Window of Chaos


Since the 2000 World Water Forum in The Hague, governance over water resources has gained salience in international development discourse. The allocation of rights (to technology and decisionmaking) and resources (both financial and natural) has shaped local economies in the face of compounding climate emergencies.

A 2014 piece by KAREN BAKKER reviews the literature on water marketization, complicating existing accounts which focus exclusively on models of ownership.

From the article’s conclusion:

“Market environmentalism is not synonymous with (or limited to) privatization. It includes commercialization, environmental valuation and pricing, the marketization of trading and exchange mechanisms, and the liberalization of governance. The trend is relatively recent and is by no means hegemonic. In many countries, it has only partially displaced a state hydraulic paradigm of water management—indeed, many aspects of the social and hydrological cycle are still owned, managed, and regulated by governments.

Market environmentalism is difficult to implement in practice, with tensions arising from attempts to privatize, commercialize, value, market, and liberalize water governance—for example, between the desire for less government control and drivers for greater governmental control, spurred by fears over water security. Some of these tensions arise from contradictions that are difficult to resolve in practice, notably the contradiction between monetary and nonmonetary values of water and the tension between framing water as an economic good versus incorporating its noneconomic uses. These tensions, which have acted as a brake on market environmentalism, are inherent to water management and are unlikely to be effectively resolved. The question is how, through institutional innovation, governance reforms, and political mediation, they will be handled.”

Link to the text.

  • In a 2000 article, Bakker examines the role of privatization in generating the Yorkshire drought of 1995. Link. And a 1997 paper by Matthew Gandy examines “how the social and economic development of New York City since the 1970s led to a sudden crisis in the city’s water supply system in the 1990s.” Link.
  • “By 1993, the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank had been involved in the Argentine water sector for several years. Once the government announced its administrative reform, the World Bank funded and appointed a team of private sector technical and financial consultants from the UK to advise on the future of Buenos Aires’ water sector.” Alexander Loftus and David McDonald consider the political context for water privatization in Argentina. Link.
  • “In the arid conditions that often characterized agriculture in the Roman world, access to water for irrigation could be crucial to the fortunes of individual farmers and agrarian communities.” Dennis Kehoe analyzes water rights in the Roman empire. Link.


Floods, Dispossession, and Guerrilla Movements

María del Pilar López-Uribe is Assistant Professor in Economics at the Universidad de los Andes in Bogotá, Colombia. A 2018 chapter co-authored with Fabio Sanchez Torres explores the links between land dispossession in the early 20th century and the rise of guerrilla movements in Colombia.

From the chapter:

“This work argues that the differences in the intensity of armed conflict at municipal level during its early stage (1974-1985) were due to old peasant’s land dispossessions by large landowners that led to the rise and persistence of grievances. This study exploits variation in floods to identify how peasants’ land dispossessions during the export boom (1914-1946) determine the rise of rural guerrilla movements and the consolidation of their rebel activities. The study documents that municipalities experiencing floods were substantially more likely to have land dispossession than municipalities where floods was not severe. Floods reduced temporarily the conditions of the land and its value, facilitating the dispossession of the peasants of their lands by large landowners. We then show, first, that there is a strong link between FARC rebel activity (1974-1985) and land dispossessions during the export coffee expansion (1916-1946). And second, that the link is mediated by the exposure to the previous civil war “La Violencia”, facilitating that small peasant groups had access to weapons and military experience, and by an ideological cohesion lead by the communist party.”

Link to the text, link to Pilar López-Uribe’s website.

Each week we highlight research from a graduate student, postdoc, or early-career professor. Send us recommendations: .

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  • “Today, there is more reason to speak of a ‘pro-labor turn’ than perhaps at any time over the last half century. But history is not so easily reversed.” We’re thrilled to announce that Tim Barker has joined Phenomenal World as a contributing editor. On the site this week, Barker writes on the “fifty-year crisis” of the wage share, and what it might mean for the Fed’s expansionary monetary policy. Link.
  • “More research is needed to understand what factors drive the persistent belief—shared by Winship and millions of Americans—that the poor don’t know what’s best for themselves.” In a new post for JFI, James Medlock and JFI Fellow Paul E. Williams examine paternalism and welfare policy in the US. Link.
  • “Because education does not achieve income parity for Black workers, the disproportionate debt Black students are taking to finance their education is reinforcing the racial wealth gap.” A new report by JFI Senior Fellow Marshall Steinbaum, Andre M. Perry, and Carl Romer, cross-posted from Brookings Metro. Link, and link. And tune into a Brookings conversation featuring the authors with a keynote by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Monday, June 28 at 10am ET. Link.
  • “‘Maximum employment’ is a rich concept worthy of careful and iterative elaboration if the Fed is to fully follow through on its Congressional mandate, framework revisions, and forward guidance commitments.” Skanda Amarnath and Alex Williams of Employ America propose a new communication framework for the Fed’s maximum employment goals. Link.
  • Michael Baker, Derek Messacar, and Mark Stabile examine the Canada Child Benefit and Universal Child Care Benefit, finding a reduction in child poverty and no evidence of labor supply response. Link.
  • Emily Baum on China’s “fortune-telling fever” post-Mao. Link.
  • “Prime funds have long been viewed as a source of vulnerability, while government funds have been viewed as a source of strength. But the bad kid might be getting too much blame and the good kid too much credit.” Wenxin Du in the FT on money market funds. Link.
  • Giampaolo Conte on capitalist-style reforms in the late Ottoman empire. Link.
  • Juan Nicolas Gonzalez, Jose Perez-Doval, Juan Gomez, and Jose Manuel Vassallo find that Madrid’s private vehicle restrictions had led to lower car ownership rates. Link.
  • “Neither the FLSA nor the NLRA penalty and enforcement regimes create sufficient incentive to comply for many firms.” Anna Stansbury looks at the expected penalties firms face for violating the Fair Labor Standards Act and the National Labor Relations Act. Link.
  • “The tension between ‘building back’ and ‘building better’ is nowhere more visible than in the debate over the American Rescue Plan Act.” In Notes on the Crises, Amanda Kass and Philip Rocco on state and local funding in ARPA. Link. (See also: Kass and Rocco’s contributions to JFI’s Social Wealth Seminar)
  • Diana Vela-Almeida and Nataly Torres on Ecuador’s consultation policy in extractive projects. Link.
  • “Using new data on the date of first state emergence within contemporary countries, we present a global scale analysis of the chronological relationship between the transition to agriculture and the subsequent emergence of states. We find statistically significant relationships between early reliance on agriculture and state age in all sub-samples and also when we use alternative sources of data at different levels of geographical aggregation. A one millennium earlier transition to agriculture among non-pristine states predicts a 317-430 year earlier state emergence. ” By Oana Borcan, Ola Olsson, and Louis Putterman. Link.

Each week we highlight research from a graduate student, postdoc, or early-career professor. Send us recommendations:

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