The most interesting aspect of the reaction to the governor-general’s last Boyer lecture, with its last-sentence support for abolishing the monarchy, is the thinness of the opposition from the left to her expression of her political views.
As the events of the past few days have shown, in politics, to speak is to act. By lending even gentle support to the anti-monarchy cause, the governor-general has reopened the republic debate at least for a few days. It’s a more potent intervention given that the current prime minister once headed a successful push to retain the monarchy, and given that the current opposition leader is also the GG’s son-in-law.
I hope that the view remains strong on the left that an appointed head of state should not be a political player. In this view, the governor-general is supposed to work through and react to a checklist of constitutional questions and otherwise stay mute. One of the errors of Sir John Kerr back in the 1975 crisis was arguably that he gave in too easily to the temptation to become a political actor, instead of sticking to this mechanistic view of his role.
In short, the governor-general needs to be essentially a constitutional robot.
by Prashant Bharadwaj, Leah K. Lakdawala, Nicholas Li – #19602 (CH DEV)
While bans against child labor are a common policy tool, there is very little empirical evidence validating their effectiveness. In this paper, we examine the consequences of India’s landmark legislation against child labor, the Child Labor (Prohibition and Regulation) Act of 1986. Using data from employment surveys conducted before and after the ban, and using age restrictions that determined who the ban applied to, we show that child wages decrease and child labor increases after the ban. These results are consistent with a theoretical model building on the seminal work of Basu and Van (1998) and Basu (2005), where families use child labor to reach subsistence constraints and where child wages decrease in response to bans, leading poor families to utilize more child labor. The increase in child labor comes at the expense of reduced school enrollment. We also examine the effects of the ban at the household level. Using linked consumption and expenditure data, we find that along various margins of household expenditure, consumption, calorie intake and asset holdings, households are worse off after the ban.
The paper is here.
Schumpeter’s two chapters on democracy in his great book Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy provide the best framework I know of articulating the things that trouble me about the current state of democracy.
The chapters assert the following propositions:
- Rousseau’s idea of the will of the people is an illusion for the simple reason that that will is distilled from a chaos of conflicting interests.
- Democracy arrives at decisions by way of a process by which factions of the political class vye for the consent of the governed.
- When considering politics, people are in a highly abstract world that’s usually far from their own concrete experience. They also know that their own singular vote amongst millions gives them an infinitesimal chance of influencing political outcomes. So their practical knowledge and their incentive to exercise care are both gravely diminished compared to situations where they are making decisions about their own welfare. This invites voting which is at least as much expressive as it is deliberative. In Schumpeter’s words, “In politics the typical citizen . . . argues and analyses in a way which he would readily recognise as infantile within the sphere of his real interests. He becomes a primitive again. His thinking becomes associative and affective”. Schumpeter draws attention to the similarities between this and the process by which advertising is addressed to manipulating the unconscious.
- In all things organisational, whether from the Federal Government to the local tennis club, a division of labour is necessary for the organisation to function effectively. Schumpeter puts it this way. ”Collectives act almost exclusively by accepting leadership — this is the dominant mechanism of practically any collective action which is more than a reflex.”. Schumpeter thus grafts the idea of leadership onto this division of labour and perhaps he is right that one needs leadership, but one doesn’t even need anything as strong as that to make the point. We need a division of labour. And that calls for delegation. Right now I am reliably informed that the polity is in the lengthy process of investigating how to deal with Food Derived from Reduced Lignin Lucerne Line. I’m thinking we need delegation here. Getting us all to come up with an opinion on Alan Jones show just won’t cut the mustard. Thus we have any number of agencies in our society that do this kind of stuff, or advise governments and all the rest of it. But the people remaining sovereign have the power to overrule their delegates. That’s as it should be. But if the thing is going to function tolerably the people need to give due regard to the fact that they don’t know the details – the people we delegated the issues to know the details.
Alas as time has passed since Joseph Schumpeter shared his dyspeptic but insightful thoughts with us, two things have been exacerbating the tensions in this system. Continue reading
Think tank scholars and policy wonks strive to be both practical and clever. Being practical means proposing policies that have a good chance of getting taken up by government in the short term. And being clever means policies that generate big benefits at little or no cost. But according to American political scientist Steven Teles, the short term benefits of practicality and cleverness have long term costs.
From the ever-wonderful XKCD, seeming to comment on current US governance:
XKCD: world’s sharpest comic?
One of the numerous downsides of the rise of feminism is the demise of righteous masculine anger. Continue reading
A nice visual illustration of the idea of institutions as public goods. Note the word ‘institution’ is here used to mean more than formal organisations. The Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy provides this quote from sociologist Jonathan Turner
a complex of positions, roles, norms and values lodged in particular types of social structures and organising relatively stable patterns of human activity with respect to fundamental problems in producing life-sustaining resources, in reproducing individuals, and in sustaining viable societal structures within a given environment.
This is fancier, but similar to the way institutions were defined in the institutional economics of the American school in the first half of the 20th century which acquired a greater focus on formally analysable forms of the same in the latter day ‘new institutional economics’ of people like Oliver E. Williamson.
Anyway under this broadened definition of institutions they are those things that sustain human cooperation (Competition is a form of cooperation – discuss). And those things that sustain human cooperation (including of course competition) are public goods. Which is something that I’ve been going on and on about. Now I have the visual above to display in presentations and so on. Very natty it is too. Seeing is believing.
I recall about twenty years ago now, I was taking a law tute in Legal Theory. The lecturer was pretty awful and spent huge amounts of time in his lectures explaining why his side of a particular debate – with H.L.A Hart the opponent as I recall – was the right side of the debate. I happened to agree with him about his criticism, but it wasn’t a particularly edifying way to teach. And he went on and on flogging a horse which, if he hadn’t nailed it to the racetrack would have been pushing up the daisies.
Conversation on whatever the topic was was skittish and it gradually drifted to what a terrible course this was. I didn’t resist this drift with any great strength, and so we ended up in this tute with pretty much every student united in the view that this was an awful course. I was having a mild out of body experience – which is to say that I was just observing all this, thinking that it wasn’t particularly my job either to defend the lecturer, or to insist that we study the tute question. Had any of the students wanted to do this I guess I might have done so.
So we had a problem. And there was a kind of silence – because all this stuff had come out. Now what? I didn’t say anything. Eventually through the small talk or whatever was going on someone said “So what can we do?”. Then, in a dangerous moment of insight I said “Well you could blow up the building”. Continue reading