“I want to enroll everyone in Medicare. I also want to improve Medicare to make supplemental insurance less necessary. Because lots of people currently on Medicare buy supplemental insurance, and I want to make that less necessary. But I’m not going to tell people on Medicare they can’t have supplemental insurance.”

That’s what someone on stage should have said at some point in the last two nights, when debate moderators asked for a show of hands for who would “abolish private health insurance”. It was a bad question. On the one hand, saying “no” could be interpreted as opposing Medicare…


I hesitated a bit in writing this, because I’m not sure I have anything original to say. But I do have a bit of a personal perspective to share on Russiagate that underlines just how much we’ve learned in the past two and a half years.

Imagine that back on election day 2016 you’d told me, “Look at all the nice things Trump has said about Putin. I bet Putin’s paying him to say those things.” If you’d told me that, back then, I’d have responded that yes, Trump’s praise for Putin is weird, but Trump has said similar things…


When I saw that Kamala Harris had come out in support of decriminalizing sex work, I literally didn’t believe it. Just some journalist manufacturing a story out of a quote far more ambiguous than the headline, right?

Then I watched the interview, and right there at the 16:22 mark, the interviewer asks, “Do you think that sex work ought to be decriminalized?” Harris’ response? “I think so, I do.”

Say what?

If you know anything about Harris’ record, this is like Donald Trump suddenly announcing his support for open borders. …


Reading Dylan Matthews’ interview with Rutger Bregman, I am very sympathetic to Bregman’s criticisms of private philanthropy, but his preferred alternative — foreign aid — is clearly not ideal either. The right solution is world government. For the same reasons that preventing children from dying from malaria shouldn’t have to depend on the generosity of a few billionaires, it also shouldn’t have to depend on the generosity of rich-country governments. In a just world, we’d have a democratically-elected world government with broad tax-and-spend powers to deal with problems like malaria.

(By world government, I don’t mean a global version the…


The Problem

Once Bart—er, sorry, Brett—Kavanaugh is sworn in to the Supreme Court, fully a third of the men on the court will have been credibly accused of serious sexual misconduct. Many liberal commentators are saying this will destroy the court’s legitimacy. This feels a bit unfair to the court though, because the blame for this situation lies on an institution whose legitimacy is on far shakier ground: the United States Senate.

Forty-three percent of Americans live in states with two Democratic senators. Only twenty-five percent live in states with two Republican senators. Given that Kavanaugh’s confirmation was nearly party-line, and the…


Last week, I complained on Twitter that the left has no foreign-policy equivalent of Medicare-for-all: a clear policy position that ambitious Democratic politicians can be expected to adopt. But this could change, given concentrated activist pressure.

We have plenty of examples of this happening with issues like Medicare-for-all, the minimum wage, and most recently abolishing ICE. Activists just need to pick some specific positions, ask office holders (particularly ones, say, running for president) to endorse them, and raise a stink if they don’t.

Here are my suggested asks. The list is hardly comprehensive, doesn’t aim to be a grand vision


When our son was born, my partner Ozy and I named him Viktor Vasili, after Viktor Zhdanov and Vasili Arkhipov. Zhdanov played a key role in pushing for the global eradication of smallpox. But Arkhipov may have done something even more important. The story of his role in the Cuban Missile Crisis deserves to be more widely known, because of what it tells us about nuclear weapons.

Recently, cognitive scientist Steven Pinker has become known for arguing that violence has steadily declined throughout human history. The decline of violence was the central thesis of his book The Better Angels of…


Last week, I got my copy of the latest issue of Mother Jones in the mail. The front cover had a giant headline that said “RIGGED: HOW TRUMP REALLY WON.” The story inside, although excellent, doesn’t quite live up to the cover. Its main focus is on the systematic disenfranchisement of black voters in Wisconsin. While that in itself is outrageous, Wisconsin doesn’t have enough electoral college votes to have tipped the election all by itself.

Reading the Mother Jones article, you could wind up thinking what I thought in the initial aftermath of the 2016 election. …


In 2010, California became one of three US states to adopt what’s known as a “non-partisan top-two primary”. Here’s how it works: all candidates, regardless of party, run in a single primary. Then the two candidates who get the most votes in the primary face each other in the general election.

It’s similar to systems that require a runoff if no candidate secures a majority of the vote, except that the “runoff” is the general election rather than happening in, say, December, as happened with Louisiana’s US Senate race in 2016. …


According to recent polls, a majority of Americans now support enacting a national health plan in which all Americans would get health insurance through an expanded version of Medicare—that is, Medicare-for-all.

However, as awareness of the possibility of enacting Medicare-for-all has increased, it’s become common—especially among centrist Democrats—to hear claims that many developed countries with universal healthcare don’t use anything like Medicare-for-all, and in fact Medicare-for-all is bad economics even if you’re committed to the goal of universal coverage.

Such claims are rarely backed up by good citations. Indeed, accurate English-language information about the healthcare systems of non-Anglophone countries can…

Topher Brennan

Former candidate for US Senate.

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