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Posts Tagged ‘political science

“There can be no daily democracy without daily citizenship”*…

 

democracy

 

Democracy stopped declining in 2018, according to the latest edition of The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index. The index rates 167 countries by 60 indicators across five broad categories: electoral process and pluralism, the functioning of government, political participation, democratic political culture and civil liberties. It is stricter than most similar indices: it concludes that just 4.5% of the world’s people live in a “full democracy”. However, the overall global score remained stable in 2018 for the first time in three years. Just 42 countries experienced a decline, compared with 89 in 2017. Encouragingly, 48 improved.

In recent years, threats to democracy around the world have become increasingly obvious. The Arab spring fizzled. China’s leader is poised to rule for life. Populists with autocratic tendencies have won elections in the Philippines, Brazil and Mexico and subverted democratic institutions in Hungary, Turkey and Poland. Perhaps because the trend is so glaring—strongmen in different countries often copy each other’s tactics, soundbites and scapegoats—voters are not taking it lying down. Political participation improved more than any other measure on the EIU’s index. This is true even in advanced democracies such as the United States, where voters are highly disgruntled. Polarisation in America has led to anger, gridlock and [a government shutdown]. According to Gallup polls from January to mid-November 2018, the share of Americans who approve of the way that Congress is handling its job had fallen to an average of 18%, down from 40% in 2000. Perhaps because they are so cross, they are more likely to vote. Turnout at the 2018 mid-term elections was the highest for over 100 years.

Parts of Europe are suffering from a democratic malaise. Italy fell from 21st to 33rd in the rankings after voters elected a populist coalition that seeks to bypass democratic institutions and curtail the civil liberties of immigrants and Roma. Turkey’s score declined for the sixth year in a row as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan swept aside most constraints on his power. Russia deteriorated for the tenth year in a row, after the main opposition candidate was barred from running in a presidential election and Vladimir Putin continued to crush civil liberties. Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia saw slight improvements in 2018, mostly reflecting higher scores for political participation.

The report warns that all this may be a pause, rather than the end of democracy’s retreat. The global rise in engagement, combined with a continued crackdown on civil liberties such as freedom of expression, is a potentially volatile mix. It could be a recipe for instability in 2019.

See the report in full– and explore the interactive version of the map, above– at “The retreat of global democracy stopped in 2018.”

* Ralph Nader

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As we commit ourselves to citizenship, we might recall that it was on this date in 1961 that President Dwight D, Eisenhower made his farewell address on a national television broadcast.  Perhaps most famously, Eisenhower, the only general to be elected president in the 20th century, used the speech to warn the nation against the corrupting influence of what he described as the “military-industrial complex.”

But he also used the occasion to urge a long view of our America and its citizen’s responsibilities:

As we peer into society’s future, we – you and I, and our government – must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering for our own ease and convenience the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow.

250px-eisenhower_farewell source

 

“Things on the whole are much faster in America; people don’t ‘stand for election’, they ‘run for office.'”*…

 

density

If you want to find a Republican member of Congress, head out into the country. To find a Democrat, your best shot is in a city. But to find a competitive election this fall? Head to the suburbs, where control of the House of Representatives will likely be decided.

More than 40 percent of the U.S. House of Representatives is composed of predominantly suburban districts, according to a new CityLab analysis that classifies all 435 U.S. House districts according to their densities. These seats are currently closely divided between Democrats and Republicans. But that balance could be washed away by a “blue wave” in November. There are 28 Republican-held suburban districts that are competitive1 this fall under FiveThirtyEight’s projections—close to 40 percent of Republicans’ 74 suburban seats. The number of suburban Democratic seats in play: 1 out of 90…

The fascinating analysis in full at: “Density is Destiny.”

* Jessica Mitford

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As we get out the vote, we might note that today is International Moment of Frustration Scream Day– one is encouraged to go outside at twelve hundred hours Greenwich Mean Time and scream for a solid thirty seconds.  The occasion was created by Ruth and Tom Roy, who have a long suit in this sort of thing.

scream_21 source

 

“There’s nothing in the world so demoralizing as money”*…

 

The beginning of a MUCH longer infographic

This infographic was initially created to show how much money exists in its different forms. For example, to highlight how much physical cash there is in comparison to broader measures of money which include saving and checking account deposits.

Interestingly, what is considered “money” depends on who you are asking.

Are the abstractions created by Central Banks really money? What about gold, bitcoins, or other hard assets?

Since we first released this infographic in 2015, “All the World’s Money and Markets” has taken on a different meaning to us and many others. It’s a way of simplifying a complex universe of currencies, assets, and other financial instruments in a way that people can understand.

Numbers represented in the data visualization range from the size of the above-ground silver market ($17 billion) to the notional value of all derivatives ($1.2 quadrillion as a high-end estimate). In between those two extremes, we’ve added many other familiar measures, such as the GDP of California, the value of equities, the real estate market, along with different money supply metrics to give perspective…

See the infographic in its entirety– and ponder such take-aways as that the total of all derivatives outstanding today exceeds the total before the crash of 2008 the led to the Great Recession— at “All of the World’s Money and Markets in One Visualization.”

* Sophocles, Antigone

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As we batten down the hatches, we might send careful-calculated birthday greetings to Amartya Kumar Sen; he was born on this date in 1933.  A polymathic economist and philosopher, he has made material contributions to welfare economics, social choice theory, thinking on economic and social justice, economic theories of famines, and indices of the measure of well-being of citizens of developing countries.

Sen’s revolutionary contribution to development economics and social indicators is the concept of “capability” developed in his article “Equality of What”.  He argues that governments should be measured against the concrete capabilities of their citizens. This is because top-down development will always trump human rights as long as the definition of terms remains in doubt (is a “right” something that must be provided or something that simply cannot be taken away?). For instance, in the United States citizens have a hypothetical “right” to vote. To Sen, this concept is fairly empty. In order for citizens to have a capacity to vote, they first must have “functionings”. These “functionings” can range from the very broad, such as the availability of education, to the very specific, such as transportation to the polls. Only when such barriers are removed can the citizen truly be said to act out of personal choice. It is up to the individual society to make the list of minimum capabilities guaranteed by that society. For an example of the “capabilities approach” in practice, see Martha Nussbaum‘s Women and Human Development. [source]

Called the “conscience of his profession,” Sen was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 1998; India’s Bharat Ratna in 1999 for his work in welfare economics; and in 2017, the Johan Skytte Prize in Political Science.

 source

 

Written by LW

November 3, 2017 at 1:01 am

“Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies”*…

 

A cartoon depicting William Jennings Bryan as a Populist snake, swallowing the Democratic Party, dated 1896

As if things weren’t weird enough…

By a number of political measures, this year bears an uncanny resemblance to the transformative 1896 presidential election… It pitted Republican William McKinley against Democrat William Jennings Bryan. Although McKinley won—the incumbent, Grover Cleveland, was a Democrat and the economy was bad—Bryan’s candidacy ushered in an era of fiery oratory and Democratic Party populism. Indeed, Cleveland’s pro-business Democratic Party largely vanished from American politics.

That probably sounds at least a little bit familiar, what with Trump’s populism and his own brand of fiery oratory. But, political scientists Julia Azari and Marc Hetherington argue in the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, the similarity goes well beyond personality….

So what does this mean for the future of American politics? “[W]hen political conflict between the parties becomes polarized, the same polarizing issues tend to become divisive within parties as well,” Azari and Hetherington write. “[T]he fate of previous eras of division suggests that this brand of politics is rarely sustainable in the long term. If not in 2016, it seems change is likely to come soon.”

The eerie similarities, then to now, detailed at “If History Is a Guide, American Politics Is About to Get Weird.”

* Mark Twain

As we batten down the hatches, we might recall that it was on this date in 1957, at 8:54p, that Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, a Democrat (of the Dixiecrat variety), began a 24 hour and 18 minute filibuster, the longest ever conducted by a single Senator.  Thurmond was speaking in opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1957; his opposition to the 1964 Civil Rights Act led him to switch to the more comfortable home of the Republican Party.

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“If a man be gracious and courteous to strangers, it shows he is a citizen of the world”*…

 

Having a citizenship means that you have a place in the world, an allegiance to a state. That state is supposed to guarantee you certain rights, like freedom from arrest, imprisonment, torture, or surveillance – depending on which state you belong to. Hannah Arendt famously said that “citizenship is the right to have rights”. To tamper with ones citizenship is to endanger ones most fundamental rights. Without citizenship, we have no rights at all.

Algorithmic Citizenship is a form of citizenship which is not assigned at birth, or through complex legal documents, but through data. Like other computerised processes, it can happen at the speed of light, and it can happen over and over again, constantly revising and recalculating. It can split a single citizenship into an infinite number of sub-citizenships, and count and weight them over time to produce combinations of affiliations to different states.

Citizen Ex calculates your Algorithmic Citizenship based on where you go online. Every site you visit is counted as evidence of your affiliation to a particular place, and added to your constantly revised Algorithmic Citizenship. Because the internet is everywhere, you can go anywhere – but because the internet is real, this also has consequences…

Citizen Ex, co-commissioned by The Space and created for Southbank Centre’s Web We Want festival, allows one to explore what citizenship might mean in an ever more wired world.  Pledge allegiance at “Algorithmic Citizenship.”

* Francis Bacon

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As we hurry home, we might recall that it was on this date in 1801 that the American Company of Booksellers, one of the first trade associations of booksellers in the U.S., was formed.  The ACB lasted only four years, before rattling apart amidst members’ accusations of unfair competition against each other.  Several other such attempts were similarly stillborn over the 19th century– until 1900, when the American Booksellers Association was founded.

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Yaka-Wow!…

Rubik’s Cube for the Blind (via Yanko Design, which readers will remember)

On an obliquely-related front, from the ever-illuminating World Wide Words:

In what seems to have been a mixture of rueful admission
of error and pleasure in accidental accomplishment, the Times noted
on 23 April that a transcription error in an interview on 15 April
with the neuroscientist Baroness Greenfield has gone viral. She was
concerned that excessive playing of computer games or using social
networks such as Twitter would stop the malleable brains of young
people developing as they should: “It’s not going to destroy the
planet but is it going to be a planet worth living in if you have a
load of breezy people who go around saying yaka-wow. Is that the
society we want?” Within 24 hours, it is said, Google had 75,000
results for “yaka-wow”. It has inspired a Twitter stream, a page on
Facebook, mugs and T-shirts; it has become a personal philosophy:
“I think, therefore I yaka-wow”; and it has led to the creation of
the virtual First Church of the Yaka-Wow. What Baroness Greenfield
really said was “yuck and wow”, a derogatory comment about the
limited emotional range and vocabulary of Twitter users. Considered
linguistically and culturally, it’s a fascinating example of the
way electronic communications can today create and transmit a new
word.

As we coin ’em as fast as we can, we might recall that it was on this date in 1469 that civil servant, philosopher, and father of political science Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli was born.  Machiavelli served the Florentine Republic; in 1498, after the ouster and execution of Girolamo Savonarola, the Great Council elected Machiavelli as Secretary to the second Chancery– the blunt instrument replaced by the sharp…

But Machiavelli is, of course, best known for his short “how to” book on political power, The Prince.  Written in 1513, it was only privately circulated during Machiavelli’s life; but it was published publicly in 1532, five years after his death– and has had such an impact on our understanding of the cynical exercise of political power that “Machiavellian” has become a widely-understood adjective.

Niccolò Machiavelli

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