Archive for the 'Democracy' Category

Taxpayers’ Future in Wisconsin Vote

April 12, 2012

by Chidem Kurdas

Wisconsin governor Scott Walker is in the extremely unusual position of facing a recall vote less than two years after he was elected in 2010. The recall is orchestrated by unions that have gone all out to reverse his valiant effort to contain the growth in state and local spending. This vote has wide implications beyond the state of Wisconsin, implications for all government budget making and the question of  whether taxpayers can be protected at all against predatory interests.

Mr. Walker’s supposed crime is to be on the taxpayers’ side. Read the rest of this entry »

Using Sortition to Achieve Campaign Finance Reform

April 5, 2012

by Gene Callahan

I was sitting in a session of the British Political Studies Association Conference today, listening to several speakers talk about sortition (using random selection in the political process) when I was struck by a way to employ it to achieve campaign finance reform without any restriction on donations or campaign length. So, I share:

We have a problem with money corrupting the political process, and part of that problem is how long our campaigns run. How can sortition ameliorate the problem? Read the rest of this entry »

Russian Lesson on Term Limits

February 26, 2012

by Chidem Kurdas

The point of term limits is to prevent the buildup of political power by one person or group. In Russia’s ersatz version, Vladimir Putin merrily plays revolving door with his protégé Dmitry Medvedev. Mr. Putin may win the election on March 4th despite the persistent protests sparked by his latest round of musical chairs with Mr. Medvedev.

That means Mr.Putin could potentially be Russia’s president again for two terms lasting through 2024, bringing his overall reign at the top as either prime minister or president to almost 25 years.

I would like to know what Mikhail Khodorkovsky, one-time-Putin-crony-turned-arch-critic, thinks about this. But the Siberian prison camp where he is held is not welcoming visitors.  A documentary about him, starting to make the rounds of some US cities, is as close as we get to understanding what’s happened to Mr. Khodorkovsky, Read the rest of this entry »

Elitist Hokum from Krugman

February 19, 2012

by Chidem Kurdas

It has become a standard left-liberal jibe that those complaining of government largesse receive a piece thereof themselves. Such beneficiaries go against their own interest if they favor smaller government—so it is alleged. Thus Paul Krugman in the NYT  largely agrees with Thomas Frank, who attributed apparent red state ingratitude to the exploitation of social issues by Republicans in his book What’s the Matter with Kansas? 

In addition Mr. Krugman cites evidence suggesting large percentages of Social Security and Medicare beneficiaries  are confused about their use of these government programs.  They don’t seem to think they’re getting handouts.

Maybe that’s because they’re in fact not getting handouts.  Read the rest of this entry »

Primaries, Public Interest and Angels

February 3, 2012

by Chidem Kurdas

The Republican primaries have been all-out fights, with a series of contenders showing strength in polls and challenging the establishment favorite Mitt Romney, only to fall back after the initial success. Newt Gingrich is the latest to rise and, after his loss in the Florida primary, presumably to fall. It is not a nice process, causing complaints of mudslinging that will continue in the coming presidential election. Pundits eager to display their wisdom call on politicians to set aside the differences and do what’s best for America.

Public choice theory tells us that politicians, like most people most of the time, tend to focus on their self interest. This view has been challenged—the recent Critical Review has several articles on the topicRead the rest of this entry »

The Führer Principle – Light

August 12, 2011

by Mario Rizzo

David Gergen has written a piece decrying the lack of leadership on the debt-deficit “crisis” and calling for a new Churchill. David Gergen, who saw no problem working for both Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, now teaches at the JFK School of Government at Harvard. He has a claim to being a member of the political establishment if anyone has.

This call is not confined to Gergen, however. It appears as a widely agreed-upon diagnosis in the news media, whether old or new. It is the conventional wisdom of the day.

Yet it is dangerously superficial. It completely misdiagnoses the problem before us. Read the rest of this entry »

Politically Feasible

August 8, 2011

by Mario Rizzo

Many years ago, the distinguished economist, William H. Hutt, wrote a pamphlet called “Politically Impossible?” He argued that economists should not seek political relevance by proposing only those policies that they perceive as politically possible, practical or feasible. They should speak truth to power, so to say, and advocate those policies that they perceive to be in the “public interest.” (Interestingly, it is often considered a key element of the economic rationality of agents to be able to distinguish the desirable from the feasible.) Read the rest of this entry »

Soros and Open Society in America

July 11, 2011

by Chidem Kurdas

George Soros originally intended to wind down his Open Society Foundations at the end of his life but changed his mind. This worldwide network of activist groups – to whom he has given more than $8 billion and named after Karl Popper’s classic The Open Society and Its Enemies – is to continue operating after he’s gone.

In Eastern Europe, the network helped undermine communist regimes and bring about freer societies. The main mission ascribed by Mr. Soros is to hold governments accountable in countries that lack civil institutions. It has to be a bitter irony that he sees the United States, the long-time home of many such institutions, in serious danger of ceasing to be an open society, given the increasingly manipulative and deceptive public discourse.

He was an early and aggressive backer of Barack Obama apparently in the belief that the then presidential candidate would stop the dangerous trend. Now he is disappointed. Read the rest of this entry »

Too Much Aid Will Hobble Arab Spring

June 8, 2011

by Mario Rizzo

For those who have access to the Financial Times, a must-read is the opinion piece by Saifedean Ammous. Saif attended our NYU colloquium regularly during his last year as a graduate student at Columbia University. Congratulations.  See the FT online here.

Kissinger on Bismarck

April 13, 2011

by Chidem Kurdas

A man described as both great and evil, Otto von Bismarck-Schönhausen makes a fascinating study,  as Jonathan Steinberg’s Bismarck: A Life demonstrates.  Henry Kissinger reviewed this biography in the New York Times Book Review, highlighting the diplomatic and political victories the unifier of Germany won through nimble maneuvers.

The review is a bravura tribute from one practitioner of realpolitik to another. Yet a closer look at Bismarck raises doubts as to realpolitik.

While admiring Bismarck’s subtle power games, Mr. Kissinger  admits that the result lacked institutional balance and “sowed the seeds of Germany’s 20th century tragedies.” But he takes issue with the connection Mr. Steinberg draws from Bismarck to Hitler. Kissinger points to the contrast between the two characters. “Bismarck was a rationalist, Hitler a romantic nihilist,” he writes. “Hitler left a vacuum. Bismarck left a state strong enough to overcome catastrophic defeats …”

Nevertheless, Bismarck’s actions led to those catastrophes. Read the rest of this entry »

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