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Pageants faded

Lun, 20/10/2014 - 22:28

IT IS in my power | To o’erthrow law, and in one self-born hour | To plant and o’erwhelm custom,” declares Time in “The Winter’s Tale”. Alas, such fortitude was missing from Georgia Shakespeare, a 29-year-old theatre company dedicated to the bard, which was forced to close its doors on October 8th.

Buckling under accumulated debt of $343,000, Georgia Shakespeare has been in dire need of a Duke Theseus. “We really needed a lead donor,” explains Jennifer Bauer-Lyons, the company’s managing director. A campaign to save the company in 2011 raised more than $500,000 from local arts patrons. But donors—who are regularly squeezed to compensate for the state’s pitiful cultural funding—failed to come up with enough ducats this time around. The Georgia Council for the Arts set aside just $750,000 in total grants for the 2015 fiscal year; at the height of its generosity in 2002 it gave $4.5m. The state ranks 50th in the nation for spending per capita on the arts.

Such stinginess seems amiss in one of the South’s richest cities—particularly one with such a long love affair with Shakespeare. As...Continue reading

Childish arguments

Vie, 17/10/2014 - 16:24

A FEW weeks ago I was talking with an advertising professional who had been discussing potential campaigns with Greenpeace, the environmental group. We both admitted that these days, our reactions to people scaling buildings and unveiling banners range from apathy to mild annoyance. Those tactics seem to belong to another era, before the mass institutionalisation of flash-mobs; they lack the hook needed to achieve virality. Over the past few months, however, Greenpeace has staged a wickedly clever campaign that feels entirely of this moment: a part-online, part-meatspace twist on memes from "The Lego Movie", aimed at convincing the Danish toymaker to cut its longstanding promotion deal with Shell, an Anglo-Dutch oil company, in protest against the company's drilling in arctic waters. On October 9th Lego gave in, announcing it...Continue reading

Seizing some control

Jue, 16/10/2014 - 18:55

ON JANUARY 1st 29-year-old Brittany Maynard (pictured) was diagnosed with brain cancer. On November 1st she plans to end her life by ingesting a lethal medication prescribed by her physician. Only five states (Vermont, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and New Mexico) recognise the right to die, so Ms Maynard relocated from California to Oregon to secure this right. This is a move that many Americans are unable to make.

Assisted suicide has been legal in a few European countries for years. But progress in America has been halting: in 1997 the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the constitution does not include the right to suicide. Aid-in-dying has ideological affinities with other issues where personal autonomy and liberty are at stake—same-sex marriage, for instance, or a woman’s right to an abortion. Yet many Americans have long been uncomfortable with sanctioning suicide. This seems to be changing. Now more than two-thirds of Americans support aid-in-dying laws for the terminally ill and mentally competent. Death with dignity legislation is now pending in seven states.

But why have Americans held out for so long? And what...Continue reading

A shifting power balance

Jue, 16/10/2014 - 14:53

OUR correspondents discuss what might happen if Republicans win the Senate in November’s mid-term elections.  Will America find common ground or succumb to political paralysis?

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Do unto others

Mié, 15/10/2014 - 16:39

IN THE 1930s Father Charles Coughlin was among the most popular figures in America. Roughly 30m listeners, at his peak, tuned in to hear his weekly radio broadcasts, which were carried by CBS—then among the biggest American radio networks. Though he began by broadcasting his weekly sermons, he quickly moved into politics. I suppose you would call him an economic populist: he advocated, among other things, unionisation, shrinking government and reducing taxes, abolishing the Federal Reserve, nationalising resources and seizing private wealth during wartime. Yet as war drew nearer, he returned to one subject again and again: Jews. He held them responsible for communism and the war; he reprinted "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion", a classic anti-Semitic text; and he warned: "When we get through with the Jews in America, they'll think the treatment they received in Germany was nothing." Eventually, his broadcasters grew tired of him, the Church warned him away from politics...Continue reading

Wake us up when it's over

Lun, 13/10/2014 - 19:30

IOWA’S Senate race is a knife-edge contest between two sharply differing candidates that could well decide which party controls the United States Senate after November. As a key swing state in presidential elections, Iowa also plays host to aspiring candidates in trip after trip. Local voters ultimately have the power to affect the lives of hundreds of millions of Americans and indeed billions of people worldwide.

That is the view from Washington anyway. In Iowa, the importance of the imminent Senate race is not so obvious. Of a dozen or so people quizzed by your correspondent in a park in Davenport, on the western banks of the Mississippi river, just a couple could name both of the candidates. A couple more had formed an opinion from the attack ads that air continuously on every local television station. A few expressed the (arguably reasonable) view that Washington is broken, and politicians never represent their constituents, so why bother. Across Iowa, as across most of the United States, the reaction to these elections seems to be an enormous collective shrug.

After watching both Democrat and Republican candidates debate...Continue reading

So far, so fast

Jue, 09/10/2014 - 20:08

AS MORE and more states allow gay marriage, Jonathan Rauch explains how the revolution in America's attitudes to homosexuality came about and how it affected him

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How this week's cover came about

Jue, 09/10/2014 - 18:08

GROWING up in Arizona in the 1970s, Jonathan Rauch was so desperate to be "normal" that he convinced himself he wasn't gay. His obsession with muscular men, he told himself, sprang from envy of their good looks. He tried and tried to find women attractive, which was "like searching through a tank of octopuses in hopes of finding one to marry". He did not admit the obvious truth to himself—let alone other people—until he was 25. 

Fast-forward to 1996: Jon was in London thinking up cover stories for The Economist. One of his most outlandish was "Let them wed"—an editorial urging governments everywhere to allow same-sex marriage. At the time, it never occurred to Jon that his wish might come true in his own lifetime. Yet now he is married to the man he loves and living in Virginia, where gay marriage was legalised once and for all this week. 

We invited Jon to write an account of how America came to embrace gay marriage, weaving his own...Continue reading

Beards behind bars

Mié, 08/10/2014 - 18:37

ON OCTOBER 7th the Supreme Court heard its first religious-liberty case since recognising, in June, the right of some pious employers not to pay for some types of birth control for their staff. This time, in Holt v Hobbs, the aggrieved party is Gregory Holt, a Muslim inmate in Arkansas who says his faith requires him to wear a half-inch beard. Arkansas forbids this, arguing that a beard could be used to hide drugs, blades or telephone SIM cards.

Mr Holt, who was jailed for breaking into his ex-girlfriend’s house and slitting her throat, says he is in a “state of war” with the prison barber. He argues that the ban on beards violates his rights under a law that says prisons may only impinge on inmates’ religious lives if there is a “compelling governmental interest” at stake and they use the “least restrictive means” of pursuing it. He notes that Arkansas allows quarter-inch beards for inmates with skin conditions, and that 43 other states allow them for all...Continue reading

An interactive guide

Mar, 07/10/2014 - 17:06

THE big prize in America’s mid-term elections, which will be held on November 4th, is control of the US Senate. The Republicans are expected to hold on to their majority in the House of Representatives without difficulty, but the Senate is very much in play. All pollsters expect Democrats to lose seats, and most expect the Republicans to capture a narrow majority. Check out our interactive map for a handy guide to what is happening in each of the 33 states where Senate seats are up for grabs.

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