The Federal shutdown may be the most striking evidence to support claims that America’s political system is broken, but it is far from the only example. Writing in Governance, acclaimed political scientists Norman Ornstein and Jared Diamond explore if tribalism is at the heart of the problem, or if the U.S. is facing a far greater political crisis.
“The state of our overall political process as the most dysfunctional I have seen in over 44 years of watching Washington and American politics up close,” writes Norman Ornstein, from the American Enterprise Institute. “If we are not in the most dysfunctional period in our history, we are certainly in the top five.”
American political history has recorded many inept and ineffectual congresses, from the scandals of the 1970′s to the divided house of the 1860′s, so what makes the 112th and 113th congresses any different? Ornstein argues that the rise in political extremism, manifested in open tribalism, is to blame.
From acts seeking to tighten the rules over gun ownership, to commissions established to tackle America’s debt problem, the list of legislation that has been sunk by tribalism continues to grow into President Obama’s second term.
“Political dysfunction has serious consequences for the health, well-being, and future prospects for the country that go well beyond gridlock or political gamesmanship,” concluded Ornstein. “American history suggests that these problems are cyclical, that eventually we will come out of it and restore a modicum of problem-solving rationality. But ‘eventually’ does not mean anytime soon.”
In contrast, Jared Diamond, writing from the University of California, proposes that the United States is facing four existential threats to its democratic system.
“Our form of government is a big part of the explanation why the United States has become the richest and most powerful country in the world,” said Diamond. “Hence, an undermining of democratic processes in the United States means throwing away one of our biggest advantages.”
Diamond argues that political compromise has been deteriorating in recent decades, that restrictions on voting are reversing the positive historical trend of political enfranchisement, that the gap between rich and poor continues to grow, and that public spending by the government In areas such as education is declining.
“Large segments of the American populace deride government investment as ‘socialism,’ but it is not socialism. On the contrary, it is one of the longest established functions of government,” said Diamond.
Globalization has made the world a better and more equal place for many more people than was the case a few decades ago. However, it has also created two well-defined worlds of poor countries and wealthy nations, according to Vanesa Jordá and José María Sarabia of the University of Cantabria in Spain. In an article published in Springer’s journal Applied Research in Quality of Life, they studied the distribution of well-being over the last wave of globalization between 1980 and 2011.
Well-being is generally described as the state of being happy, healthy or prosperous. The researchers used the UN Human Development Index as an indicator of quality of life. It offers a realistic perspective of the national levels of well-being of 130 countries, covering almost 90 percent of the world’s population. The Index also takes into account non-income dimensions such as education and health.
It shows that globalization has brought higher levels of development to more countries than was the case 30 years ago. However, the intensity by which well-being has increased differs across countries. This has created two well-defined clusters: one of least developed countries in especially Sub-Saharan Africa, and another of highly developed countries. At the same time, medium developed nations, such as China and India, have caught up with the advanced economies.
Overall, income inequality across countries has only been reduced by less than ten percent. Because of the so-called “poverty trap,” poorer countries struggle to rise to the top within the competitive common global market. Such efforts are hampered by difficulties in acquiring supplies and public services in least developed countries, which makes accessing global markets difficult. Foreign money is also invested heavily in oil exporting countries rather than in countries that do not export oil. Leader countries in each region of the world are able to overcome such obstacles, and experience higher levels of development compared with the nations around them.
The greatest decrease in disparities was found in education, which presents reductions of up to 64 percent. This is thanks to enhanced efforts towards education in developing countries over the last 40 years, especially in Asia. It is consistent with the belief that globalization promotes investment in education and helps countries to develop.
On the health side, no real catch-up or convergence was seen during the nineties. However, this is changing over the past ten years thanks to the expansion of health technology and medicines. Greater access to HIV/AIDS medications, tuberculosis treatment, and insecticide-treated mosquito nets to reduce cases of malaria are of benefit.
“The benefits of globalization have increased a number of aspects of well-being in most countries. However, these advantages have not reached a group of countries which are not able to overcome the human development barriers in health and income. They are being trapped in a low pole which shows little sign of their catching up or converging to the general trend,” conclude Jordá and Sarabia.
Reference: Jorda, V. & Sarabia, J.M. (2014). Well-being distribution in the globalization era: 30 years of convergence, Applied Research in Quality of Life, DOI 10.1007/s11482-014-9304-8
With growing evidence that a measurement of the buildup of calcium in coronary arteries can predict heart disease risk, Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute (LA BioMed) researchers found that the process of “calcium scoring” was also accurate in predicting the chances of dying of heart disease among adults with little or no known risk of heart disease.
Previous studies had found that calcium scores were effective in predicting heart disease among adults with known heart disease risk factors, such as hypertension, diabetes, dyslipidemia, current smoking or a family history of heart disease. The study conducted by LA BioMed researchers examined 5,593 adults with no known heart disease risk or with minimal risk of heart disease, who had undergone coronary artery calcium screening by non-contrast cardiac computed tomography from 1991-2011.
Normally, the coronary arteries don’t contain calcium. A buildup of calcium can narrow the arteries to the heart and lead to a heart attack. The screening process results in a calcium score indicating the amount of calcium in the plaque lining the walls of the coronary arteries.
Among the adults in the study, even those with low coronary artery calcium scores of 1-99 were 50% more likely to die of heart disease than adults with a calcium score of zero. Adults with moderate scores of 100-399 were 80% more likely to die from heart disease than those with a score of zero, and those with scores of 400 or more were three times more likely to die from heart disease, when compared to adults with no calcified plaque buildup, or a score of zero.
“This long-term study builds on previous research conducted at LA BioMed and other institutions that have proven the effectiveness of coronary artery calcium screening in predicting heart disease risks,” said Matthew J. Budoff, MD, one of the LA BioMed researchers who conducted the study. “Normally, calcium scoring is only recommended for patients with known heart disease risks. These findings suggest that calcium scoring can be an effective tool for assessing heart disease risks in adults with no known risk factors so that they can make the lifestyle and other changes that can help them avoid heart disease in the future.”
Dr. Budoff and Rine Nakanishi, MD, PhD, presented these findings at ACC.14, the annual scientific session of the American College of Cardiology in March, along with other researchers whose studies also found coronary artery calcium screening accurately predicted the risk of future heart disease.
As U.S. policymakers consider ways to ease prohibitions on marijuana, the public health approaches used to regulate alcohol and tobacco over the past century may provide valuable lessons, according to new RAND Corporation research.
Recent ballot initiatives that legalized marijuana in Colorado and Washington for recreational uses are unprecedented. The move raises important questions about how to best allow the production, sales and the use of marijuana while also working to reduce any related social ills.
A new study published online by the American Journal of Public Health outlines how regulations on alcohol and tobacco may provide guidance to policymakers concerned about the public health consequences of legalizing marijuana.
Among the issues outlined in the study are how to reduce youth access to marijuana, how to minimize drugged driving, how to curb dependence and addiction, how to restrict contaminants in marijuana products, and how to discourage the dual use of marijuana and alcohol, particularly in public settings.
“The lessons from the many decades of regulating alcohol and tobacco should offer some guidance to policymakers who are contemplating alternatives to marijuana prohibition and are interested in taking a public health approach,” said Beau Kilmer, co-director of the RAND Drug Policy Research center and a co-author of the paper. “Our goal here is to help policymakers understand the decisions they face, rather than debate whether legalization is good or bad.”
The analysis details some of the questions policymakers must confront when considering less-restrictive marijuana laws. Those questions include: Should vertical integration be allowed, or should there be separate licenses for growing, processing and selling marijuana? What rules are needed to make sure a marijuana product is safe? Should marijuana be sold in convenience stories or only in specialized venues? Should taxes be assessed per unit of weight, as a percent of the price or on some other basis, such as the amount of psychoactive ingredients in marijuana?
“Based on the national experience with alcohol and tobacco, it seems prudent from a public health perspective to open up the marijuana market slowly, with tight controls to test the waters and prevent commercialization too soon while still making it available to responsible adults,” said Rosalie Liccardo Pacula, co-director of the RAND Drug Policy Research Center and a co-author of the paper. “Of course, perspectives other than public health objectives might motivate policymakers to adopt different or fewer regulations. These are simply lessons learned from a public health perspective.”
The article discusses a variety of strategies used to control alcohol and tobacco that also may be appropriate for regulation of marijuana. Those include keeping prices artificially high to curb use, adopting a state-run monopoly on sales and distribution, limiting the types of products sold, restricting marketing efforts, and restricting consumption in public spaces.
Support for the study was provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Public Health Law Research Program and RAND. Other authors of the report are Alexander C. Wagenaar of the University of Florida College of Medicine, Frank J. Chaloupka of the University of Illinois, Chicago, and Jonathan P. Caulkins of the Heinz School of Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University.
Since 1989, the RAND Drug Policy Research Center has conducted research to help policymakers in the United States and throughout the world address issues involving alcohol and other drugs. In doing so, the center brings an objective and data-driven perspective to an often emotional and fractious policy arena.
ChattahBox Video Of The Day! WTC Attack from New York Police Helicopter
Advances in the technology frontier have resulted in major disruptions and transformations in the massive data processing infrastructures. For the past three decades,... Read more »
A new study finds that football helmets currently used on the field may do little to protect against hits to the side of the head, or rotational force, an often... Read more »
As U.S. policymakers consider ways to ease prohibitions on marijuana, the public health approaches used to regulate alcohol and tobacco over the past century may... Read more »
The popular TV series “CSI” is fiction, but every day, real-life investigators and forensic scientists collect and analyze evidence to determine what... Read more »
With growing evidence that a measurement of the buildup of calcium in coronary arteries can predict heart disease risk, Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute... Read more »
Visit a typical gym and you will encounter a highly standardized notion of what the human body should look like and how much it should weigh. This strictly controlled... Read more »
Controlling and bending light around an object so it appears invisible to the naked eye is the theory behind fictional invisibility cloaks. It may seem easy in Hollywood... Read more »
Globalization has made the world a better and more equal place for many more people than was the case a few decades ago. However, it has also created two well-defined... Read more »
Cognitive scientists may have produced the strongest evidence yet that humans have separate and distinct cognitive systems with which they can categorize, classify,... Read more »