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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Legal Discrimination: How Double Taxation Treaties Discriminate against Lower-Income Countries

HannahMultinational treaty shopping and tax avoidance is commonplace throughout the world, particularly in poorer countries. The secretary-general of the OECD, Angel Gurría, believes that developing nations lose three times more money to tax havens then they receive in aid each year (The Economist, 2015). This treaty shopping is made possible by lax tax laws which often unfairly discriminate against poorer, less developed nations. @ucdpolitics student, Hannah Twomey, argues in this blog post that it is not just tax havens that cost developing countries tax revenues. Double Taxation Agreements are legal agreements which often discriminate against lower income countries and deny them access to vital tax revenue which could be used for the development of the particular country.

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The Financial Transaction Tax: Has the Market Finally Met It’s Foe?

Billy VFollowing the Great Recession, many solutions have been put forward to “rein the markets in”, and try to plug the inequality that has been on the rise since. These have included rent controls, increased banking regulation, and efforts to harmonise corporate taxation and discourage international tax havens. Most are in agreement that the long term aim is “to create a financial system and an economy that works for all of our people, not just a handful of billionaires”. (Sanders, 2016) In this blog post, @ucdpolitics student, Billy Vaughan, argues that it is one thing to come up with convincing rhetoric, quite another to devise a detailed mechanism to tackle inequality, and in particular to shift the burden from capital to labour. Once such idea, however, is to introduce a Financial Transactions Tax, or FTT.

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#Ash-shab’yuridisqatannizam: How 140 characters shaped the world.

Hazel NOver the last decade, the power of social media as an independent media outlet has grown exponentially. Its ability to provide free and non censored information to the masses has allowed it to become a critical tool for political demonstration. @UCD_Politics student, Hazel Nolan, argues that social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook enabled and furthered the Arab Spring of 2010, as these domestic media outlets were censored by the various Middle Eastern governments. Freedom of speech as expressed through social media, she argues, gave way to the most rapid search of democratisation in a post-colonialism world.

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Ordoliberalism was the main inspiration behind EU competition law.

DanielEU-US relations have been marked by a significant volume of trade and close diplomatic ties for most of post-WWII history. Together the EU and US currently account for half of world GDP and a third of global trade (EU Commission Trade Department). The first transatlantic regulatory cooperation agreement was signed 1991 in the area of competition (Pollack, 2003, p.33). Nonetheless, despite strong efforts to achieve convergence, legal enforcement in this field is still marked by stark ideational differences on either side of the Atlantic. In this blog post Daniel Andersen argues that the US and the EU have completely opposing views on corporate monopolies, which manifests itself in the politics of anti-trust legislation, and can be traced to the economic philosophy of ordoliberalism. 

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