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Fiscal Balances and the Rise of Catalonian Separatism: The Misuse of Economic Theory

The question of Catalonian independence is once again receiving international attention. The secessionist movement has received renewed impetus from the institutions of the Catalonian regional government, and the Catalan people are now gravely split, almost in half, on the issue. The tension is straining the relations between the central and regional governments and affecting the…

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The Conservation of Coercion

It was the anarchists who first told me about the Kapauku Papuans. Among the Kapauku, in West New Guinea, there was no state administration of justice; instead, both civil disputes and grave crimes were adjudicated by a caste of private citizens called tonowi. As tonowi travelled the highlands, collecting evidence, pronouncing judgement, and suggesting sentences, their reputations would spread. The wisest and most impartial tonowi were in high demand, and could command a correspondingly high price from a village for their assistance in settling a dispute. A tonowi who developed a reputation for corruption or partiality, however, would soon need to find a new line of work. Past judgements of great tonowi in difficult cases formed an evolving body of common law that helped inform new cases…

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The Development Delusion: Foreign Aid and Inequality

During the last decades of the Soviet Union, technocrats in Moscow managed to prop up the failing regime by telling a story. They knew that the economy was falling apart, but they refused to admit it. Instead, they hired propagandists to convince the public that everything was still going according to plan, that the Soviet…

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Make the Left Great Again

The West is currently in the midst of an antiestablishment revolt of historic proportions. The Brexit vote in the United Kingdom, the election of Donald Trump in the United States, the rejection of Matteo Renzi’s neoliberal constitutional reform in Italy, the European Union’s unprecedented crisis of legitimation—although these interrelated phenomena differ in ideology and goals,…

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Utilitarian Economics and the Corruption of Conservatism

The Oxford English Dictionary has two definitions of the word “conservatism.” The first defines it as a “commitment to traditional values and ideas with opposition to change or innovation”; the second defines it as “the holding of political views that favor free enterprise, private ownership, and socially conservative ideas.” The former definition strikes me as…

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