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Drawing the Line: Toward an Aesthetic of Transitional Justice

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 07/01/2017 - 2:21am in


Politics, Justice, Law

This Postcolonial Writing and Theory Seminar is on 'Drawing the Line: Toward an Aesthetic of Transitional Justice' with speaker Carrol Clarkson (University of Amsterdam).

Economists Agree: Democratic Presidents are Better at Making Us Rich. Eight Reasons Why.

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 14/08/2016 - 1:47am in

In 2013, economists Alan Blinder and Mark Watson — no wild-eyed liberals, they — asked a very important question: Why has the U.S. economy performed better under Democratic than Republican presidents, “almost regardless of how one measures performance”?

Start with their “performed better” assertion: it’s uncontestable. While you can easily cherry-pick brief periods and economic measures that show superior economic performance under Republicans, over any lengthy comparison period (say, 25 years more), by pretty much any economic measure, Democrats have outperformed Republicans for a century. Even Tyler Cowen, director of the Koch-brothers-funded libertarian/conservative Mercatus Center, stipulates to that fact without demur.

Here’s just one bald picture of that relative performance, showing a very basic measure, GDP growth:


The difference is big. At those rates, over thirty years your $50,000 income compounds up to $105,000 under Republicans, $182,000 under Democrats — 73% higher. (And this is all before even considering distribution — whether the growing prosperity is widely enjoyed, or narrowly concentrated.)

Hundreds of similar pictures are easily assembled — different time periods, different measures, aggregate and per-capita, inflation-adjusted or not — all telling the same general story. No amount of hand-waving, smoke-blowing, and definition-quibbling will alter that reality. (If you feel you must try to debunk Blinder, Watson, and Cowen: be aware that you almost certainly don’t have an original argument. Read the paper, and follow the footnotes. You’ll also find more hereherehereherehere, and here.)

So what explains that superior performance? Blinder and Watson’s regression model basically says, “we dunno.” Their model, for whatever it’s worth, rules out a whole slew of possibilities — only finding a significant correlation with oil price shocks (uh…okay…) and Total Factor Productivity (the black-box residual economic measure that’s left when the other growth factors economists can think of are accounted for in their models).

Standing empty-handed after all their work, Blinder and Watson punt. They attribute Democrats’ consistently superior performance to…luck. Yes, really.

On its face, the bare fact of Democrats’ consistent outperformance suggests a straightforward explanation: Democrat policies and priorities, in their myriad interacting forms, expressions, and implementations, directly cause faster growth, more progress, greater and more widespread prosperity. (Blinder and Watson pooh-pooh this idea, simply because they don’t find short-term correlation with the rather bare measure of fiscal balances.)

So the question remains: what could it be about the Democratic economic policy mix that delivers superior performance? Here are eight possibilities:

1. Wisdom of the Crowds. Democrats’ dispersed government spending — education, health care, infrastructure, social support — puts money (hence power) in the hands of individuals, instead of delivering concentrated streams to big entities like defense, finance, and business. Those individuals’ free choices on where to spend the money allocate resources where they’re most valuable — to truly productive industries that deliver goods that humans actually want.

2. Preventing Government “Capture.” Money that goes to millions of individuals is much harder for powerful players to “capture,” so it is much less likely to be used to then “capture” government via political donations, sweetheart deals, and crony capitalism.

3. Labor Market Flexibility. When people feel confident that they and their families won’t end up on the streets — they know that their children will have health care, a good education, and a decent safety net if the worst happens — they feel free to move to a different job that better fits their talents — better allocating labor resources. “Labor market flexibility” often suggests the employers’ freedom to hire and (especially) fire, but the freedom of hundreds of millions of employees is far more profound, economically.

4. Freedom to Innovate. Individuals who are standing on that social springboard that Democratic policies provide — who have that stable platform of economic security beneath them — can do more than just shift jobs. They have the freedom to strike out on their own and develop the kind of innovative, entrepreneurial ventures that drive long-term growth and prosperity (and personal freedom and satisfaction) — without worrying that their children will suffer if the risk goes wrong. Give ten, twenty, or thirty million more Americans a place to stand, and they’ll move the world.

5. Profitable Investments in Long-Term Growth. From education to infrastructure to scientific research, Democratic priorities deliver money to projects that free market don’t support on their own, and that have been thoroughly demonstrated to pay off many times over in widespread public prosperity.

6. Power to the Producers. The dispersal of income and wealth under Democratic policies provides the widespread demand (read: sales) that producers need to succeed, to expand, and to take risks on innovative new ventures. Rather than assuming that government knows best and giving money directly to businesses (or cutting their taxes), Democratic policies trust the markets to direct that money to the most productive producers.

7. Fiscal Prudence. True conservatives pay their bills. From the 35 years of declining debt after World War II (until 1982), to the years of budget surpluses and declining debt under Bill Clinton, to the radical shrinking of the budget deficit under Obama, Democratic policies demonstrate which party merits the name “fiscal conservatives.”

8. Labor and Trade Efficiencies. The social support programs that Democrats champion — if they truly provide an adequate level of support and income — give policy makers much more freedom to put in place what are otherwise draconian, but arguably efficient, trade and labor policies. If everyone can confidently rely on a decent income, we have less need for the sometimes economically constricting effects of unions and trade protectionism.

To go back to Blinder and Watson’s “luck” explanation: A non-economist might suggest that “to a great extent, you make your own luck.” And: “hire the lucky.”

Cross-posted at Evonomics.

Related posts:

  1. Why Liberals Keep Losing
  2. The Party of Prosperity? The Seven Reasons that Democrats’ Policies are More Economically Efficient
  3. “A liberal is someone who doesn’t know how to take his own side in an argument.”
  4. Pubs and Dems: Brands and Beliefs
  5. “Springboard,” Not Safety Net

Ban academics from talking to ministers? We should train them to do it!

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 08/03/2016 - 4:21am in



The Cabinet Office has come up with a crazy plan to ban academics like me from talking to politicians and civil servants. In this piece I explain why that is an almost surreally stupid idea. I also describe how I hustle, in Whitehall, to try and get government policy changed on open data, scientific transparency, and […]

Monday, 15 February 2016 - 11:17am

Published by Matthew Davidson on Mon, 15/02/2016 - 11:17am in

Always liked that Turnbull fellow. Won't hear a word said against him.

I'm choosing to take this as a sign that things are looking up; that it's no longer sufficient to be a plutocratic ideologue and class warrior to have a hand in Australian public policy.

On the other side of the house, even Shorten appears to have located his spine, and is advocating the decades-overdue sunsetting of the parasitic speculator's best friend, negative gearing. In addition to the hitherto inconceivable possibility of a soft landing to the property bubble, Australia may be catching on to the spirit of democratic renewal that has made possible the rise to prominence of people like Sanders and Corbyn (not to mention, in very different circumstances, Podemos and pre-capitulation Syriza).

Good news for everybody who hasn't thrown in their lot with the crazies. Commiserations to the former Member for Tony Abbott.

The Silk Roads: A New History of the World

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 28/10/2015 - 3:25am in

Peter Frankopan discusses his new book with Averil Cameron, Robert Moore and Elleke Boehmer Peter Frankopan (Director of the Oxford Centre for Byzantine Research, University of Oxford) discusses his book The Silk Roads: A New History of the World with Averil Cameron (Former Professor of Late Antique and Byzantine History, University of Oxford) and Robert Moore (Emeritus Professor of History, Newcastle University). The discussion is introduced and chaired by Elleke Boehmer (Acting TORCH Director and Professor of World Literature, English)

*About the book*

Peter Frankopan's book is a major reassessment of world history, and is an important account of the forces that have shaped the global economy and the political renaissance in the re-emerging east. For centuries, fame and fortune was to be found in the west – in the New World of the Americas. Today, it is the east which calls out to those in search of adventure and riches. The region stretching from eastern Europe and sweeping right across Central Asia deep into China and India, is taking centre stage in international politics, commerce and culture – and is shaping the modern world.

"The time is ripe for this new history of the world, which places the emphasis firmly on the east, from eastern Europe to India and China. A journey along the Silk Road, from the birth of the world's ancient religions to contemporary international politics." Daily Telegraph

Cameron rebooted: five more years of a shiny computerised toe in a prime-ministerial suit

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 12/05/2015 - 5:00am in

We’ve had the bloodletting of the Ed Wedding. Now we’ve got the full-fat Tory government that virtually no one predicted

It was supposed to be more complicated. After the vote, they said we’d have to get out the constitutional slide rule to try to work out who’d won. The Wikipedia entry on “minority government” experienced a huge spike in traffic. There were more bitter arguments about legitimacy than five seasons of Jeremy Kyle. Everyone agreed the election would herald the gravest constitutional crisis since the abdication, or that time Jade Goody slagged off Shilpa Shetty on Big Brother. Many said Ed Miliband was certain to become prime minister.

Yep. That’s what they said.

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The leaders’ debate: option paralysis and the wriggling opinion worm | Charlie Brooker

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 07/04/2015 - 5:00am in

What sort of person can’t decide who to vote for, but can rate how much they like whatever they’re hearing out of five, and wants to sit there tapping a button accordingly?

As the general election scuttles closer, the campaign grows more confusing by the moment, so it’s good that last week’s seven-way leaders’ debate brought some much-needed mayhem to the situation. Not so long ago we were bemoaning the lack of choice in a two-party system. Now we’ve got option paralysis.

It had its moments. Nigel Farage complained about foreigners with HIV who enter Britain and immediately start wolfing down expensive medicine: greedy as well as sick. You’d think Farage might welcome immigrants with grave illnesses on the basis that they’re less likely to hang around as long, but apparently not. Say what you like about him – say it, write it down, daub it in 3ft-high cherry-red letters up the side of a prominent overpass on his regular commute if you must – but it’s undeniably refreshing to see a politician determined to speak his mind, indifferent to the absurd constraints of spin or basic human empathy. Never mind HIV sufferers – how much is Britain spending on refugees with cancer? Maybe he could put that statistic on a sandwich board and patrol the country in it, perhaps while ringing a bell and loudly commanding passersby to picture a nation under his command.

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How to solve the election debate fiasco: Cameron watches at home, Gogglebox-style

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 10/03/2015 - 7:00am in

The prime minister has refused to go head-to-head with Ed Miliband – and the multi-party debate we are getting will be a 90-minute cry for help on behalf of the democratic system

Last week, Germany chose its entry for this year’s Eurovision: Heart of Stone, performed by Andreas Kümmert, former winner of the German version of The Voice (which is known as The Voice of Germany in its native country, rather than Die Stimme von Deutschland. Presumably the producers didn’t want to put viewers off by making it sound too German).

After wailing his guts out and winning the public vote, Kümmert abruptly announced, on live TV, that he didn’t actually want to “do” Eurovision after all, and awarded his “prize” to the runner-up instead. A chorus of boos broke out. German boos. Buhen.

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Charlie Brooker | The fashion industry is responsible for everything that’s wrong with the world

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 04/11/2014 - 7:00am in

If the fashion industry truly cared about the future of our planet, it would issue a solitary line of unisex, one-size-fits-all smocks, then shut down for good

So then. Alongside “eating a sandwich” and “holding up a copy of a newspaper”, we now have to add “wearing a T-shirt” to the growing list of Ordinary Things Ed Miliband Somehow Just Can’t Do. The other week he was pictured in Elle magazine wearing the Fawcett Society’s “This Is What a Feminist Looks Like” T-shirt. Last Sunday the Mail claimed those T-shirts are stitched together in a Mauritian sweatshop by women earning 62p an hour.

A T-shirt. He can’t even wear a T-shirt without somehow condemning both himself and any surrounding witnesses to ridicule. What’s going to trip him up next? A doorknob? Next week he operates a doorknob so badly he fractures his wrist, and as the medics wheel him to the operating theatre, they accidentally knock an ageing war veteran off a waiting room chair, leaving him groaning in pain on the floor, at which point Miliband insists they stop his gurney so he can lean over and help the guy up, but he forgets about his fractured wrist, so as the 96-year-old decorated-war-hero-and-humbling-inspiration-to-us-all gingerly grabs his hand, Miliband abruptly screeches a barrage of agonised obscenities directly into his face, causing him to hit the floor again, fatally this time, in front of the world’s media, oh and also Miliband does a frightened little wee at the end, and they film that too.

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David Cameron can’t help the No campaign – he’s less popular in Scotland than Windows 8

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 09/09/2014 - 1:01am in

The first rule of panic mode is you don’t talk about panic mode. And this is purely for personal reasons, but I don’t want Scotland to reject us

It used to be unthinkable. Now it’s thinkable. In fact, in some minds, it’s already been thought. Scotland might be voting yes to independence and splitting from the rest of the union. I’m not Scottish, and I’m therefore powerless to intervene, although I would personally prefer Scotland to stay – but only for entirely selfish and superficial reasons. Reason one: I’d rather not be lumbered with a Tory government from now until the day the moon crashes into the Thames. Two: I quite like Scotland and the Scottish, so it’s hard not to feel somehow personally affronted by their rejection. Why did you just unfriend and unfollow me, Scotland? What did I ever do to you? What’s that? Sorry, you’ll have to slow down a bit. Can’t understand a word you’re saying. Don’t you come with subtitles?! Ha ha ha! No, seriously, come back. Scotland? Scotland?

Apparently the consequences of a split in the union could be calamitous. The skies will fall and the seas will boil and the dead shall rise and the milk will spoil. There will be a great disturbance in the force. Duncan’s horses will turn and eat each other. Starving ravens will peck out your eyes halfway through the Great British Bake Off. Your dad will give birth to a jackal full of hornets. And in London’s last remaining DVD shop, Gregory’s Girl will quietly be re-categorised as “world cinema”.

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