Tag Archives: Democrats

Big Government NOT Linked to Greater Corruption

You hear it all the time: “Big government is the problem.” “We need to reduce the size of the government if we want to eliminate corruption.” As it turns out, just because the government grows in size doesn’t mean that corruption will grow along with it.

From a journal article published last year [Emphasis added]:

This study’s findings suggest that anticorruption policy is regularly hindered by oversimplistic analyses suggesting that “government size” must be synonymous with “corruption,” and that by cutting its government a country is concomitantly reducing the opportunities for the abuse of public office. In contrast with such analyses, this study found no evidence that government size is directly associated with corruption. In fact, the findings presented here indicate that generally the reverse is true. Government size is inversely linked to the level of corruption across nations.

You read that right — the size of the government is inversely linked to the level of corruption across nations. Meaning, as the size of the government grows, the level of corruption seems to go down.

If you had to guess, what would you say would be the most effective way to reduce corruption? There’s a strong hint in the title of the journal article. From the article [Emphasis Added]:

This study’s analysis suggests that an increase in nonprofit sector size should have the greatest anticorruption effect.

This study was done on a global-scale. Here’s a list of some of the countries that were included (there were 50 in all): Argentina, Canada, Denmark, India, Japan, Mexico, Poland, Sweden, and South Korea. The study also looked at corruption at the national level.

Maybe this is a good time to clarify that one can’t actually measure corruption as it happens because by definition, corruption happens in secret. In order to get around this, proxies like “Black Market” activity are used. In this study, the researchers relied on the “Corruption Perception Index.”

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Even with studies like this being published, I worry that folks hellbent on “drowning government in the bathtub” will continue to use corruption in the opening salvo. And when pressed to face the facts of studies like this, they’ll explain it away as not being “relevant” to the US. So, I’d really like to see a study that specifically looks at government corruption in the US. Again, I realize the limitations of taking on a research question like this, but I think it would be interesting to look at the level of corruption in local and state governments. In fact, I’m sure there’d be differences in the level of corruption when moving from state to state, but I wonder if the difference in corruption would be negligible or if we might find something substantial. More than that, I’d be interested to see if government corruption is more strongly linked to one party or the other.

ResearchBlogging.orgThemudo, N. (2014). Government Size, Nonprofit Sector Strength, and Corruption: A Cross-National Examination The American Review of Public Administration, 44 (3), 309-323 DOI: 10.1177/0275074012465791

Listen — Let It Swirl Around Your Head, Then Form Your Opinion

In the past two weeks, I’ve seen a lot of people make a lot of different arguments about why they support/oppose intervening in Syria. Of all the arguments I’ve heard, the ones that irritate me the most: “I’m a Democrat/liberal and Pres. Obama thinks we should go to Syria, so I think we have to intervene.” OR “I’m a Republican/conservative and we can’t give Pres. Obama what he wants, so we shouldn’t intervene.” Both of these arguments (and the many derivatives thereof) are quite frankly, awful. They’re just awful.

Basing your opinion on a label like Democrat or a label like Republican is so near-sighted. A couple of years ago, I wrote a post about labels for political ideologies and parties. In that post, I linked to a video from Chris Rock talking about political ideologies and parties. The video has since been taken down, but I did find a few other versions of it (here, here, and here). My purpose in sharing this clip is not because I want you to change your mind and support intervening or change your mind and not support intervening, no. It’s because I want you to make up your mind for yourself.

As I said a few days ago, it’s difficult to know when being in the minority is the right thing to do. It’s even harder to know if that’s right when you’re blindly following the opinion of someone else. So, take a minute (that’s the length of the clip!) and watch Chris Rock.

Warning: NSFW language!

Note: The title of this post is a line from the video.

Political Implications of the SCOTUS Decision on the Voting Rights Act

More than a week ago, the Supreme Court of the United States rendered a decision on a case that had implications for the Voting Rights Act (VRA). The Court ruled that the formula from Section 4 of the VRA was unconstitutional. The decision has certainly enraged liberals and the political left as is clear in Justice Ginsburg‘s dissent:

[T]he Court’s opinion can hardly be described as an exemplar of restrained and moderate decision making. Quite the opposite. Hubris is a fit word for today’s demolition of the VRA.

Because of this outrage, I’ve seen some people argue that this decision was good for liberals/democrats because it will ignite those potentially disenfranchised people to vote. From Ross Douthat:

Well, to begin with, voter identification laws do not belong to the same moral or legal universe as Jim Crow. Their public purpose, as a curb to fraud, is potentially legitimate rather than nakedly discriminatory, and their effects are relatively limited. As Roberts’s majority opinion noted, the voter registration gap between whites and blacks in George Wallace’s segregationist Alabama was 50 percentage points.

… But voter ID laws don’t take effect in a vacuum: as they’re debated, passed and contested in court, they shape voter preferences and influence voter enthusiasm in ways that might well outstrip their direct influence on turnout. They inspire registration drives and education efforts; they help activists fund-raise and organize; they raise the specter of past injustices; they reinforce a narrative that their architects are indifferent or hostile to minorities.

W.W. from The Economist finds Douthat’s analysis “quite plausible.” Both articles referenced the same information I talked about yesterday: the missing white voter.

I don’t know that I necessarily agree with this assessment.

In Wisconsin a couple of years ago, citizens were pretty excited about recalling Governor Scott Walker. Some folks were really upset by Gov. Walker’s actions on collective bargaining. Democrats, Gov. Walker is a Republican, thought that they could seize this opportunity to recall the Governor. There were over 1 million signatures to recall the Governor. It seemed like there was lots of momentum and people engaged in the recall. However, during the recall election of 2012, Gov. Walker won more of the vote than he did in the gubernatorial election of 2010.

There’s another example from this past election: The Affordable Care Act. Otherwise, known as “ObamaCare.” In March 2012, when the Supreme Court heard the arguments for the case, Karl Rove wrote in the Wall Street Journal:

This week’s historic Supreme Court hearings on President Obama’s health-care overhaul will have huge political ramifications.

Then, in June, when the decision was rendered, there was this from The Weekly Standard:

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision upholding the constitutionality of Obamacare, the principal choice now facing Americans on November 6 will be whether to keep Obamacare or to repeal it.

Republicans and conservatives thought that ObamaCare was going to give them the chance they needed to have a Republican elected President. It’s safe to say that it didn’t turn out the way they wanted. Not only did Republicans not elect a Republican President, but they also lost seats in the Senate (when they anticipated winning more seats).

Neither of these examples perfectly map onto the VRA decision, but it seems to me that there’s a bit of an overreaction in assuming that this decision is going to be a lightning rod for Democrats. I’d say that it’s “too early to tell” how this will affect the upcoming 2014 and 2016 elections. For now, the one of the only things that can be said about the political implications of the VRA: We’ll see…

If Cats and Dogs Could Vote, Which Party Would They Vote For?

The other day I was playing with my dog and I said something about moving ‘to the left.’ Naturally, my wife recalled the Beyoncé song, “To The Left.” However, since I spend a lot of time watching and thinking about politics, my first thought was that our dog was moving “to the left” — politically. That then made me think, if cats and dogs could vote, who would they vote for?

Now, we can quickly descend into a discussion about animals’ ability to think, but that’s not where I’d like to go with this. Let’s assume that animals would be “rational actors” and vote in their best interest (regardless of how they may or may not be swayed from charismatic politicians or issue ads). Keeping in mind that this is all meant in jest, let’s begin!

If dogs could vote, who do you think they’d vote for? If I had to choose, I think they’d probably vote for the Democrats (or a Liberal party). Why? Well, let’s look at a dog’s life — they’re really interested in ‘programs’ (take me or a walk, feed me, etc.) where the government (owner) takes care of them. Of the two main political ideologies, who do we think is more likely to offer this?

Okay, now let’s look at cats. If cats could vote, who do you think they’d vote for? If I had to choose, I think they’d probably vote for the Republicans (or a Conservative party). Why? Well, look at a cat’s life — they really say (well, they don’t speak, do they?) and do whatever they want, whenever they want. They’re not interested in coming when you call them and they pretty much take care of themselves. To me, this *sort of* gets to the whole idea of ‘personal responsibility that you hear from politicians/parties on the right.

This experiment was meant in jest, but it’s a great way to exercise your thinking muscles. Can you think other pets and which parties they might prefer? Let us know in the comments!

You Need To Seek Out Ideas and Opinions That Are Different From Your Beliefs

[Editor’s Note: This post’s title was changed on September 16th from “if you’re a conservative, tell me which liberals you read: if you’re a liberal, tell me which conservatives you read.”]

I was born and raised in Canada and really didn’t start paying attention to politics until I moved to the US, so most of my understanding of politics comes through the lens of American politics. Watching the Democrats and the Republicans fight (bicker?) year after year starts to get intolerable. As , many American agree with this sentiment.

Part of this is a result of our to seek out opinions that confirm our own previously held beliefs. That is, if one is more liberal, they are probably more inclined to watch MSNBC and/or read the New York Times. Similarly, if one is more conservative, they are probably more inclined to watch FOX News and/or read the Wall Street Journal. There’s no “good” or “bad” here, though I would .

So, if we know that we have a tendency to seek out opinions that confirm our previously held beliefs, it would behoove us to intentionally seek out opinions that we know are counter to our own! That sounds a lot easier than it actually is — especially in today’s world of RSS, Twitter, Facebook, and personalized news.

Not to pick on Facebook, but the friends you have on Facebook, more than likely, share your political affiliation. It’s just natural for us to befriend those and even if you have a few friends from the “other side,” the news that they share on Facebook will most likely: a) get drowned out by all your other friends’ sharing news; or b) won’t be elevated to the top of your newsfeed because you tended not to click on the links provided by these friends.

While I don’t think there’s anything “wrong” with it, I do think that there’s something that we should be doing about it. If you’re a conservative, there are a critical mass of people out there who think that your opinion on issues of the day are wrong. If you’re a liberal, there are a critical mass of people out there who think that your opinion on issues of the day are wrong. What are you doing to try to understand why they think your opinion is wrong?

And yes, there are things that you can do.

Lifehacker proposed to do this:

  • Get random reading content delivered to your inbox
“The easiest, no hassle way to get a random selection of news is to have it delivered right to your inbox.”
  • Automatically get different points of view for articles you read
“When you’re browsing the news it’s easy to stick with the sites you know. Sometimes that means you’re missing an entirely different point of view.”
  • Randomize your start page
“Your browser’s home page is a great place to dump interesting and random content for your accidental and automatic discovery. Obviously you don’t want to do this on your work computer in case you get distracted, but it’s a good way to discover new things when you have the time.”

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Head on over to the for more details and specific suggestions (for your start page). There’s one more suggestion I want to make (as it’s something that I do): Twitter. Instead of just following/reading news from people/accounts that I know are similar to my previously held beliefs, I have sought out those accounts that often discuss the issues from a perspective that is not native to me. This way, I’m able to read about the news from an entirely different perspective and from one that I may not have considered were it not for someone giving words to it.

So, I ask: if you’re a conservative, tell me who are the liberals that you read — if you’re a liberal, tell me who are the conservatives that you read.

A Rose By Any Other Name: Labels for Political Ideologies and Parties

I was watching some old episodes of on the weekend and I came across two scenes that I think epitomize part of the problem with politics today. Both scenes are from and the first one is of a Republican lawyer, Ainsley Hayes, speaking with two other Republicans about how the White House offered Ainsley a job. The two Republicans talking to Ainsley aren’t speaking too kindly of their Democratic counterparts.

In the second clip, Ainsley Hayes has accompanied Sam Seaborn to a meeting on Capitol Hill that Sam is to have with Congressional aides. Seaborn is trying to convince these aides (to convince their bosses who are Senators), to vote for a bill.

In the first clip, we see Ainsley have an epiphany of sorts about the people she had met on her interview/tour of the White House. After listening to her fellow Republicans speak negatively about the people she’d met, she stands in their defense. In the second clip, Ainsley, speaking to Republican aides, identifies their true intent — “beat the White House.” Instead of coming together for what was right or for what was good, these aides (and by extension, the Senators), were more interested in finding a way to best the White House (and by extension, the party in power — the Democrats).

One of my favorite clips on the issue of “dueling political ideologies” comes from a comedian, of all places. Chris Rock, while a little vulgar in his description, makes an extremely important point. (.) Because of the vulgarity, I have chosen to link to the clip. I can assure that the only vulgarity in the clip is Rock’s swearing.

In the clip, Rock purports that people can get too tied down to a political position based on their affiliation to a party (or an ideology). People who call themselves , before even hearing the issue, sometimes, decide that they are going to fall on the more liberal side of the argument. Likewise, people who call themselves , before even hearing the issue, sometimes, decide they are going to fall on the more conservative side of the argument. I have no issue with people choosing to be view an issue from one slant or the other, but what irks me (and Chris Rock) is when people make up their mind about something before they hear the issue!

For example, I can’t possibly think that I’ve received the full scope of an issue if I just watch MSNBC (). Likewise, I can’t expect to have received the full scope of an issue if I just watch FOX News (). As well, it is important that people who watch these networks understand that in the news they receive from them, they are consuming a particular slant.

I understand that there is a compulsion by some to label everything in the visible (and non-visible) parts of the universe and that in doing so, of course, there needs to be names for political ideologies. Moreover, having names for political parties makes it easier to group together people who are behind a certain cause, but is it really necessary? Do we really have to have a “” of people who call themselves the Democrats or the Republicans? Can’t we just have a full of ? Can’t we just elect people , not their particular stance on when a ?

Again, I understand how difficult this is to imagine — electing a politician not based on issues, but on judgment. And I understand that the way that the current structure of the political landscape (of most countries) is such that politicians are forced into joining party X or party Y, if they want to work to have their issues (that aren’t necessarily mainstream) championed. However, I would like to point out the likes of of the Green Party of Canada and Independent Senator of Vermont as two outliers that show that it is possible to get elected without being affiliated with one of the mainstream parties of a country.

Should We Have Seen This Coming?

While history is made everyday, in the , there was at least a bit of foreshadowing. During these elections, the was the highest it has been since 1938 – when FDR was President. Much of the ink printed around the midterm elections was focused on the prospects of . While that is also an important issue, the pressing matter of today seems to be what is happening in Wisconsin and whether or not it will happen in other states like Ohio, New Jersey, Florida, and Michigan.

I remember when the numbers were rolling in, and the state legislatures began to flip (from Democrat to Republican) such that , that it may prove to be ominous. While I may have thought it to be a foreshadowing of things to come, never could I have predicted (nor do I think others could have) the . Not to mention the kind of national spotlight that has been thrust upon the issue(s) at hand.

I’m wondering, though, if the political arena should have seen this coming when all the state legislatures flipped in November (of 2010)? Like I said, in my non-exhaustive search, I didn’t find anyone predicting it and I suppose you really can’t blame anyone for not predicting it. Who could have, given the data at hand? Nonetheless, it’s quite breathtaking to flip on the TV and see thousands of people gathering together for what they believe.

During my time as an undergraduate, I had a with what it takes to hold and organize a rally at a state legislature. From this experience, I can say that what is happening in Wisconsin is truly remarkable. I was only involved in a rally of about 1000 people for a few hours — these people have sustained protests of more than 50,000 people for nearly two weeks.

While someone, somewhere, may claim to have been able to predict what the Wisconsin State Legislature is doing, I would be highly suspicious of someone claiming to have been able to predict the public opposition in the way of . Citizens have voiced their opinions on issues before, but never in my lifetime have I seen it happen like this. The most interesting thing to me is the context for which this is happening.

I’ve talked about some of the recent world events and how that ,  but I think the protests in Wisconsin may not be happening the way they are if there weren’t already the massive protests in Tunisia and Egypt. The fair majority of Americans stay current in the way of the news of the day and because of technology, the news of the day is something that can become the news of this minute or the news of this second. I think with Americans being exposed to the possibility of protests and more importantly, protests working, it might have given hope or purpose to those in Wisconsin who saw fit to stand for what they believe in.