Category Archives: The age of community

Clean Clothes hits global corporate offenders where it hurts: Their brands

What can we do about global corporations that exploit vulnerable workers? Everyone who follows the news knows that products we buy in wealthy countries are manufactured in countries where poor people hope to sweat their way out of poverty by taking factory jobs. Global corporations invest in the third world for cheap labour and because they will enjoy relative freedom from regulation.

The results are predictable. As I pointed out in a recent blog entry, freedom from regulation inevitably leads to unsafe working conditions and exploitation of workers. Typically, the companies that sell us clothes and other products manufactured in the third world contract the production out to companies you’ve never heard of. Continue reading

The human cost of industrialization

This month, and in September, hundreds of workers were suffocated, burned to death, or leaped to their deaths trying to escape from garment factory fires in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Russia. It is a story that keeps repeating itself, as witness a first-person description of a fire in New York in 1903, which tells of horrors similar to the ones workers experienced in the last couple of months:

…the flames were… blazing fiercely and spreading fast. If we couldn’t get out we would all be roasted alive. The locked door that blocked us was half of wood; the upper half was thick glass. Some girls were screaming, some were beating the door with their fists, some were trying to tear it open. Continue reading

Time out

I’ll be away until late October and, since this blog is devoted to research-based analysis and commentary, I’ll take a break from posting, because there won’t be any time for research. Meanwhile, you might want to catch up on some blog entries from the past that you might have missed.

Why we love cities, even while we tell ourselves we hate them
What has globalization done to democracy? Continue reading

What has globalization done to democracy?

Everyone has opinions about the answer to this question. Those opinions usually take the form of pre-conceived notions, diametrically opposed to each other, and they almost always generate more heat than light – although the tone of the debate is gradually moderating, as globalization critics start to get their act together.

On one side of the well-worn globalization argument, we hear complaints about how global corporations have acquired so much power that governments stand helpless before them, rendering democracy meaningless. On the other, we hear Continue reading

The multilevel governance of urban growth: a cross-national comparison

Last May, I sketched out an idea for a research project that would look at what senior governments could do to ensure that those who make decisions about the growth of North American cities do a better job of respecting the environment. That idea has now matured into a research proposal. In this entry, I’ll summarize the proposal and provide a link to the full proposal.

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The age of governance: Some proposed principles of deep federalism

In my most recent blog entry, I pointed out that the way we govern ourselves has changed fundamentally in the last 20 years or so, and yet we’ve given little thought to the principles by which we should pursue governance – the new name for what we used to call government.

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Should Youth For Christ be involved in governance? How about the United Church or New Life Ministries?

The way we govern ourselves has changed fundamentally in the past 20 years, and we’ve barely noticed. The changes raise critical questions, which we have developed a habit of answering on a case-by-case basis, without considering the context and without being guided by principles. We need to do better than that.

In the 1980s, most government programs were run by government departments and agencies. They reported, directly or indirectly, to the government, and if citizens had a complaint about any of them, they went to their MPs, MLAs or City Councillors. It was a far from perfect world, but in general we knew who was in charge of government programs, what purposes they pursued, and who was paying the bills.

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I’ll be at the IPAC-PPM Cities and Public Policy conference next week in Toronto, reporting on some of the things I’ve learned about the impact of federal government policies on Winnipeg. My overall theme will be that slow-growth cities have policy problems that are very different from those of cities that are growing rapidly, and that these differences are not being given the attention they deserve.

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It is becoming more evident with each passing year that urban growth is a matter national concern. The growing ease and speed of the global movement of money, goods, people and ideas has made it more and more clear that the prosperity of nations is heavily dependent on the prosperity of cities. At the same time, poorly managed urban growth is a major contributor to the global-scale environmental problems we face. For both environmental and economic reasons, therefore, we need to think of urban growth as a national and global issue, not a purely local one.

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Last October I sketched out my argument that local and metropolitan governments can’t meaningfully regulate urban land use because developers swing too much political weight at the local level. I pointed out, on the basis of European case studies and my own analytical work, that the position of developers is markedly different in countries where a significant amount of city planning takes place at the national level than it is in the typical North American case. We can verify that by considering the concrete reality of how land use decisions are made in Canada and the United States.

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