Politics

Are-You-Better-Off: 2016 Update

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The 2016 US Presidential campaign has gotten so crazy that the term “silly season” just doesn’t do it justice. In a September 2012 article on ng, I asked the question “Are you better off today than you were four years ago?” Eight years ago, the answer in the swing states was clearly “no” as I described it then:  read more »

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California's Boom Is Poised To Go Bust -- And Liberals' Dream Of Scandinavia On The Pacific

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As its economy started to recover in 2010, progressives began to hail California as a kind of Scandinavia on the Pacific — a place where liberal programs also produce prosperity.  read more »

Our Town: Restoring Localism

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This is an introduction to a new report from the Center for Opportunity Urbanism, "Our Town: Restoring Localism." Download the full report here.

America is facing a critical moment in its evolution, one that threatens both its future prosperity and the integrity of its institutions. Over the past several decades, government has become increasingly centralized, with power shifting from local communities to the federal level. This has been accompanied by a decline in non-governmental institutions, a matter of concern to thinkers on both the right and the left.  read more »

The Bridge from Laissez-Faire to Socialism

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Cronyism remains unchecked in the world’s largest economy.

We might object to the phrase crony capitalism for two reasons:

First, because cronyism is in some ways the antithesis of capitalism. The freedom to compete and the freedom to fail that are central tenets of capitalism are severely compromised by cronyism when in the former case powerful politicians intervene to shield their friends in business and finance from competition, and in the latter intervene again to save them from bankruptcy or occasionally from criminal prosecution. Of course, these friends in turn are no disloyal slouches and they later show themselves to be supremely appreciative by underwriting, financially and otherwise, those same politicians who had all but guaranteed their continued dominance in normal times and their survival against bad odds in times of distress.  read more »

Why Evangelicals Matter to the Labor Movement

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Conventional wisdom tells us that all evangelicals must be anti-union because they are theologically and politically conservative. Therefore, you might assume, labor has nothing to gain from the sixty two million adult adherents of evangelicalism in the U.S. Yet evangelicals were at the forefront of many progressive movements in the nineteenth century, such as abolitionism. Today, evangelicals play leading roles in issues of climate change, immigration reform, torture, and human trafficking. Some are also active in the labor movement.  read more »

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Are Baby Boomers Turning Out to be the Worst Generation?

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I have seen the best minds of my generation, to steal a phrase from the late Allen Ginsberg, driven to heights of self-absorption, advocating policies that assure the failure of the next. Nothing so suggests the failure of my generation — the boomers — than its two representatives running for president.

What Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump reflect are two sides of the same nasty boomer coin.  read more »

Jerry Brown’s Housing Hypocrisy

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Jerry Brown worrying about the California housing crisis is akin to the French policeman played by Claude Rains in “Casablanca” being “shocked, shocked” about gambling at the bar where he himself collects his winnings.

Brown has long been at the forefront on drafting and enforcing regulations that make building housing both difficult and very expensive. And now he has pushed new legislation, which seems certain to be passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor, that makes it worse by imposing even more stringent regulations on greenhouse gas emissions, mandating a 40 percent cut from 1990 levels by 2030.  read more »

The New Culture War Dividing America

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The stirring speech made by the openly gay tech billionaire Peter Thiel at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland marked a critical change in the nature of the Culture Wars in the US. Rather than boo him for talking about his sexuality, or using it as a convenient opportunity for indulging in prayer, the sometimes less than gay-friendly GOP greeted his affirmation of his ‘proud’ sexuality with cheers, not jeers.  read more »

How the Middle Class Lost the Election

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Middle-class rage has dominated this election, but ultimately 2016 seems destined to produce not a populist victory but the triumph of oligarchy. Blame goes to a large section of the middle and working class itself, which, in rejecting political convention, ended up with a candidate who never would have served their interests. You can blame “elites” all you want, but in a republic, citizens need to act responsibly. And choosing Donald Trump doesn’t fit that description.  read more »

Culture, Circumstance, and Agency: Reflections on Hillbilly Elegy

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The intractability of poverty has been recognized since at least the time the Deuteronomist wrote, “The poor will never cease to be in the land.” Explanations vary: ill favor of the gods, deficient natural endowments, personal defects, the culture of the poor, external circumstances such as a lack of economic opportunity, some type of oppression—all have been popular options.  read more »