On the age of borders

Happy New Year!

I am back from research leave. And will be blogging again.

To kick off 2018, check out this map with ages of present-day borders across the world. Across the continent, southern African and coastal West Africa have the oldest borders.

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Just from eyeballing the data, there seems to be a correlation between border age and (elite) political instability. There might also be a strong neighborhood effect of the (regional) average border age. Finally, the average border age on the Continent does not seem to be much higher than in other (post-colonial) regions of the world. This raises important questions about the usefulness of the artificiality of borders as a driver all sorts of outcomes that interest social scientists.

Ultimately, all borders are artificial and a function of technology and state capacity (and may be time). Humans can now blast through or fly over mountains (the Carthaginians trekked them with elephants).

Technology and state capacity have similar effects on the realized political effects of population geography. Think of how poorly United States would score on the Herbst index of favorable vs unfavorable population geography. Now imagine Guatemala with the size and population geography of the United States.

For more on this subject see this new paper by Goemans and Schultz (2017) on the politics of territorial claims in Africa.

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Italian woman faces jail for not doing “enough” housework according to husband

This is not an Onion story. And no, you did not travel back in time. It is 2016.

The Guardian reports:

An Italian woman faces six years in jail after her husband accused her of not doing enough cooking and cleaning at home.

Her husband made a formal complaint to the paramilitary Carabinieri police, saying that his wife was slovenly, failed to put meals on the table and left their home in a dreadful mess.

….. The crime, article 572 in the Italian penal code, “punishes whoever mistreats a person in their family or a person entrusted to them for reasons of education, care or custody.”

Her husband, 47, accused her of “bad management of domestic affairs”, in a case that reinforces the image of the harassed Italian wife stirring a steaming pot of pasta sauce while small children run round her feet and the man of the house puts his feet up with a newspaper.

Also this:

It is the second time in a week that the Italian judicial system has shown itself to be less than enlightened when it comes to relations between the sexes.

On Wednesday, a court in Sicily ruled that a male boss who was accused of groping three female colleagues was not guilty of sexual harassment because his behaviour was playful, not “lascivious”.

The court in Palermo said that 65-year-old Domenico Lipari had been driven by an immature sense of humour, rather than a desire for sexual gratification.

 

constitution making in Kenya and the noise around it

Muthoni Wanyeki has this cool piece on the ongoing debate over the draft constitution.

I share in her surprise at how low the church has decided to sink in its opposition to Kadhi courts and the so called abortion clause in the draft constitution. Firstly, abortions are but a symptom of greater social problems (marital rape, poor sex education policies, the church’s intransigence over contraceptives, etc etc). People do not carry out abortions because they are baby-killers. Can someone please point this out to these men of God?

In any case personal morality is not a province of the state. People’s “moral failings” are a reflection of the church’s inability to instill in them the values that they consider to be ideal. Sending millions to their graves and creating even more orphans on the premise that God does not endorse the use of contraceptives is simply absurd. If I ran the Daily Nation I would print rates of contraceptive use and fertility rates in Rome, Canterbury and the great evangelical centres of America in the front page to make this point.

I say this knowing that Kenyan conservatism is not necessarily because of Christianity. But we don’t hear traditional elders screaming about these two issues. If the church wants to remain relevant it mus realize that before we all go to heaven we have to live through real life on earth.

And on the issue of Kadhi’s Courts. Who cares? Doesn’t the current constitution have this already? And isn’t it ironic that the same people who want to legislate personal morality on religious grounds are the ones opposed to Muslims having the option to use an Islamic judicial system? And do they even know that these courts would still be subordinate to the country’s secular court system?

i still don’t get how the church justifies this

The Catholic Church, among other churches, continues to be opposed to birth control measures that also help in the prevention of AIDS. This is such a disappointment. Millions of people have died from the disease since its emergence in the 1980s. Currently there are more than 20 million infected people on the Continent, and 11 million orphans as a result of HIV-related deaths. Clearly this is a situation that calls for a rethink of the Church’s policy on the use of condoms.

This is separate from the abortion debate. This is about disease prevention. I find it hard to reconcile church teachings of love with the heartless condemnation of millions to their graves. Now, individuals can make their own decisions regarding whether to engage in unprotected sex or not. But I also think that it matters if their priest or pastor tells them to do so. As long as the church is against AIDS prevention (yes, refusal to allow condom use amounts to being against AIDS prevention) government efforts to tame the disease will continue to founder.

It is easy for moralists perched up in far off places to dictate to their faithfuls on the Continent that they should not use birth control or protect themselves against AIDS. But African governments should know better than to stand by and let this be. They are the ones who are losing hundreds of thousands of teachers, doctors, engineers, civil servants and most importantly PARENTS every year. Millions of children are left orphaned and therefore a burden to the state. Rome or the evangelical churches will never have to deal with the losses that these governments have to deal with as a result.

There is a huge disconnect between the church and the realities on the ground on the Continent. The fact of the matter is that people are having sex outside of wedlock. The church (and even the state) should have good reasons to worry about this (the concern here being the hordes of unplanned pregnancies, especially among teenagers). But the best way to deal with it is not to preach abstinence and then pretend that people will listen. Governments and the church should be aggressive with ALL preventive measures. Once the disease is down to negligible levels then perhaps we can revive the moralizing crusades. Now is simply not the time.