Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Don't cheer for gridlock

In The Meaning of Democracy and the Vulnerabilities of Democracies: A Response to Tocqueville's Challenge, Vincent Ostrom argues that a democratic society must be a self-governing society. Not just one that's designed the right way.

By explaining why people need to be able to use persuasion and work together to solve their problems to keep democracy healthy, Ostrom gives us a useful way to think about a common concern: gridlock. Libertarians often cheer for gridlock. We shouldn't. And not just because it's tone deaf.

Monday, February 05, 2018

Minding my monsters

Sarah Skwire has a great note about dealing with hard stuff on her Facebook page.
I was talking to a friend today about the struggle it is to do things when the things you have to get done are really unpleasant and scary--like managing the details of a divorce, or researching your husband’s cancer diagnosis, or whatever particular horror lurks in your own closet of nightmares. 
I’m not talking about motivating yourself to deal with a pile of boring stuff. That’s a different problem. 
This is about having a giant scary monster in a box that you HAVE to open and deal with before you can do whatever good stuff comes after it. And you have to deal with the monster while maintaining your job and your life and your responsibilities. It’s really hard. 

Friday, February 02, 2018

Sweet talk and self-governance

We haven't heard as much lately about panic over falling faith in democracy, but questions about the proper scope of democracy and what we mean by "democracy" are still relevant. Is democracy popping a ballot in a box, or does it include our conversations and what we do as communities?

Vincent Ostrom asks this question in The Meaning of Democracy and the Vulnerabilities of Democracies: A Response to Tocqueville's Challenge, and urges us to recognise a seldom-discussed danger to democracy. We often hear that we need to do more than just vote—we need to vote well. But, says Ostrom, we also need to be able to persuade each other—to use what Deirdre McCloskey calls "sweet talk". Sweet talk is how we get people to act together when we can't force them to. But we have to persuade well, the right way—building buy-in and consensus. The wrong kind of persuasion might be as dangerous as the wrong kind of voting. "Rhetoric pursued as an art of manipulation can be a trap contributing to the vulnerability of democratic societies." (xiii)

Monday, January 29, 2018

So long

Over at Revealed Preferences, my co-blogger Adam writes a farewell to Kellie Leitch, who announced last week that she will not seek re-election, but instead return to private life and practice.
It may be that Leitch never really shared the sentiments that she attempted to ride into 24 Sussex, but whatever was in her heart she chose to make those issues her political trademark. It was heartening to see her finish a distant sixth in the leadership campaign, with less than 8% of the overall vote. Leitch’s departure from public life allows her to return to her medical practice as a pediatric orthopedic surgeon, where she will do more good in a day than she ever could have in a lifetime of politics. And hopefully, her defeat means that we will not see the likes of the campaign that she ran again any time soon."
Read the whole thing here.

I grappled with my frustration with Leitch at this blog and with the help of commenters here and here. Like Adam, I can't say I'm sad to see her go.