Low voter turnout favours the Right

Does low voter turnout favour right-wing political parties? Common wisdom says it does: for example, non-voters tend to be poorer people who would have favoured left-wing parties. In the recent New Zealand general election, the centre-right National Party won an absolute majority in parliament, but only about 77% of eligible voters actually voted. I found some interesting data on non-voters and used it to see whether the result would have been different if all eligible voters had exercised their democratic duty. The results:

1. Yes, low voter turnout favours the right-wing parties.

2. If everyone had voted, the result would have been much closer: the Labour Party may have been able to form a government. Continue reading

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The House of Mirth — Edith Wharton

The House of Mirth

This is a wonderful book. It immerses you into New York society a hundred or so years ago, a world where every social interaction is governed by intricate codes and strict, yet unwritten, rules. Lily Bart, the protagonist, is a … Continue reading

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Smart Moves — Carla Hannaford

Smart Moves

This is an eye-opening discussion of the varieties of people’s learning styles and the inadequacies of the traditional three-R’s style of education. Ideas like this have gained a lot of currency since this book was published, which I think is … Continue reading

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The Ant and the Ferrari — Kerry Spackman

The Ant and the Ferrari

This is a readable, impassioned book about the big questions in life. Spackman explains the big bang and evolution in a very accessible way, probably the best such explanations I have ever seen. He explains how science conflicts with religion … Continue reading

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Test Cricket’s greatest all-rounders

Billy Bates, the best test cricket all-rounder EVAR.

Back in the 1980s four all-rounders dominated the world test cricket scene: Ian Botham from England, Kapil Dev from India, Imran Khan (now a very prominent politician) from Pakistan, and Richard Hadlee from New Zealand. Much ink was spilled in … Continue reading

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On Numbers and Games — John H Conway

On Numbers and Games

This amazing book sets out a mathematical framework for describing and constructing numbers, and then generalises this to a way of analysing certain games. You probably need a postgraduate degree in mathematics to really understand all of it. I am … Continue reading

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The Ego Trick — Julian Baggini

The Ego Trick by Julian Baggini

This is a pretty good exposition of the “bundle theory” of consciousness. The idea is that “consciousness” does not exist: all there are are discrete conscious experiences, which combine to form the illusion of an integrated cohesive mind. This is … Continue reading

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A Visit from the Goon Squad — Jennifer Egan

a-visit-from-the-goon-squad-cover

This is a fun story of life in, around, and tangentially related to the music industry in the USA, a few years ago before the Internet changed everything. It’s told in a series of (initially) separate narratives of different characters, … Continue reading

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Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim — David Sedaris

Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim

These stories are clever and funny. The book makes me think of a grown-up version of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, without the pictures. Actually that probably makes it sound far less good than it really is. There is a … Continue reading

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Roots of Empathy — Mary Gordon

Roots of Empthy

Roots of Empathy is a program that tries to teach schoolchildren empathy. Empathy is a crucially important quality: it can help overcome the problem of the “ethical fade“. And it seems obvious that empathic people are probably just nicer people. … Continue reading

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