Condemning systemic racism: A message from IIEP Director James Foster

A message from the IIEP Director James Foster:

The focus of the Institute for International Economic Policy is global in scope: global poverty, global governance, climate change, and international economic relations. However, two recent events have dramatically shifted our focus to domestic conditions. First, the onslaught of a pandemic that is sweeping through our nation leaving an ever increasing toll on human lives in its wake. Second, the latest examples of a more insidious epidemic of Black men and women dying at the hands of police. The gross injustice of the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and others has stirred the soul of America and filled it with pain and anguish. We join in solidarity with protesters around the country and around the world in affirming that Black lives matter. Enough is enough. There is no place for racism in our vision of America.

What tangible steps can an international policy institute like IIEP take? We can create a space for key issues facing America to be discussed and addressed through a global lens. Other societies are working through social cleavages emanating from race, color, or ethnicity. Other economies are achieving high living standards with remarkably low income inequality levels. Many countries have substantially different governance structures for policing, with significantly fewer police-related deaths. Some are taking radical action to meet international greenhouse targets or to prepare for the inequality-enhancing impacts of climate change. The United States has an abundance of material, intellectual, and spiritual resources. However, when it comes to its most challenging issues – such as racial justice, inequality, poverty, climate change, public health, or economic crises – America simply does not have all the answers.

The international initiatives championed by IIEP – poverty, governance, climate change, and economic relations – have special relevance within the U.S. right now. As a concrete example from my own research, look at how the U.S. identifies poverty and sufficiency for policy purposes. In America, the official monetary poverty line has remained constant for the last 50 years despite an almost three-fold increase in average (real) incomes. This tells the world that the U.S. has no aspirations for economic growth to be inclusive. Focusing only on monetary indicators ignores the inherent value of a good education, robust health, an adequate living space, personal security, access to social services, and respect; and it ignores their key role in creating opportunities, as the tools people use to improve their own lives. It allows the systematic differences in these crucial dimensions to remain hidden, perpetuating a myth of an equal playing field where poverty and success are attributed purely to individual effort. Many other countries are using a multidimensional definition to identify, monitor and practically address the dimensional deficits that are preventing families from flourishing. Could a national dialogue on multidimensional poverty measures ignite and coordinate public action in America the way it has in other countries? Could it lead the private sector to become accountable partners in the solution, as it has elsewhere?

We invite students, faculty and other stakeholders to join us in applying transformative ideas from the international economic policy arena to America’s challenges.



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