Political Thought

How Economists Routinely Get It Wrong on High Speed Rail

By Robert Cruickshank

The main purpose of any transportation project is to help people get to where they want to go. Cost should be a subsidiary factor in the planning of any transportation project. Unfortunately, in the 30 years since right-wing ideology became politically ascendant, keeping costs down so that rich people didn't have to pay higher taxes started taking precedence over building effective transportation projects. This may have been tenable as long as oil prices remained low. But once prices began rising again, it was clear that building electric passenger trains was a top priority for modern societies.

Whom Do You Trust?

By Steve Hochstadt

Whom do you trust? Many Americans might say, "Nobody." What they mean is that they don't trust any "official" sources of information. They listen attentively, however, to the crackpots of alarm. The ironic result, in an age of overwhelming access to information, is that many Americans are not only ignorant, but they believe in fairy tales.

Last week I wrote about how the belief of some Americans that their biggest enemy is their own government has increased gun sales. Many other writers have picked up this theme recently, as more and more right-wingers compare the US government to Nazis and Communists, claiming they need assault weapons for protection from tyranny at home.

Freedom vs. Gun Control: An Absurd Dichotomy

By Joel A. Harrison, PhD, MPH

Since the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut the news and internet has been abuzz with some variant of "Freedom vs. Gun Control," as if no reasonable rational alternative exists beyond this absolute dichotomy. In the mix is always the Second Amendment: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." The Second Amendment has been interpreted both as a right to individual self-defense and, by some, as a check on government, i.e. a right to use force to overthrow a "tyrannical" government.

Red State, Blue State

By Steve Hochstadt

I just spent a weekend in Charleston, South Carolina, giving a talk about my research on Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany who spent the war in Shanghai. I was barely a mile from Fort Sumter, where the Civil War began.

South Carolina is one of the reddest states, giving 55 percent of its votes to Romney. Now I'm back at home in Illinois, one of the bluer states, so safe for Democrats that Obama did not even campaign in his home state. Red state, blue state - what's the difference?

Women Invent a Better World

By John MacMurray

One lesson this past election taught us was that there are a lot of men in this country who seem to think that women, collectively and individually, are not very smart.

Not smart enough to be hold public office, not smart enough to have a career without a man's help, and not even smart enough to know how their own bodies work unless men explain it to them.

This being their case, let's walk these gentlemen through an entire day where they won't have to have anything to do with stuff invented by "gur-ruls."

Lincoln, Health Reform, and the Hard Work of Politics

By Anthony Wright

The new movie Lincoln, remarkable in so many ways, is not primarily about Civil War re-enactments, an unlikely election campaign, or a shocking assassination, but about the more mundane work of politics, policy, and passing legislation.

If nothing else, it reminds those of us who work in politics that merely being right is often not enough to make progress. There is perhaps no more clear-cut moral issue than the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery. But passing the amendment took power and persuasion, personality and perseverance.