Danish elections

by niamh on September 14, 2011

Denmark goes to the polls tomorrow, Thursday 14th. For those who incline to the view that elections don’t matter, this one may be particularly interesting, since the centre-left group of parties looks very likely to win. This will not only put the current right-wing government out of power, but will marginalize the far-right Danish People’s Party. The DPP has pulled the framework of debate well to the right in recent years on immigration, rights, welfare, because it’s been pivotal to government-making initiatives since the early 2000s. This time, the Social Democrats have managed to focus debate on economic issues:

Thorning-Schmidt has promised a new era of public investment in welfare, education and infrastructure. The government is preaching austerity and public spending cuts, the general trend across a Europe dominated by the centre-right.

Discourse really matters!

On a completely irrelevant note, but one that I find mildly interesting nonetheless, SD leader Helle Thorning-Schmidt, who’s been SD leader since 2005, is married to a son of Neil Kinnock.

The Effects of the Internet on Politics

by Henry on September 14, 2011

I’ve been buried in seclusion the last several days, trying to get a review article on the consequences of the Internet for politics (from a political science perspective) finished. Obviously, this is far too large an undertaking for a 12,000 word piece, so I’ve concentrated on two debates – arguments over the Internet and political polarization, and arguments over the putative role of the Internet in the Arab Spring. An initial draft is available here – comments and criticisms welcome (I’m already aware of, and planning to fix, the slightly ropy bibliography, the tendency to grossly over-use the word “plausibly” and the unexplained switch from discussion of ‘sorting’ in the opening section to ‘homophily’ in the main text). This is a topic where there are relevant literatures in political science, sociology, communications studies, and computer science that overlap without necessarily talking to each other that well. I’ve tried to gather as much as I can from across these disciplines, but am sure that there is plenty of material out there that I am unaware of.

Belgium sinking deeper and deeper…

by Ingrid Robeyns on September 14, 2011

I haven’t been reporting or commenting for a while on the ongoing political crisis in Belgium, which most recently started with the elections 15 months ago and the inability to form a government afterwards, but in fact genuinely started after the elections in June 2007 and the inability of the subsequent government to tackle some major socio-economic and political problems. In essence, the country has been politically unstable or incapable of effective governance for the last 4 years (In case you lost the story, here are my earlier posts on Belgian politics (starting with the oldest): “one”:https://crookedtimber.org/2007/09/19/the-ingredients-of-the-belgian-cocktail/ “two”:https://crookedtimber.org/2007/11/07/one-hundred-and-fifty-days-after/ “three”:https://crookedtimber.org/2007/12/02/175-days-and-still-counting/ “four”:https://crookedtimber.org/2007/12/19/belgium-time-out-of-the-political-crisis/ “five”:https://crookedtimber.org/2008/03/19/belgium-no-longer-exists/ “six”:https://crookedtimber.org/2008/09/22/15-months-of-belgian-political-mess/ “seven”:https://crookedtimber.org/2008/12/22/a-dramatic-turn-in-the-belgian-political-crisis/ “eight”:https://crookedtimber.org/2009/07/30/if-language-trumps-reasonableness-we-must-be-in-belgium/ “nine”:https://crookedtimber.org/2009/11/19/whether-or-not-it-is-good-for-europe-it-is-very-bad-for-belgium/ “ten”:https://crookedtimber.org/2010/06/13/belgian-elections-strong-victory-for-nva/ “eleven”:https://crookedtimber.org/2011/02/18/thanks-to-250-days-nogov-surrealism-flourishes-in-belgium/).

The last months were filled with one attempt after the other to find a coalition, all in a climate of the absence of trust between the two main linguistic groups, and also in what I’d call the ‘bad-divorce-atmosphere’. With that latter I mean that if one listens to the interpretation or explanation of a certain event by either the Flemish or the Francophones, it is just like listening to two spouses in the middle of a very ugly divorce: it is as if they live in two completely different realities. This, in fact, is probably the factor that makes me most pessimistic regarding the odds that the two linguistic groups will stay in the same country in the long run: just like a bad marriage, they no longer have enough valuable things in common, and their common past may no longer be enough to keep them together.

So now, in this mess, another event was just announced that may cause Belgium to sink even deeper: Yves Leterme, the Christian-Democratic former Prime-Minister, who has been been running the daily affairs for the last 15 months waiting to be succeeded by the new PM, has announced that he is moving to the office of the OECD.
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Running out of excuses

by John Quiggin on September 14, 2011

The latest data on US incomes make for grim reading, both as regards the bottom of the income distribution where the number in (absolute) poverty is at an all-time high (the proportion of the population was the highest since 1993), and in the middle, where median household incomes have fallen back to the 1997 level. For some groups, such as male wage earners without college education, real incomes haven’t risen since around 1970

Having discussed this issue before I’m familiar with most of the standard arguments[1] used to show that things really aren’t that bad. The big ones are
(i) household size is decreasing
(ii) the consumer price index doesn’t take adequate account of product quality
(iii) the Earned Income Tax Credit isn’t taken into account
(iv) health insurance and other benefits are undervalue

Looking at the period from 1970 as a whole, there’s some truth in these claims, though not enough to offset the dramatic contrast between the huge gains before 1970 and the relative stagnation thereafter. But over the last decade or two, these excuses have run out.

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