Political Change Takes More Than a Charismatic Leader

Barack Obama
American president Barack Obama looks out a window during the G8 summit in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, June 18, 2013 (White House/Pete Souza)

Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

Paul Krugman, who often conflates his political beliefs with economic theory, makes a good argument in The New York Times about political change.

There is a persistent delusion in the United States on both ends of the political spectrum, he writes, that a “hidden majority” of voters either supports or can be persuaded to support radical policies, “if only the right person were to make the case with sufficient fervor.” Read more “Political Change Takes More Than a Charismatic Leader”

Between the Crazy, Serious Ideas in Republican Debate

Wednesday’s Republican presidential debate hosted by CNBC was easily the worst so far this year. The moderators seemed more interested in catching the candidates in hypocrisies and discrediting their looniest proposals than encouraging a substantive debate — but at the same time let some of the most outlandish claims go unchallenged.

Between the crazy, though, there were glimmers of a reform-minded conservative platform taking shape. Read more “Between the Crazy, Serious Ideas in Republican Debate”

Sometimes Blandness Is a Good Thing

Prime Ministers David Cameron of the United Kingdom and Pedro Passos Coelho of Portugal meet in Lisbon, September 4
Prime Ministers David Cameron of the United Kingdom and Pedro Passos Coelho of Portugal meet in Lisbon, September 4 (The Prime Minister’s Office/Adam Brown)

British prime minister David Cameron’s pitch for stability on Wednesday did not impress everyone.

The Guardian‘s Michael White, for one, found the Conservative Party leader’s annual conference speech wanting. The promise of more of the same “is pretty flimsy stuff,” he writes.

White believes that Cameron’s record pales in comparison to Margaret Thatcher’s, the Conservative prime minister who thoroughly liberalized Britain’s economy in the 1980s and decidedly shifted the center ground in British politics to the right. “The Tories’ current crop of leaders looks feeble by comparison.”

He may be underestimating Cameron’s radicalism. Read more “Sometimes Blandness Is a Good Thing”

Democrats and Republicans Finally Talking About the Same Problem

A street in Charlotte, North Carolina, November 12, 2008
A street in Charlotte, North Carolina, November 12, 2008 (Steve Minor)

Florida senator Marco Rubio struck a familiar chord on Monday when, in a speech announcing his candidacy for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination, he argued that too many Americans were starting to question whether the “American Dream” is still within their reach.

Those Americans include “hard-working families, living paycheck to paycheck, one unexpected expense away from disaster,” Rubio said; “young Americans, unable to start a career, a business or a family, because they owe thousands in student loans for degrees that did not lead to jobs”; and “small businessowners, left to struggle under the weight of more taxes, more regulations and more government.”

In a speech in Detroit in February, Rubio’s most formidable contender for the Republican nomination, former Florida governor Jeb Bush, similarly lamented, “Tens of millions of Americans no longer see a clear path to rise above their challenges.”

Democrats see the same problem. Read more “Democrats and Republicans Finally Talking About the Same Problem”

Powerful Mayors Could Mend English Democratic Deficit

The sun rises over London, England
The sun rises over London, England (Uncoated)

With the Scottish referendum on independence drawing closer, the one certain thing is that, no matter how the region votes, British or English politics will be irreversibly changed.

The history of tension between England and the parliament in Westminster can be traced back to the Scotland Act of 1998, which gave Scotland its own legislature.

Since then, affairs that affect only Scotland have been dealt with in Edinburgh. Lawmakers in Westminster have no say anymore in issues to do with transportation or the National Health Service north of the border.

Because affairs that affect only England are still settled in Westminster, however, this has led to the curious situation in which Scottish lawmakers can influence English policy but English lawmakers have no say over Scottish policy.

This, in turn, has led to some resentment when unpopular measure end up being adopted in England but rejected in Scotland, an example being the tuition fee increase from £3000 to £9000. Read more “Powerful Mayors Could Mend English Democratic Deficit”

A Government by the People

Just a few days ago, President Barack Obama and his staff announced their Open Government Directive. In a memo, beginning with the lines, “My administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in government,” the White House announced its intentions to work toward a form of “collaborative democracy,” in which citizens would be able to input their ideas and contributions toward governance.

With programs like Peer-to-Patent already around, collaborative government seems closer than ever. Its tool? The Internet. Or, the “tubes,” as disgraced former senator Ted Stevens referred to them.

The directive lays out a specific timetable that can be found online and that orders all executive departments to create “open government” websites within ninety days of December 8, 2009.

It seems quite clear that this is a major change in how citizens will be able to deal with government. What is the nature of the change? As Clay Shirky tells us, “the impulse to share important information is a basic one, but its manifestations have often been clunky.” Read more “A Government by the People”