Archive for February, 2009

The usefulness of ideology

February 20, 2009

Everybody has an ideology, but some ideologies are more inflexible than others.  Why might a political party want to have an ideology that reduces its flexibility?

In California, the legislature needs a 2/3 majority to pass a budget.  With the Republicans at just over 1/3 of the seats, they have a lot of power, if they can remain united.  Ideology provides a way to support this unity (though not an infallible one).  Party members can rally behind the banner of no tax increases – in game-theoretic terms, it serves as a focal point, a strategy that is easy to coordinate on.  Without it, the business of obstructing government would be a lot harder.

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Fear and Despair in the United Kingdom

February 10, 2009

I was back in the U.K. for a couple of weeks recently.  BBC news has a graphic labelled ‘U.K. Recession’, in a style reminiscent of Soviet art of the 20’s.  Except that instead of everything leading up to a glorious future, it is all pointing down, down, down.  London pubs and restaurants are still crowded (at least on a Friday night), but with Iceland having collapsed and Ireland looking shaky, talk of British bankruptcy has moved into acceptable discourse.  An optimist would say that the mood was fearful, for fear still admits the possibility that things will turn out alright.  But it is rapidly slipping towards despair.

There was a snowstorm shortly before I was due to leave, which shut down transportation in London and the South-East.  Some people complained – why did everything come to a standstill, when the snow had long been forecasted?  Whose head should roll?  But most accepted it, realizing that when everything is collapsing anyway, a day or two off work or school will not make any difference.  So you might as well make a snowman, go sledding, or just watch the flakes come down from inside a warm house.  Perhaps these are the first steps from fear through despair towards acceptance, in stages of economic grief.