The Most Popular Posts From the Politeia Archive
Over the weekend, I looked back at this blog’s most popular posts from 2011. I like to believe they were popular because readers found them interested and recommended them to their friends. But of course they may simply have been the most timely posts or the ones with the most titillating headlines. What are more interesting to me are the older posts that keep getting hits. So today I want to share the posts from more than a year ago that for whatever reason continue to attract readers.
“All governments lie,” the journalist I.F. Stone said. In this post, I looked at the history of U.S. government claims that it needs to keep secrets to function. I argued that while there are some genuine national security secrets, historically the government has used its ability to keep secrets to avoid responsibility for its actions. And although as a candidate Obama criticized the Bush administration for its use of government secrets privileges, as president he has made broad use of secrecy claims than Bush ever did.
“The Myth of a Post-Racial Society,” November 13, 2009
A year after Obama’s election, I argued that the election of a black president didn’t demonstrate that race was no longer an issue in the U.S. There is still a tremendous disparity between the economic conditions of whites and blacks in the U.S. In any case, the extent to which Obama’s skin color was a polarizing issue in the election demonstrated that as a nation we are hardly colorblind. Likewise it is hard to imagine that a centrist president like Obama would face accusations that he is a secretly Muslim foreign radical if he were white. As much as we might wish the issue were behind us, I argued that it’s important that we acknowledge the role of race in our society and talk about it openly.
“What’s Wrong With the Criminal Justice System?” February 14, 2010
When the so-called "Underwear Bomber" was arrested, the Obama administration was attacked for treating him as an ordinary criminal rather than treating him as an “enemy combatant” and subjecting him to military interrogations. But in this post I argued that the Constitution requires us to grant the same rights to everyone—even foreign nationals who are suspected of terrorism—and that in any case there’s no evidence that our regular criminal justice system doesn’t work just fine as it is.
“The Dangers of Corporate Democracy,” February 22, 2010
The title of this post was misleading. It’s not about how shareholders govern corporations, but rather about how the Citizens United decision enables corporations to sway elections. Corporations only real interest is their bottom line. When we allow them to participate in politics without limits, we risk having a democracy that serves only to increase that bottom line.
“How Multinational Corporations Dodge Taxes,” April 8, 2010
In this post I explained how companies like General Electric are able to pay no taxes at all, in spite having of billion dollars of revenue. I wrote about the issue again last year, when General Electric once again managed to avoid paying any taxes. Essentially, corporations like GE have found that it is cheaper to pay for lobbyists to push for tax loopholes and accountants to take advantage of them than to pay even the same tax rates that ordinary Americans do. That allows them to have the benefits of operating in the U.S.—and in many cases even to receive generous subsidies from the U.S. government—without paying their share of our collective costs.
“The Weak Case Against Same-Sex Marriage,” August 11, 2010
In this post I argued that it is hard to reconcile laws against same-sex marriage with the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment—a case I recently made again in a debate with Peter Lawler. I wrote that it is hard to see any legal reason why forbidding us to marry someone on the basis of that person's gender is any different than forbidding us to marry someone on the basis of their race.
“The Poor Rich,” September 24, 2010
In this post I attacked the idea that the rich are suffering under the burden of high taxes in America. As I wrote, I can certainly understand that people who make $250,000 a year don’t feel rich by the standards of American culture. But they still make five times as much as the average American household. And their tax rate is low compared by the standards of the developing world and has been getting lower for years. No one likes to pay taxes, but it is not the rich in the U.S. who are suffering, it’s the poor.
“The History of Integration in Europe and America,” October 22, 2010
After German Chancellor Angela Merkel declared that attempts to build a multicultural society had “utterly failed,” I argued that as painful as integration can be, it can work over time. I looked at this history of integration in both Europe and America and pointed out that the the terrible ethnic conflicts of 150 years ago are now long-forgotten. One commenter objected that it was ridiculous to think that modern Germany would necessarily follow the same path. And of course it may not. But it is worth remembering that those old conflicts seemed intractable too. Some perspective would help.
President Obama image from whitehouse.gov
Political activism may get people invested in politics, and affect urgently needed change, but it comes at the expense of tolerance and healthy democratic norms.