This article was originally published in The Economist on April 20th 2011.
IN 2004, while tossing chunks of meat to his pet Bengal tigers, Saif Qaddafi (then seen as the Libyan ruler’s reformist scion) outlined to a foreign visitor his plans to convert his father’s rambling theory of direct democracy into a real political system. Something on Swiss lines would be ideal.
The particular ambition may seem risible now. Yet the general sentiment is common. The Alpine federation’s political system, in which citizens may vote 30-plus times a year in a mixture of local and national polls, is proving seductive for politicians and voters of all stripes. Read more
This article was originally published in The Economist on April 7th 2011.
CAPITAL punishment in the rich world is largely an American affair. But the source of the drugs used to kill is cosmopolitan. Two executions in Arizona and Texas, due in early April (but delayed by a Supreme Court ruling) would have used, respectively, an Austrian drug imported from Britain and a lethal dose of a Danish-made anaesthetic.
America’s dependence on such imports stems from a shortage of sodium thiopental, part of the three-drug cocktail used in most executions. It used to be common in Caesarean sections (it dopes the mother but not the baby) but other drugs have superseded it. Its only American producer, a company called Hospira, disliked its use in executions and ceased making it in January. The company first blamed unspecified difficulties in obtaining the ingredients. Then it tried to shift production to a plant in Italy. But politicians there objected. Read more