Parking tickets are irritating. They are especially irritating in Los Angeles where a failure to properly feed your meter can run you nearly $70—and even more if you forget to pay it on time, as I regrettably learned this summer.
To be fair, parking violations play a necessary role in deterring scofflaws, easing mobility, and creating equitable opportunities for commerce in commercially vibrant urban centers. There is an economic cost for businesses and consumers if parking spaces are not optimally utilized (consumers may waste fuel searching for parking or forgo shopping altogether) and this must be safeguarded against. As we learned from Seinfeld, the scarcity of parking can be the source of considerable agony:
Comedy aside, there must be a point where the cost of a parking ticket transcends from a socially just deterrent to a punitive and regressive gouge—regressively taxing low income residents who lack access to off-street parking and can least afford to pay.
A few weeks ago, I posted on how policymakers are increasingly using a "happiness" indicator to inform public policy. Ironically, while writing that piece, I was very unhappy and not as a result of any of the factors traditionally deemed significant. Rather, my unhappiness was singularly due to my neurotic and perpetual search for updates on a pending federal court case related to the eligibility of my favorite NFL quarterback--who, thankfully, has now been vindicated. Despite my own proclivities, sports and their related scandals were not deemed an important driver of happiness by the United Nations (unless being a rabid sports fan is a form of mental illness).
My own sporting biases aside, this got me thinking. How many others around the world are, far more often than not, made miserable by their favorite sports teams?
From a policy perspective, there will never be just one legacy for the September 11th terrorist attacks. As that day's 14th anniversary came and went this past Friday, it was hard not to see how the fissures of its aftermath continue to color our political discourse.
To the neoconservatives in power at the time, the attacks necessitated a massive expansion of domestic surveillance powers, the adoption of "enhanced" interrogation techniques for intelligence gathering, and a policy of regime change for noncooperative states with links to violent Islamic extremism. Tax cuts, a massive expansion of government (notably the mess that is the Department of Homeland Security), and our country's two longest wars were, in their view, justified by the magnitude of the tragedy.
Until sectarian violence started to choke the dream of a small footprint in Iraq, the Democrats played the role of quiet passengers along for the ride. After awakening to the looming economic and political calamity, their narrative has been that Republicans ignored the necessary war (Afghanistan) while bungling a needless one (Iraq); all the while overstepping their constitutional bounds in Guantanamo and in CIA detention centers around the world—all of which Democratic leaders had been thoroughly supportive of, or at least unquestioning of, while it seemed to be working.
Unlike the empire that first concocted it, the sun will never set on the Gin and Tonic—or the “G n’ T” to its most loyal imbibers. However, before this vaunted alcoholic brew acquired its current state of ubiquitousness, it needed a push from science and historical happenstance.
Every four years we are put through the increasingly prolonged charades that are the Iowa (IA) caucus and New Hampshire (NH) primary. Research across countries has found that campaigns of a sufficient duration allow voters to more accurately assess economic conditions. In the case of the United States, we have by leaps and bounds eclipsed this threshold and in its place constructed a money-sucking circus that benefits the near-pathological who want to endure it.
While the country is surely losing out in the dysfunctional process, NH and IA continue to benefit from political empowerment (otherwise obscure local chieftains can elicit legislative pledges—subsidized farming being paramount), the framing of winners and losers (catapulting obscure candidates or dethroning anointed ones), and a windfall of local economic benefits (In 2000, and it is surely larger now, it was estimated that the NH primary generated $147 million in additional economic activity).
With such obvious and undemocratic advantages afforded NH and IA, why is the process allowed to continue? And how did it begin?
You can be forgiven for not knowing where Bhutan is. It is a small country—its first ever census in 2005 revealed less than one million inhabitants--sandwiched between China and India, governed by a very poor monarchy, that exports little, has no formal diplomatic relations with the United States, and generally embraces reclusion.
Internationally, Bhutan is known for two things. First, they exiled more than 100,000 of their ethnic-Nepalese minority, whose religious and linguistic views made them unfit for citizenship, to live in refugee camps in Nepal--where they were also not wanted and subsequently resettled by third parties (more than 66,000 of them in the United States since the mid-2000s). Second, ironically, is the notion of measuring national success, not by gross domestic product, but by gross national happiness. Measuring wellbeing by contentment rather than income is certainly a noble goal in our gilded age, but how can it be appropriately measured?
Please fill in the contact form below to have new articles emailed to you directly!