Lt Columbo Roasts Frank Sinatra


MMP weekend: Germany and New Zealand 2017

Fruits and Votes

We are entering days of convergences. Over the next two days, the Jewish and Islamic new years and the first day of Autumn coincide. Then, on the weekend, we have the convergence of elections in the two countries that offer our best examples of mixed-member proportional (MMP) representation electoral systems: Germany and New Zealand. (Lest I be accused of hemispherism, let me hasten to note that in one of those countries, the election will be the day after the start of spring.)

In the case of Germany, which votes Sunday, there really has been no doubt for some time that the CDU/CSU alliance would place first, but it will be down from its 2013 result. There is also little doubt that the two parties that missed the 5% party-vote threshold in 2013 will clear it this time: the center-right FDP and the far-right AfD. The SPD, which…

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New survey shows American students’ disturbing ignorance of and attitudes towards free speech

Why Evolution Is True

There’s a new article in the Washington Post by Catherine Rampell reporting a survey of American college students’ views about free speech. The results aren’t pretty. Click on the screenshot below to go to the piece, and you can see other survey results on the Brookings Institution site here.

The take-home message: students in college don’t know much about the First Amendment or how it’s interpreted, and a distressingly large number of them favor either shouting down “offensive” speakers or even committing violence when such speakers appear.

According to the article, the survey was conducted by UCLA professor and Brookings senior fellow John Villasenor, and was supported by the Charles Koch Foundation. Before you start crying “Conservatives!”, note that Rampell says this: “Financial support for the survey was provided by the Charles Koch Foundation, which Villasenor said had no involvement in designing, administering or analyzing the questionnaire; as…

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Rage of Party: election day in the 1690-1715 period

The History of Parliament

Today we go to the polls to vote in European and local elections. Voting was a very different experience at the turn of the 18th century…

One of the most prolific periods for elections in Britain occurred long before universal suffrage. After the reforms of the ‘Glorious Revolution’ of 1688-89, parliament passed the Triennial Act, stating that parliament must meet annually and elections be held every three years. This, combined with serious political issues – war on the continent, religious differences between high church Tories and pro-dissent Whigs (see our Explore page for more), and the rival interest of ‘court’ and ‘country’ – led to fierce political battles in what has become known as the ‘rage of party’. Elections during the period 1690-1715 occurred on average every two and a half years, unique in British history.

The electoral system was of course very different to that of today…

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Like A Rolling Stone: Defamation Lawsuit Against Magazine Reinstated By Second Circuit


rolling-stone-rapeThe United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has reinstated the defamation lawsuit against Rolling Stone by the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity.  The decision by Judge Katherine Forrest is an interesting application of the rarely successful “group defamation” claim. The decision comes as the Rolling Stone magazine itself has been put up for sale.  As I have previously written, the editors failed on almost every level in the scandal, including failing to fire author Sabrina Erdely for the article alleging the gang rape of a freshman identified as “Jackie” at the University of Virginia.  The panel in Elias v. Rolling Stone, 16-2465-cv, consisted of U.S. Circuit Judges José Alberto Cabranes and Raymond Lohier Jr., with U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest of the Southern District of New York sitting by designation. The vote was 2-1.

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Operating allowances don’t cover inescapable cost pressures

Every commentator on the day that the hole was alleged agreed that labour does not have much spare cash at all left in its budget plan. The whole idea of sound budgeting is you have a contingency for each year and decide how that contingency is spent at the start of the year, not years in advance.

You do not spend that contingency in advance and ask people to believe that you will staying with this budget rather than cut back or introduce new taxes. The point reinforced when the labour opposition promise no new taxes.

The whole idea is budgeting is you explain your expected revenues, anticipated expenditures and have a contingency. If you have no free cash, no real contingency allowance, your budget plan is not credible.

croaking cassandra

I didn’t have any intention of writing again about the Labour Party’s fiscal plans.  I’d already done so, prompted by the infamous Steven Joyce “fiscal hole” here and here.

But on Monday evening I was sent some analysis of the fiscal outlook prepared by a group of former senior Treasury officials, who were keen that I should give it some coverage.  They are keen to retain anonymity, but I know all those involved, and have a considerable regard for most of them.   Most, in my observation, would also seem considerably more likely to vote for ACT than for, say, Labour or parties to its left.  But  what they sent me wasn’t particularly value-laden; it was an attempt at a technocratic assessment of some of the basic pressures on government finances over the next few years.

I’m not going to swamp you with numbers  And trying to unpick and…

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Joe Biden, Basic Income, and Societal Capital

International Liberty

Most economic policy debates are predictable. Folks on the left urge higher taxes and bigger government while folks on the right advocate lower taxes and smaller government (thanks to “public choice” incentives, many supposedly pro-market politicians don’t follow through on those principles once they’re in office, but that’s a separate issue).

The normal dividing line between right and left disappears, however, when looking at whether the welfare state should be replaced by a “universal basic income” that would provide money to every legal resident of a nation.

There are some compelling arguments in favor of such an idea. Some leftists like the notion of income security for everybody. Some on the right like the fact that there would be no need for massive bureaucracies to oversee the dozens of income redistribution programs that currently exist. And since everyone automatically would get a check, regardless of income…

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