Bosnia–education and multiculturalism

An interesting article on the education system in Bosnia, which looks at the effect of a particular view of multiculturalism in that war-scarred country. How does it compare to our system in Canada? What are the advantages/disadvantage of each system?

There was no Santa Claus in the Sarajevo and Bosnia and Herzegovina of my childhood. The white-bearded fat man who assessed the worth of children’s obedience and brought them presents was called Deda Mraz—Grandpa Frost. Having dispatched his proxies to schools and kindergartens in the preceding weeks, he showed up at your home in person (though always unseen) on New Year’s Eve, at midnight or so, just for you. He was non-denominational and non-ideological and delivered presents to all obedient children regardless of their ethnicity or political convictions. The old man was a civic, communal character, someone everyone waited for and was happy to see. He was welcome before the war, even during the war, but, it turns out, not so much after the war.

As for contemporary schooling in Bosnia,

In some parts of Bosnia, children of different ethnicities attend school in the same building, but are meticulously segregated: they go to different classrooms, share no classes, they often have different programs and textbooks, the faculty neither mix nor cooperate. In some schools, classes begin at different times, lest children have any contact or communication before or after school. … The nationalists who represent the constitutive peoples want and expect national subjects, not citizens. They want children to come out of the rickety educational machine equipped to think of themselves exclusively within the framework of their ethnicity.

Interesting post on the collapse of the state in Somalia.


Being my first blog post, I would like to talk about failed states and how corrupt the government has truly become in this world. Failed states are defined as states that have failed to provide the basic elements that are necessary in any sovereign government. Somalia is just one of the many places in the world that have been labeled a “failed state”, however in this post, I will narrow my focus solely on Somalia. “There is no law here, no justice system” says the reporter. I found this quite shocking when I first heard this because I always thought in order to keep any sort of peace between people in a country, a established government should be in order. This country has a population of 9 million and in many parts of the country, “there is no education, as well as no health care”. Most of the aid anyone gets in this…

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Here is an excellent post from the first blog assignment.


It’s 2012, and the world in which we live is going through major political changes.  Dictatorship after dictatorship fall as the people in  authoritarian regimes, such as Egypt and Libya, rise in a drive towards pursuing  the “good life,” a phrase associated with Aristotle in his analysis of different forms of government (Dyck, Studying Politics).  Aristotle’s classification of governments (The Politics) could just as easily have been done 100 years ago, yet he did so more than 2,000 years before.

Aristotle’s Typology of Governments
True forms Ruled for the common good of allPerversions Ruled for the good of private interests
Rule by oneMonarchyTyranny Governed for the interest of the monarch only
Rule by fewAristocracyOligarchy Governed for the interest of the wealthy only
Rule by manyPolityDemocracy Governed for the interests of the needy only

Today’s observer should have no problem identifying the form of government in most states, with regimes generally falling into…

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Support for Capital Punishment

On Thursday in POLI 1100, a general discussion about the distinctions between democratic and non-democratic regimes focused on the use(s) of violence by governments as a means of control. This led to a discussion of the use of, and support for, the death penalty. As many of my students knew, the death penalty is not used in Canada or Europe (with the exception of Belarus) but is used in the United States. Most of the class, however, was surprised to learn that, despite the differences in policy, until quite recently a majority of both Canadians and Americans supported the death penalty. The graphic below shows the supports of a Gallup-Ipsos survey carried out in 2004, in which Canadians just barely oppose the death penalty (although, as you can see, it is not a majority), while Great Britons (55%) and US Americans (64%) both have majorities supporting the death penalty.

Although support for capital punishment is decreasing in many countries, in many European countries a majority of the population still is in favour of the death penalty for those convicted of murder. What about Japan? In a poll released in February 2010, a record 85% of Japanese supported the death penalty!

What do you think about these results? Are they as you expected? What does this say about the political culture of the countries in question?

2012–The year for Democracy?

Here’s an example of a good post for the POLI 1100 blog assignment for this week. This took about 20-25 minutes to complete.

As noted in Chapter 2 of the Dyck textbook, the number of democracies worldwide has risen dramatically over the last couple of decades, to the point that currently a majority of the world’s population lives in more-or-less democratic states. More-or-less since democracies vary in character from one to the next. Some democracies fully respect human rights, whereas others are less stringent in this regard.

In a recent article in Foreign Policy magazine, Christian Caryl claims that “2012 could be a great year for democracy.” In all, almost 1/3 of the world’s countries will be heading to the polls this year to elect leaders at the national, regional, and local levels.* As for whether this is a sign of deepening democratization, Caryl is more equivocal:

That may be true. But it hardly means that the triumph of democracy is ensured. If history has taught us anything, it is that nothing in human affairs is inevitable. Most people undoubtedly yearn for freedom. In our imperfect world, however, the political choices actually facing most citizens are messy, risky, or morally fraught. There is no straight line to an open society.

Egypt is illustrative. What happens there, in the largest Arab country, is likely to have broad repercussions for the other countries of the Middle East. Yet Egyptians face many obstacles as they strive to assert their political rights. The military stubbornly refuses to yield power. The weakness of the economy, if allowed to continue, could easily sow doubt about the desirability of representative government. Then there is the possibility of sectarian or factional conflict. Already the two Islamist parties that have emerged victorious from the country’s first post-Mubarak parliamentary elections have begun feuding among themselves. And that’s not even to mention the lingering disquiet among Egypt’s large Christian population after last year’s pogroms.

Elections are a vital prerequisite of democracy. Yet, as many examples this year will remind us, elections alone do not a democracy make.

I think that the bolded part  above (my emphasis) is the key part of the story here. We can think about this in terms of necessary and sufficient conditions. While having elections is necessary for a political system to be considered a democracy, elections are not sufficient for democracy. Other institutions, such as a free press, respect for human and civil rights, the freedom of assembly, etc., are needed as well.

For a list of countries that will be holding elections this year, this page is maintained by the Consortium for Elections and Political Process Strengthening. We see that Finland will be the first to have elections this year–Sunday, January 22–with the first round of Presidential elections. (is Sami Salo running?)

Here is an interview with Croatia’s new Foreign Affairs Minister, Vesna Pusic, with about the upcoming referendum in Croatia on whether to join the European Union. (In the interview, which was held in early December 2011, Minister Pusic speculates that the referendum would take place in February 2012. In fact, the elections will be held this Sunday, 22 January 2012.

*N.B.: Just as an aside. Is it really striking (statistically, that is) that in any given year 1/3 of the world’s countries will have citizens go to election polls to elect representatives?

Chapter 1 or Chapter 2 Post–Global Military Expenditures

As I noted in POLI 1140 today, your blog assignment for this week is to write a post related to anything in Chapters 1 or 2 of the Mingst and Arreguin-Toft textbook. You have until midnight, Friday January 20 to publish your post. Here is an example of what I would consider to be a good post–format, content, and length.

Military Expenditures as percentage of GDP

On p. 3 of Chapter 1 of the text (in the Thinking Theoretically section), the authors write:

In brief, realism posits that states exist in an anarchic international system. Each state bases its policies on an interpretation of national interest defined in terms of power.

While there are many types of power–economic, political, prestige, etc.,–the most important source of power and the one which states generally seek to increase as much as possible, is military power. Because of anarchy, realists believe that states are constantly concerned about their security. States that feel more insecure seek to increase their power, thereby increasing the sizes of their military, all else being equal. It would be interesting to find out which states spend a lot on their military, and which states spend less. Fortunately, has compiled the data for us. In their most recent summary of global military expenditures (from 2011), we find some interesting data. I have copied the top 20 (in terms of absolute dollars spent) in the table below. For a list of all countries, click on the link above.

WORLD Gross Domestic Product Military Spending
State GDP rank % GDP
rank Military spending
WORLD $70,155,374,950,000.00

United States $14,120,000,000,000.00 2 5.20% 25 $741,200,000,000.00
China $8,818,000,000,000.00 3 4.30% 23 $380,000,000,000.00
India $3,680,000,000,000.00 5 2.50% 62 $92,000,000,000.00
Russia $2,116,000,000,000.00 8 3.90% 27 $82,500,000,000.00
Saudi Arabia $590,900,000,000.00 23 10.00% 3 $59,090,000,000.00
France $2,094,000,000,000.00 9 2.60% 57 $54,444,000,000.00
United Kingdom $2,123,000,000,000.00 7 2.40% 63 $50,952,000,000.00
Turkey $879,900,000,000.00 17 5.30% 16 $46,634,700,000.00
Germany $2,815,000,000,000.00 6 1.50% 102 $42,225,000,000.00
Korea, South $1,362,000,000,000.00 13 2.70% 53 $36,774,000,000.00
Brazil $2,010,000,000,000.00 10 1.70% 89 $34,170,000,000.00
Japan $4,149,000,000,000.00 4 0.80% 150 $33,192,000,000.00
Italy $1,737,000,000,000.00 11 1.80% 86 $31,266,000,000.00
Indonesia $960,200,000,000.00 16 3.00% 47 $28,806,000,000.00
Iran $825,900,000,000.00 19 2.50% 60 $20,647,500,000.00
Spain $1,359,000,000,000.00 14 1.20% 122 $16,308,000,000.00
Taiwan $734,300,000,000.00 20 2.20% 68 $16,154,600,000.00
Israel $206,900,000,000.00 51 7.30% 6 $15,103,700,000.00
Greece $332,900,000,000.00 35 4.30% 24 $14,314,700,000.00
Canada $1,277,000,000,000.00 15 1.10% 127 $14,047,000,000.00

Continue reading “Chapter 1 or Chapter 2 Post–Global Military Expenditures”