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Why the name “SedonaCyberLink”?

July, 2010 – Sedona, Arizona USA
34◦ 52’ 06.18” N, 111◦ 45’ 43.34” W
elev 4323 ft

The other day I ran into a journalist friend in the grocery store.  “How is the ‘Save-the-Word’ Business?” he asks.  That solicited a flash of a smile and a giggle from me. He had delivered the question in a half-serious, half-joking manner, so when I laughed he responded with a Cheshire cat smile. Upon later reflection, I realized the question was not only funny, but had merit.

Photo by Katia Rodriguez

As a resident of Sedona, Arizona and the primary sponsor of the NewSilkRoad Initiative,[1] the path that I have chosen is a mystery to some.  Why would anyone that lives deep in the U.S. hinterland be interested in international business and trade…..and especially poverty in the developing world? Why the name “SedonaCyberLink”? This article will attempt to connect the dots so readers can see why this website covers articles related to political economy and cultural geography from 4,000+ feet above sea level in the middle of the North American continent.

Why Sedona?

Source: Wayne Ranney

For those of you unfamiliar with Sedona, I’ll give you a quick sketch. It is a small town of 11,600 souls[2] nestled in a wide valley surrounded by the Coconino National Forest in Northern Arizona. All around the valley are sedimentary rock formations revealing millions of years of natural erosion of a red, iron-rich soil. The unique climate of Sedona, sitting at the base of the Mogollion Rim as it does, has been characterized to me by golfer friends as “year round resort weather.” Heading north from Sedona through the beautiful Oak Creek Canyon, a driver ascends from roughly 4,000 to over 7,000 feet elevation in Flagstaff, a 40 minute drive away.

It is a prime tourist destination for domestic and foreign tourists alike because of this natural beauty and the folk lore about the spiritual power of the valley.  There are thriving graphic and performing artist communities and it has become a prime destination for retirees seeking to escape the cold, snowy winters of the Eastern seaboard and Great Lakes region.  The new age community of healers and spiritualists are an integral part of the local economy because so many of the tourists seek guidance while they are in this powerful and beautiful place.  Many have chosen to visit specifically to attend seminars or conferences on various aspects of health, wellness, fitness and consciousness expansion. Hence, the name of the town itself solicits a feeling of something special for those who have traveled here.  It also carries a mystic draw because of the highly productive art community.

Why Cyber?

In the new world of Web 2.0[3], IPv6[4], streaming video, interactive platforms, etc., etc., one of the most effective means of communication is through cyberspace.  SedonaCyberLink uses the many web-based technologies at our disposal to convey stories and ideas concerning the political economy of international business and trade.  These include, but are not limited to: blog entries, photo feeds, streaming videos, tag cloud searching, online surveys, etc.  And, as the primary sponsor of the NewSilkRoad we are using the infrastructure of the Internet for distributing educational resources as well.

Why Link?

The art and science of collaboration has been core to all of the academic and philanthropic work I’ve done over the past 20 years.  Much has been said and written about the magnifying effect of collaboration on achieving goals and enhancing effectiveness.  I’ll not go into this subject in detail here; I’ll only say that it has been the organizing principal. Identifying, engaging, and enlisting strategic alliance partners interested in achieving a common goal is one way to magnify a positive effect.

Why International Trade and Business?

As a person who has lived in and experienced several important regions of the U.S., and a person who has traveled to over 30 countries in the world, I’ve had a chance to observe many different cultures.  As I wrote in my article “The World as It is”[5] discerning patterns of human behavior has become a bit of a quest for me, especially as it relates to the human/environment interface.

This quest became particularly purposeful during the decade of the 1990s and the 2000s as people in the countries I was observing (e.g., Argentina, Costa Rica, Mexico, Egypt, Japan, & most of Europe and S.E. Asia) were responding to the effects of the liberalization of trade and financial markets.  During this time I began teaching at a community college and lecturing at various Universities on trade and the environment (e.g., University of Washington, Seattle University). I was, and still am a strong advocate of free trade, recognizing that the only real hope for the 6+ billion people on the planet is for a vital global economy. This is not to say, however, that I buy into the libertarian argument that no government is good government. Nor is it to say that I buy into the environmentalist point of view that no progress is good progress.  I prefer to think of my way as a Middle Path way.

I recognize that trade is, in many product categories (e.g. agriculture) highly subsidized leading to what economists call “market distortions.’  Further, I realize that the liberalization of the financial sector was, in part, responsible for the contagion effects from the U.S. mortgage lending crisis that spread so rapidly around the world. The sophisticated financial instruments that were developed exacerbated the lack of transparency about the underlying risk of the syndicates and millions of people worldwide have been negatively effected by this.

I began teaching and considering these issues while trying to make sense of the growing polarization within the field of economics between the Keynesian school of thought (with development economics) as opposed to the Austrian School[6] (with the University of Chicago) thinkers. My limited formal training in economics gave me the luxury of being aware of, but not philosophically or theoretically committed to any school of thought. What I have realized in this quest is that the competitive mantra that has governed the development and global diffusion of the Washington Consensus has been taken to an extreme.[7] This has caused the dissipation of, not only capital, and lots of it, as documented by such excellent analysts as Richard Posner[8], Niall Ferguson[9], Joseph Stiglitz[10], Yves Smith[11], Stephen Roach[12], Robert Reich[13] Naomi Klein[14] and Robert Pozen[15], but it has also immobilized the energy of many creative souls.  In a world where gender bias and sophisticated banking instruments created the conditions for the manifestation of a predatory real estate market that served as a front for other forms of non- transparent and fraudulent financial schemes, the gentleness and preciousness of life was stamped out.  Nowhere is that more evident than when traveling and seeing the immensity of the problem of global poverty and starvation.

So, back to the issue at hand:  Why does SedonaCyberLink focus on international business and trade with an emphasis on social enterprise and international development?

Because it is from places like Sedona (where there is still a lot of creativity and the natural environment is conducive to that creativity) that the most effective solutions will stem from. These will be solutions for addressing the issues brought out in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).[16] These will be solutions that the international development community is dealing with on a day to day basis. It is a crossroads of a special kind.

And so to my journalist friend I say: the “Save the World” business is doing fine.

[1] For those of you unfamiliar with the NewSilkRoad Initiative, click here

[2] 2009 data

[3] The term “Web 2.0” is commonly associated with web applications that facilitate interactive information sharing, interoperability, user-centered design, and collaboration on the World Wide Web. A Web 2.0 site gives its users the free choice to interact or collaborate with each other in a social media dialogue as creators of user-generated content in a virtual community, in contrast to websites where users (consumer) are limited to the passive viewing of content that was created for them.

[4] Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) is a version of the Internet Protocol that is designed to succeed IPv4, the first publically used implementation, which is still in dominant use currently. It is an Internet Layer protocol for packet-switched internetworks. The main driving force for the redesign of Internet Protocol is the foreseeable IPv4 address exhaustion. IPv6 is specified by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and described in Internet standard document RFC 2460, which was published in December 1998.

[5] http://sedonacyberlink.com/?p=1343

[6] SedonaCyberLink author Stephen Reiss has covered many aspects of Austrian School ideas at this news/blog.  I hope to have an equally articulate advocate of development economics contribute articles in the future.  Any volunteers?

[7] The term Washington Consensus was initially coined in 1989 by John Williamson to describe a set of ten specific economic policy prescriptions that he considered should constitute the “standard” reform package promoted for crisis-wracked developing countries by Washington, D.C.-based institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, and the US Treasury Department.

[8] A Failure of Capitalism: The Crisis of ’08 and the Descent into Depression.

[9] The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World.

[10] Freefall: America, Free Markets, and the Sinking of the World Economy.

[11] ECONed:  How Unenlightened Self Interest Undermined Democracy and Corrupted Capitalism.

[12] Stephen Roach on the Next Asia: Opportunities and Challenges for a New Globalization.

[13] Supercapitalism.

[14] The Shock Doctrine.

[15] Too Big to Save? How to Fix the U.S. Financial System.

[16] http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/

6 Responses to Why the name “SedonaCyberLink”?

  1. Stephen Reiss

    August 2, 2010 at 7:51 pm

    Austrian theory makes no such obviously specious assumptions. Fundamental to the Austrian school approach is that many choices and nearly all values are entirely subjective, including some that one would expect to be arrived at after cold calculation. Austrian theory explicitly recognizes the impossible to eliminate incomplete and imperfect nature of all information.

    Also, asymmetry of information is the very foundation of modern prosperity. It is called the specialization of labor. Thomas Sowell said that civilization economizes knowledge. If information asymmetry were eliminated (especially through government coercion called regulation), our economy would collapse and we would return to the economic level of hunter gatherers.

  2. Jane Ginn

    August 2, 2010 at 7:05 pm

    Stephen: In response to your point about information asymmetries: Here is something Yves Smith argues in the book “ECONed” as noted at Endnote 12:
    “The dominant economic paradigm, neoclassical economics, became ascendant in part because it offered a theory of behavior that could be teased out in elegant formulations (the “free markets” is neoclassical light). Yet it rests on assumptions that are patently ridiculous: that individuals are rational and utility-maximizing…, that buyers and sellers have perfect information, that there are no transaction costs, that capital flows freely.”

  3. Stephen Reiss

    July 31, 2010 at 1:44 pm

    Environmental externalities are the result of non private ownership of property. It is usually the government itself that prevents property from being privately owned. An excellent example is water. River and ocean water and the land underneath are government owned. Private interests are denied standing to object to pollution.

    The BP disaster is a case in point. Every aspect of the drilling process was controlled by the government. Private interests like commercial fishing, tourism and beach front property owners were frozen out of the process by the government and therefore denied any opportunity to protect their interests. The totality of this environmental catastrophe could not have happened in a true market economy. This is why I have, in an earlier post, called for the complete halt to all mining and drilling on government owned property.

  4. Stephen Reiss

    July 31, 2010 at 1:31 pm

    Asymmetric information is a universal, metaphysical fact of reality for every living organism that cannot be eliminated. It can be, and is reduced by the market activities of collecting and disseminating information. This website is a perfect example. Government coercion through regulation will make matters worse every time.

  5. Jane Ginn

    July 31, 2010 at 1:14 pm

    How does libertarianism deal with the issue of asymmetric information among market participants and environmental externalities? If it does not effectively deal with these two glaring anomalies of market theory then, I believe, it is an incomplete framework for addressing the issues of modern global society.

  6. Stephen Reiss

    July 31, 2010 at 9:19 am

    The libertarian argument requires government, but limited to redressing the initiation of physical force, threat of physical force, theft and fraud. Government has no moral right to “regulate” market (voluntary) transactions.
    Scientists will tell you to check the data to validate or discredit a hypothesis. There is now more than ample data to discredit all theories purporting to improve upon a true market economy. Every attempt to do so has ultimately ended badly.