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The North-South Divide (Modern Conflict Between The 1st And 3rd World)

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The North-South Divide

In a system rooted in competition what happens if one side gains a dominant advantage? Theory dictates that the capital will flow and that production will increase on the side of the disadvantaged, but what if the dominant power decides to change the rules and make its dominance more absolute? These are questions fueling the discussion of North-South conflict. Many reasons for these problems existing have been explained, and also many different conclusions on ways to remedy such situations.

The conflict has emerged from the receding East-West confrontations of past decades. The core struggle of wealth and poverty remains but the geography of the conflict has shifted. Colonial imperialism of the past hundred years left to tangible legacies. The first is our current map of the world with the relatively new independence of several Middle Eastern and South Asian countries. The second is the North South divide. The end of imperialism brought about the freedom of many lesser developed countries but freedom does not imply prosperity. Some of the clearest examples of the contemporary North-South conflict have manifested themselves within the WTO.

The divide first emerged when the WTO could not decide on a new leader in 1999 and split the five-year term between a Thai politician supported heavily by the South and a New Zealander supported by the North. Again in 1999 the WTO Seattle conference was delayed by environmental activists and vandalizing anarchists who staged a street protest outside. The conference itself was characterized by disagreement. Many of the industrialized countries of the North wanted to negotiate provisions in areas like environmental regulation and labor laws. This was seen as an attack by many of the less developed countries of the South. They argued that there was no way that they could meet these standards noting that the countries of the North had not been bound by them while they were industrializing. While contemporary powers may not have been subject to regulations that are called for today, the North would argue that that simply does not justify environmental degradation or ignoring human rights. Further disagreement in the WTO followed in 2003 when industrialized countries refused to eliminate their agricultural subsidies.1 Along with the industrialized nations huge advantages over lesser developed countries the agricultural industry is still socially supported, which makes it almost impossible for the South to compete in any agricultural markets, "...the World Trade Organization [reports] that the agricultural subsidies paid out by the United States and the European Union cost the developing nations more than $250 billion a year in lost markets."2

The developing of the global South obviously brings up many dilemmas like unfair competition, environmental degradation, and human rights. To supplement these, the dilemma of demographic transition further inhibits growth. As the population of the lesser-developed countries increases mainly at the lower end creating a young society, the per-capita income is driven down. This is problematic because one of the most effective ways to curb population growth is to raise per capita income and while the average income increases so does the total number of poor people. "From 1987 to 1998... the proportion of people living in dire poverty... dropped from 29 to 24 percent... the actual number of people living in poverty increased from just under to just over 1.2 billion."3 Essentially the massive population growth and low mortality rate create a youth-heavy demographic meaning lesser developed countries must educate an elite class to be able to facilitate future development, but naturally, educational resources are limited. One solution is to educate the youth in foreign countries but this entails risks. The students and young professionals represent a significant investment and integral portion of an lesser developed country's (LDC) population; when they emigrate to other countries for education often times they enjoy the higher standard of living and do not return, this problem is often referred to as 'brain drain'. So thusly we have a system in which the developmental stage that LDCs are in is by definition difficult to break out of, along with debatably unfair competition from the global North, and increasing regulations on some of the basic advantages of lesser developed countries like cheap production.

Socialists would argue that these countries are in need of aide from the more developed North. Advocating the idea of redistribution of global wealth claiming it would stimulate economic growth. Capitalists claim there is no practical way to redistribute the global wealth without in the process undermining the free trade that it is built on. In his book Capitalism and Freedom Milton Friedman argues that, "Few trends could so thoroughly undermine the very foundation of our free society as the acceptance by corporate officials of a social responsibility other than to make as much money for their stockholders as possible."4 They believe that the current situation is simply



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