Politics

The Politics of Risk

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Barack Obama has reached for the mantle of a transformative presidency, aspiring to recast our national social contract in the interest of greater equality and fairness. In cooperation with a Democratic-controlled Congress, he has pursued this goal by expanding Federal authority in response to economic crises and supporting interventions into finance and banking, automobile manufacturing, health care, and environmental policy. This strategy adopts the “statist” philosophy of economic risk management by centralizing governmental authority and control over private markets.  read more »

Subjects:

An Awakening: The Beginning of the Great Deconstruction

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The federal debt climbed above $13 trillion this month. An easier way to define the national debt is to comprehend that we each owe more than $39,000 to the Chinese, Japanese, and Arabs of the Persian Gulf. The budget deficit will exceed $1.5 trillion this year and forty-seven states are running deficits. California has a $19 billion deficit and its legislature’s landmark response was to pass a law banning plastic bags. Our cities are in worse shape. The former mayor of Los Angeles, Richard Riordan, says that a bankruptcy by that city is inevitable.  read more »

The Vote: Democracy or Disease?

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When the California polls closed on Tuesday, the most costly primary race in the state's history—thus far—came to an end. Like many high profile races for Senator and Governor nationwide, the spending attracted national attention.

Of course, this isn't the first time that California politics and political trends have captured the national imagination and spread like a virus. Given the particularly brutal economic meltdown in California, one would not expect the state's notoriously dysfunctional governance system to be a role model for others to follow. Alas, it unfortunately seems that it is. Three examples below from the Midwest show that California-style governance definitely has its fans.  read more »

Toronto's G-20 Conference: Financial Boon or Boondoggle?

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Ever since the ill fated 1999 WTO meeting in Seattle, there has been some debate over the merits of hosting meetings of international organizations in major cities. Some argue that there are economic spin offs from the tourism generated by these conferences, but others argue that the security costs far outweigh the benefits. In the lead up to the G-20 meeting in Toronto, scheduled for June 26-27, there has been a flurry of controversy over the price tag for conference security.  read more »

The Future Of America's Working Class

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Watford, England, sits at the end of a spur on the London tube's Metropolitan line, a somewhat dreary city of some 80,000 rising amid the pleasant green Hertfordshire countryside. Although not utterly destitute like parts of south or east London, its shabby High Street reflects a now-diminished British dream of class mobility. It also stands as a potential warning to the U.S., where working-class, blue-collar white Americans have been among the biggest losers in the country's deep, persistent recession.  read more »

An American History Post 2010: The Great Deconstruction

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There is a great battle brewing – the proverbial paradox of the immovable object versus an irresistible force. The battle lines are drawn. On one side is the Greatest Generation, Americans over 60, middle class and mostly white. Mainstream media calls them The Tea Party and worse.

On the other side is President Barack Obama and a younger generation of progressive Democrats who see the need for an ever more expansive government. The battlefield is spending and debt.  read more »

The Hong Kong Model for National Identity Cards

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“May I see some identification, please?” asked a retail clerk in my home town Seattle taking my check. I said certainly and handed the sales woman my Hong Kong identity card. She looked at it blankly for a moment then said, “Can I see some other kind of identification?”

Sometimes when I’m feeling cranky or mischievous, I hand over my Hong Kong ID card when I need to produce some kind of identification. Why not? It is a perfectly valid document. It has my photograph on it. I know of no law that specifies that my state driver’s license has become a national ID card. At least not yet.  read more »

It's the Jobs, Stupid: Infrastructure Matters

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It may surprise you to know that some policy makers and academics believe that “nothing matters” when it comes to infrastructure -- the physical structures that make water, energy, broadband and transportation work -- and economic prosperity. The thrust of the idea that infrastructure doesn’t matter may have started with Larry Summers, appointed by President Obama as Director of the National Economic Council in 2009. The New York Times says he is “the only top economic adviser with a West Wing office” – meaning he is very powerful in Washington terms.  read more »

So Much for Europe's Superiority

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For much of the last quarter century, European pundits, particularly in France, have been promoting the notion that the old continent sat on the verge of a grand resurgence. The events of the past month—culminating in a trillion dollar rescue of the Euro—should, at least, put that dodgy notion to rest.  read more »

Jobs, Environmental Regulation, and Dead French Economists

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The debate over the repeal of California’s global-warming regulation, AB32, has degenerated into a shouting match, each side claiming economic ruin if the other side wins. A couple of long-dead French economists can help us think about the debate.

The great French economist Leon Walras (1834-1910) showed that perfect markets result in an allocation of goods and services that can’t be improved on, in the sense that no one could be made better off without someone else being made worse off.  read more »