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TO MAKE GOOD POLICY you should have at least a vague notion of what you’re talking about. But when it comes to perhaps the biggest reform proposal around, we just don’t. I’m talking about a Universal Basic Income (UBI), a system of unconditional cash payments to everybody in a given jurisdiction.
COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) has been simultaneously good and bad for humanity’s struggle to limit global warming. So far, it’s hard to say what the net balance will be. But the European Union could tilt it positive, if it so chooses.
THE “right of the people peaceably to assemble,” as the US constitution’s first amendment calls it, is one of the pillars of liberty. That’s why all liberal democracies guarantee and protect it in some form. But is this right absolute? Could there be, in well-defined cases, a liberal case for abridging it?
LET NO ONE say that Angela Merkel isn’t onto Vladimir Putin’s dirty tricks and cynicism. As a former East German, the chancellor speaks Russian just as the Russian president, a former KGB officer stationed in Dresden, is fluent in German. They’ve known each other for decades. She still recalls vividly his attempt during a visit in 2007 to intimidate her, a known cynophobe, by letting his black Labrador Koni sniff her.
THE EVIDENCE IS IN: At least during the first wave of COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019), countries with female leaders suffered far lower death rates than comparable nations led by men. This doesn’t mean that the trend will necessarily persist in a second or third wave. Nor does it imply that women are also better leaders when it comes to whatever else governments find themselves doing, from reforming labor markets to waging war. But it’s worth pondering nonetheless.
IT’S HARD TO THINK of anything more ominous than Russian President Vladimir Putin offering you his “assistance” so you can “resolve the problems” that are keeping you busy. But that’s what Putin has just promised to Alexander Lukashenko, the embattled and apparently fading dictator of Belarus.
PUNDITS have recently proclaimed “the end” — or exposed “the myth” — of British exceptionalism. It’s hard for Brits to keep seeing themselves as uniquely heroic while bungling their response to a pandemic, fumbling through Brexit and literally boxing up statues of national idols to save them from being defaced.
EVERY NOW AND THEN during this extraordinary year, it’s good to pause and behold with awe how much has already changed, and how fast. Take Germany. For the past decade, most of the world, including me, has been berating those German tightwads to get over their balanced-budget fetish and spend, spend, spend. Then a pandemic comes along, and suddenly they do just what we’ve been asking for.
IN 416 BCE a mighty army from Athens, the superpower of the day, showed up on the small and neutral island of Melos in the Aegean Sea. The Athenians told the Melians to submit and pay tribute or be obliterated. Stunned, the Melians appealed to morality, justice, law, even the gods. There’s been a misunderstanding, the Athenians replied: You simply have a choice between doing as you’re told and being destroyed, so please stop wasting our time. This isn’t fair, the Melians insisted.
MANY THINGS divide the 27 member states of the European Union these days, but one controversy in particular sums up the bloc’s fundamental dilemma. It’s over “enlargement,” and specifically whether to formally start accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania. Seething below the surface is the question of whether the EU can, in Eurocrat jargon, keep “widening” and “deepening” at the same time.