By Eric E. Hack, Walden University
American society has benefited in odd ways from the “War on Drugs.” Middle-class, middle-aged, suburbanite property owners clearly feel safer knowing the American government is willing to throw the book at outsiders in possession of small amounts of marijuana. I suppose that level of security and the peace of mind is an indicator of success in the fight against drugs. It allows said people the time to focus on winning yard of the month. Prison populations have exploded as a result of the “war,” creating a need for more prisons, which has helped establish the prison industrial complex (HRW, 2000; Stohr, Walsh, & Hemmens, 2013). A complex that is predominantly privatized, meaning incarcerating people is the business and, therefore, people must be incarcerated in order for the business to stay profitable. The federal government has profited from the “war” by tapping into the drug trade in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War and Southwest Asia during the War on Terror in order to finance black operations around the world, by not destroying the drugs (namely heroine) but selling the drugs (McCoy, 2003; Weiner, 2008). This exploitation of the drug market has benefited the American tax payers by reducing the amount of the bill they pick up. Additionally, the federal government has profited immensely in South America from the “war” by partnering with specific cartels and dictators to allocate power and the flow of money into the correct and just pockets of the very U.S. organizations sworn to defeat these groups (Weiner, 2008; Villar & Cottle, 2011). Continue reading
By Nayef Al-Rodhan (@SustainHistory), University of Oxford[i]
Studies of human behavior and psychology have received extensive attention in public policy. Economists, social theorists and philosophers have long analyzed the incentives of human actions, decision making, rationality, motivation, and other cognitive processes. More recently, the study of happiness furthered the debate in public policy, as many governments brought up the necessity for new measures of social progress. The discussion was bolstered when the UN passed a critical resolution in July 2011 inviting member countries to measure the happiness of their people as a tool to help guide public policies. It was also hoped that discussions about happiness would serve to refine the wider debate about the UN Sustainable Development Goals for 2015-2030 and the standards for measuring and understanding well-being. The World Happiness Report, a recent initiative, attempts to analyze and rate happiness as an indicator to track social progress.
By Charleen Chiong, Oxford University
Singapore’s education system attracts great interest from educationalists all over the world. Despite being a relatively small, young country with few natural resources, Singapore – also popularly called the ‘Lion City’ by its politicians and people – has consistently remained amongst the top performers since it joined the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) tests in 2009. The Singapore system has, however, faced public criticism that academic drills and rote-learning are the key elements responsible for its success. As criticality and creativity are increasingly seen as crucial for the 21st-century workplace, how are Singapore’s policymakers preparing students to succeed in changing conditions?
The first issue of the year is now out in print! This means you have a little time to read and download it free here–until the end of April. This issue includes:
Gendered diffusion on gendered issues: the case of human trafficking: By Vanessa Bouché and Dana E. Wittmer
High profile rape trials and policy advocacy: By Kristine Coulter and David S. Meyer
Who saw it coming? The UK’s great financial crisis: By Andrew Hindmoor and Allan McConnell
Intergovernmental climate change mitigation policies: theory and outcomes: By Hal T. Nelson, Adam Rose, Dan Wei, Thomas Peterson, and Jeffrey Wennberg
Policy beyond politics? Public opinion, party politics and the French pro-nuclear energy policy: By Sylvain Brouard and Isabelle Guinaudeau
By David Hollanders, University of Amsterdam
For all their varieties, a common feature of pension reforms in the last decades has been the shifting of risks from employers to employees. Closely accompanying this shift is a discussion of the desirability to shift control to employees as well, that is, to increase individual choice in pension plans at the possible expense of collective solidarity and risk sharing. This discussion would better be informed by behavioral economic research that has focused on pension plan participants’ choice behavior. Three main conclusions are presented here. Together, they suggest that a majority of people are unable or unmotivated, or both, to choose. The implication for pension plan design is that a well-designed default option should be available.
(1) CHOICES ARE INFLUENCED BY FRAMING
Often people react to a choice-problem differently depending on how it is presented. This is called a framing effect if non-essential changes in presentation—not affecting the underlying choice in substance—leads to substantial differences in outcomes. Recent empirical research has focused on framing effects in the pension domain. It could be argued a priori that framing effects do not occur in those domains that involve large monetary stakes and that consequently ‘penalize’ framing effects dearly. This assumption is however not confirmed by recent research. The main outcome, on the contrary, is that framing effects abound in the pension domain. Continue reading
By Jian Feng (@1instathink), Instathink
Education in Singapore has traditionally been focused on excellence, with an emphasis on mathematics and science and students performing well on international tests. Having a focus on excellence based on Confucian1 ethics like hard work is desirable in a country that has to rely on developing its human capital to maintain competitiveness. However, it should be asked: Is there an unforeseen and undesirable cost to it? According to a news report,2 total household expenditures on private tuition rose to S$1.1 billion in 2014. It might be asked if the notion of inequalities might be compounded by the differences in time and type of education students receive outside of the formal education system. For those who can afford it, more individualised education is available, which helps those receiving it do better academically than they might have otherwise. But, for those who cannot afford it, the opportunity to do better may be lost, which may play a role in perpetuating inequalities and uneven starting grounds. Also, unnecessary burdens may be placed on students to do better.
Fortunately, changes are being made in the education system based on feedback from the wider discourse that may reduce burdens on students. These include removing precise scoring for students in primary levels, focusing more on developing students’ curiosity and love for learning,3 creating the opportunities for students to develop their talents in holistic areas such as art and music, and supporting them socio-emotionally to allow them to develop their potential. This reflects a balance between the capitalistic goals of educational excellence and more holistic goals. Continue reading
By Alessandra Cepparulo, Francesca Gastaldi, Luisa Giuriato, & Agnese Sacchi of IDEAS
The importance of fiscal forecasting
The importance of public finance control has increased over time, as many developed countries are currently facing record debt and deficit levels associated with structural economic imbalances. These circumstances enhance the necessity of sound institutional system growth and highlight the need to reinforce budgetary procedures. But, no procedure is effective without reliable fiscal forecasts. Fiscal forecasts are, in fact, the main signals relied upon by forward-looking private agents, forecasters and analysts and for implementing fiscal discipline under domestic and supranational fiscal rules, such as the Stability and Growth Pact for Economic and Monetary Union countries.
Unfortunately, forecast errors in budgetary variables are frequent. When systematic, they are a source of concern, as they signal misconduct in fiscal policymaking, undermine the government’s credibility and compromise long-term fiscal sustainability. In this respect, Italy shows a tendency towards biased forecasts: since 2000, the country’s actual deficit has systematically deviated from its planned value, with average variations of about 10% of the target value (Figure 1). Even though a large and growing literature has analysed the nature and the causes of errors in fiscal forecasting – mainly by comparing aggregate revenues, expenditures and budget balances in different countries – little attention has been paid to the forecasts of single budgetary lines and the detailed modelling of the different stages of the budget process. Continue reading
By Paul M. Heywood (@pmheywood) & Jonathan Rose, University of Nottingham
The World Economic Forum estimates the cost of corruption to be more than 5% of global GDP (US $2.6 trillion), and the World Bank believes over $1 trillion is paid in bribes each year. Of course, given the secretive nature of corrupt exchanges, we cannot know the true value of how much is actually lost, but there can be little doubt that corruption represents a major cost to the public. Given such staggering numbers, it is understandable that both academics and policymakers would want to develop measures of corruption. These measures aim to show how much corruption exists in the world and where it occurs, and ultimately provide guidance about how to stop it. Unfortunately, currently available measures of corruption are beset by conceptual, methodological, or political problems (or a combination of all three) that constrain their utility as a guide to developing effective anti-corruption policies. Continue reading
Book Review By Jackie Ohlin, University of Technology, Sydney
This is a vitally important book for social scientists and all concerned with being open to new ways of addressing complex issues within our communities. It examines our capacity, as individuals and together, to bring about transformational change – not any change, mind you, but the kind that is required to deal with truly ‘wicked’ problems – the kind that, by definition, have no solution. In modelling transformational change, authors Valerie A. Brown and John A. Harris suggest that we need to be encouraged to see how small changes can lead to large, unpredictable effects across a whole system (including human and natural systems). They also propose that we need to recognize that, through transformational change, the future is not going to be the same as the past. This seems to me to be a critical realization, because we might desire our brand of change to be controlled, supportive (of our actions), and predictable, and we should acknowledge that notion is absurd. On reading this book, one sense I have is that envisioning the scope of some transformational change may require a long lens. In social terms, for example, we could consider how transformational change has wrought the role and contribution of people with a disability now compared with their invisibility in society only a few years ago. Continue reading
Book Review By Gergana Yankova-Dimova, University of Cambridge
The book “The New Regulatory Space” delivers a masterfully well-reasoned defense of regulation. The regulatory space is analyzed with regard to four systems of authority–the market, democratic politics, the law, and social norms. The book outlines and defends the contributions of the regulatory space to each of them. The market and the regulatory space embrace, because the regulator represents missing interests and voices in the market and promulgates societal goals that extend beyond the market. The regulatory space corrects democratic politics in the cases where the electors are incompetent, the issues are not contentious and voices do not count equally. Societal goals might be better achieved through regulation rather than the law, because regulation offers more opportunities for amicable settlement against the more adversarial legal settlements and because regulators are better equipped to adjudicate over complex issues grounded in the natural sciences. Finally, regulation offers a remedy for the cases when societal norms are weakened and society becomes less coordinated and predictable.