Tag Archives: Government

A world-class long jump to a more social Europe

By Patricia Scherer – Who would not like to go to a free public school in Finland or buy their groceries at a local cooperative in Italy?

Who would not want to receive quality community-based support for their grandparent suffering from dementia in some remote rural village, following the Swedish model?

Which working parent would not want to have access to all-day childcare, as in France?

And breathe in fresh air in a buzzling downtown, is the case in car-free Ljubljana, the Slovenian capital?

Who would refuse the support, rather than stigmatization, that the Danish flexicurity system provides to laid-off workers?

Would you not want to vote electronically from home, as in Estonia?

Or take part in the Irish citizens’ assembly to decide on legal and policy issues facing the society you live in today?

All that is Europe; all those are benchmarks to aspire to. more> https://goo.gl/qXmAUX

What a State-Owned Bank Can Do for New Jersey

By Ellen Brown – Consider the possibilities, for example, for funding infrastructure. Like most states today, New Jersey suffers from serious budget problems, limiting its ability to make needed improvements. By funding infrastructure through its own bank, the state can cut infrastructure costs roughly in half, since 50 percent of the cost of infrastructure, on average, is financing.

Again, a state-owned bank can do this by leveraging its capital, with any shortfall covered very cheaply in the wholesale markets. In effect, the state can borrow at bankers’ rates of 1 percent or less, rather than at market rates of 4 to 6 percent for taxable infrastructure bonds (not to mention the roughly 12 percent return expected by private equity investors).  The state can borrow at 1 percent and turn a profit even if it lends for local development at only 2 percent—one-half to two-thirds below bond market rates.

That is the rate at which North Dakota lends for infrastructure. In 2015, the state legislature established a BND Infrastructure Loan Fund program that made $150 million available to local communities for a wide variety of infrastructure needs. These loans have a 2 percent fixed interest rate and a term of up to 30 years; and the 2 percent goes back to the State of North Dakota, so it’s a win-win-win for local residents.

The BND is able to make these cheap loans while still turning a tidy profit because its costs are very low: no exorbitantly-paid executives; no bonuses, fees, or commissions; very low borrowing costs; no need for multiple branch offices; no FDIC insurance premiums; no private shareholders. Profits are recycled back into the bank, the state and the community. more> https://goo.gl/QrGLBD

Related>

Raising good robots

We already have a way to teach morals to alien intelligences: it’s called parenting. Can we apply the same methods to robots?
By Regina Rini – Philosophers and computer scientists alike tend to focus on the difficulty of implementing subtle human morality in literal-minded machines. But there’s another problem, one that really ought to come first. It’s the question of whether we ought to try to impose our own morality on intelligent machines at all. In fact, I’d argue that doing so is likely to be counterproductive, and even unethical. The real problem of robot morality is not the robots, but us.

Can we handle sharing the world with a new type of moral creature?

We like to imagine that artificial intelligence (AI) will be similar to humans, because we are the only advanced intelligence we know. But we are probably wrong. If and when AI appears, it will probably be quite unlike us. It might not reason the way we do, and we could have difficulty understanding its choices.

Plato’s student Aristotle disagreed. He thought that each sort of thing in the world – squirrels, musical instruments, humans – has a distinct nature, and the best way for each thing to be is a reflection of its own particular nature.

‘Morality’ is a way of describing the best way for humans to be, and it grows out of our human nature. For Aristotle, unlike Plato, morality is something about us, not something outside us to which we must conform. Moral education, then, was about training children to develop abilities already in their nature. more> https://goo.gl/cVSt0W

Related>

Why Most Government Reform Plans Die

BOOK REVIEW

Working With Culture: the Way the Job Gets Done In Public Programs, Author: Anne Khademian.

By Howard Risher – “Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast.” That quote is credited to the father of modern management, Peter Drucker. He was saying that leaders need to understand and address their organization’s culture in their planning.

Writers tell us that culture encompasses the values, beliefs, underlying assumptions, attitudes, and behaviors shared by a group of people. It sets forth the rules—unspoken and unwritten—for working together.

It’s relevant to reform because it governs behavior in work groups. It influences virtually every interaction of people in performing their jobs. It affects the time they start work, their tolerance for sexist comments, the way they deal with customers—everything.

Culture plays an important role in every successful organization. More than a few writers have argued that it would be great if government could develop a performance culture. That’s one where employees are committed to achieving results. Employees in high performing companies are energized by the culture. It’s reinforced by their reward and recognition practices. more> https://goo.gl/AiEOKL

Want to strengthen democracy? Exercise your freedom of religion

By Steven Paulikas – If Washington is correct, then the long-term decline of religious participation in America and other democratic countries is one of the root causes for the type of political decay we are experiencing—and the absence of a “national morality” is at the core of this. The first American president was not a religious zealot, but he nonetheless saw religious practice as an essential act of citizenship, especially among those of “refined education.”

There is a multitude of good reasons why Americans are deserting the faith institutions their forebears built, not the least of which is the litany of inexcusable abuses many have suffered in the name of religion. (And to be sure, not every faith group is dedicated to upholding peace and common human dignity.)

But the scale of exodus leaves one to wonder if the abandonment of “organized” religion is not something akin to the type of apathy that led left-leaning people like me to become complacent about our political institutions.

After all, the American state is guilty of just as many sins as religion, and yet there is no movement to abandon our institutions of democracy. more> https://goo.gl/Plgl03

America Needs the World

The U.S. is heading toward a trade war it cannot win.
By Tavis Jules – President Donald Trump ended his address to a joint session of Congress by saying “My job is not to represent the world. My job is to represent the United States of America.”

Trump’s job as de facto representative of the world is a byproduct of post-World War II era restructuring that ushered in over seventy years of American dominance and greatness while allowing America to significantly influence and shape educational development priorities, agendas and directives of global institutions such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and World Trade Organization.

Since the 1980s, the mantra of open markets has equated to open educational systems in the name of democratic governance and transition. In line with Washington Consensus principles of deregulated labor markets, privatization of nationalized industries, and openness to trade under the banner of ‘saving’ national education and preparing a new generation of global workers to exploit their untapped capital, governments have been slowly opening their educational markets to all forms of trade and services.

These neoliberal policies crystallized in 1995 when the U.S.-led WTO in its General Agreement on Trade in Services identified education as one of 12 tradable services, under the movement of natural persons. Thus, education became subjected to global trade and commercial rules.

Trump’s congressional message of not knowing the full scope of what his job is or should be, highlights the narrowness which is fed through his policy advisers, who too often apply established models to current circumstances, rather than considering the radical reinterpretations of the issues.

In today’s overly interconnected world, the U.S. is heading towards a trade war it cannot win; America needs the world, but the world does not need America when the emerging and frontier markets show such promise. more> https://goo.gl/6Tyf03

Updates from Chicago Booth

Can we save retirement?
What the US and other countries can learn about social security reform
By Alex Verkhivker – When it comes to pension crises, American workers are not alone. In the United Kingdom, many of the country’s almost 6,000 employer-sponsored, defined-benefit programs are underfunded.

In Greece, Poland, and across the European continent, a demographic mismatch means there are not enough incoming taxes to fund promised payouts.

Privatization is often suggested as a solution to pension crises. Rather than have governments or employers fund workers’ retirements, why not give retirees more control over funding their retirements, with private individual accounts?

Many critics of privatization are quick to point to Chile as a cautionary tale. The Chilean government privatized its pension system in 1980, its secretary of labor and social security inspired by Milton Friedman’s book Capitalism and Freedom.

In Mexico, money is automatically deducted from workers’ wages and placed in individual accounts. Then individuals choose from a menu of assets in which to invest and work through regulated, professional money managers, each of which offers a single investment product.

But competition did not materialize as the government had hoped it would. Hastings, Hortaçsu, and Syverson looked at where investors lived, which fund managers they invested with, how much money they saved—and earned after fees. They find that while many people expected competition to drive down costs, the average asset-weighted load was a steep 23 percent, and balance fees were another 0.63 percent. Those fees ate away—a lot—at returns. more> https://goo.gl/usSmNP

Related>

What Is Single-Payer Healthcare and Why Is It So Popular?

By Alicia Adamczyk – Single payer—or Medicare for All, as it’s sometimes referred to in the U.S.—is a system in which all healthcare financing is provided by one entity, such as (but not always) the federal government.

All residents receive core coverage regardless of income, occupation, or health status.

The U.S. is one of the only countries in the developed world that does not have such a system in place, but in other countries like Canada and England, the care itself is still provided by private organizations and doctors. But that care—everything from hospital visits to prescription drugs to mental health care—is covered for all residents by the state, via taxes determined by the state. In other words, public financing pays for private care.

Healthcare financing in the U.S. is an often complicated web of hospitals, doctors, and other care providers, middlemen like insurance and pharmaceutical companies, and public programs like Medicaid, Medicare, and state-run marketplaces. As many Americans know, it’s incredibly confusing and expensive for most parties involved.

According to Friedman’s report, Americans spend nearly four times as much on billing and insurance-related activities as doctors in Ontario do, where a single entity is in charge of billing and repayments. more> https://goo.gl/hdH62x

The Path to Better Management of Government’s Huge Programs

By Alan Balutis, Dan Chenok, Greg Giddens, Stan Soloway and Jim Williams – The pace of technology is more rapid today. Government, like the commercial sector, has changed its approach to the concept of programs, shifting to a model in which modular steps and agile processes have largely displaced traditional, large-scale “waterfall” strategies. Still, the need for strong program management skills remains central to success.

But, outside of the Department of Defense and a few civilian agencies, program management is not ‘institutionalized’ as an established management discipline.”

  • First, we believe there needs to a clear line of leadership. Program management is a core component of agency success and should be treated and embraced as such.
  • Second, we need to establish clarity of responsibility and accountability for the delivery of program results.
  • Third, with the establishment under PMIAA (Program Management Improvement and Accountability Act) of the program management career field, we must move quickly to design and implement a consistent training and professional development process for program managers, as well as a clear and contemporary set of requirements for hiring them.
  • Change management, a skill critical to driving success in managing complex programs involving multiple stakeholders, should be a key element of this curriculum.
  • Fourth, to help program managers continue to grow and learn, OMB (Office of Management and Budget) should ensure that the Program Management Policy Council created by the statute is set up effectively.

With these building blocks in place, agencies can zero in on what is most important: performance. Programs fail for many reasons, including inadequate governance, meaningless metrics, and insufficient capacity for or willingness to change. Strong program management can help overcome each of those barriers; without it, they are likely to endure. more> https://goo.gl/PHG67A

Related>

Are human rights anything more than legal conventions?

BOOK REVIEW

Human Rights: From Morality to Law, Author: John Tasioulas.
The Law of Peoples, Author: John Rawls.

By John Tasioulas – Philosophers have debated the nature of human rights since at least the 12th century, often under the name of ‘natural rights’. These natural rights were supposed to be possessed by everyone and discoverable with the aid of our ordinary powers of reason (our ‘natural reason’), as opposed to rights established by law or disclosed through divine revelation.

Since the middle of the previous century an elaborate architecture of human rights law has emerged at the international, regional and domestic levels, one that is effective to wildly varying degrees. But, ultimately, this legalistic approach is unsatisfactory.

To begin with, the law does not always bind all those we believe should abide by human rights. For example, some states have not ratified human-rights treaties, or have ratified them subject to wide-ranging exceptions (‘reservations’) that blunt their critical edge. A country such as Saudi Arabia can have a seat on the UN Human Rights Council yet persist in severe forms of gender discrimination.

Moreover, the international law of human rights, like international law generally, almost exclusively binds states. Yet many believe that non-state agents, such as corporations, whose revenues in some instances exceed the GDP of all but the wealthiest nations, also bear grave human-rights responsibilities.

Whether I’m right or not, I am convinced that we cannot sustain our commitment to human rights on the cheap, by invoking only the law or the assumptions of our liberal democratic culture. more> https://goo.gl/AXTYg3