Politeía Digest

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Posts Tagged ‘essential readings

The Economist: For richer, for poorer

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Growing inequality is one of the biggest social, economic and political challenges of our time. But it is not inevitable. In 1889, AT the height of America’s first Gilded Age, George Vanderbilt II, grandson of the original railway magnate, set out to build a country estate in the Blue Ridge mountains of North Carolina. He hired the most prominent architect of the time, toured the chateaux of the Loire for inspiration, laid a railway to bring in limestone from Indiana and employed more than 1,000 labourers. Six years later “Biltmore” was completed. With 250 rooms spread over 175,000 square feet (16,000 square metres), the mansion was 300 times bigger than the average dwelling of its day. It had central heating, an indoor swimming pool, a bowling alley, lifts and an intercom system at a time when most American homes had neither electricity nor indoor plumbing. Read the rest of this entry »

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Written by Theophyle

October 15, 2012 at 8:16 am

Government, Geography, and Growth

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The True Drivers of Economic Development

According to the economist Daron Acemoglu and the political scientist James Robinson, economic development hinges on a single factor: a country’s political institutions. More specifically, as they explain in their new book, Why Nations Fail, it depends on the existence of “inclusive” political institutions, defined as pluralistic systems that protect individual rights. These, in turn, give rise to inclusive economic institutions, which secure private property and encourage entrepreneurship. The long-term result is higher incomes and improved human welfare.

What Acemoglu and Robinson call “extractive” political institutions, in contrast, place power in the hands of a few and beget extractive economic institutions, which feature unfair regulations and high barriers to entry into markets. Designed to enrich a small elite, these institutions inhibit economic progress for everyone else. The broad hypothesis of Why Nations Fail is that governments that protect property rights and represent their people preside over economic development, whereas those that do not suffer from economies that stagnate or decline. Although “most social scientists shun monocausal, simple, and broadly applicable theories,” Acemoglu and Robinson write, they themselves have chosen just such a “simple theory and used it to explain the main contours of economic and political development around the world since the Neolithic Revolution.” Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Theophyle

October 10, 2012 at 12:45 pm

Three Reasons to Salute Ben Bernanke

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by John Cassidy

It’s time to give Ben Bernanke some credit. Under attack from the left and right for much of the past year, the mild-mannered former Princeton prof has shown some leadership and pushed through a major policy shift. In committing the Fed to buying tens of billions of dollars worth of mortgage bonds every month until the jobless rate, currently 8.1 per cent, falls markedly, Bernanke and his colleagues on the Fed’s policy-making committee have finally demonstrated that they won’t stand aside as tens of millions of Americans suffer the harsh consequences of a recession that was largely made on Wall Street.

I’ve had my ups and downs with Bernanke, whom I profiled at length back in 2008. At the start of the year, I thought critics were giving him a raw deal. With short-term interest rates close to zero (where they’ve been since December, 2008), and with job growth seemingly picking up, the calls for more Fed action seemed overstated. But over the past six months, as the recovery sputtered and Bernanke dithered, I too, ran out of patience with him. In a column in Fortune last month, I even suggested that Barack Obama should have replaced him when he had the chance, back in 2010. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Theophyle

September 16, 2012 at 9:15 am

Between east and west, a gulf of stereotypes

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In the Netherlands, Eastern Europeans have replaced Muslims as a target of the far right. The hostility is fed by clichés widespread throughout Western Europe, regrets a Lithuanian journalist, who admits that his own countrymen are not free from prejudice.

Rasa Navickaité

“Are you having trouble with immigrants from Central and Eastern Europe? We want to hear!” The website of the far-right Dutch party welcomes visitors with this question spiced with encouragement. Geert Wilders, leader of the Freedom Party and known for his diatribes against Islam and Muslims, has discovered a new vein to mine for the backing of the average Dutch voter. In February his party launched a website designed to gather evidence on the problems caused by “the Poles, Bulgarians, Romanians and other eastern Europeans.”

According to the National Statistics Office of the Netherlands, about 200,000 eastern Europeans settled in the country legally in 2011. The 136,000 Poles make up the majority, followed by 2,708 Lithuanians, 1,885 Latvians and 665 Estonians. In a country of 17 million, this represents just over one percent.

It is intriguing that the far right’s hatred for immigrants who do not respect Western values has switched target. After September 11, Islam and Muslims became the scapegoats for all the ills of society; today, it’s the eastern Europeans who play this role. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Theophyle

July 23, 2012 at 9:24 am

The Washington Post: About a Political Disaster – 3 in 1

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Romania’s repressive moves

By Editorial Board, Saturday, July 14, 2:24 AM

COVERAGE OF THE crisis in Europe has tended to focus on economic questions, such as whether Greece or other governments will default on their debts or whether the euro currency will survive. The growing political damage to institutions, and to democracy itself, is sometimes overlooked. But in several countries there has been an alarming erosion of political comity and constitutional checks and balances, driven by populists who exploit the public’s dissatisfaction with economic hardship. Read the rest of this entry »

Krugman NYT : Separating Law and Politics in Romania

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Another post from my Princeton colleague Kim Lane Scheppele, after the jump:

 Separating Law and Politics in Romania

Kim Lane Scheppele (Princeton University) and Vlad Perju (Boston College Law School)
12 July 2012

As the Romanian political crisis spirals into dangerous territory, it helps to understand what is legal, what is political, and where the line between the two is blurred. Ordinary party politics is a contact sport that can generate much public passion, but it is perfectly legal. Constitution-smashing conduct crosses the line into revolutionary territory. The actions of the Ponta government combine polarized party politics with a constitution-smashing revolution.

Since the last post on this subject, the Romanian parliament voted Friday by 256 to 114 to remove President Basescu from office. On 29 July, the Romanian electorate will be able to confirm or reject the parliamentary vote. If the people vote to oust Basescu, which the polls predict they will, he must go. In the meantime, he is suspended from office.

Ponta and his allies have been so intent on removing Basescu that they have stopped at nothing to achieve this result. They changed the referendum law to make it easier to rid themselves of Basescu. They have fired the ombudsman, the only person who could challenge the government’s decrees before the Constitutional Court. They have ousted the presidents of both chambers of parliament in order to bring the line of succession for the presidency into their party alliance. They threatened to remove justices of the Constitutional Court who had sided with Basescu in the past and – when international criticism roared about the threats to the judges – instead cut the jurisdiction of the Constitutional Court. The prime minister’s allies also seized control of the official gazette in which all legal documents must be published before they can take effect, which theoretically gives them the power to delay the publication, and thus the entering into force, of decisions contrary to their political interests. Read the rest of this entry »

Krugman NYT : Romania Unravels the Rule of Law

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A political crisis has gripped Romania as its left-leaning prime minister, Victor Ponta, slashes and burns his way through constitutional institutions in an effort to eliminate his political competition.

In the last few days, Ponta and his center-left Social Liberal Union (USL) party have sacked the speakers of both chambers of parliament, fired the ombudsman, threatened the constitutional court judges with impeachment and prohibited constitutional court from reviewing acts of parliament – all with the aim of making it easier for Ponta to remove President Traian Basescu from office. They hope to accomplish that by week’s end. Read the rest of this entry »