Are young people turning away from democracy?

richard o'neillRichard O’Neill is a UCD Master of Public Policy student. Here he questions recent claims about the rise of anti-democratic sentiment among millennials, but warns that there is no room for complacency in the defence of democratic values.

Millennials get a bad rap. In the last year we’ve been blamed for ruining the American wine industry, the Canadian tourism industry, golf, and even the E.U. Our voracious appetite for destruction has now turned to democracy. That is according to Roberto Stefan Foa, lecturer in politics at the University of Melbourne and a principal investigator of the World Values Survey, and Yashca Mounk, a lecturer in political theory at Harvard. Their paper, ‘the Signs of Deconsolidation’, in the January 2017 volume of the Journal of Democracy demonstrates a disturbing trend of young people losing their faith in democracy. Their graph below starkly illustrates the point. The proportion of Americans believing it is “essential” to live in a democracy has reduced from 72% amongst those born pre-Second World War to 30% amongst millennials. A similar pattern is evidenced in other established democracies including the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Australia. Their conclusions are all the more worrying as they coincide with the rise of populism and anti-system parties, with the election of Donald Trump, Brexit, the rise of populist parties in Poland, Hungary, Finland and more as well as the popularity of the Front National, Alternative für Deutschland, and the Freedom Party of Austria. But is all as it seems – are millennials such a serious threat to democracy in the West, as the figure below seems to suggest (Foa, Stefan & Mounk, Yascha (2016) The democratic disconnect. Journal of Democracy, 27, 3, 5-17):

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Public Integrity and Trust in Europe

marie-therese culliganMarie-Therese Culligan is a UCD Master of Public Policy student. Here she assesses the report on Public Integrity and Trust in Europe, prepared by the European Research Centre for Anti-Corruption and State-Building (ERCAS), Hertie School of Governance, Berlin 2015. Principal Investigator: Prof. Alina Mungiu-Pippidi.

This report was commissioned by the European Commission during the Dutch Presidency of the EU in the first half of 2016, as one of a number of reports to contribute to ‘ongoing international dialogue on strengthening the public administration and developing evidence-based integrity and anti-corruption policies’.

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Information is power: tackling corporate tax avoidance

???????????????????????Michael McCarthy Flynn is a UCD Master of Public Policy student. He points out the significant advantages corporate interests currently enjoy in shielding income from effective taxation in any jurisdiction, and the key role of effective international coordination of tax policy not only in securing tax justice but in addressing poverty and meeting global development goadls/

Corporate tax avoidance is big news these days. Barely a week goes by without details becoming public of another multinational firm using lax international tax rules to legally avoid hundreds of millions, and even billions of euro, worth of tax.  One week it is  Zara, another month it is Cerebus. Next month, well take your pick. One constant in many of these disclosures is the central role Ireland plays in facilitating corporate tax avoidance, as the graphic below shows (Source: Corporate taxation: new rules, same old paradigm):

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Public interest and private gain in pharmaceutical regulation

jess ennisJess Ennis is a UCD Master of Public Policy student. She considers the conflicts over funding and availability of critical medications – specifically Orkambi for cystic fibrosis sufferers.

In July 2015, the FDA approved the combination drug Lumacaftor/ Ivacaftor (Orkambi) which treats the underlying cause of Cystic Fibrosis (CF) for patients with two copies of the F508del mutation. Ireland has the highest rate of CF patients in the world and approximately 550 patients in Ireland are eligible for Orkambi, including myself. However, since the FDA approval, only patients living in the United States (US) Austria and most recently, Germany, are taking the drug. The main issue is that the drug currently costs an astonishing €159,000 per patient per year. If all patients in Ireland were granted this over a 5 year period it would be the equivalent of half the budget for the new national children’s hospital, €400 million. There are also estimates that the drug is only effective for 25% of those patients who take it. For the people who trialled the drug or who are on it on compassionate grounds, the improvements in lung function, weight gain, increased energy levels and a new found quality of life are indisputable results; for which debates of financial statistics are futile.

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How the Netherlands became a country of cyclists, and why the UK failed

Emil Törnsten 8Emil Törnsten is a Swedish Erasmus student of urban planning. In this blog for POL40160 Comparative Public Policy, he compares the dramatically different role of cycling in urban transport policy in the Netherlands and the UK – and the policy lessons to be learned.

Cycling is considered an important tool in mitigating climate change, local pollution, congestion and lifestyle-related health issues, but the UK has been far less successful than the Netherlands in getting people on their bikes. How is it that the Netherlands perform so well in cycling policy, with Europe’s highest share of cyclists (29 percent) and an infrastructure considered as the golden standard in cycling design (with spectacular cycle paths and parking amenities), while the share of cycling trips is only 2 percent the UK, a country were cycle paths are more likely to be ‘shockingly crappy‘?

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Wonky policy or sweetly inspired? Why ‘sugar taxes’ won’t solve our growing problem with obesity

emer scottEmer Scott asks how effective a levy on soft drinks is likely to be in tackling obesity. Emer is a student on the UCD Master of Public Policy programme.

Waistlines in Britain and Ireland have thickened in the last 20 years, and it’s not just our scales that are groaning under the burden of rising obesity. Health services are also under strain from a rising tide of people with weight-related conditions (e.g. Type 2 diabetes) on top of an ageing population and resource constraints. Many of us don’t even realize how much sugar we’re consuming –Table 1 shows that even some popular coffees can contain a lot of hidden sugar.

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To tax or not to tax: The relationship between taxation and welfare

pictureAs a newly arrived Dane in Ireland, I have found myself highly puzzled by the public resistance and mass demonstrations across the country against the recent introduction of water taxes. The unwillingness to pay for a utility is unfamiliar to Danish citizens, recognising the fact that the provision of clean drinkable water, as well as maintenance and improvement of network infrastructures, all comes with a price tag. Danes are one of the most “taxed” in the world, with top marginal wage taxes of up to 60-70 % (Kleven, 2014) of income. Despite this, the Danes are also labelled the happiest people in the world. So the high tax rates do not seem to bother the Danish taxpayers. How can that be? In this article, UCD politics student, Ateebah Chaudhry, argues that the difference between the Danish and Irish attitude towards taxation explains the different trajectories of their social states.

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Resilience and EU Foreign Policy: The Promise of Justice?

The appearance of ‘resilience’ as a core leitmotif within the EU Global Strategy (EUGS) has been a significant focus of analytical interest in recent months (Wagner and Anholt 2016; Juncos 2016). Featuring several dozen times within the Union’s strategy statement and frequently linked to the broader concept of ‘principled pragmatism’, the concept has come in for some criticism that it represents a retreat in European ambition. Meanwhile, it is understood that the European institutions are anxious to put flesh on the ‘resilience’ bones of the EUGS and to look at ways in which the concept may be operationalised and how it can serve the goal of a credible, coherent and consistent foreign, security and defence policy. The aim of this post, is to suggest that far from representing a collapse of European ambition, resilience just may be an opportunity to take an enormous step forward in EU foreign policy, and one which may serve the cause of an overarching concept of global justice.

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The truly stagnant class in American society are young men from low-income backgrounds

Version 2In this blog post @ucdpolitics student, Muireann O’Shea, examines why America tends to look back upon the past with nostalgia, and to what extent this is bound up with perceptions of social mobility and the America Dream. The period of 1950 to 1980 saw the lowest income inequality ever in modern American history, with the top decile taking 30 to 35% of US National Income, which has increased to over 50% today (Piketty, 2014, p. 294). Economic policy in post World War II America used an increase in minimum wage to increase wages at the lower end of scale, but by the end of the 1970s, this was replaced by stark increases in pay at the very top of the income scale, leading to an “explosion of inequality” (Piketty, 2014, pp. 310-4). American minimum wage peaked in 1969 at $1.60, or $10.10 in 2013 dollars, and unemployment was below 4% (Piketty, 2014, p. 309). Yet by the end of the 1970’s rates of upward social mobility had stalled, and it has barely moved since (Surowiecki, 2014).

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The chasm of inequality: Why is the middle class shrinking?

AdamIn PewResearchCenter’s report (2015:1) they argue that lower and upper-income U.S households now outnumber the middle for the first time in decades. Despite financial gains the middle class has lost their majority income share to the upper classes and “the share of American adults living in middle-income households have fallen 61% in 1971 to 50% in 2015” (PewResearchCenter, 2015:1). However, this is not one isolated case as recent evidence suggests that Britain’s middle class is “being swiftly eroded by a new and disturbing economic reality”(McLaren,2013) with nearly 60% of Brits “defining themselves as working class” (McLaren,2013). @ucdpolitics student, Adam Costello argues that this is a disturbing trend, and that the decline of the middle class raises one very important question, why is it happening?

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