Nexus »

For China’s One-Party Rulers, Legitimacy Flows from Prosperity and Competence

By | March 5, 2017

It is widely assumed in the West that legitimacy of a government comes from universal suffrage and multiparty competitive elections. Yet this assumption raises two issues: First, historically it is not true, as universal suffrage is a recent development. One can claim, for instance, that U.S. administrations only became truly legitimate in 1965, when African Americans were really allowed to vote. Furthermore, this practice is …

Nexus »

I Appreciate an L.A. Where I Can Rely on Transit and Walking, but a Backlash Threatens

By | March 4, 2017

Will Los Angeles finally admit it’s a metropolis? And if so, what kind of metropolis does it want to be?
That may seem a strange question, given the size of the L.A. region. But Los Angeles is of at least two minds. Yes, we’re home to world class universities, two pro football teams, the nation’s largest port complex by volume, the third-busiest airport in the U.S., …

Nexus »

Recent Protests Show That Americans Want More Government, Just Not This Government

By | March 3, 2017

Does Trump’s election and its aftermath mean that the U.S. government is experiencing a crisis of legitimacy? In order to address that question, we need to understand how citizens determine whether a government is legitimate or not. What qualities do citizens use to assess the trustworthiness of their governments? Zócalo Public Square asked these questions of political scientist Margaret Levi, who has investigated the conditions …

Poetry »

Carry a blanket to the park #poem

By | March 3, 2017

Fry an egg on the sidewalk
Burn your feet in the sand
The waves are massive, the arms get tan.
Watermelon is mealy; sorry, I don’t like it
Nor the cake made into a flag
Just give me strawberries and vanilla.
Ants all over the picnic
And food poisoning in the sun-hot salad
Honey, there’s sand all over your hand.
A float dressed up like the Statue of Liberty
Horses leave their droppings
As they follow …

What It Means to Be American »

In Atlanta, Honoring Two Civil War Generals Opens a Discussion on Race and History

By | March 3, 2017

One hundred and fifty years ago, my colorful East Atlanta neighborhood sat two miles outside of the city limits. By July 22, 1864, Union troops had set up their front lines along a trail that later became our main street. When the Confederates decided to bring the fight to their enemy, these quiet woods became the location of the devastating Battle of Atlanta, where some …

Connecting California »

The Tiny Town of Wasco, a Conduit for High-Speed Rail, Has a Lot to Offer

By | March 2, 2017

Dear Bay Area,
Welcome to Wasco.
You may never have heard of this small city of 25,000 in the San Joaquin Valley. You probably can’t pronounce it (it’s WAW-skoh).
But you and Wasco share a future.
You could be connected—at least temporarily—by the most expensive infrastructure project in state history.
Your Wasco connection is a byproduct of problems with high-speed rail’s plan for a San Francisco to Los …

Nexus »

The Best Form of Government Is Only as Strong as the People and Patterns of Behavior That Defend It

By | March 1, 2017

Among the many different forms of government, democracies are unique in the extent to which their stability depends on legitimacy—a belief on the part of the public that the system of government in the country has what Seymour Martin Lipset called “a moral title to rule.”
Moral assessments of political authority are always to some extent relative. People may not love their system of government, …

Nexus »

Even with Authority from the Almighty Above, Rulers Need Consensus from the People Below

By | March 1, 2017

Even if political power sometimes comes from the barrel of a gun, any government is more effective if it enjoys popular acceptance. Today, governments usually claim a popular mandate from an election, even if that election is fraudulent. In the past, however, elections played little role in bestowing legitimacy.
In the ancient world, rulers usually staked their legitimacy by proclaiming their divinity. The Persian emperor …

Inquiry »

How Governments Gain and Lose Legitimacy

By | March 1, 2017

This essay is part of an Inquiry, produced by the Berggruen Institute and Zócalo Public Square, on what makes a government legitimate.

Nexus »

Until Universities Track Improvement, We Won’t Know the Real Value of Higher Ed

It’s mid-winter, your college applications have been submitted, and you’ll soon be pacing the floor waiting to learn where you have been accepted. But will you emerge from college four years from now better off than when you started? Does college help turn students into scholars, with greater expertise, maturity, and cognitive abilities? How effective is college in helping students prepare for work or graduate …