure the protection of water resources.

Indeed, the highly laissez-faire nature of Chile’s water markets, in which regulation and state oversight is largely absent, has contributed to water resource being poorly managed. From the outset, inadequate definitions of water rights have resulted in the overexploitation and degradation of water resources when rights have been transferred. Further, little effort was put in to determine the limits on how much water should be used and how many rights should be granted. Indeed, despite the DGA- the body responsible for regulating Chile’s water markets- knowing the recharge rates for the nation’s aquifers, it has allowed for overconsumption of groundwater resources consistently since 1985, thus preventing the aquifers from recharging. As a result of minimal regulatory oversight, large companies have been able to appropriate huge amounts of rights to water, leading to the overexploitation of water resources while the DGA have failed to adjust limits to bring down usage to a sustainable level. Thus, the absence of state involvement appears to have let the market take over, leading to the over-extraction and destruction of Chile’s water resources.

Market Failure?

The previous section demonstrated that while producing economic gains, the Chilean water markets have been inadequate in protecting the nations water resources; this is confirmed in observations and empirical studies, focusing on both water the quantity and quality of water in Chile. In the city of Copiapó, over-extraction of groundwater resources has resulted in the complete drying up of local wells, with citizens now relying on wells located closer to the coast which produce saltier, harder water. Similarly, the 12 square kilometre Aculeo Lake near Santiago has run dry as a result of both climate change and over-extraction by farmers; this has led to the death of local wildlife as well as the local tourism industry. More generally, water availability continues to fall across the country, most notably in Santiago where water availability is predicted to be 40% lower by 2070. Indeed, many Chileans are dissatisfied with the quality of their local water supplies; only 69% indicated that they were satisfied making Chile one of the poorest performers in the OECD.

Yet, not only have the water markets been inadequate in protecting water resources, they have also had important distributional impacts for Chilean society. There has been a tendency for corporations and large farmers to hoard water rights since there were no rules or punishments for the non-use of water rights. Further, many businesses have engaged in speculative activity, buying up excessive amounts of water rights and refusing to sell them in the hope that their value will increase, bringing substantial profits. Similarly, there have been issues with monopoly control over water resources, with some power-generating companies acquiring the rights for entire rivers.

Indeed, the distributional effects of hoarding, speculation and monopoly power in the water market has been considerable. Peasant farmers have been particularly affected, with high prices making access to water unaffordable while large farming companies have appropriated the vast majority of available water rights. Yet, it is not only the rural peasant farmers who have experienced negative impacts on their livelihoods; millions in Santiago are affected by extortionate prices and a lack of access to water as a result of monopoly power. Resultantly, the water market has worsened income inequality in Chile while also making it harder for citizens to access water.

These issues illuminate the broader debate of whether a system of private property rights and markets is appropriate for the management of water. Many argue that such a system is not suitable, arguing that access to clean water should be recognised as a human right. From this perspective, water should not be marketized because it is a scarce resource that is essential to human existence, with the right to water implicit in other basic rights such as the right to food and life. As such, the state should manage water resources in accordance with ideas of equity and justice in order to guarantee water for all, rather than allowing commercial motives to control such a vital resource. Yet, opponents of this idea argue that the granting of such a right would have little impact in terms of access to water, while also challenging the anthropocentric approach of human right activists on the basis that a human right to water could infringe upon ecological rights by further degrading water resources. Indeed, a human rights approach to water does not imply that water should be free or that it should not be allocated through markets, rather, it highlights the need for safety nets, possibly in the form of subsidies for the poorest in society, which guarantee all citizens access to affordable water.

As a result of the damage done to water resources and to wider Chilean society, as many as 74% of Chileans want the management of water to be renationalised. Indeed, Bachelet’s socialist government had sought to adopt a new institutional framework that would see the state control water rights. Yet, the issues discussed in the preceding analysis do not suggest that markets are incapable of protecting water resources. Rather, the Chilean experience highlights the fact that ‘market solutions do not mean automatic and self-maintained solutions’ rather, markets require strong regulatory institutions to ensure their functioning and success. As such, effective systems of water resource protection do not necessitate the abolishment of markets; they require policymakers to recognise the limits of the market and build institutions that improve outcomes. For Chile, and those seeking to emulate their market approach to water management, this would involve tighter regulatory oversight to address the issues of over-extraction, illegal activity and social inequity discussed in the preceding analysis. More broadly, education, public information and databases on water supplies are needed to ensure the sustainable use of water resources. Indeed, Chile has taken steps to improve the functioning of the market, introducing reforms in 2005 to address the issues of speculation and hoarding through limitations on non-use although greater reforms are needed to avert future water crises.


This post has investigated, through a case study of Chile’s water markets, the idea that markets can be used to protect the environment. Since its inception in 1981, the Chilean Water Code has sought to introduce a market-based system of water resource management, in which agents trade rights to water resources with minimal state regulation or oversight. Indeed, this resembles a market-environmentalist approach in which a market-based system is used to harness peoples self-interest towards the efficient and sustainable use of resources in order to protect the environment. However, in practice, the highly laissez-faire approach used by Chile has failed on numerous counts. Firstly, markets have been impeded, facing resistance from local cultures, while also facing issues in terms of institutions and physical infrastructure, reflecting the difficulty of commodifying water. This highlights the fact that market logic cannot simply be instilled; markets are complicated systems to establish.

To the extent that water markets do operate in Chile, they have provided important economic benefits, improving efficiency in agriculture and allowing water to be transferred to high-value uses, such as mining. Yet, the market has failed to provide adequate protection for water resources. Indeed, the market has created incentives for agents to divert water into the oceans, to falsify water rights, to transfer water to mining operations and to develop hydroelectric plants. At the same time, a lack of regulatory oversight has meant that water is being extracted at a rate which prevents water resources from recharging. These factors have contributed to the degradation and overexploitation of Chile’s surface and groundwater resources, with aquifers and lakes drying up and citizens finding it increasingly difficult to access good quality water. Further, the water markets have also produced negative social impacts, with hoarding and speculation of rights making water both inaccessible and unaffordable for many in society.

Thus, Chile’s free-market approach to water management appears to have been entirely inadequate in protecting the nations water resources, while also creating social inequities. Yet, this is not to say that markets cannot be used to protect the environment, rather it highlights the point that self-regulating markets are inadequate when used in isolation. As such, regulations, rules and institutions must be in place to ensure that markets can both function and produce positive outcomes. Here, states need to play a more active role in fostering the market environment, providing information, infrastructure and institutions to facilitate market transactions. Further, state-imposed rules and regulations are needed to ensure that market actors act in a sustainable way, carefully monitoring the total amount of water to be used, while also preventing issues of illegal extraction, diversion of water and the creation of industries that degrade the environment. Finally, institutions are needed to ensure that everyone has access to affordable, quality, water with safety nets and limits on non-use being particularly important in the Chilean case.

By: Matthew Smylie

Matthew Smylie holds an MA in International Political Economy from the University of Warwick and a bachelors degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics from Warwick. He is incredibly passionate about IPE issues..Matthew runs he’s own website The Political Economist, check it out :https://www.thepoliticaleconomist.co.uk


Image: Suzy Hazelwood (Pexels)

The following serves as an introduction to the dynamic situation unfolding along the Chinese-Indian border and the surrounding region. As such, this article will engage with relations between India and China, the pressure being experienced by Nepal and Bhutan, the impact of Russia’s influence, the growing relationship between the USA and India, and finally, the Pakistan-China relationship as a threat to India. 

China and India have a long history together, one that has not necessarily been friendly. The underlying tensions between these two nuclear powers manifested as open hostility during the June 15th 2020 Galwan Valley engagement around the Line of Actual Control (LAC) that left 20 Indian soldiers dead. One can only imagine the brutality of the engagement, considering that it was fought using only improvised medieval weapons such as metal rods with welded on nails. The lack of firearms on the Sino-Indian border is a result of the 1993 peace talks that produced the Agreement on the Maintenance of Peace and Tranquillity along the Line of Actual Control in the India-China Border Areas. The purpose of the bilateral agreement was to ensure that no firearms or explosives may be used within two kilometres of the LAC, with the last border incident involving firearms in 1975 in the Arunachal Pradesh region.

There are a rising number of points along China’s Southern and Western borders where their military has been active and infrastructure development projects have been occurring, this includes not only the border that China shares with India, but also the borders shared with Nepal and Bhutan. China’s focus on developing relationships with these nations is aligned with the Belt and Road initiative and places an ever increasing pressure on the relationships between India and these respective nations. 

Nepal & Bhutan

India’s move to revoke the constitutional autonomy that the Kashmir region enjoyed at the end of 2019 – thereby splitting the region into Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh – also resulted in them redrawing borders to include territories disputed by Nepal as their own. The most significant of these territories being the coveted Lipulekh Pass, coveted due to the strategic value of the pass as it connects the Indian state of Uttarakhand with the Tibet region of China. Nepal’s foreign minister, Pradeep Gyawali, cited the 1816 Sugauli treaty as evidence of the disputed territories belonging to Nepal, as such, Nepal’s response was to also publish a new map that includes the disputed region – to the ire of India. 

One might think that Nepal is biting off more than they can chew, however, China’s backing changes the situation. The foundation of the positive relationship between the two states can be traced to the 2016 transit trade treaty with China, a treaty that was able to happen due to the strong support that Nepal’s Prime Minister, KP Sharma Oli, has experienced from Xi Jinping and by that extension the Communist Party of China (CPC). The purpose of the treaty was twofold, to improve the relationship between China and Nepal, and more importantly to ensure that Nepal is less dependent on India. The former point was reiterated by Xi Jinping this month, with the leader of the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) pushing for even deeper levels of cooperation between the strategic partners. The latter point has been demonstrated by the fact that trade between Nepal and India is now the lowest it has been since the five-month long blockade of Nepal in 2015.

Regarding Bhutan, until this year the disputes concerning the Sino-Bhutanese border were limited to the western and central sectors only, however, China has now furthered their claim to include the Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary in the east of Bhutan. The reason behind the new claim being the Doklam Plateau due to its strategic location at the intersection between India, Bhutan and Tibet, an area that currently allows India the strategic advantage of being able to control the Chumbi Valley. This area has been at the center of tensions between India and China before. Looking back at the 2017 standoff between Indian and Chinese troops that lasted 73 days and was triggered by China’s construction of a road into Doklam. 

Russia & USA

Then there is Russia, who is both a member of BRICS and the Russia-India-China (RIC) trilateral group, and who has been a source of uncharacteristic calm amid the rising tensions. Not only did Russia play a key role in de-escalating tensions following the June 15th engagement, the nation has also been key is facilitating dialogue between China and India. Russia has been able to play this role for two reasons; firstly, because China is Russia’s biggest trading partner and the most significant Asian Investor in Russia, as well as, China recognising that Russia is both a source of raw materials and an ever growing market for Chinese exports. Secondly, looking in the other direction, India and Russia’s relationship has spanned over seven decades and is grounded by their arms trade, with nearly 70% of India’s military supplies coming from Russia. As such, not only does India have strong ties with Russia, they also recognise that Russia’s relationship with China places them in the unique position of being able to influence China’s hard stance and approach to the border issues. 

Although Russia has sold over $35 billion worth of military equipment to India since 2000, since 2010 the US has risen to be the second largest provider of military equipment to India. The attractiveness of the alternative partner was demonstrated by Modi’s pledge to Trump to buy US helicopters and other military equipment to the value of $3 billion. The building up and deepening of the relationship between the US and India forms part of the former’s efforts to destabilise both the Sino-Indian and Russian-Indian relationships, thereby attempting to counter the flow of Chinese influence in region as well as to capture a larger segment of the multi-billion dollar arms trade. 


However, the final factor to consider is that of Pakistan. To say that tensions between India and Pakistan are high would be a bit of an understatement, from the first India-Pakistan war over the Kashmir region in 1947, the border between India and Pakistan has been a source of perpetual instability and malcontent for both nuclear powers. Consequently, the ever deepening ties between China and Pakistan is viewed as an escalating threat by India. This relationship is grounded by both the $62 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) infrastructure project and China’s continuous support in terms of military supplies and expertise, going so far as to assist with Pakistan’s nuclear program. The former allowing China to reduce its dependency on the Indian controlled Malacca Straits. China’s military support is of higher significance to India, as an escalation in tensions resulting in conflict means that India could potentially end up fighting a war on two fronts against highly professional and well equipped opponents with respective nuclear capabilities. 

In conclusion, I would argue that is a case of when, not if, this region will witness an escalation in conflict, between China’s highly aggressive expansionary behaviour in the last decade and multiplicity of actors involved, with not all their interests being overt or aligned with other major actors. Battle-lines are being drawn and old debts are being called in. The real question is then: what will be the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back?

By Henry-Dillon Peens

Henry-Dillon Peens is an honours philosophy, politics, and economics student at the University of Pretoria, with his research focusing on the intersection between technology and intelligence. Henry is one of the permanent writers at The Art of Politics.


Image: Jonathan Brickhorst (Unsplash)

In the media maelstrom that is modern news, the hottest topic of debate is COVID-19. Sweden has found itself under the scrutiny of the world for their unorthodox approach to lockdown and the deadly virus. With lives on the line, the world can not help but question whether this approach is wise or a preface of tragedy. 


Sweden refrained from issuing a full-scale lockdown (when a government limits and restricts movement and certain activities within a society) and instead proceeded business as normal. They did not shut down even when they saw a spike in cases and instead relied on their citizens’ “personal responsibility and willful obedience”. When addressing Swedish residents, they advised that if they were sick, to stay at home to lower risk of infection. However, bars, restaurants and stores remained open and citizens were asked to maintain a physical distance from one another.

Furthermore, all establishments found non-compliant with the new physical distancing regulation were quickly shut down and reprimanded. Notably, Sweden refrained from enforcing the strict “wearing of masks when out in public” rule, despite the WHO advising all nations that it would be precautionary to do so. The argument posed by Sweden’s state epidemiologist; Anders Tegnell; is that the wearing of masks may confuse or undermine Sweden’s strategy towards the pandemic, arguing that there is no significant scientific evidence to support that wearing a mask will aid in the prevention of infection. He further states, that masks encourage people to go out if they are sick and it only increases the touching of one’s face, further heightening the risk of infection.


With regards to testing, the Swedish government announced in early April that they would rely on the Public Health Agency to lead testing, who aim to have as many as 150 000 tests conducted per week. They would however, provide priority testing to certain groups especially, people with symptoms severe enough for hospitalisation, the elderly and those working in healthcare. As one of the oldest average populations in the world (41.2 years old), it must be taken into consideration that most of their fatalities will more than likely be those of the older generation. Despite this, the Swedish government has taken the welfare of it’s elderly into genuine consideration.


Sweden is further criticised for their high death toll as little over 200 of their deaths include the elderly, over the age of 70. As Sweden is an ageing nation within which 5.2% of their population consists of persons over the age of 80, many are at risk and vulnerable to such an infectious disease. Of the estimated 5700 COVID-19 positive cases, little over 2500 deaths were elderly citizens over the age of 70. Since then, Sweden has enforced stricter regulations on not only the elderly, healthcare workers but the care homes as well. Passing a law to ban visitation and enforcing thorough training for all care workers, as well as providing them with more PPE (Personal Protection Equipment).

The future of Sweden’s overall health and safety lies in not only the hands of its government but a separate organisation known as the Public Health Agency. Public Health Agency alone does not have the power to pass laws and can only recommend and advise its leaders based on comprehensive research and experience. Which in turn, became one of the pillars of Sweden’s COVID-19 response.

As it is against Sweden’s constitution to prohibit the freedom of movement, they have taken a laissez-faire approach to its policies and regulations, they rely heavily on the social responsibility of its people. As a result, Sweden claims that this method has proven fruitful; as Swedes have willingly decreased traveling and worked from home when they can.

The Public Health Agency gives a press conference daily with updated results from research and other COVID-19 related news. It seems that the Swedish government takes it on a day-by-day basis, unlike other nations who have “locked-down” and prepared for the worst. 


It is clear by comparison, Sweden has been hit the hardest with their total number of COVID-19 related deaths, compared to its Nordic neighbours. Experts state that whilst they may not have experienced the same economic stagnation as other nations did in the first three months, in the long run, it did nothing.

Sweden’s Nordic neighbours, such as Norway and Denmark were quick to enforce lockdowns and escape economic stagnation and are expecting to suffer minimal economic decline. Norway, for instance, expects to only “contract 3.9%” compared to an earlier estimated 5.5%. In contrast, Sweden went from an estimated 1.3% gain to a 4.5% decline as well as an almost 2% increase in unemployment in only three short months.

In fewer words, Sweden’s approach can be regarded as wasteful and self-destructive. Despite their assumed advantage in having an open economy, during the lockdown periods of other nations, they made little to no gain over others. Instead, they ended up with the same results, but with far worse – and unnecessary – deaths. While their innovation is commendable, evidence supports that caution proves far more fruitful.

By Dalyn Del Valle

Dalyn Del Valle-McCullough is a 3rd year Humanities student at the University of Pretoria, currently studying Politics: International Relations.”I came to admire my field of study and as a result, it has become something I am quite passionate about. I aim to use my knowledge to aid others in the future, as a wise person once told me: “A good leader, is one who serves his people.”


Image: James Eades (Unsplash)

After the killing of George Floyd and the intensification of the Black Lives Matter Movement (BLM) in May, we also saw renewed and intensified calls across the globe for the removal of statues that continue to glorify white supremacy. White supremacy was once again called out publically while those supporting it called for respect for heritage and memories that “do not hurt anyone”. The reality is, commemoration has meaning connected to it. It focuses on certain aspects of a past, what is remembered and what should be forgotten.

After any violent conflict, the question always arises, “how should painful memories be addressed in the public sphere?”. Forgetting can be an injustice to the past but remembering can do the same for the present and the future within any ever-changing society. Commemoration sites calls for remembering. What is being remembered mainly depends on the position where members of the community were placed during the conflict. Remembering takes place through the individual and the collective. Individual memory relates to the individual who remembers the past from their own perspective. Collective memory is transferred through a wide array of public and private spheres and by a variety of actors. It is the memory that a group shares and is shaped by the needs and context of the collective group. These collective identities comprised out of shared images, representations, and experiences of the past which in return shapes social solidarity. Memory is not history, it is the reconstruction of past events, emotions, perceptions, and feelings. This reconstruction can have constructive and destructive affects within society.

Places of commemoration put names and faces to victims, reinforcing victimhood as an identity. Commemoration acts can have emancipatory effects for groups in that it allows groups who were oppressed to express their own memories. During Apartheid, non-white South Africans were denied the right to have access to cultural institutions. In 1999, the National Heritage Resources Act was passed, this paved the way for newly built museums within South Africa that commemorated the histories of all South Africans. One example of these newly built commemorations was the Red Location Museum. This museum was built in New Brighton, a township where early African National Congress (ANC) civil disobedience, against the Apartheid regime was recorded. The museum resembles the red iron rusted shacks found in the township, it was a community-based initiative and allowed for members from the township to contribute through their stories, documents, and some possessions, to tell their own stories and experiences of Apartheid. Commemorative sites also allow for the creation of new narratives for victims. Robben Island, the political prison used by the Apartheid government not only represents a place of oppression but also resembles to some, a place where a new nation was born through those who were captured during their sacrifices to fight against oppression. This commemoration allowed for interpretations of not just remembering the violent past, but also collectively remembering how the violent past was overcome.

The act of remembering and forgetting after violence is also a political act. It becomes a selective tool in that only some memories are being remembered while other memories are repressed. During the #RhodesMustFall movement in 2015, the country was divided. The movement called for the removal of the statue of Cecil John Rhodes, who was an imperialist who believed in the supremacy of the Englishman. He was also the architect to the Glen Grey Act, the blueprint of the Apartheid regime that restricted black people from land ownership. The National Women’s Monument in Bloemfontein has also been criticised for its limited representation of the conditions of black concentration camps during the Anglo-Boer War while mainly focusing on the white women’s plight. Governments also use memories to influence attitudes, behaviours, decisions, and identities. The ANC mainly honours ANC members while non-ANC members who also fought against Apartheid are forgotten, like Archbishop Trevor Huddleston and Beyers Naude.

Clark, writes that commemoration can work against reconciliation. The problem with collective memory, is that it rests on the premise that it is shaped by different groups who have different memories. Reconciliation aims to achieve closure and healing. This process involves the acceptance of historical and political narratives and shared truths. Therefore, an agreement needs to be reached to achieve reconciliation.

Often during the reconciliation process, the idea of forgetting is a strategy used to maintain fragile peace by suppressing memories in the public sphere, through eg. truth commissions. After Apartheid, former president F.W. De Klerk proposed that the book to the past should be closed, that all South Africans should forgive and look towards the future. This narrative assumed that the memories of violence and oppression can be pushed aside and be forgotten. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) echoed the same message. TRCs assume that truth telling leads to reconciliation and that the past will be left behind. A banner inside the court read “revealing is healing”. The TRC process was criticised for placing pressure on victims to forgive and to reconcile with the perpetrators and to forget the past. The reality was however, different in that the consequences of Apartheid were not just remembered but still experienced by a majority of South Africans.

Achieving continued reconciliation between different groups that are ever-changing is a difficult task. Forgetting violent pasts should not and can not be the objective. Forgetting violent pasts cannot be achieved as it creates fragile peace and memory is connected to identity formation that is based on the reconstruction of past events, of lived experiences, emotions, perceptions, and feelings. To remove commemorative sites can also affect the reconciliation process. Former president Nelson Mandela warned, “We must be able to channel our anger without doing injustices to other communities. Some of their heroes may be villains to us. And some of our heroes may be villains to them”.

Collective memory will always remain within a society. Continued reconciliation can only be achieved through cooperation, it involves the acceptance and agreement of historical narratives and shared truths. These accepted and agreed upon shared truths are ever changing within society and should be re-evaluated as society changes. No society can be reconciled if not all members within society accepts these narratives and truths. This is possible in that memories are created through the interactions between and among members of the society. It is however important to build these narratives on history.

By Susanna Deetlefs

Susanna Deetlefs holds a MA in Security Studies from the University of Pretoria and an MSc from Durham University. She was also the recipient of the prestigious Chevening Scholarship. Her expertise and interests lie in the field of peacebuilding, gender studies, security studies and trans-national organised crime. She is currently working as an Ad-Hoc researcher in the fields of political violence and trans-national organised crime.