President Trump continues to criticise the US Federal Reserve.
A previous blog post discussed how unelected bodies exercising authority in democratic societies should be seen as answerable to more than one source for their legitimacy – to the law, to the standards of their profession, to politicians, to stakeholders and to citizens. Moreover, they are answerable in different ways.
That previous discussion left open whether the positioning of unelected bodies can be summarised in way that further clarifies their relationship to democratic norms.
This blog looks at the three leading ways in which the relationship is sometimes expressed – as agents, as trustees, or as stewards. Each can be misleading.
I went on a tourist trip to Cambodia earlier this year. I passed in one village, at the end of a property, a small shrine made of banana leaves. I was told that something bad had occurred to one or more of the family. The shrine enabled offerings to be made and for the bad to be propitiated. Life for the family could move on.
Cambodian society as a whole has an appalling recent history. Its territory was the target of massive American bombing during the Vietnam War. Under the Pol Pot regime in the 1970s about 1.5-2m are estimated to have died out of a total population then of around 7m.
This blog discusses three ways about how to move on from disastrous happenings and appalling memories: propitiation, expiation and reconciliation. It discusses the uneasy relationship between the way individuals deal with bad memories and their collective handling by societies as a whole.
The weakness of global rule making
We are moving into a world without an established international order. Yet, we would all like to live in a world where there are globally agreed rules that deter bad behaviour by nations and encourage good behaviour. Most nations in our world are small. Rules limit large nations from unrestrainedly throwing their weight around. They protect small nations. They protect people as well as states.
This blog looks at the three main models for getting international agreements on rules of behaviour.
The analysis suggests that the prospects for a fully functioning rule based international order remain distant.
People like what they know. However, we are at a point of time in international politics when we are moving into a world full of unknowns – a world without order.
This blog looks at the shape of the world without an order.
We are probably all vaguely aware that the everyday contacts we have with authority in our supposedly democratic societies is with unelected bodies rather than with elected politicians, It is unelected bodies that help keep our financial savings safe, help determine our monthly utility bills, protect our health by deciding what medical treatments are effective and when a food product is past its ‘sell- by’ date, that keep public transport ‘safe’ and inspect our schools. They are with us when we are awake and when we are asleep. By contrast, fortunately for us, we can switch off from politics and politicians.
At the same time there is considerable confusion about how such bodies fit within the democratic organization of authority. When President Trump has a sleepless night and criticises the US Federal Reserve in a tweet, there are some who would agree that central banks have acquired too much power. since the 2008 financial crisis.
This blog looks at the main sources of confusion in thinking about how unelected bodies fit within a democratic framework.
On this side of the Atlantic we are all fed up with Brexit. On the other side of the Atlantic we are all fed up with Trump. Both topics suck the oxygen from any room. Each sends otherwise rational humans clambering on to a much earlier branch in the evolutionary tree.
This blog avoids the politics of Brexit. It looks instead at some of the institutional and constitutional lessons. The saga of Brexit is unfortunately still far from over. The outcome is still unpredictable. Nevertheless some of the key institutional lessons are already clear.
When we think about markets we might think about greed, rapaciousness, the exploitation of position, the inequalities of outcomes, subjection of the public good to private gain and all the other ways of summarising everything that is wrong with market based economies.
This blog looks at one archetype of a market; one that would have been immediately recognizable to Adam Smith in the 18th century. It describes the case of a contemporary central London street market. It provides an example of a market organized to fulfil a social purpose.
This blog looks at the recipe for how a market with a social purpose is cooked up.
Photo by Timon Studler on Unsplash
In her novel Romola (1863) George Eliot (Mary Anne Evans) depicts four kinds of ethical behaviour: the reasoned, the self-interested, the emotive and the instinctual. They represent styles we can still recognize today.
In today’s diversified and divided societies we face a problem in trying to reach a consensus on all public policy choices where values are important.
George Eliot’s four models of the way different people approach ethical questions illustrate the problems involved in trying to find a pathway through our differences.
The application of this model to today's world suggests that President Trump will likely not be re-elected.
Racism, sexism, classism, elitism, chauvinism, ageism, ableism, and immigrant phobia, xenophobia, islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia etc. These are the ‘isms’ and ‘phobias’ used to describe today’s social biases. It is also the vocabulary of what is termed the ‘politically correct’.
This blog looks at the uses and misuses of this vocabulary.
Advocates of democracy would like to be able to establish a positive connection between democratic forms of government around the world and faster economic growth. Authoritarian governments would like, on the contrary, to show that their way achieves better results.
The empirical evidence is mixed.
This blog looks briefly at the theoretical advantages of democratic organization. It suggests that: