Monday, April 24, 2006

For the Common Good

Tomasky puts a spotlight on what should be at the heart of Democratic politics and policy. Republicans appeal to selfishness with tax cuts and a determined effort to destroy government's ability to interfere with the accumulation of great wealth. For them the purpose of government is steer money into their pockets. Michael reminds us of what true good government should be about.
In terms of political philosophy, this idea of citizens sacrificing for and participating in the creation of a common good has a name: civic republicanism. It’s the idea, which comes to us from sources such as Rousseau’s social contract and some of James Madison’s contributions to the Federalist Papers, that for a republic to thrive, leaders must create and nourish a civic sphere in which citizens are encouraged to think broadly about what will sustain that republic and to work together to achieve common goals.


The common good is common sense, and the historical time is right for it, for two reasons. First, what I’m trying to describe here is post-ideological in the best sense, a sense that could have broader appeal than what we normally think of as liberal ideology, because what’s at the core of this worldview isn’t ideology. It’s something more innately human: faith. Not religious faith. Faith in America and its potential to do good; faith that we can build a civic sphere in which engagement and deliberation lead to good and rational outcomes; and faith that citizens might once again reciprocally recognize, as they did in the era of Democratic dominance, that they will gain from these outcomes. Maintaining such a faith is extraordinarily difficult in the face of the right-wing noise machine and a conservative movement that, to put it mildly, do not engage in good-faith civic debate. Conservatism can succeed on such a cynical basis; its darker view of human nature accepts discord as a fact of life and exploits it. But for liberalism, which is grounded in a more benign view of human nature, to succeed, the most persuasive answer to bad faith, as Martin Luther King showed, is more good faith. All Americans are not Bill O’Reilly fans or Wall Street Journal editorialists. While they may not call themselves liberals, many of them -- enough of them -- are intelligent people who want to be inspired by someone to help their country.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Now Iran

From the esteemed Juan Cole:
What is really going on here is a ratcheting war of rhetoric. The Iranian hard liners are down to a popularity rating in Iran of about 15%. They are using their challenge to the Bush administration over their perfectly legal civilian nuclear energy research program as a way of enhancing their nationalist credentials in Iran.

Likewise, Bush is trying to shore up his base, which is desperately unhappy with the Iraq situation, by rattling sabres at Iran. Bush's poll numbers are so low, often in the mid-30s, that he must have lost part of his base to produce this result. Iran is a great deus ex machina for Bush. Rally around the flag yet again.

If this international game of chicken goes wrong, then the whole Middle East and much of Western Europe could go up in flames. The real threat here is not unconventional war, which Iran cannot fight for the foreseeable future. It is the spread of Iraq-style instability to more countries in the region.

Bush and Ahmadinejad could be working together toward the Perfect Storm.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Polygamy? Maybe not.

Jonathan Rauch produces a carefully reasoned analysis why allowing polygamy may not be a good thing for society in general. Historically polygamy has always tended to be polygyny and that simply removes too many females from the marriage pool.

Evolution Of 'Irreducible Complexity' Explained

Science marches forward. Myth and superstition fades back.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Healthcare Economics

The path to true healthcare cost reduction is through the government.
"The Veteran's Administration, through centralized purchasing, gets their drugs for 50-80 percent less than the private insurers participating in the new Medicare Drug Benefit. Canada gets theirs for 50 percent less. Governments are simply bigger than competing insurance companies, and they can thus exert more leverage on suppliers. And, unlike private insurers, the government doesn't have to add in a profit margin atop the price. So they can leverage a larger market and have fewer extraneous costs -- that's why countries with nationalized health systems have lower per-service prices than we do, and why we spend twice as much, per person, as the highest spending universal system. Were the American consumer really such a genius, he'd demand that his country emulate the lower-spending, higher-performing systems of Western Europe and Japan. But the American consumer is not a genius and, worse yet, he has a lot of self-interested ideologues and plutocrats convincing him that the path of wisdom and intelligence is the one that proves the ideologues right and makes the plutocrats rich. And the American consumer is a weakling, because all though he knows better, he ends up listening to them."