Trends to Start Your Year 2015

Since I did links on Thursday, today I’m going to briefly summarize some trends, rather than individual news stories, that I think are going to become/remain important in the news this year.


Not the kind with birds or caribou. The kind with human beings crossing human-made borders to pursue their human interests. Economic migration and refugee flows are the most commonly covered, and they are very important. However, in many historically immigrant-receiving countries like the U.S., the most common type of immigration taking place is family reunification.

However, as the U.S. and world economy continue to slowly emerge from the fiscal crisis of the past several years, migrants become scapegoats for all kinds of social and political issues, from unemployment to the New Year’s stampede in Shanghai. They also become targets for abusive labor practices and criminal organizations involved in human smuggling using dangerous tactics, like the ghost ship tactics being used by human smugglers crossing the Mediterranean.

Migration also poses questions in terms of development. On the one hand, some worry that migrants leaving developing countries will cause a “brain drain,” with the most educated members of society leaving. However, other development economists believe that migrants sending remittances back to their countries of origin could have a major positive influence on development.

How to deal with migrants, both leaving and coming, will be a major policy question for governments around the world.

Secrecy vs. Transparency

Just Security has a great rundown of some of the national security cases that will be important to watch in the coming year. The issues at stake include but are not limited to: the process of putting individuals on the no-fly list, the constitutionality of the 702 amendment to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the use of military commissions to try suspected terrorists, and geographical limits to the government’s ability to obtain a company’s records with a warrant.

Domestic surveillance will also continue to loom large in political debate. First, I expect more revelations in terms of government surveillance taking place on Americans, but also (hopefully) increased activism against it. On a related note, there is now an app to detect Stingray cell phone trackers, which imitate cell towers to trick mobile phones into connecting, allowing the government to collect data from them.

These issues will all be part of the growing struggle between government secrecy and public urges for transparency.

Police Militarization and Protest Movements

The militarization of police forces has gotten a lot of attention in U.S. media this year, and for good reason. But it isn’t the only place experiencing such a phenomenon (something that I have written about before.) This has been an ongoing trend for years, but is finally starting to get more coverage. This process is often compounded and justified by creating a racialized “other” of the target population, from Ferguson to Palestine.

This militarization, though, is accompanied by an increase in protest movements to oppose it. More and more citizens around the world are taking to the streets to fight this state oppression.

Cyber Security

After the Sony hack, cyber security is at the top of everyone’s mind. The issue is not just the possibility of a state hacking a private company. For one thing, that is not really a security issue. For another, if we know a state is responsible, it is easier to retaliate. The bigger security issue is the possibility of an actor hacking critical infrastructure, such as power or water systems. Governments will have to determine how to deal with those kinds of vulnerabilities.

There is also the broader philosophical question of whether such a cyber attack would constitute an act of war, and thus what kind of response would be proportional and fair. Since any resulting casualties would be indirect results of a lack of service rather than direct results of a more traditional attack such as a bombing, that is actually a difficult question. Furthermore, there is the strong possibility that such a hacking would be committed by a non-state actor, which would make retaliation an even more complicated question.


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