Daily Digest 03/16/2015

15 Mar

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.


Daily Digest 03/12/2015

11 Mar

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Argo: Uninspired and Unsatisfying

29 May

I finally watched best picture winner Argo yesterday (I’m not the only political scientist to watch it so late after its release!). It was a competent genre film that cast a light on the heroic, but largely unsung actions of American intelligence and foreign service officers during a turbulent time in U.S foreign policy. After seeing the film, however, I did not agree with the academy’s decision to award this film the “Best Picture” at this year’s Oscars.

My major issue with this film was not its depiction of politics or international relations (despite my professional expertise), but the license taken with the real story to produce suspense. Argo is a prisoner of its genre, especially in its last 45 minutes when the audience is bombarded with a succession of (false) moments designed to add suspense to the film. By being entirely consistent with the expected tropes of this kind of film, the writers created a false climax that was “safe” for Hollywood executives and mainstream audiences, but also totally uninspired and unsatisfying.


The remarkable rise of continental Euroscepticism

26 Apr

The remarkable rise of continental Euroscepticism

Consider all the options to end America’s political dysfunction

10 Apr

Democracies have two fundamental constitutional choices they can make about the structure of their political system: whether to use a presidential or parliamentary system of government, and whether to use a plurality or proportional electoral system. When faced with a political crisis or chronic political dysfunction, critics of the existing system often propose pursuing one of the roads not taken. Unfortunately, they often forget that there are two choices to reconsider, not one.

For example, election law expert Rick Hasen explores in a new paper whether constitutional change from a presidential system to a parliamentary form of government is necessary to address political polarization in the United States (Seth Masket and Jonathan Bernstein both have nice writeups).

Hasen starts with the proposition that :

The partisanship of our political branches and mismatch with our structure of government raise this fundamental question: Is the United States political system so broken that we should change the United States Constitution to adopt a parliamentary system either a Westminster system as in the United Kingdom or a different form of parliamentary democracy? Such a move toward unified government would allow the Democratic or Republican parties to act in a unified way to pursue a rational plan on budget reform on other issues. Voters could then hold the party in power accountable if the programs its pursued were against voter preferences. It seems a more logical way to organize politics and insure that each party will have a chance to present its platform to the voters, to have that platform enacted, and to allow voters at the next election to pass on how well the party has managed the country.

Hasen examines four arguments against making this level of constitutional change to deal with our current political dysfunction. He rejects three of them as insufficient, but finds it too soon to reject the fourth. He thus advocates a wait-in-see attitude. Unfortunately, Hasen’s analysis is only half-complete because he only considers the choice between presidentialism and parliamentarism, but he fails to consider the equally choice of electoral system beyond the vague idea of “a different form of parliamentary democracy.”

I do not have any great insights to make about Hasen’s analysis, but I would like to see more consideration of the role of electoral systems in producing and reducing party polarization. If we are going to entertain the unlikely possibility of constitutional change, let us entertain all the options.


Quote of the Day*

9 Apr

I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that not a single one of our major institutions, within government or without, is capable of confronting this problem. And if we can’t, that’s rather the ballgame, isn’t it?

Charles P. Pierce on the “[The Worst Thing Obama Could Say On Climate Change.”](http://www.esquire.com/blogs/politics/The_Wrong_Thing_To_Say?src=soc_fcbks)

* No promises that my quote of the day will not actually be from today.

H/T to Gerry Canavan


Quote of the Day*

8 Apr

The United States leads the developed world in both homicide and incarceration, and both of those evils land most heavily on poor African Americans.

We can and should do better. But “doing better” doesn’t mean simply focusing on social services and systemic reforms and ignoring the need for punishment. It means using punishment intelligently, which means using it as sparingly as possible but also as much as necessary. As Machiavelli warned his fellow opponents of tyranny, a reluctance to punish comes naturally with good-heartedness, but those unable to overcome that reluctance are as unfit to rule as those who have no such reluctance to begin with.

Mark A.R. Kleiman discussing how to get “Smart on Crime” in Democracy Journal.

* No promises that my quote of the day will not actually be from today.

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