Week 1: Las Papeleras

Buenos Aires Travel Blog

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The front page news of the Herald, the leading English newspaper, recounts the latest news of a controversy between the Uruguayan government and the Argentinian government over the construction of two pulp mills. The conflict began when the location of the pulp mills was set for the river that parts the two brotherly countries, just north of Buenos Aires. The large body of water is currently polluted by both sides but attempts from each government  have been made to clean up. However, the debate is the degree to which the pulp mills will be adding to the current level of pollution or if they will pollute at all. As a representative of the Huague court in this matter, my conclusion will be dictated in the following summary.
 
The pulp mills are from two different countries: Spain and Finland. The Finnish are at the top of their gain in sustainable design and environmentally friendly technology. They have pledged that the factory built with their latest advancements, and in turn the Spanish have also pledged that they will use the technology produced by the Finish.
 
The complaint by our people who live on the opposing bank, is purely pollution and the pollution is two fold: air and water. The issue of air takes on two accounts again, being the unpleasant and bordering on rancid smell produced from the factories, and the emissions from the chemical process. The water is said to be polluted from the chemicals and back water used from the factory. 
 
When asked about these concerns the sponsoring companies responded by suggesting that their product (being machinery technology) would not polluted the water but rather clean it creating a safer water way for both countries, the air emissions would be help to the highest standard, and the smell was not only minimal but would be released only for a brief interval (approximately 30 minutes) each day.
 
I travelled to Uruguay to speak to the people effected by the factory. As an observer in a small river town, it is safe to say that the area is in desperate need of economic development. The city was bare, the town a shanty, and work wanted signs were posted along every road.  The people however were very friendly and the landscape picturesque. The main contradiction by the Uruguayan people pertained to the brotherly relationship the two countries share. They felt that Argentina is an older brother, who has always held the upper hand in development and economic success. Yet, this singular chance for serious (approximately 3 billion dollars of capital investment)  development is being viewed as a jealous and petty fight for the upper hand. The Uruguayans feel that they need the economic input more than Argentina and that in the interest of peaceful borders the objections should cease.
 
Coming home again, and crossing the brown waters, I spoke with some locals of Concordia and a few misplaced Porteños.  I was surprised that most supported the development of the factory. The concordians felt that the situation had been reversed for some time now and that the Uruguayans never objected. Argentina has no emissions law on vehicles and has several lower grade technology pulp mills dotted through out the country and on the same river. Uruguay has not protested to the same degree if at all. The Porteños, felt that if Argentina was going to make demands it should lead by example and first require that all of it´s factories (air, water) and vehicles have emissions standards or some type of regulatory effect for the environment. The pollution in Buenos Aires is at an all time high and only continues to get worse. The lack of government intervention is only sustained by the lack of popular support. The singular case of dissatisfaction at the factories came from an elder man who view them as an added cost with out the benefit.  His valid point was centered around the balance scale for which he felt, was tumbling down. The factories in Argentina are producing pollutants and capital income as well as labor. The balance is in tact. However, the Uruguayans are getting the balance and leaving us with half of the consequences. He noted that just because they haven´t complained at our misuse of resources, does not mean that we should return in kind, but rather that was their position as a country of little political consequence.
 
Taking all of the opinions and conversations into account with the declarations of the companies, governments, and townspeople, I issue the following verdict to Uruguay as a compromise to end the protests: Uruguay is to pay Argentina a pollution tax, a certain predetermined percentage based on the volume of pollutants emitted into the air and water of the river.  This money will be used to pay facilitators to inspect the maintenance of technology, and for amendments and upgrades to the existing factories in Argentina located on the coastline and then on the interior of the country. The final allotted money will be used to institute an emissions standards program for all vehicles in the both countries as air bodies move, just as water, in between our borders. I support the previous statement based on the ideas of supporting sustainable technology and believing  that a workable solution exists, in supporting the brotherly peace that exists between our countries, and in recognizing that this implementation will affect our banks as much as theirs just as our factories have for many years past.
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Objective: Path dependency theorists believe that once down a particular development path, there are considerable costs to go back and change the path, hence we can trace political dynamics in a country to events and decisions made in the past. Evaluate the contemporary similarities and differences between the USA and Argentina based on the different patterns of colonization.

Path dependency theory is used to explain industry development and the adaptation of technology based on a process of a unique history.  The idea was derived from evolutionary economist to explain why some models and empirical cases do not converge directly to an equilibrium. In the context of   Nation-states, the dependency theory helps social scientists explain what events were responsible for the current state of affairs. For this project, the history of development and contemporary consequences of the United States and Argentina are of particular concern. Argentina´s hasty and direct growth lead  to switching costs where are the United states purposeful and gradual expansion lead to standardization. The United States´ public education decisions are contrasted by Argentina´s government commitment to a free college eduction.  However,  the unique and colorful histories of both countries have lead to similar contemporary political stances equating that the countries are not so far from one another.

Argentina´s past is composed of a hasty concern for wealth. It was settled by Spaniards who deserted the country, leaving their live-stock, only to return centuries later to find the pampa populated with herds. Eager to capitalize on obvious entrepreneurial aspects of the owner less cattle, the government sought immigrants. Many Italians, Spanish, English, and french were tantalized into leaving behind families to get a stake in their share. However, the idea of ´grab and go´ did not prove to be viable and the first generation of Argentines was born. Unable to easily mesh cultures or come to a consensus about political structure the country was troubled for over a century with an identity crisis. The country followed with a history of indecisiveness about which identity to represent.  The consequences were switching cost. In marketing terms, switching costs are used to describe the capital infringed upon the consumer when switching from one supplier to another. Applied to Argentina´s social development these are the costs- identity crisis, public works, and development- that stem from the change in cultural identity. For example, Argentines initiated their subway system by using the English as a standard, and built all streets and subte´s in a clockwise fashion. However, later down the line, it was decided to change the street direction to counter-clockwise to mimic the United States. This change was an infringement in cost on the public works department. In addition, the cost of seven coops on political structure combine with the black/white ideologies present in elections makes for a public that sees only right/wrong, and always someone is left unhappy.

The United States, however, was lead not by switching costs, but standardization. In field of technology and industry, standardization is the idea of establishing a technical standard among competing industries in a market. Applied to the history of the United States this idea evolves into establishing democracy as the political standard, a platform for other political ideology. This stems from the settlement of Puritans, abandoning England from religious persecution. The first generation of Americans were defined by their culture and community. As the country steadily progressed and economics and public policy became more and more complicated, Americans always had a core system of democratic values to refer to (even if this was not always taken advantage of).

Yet, Argentina and the United States are not entirely different. Argentina is not a third world country, nor is is communist or fascist but democratic.  What historical precedents constituted these modern derivations? The method by which the two countries were found;´discovered´ territories by the Europeans creating a need for an implied social structure. If combine with the necessary abundance of low class workers used to develop the fertile and natural resources, this equation produces a desire and possibility for low class citizens to be publicly represented or heard in the government. This desire and it´s consequences can be readily viewed in the modern structure of democracy in Argentina and the United States.

The modern day effects of democracy can be seen in the political structures of Argentina and the United States. This similarity stems from a large worker-class in a society that lacked ideological oppression as seen in Europe at the time. Yet, the differences of standardization and switching costs which have lead to numerous consequences of economic, political, and cultural value all stem from the differing historical paths that the countries took in development.