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Why the Housing Crisis Won’t Get Fixed by Building Cheaper Homes

By | March 22, 2017

This time of year, the swallows return to Capistrano, and I return to my birthplace, San Francisco, for the city’s annual pre-budget finance conference. For the last few years I have kicked things off with an economic outlook for the coming year, replete with a discussion of risks. This being San Francisco, naturally, I had to talk about the high costs of housing as one …

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Why Scurvy Is Still a Snake in Mankind’s Nutritional Lost Paradise

By | March 21, 2017

At some time in the evolution of the human organism, the gene that had allowed the body to synthesize vitamin C mutated, and the liver enzyme responsible for the synthesis ceased to work. The change had no known negative effect in humans, except when diets were restricted and fresh food was not readily available, as in famines, sieges, sea voyages, and polar explorations.
Then …

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Why Extreme Moderation Is the Vital Alternative to Political Polarization

By | March 20, 2017

Last month, the Bulgarian-French intellectual Tzvetan Todorov died. A scholar on the history of thought, his writings influenced fields as disparate as anthropology, literary criticism, and history. His death was, of course, tragic for family and friends: Stricken by Parkinson’s, he was gone more suddenly than any of us had anticipated. But it was also tragic for readers and citizens who had never met him. …

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No One Wants to Wear the “Fascist” Label, Even If It Fits

By | March 15, 2017

Western democracy may be facing its biggest challenge since 1945. It’s easy to find parallels between Donald Trump, the UK Independence Party (UKIP), the French National Front, the Alternativ für Deutschland (Alternative for Germany–AfD), and many similar movements and the fascist and national socialist movements of the interwar years. Racism, extreme hostility to the left, and Trump’s hints that he might not have accepted a …

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Why the Gilden Age Lives on in Manhattan’s Historic Dream Homes

By | March 14, 2017

Sixty-six floors above Midtown Manhattan, Donald J. Trump lives in a fantasy world copied from the French royalty of the 18th century. His residence, an enormous three-story penthouse that has been valued at more than $100 million, embodies his tastes and expresses his understanding of himself. With floor-to-ceiling windows that look out onto parts of his real estate and licensing empire, the penthouse was apparently …

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A Government That Pushes Paranoia and Falsehoods May Undermine Its Own Legitimacy

By | March 13, 2017

“Nothing is more surprising,” wrote David Hume in his 1758 First Principles of Government, than “the easiness with which the many are governed by the few.”
What explains this surprising easiness? Trust is at the heart of the answer. Hume believed that since the people always outnumber their leaders (and thus retain the power of “force”), the legitimacy of all government rests merely “on opinion.” …

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How a Burned-Out Basketball Coach Rebounded in Ireland by Learning to Love a Lost Cause

By | March 8, 2017

“Time out!” I yelled.
It was something I said a lot that year, in the midst of a losing streak that would culminate in a dead last place finish. This was in the Irish Super League—perhaps the lowest level of pro basketball in the world—and I was the coach of the Tralee Tigers.
My team gathered around me on the bench, and I wondered for an …

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In the Era of the On-Demand Economy, Government Must Consider Both What Citizens Want and What They Can Contribute

By | March 7, 2017

In the 20th century, the legitimacy of governments was based almost solely on the rule of law and the right to vote.
In the democratic upheaval of the 21st century, citizens still want the protection of laws and the ability to choose representatives, but those powers may no longer be enough to make government legitimate in the eyes of the people. In the future, governments may …

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If You Want to Rule Brazil, Draw Power from the Streets

By | March 7, 2017

Last August, Brazil’s leftist President Dilma Rousseff was forced to step down from office after the nation’s senate voted to impeach her. But Rousseff’s true downfall came months earlier, when record numbers of Brazilians turned out in street protests to demand her resignation.
The deeply unpopular Rousseff wasn’t the first Brazilian leader, and likely won’t be the last, to lose her legitimacy after millions of people …

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Why Will Donald Trump Hate the Presidency? Because He Doesn’t Understand the Difference Between Strength and Power.

By | March 6, 2017

Donald Trump entered politics as a self-proclaimed “strong leader.” He castigated his supposedly tepid predecessor for lacking necessary strength. Trump, by contrast, would sweep away the establishment and remake America. But Trump quickly faced opposition from, among others, protesters, federal judges, career civil servants, and states. His executive order on immigration, for example, which temporarily banned all travel to the United States from seven majority …