Syndicate content

Sina Odugbemi's blog

The Fourth Revolution: The Global Race to Reinvent the State

Sina Odugbemi's picture

Can liberal constitutional democracy run the state in a manner that is both responsive and accountable to citizens without succumbing to incurable elephantiasis precisely because it is democratic? Does democratic governance inevitably lead to government as an ‘all-you-can eat- buffet’ (allegedly per Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore), and, therefore, bloat, fiscal crises and collapse? These crucial questions are taken on in an important new book by two of the leading minds around the Economist Magazine: John Micklethwait is the Editor of the Magazine, and Adrian Wooldridge is the management editor, who also writes the Schumpeter column. The book is: The Fourth Revolution: The Global Race to Reinvent the State.

The authors argue that there have been three and half revolutions in governance in the West, and each one is linked to an emblematic political thinker/economist. The first revolution was the rise of the nation-state, and the paradigmatic thinker is Thomas Hobbes, author of Leviathan. The second revolution was the rise of the ‘liberal state’, and the focus thinker here is John Stuart Mill. (Objection from a Bentham scholar: the authors do not do justice to the role of Jeremy Bentham).  The third revolution was the rise of the welfare state, and the authors discuss the ideas and efforts of Beatrice Webb.  According to the authors, these first three revolutions in governance were completely successful. The fourth revolution, the effort to roll back the bloated welfare state – the focus here is the economic thought of Milton Friedman – was only partially successful. The authors argue, I believe, that this revolution needs to be completed.
 

Quote of the Week: Prince Charles

Sina Odugbemi's picture

“What I have been trying to remind people of for the past 40 years is that you can’t operate an entire conventional system, whether it’s economics, business or the way we live and surround ourselves, what we eat, without recognizing that there are severe negative externalities that are not being accounted for.”

 - Prince Charles, the eldest child and heir apparent of Queen Elizabeth II, the constitutional monarch of the Commonwealth of Nations. Prince Charles is a proponent of organic farming and has sought to raise awareness of environment degradation and its consequences. His 2010 book, Harmony: A New Way of Looking at Our World, which focuses on climate change, architecture, and agriculture, won the Nautilus Book Award.
 

Is Your Project a Focusing/Mobilizing Event?

Sina Odugbemi's picture
Normally, focusing events are crisis events. And in the literature on agenda-setting, scholars like R.S. Wood specify that focusing events have the following characteristics:
 
  1. They occur suddenly;
  2. They tend to be rare;
  3. They are often large in scale; and
  4. Both policy makers and the public find out about these events at the same time.

Recent examples are events like the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant disaster in Japan or the Deep Water Horizon oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico. What agenda-setting scholars claim, rightly I believe, is that focusing events promote broad discussion of policy: Why is this happening? What could we have done differently as a country? What should we do now?

Quote of the Week: Rachid al-Ghannouchi

Sina Odugbemi's picture

"The cure for a failed democracy is more democracy [...] dictatorship disguised in religion is the worst kind of dictatorship."

 -Rachid al-Ghannouchi, founder and chairman of Tunisia's moderate Islamist party, Ennahda. Since the 2011 Tunisian revolution, the party has become the largest and most well-organized in Tunisia.

Quote of the Week: Brendan Nyhan

Sina Odugbemi's picture

"Journalists have strong incentives to inflate the likelihood of worst-case scenarios for whoever is losing the current news cycle, which produces a lot of phony “game changers”. After so much hype and so many failed predictions, who can blame citizens for tuning these stories out?"
 

Brendan Nyhan, an American political scientist, liberal to moderate political blogger, author, and assistant professor in the Department of Government at Dartmouth College.
 

“I contain multitudes": Is Logical Consistency an Illusory Ideal?

Sina Odugbemi's picture
"Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes."
-Walt Whitman
 

The possibility of rational debate and discussion in human affairs remains a stubborn and persistent ideal. This is, I suspect, mainly because we have a lot riding on it. Without the possibility of rational debate and discussion, it would be close to impossible to work in groups, and for the groups to be productive, to get stuff done. Deliberative processes would also be unworkable; and would in fact not exist.  Parliaments and similar legislative assemblies – allegedly the great deliberative forums of liberal constitutional democracy – would not function without some attempt to promote rational debate and discussion. Democracy itself celebrates the ideal. The whole idea of  a public sphere rests on the notion that citizens can meet in the virtual public square-- constituted today by the mass media system in each country– and exchange views on the great public issues of the day, from which process-informed public opinion might emerge, and so on.

Yet, the ideal of rational debate and discussion requires (a) certain personal disciplines, and these disciplines are not easy to practice; and (b) personality traits that are not evenly distributed within any population.

Quote of the Week: Mary Midgley

Sina Odugbemi's picture

"There is this increasing faith that physical science is the answer to all our terrible questions. I want to fight against the whole idea that it is where you go to for enlightenment.”

- Mary Midgley, an English moral philosopher, who strongly opposes reductionism and scientism and any attempts to make science a substitute for the humanities. She is well-known for her work on science, ethics and animal rights.

Which is a Threat to Your Mental Health, Nationalism or Patriotism?

Sina Odugbemi's picture

Current tensions in different regions of the world have re-introduced old political concepts to dinner table, water cooler, or coffee break conversations, often with vaporous imprecision. I refer to nationalism and patriotism.  Which one is a good thing? Is nationalism dangerous while patriotism is good?

For instance, I was reading a column by Philip Stephens of the Financial Times only last week (See ‘The perils of Asia’s nationalist power game’) and he wrote this:

What’s wrong with nationalism, a friend in Tokyo asked me the other day? Well, there is much to be said for patriotism. As for nationalism, the answer is found in the bloody pages of European history.

That got me thinking: is it the case that nationalism is bad and patriotism is good?

Quote of the Week: Michael Ignatieff

Sina Odugbemi's picture

“We are living through the slow decay of the two master narratives – conservative and progressive – that have defined political argument since 1945.”
 

- Michael Ignatieff, Canadian author, academic, and former politician. In addition to leading the Liberal Party and the Official Opposition of Canada from 2008 until 2011, he has held senior academic posts at the universities of Cambridge, Oxford, Harvard and Toronto.
 

Pages