Growth, Inequality, Sustainability & Technology

Conceptual Map


Ritsumeikan University / University of Washington

Oct-Dec 2008


Jelte Harnmeijer

University of Washington

E-mail:; Telephone: +1(206)543-9419 (office)


(Artwork by R. Crumb & E. Nicholls)

<version 2008.12.04>



Title Page






Week 01

Course Overview    |    The Earth as an Island in Space    |    "What would you like to learn & do?"


Week 02

Systems Theory, Thermodynamics and 'Sustainability'    |    Mass Extinctions    |    The Collapse of Civilizations    |    'The Story of Stuff'


Week 03

Current Financial Crisis    |    Technofix Future    |    'Ground Noise & Static'


Week 04

Returns to Scale    |    Violence    |    "'Growth Will Kill Us All!' versus 'Growth Will Save Us!'"


Week 05

Review    |    Port of Seattle fieldtrip


Week 06

Demography    |    In the Beginning    |    The Dawn of Agriculture    |    'Darwin's Nightmare'


Week 07

Tragedy of the Commons    |    Intellectual Property


Week 08

Trade & Industrialization


Week 09



Week 10

Why are some countries Rich and others poor?    |    The Last Tree    |    Democracy and its Discontents


Week 11

Neocolonialism    |    Dynamical Systems Theory    |    The Earth System    |    Facing the Future    |    'Life + Debt'


Week xy: Stuff We Didn't Have Time For

Human Nature    |    Cultural Contexts



Fieldtrip 01

San Juan Islands


Fieldtrip 02

Port of Seattle


Fieldtrip 03

Westpoint Sewage Treatment Facility


Fieldtrip 04

Olympic Coast


Project 01

One World Flag


Project 02

Project 03


Background Reading




Data Sources



Classes commence Thursday 25 September, terminate Thursday 04 December.  Classes are on Tue, Thu 10:30-12:20.  Class location: Theodor Jacobsen Observatory, University of Washington Campus.

Each class will start with two student presentations on a 5-10 minute current pertinent global event of choice.  Students will be expected to keep up with current events in the media.

A short response paper (minimum 2-3 paragraphs, no maximum) based on the weeks readings, lectures and discussion(s) should be e-mailed to the instructor by Friday 17:00.  The purpose of the response paper is to:

(i)    test your critical thinking ability;

(ii)    test your understanding and knowledge of the weekly material;

(iii)    give you the opportunity to explore themes more deeply, if they are of interest to you.

The response paper must meet the following minimum requirements:

(i)    ≥1 paragraph on each of the week's lecture topics covered (topics are listed under each week in the syllabus Contents and indicated in Bold in the syllabus itself.  Examples: 'Returns to Scale', 'The Dawn of Agriculture', etcetera);

(ii)    ≥1 paragraph on each of the weeks readings;

(iii)    ≥1 paragraph on the weeks movie, if there was one;

(iv)    ≥1 paragraph on the weeks fieldtrip, if there was one;

(v)    ≥1 paragraph on the weeks discussions, if any;

(vi)    ≥1 paragraph on the week's response question.

These are only the minimum requirements.  For extra credit, students are encouraged to:

(i)    integrate the above response paper components;

(ii)    add alternative perspectives and/or information of their own.

The response paper can be in any commonly used document format (generic .txt, Microsoft .doc, Adobe .pdf, etc.).  The subject line in your response paper e-mail should take the following format:


Where ## refers to the number of the response paper.  For example, student Tenzing Dlamini would e-mail his Week 4 response paper with the subject line: "Dlamini_Tenzing_RP04".

1-2 weekly readings will distributed in advance.  Optional advanced readings are available.

Active student participation is highly encouraged.  Bonus points are available (see Grading).

All class material will be maintained on-line at URL:

An on-line schedule for project deadlines, relevant seminars and events (compulsory and non-compulsory), etc. is available at URL:

E-mail me if you require calendar access.

Week 01   

Course Overview

This class aims to link the concepts of Growth, Inequality, Sustainability & Technology ('GIST'). What is Sustainability, and is it even possible? How is sustainability related to Growth, Inequality and Technology?

Our focus will gradually scale in, from the global [Earth] to the local [Community]. In the process, we will examine theoretical and empirical arguments for and against the efficacy and validity of mainstream 'Neoliberal' Economics. Along the way, we will critically examine the role of three important global institutions (the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and World Trade Organization) in the context of GIST. Case studies, using our very own University District as a platform, will highlight aspects relevant to GIST using the two most heavily traded commodities on the planet: oil and coffee.

Overview of Student Responsibilities

Overview of Grading Methodology

Major course objectives


The Earth as an Island in Space


The Earth as an island in space

    Worst-case scenario

        The Biosphere II Project: a possible analogy?

            Biosphere II

            Paratrechina longicornis


            Run-away greenhouse




"What would like to learn & do in this course?"



Optional cultural experience: Wall Street bail-out protest

   16:00 Thursday September 25; Washington Mutual Building 1301 2nd Ave, downtown Seattle

   Depart University Way NE & NE 41st St At 03:33 PM On Route MT 73 Downtown Seattle Express

    Arrive University St Sta Ac & Tunnel Sta.-BAY C At 03:53 PM   Walk 0.1 mile W to 1301 2ND AVE


        Naomi Klein's website        Seattle Activism website

Optional cultural experience: The Battle for Seattle

    19:00 Friday September 26; Neptune Theatre, 1303 N.E. 45th at Brooklyn Ave, University District

Week 02   

Systems Theory, Thermodynamics and 'Sustainability'

Introduction to Systems Theory

    Closed systems




    Open systems


            Basalt columns, mud-cracks

            The atmosphere

            The Sun;    The Sun's surface

            Living systems

                Nested hierarchies

                    Cell < Tissue < Organ < Organism < Community < Ecosystem < Biosphere < Gaia <... < The Universe


                Environmental Economics: The Economy as a sub-system of Gaia

                    Low-entropy commodities

                    High-entropy waste products

                        Digital Dump

                        Manufactured Landscapes

                    Landfill mining

Physical, theoretical foundation of 'Sustainability'

    Entropy, Order and Energy

        "Transformation content"

            Exercise 01: Entropy

    Second Law of Thermodynamics

        "In any reaction, the Entropy of the Universe increases"

        Entropy/energy flow and Self-organization

 Growth, maintenance and decay





Mass Extinctions




        Sudden major perturbations

        Climate change

    The 'Sixth Extinction'

    The importance of Timescale

        0.1 billion years: sporadic extinctions

        1 billion years: loss of oceans

        4.5 billion years: loss of Earth

        15 billion years: heat death of Universe


The Collapse of Civilizations

Complete and incomplete collapses

Many different models

Resource depletion

War, disease, famine

     Roman Empire, Easter Island, Babylonians, Anasazi, Aztecs, Incas, Mayans, Angkor Wat, Pitcairn Island, Henderson Island, Malden Island, ...

    Sumer, Mycenaean Greece, Classical Greece, Han Dynasty, Tang Dynasty, Indus Valley, Izapa, Etruscans, Olmec, Ancient Egypt, Norse colony on Greenland,  Hittites, Munhumutapa, Ancient Levant, Chin-, Sung- Mongol-, Manchu- China, Cahokia, Tokugawa Shogunate, Hindu-, Moghul- India, ...

    The 1929/30 Great Depression


Diamond, J. (2004), 'Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed', Chapter 3: 'The Last People Alive: Pitcairn and Henderson Islands'.


The Story of Stuff (Annie Leonard)


What:    Gifford Pinochet III, "Happiness, Business & the Environment"

When:    Wed 01 Oct 16:00-18:30

Where:    HUB106B


Optional cultural experience: First Thursday Artwalk

Week 03

Current Financial Crisis

Recommended reading:

    Greider, W. (2008), 'Economic Free Fall: Bailing out the Bad Guys'.

    'Plutocracy Reborn', The Nation.

    Baker (2008), 'The housing bubble and the financial crisis'.

    Sapir (2008), 'Global finance in crisis'.  

    Sapir (2008), 'How far could the U.S. dollar fall?'.


    United States total public debt

        Money owed by the U.S. Federal Government

        = 'national debt'; 'U.S. government debt'

            Public accounts

            Government accounts


            'Debt holder'

            Increasing foreign ownership

    Household debt

        = 'consumer debt'


Technofix Future

Perspective of Scales



    The pace of change

        Shifting baselines

            A personal example: Jelte's flamingo story

Technology and Energy

    Kardashev Scale

        Type I, Type II, Type III -civilizations



        Holism vs. Reductionism

            "The whole is more than the sum of its parts"

        Example: Delft, Holland in the 1650s [Reinert, pp. 94]


Kurzweil, R. (2005), 'The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology', Chapter 1: 'The Six Epochs'.


'Ground Noise & Static'

Advanced Reading

van der Bergh, J.C.J.M. & de Mooij, R.A. (preprint), 'An Assessment of the Growth Debate: A Comparison of Perspectives'.

Week 04   

Returns to Scale

Inputs (factors of production)

    I. Land

    II. Labor

    III. Capital

        Types of Capital

            1) Natural capital



            2) Produced ('manufactured') capital

                Buildings; Roads; Factories; ...

                Undergoes depreciation and /or replacement

            Intangible capital

            3) Human capital

                Knowledge; Skill

            4) Social capital

                Institutions; Relationships

    IV. Entrepreneurship

(Dis-)Economies of Scale

Marginal returns

    Thomas Malthus (1766 - 1834)

        'An Essay on the Principle of Population'

            Malthusian catastrophe

    Diminishing marginal returns to scale ("decreasing returns")


            More labor is added to the same plot of land (or other fixed resource)



            Production is extended into inferior resources

                Resource extraction


    Increasing marginal returns to scale ("increasing returns")

        "Production at a larger scale (more output) can be achieved at a lower cost"

            Fixed costs arise when large amounts of capital equipment must be put into place even if only one unit is to be produced.

            The costs of this equipment must still be paid even with zero output.

            The larger the output, the more the costs of this equipment can be spread out among more units of the good.

    Fixed costs

            "Those costs that must be incurred even if production were to drop to zero"

    Large fixed costs and economies of scale are found in capital intensive industries: chemicals, petroleum, steel, automobiles, other manufacturing, etc.

        {Output per unit input} versus {Output}    [don't worry about the "1/aLS" stuff!]

            In this graph, the y-axis shows the production (= output) per laborer (= input).  So, you can also think of the y-axis as showing labor 'efficiency': how much does each average laborer produce?

        {Input per unit output} versus {Output}    [don't worry about the "aLS" stuff!]

            In this graph, the y-axis shows the number of laborers (= input) required per unit production (= output).

            This is similar to {Average Cost} versus {Output}.  Remember: {Average Cost} = {Total Cost} / {Output}



Population density

    Experiments in rats




Primate family tree

Great apes








        'Pygmy Chimpanzees'



    Bottle-nose dolphin

        Adoption of other species

        Killing for fun   




        Technological progress

            Example: Second World War radar -> telecommunications -> cellphones, internet, ...


San Juan Islands fieldtrip



Meadows, D.H., Meadows, D.L., Randers, J., Behrens, W.W. III (1972), 'The Limits to Growth', Chapter 3: 'Growth in the World System'.


"'Growth Will Kill Us All!' versus 'Growth Will Save Us!'"

Week 05   

Week 01-04 Review

Port of Seattle fieldtrip


Korten, D., 'When Corporations Rule the World', Chapters 1-2.

Week 06


The science of population

Demographic transition

        Population growth

            Birth rate

                Fertility rate

                Infant mortality rate

                Family size

                    Empirical data


            Death rate

                Life expectancy

            World map of population growth

            World map of population density

    Population pyramids


In the Beginning

Hunter-gathering tribes


        Nomadic lifestyle

    Small groups (<100)

    Low life expectancy (~30 - 40 years)

    Low degree of political, economic specialization

    Low inequality

    Few private possessions

    Short lifespans

    Zero-sum game

        "Your loss is my gain"

    More leisure time?


The Dawn of Agriculture

Independent discovery

    Fertile Crescent

        ~9000 BCE

        Emmer wheat, einkorn wheat, hulled barley, peas, lentils, bitter vetch, chick peas, flax.

    Northern China, southern China

        ~ 6000 BCE

        Rice, mung, soy, azuki, taro.

    Mesoamerica, Andes

        ~ 5200 BCE

        Maize, manioc, arrowroot, potato, tomato, pepper, squash, several varieties of bean, Canna, tobacco.

    New Guinea, Sahel (West Africa)

        ~ 5000 BCE

    Selective breeding


    Domestication of livestock

            Distribution of suitable species

                Example: zebra versus horses

                Example: Indian elephants versus African elephants



    East-West axes

        Koppen climate classification

Sedentary lifestyle

    Larger group sizes

    Division of Labor

        Increase in economic and political specialization



            Low fertility

        Non land-owners

            Tenants, peasants

            High fertility


    Increase in private possessions

        Property rights


    Increased inequality

    Beginnings of Urbanization

    European economic, military and political dominance

        Why not China?

            Fragmentation: coastlines and number/size of political entities

                Europe in AD 1100; 1200; 1300; 1400; 1500; 1600; 1700; 1800; 1900; 2000

                Chinese Song-; Ming- Dynasty

                Competition propels technological innovation

            Trade winds


(continued) Korten, D., 'When Corporations Rule the World', Chapters 1-2.


'Darwin's Nightmare'


(continued) Review

Response Question

"How is International Trade related to the Environment/'Sustainability'?"

Week 07

Tragedy of the Commons

Common Pool Resources (CPR's)

    'The Tragedy of the Commons'

    'The free-rider problem'

Public goods

    Example: Wikipedia

The Harkin Herder Game

    'Prisoner's Dilemma'


The Central Authority Game

    With perfect information

    With imperfect information

Transaction costs




Intellectual Property


    Expandable & self-generating

    Transportable & shareable

    Non-rival & non-depreciable

    Scarcity-value may diminish



        Born in Venice, 1498

        ‘Litterae patentes’ – open letter

        First patent given to John of Utynam, for stained glass

        Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property (1883) – still in force

            Right to claim priority

            International acceptance

    Copyrights ©

        Book curse in the monastery of San Pedro, Barcelona:

            "For him that stealeth, or borroweth and returneth not, this book from its owner, let it change into a serpent in his hand and rend him. Let him be struck with palsy, and all his members blasted. Let him languish in pain crying out for mercy, & let there be no surcease to his agony till he sing in dissolution. Let bookworms gnaw his entrails ... when at last he goeth to his final punishment, let the flames of Hell consume him forever."

        Born in Venice, 1498

        Formalized in Britain  with Statute of Anne, 1710

        Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, 1886 – still in force

            Victor Hugo

            Automatic copyright, no need to register

            International recognition of copyrights

            U.S. did not sign until 1989

        Protection expires

            25, 50-100 years after author's death

        Applies to creative and intellectual expressions

            Books, sound recordings, films, photographs, architectural works, software programs

        “right to copy,” or to perform, or to profit, etc.

    Trademarks ™ or ®

        Brand names

        No need for registration

        Legal protections


    Trade secrets

        No expiration

        Few protections

        Contracts of non-disclosure

        Subject to leakage & espionage

        Example: Coca-Cola

Towards the public domain

    Project Gutenberg -

    International Music Score Library Project -

    Creative Commons -

    Free Software Foundation -

        General Public License (GPL)


            Must remain open source and available for others to modify and redistribute freely

            No monopolies

                # Freedom zero is the freedom to run the program as you wish, for any purpose.

                # Freedom one is the freedom to study the source code and change it to make it do what you wish.

                # Freedom two is the freedom to help your neighbour, that's the freedom to make copies and distribute them to others when you wish.

                # Freedom three is the freedom to help your community: the freedom to publish or distribute modified versions when you wish.



        'World Intellectual Property Organization'

        UN Agency (1967)

        Patents, Copyrights, Trademarks

        1 member 1 vote


        'Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights'

        Uruguay Round, World Trade Organization (1994)


Reasons for Patents & Copyrights

    (1) Promote innovation through guarantees of financial rewards;

    (2) Promote public access to information.

    "The Congress shall have power . . . to promote the progress of science and useful arts by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writing and discoveries" - U.S. Constitution, Article 1, Section 8 .

Criteria for patentability

    Patentable (cannot patent laws of nature, natural phenomena, or abstract ideas)

    Useful (what for?)

    Novel (is it new? really new?)


    Adequate description


Ostrom, E. (1990), 'Governing the Commons', Chapter 1: 'Reflections on the Commons'. pages 1-7 (up to 'The metaphorical use of models').

Reinert, Eric S. (2007), 'How Rich Countries Got Rich ... and Why Poor Countries Stay Poor', Chapter 4: 'Globalization: the Arguments in Favour are also the Arguments Against', pages 112-113.

Advanced Reading

Wolfe N. D., Dunavan C. P., Diamond J. (2007), 'Origins of major human infectious diseases', Nature 447(7142), 279-283.

Response Question

"Why are some countries Rich and others poor?"

Week 08   

Trade & Industrialization


    Integrated global trade is a recent phenomenon

    Limited trade between Europe, Africa and Asia for two millennia

    The Silk Road

        3rd - 17th Centuries

        Low volume, high-profit luxury items

            Jade, silk, porcelain, fine textiles

        Spread of Islam instrumental

        Took 18-24 months to complete

     Chinese merchant fleet

        14th and 15th Centuries

        Ended abruptly in 1433

    Medieval Europe

        Inward looking and conservative

    The age of European maritime trade

The Industrial Revolution

Growth disparity

The importance of Trade

    The growth of trade volume

        80% by Sea

    Share of exports

    Share of manufacturing output

    Value Added

        "the additional value of a commodity over the cost of commodities used to produce it from the previous stage of production"

        Exercise 03: Value Added

        Share of value added

Two approaches

    Theoretical Economics

        David Ricardo

            'Free Trade'

        Exercise 04: David Ricardo's Theory of Comparative Advantage in International Trade    Solutions

    Empirical/Historical Economics

Period Name of period Important industries Inexpensive resource Infrastructure
1770-1840 Early mechanization Textiles


Water power




1830-1890 Steam and railway Iron





Steam ships

1880-1940 Electricity and heavy industry Electric machinery

Chemical industry





1930-1990 Mass production ('Fordism') Cars

Synthetic materials

Oil Roads, Planes, Cables
1990-? Information and communication Data/Software


Microelectronics Digital telecom


Low-income countries share of manufactured trade, 1750-1900



"economic policy designed to manipulate trade between nations"

    On imports

        Import Quotas

            Government sets physical limit on amount of a commodity that can be imported

        Tariffs on imports

            Also "import duty"

            Tax on imports

        Administrative barriers

            e.g. food safety requirements, human rights requirements, environmental requirements, etc.

    On exports

        Tariffs on exports

            Tax on exports

        Export bounties

            Lowers price of exports



            Ban on all trade of a particular commodity

            e.g. U.S. embargo on Castro's Cuba 1962-

        Direct Subsidies

            Helps local firms to compete against international competitors

        Exchange rate manipulation


European city-states

    Wealth created and maintained behind huge barriers

        Superior knowledge

        Possession of a large variety of manufacturing industry

            Created systemic synergies

        Market power

        Low costs created through innovations and increasing returns

        Use of military might

Triple rent system

        1) Manufacturing industry

        2) Monopoly on at least one raw material

        3) Overseas trade

    Florence 1200

        Prohibited from 'exporting' food from city storage areas


        King Henry VII, 1485


                Export duties on raw wool

                    Foreign textile producers have to process more expensive raw material

                    Later complete embargo under Queen Elizabeth I

                Tax exemption for newly established wool manufacturers

                Monopoly rights granted to some manufacturers

                Later 'Spinning Jenny', 18th Century

        Economist John Cary (1649-1720)

            'free trade and the death penalty for the export of raw materials'

    Venice 1500s

Peace of Westphalia 1648: Emergence of the State

    Holland 1500s


        > 1650

        Economist Friedrich List

    United States

        Wealth in the Americas

        Alexander Hamilton, first US Secretary of the Treasury, 1791

        Industrial Revolution > 1820


        Used Friedrich List's toolbox after Meiji restoration

        Industrial Revolution >1860


        Used Friedrich List's toolbox

        Industrial Revolution >1960

    Marshall Plan

        US Secretary of State George Marshall

        Post-WWII, 1950s and 60s

        After failed Morgenthau Plan

            Caused serious economic problems in Germany

The Toolbox of Economic Emulation and Development

Exercise 05: Theory of Uneven Development    Solutions

'Good' Export Activities

'Schumpeterian' activities

'Bad' Export Activities (if no Schumpeterian sector present)

'Malthusian' activities

Increasing returns Diminishing returns
Dynamic imperfect competition 'Perfect competition' (commodity competition)
Stable prices Extreme price fluctuations
Generally skilled labor Generally unskilled labor
Creates a middle class Creates 'feudalist' class structure
Irreversible wages ('stickiness of wages') Reversible wages
Technical change leads to higher wages for the producer ('Fordist wage regime') Technical change tends to lower price for the consumer
Creates large synergies Creates few synergies


Crichton, M. (2007), 'Patenting Life', New York Times, February 13, 2007.

Ostrom, E. (1990), 'Governing the Commons', Chapter 1: 'Reflections on the Commons', pages 8-15 (from 'Leviathan as the only way' up to but not including 'An alternative solution').

Response Question

"If all countries were equally rich, how would that affect the problems of 'Sustainability'?"

Week 09   


Inequality compared to Poverty

    Poverty is an absolute term

    Inequality is a relative term

        Inequality implies the existence of relative wealth and relative poverty



        Inequality between countries


                Haiti versus U.S.A.

                Bangladesh versus Japan


        Inequality within countries


                Black versus White people in the U.S.A.

                Rural versus Urban

    Local & Regional

        Inequality between members of a community or region


                Lopez Island versus Seattle

                South Seattle versus Madrona

Measuring inequality

    The Gini Index

Spatial trends

    Patterns of national inequality (within countries)

        Most unequal countries

        Least unequal countries

   Patterns of global inequality (between countries)

        Warning: But GNP/capita measures averages only!

            Important issue in the growth debate

            Example: Colonized and Colonizer countries

                The case of Brasil

                    Unemployment rates

                    Literacy rates


    Temporal trends

        Evolution of Global Income Distribution for 1970-1999

            China, India

        World Income and Population distribution in 1990

        World Income and Population distribution in 1999


Buckman, G. (2005), 'Global Trade: Past Mistakes, Future Choices', Chapter 6: 'Trade and the Environment', pages 159-172.

Chang, Ha-Joon (2008), 'Bad Samaritans', Chapter 3: 'My six-year-old son should get a job', pages 65-74 (up to but not including 'The international trading system and its discontents').

Response Question

"Imagine your grandparents when they were your age.  Now imagine your parents when they were your age.  Now think about yourself.  Of the three groups, which experienced the most change?  Which was generally the happiest?  Discuss, providing detailed reasons."

Week 10

Why are some countries Rich and others poor?

“For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.”

    - Matthew XXV:29, King James Edition


Country groupings

What do people all over the world answer to the question?


    Response categories


1)    Evolutionary explanations

        “… because some people are clever and others are stupid.”

            - Anonymous white South African of Boer ancestry, Hazyview, South Africa, July 2004.

        “The idea that some populations are more energetic than others […] perhaps deserves some consideration.”

            - J.P. Cole (1979), The Development Gap, page 111.

        National wealth & race

        Map of skin color distribution

        No scientific backing

            Templeton (1999); Sternberg et al. (2005)


2)    Cultural/societal explanations

        “Although conventional economic factors have certainly not been ignored, the explanations offered for the contrasting records in growth have most often focused on institutions and highlighted the variation across societies in conditions relevant to growth such as the security of property rights, prevalence of corruption, structures of the financial sector, investment in public infrastructure and social capital, and the inclination to work hard or be entrepreneurial.”

            - Sokoloff & Engerman (2000), page 218.

    Inadequacy of such explanations.

    Can you guess where, in the 19th Century, the following took place:

    "Having toured lots of factories in a developing country, an Australian management consultant told the government officials who had invited him: 'My impression as to your cheap labour was soon disillusioned when I saw your people at work.  No doubt they are lowly paid, but the return is equally so; to see your men at work made me feel that you are a very satisfied easy-going race who reckon time is no object.  When I spoke to some managers they informed me that it was impossible to change the habits of national heritage."

    'Tiger economies'

        Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, (Malaysia).


(3) Environmental explanations

    “These areas were settled because the climate was similar to that of Europe.”

        - Prof. Wolfram Latsch, personal communication, April 2004.

    “I think that tropical diseases are largely to blame.”

        - Prof. Roger Buick, North Pole, Australia, August 2004.


    'The Resource Curse'

        For some countries, having plentiful resources is a bad thing

            Jeffrey Sachs & Warner (2005)


(4) Historical explanations

    “European countries have been around for a long time. We are young. We just simply need time to catch up.”

        - Nxobo Masika, Johannesburg, South Africa, March 2004.


    Dates of recent independence

    Dates of early independence

    Was the Industrial Revolution built on Inequality?


            Cheap raw materials


            Access to markets

                Example: The Opium Wars

                    'Anglo-Chinese Wars'

                    1839-1842 (Treaty of Nanjing) and 1856-1860 (Treaty of Tianjin)


(5) Inept-leadership explanations

    “African leaders themselves have also failed the resource-rich continent. They continue to unscrupulously harp on historical injustices to cover up for their political and economic mess that are [sic] a sad manifestation of their suppression of democratic governance. Corrupt and inefficient management of economies, greed, power hunger, disrespect for human rights, cronyism, among other vices, have contributed to the underdevelopment of Africa today.”

        - Charles Mangongera, ‘Should We Continue to Blame Colonialism?’, Financial Gazette (Harare, Zimbabwe), September 19, 2002.

    “A district our size should have a much better soccer field, but the money was pocketed. There is corruption at all levels. It’s a top-down problem.”

        - Unemployed 27-yr-old Sidhinhyo, Morongulos, Mozambique, April 2004.


    Evolution of Corruption by Regions of the World, 1984-1999

    Who has the most to gain from corruption in poor countries?

        (Who has the most to lost from ending it?)


(6) Psychological explanations

    “There exists among us a strong feeling of inferiority [… which] comes from our awareness of past [white/European] oppression.”

        - Anonymous fisherman, northern Mozambique, April 2004.


(7) Neocolonial explanations

    “We were told, and accepted, that our poverty was caused by our poverty in the now famous theory of the ‘vicious circle of poverty’ and we went round in circles seeking ways and means of breaking that circle. Had we asked the [right] questions we would not have exposed our economies to the ruthless plunder brought about by ‘foreign investments’ which the exponents of the vicious circle theory urged us to do. For, it is clear, foreign investment is the cause, and not a solution, to our economic backwardness.”

    - Former Tanzanian minister A.M. Babu, In: Walter Rodney (1965), 'How Europe underdeveloped Africa', page 312.


    Exploitation (?)


Interview summary


The Last Tree

The Giving Tree (Shel Silverstein)

Forest loss

Wood and paper imports

Discount rate

    Discounting the future

The two sides of inequality

    Relative wealth


    Relative poverty



Democracy and its Discontents


    Limited term of office

        Appeasing to voters interests and expectations

            Short-term planning

            Short-term policies

    Requires an informed voting population

        Motivation to influence voters

            Manipulation of education

            Manipulation of media

    High transaction costs

        Requires sophisticated institutional infrastructure









    Potentially cumbersome

        Non-reflexive decision making


Buckman, G. (2005), 'Global Trade: Past Mistakes, Future Choices', Chapter 6: 'Trade and the Environment', pages 172-<end>.

Chang, Ha-Joon (2008), 'Bad Samaritans', Chapter 3: 'My six-year-old son should get a job', pages 74-<end>.

Response Question

"How has your American experience changed who you are?  How will you live differently when you return to Japan?"

Week 11


The Birth of Capitalism

    Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679):


            'Philosophical Rudiments concerning Government and Society' (1651)

            'Leviathan' (or ‘the Matter, Forme, and Power of a Commonwealth, Ecclesiasticall and Civil’) (1651)

    John Locke (1632-1704):


            'Two Treatises of Government' (1689)

David Hume (1711-1776):


            'Political Discourses' (1752)

Adam Smith (1723-1790):


        'The Wealth of Nations' (1776)


Classical liberalism

'A doctrine stressing individual freedom and limited government'

Questioned the authority of the feudal society:

        Feudalism                 Classical liberalism


19th & 20th-century political economists

John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946):


        'General Theory of Employment Interest and Money' (1936)

        Keynesianism: Change government spending to adjust employment, growth, etc.

Milton Friedmann (1912-2006):


        'A Monetary and Fiscal Framework for Economic Stability' (1948)

        Monetarism: Change money supply to adjust employment, growth, etc.



“The doctrine that market exchange is an ethic in itself, capable of acting as a guide for all human action.” (Harvey, 2005)

Strongholds of neoliberal doctrine:

Tenets of Neoliberalism:


The Bretton Woods Conference

Three institutions were envisaged:

    (I) International Monetary Fund (IMF)

    (II) International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD)

        Became known as the World Bank

    (III) International Trade Organization (ITO)

        Later came into being as the General Agreement on Trade & Tariffs (GATT) through the 1947 Havana Charter (23 countries)

        GATT was transformed to the World Trade Organization (WTO) on 1 January 1995 following the Uruguay Round

U.S. Control


        Voting power not based on one-country, one-vote

        Voting power was based on quotas fixed by the U.S.A.


        All committee secretaries and their assistants were American, and had received special training at Atlantic City.  They formed a cohesive team to defend the U.S. position.


        “The United States wants, after this war, full utilization of its industries, its factories and its farms; full and steady employment for its citizens, particularly its ex-servicemen; and full prosperity and peace. It can have them only in a world with vigorous trade. But it can have such trade only if currencies are stable, if money keeps its value, and if people can buy and sell with the certainty that the money they receive on the due date will have the value contracted for – hence the [IMF].

        With values secured and held stable, it is next desirable to promote world-wide reconstruction, revive normal trade, and made funds available for sound enterprises, all of which will in turn call for American products hence the [World Bank]."   

            - U.S. Department of State (1948)


'Unholy trinity' of International Institutions

(I)    The International Monetary Fund (IMF)

Stated Objectives (IMF Articles of Agreement, Article I) :

    (1)    To promote international monetary cooperation through a permanent institution which provides the machinery for consultation and collaboration on international monetary problems.

    (2)    To facilitate the expansion and balanced growth of international trade, and to contribute thereby to high levels of employment and real income and to the development of the productive resources of all members as primary objectives of economic policy.

    (3)    To promote exchange stability, to maintain orderly exchange arrangements among members, and to avoid competitive exchange depreciation.

    (4)    To assist in the establishment of a multilateral system of payments in respect of current transactions between members and in the elimination of foreign exchange restrictions which hamper the growth of world trade.

    (5)    To give confidence to member governments by making the general resources of the Fund temporarily available to them under adequate safeguards, thus providing them with opportunity to correct maladjustment in their balance of payments without resorting to measures destructive of national or international prosperity.

    (6)    In accordance with the above, to shorten the duration and lessen the degree of disequilibrium in the international balances of payments of members.


Basic facts:

Originally concerned with:         

  (1) Exchange rates

  (2) Balance of payments loans



    Board of Governors

    Executive Board



     Most decisions are made by consensus

     Voting system weighted by country quota (USA: 17%; Japan and Germany: 6%; France and U.K.: 5%; Saudi Arabia, China and Russia: 3%)



    Khan, M. (1990), ‘The macroeconomic effects of fund-supported structural adjustment programs’, IMF Staff Papers, 37 (2).

    Review of 16 studies of how IMF programs affected macroeconomic characteristics:

        Balance of Payments [complete national account]:

            7 showed positive effects, 4 showed no effects, 3 showed negative effects

        Current Account [trade + foreign income+ aid]:

            5 showed positive effects, 5 showed no effects, 2 showed negative effects

    Inflation [increasing prices]:

            2 showed positive effects, 4 showed no effects, 10 showed negative effects           

        Economic Growth:

            4 showed positive effects, 5 showed no effects, 7 showed negative effects

    By one account (Budhoo, 1994) 6 million people die each year from the effects of structural adjustment





    “The importance of ESAF [Enhanced Structural Adjustment Facility] loans stemmed less from the amount of resources provided than from the access which an IMF agreement provided to other official resources.

    Without an IMF ESAF agreement, it was impossible to have debt rescheduling through the Paris Club. Moreover, an ESAF programme was often a precondition for grants and loans by bilateral donors, and financing from other international financial institutions in low income countries. ESAF-supported programmes thus shaped policy change in LDC’s, and also acted as the framework for obtaining concessional finance and debt relief in the 1990s.”

        - UNCTAD [United Nations Conference on Trade & Development] (2000)



    “… a critical examination of [the IMF] suggests that it extracts repayment at the expense of the economy, and especially on the backs of the poor people, of the borrowing country.”

        - Richard Peet (2004), 'Unholy Trinity'.


    “The IMF likes to go about its business without outsiders asking too many questions. In theory, the fund supports democratic institutions in the nations it assists. In practice, it undermines the democratic process by imposing policies.”

        - Former World Bank chief economist Joseph Stiglitz (2003), 'Globalisation and its Discontents'.


(II) The World Bank

    International Bank for Reconstruction and Development ('IBRD')

    "Our dream is a world without poverty"

        - World Bank website

    “We never pretended to be good at implementation.”

        - Anonymous World Bank development economist, Washington D.C., December 2003.



Consists of five specialized institutions:

    (1) International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD)

    (2) International Development Association (IDA)

    (3) International Finance Corporation (IFC)

    (4) Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA)

    (5) International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID)


Voting Structure


Selected World Bank presidents


    Robert McNamara (1916- )


    Paul Wolfowitz (1943- )


(III) The World Trade Organization (WTO)

“To help trade flow smoothly, freely, fairly and predictably”

    - WTO website





    “[The WTO] contributes to international peace. Smoothly flowing trade helps people become better off; and more prosperous, contented people are less likely to fight.”

    “[The WTO] allows disputes to be handled constructively.”

    “A system based on rules rather than power makes life easier for everyone. Decisions in the WTO, made by consensus, with agreements ratified in all members’ parliaments, apply to rich and poor countries alike. The result for smaller countries is increased bargaining power.”

    “Freer trade cuts the cost of trading. All people consume. The prices paid for food and clothing are affected by trade policies. Protectionism raises prices. By comparison, the WTO’s global system lowers trade barriers through negotiation and results in reduced costs of production, reduced prices of finished goods and services, and ultimately a lower cost of living.”

    “[The WTO] gives consumers more choice. Even the quality of locally produced goods can improve because of competition from imports.”

    “Trade raises incomes. Lowering trade barriers allows trade to increase, which adds to national and personal incomes.”

    “Trade stimulates economic growth and that means more jobs.”

    “The basic trading principles make the system economically more efficient and cut costs. Trade allows a division of labour between countries and lets resources be used more effectively.”

    “Trade stimulates economic growth and that means more jobs.”

    “The system encourages good government. Under WTO rules, once a commitment has been made to liberalize a sector of trade, it is difficult to reverse. The rules also discourage a range of unwise choices.



    General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT)

        1947 Havana Charter, 23 countries

        Goes beyond central government to include measures taken by regional and local governments, including non-governmental bodies exercising powers delegated by government.

    The Uruguay Round (1986-94) gave birth to the WTO:

                - Modeled on the GATT

                - WTO members need to regulate all their services, except those ‘supplied in the exercise of governmental authority’

                - Globalizes the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights

                - Prevents requirement of local ownership

                - Prevents measures that restrict imports by local enterprises

Restrictions on trade may include:



    Industrial Dynamics       




    “the compression of the world and the intensification of consciousness of the world as a whole” – Roland Robertson (1992)

    “the intensification of world-wide social relations which link distinct localities in such a way that local happenings are shaped by events occurring many miles away” – Anthony Gibbens (1990)

    “compression of our spatial and temporal worlds” – David Harvey (1989)



Largest economies on the planet

Adam Smith, in The Wealth of Nations (1776) specifically warned against empowering corporations:

    “It is to prevent this reduction of price, and consequently of wages and profit, by restraining that free competition which would most certainly occasion it, that all corporations, and the greater part of corporate law, have been established.”

Corporate control over 'democracy'?


Dynamical Systems Theory

Phase diagrams

    Attractors / 'Sinks'


    Stability & Perturbations

        Lions & Wildebeest


The Earth System

Overview of pertinent issues

Climate Destabilization


Facing the Future

Acknowledging the Mystery

    Humility    謙譲

    Gratitude    感謝

        Responsibility    義務、責任、任、負担


Dignity    威厳、厳粛、重厚、尊厳、品格

Grace    恩寵、優雅


Life + Debt

Bonus Reading

Pollan, M., 'The Food Issue', New York Times Magazine, October 9th 2008.

Bonus Response Question

"Would you rather live in a world with the U.S.A. or China as the dominant superpower?"

Week xy: Stuff We Didn't Have Time For



Economic Growth

“…[it is an] elementary economic axiom … that prosperity has no fixed limits. It is not a finite substance to be diminished by division.”

    - U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau, Bretton Woods, 1943.



    Traditional Measures: Gross Production

        Gross- and Net- National Production ('GNP', 'NNP')

        The Balance of Payments

    Alternative Measures

        Measure of Economic Welfare ('MEW')

        Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare ('ISEW')


        Exercise 02: Happiness

        Gross National Happiness


        Social Capital (Robert Putnam)

        Effects of inequality

Carrying capacity

The Birth and Life of Capitalism

    Origins of Liberalism

    Industrial Revolution



For & Against Growth


Human Nature

Biological: hardware

Cultural: software





Historical and Cultural Contexts


East meets West (Exhibit, Yang Liu)

Oriental views

    Minimalism: Confucianism (Confucius, Lao-Tze), Buddhism (Suzuki)

Occidental views

    Individualism: Judeo-Christianity, John Locke, Stuart Mill, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, United States Constitution, Adam Smith

    Environmentalism: John Muir, Alfred North Whitehead, Aldo Leopold, Bill McKibben



Friedman, Thomas L. (1999), 'The Lexus and the Olive Tree', Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

UNEP Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 'Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007'.

Pascala, S. & Socolow, R. (2008), 'Stabilization Wedges: Solving the Climate Problem for the Next 50 Years with Current Technologies', Science, 305, pp. 968-972.

Costanza, R. et al. (1997), 'The value of the world’s ecosystem services and natural capital', Nature, 387, pp. 253-260.

Bardhan, Pranab (2008), 'Inequality in India and China: Is Globalization to Blame?', YaleGlobal.

Costanza, R. (1980), 'Embodied Energy and Economic Valuation', Science, Vol. 210, No. 4475 (Dec. 12, 1980), pp. 1219-1224.

Project 01

'One World Flag'

Objectives: (1) Foster team-work; (2) Provide an outlet for Spirit and Imagination.

Due: 08:30 on Thursday 30 October

Groups: Form groups of 4-5 members.  Minimum 2 males and 2 females per group.  Members must not be accustomed to working together: join class-mates whom you do not know well.  Elect a flag group representative.  Representative must e-mail list of group member names to instructor by 17:00 on Friday 03 October.

Instructions: (1) "... create a flag – free from language and well-worn clichés – that embodies the idea of global citizenship. A symbol that triggers pride and cohesion, whether worn on a backpack, displayed on a door, or flown on a flagpole. A symbol for anyone to declare membership in a growing and vital human cooperative."  (2) Include a detailed written explanation of your flag (meaning, symbols, etc.). (3) Flags will be unveiled on Halloween evening!

Inspiration: AdBusters Magazine

Project 02

'Global Flows'

Objectives: Exercise in (1) research and data-mining; and (2) visual representation.

Due: 10:30 on Tue 04 December



Trees, timber, wood, lumber


Oil, coal, gas



(V)    FOOD




(1)    Australia & New Zealand


(2)    Canada

(3)    United States of America

(4)    Mexico

(5)    Venezuela

(6)    Brazil

(7)    Chile, Argentina & Uruguay

(8)    South & Central America [except (4)-(7)]


(9)    China

(10)    India

(11)    Middle-East

(12)    Indonesia

(13)    Southeast Asia & Philippines

(14)    Russia & former Soviet nations

(15)    Japan


(5)    Northern Africa

(6)    South, Central, East & West Africa


(8)    Western Europe

(14)    Eastern Europe



Research the flows (exports & imports) of your particular group's commodities for the year 2006 between the 16/17 regions.  Include resources produced and used within a region (e.g. oil extracted in the U.S. and used by U.S. consumers).  Think of a way to visualize your data quantitatively.  Represent the flows of your commodities between the specified regions onto the World Map provided. 


Use any reliable data-sources.  Click here for some recommended data-sources.

Project 03


Fieldtrip 01   

San Juan Islands

Sat 18 Oct 07:00 - Sun 19 Oct 19:00


DRIVE: Depart UW Burke Museum Sat 18 Oct 07:00    Arrive Anacortes Ferry Terminal 08:30

FERRY: Depart Anacortes Ferry Terminal 08:50    Arrive Lopez Island Ferry Dock 09:35

(1) Strawbail housing.  Lopez Community Land Trust; 758 North Lopez Rd.

(2) Take it or Leave it (Lopez Recycling Centre)

(3) Organic Farm

(4) Chadwick Hill

(5) The Galley restaurant; 3365 Fisherman Bay Rd., Lopez Island

(6) Overnight at Lopez Island Junior/Middle School; 86 School Rd., Lopez Island



(7) Breakfast at Holly B's

FERRY: Depart Lopez Ferry Dock Sun 19 Oct 09:55    Arrive Orcas Ferry Terminal 10:45

(8) Bullock Brothers Homestead Potluck

(9) Discussion: How long would you want to live at the Bullock Brothers Homestead?

FERRY: Depart Orcas Ferry Terminal 16:15    Arrive Anacortes Ferry Terminal 17:05

DRIVE: Depart Anacortes Ferry Terminal 17:15    Arrive UW Burke Museum Sun 19 Oct 19:00

Fieldtrip 02   

Port of Seattle

Thu 23 Oct 08:30 - 12:20

Depart University Way NE & NE 41st St At 08:46 AM On Route MT 30 Seattle Center Arrive Denny Way & Broad St At 09:06 AM Walk 0.5 mile S to 2711 ALASKAN WAY

Depart Broad St & 2nd Ave At 11:41 AM On Route MT 36 Jefferson Park Arrive 3rd Ave & Pine St At 11:49 AM Walk 0.2 mile NE to

Depart Westlake Sta AcRd & Tunnel Station-BAY A At 12:06 PM On Route MT 73 Jackson Park Express Arrive NE Campus Pkwy & Brooklyn-BAY 1 At 12:17 PM

Fieldtrip 03   

Westpoint Sewage Treatment Facility

Sat 22 Nov 08:45 - 14:30

Meet at 4th Ave. & University St. at 08:45 AM
Depart: with Metro# 24 at 09:00 from 4th Ave & University downtown towards Magnolia. 
Arrive: Magnolia Blvd West & W Emerson at 09:30.

Depart: with Metro# 33 at 14:00 from 34th Ave W & W Government Way towards downtown.
Arrive: Arrive 2nd Ave & Pike St. at 14:30.

Bring: Rain gear, lunch, notebook.

Fieldtrip 04   

Olympic Coast

Sat 06 Dec 14:30 - Mon 08 Dec 17:00


320 Ocean Drive, P.O. Box 67
La Push, WA 98350
(360) 374-5267 Toll Free: 1-800-487-1267


Candle, Sleeping bag, Sleeping mat if you have one, Plate, Fork, Spoon, Chopsticks, Cup, Raingear, Water bottle, A few snacks, Towel, Musical instrument if you have one.

NOTE: Bring any special ingredients you might need if you want to cook a special dish


Leave: Immediately after goodbye ceremony: Sat 06 Dec ~14:30

Return: Mon 08 Dec 17:00

Background Reading

For a more comprehensive list, consult my on-line bibliography at URL:


Diamond, J. (1997), 'Guns, Germs and Steel: the Fates of Human Societies'.


Diamond, J. (2004), 'Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed'.

Fernández-Armesto, F., 'Civilizations: Culture, Ambition, and the Transformation of Nature'.


Greider, W. (1992), 'Who Will Tell the People?'.

Korten, D. (2001), 'When Corporations Rule the World'.


Nisbett, R.E. (2001), 'The Geography of Thought'.


Caldwell, J. (2006), 'Demographic Transition Theory'.


Wolfe N. D., Dunavan C. P., Diamond J. (2007), 'Origins of major human infectious diseases', Nature 447(7142), 279-283.

    Environmental Economics

Douthwaite, R. (1999), 'The Growth Illusion'.

Daly, H. & Cobb, John B. (1994), 'For the Common Good'.


Kurzweill, R. (2005), 'The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology'.


Greider, W. (1997), 'One World, Ready or Not'.

    Global Inequality

Chang, Ha-Joon (2008), 'Bad Samaritans'.

Reinert, Eric S. (2007) 'How Rich Countries Got Rich ... and Why Poor Countries Stay Poor'.


Meadows, D.H., Meadows, D.L., Randers, J., Behrens, W.W. III (1972), 'The Limits to Growth', Universe Books, New York.


Haidt, J., 'The Happiness Hypothesis'.

Layard, R., 'Happiness'.

    Human Nature

Morris, D., 'The Naked Ape'.

Peterson, D., Wrangham, R., 'Demonic Males'.

Russell, B., 'Power'.

de Waal, F., 'Primates and Philosophers'.

de Waal, F., Tyack, P., 'Animal Social Complexity: Intelligence, Culture, and Individualized Societies'.


Ostrom, E. (1990), 'Governing the Commons'.


MacArthur, R., Wilson, E., 'Theory of Island Biogeography'.

    Japan's Industrial Revolution

Lockwood, W., 'The Economic Development of Japan'.


Anderson, T.L., Leal, D.R. (1991), 'Free Market Environmentalism'.

Harvey (2005), 'A Brief History of Neoliberalism'.

    Philosophy of Science

Kuhn, T., 'The Structure of Scientific Revolutions'.


Buckman, G. (2005), 'Global Trade: Past Mistakes, Future Choices'.


Grades will be allocated on the basis of:

    (i)   Quality of Response papers;      [10 x 2% = 20%]

    (ii)   Quality of Class Projects;          [3 x 20% = 60%]

    (iii)  Current-event Presentation;       [1 x 10% = 10%]

    (iv)  Group discussion Participation.  [10 x 1% = 10%]

Bonus points are awarded for:

    (i)    Extra-curricular material (news articles, websites, books, etc., etc.) brought to the instructor's attention;

    (ii)   Outstanding engagement in group discussions;

    (iii)   Voluntary oral presentations (maximum one per person);

    (iv)    Pointing out any mistakes made by lecturer, including factual and logical errors.


There will be no mid-term or final exam.

On-line grade spreadsheet

Data Sources


    U.S. Census Bureau International Database

Economics & the Environment

    World Resources Institute EarthTrends database


    U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Census

    UNCTAD Handbook of Statistics