The J-Curve is used in various fields such as business and investing, medicine, psychology, and sociology to demonstrate the progression of an event, occurrence, movement, society, or idea falling and then rising.
The field in which this particular book explores the effects of the J Curve is primarily sociology as the author seeks to illustrate the process some countries go through on their way from chaos and strife to peace and stability.
The author asserts that a country in which there is stability, experiences that stability for one of two reasons – either they are completely closed or they are completely open.
For countries that are open, they are stable because they understand the importance of participating with people and countries beyond their borders. Countries that are closed are stable because one person or group controls all the information and makes all the decisions for its citizens.
While stability would appear to be a generally positive goal for a country to strive for, achieving stability at the expense of a country’s openness and its citizen’s freedom is a troubling notion to those of us who live in a country that is free.
The author states, “Movement from left to right along the J curve demonstrates that a country that is stable because it is closed must go through a period of dangerous instability as it opens to the outside world. There are no shortcuts, because authoritarian elites cannot be quickly replaced with institutions whose legitimacy is widely accepted.”
One country that is used to demonstrate the J Curve model is Nigeria. The country has low stability, placing it on the lower part of the J Curve. (Remember, stability is found at either end of the curve; instability is found somewhere along the path of the curve itself.) While Nigeria has some wealth on account of its rich oil fields, and some openness with other countries, the power and authority of the government is not consistent. This is due in large part to rebels who, over the years, have exerted their power within the Niger Delta, taking control of the oil fields and basically holding the government hostage. Nigeria, before it will ever experience stability along with openness, will first have to go through an inevitably, and undoubtedly painful, period of instability.
The end result would be favorable for its citizens, but the uncertainty of how long the instability will last can make the journey seem overwhelming.
Bremmer’s use of the J Curve helps us gain a better understanding of why it is that some countries seem forever mired in strife and chaos. The process of getting out is oftentimes long and arduous.
What can we do about this process? Primarily this: seek to understand. Don’t make unintelligent assumptions, or worse, uninformed comments, about other nations but rather recognize the fact that even America went through its own period of instability at the time of its infancy.
We need to be thankful for the level of stability and openness we enjoy today and hope that someday other nations would experience the same.
Until next time, thanks for reading!