Links to what I’ve been reading.
Egypt’s liberals have been apoplectic over the early results from the recent elections here. Everybody expected the Islamists to do well and for the liberals to be at a disadvantage. But nobody — perhaps with the exception of the Salafis — expected the outcome to be as lopsided as it has been so far. Exceeding all predictions, Islamists seem to be winning about two-thirds of the vote. Even more surprising, the radical and inexperienced Salafists are winning about a quarter of all votes, while the more staid and conservative Muslim Brotherhood is polling at about 40 percent.
The saga is unfolding against a political backdrop of alarmism. One can almost hear the shrill cries echoing in unison from Cairo bar-hoppers and Washington analysts: “The Islamists are coming!” In short order, they fear, the Islamists will ban alcohol, blow up the sphinx, force burqas on women, and declare war on Israel.
Before we all worry too much, however, and before fundamentalists in Egypt start to crack the champagne (in their case perhaps literally, with crowbars), it’s worth taking a look at what’s really happening with Egypt’s Islamists.
*My note: As anyone who has actually studied foreign affairs knows, these types of events are almost always more nuanced than some American pundits would leave you to believe.
Morality is difficult. As Haidt writes on his website, “It binds people together into teams that seek victory, not truth. It closes hearts and minds to opponents even as it makes cooperation and decency possible within groups.” And while many of us understand this at a superficial level, Haidt takes it to heart. He strives to understand our inherent self-righteousness and morality as a collection of diverse mental modules to try to ultimately make society better off.
The idea that preventive health care saves money is among the most ubiquitous and bipartisan health policy ideas out there. It’s an idea that numerous contenders for president in 2008, Democrat and Republican, endorsed. Prevention, President Obama has argued before Congress, “makes sense, it saves money, and it saves lives.” A recent poll found 77 percent of Americans believe that prevention saves money, with 56 percent believing so strongly.
What if we’re all wrong? What if prevention doesn’t save money?
Maybe you’ve noticed that companies that are already at the top of their industries have become rather brazen about trying to increase their profits and share prices by buying up their nearest competitors.
Who can blame them? For years now, the courts and regulators have turned a blind eye as industry after industry consolidates into two or three dominant firms. And for years, fee-driven corporate lawyers and investment bankers have been knocking on boardroom doors peddling the notion that they can win approval for any merger just by divesting a subsidiary or two or establishing some fictitious “Chinese wall” to prevent one division from knowing what the other is doing. (Alas, we’re even importing our metaphors from China!)
We’ve written plenty of times about how little Americans know about the distribution of income in the United States, and how many rich people don’t realize they’re rich, at least relative to the rest of the country.
Now Gallup has surveyed Americans to ask what they believe the cutoff for being “rich” should be. The median response was that a person would need to make at least $150,000 to be considered rich. Here’s a breakdown of the responses: