The Extradition Treaty Failed: The Current State of Institutional Drift

By Josh Treacher

The United States government historically has been known to create significant ties (whether forced or otherwise) with Latin American countries, particularly when the Cold War peaked interest in the actions of communist groups. A particularly significant institutional link that was formed happened between the CIA/US government and the government/intelligence agencies of Colombia.

The concept of analysing small institutional changes over time has been focused on by Mahoney and Thelen, where they note that slow and small changes "can be equally consequential for patterning human behaviour and for shaping substantive political outcomes." One form of institutional change they describe, drift, is applicable to the small, long-term institutional changes that occurred in Colombia. Drift is where an institution remains unchanged officially but experiences a different level of enforcement and impact as conditions surrounding it change.

Since 1971, when Nixon publicly announced the "War on Drugs", and particularly from the 1980's when an extradition treaty between the US and Colombia was signed in 1979, the amount of support and communication between these two governments has grown steadily in the aim to reduce cocaine production in Colombia. Support towards financing the national military against paramilitary drug cartels grew over time and more recently has culminated in the form of Plan Colombia.

The main objective of the Plan, to halve the production of cocaine in the country within five year, failed but it has been successful in reducing the regional control drug cartels had where the state should have, and has done so through the extradition of several of their leaders. But what initially caused the cartels to wage war against the government has now led to a new passive indifference. As the capacity to bribe officials has tipped from being successful in Colombia to the US, traffickers are willing to be extradited, as they can bribe their way to a short-term sentence, retainment of drug money and the ability to set up shop in the US later.

The 4G Network's Path Dependence

By Josh Treacher

What drives growth in the mobile and wireless Internet markets is consumer demand for high network performance and good value for money, according to an info-graphic by Commscope. By exploring the evolution of wireless networks from 3G to 4G, we can apply increasing returns to exemplify how this quick growth was an endogenous process.

While the majority of mobile phone networks were still providing customers with 3G connection in 2009, some providers began to invest large amounts of capital in upgrading their services to 4G, a mobile internet service much faster and more efficient than before.  W. Brian Arthur's theory of increasing returns can be applied here upon four factors: 1) large set-up costs, 2) learning effects, 3) coordination effects and 4) adaptive expectations.

1) According to AT&T, arguably the mobile phone provider in the USA with the largest market share to date, may owe its success not only to being the exclusive vendors of the iphone, but also to being one of the first providers to have heavily invested in a 4G network.

2) For consumers, understanding the benefits of 4G over 3G increases the demand for the technology and thus increase the likelihood of further innovations in the development of 4G.

3) As more mobile phone providers adopt 4G, the higher the competition is and so the more likely customers are going to receive value for money. The risk of losing customers for a phone provider to another that already adopted 4G played a strong role in this snowball effect of all providers upgrading their infrastructure.

4) Although other infrastructure options different to LTE 4G may have provided better internet for consumers, all phone providers now adopt LTE carrier technology in anticipation (and realisation) that it will be the dominant technology for providing 4G service.


Women's right to vote in Saudi Arabia

By Josh Treacher

The recent policy change in Saudi Arabia, allowing women to vote and run in municipal elections, has been easily compared to women's suffrage across the rest of the world. However, these rights have been rightfully won by women today due to reasons completely unique to the cultural, religious and technological conditions of Saudi Arabia that have developed through history. The only similarity in fact that can be clearly drawn, is that women had to campaign at great lengths to win this right.

According to Sven Steinmo, historical institutionalists focus on how institutions affect political action based on their historical context. In the case of Saudi Arabia, which has been a strongly Muslim country since the 7th century, conservative interpretations of the Qur'an have led to a patriarchal culture of 'protecting' women. It could be argued that religion in the context of Saudi Arabia has played a very strong role in delaying women's right to vote, as both the government and the monarchy continue to intertwine traditional religious values with both formal (political rights) and informal institutions (e.g. cultural allowances). 

Social media as a tool for communicating the realities of Saudi women to the rest of the world alongside pressure for societal change- brought about by the recent Arab Spring- may also have strongly influenced the decision to allow women to vote. And as the monarchy's opinion of Saudi affairs heavily influences government policy, the fact that women's suffrage has only been supported by the monarchy in the last few years adds weight to the list of institutional changes that have influenced this recent political action.

This change could simply be a result of a sociological institutionalist's perspective- being that the decision to allow women to enter the political stage may have simply been a perception that Saudi women are satisficers- acting habitually rather than to maximize self-interest. However whether this is an appropriate response to outcries for social change or not will be proven by how far Saudi women will continue to demand it now that they finally have the traditional, political means to do so.