My Views...

of politics, political science, you name it and I probably have an opinion about it.

Under Construction---

Current Politics

All political positions should be guided by two simple propositions of economics and psychology. The first is that if you want more of something then you subsidize it or reward it. The second is that if you want less of something then you tax it or punish it.

Applied to current policy disputes, the implications are obvious. Taxes on incomes, low or high, have the effect of discouraging income production. Not a good idea. Extending unemployment insurance coverage has the unintended effect of extending unemployment. Not a good idea.

Policies with respect to the economy should also keep in mind that the goal of economic activity is to create wealth, not just to keep people busy. The "Cash for Clunkers" policy should go down in history as one of the dumbest public policies of all time. If this made any sense, then we would bulldoze all of our homes and start over. Just a dumb idea.

On the stimulus plan: Stimulating the economy when the economy is weak or in recession is a good idea. The problem is that the current administration is entirely clueless about what it means to stimulate the economy. It is not a matter of throwing money out the window and hoping that people will spend it. The conservation of matter applies to economics as much as to anything else. There are costs to throwing money away and driving up debt. What needs to be stimulated in stimulating the economy is confidence in the economic future. If people are confident in the future, they will spend and invest more today. The bone-headed plans of the Obama administration have had exactly the opposite effect. By throwing money at "shovel ready" gimmicks they have increased concern about the economic future, not confidence in it.

You might say that President Obama has been the real "education president." He has taught us all (or at least those smart enough to be paying attention) that Keynsian economics is not simplistic and mechanistic--dealing with consumers and investors like they were idiots, but is a matter of dealing with rational and informed expectations about the future.


On the Republican Presidential nomination--

Other than Bachman, Santorum, and Paul, Romney would be the GOP's weakest candidate. His history indicates that he is not dependably conservative. He seems to be something of a political chameleon. With all his faults, Perry may be the best bet. Herman Cain is interesting and smart, but inexperienced and too risky for the nominatio. He should find a Senate seat to run for and get some real world political experience.


An Admired Political Leader: TBR

  Thomas Brackett Reed          

A highly admired political leader, Speaker of the House Thomas Brackett Reed (October 18, 1839–December 7, 1902).
Reed served as Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1888-1890 and again from 1894-1898. He became famous for instituting Reed's Rules that bocked the obstructionism of "the disappearing quorum" by the minority party in the House of Representatives. Reed was from Portland, Maine, a Republican, and a Bowdoin College Alumnus. He also had strong ties to Peaks Island, Maine where his family's homestead remains one of the oldest homes on the island.


Some notable quotes of Thomas Brackett Reed:

“A good party is better than the best man that ever lived.”

“The worst Republican is better than the best Democrat.”

"There is no such thing as a non-partisan republic and the moment  you get a non-partisan republic that republic is tottering to its fall.”

“Some men like to stand erect, and some men, even after they are rich and in high place,

like to crawl.”

Reed ’s response to a reporter’s question whether the Republican Party would nominate him as their presidential candidate in 1896:

“They might do worse, and I think they will.”



On Political Science

I am strongly commited to the scientific study of American politics, but I am also disappointed that the field has not made greater progress than it has. More work needs to be done that is rigorous but accessible, work that is robust (that you can hang your hat on, as they used to say), and that is both practically and theoretically important. In particular, the field should place less emphasis on arcane theoretical and methodological issues that distract from the substantive importance of the work. This is not to say that methodological problems are necessarily unimportant. Many are important, but many are not and we spend too much time on "fly specks."

Political science should always ask two questions of its research: (1.) why should anyone believe this, and (2.) why should non-political scientists care to know this?


On the Liberal Bias in the Social Sciences and the Humanities

There is, of course, a strong liberal bias in academia and it is especially strong in the humanties and nearly as strong in the social sciences. There are some who deny this, but the evidence is overwhelming. It is interesting, and perhaps a sign of the lack of commitment to the collective enterprise of seeking unbiased explanations of social and individual human thinking and behavior, that most who study in these areas fail to regard the hegemony of the liberal perspective as a problem. Since none of us follow extremely strict methodologies that strip our judgments out of our research and teaching, our biases must come into play in them. As researchers and as teachers, we are humans who use our discretion and, even try as we might to be thoroughly professional and unbiased (and some do not make much of an effort to do so), our values leak into what we are doing. This is a bias that could be mitigated by collective judgments (peer-reviews, etc.), but that system fails if the political hegemony of one perspective skews collective judgments. If you have a heavily biased jury pool, odds are you are going to get a biased jury--and there is no change of venue in academia. As a result, research is done in areas that the dominant view finds hospitable and reviewers with the dominant view take a more welcoming approach to reviewing manuscripts whose conclusions they like. Interpretations of research findings are skewed toward those most welcomed and so forth. One side gets an unstated and perhaps unconcious easy ride and the other side has rough sledding. The end result is a skewed and tainted body of knowledge.

Beyond producing biased output, the liberal hegemony of academia also creates major political problems for academic instiututions. To the extent that liberals dominate academic institutions and effectively use them for advocating their own perspectives, they diminish the support for these institutions among moderates and conservatives. Is it any wonder that conservative politicians periodically go after academic institutions? If colleges and unviersities were, in fact, more ideologically diverse, then they might be collectively better in doing their jobs of getting at and reporting the truth and might get greater bipartisan support in the public and in Congress for their efforts.


On the Liberal Bias in Academia as Brain-washing

Many are concerned that the dominance of left-wing perspectives among the nation's college and university professoriate leads to the brain-washing of their students. While this seems a plausible concern on the surface, it is not true. It is not brain-washing. As anyone who has read much of modern social science and humanities can attest, it is much more like a dry-cleaning. In general, it is mysterious in how it works, much more complicated than a simple washing, and dry as dust.