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Saturday, February 9, 2019

Behind Cameron's Referendum on Britain's Secession from the E.U.

Governors of other E.U. states reacted quickly to David Cameron’s announcement that if his party would be re-elected to lead the House of Commons, he would give his state’s residents a chance to vote yes or no on seceding from the European Union. The result would be decisive, rather than readily replaced by a later referendum. Cameron said the referendum would also be contingent on him not being able to renegotiate his state’s place in the Union. This renegotiation in particular prompted some particularly acute reactions from the governments of other “big states.” Behind these reactions was a sense that the British government was being too selfish. This was not fair, I submit, because the ground of the dispute was on the nature of the E.U. itself as a federal system. 
David Cameron, A former PM of Britain
The full essay is at "Britain in a Confederation?"

Friday, February 8, 2019

Second-Term Inaugural Addresses of American Presidents: Of Transformational or Static Leadership?

According to a piece in the National Review, “George Washington might have had the right idea. Second inaugural addresses should be short and to the point. Of course, speaking only 135 words as Washington did in 1793 might be a little severe.”[1] Consider how short, and (yet?) so momentous Lincoln's Gettysburg Address was. The challenge for second-term-presidents, whether Barack Obama or the sixteen two-term presidents before him, is “how to make a second inaugural address sound fresh, meaningful and forward-looking." Almost all of Obama’s predecessors failed at this. Only Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt made history with their addresses. One stirred a nation riven by civil war; the other inspired a country roiled by a deep depression. All but forgotten are the 14 other addresses, their words having been unable to survive the test of time. Even those presidents famed for their past oratory fell short.”[2] This is a particularly interesting observation: surviving the test of time being the decisive criterion. Even a president whose silver tongue mesmerizes a people of his or her time may not deliver ideas that survive beyond being a cultural artifact of the president’s own time. What of an address that is quite meaningful in its immediate time yet does not pass the test of time so as to be recognized as a classic? 

The full essay is at "Inaugural Addresses: Of Leaders?"

1. George E. Condon, Jr., “The Second-Term Inaugural Jinx,” National Journal, January 20, 2013.
2. Ibid.

Increasing Income Inequality in the U.S.: Deregulation to Blame?

Most Americans have no idea how unequal wealth as well as income is in the United States. This is the thesis of Les Leopold, who wrote How to Make a Million Dollars an Hour. In an essay, he points out that the inequality had increased through the twentieth century. His explanation hinges on financial deregulation. I submit that reducing the answer to deregulation does not go far enough.

The full essay is at "Increasing Income Inequality."

Les Leopold, “Inequality Is Much Worse Than You Think,The Huffington Post, February 7, 2013.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

A U.S. Senator Aiding a Contributor While Averting a "Fiscal Cliff": Turning a Crisis into an Opportunity

The law passed by Congress on January 3, 2013 to avert the across-the-board tax increases and “sequester” (i.e., across-the-board budget cuts) was “stuffed with special provisions helping specific companies and industries.” While many of the provisions would increase the U.S. Government’s debt, at least one would decrease it. Is the latter any more ethical because it is in line with the more general interest in reducing the federal debt? Put another way, does the end justify the means?  Do good consequences justify bad motives?  These are extremely difficult questions. The best I can do here is suggest how they can be approached by analysis of a particular case study.

The full essay is at "Aiding a Contributor."

On the Impact of Political Rhetoric: From “Global Warming” to “Climate Change”

Words matter in politics. The side that can frame a question by definitively naming it in the public mind enjoys a subtle though often decisive advantage in the debate and thus in any resulting public policy as well. For example, “pro-choice”privileges the pregnant woman, while “pro-life” defines the abortion debate around the fetus. Similarly, “global warming” implies a human impact, whereas“climate change” defines the issue around nature. Even though the shift from“global warming” to “climate change” is more in keeping with the evolving science and won’t be bumped off by a cold winter, political players have been the driving force—language hardly being immune to ideological pressure.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

An Empire's Economic Scale Demands a Market System: The Case of China

A trend of increased-scale economies can be observed through history as city-states have given way to the increased military power of centralized Medieval kingdoms. Many of those expanded into Early Modern kingdoms as advances in military technology make it possible for kings to extend the territory under their control. Even empires have gotten bigger. Modern-day Germany was once considered an empire, as were Switzerland and the Netherlands. Today these polities are states in a modern form of empire, the EU. Similarly, the emergent United Colonies of America was considered to be an empire within the British Empire, with the individual colonies being viewed on both sides of the Atlantic as Early Modern kingdom-level polities on par with the states of the E.U. in the twentieth century. Similarly in China, as kingdoms were added, an old form of empire took shape. Because these enlargements came about gradually over centuries, it has been difficult for the human mind to recalibrate how the modern large empire-scale economies should be designed to take into effect the distinct challenges of the scale. We can see such an adjustment in the case of China as economic centralization came to be replaced by regulated markets, albeit with a sizeable involvement still of the government in the economy. 

The Emperor Kangxi of the Qing Dynasty. He ruled for 60 years, greatly expanding the size of the empire. (Source: Chinahighlights.com)

The full essay is at "The Case of China."

Monday, February 4, 2019

School Security: Turning Schools into Prisons and Violating Individual Rights?

Certainly by 2019 a strong case could be made in virtually any of the U.S.'s member-states for investing more in the security particularly of high schools and two-year, or "junior," colleges, given the number of mass shootings. The majority of the steps taken were doubtlessly well-justified. However, issues of security managers and employees going too far even in unintentionally intimidating students, staff, and even visitors undoubtedly existed too. Unfortunately, such instances can be difficult to detect because they are likely, ironically, to be incidental to what is really needed to provide adequate security. It follows, I submit, that when such an issue does arise, a hidden, rather presumptuous mentality may exist even if it is difficult to detect as it is subtle. 

The full essay is at "Intimidating Security Has a Cost."