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October 30, 2007

Przeworski on whether the science of comparative politics is possible

Abstract: Many research problems in comparative politics involve assessing the causal impact of institutions, policies, or events on some performance, outcome, or result. While such evaluations are relatively unproblematic when data can be generated by the researcher, they are subject to several biases when data are produced by history. The
chapter is an overview of issues entailed in causal inference and an introduction to alternative research strategies.

Adam Przeworski (2007). “Is the Science of Comparative Politics Possible?” In Carles Boix and Susan C. Stokes (eds.), Oxford Handbook of Comparative Politics. New York: Oxford University Press. Available here.

Liebell on Dover, science and education

Abstract: Although the debate over teaching evolution in public schools is not new, the discussion changed significantly with the introduction of intelligent design. Unlike creationism, intelligent design does not ground itself in any biblical tradition or reject all evolutionary change. Instead, intelligent design claims that Darwin’s theory of evolution – particularly natural selection and random mutation – cannot account for the complexity and beauty of life, and, therefore, there must be an “intelligent designer” responsible for the creation of living organisms. In 2004, a small, predominantly Christian, white, and economically modest school district in Dover, Pennsylvania passed a mandate requiring biology teachers to read a statement to their ninth graders. When the teachers refused, administrators cautioned students that Darwin’s theory of evolution was a “theory” and there were gaps in the evidence. A text was available in the school library – Of Pandas and People – that presented a different approach to human development: intelligent design. The reading of the statement was challenged by eleven families on the grounds that it violated the First Amendment’s ban on the establishment of religion. The U.S. District Court’s ruling – that the statement did violate the establishment clause – has been understood by the media, public officials, and academics as a triumph for secularism and science over religion and fundamentalism.

Susan Liebell (2007), Rethinking Dover: The Role of Science and Education in Liberal Society, unpublished paper. Available here.

October 23, 2007

Haber and Menaldo on whether natural resources fuel authoritarianism

Is there a relationship between natural resource dependence and authoritarianism? In order to answer this question we develop unique datasets that allow us to focus on within-country variance in resource dependence and regime types since the nineteenth century. Our results indicate that resource dependence is not associated with the undermining of democracy, the persistence of authoritarianism, or less complete transitions to democracy. Our time series results are at variance with a large body of scholarship that finds a negative relationship between natural resource dependence and democracy in cross section. We therefore subject those cross-sectional results to a battery of standard diagnostics, and find that the results reported in that literature are very fragile: they are highly sensitive to how natural resource dependence is measured; a product of omitted variable bias due to unobserved heterogeneity; and driven by outliers engendered by longitudinal truncation. Taken together, our results suggest that regime types are not, in the long run, determined by the presence or absence of natural resource wealth.

Stephen Haber and Victor Menaldo (2007), “Do Natural Resources Fuel Authoritarianism?,” unpublished paper. Available here.

Haas on the Geriatric Peace

Abstract: In the coming decades, the most powerful states in the international system will face a challenge unlike any experienced in the history of great power politics: significant aging of their populations. Global aging will be a potent force for the continuation of U.S. economic and military dominance. Aging populations are likely to produce a slowdown in states’ economic growth at the same time that governments will face substantial pressure to pay for massive new expenditures for elderly care. This economic dilemma will create such an austere fiscal environment that the other great powers will lack the resources necessary to overtake the United States’ huge power lead. Moreover, although the U.S. population is growing older, it is doing so to a lesser extent and less quickly than all of the other major actors in the system. Consequently, the economic and fiscal costs created by social aging—as well as their derivative effects on military spending—will be significantly lower for the United States than for potential competitors. Nevertheless, the United States will experience substantial new costs created by its own aging population. As a result, it will most likely be unable to maintain the scope of its current international position and will be less able to realize key international objectives, including preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, funding nation building, and engaging in military humanitarian interventions.

Mark L. Haas (2007), “A Geriatric Peace? The Future of U.S. Power in a World of Aging Populations,” _International Security, 32: 112-147. Available here.

Ananat and Washington on Segregation and Black Political Efficacy

Abstract: The impact of segregation on Black political efficacy is theoretically ambiguous. On one hand, increased contact among Blacks in more segregated areas may mean that Blacks are better able to coordinate political behavior. On the other hand, lesser contact with non-Blacks may mean that Blacks have less political influence over voters of other races. We investigate this question empirically. We find that exogenous increases in segregation lead to decreases in Black civic efficacy, as measured by an ability to elect Representatives who vote liberally and more specifically in favor of legislation that isfavored by Blacks. This tendency for Representatives from more segregated MSAs to vote more conservatively arises in spite of the fact that Blacks in more segregated areas hold more liberal political views than do Blacks in less segregated locales. We find evidence that this decrease in efficacy is driven by greater divergence between Black and non-Black political views in the most segregated areas. Because Blacks are a minority in every MSA, increased divergence by race implies that the mean Black voter viewpoint is farther away from the mean voter viewpoint. We offer suggestive evidence that this increased divergence is due to both lower “contact” and to selection of more conservative non-Blacks into more segregated MSAs. Thus, reduced Black political efficacy may be one reason that Blacks in exogenously more segregated areas experience worse economic outcomes.

Elizabeth Oltmans Ananat and Ebonya Washington (2007), “Segregation and Black Political Efficacy,” unpublished paper. Available here.

October 19, 2007

The Demise of Liberal Internationalism

Charles Kupchan and Peter Trubowitz have an article in the new International Security declaring that liberal internationalism is dead.

The prevailing wisdom is that the Bush administration’s assertive unilateralism, its aversion to international institutions, and its zealous efforts to spread democracy in the Middle East represent a temporary departure from the United States’ traditional foreign policy. … Indeed, influential think tanks and foreign policy groups are already churning out action plans for reviving liberal internationalism. …We challenge this view and contend instead that the Bush administration’s brand of international engagement, far from being an aberration, represents a turning point in the historical trajectory of U.S. foreign policy. It is a symptom, as much as a cause, of the unraveling of the liberal internationalist compact that guided the United States for much of the second half of the twentieth century. The polarization of the United States has dealt a severe blow to the bipartisan compact between power and cooperation. Instead of adhering to the vital center, the country’s elected officials, along with the public, are backing away from the liberal internationalist compact, supporting either U.S. power or international cooperation, but rarely both. … Prominent voices from across the political spectrum have called for the restoration of a robust bipartisan center that can put U.S. grand strategy back on track. … These exhortations are in vain. The halcyon era of liberal internationalism is over; the bipartisan compact between power and partnership has been effectively dismantled.

I have complicated feelings about liberal internationalism (short version: I think it’s way better than the neo_con/Bolton_and_Krauthammer_realist amalgam that we’ve seen dominating US foreign policy over the last few years, but it has an awfully convenient tendency to assume that the economic and political interests of the US and the rest of the world are magically as one), but I think that Kupchan and Trubowitz seriously overstate their case. They throw in some arguments about unipolarity, but their main case is rooted in an argument about domestic political polarization in the US. According to them, it used to be that liberal internationalism created a synthesis between military power and international institutions - now Republicans are all about the exercise of power, Democrats about reliance on institutions, and there’s no common ground between them.

This may well turn out to be true of Republicans if (gods forbid) Giuliani gets the nomination or is able to shape the foreign policy debate from afar. It’s also possible that the crazies will get locked up in the asylum again, as Snyder et al. argue in a paper I linked to a couple of months ago.

But Kupchan and Trubowitz’s claims certainly aren’t true of the Democrats. All three of the candidates who have a hope of getting the nomination are liberal internationalists of one kind or another (and obviously willing to posture on their toughness, willingness to use force in pursuit of American interests etc). Furthermore, what survey evidence there is suggests that a large majority of Democratic voters do support the use of force - as long as it is to support the UN in upholding international law. You can’t get much more liberal internationalist than that. In the end, Kupchan and Trubowitz seem to me to be giving another version of the polarization-is-screwing-up-American-politics story - without recognizing that polarization has worked in very different ways on the left and right (specifically, as Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson have pointed out, the right has gone a lot further away from the center than the left has). While they’re likely right that liberal internationalism faces tougher challenges than it used to, they’re wrong about what the challenges are.

[Crossposted from Crooked Timber

October 18, 2007

Kahl on Civilian Casualties in Iraq

The belief that U.S. forces regularly violate the norm of noncombatant immunity—the notion that civilians should not be targeted or disproportionately harmed during war—has been widely held since the outset of the Iraq conflict. … As conditions in Iraq have moved from bad to worse, the well-documented abuse of Iraqi detainees by U.S. troops at Abu Ghraib and the failure of U.S. authorities to live up to their international legal obligations to provide basic security during the formal occupation period have contributed to the widespread sentiment that the United States has discarded the Geneva Conventions altogether, including their prohibitions against targeting civilians. … Based on field research and an extensive review of primary and secondary materials, I contend that the U.S. military has done a better job of respecting noncombatant immunity in Iraq than is commonly thought. Moreover, compliance has improved over time as the military has adjusted its behavior in response to real and perceived violations of the norm. This behavior is best explained by the internalization of noncombatant immunity within the U.S. military’s organizational culture, especially since the Vietnam War. Contemporary U.S. military culture is characterized by what I call the “annihilation restraint paradox”: a commitment to the use of overwhelming but lawful force. The restraint portion explains relatively high levels of U.S. compliance with noncombatant immunity in Iraq, while the tension between annihilation and restraint helps account for instances of noncompliance and the overall level of Iraqi civilian casualties resulting from U.S. operations—which, although low by historical standards, have still probably been higher than was militarily necessary, desirable, or inevitable.

Colin Kahl (2007), “In the Crossfire or the Crosshairs? Norms, Civilian Casualties, and U.S. Conduct in Iraq,” International Security 32:7-46. Available here .

Jerome Slater on why Haaretz carries more criticism of Israel than the _NYT_

In 2000 the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations for a two-state settlement ended in failure, and the Palestinian uprising (or intifada) broke out. Then, in early 2001 Ariel Sharon was elected prime minister of Israel. In 2006 three events dealt further setbacks to the “peace process”: the Israeli election of Ehud Olmert, the victory of Hamas in the Palestinian parliamentary elections, and the Lebanon war. Then, the 2007 civil conºict in Gaza between Hamas and Fatah ended with a Hamas victory. As a consequence of these events, the prospect for a two-state solution, necessitating negotiations to create a genuinely viable Palestinian state in Gaza and nearly all of the West Bank, is more elusive than ever. The underlying assumption of this article is that the present situation is disastrous not only for Israel and the Palestinians but also for U.S. national interests. There is a wealth of information and critical commentary, much of it by Israelis, on the terrible consequences of Israel’s policies and behavior toward the Palestinians—and not just for the Palestinians but also for Israeli security, society, civil culture, and even the future of Israeli democracy. …

This article argues that a major explanation for this widespread but erroneous U.S. consensus is the largely uninformed and uncritical mainstream and even elite media coverage in the United States of Israeli policies, a consequence of which is that alarm bells that should be sounded loudly and clearly are muted. In contrast, the debate in Israel is much more far-ranging, and includes a substantial body of dissenting opinion—especially among the elites— arguing that Israel bears a considerable share of the responsibility for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Although this is still a minority view, candid criticisms of Israeli policy appear regularly in the Israeli press and news magazines, as well as in public statements by leading scholars, writers, retired military officers, intelligence officials, and even some politicians. To illustrate the striking differences between the U.S. and Israeli public discussions of the Israeli-Palestinian conºict, this article focuses on the two most influential daily newspapers in the United States and Israel: the New York Times and Haaretz.

Jerome Slater (2007), “Muting the Alarm over the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: The New York Times versus Haaretz, 2000–06,” International Security 32:84-120. Available here.

October 17, 2007

Huber and Stanig on how compassionate conservatism hurts the secular poor

Abstract: We analyze how institutions that establish the level of separation of church and state should influence the political economy of redistribution. Our formal model describes how incentives for charitable giving, coupled with church-state institutions, create opportunities for the rich to form coalitions with the religious poor, at the expense of the secular poor. In our analysis, religion can limit redistribution — not because of the particular faith, belief or risk attitudes of religious individuals (as emphasized by others) — but rather because of simple material greed among the rich and the religious poor. We explore how church-state separation will mediate efforts by the rich to form electoral coalitions with the religious poor, as well as the implications for the size of government, charitable giving, and the welfare of various social groups.

John Huber and Piero Stanig (2007), “Redistribution through Taxes and Charity: The Cost of “Compassionate Conservatism” to the Secular Poor,” unpublished paper. Available here.

Via Andrew Gelman.

October 16, 2007

Bartley on Transnational Private Regulation

Abstract: Why have systems of “transnational private regulation” recently emerged to certify corporate social and environmental performance? Different conceptions of institutional emergence underlie different answers to this question. Many scholars argue that firms create certification systems to solve problems in the market—a view rooted in a conception of institutions as solutions to collective action problems. The author develops a different account by viewing institutions as the outcome of political contestation and by analyzing conflict and institutional entrepreneurship among a wide array of actors. Using a comparative case study design, the analysis shows how these arguments explain the formation of social and environmental certification associations. Both theoretical approaches are needed, but strong versions of the market-based approach overlook an important set of dynamics that the author calls the “political construction of market institutions.” The analysis shows how both problem solving in markets and political contention generate new institutional forms.

Tim Bartley (2007), “Institutional Emergence in an Era of Globalization: The Rise of Transnational Private Regulation of Labor and Environmental Conditions,” American Journal of Sociology 193:297-351. Available here.

Centellas on electoral reform in Bolivia

Abstract: This paper considers the effects of electoral system reform in Bolivia. In 1995, Bolivia shifted away from a list-proportional to a mixed-member proportional electoral system. One of the most noticeable changes in the intervening years has been a growing regional polarization of politics and a collapse of the existing party system, particularly after October 2003. Using statistical analysis of disaggregated electoral data (at the department, municipality, and district level), this paper tests whether electoral system reforms contributed to the current political crisis. Though research findings show that regional cleavages existed prior to electoral system reform, they also suggest that reforms aggravated their effects. Such a finding gives reason to question the recent popularity of mixed-member proportionality.

Miguel Centellas (2007), “Electoral Reform, Regional Cleavages and Party System Stability in Bolivia (1985-2005),” unpublished paper. Available here.

Nobel Prizewinner edition: Roger Myerson on Leadership, Trust and Power

Abstract: We consider a model of governors serving a sovereign prince, who wants to deter them from corruption and rebellion. Governors must be penalized when they cause observable crises, but a governor’s expected benefits must never go below her rebellion payoff, which is more than any candidate could pay for the office. Governors can trust the prince’s promises only up to a given credit bound. In the optimal incentive plan, a governor’s compensation is deferred until her credit reaches this bound. Each crisis reduces credit by a fixed penalty. When a governor’s credit is less than one penalty from the rebellion payoff, she must be called to court for a trial in which her probability of dismissal is less than 1. Other governors must monitor the trial because theprince would prefer to dismiss and resell the office. A high credit bound benefits the prince ex ante but in the long run generates entrenched governors with large claims on the state.

Roger Myerson (2007), “Leadership, Trust and Power: Dynamic Moral Hazard in High Office,” unpublished paper. Available here.

Shipan on Senate Filibusters

Abstract: Although the selection of Supreme Court nominees is of tremendous importance to all presidents, the amount of time it takes presidents to select nominees varies dramatically across nominations. We argue that the timing of nominations is a function of the political constraints the president faces. We examine all Supreme Court nominations since 1882 and find that divided government, a newly-elected president, a nominee’s personal characteristics, and Senate rule changes increase the length of the nomination stage. Nomination decisions are abbreviated as the Senate nears the end of session and as the presidency’s institutional capacity has increased over time.

Charles R. Shipan (2006), “Choosing When to Choose: Explaining the Duration of Presidential Supreme Court Nomination Decisions,” unpublished paper. Available here.

Kurazaki on private communication and crisis diplomacy

Abstract: This paper explores when and why private communication works in crisis diplomacy. Conventional audience-cost models suggest that state leaders must go public to reveal information in interstate crises because leaders cannot enhance their credibility by tying their hands if domestic audiences cannot observe their private signals. I present a crisis bargaining game where both the sender and the receiver of signals have a domestic audience. The equilibrium analysis demonstrates that a private threat, albeit of limited credibility, can be equally compelling as a fully credible public threat. Secrecy works in crisis diplomacy despite its informational inefficacy because secrecy insulates leaders from domestic political consequences when they capitulate to a challenge to avoid risking unwarranted war. The logic of efficient secrecy may shed light on the unaccounted history of private diplomacy in international crises. The Alaska Boundary Dispute illustrates this logic.

Shuhei Kurazaki (2007), “Efficient Secrecy: Public Versus Private Threats in Crisis Diplomacy,” American Political Science Review 101: 543-558. Available here.

Brighouse and Swift on Parental Partiality

It is widely thought that people have morally weighty prerogatives to act partially toward particular others. Indeed, the permissibility of partial relationships between individuals is a touchstone of liberal – including egalitarian liberal - thinking. These relationships appear inegalitarian in deep ways. The parties to partial relationships may exclude others from the mutual benefits their association yields and have special responsibilities to one another that give them the right, and sometimes the duty, to further one another’s interests in ways that may interrupt equality. Our focus in this paper is the relationship widely thought to be the most powerfully protected of all: that between parents and their children. We do not believe that parents must be permitted to pursue their children’s best interests regardless of the inequalities that pursuit may induce between them and others. The behavior described is excessive, not legitimate, parental partiality. Our aim in this paper is to provide a normative account of the familial relationship that explains why.

Harry Brighouse and Adam Swift (2007), “Legitimate Parental Partiality,” unpublished paper. Available here.

October 08, 2007

Gross and Simmons on the social and political views of professors

In 1955, Columbia University sociologist Paul Lazarsfeld received a grant from The Ford Foundation’s newly established Fund for the Republic – chaired by former University of Chicago President Robert M. Hutchins – to study how American social scientists were faring in the era of McCarthyism. … Analyzing the survey data on this score with Wagner Thielens in their 1958 book, The Academic Mind, Lazarsfeld observed that liberalism and Democratic Party affiliation were much more common among social scientists than within the general population of the United States, and that social scientists at research universities were more liberal than their peers at less prestigious institutions. … In the 1990s, a few sociologists continued to produce high quality work on the topic (e.g., Hamilton and Hargens 1993; Nakhaie and Brym 1999). But an unfortunate tendency became evident: increasingly, those social scientists who turned their attention to professors and their politics, and employed the tools of survey research, had as their goal simply to highlight the liberalism of the professoriate in order to provide support for conservatives urging the reform of American colleges and universities. … With this essay we take a step toward moving the study of professorial politics back into the domain of mainstream sociological inquiry. … Where other recent studies have characterized the American college and university faculty as not simply extremely liberal, but nearly uniformly so (Klein and Stern 2004-5; Rothman, Lichter, and Nevitte 2005; Tobin and Weinberg 2006), we show that while conservatives, Republicans, and Republican voters are rare within the faculty ranks, on many issues there are as many professors who hold center/center-left views as there are those who cleave to more liberal positions, while the age distribution indicates that, in terms of their overall political orientation, professors are becoming more moderate over time, and less radical.

Neil Gross and Solon Simmons (2007), “The Social and Political Views of American Professors,” unpublished paper. Available here.

Hsieh et al. on how Venezuala's government punishes the opposition (and how the opposition punishes government supporters)

Do individuals who join the political opposition pay an economic price? We study this question using unique information on individual political activity from Hugo Chávez’s Venezuela, the Maisanta database. The names of millions of pro-opposition supporters who signed recall petitions (seeking to remove Chávez from office) during 2002-2003, and the names of progovernment supporters who signed counter-petitions, were made public. Media accounts detail how this information has been utilized by both sides: by the Government to punish opposition supporters and firms, and by the overwhelmingly pro-opposition private sector to discriminate against government supporters in hiring. After linking this political database to both national household survey and manufacturing firm data, we find that pro-opposition individuals experience significant drops in total earnings after 2003. There is extensive churning in the labor market: pro-opposition individuals disproportionately leave public sector employment and pro-government individuals leave private sector employment. Pro-opposition firms have falling total employment, less access to foreign exchange, and rising tax burdens (possibly due to selective audits). The misallocation of resources associated with political polarization between 1999-2004 contributed to a decline of 5% in TFP in our sample. To the extent other regimes can identify and punish the political opposition, these findings may help explain why dislodging authoritarian regimes often proves difficult in less developed countries.

Chang-Tai Hsieh, Edward Miguel, Daniel Ortega and Francisco Rodriguez (2007), “The Price of Political Opposition: Evidence from Venezuela’s Maisanta,” unpublished paper. Available here.

McCarthy and Poole on gerrymandering and political polarization

Abstract: Both pundits and scholars have blamed increasing levels of partisan conflict and polarization in Congress on the effects of partisan gerrymandering. We assess whether there is a strong causal relationship between congressional districting and polarization. We find very little evidence for such a link. First, we show that congressional polarization is primarily a function of the differences in how Democrats and Republicans represent the same districts rather than a function of which districts each party represents or the distribution of constituency preferences. Second, we conduct simulations to gauge the level of polarization under various “neutral” districting procedures. We find that the actual levels of polarization are not much higher than those produced by the simulations. We do find that gerrymandering has increased the Republican seat share in the House; however, this increase is not an important source of polarization.

Nolan McCarthy and Keith T. Poole (2007), “Does Gerrymandering Cause Polarization?,” unpublished paper. Available here.

October 04, 2007

Koger and Fowler on agenda setting in the Senate

Abstract: We analyze the influence of party and preferences on Senate agenda-setting. We find a significant majority party advantage in getting bills reported from committee, but otherwise little variation within parties based on preferences. In addition, our results suggest that Senate committees are more likely to report bills written by committee leaders and senior members, or bills with cosponsors. This suggests that Senate agenda-setters are sensitive to cues that bills are high-quality and relatively easy to pass.

Gregory Koger and James H. Fowler (2007), “Parties and Agenda-Setting in the Senate, 1973-1998,” unpublished paper. Available here.

Weller on Trade Preferences, Constituents and Parties

Abstract: Scholars have argued that constituent interests and political parties affect voting on trade policy legislation in the U.S. Congress. The existing empirical research on trade policy voting, however, has not utilized research designs that allow us to disentangle how constituents and parties affect legislative voting. In this paper we apply one-to-one matching research designs to compare the effects of constituency and party on trade policy voting in both the U.S. House and Senate. The research design allows us to account for a variety of different constituent factors that could influence voting, and then determine if party has any effect beyond constituent interests. The results suggest that party plays a significant role in legislative voting on trade policy once we account for constituency effects. Between 1824 and 1930, political party almost completely determines trade policy votes and although the effect of party is weaker since 1930 it is still significant. These results suggest that to understand the political economy of trade policy we need to incorporate the way that partisan politics affects trade polic

Nicholas Weller (2007), “Trading Policy: Constituents and Political Party in U.S. Trade Policy,” unpublished paper. Available here.

Shipan on partisanship and voting for Supreme Court Nominees

Abstract: It is by now well known that ideological concerns have a major influence on senator’s votes over Supreme Court nominees. Much less is understood, however, about the effects of partisanship. This study investigates two aspects of partisanship – first, whether confirmation voting has become more partisan over time, even when controlling for other factors, such as ideology; and second, whether partisanship modifies the influence of ideology. The results demonstrate that partisanship has played an increasing role over time and that the effects of ideology are, to some extent, dependent on partisanship.

Charles R. Shipan (2007), “Partisanship, Ideology, and Senate Voting on Supreme Court Nominees,” unpublished paper. Available here.

October 01, 2007

Abrajano and Singh on News, Immigration Reform, and Latinopolitical attitudes

Abstract: This paper explores whether an individual’s news source can explain their attitudes on immigration. We focus on the Spanish-speaking population in the U.S., since they have the option of accessing their news in English, Spanish or in both languages. Our audience influence hypothesis predicts that Spanish-language news will cover immigration in a more positive and informative manner than will English-language news. Thus, Latinos who use Spanish-language news may have a higher likelihood of possessing pro-immigrant sentiments than Latinos who only use English-language news. Content analysis of Spanish and English-language television news segments demonstrates that Spanish-language news does provide a more positive discussion of immigration than does English-language news. Analysis of Latino survey respondents indicate that those who use Spanish-language news hold more favorable views towards immigration than those who only use English-language news. Generational status also influences Latinos’ immigration attitudes, though its impact is not as great as one’s news source.

Marisa Abrajano and Simram S. Singh (2007), “Examining the Link between Issue Attitudes and News Source: The Case of Latinos and Immigration Reform,” unpublished paper. Available here.

Saiegh on Credible Commitments and the State in Argentina

Abstract: The notion that governments bound by the rule of law are less likely to expropriate private wealth has been a prominent idea since the publication of North and Weingast’s seminal article on public borrowing in seventeenth-century England. However, this view has been challenged recently. For example, Stasavage (2003) argues that constitutional checks and balances are neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition to create a credible commitment to secure property rights. One of the main shortcomings of the literature, however, is that it has tried to settle the debate by looking at evidence on sovereign borrowing from the same pair of countries (England and France). This article seeks to overcome such limitation by focusing on the link between representative government and public borrowing in Argentina. I present an “analytic narrative” of the country’s rags-to-riches story in the nineteenth century. First, I use historical evidence to document the relationship between absolute government, the absence of long-term borrowing, and the use of money creation to finance public deficits in the period between 1820 and 1862. Next, I examine public finance in the period between 1863 and 1913, when constitutional checks and balances were finally set up. I complement the historical narrative with an econometric analysis using time-series data on the partisan control of government, monetary policies, and public borrowing. The Argentine experience suggests that while constitutional checks and balances can improve possibilities for credible commitment, they are a necessary but not a sufficient condition for this to occur.

Sebastian M. Saiegh (2007), “North and Weingast Revisited: Credible Commitments and Public Borrowing in the Pampas,” unpublished paper. Available here.

Kang on race and democratic contestation

Abstract: As the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) passes its fortieth anniversary and soon faces constitutional challenges to its recent renewal, a growing number of liberals and conservatives once united in their unqualified support now share deep reservations about it. In this Article, I argue that the growing skepticism about the VRA and majority-minority districting is misguided by a simplistic and impoverished sensibility about the value of electoral competition in American politics. Electoral competition should be judged with reference to ultimate end states it is intended to produce - more democratic debate, greater civic engagement and participation, and richer political discourse - all of which are generated by a deeper first-order competition among political leaders that I describe as “democratic contestation.” In the Article, I offer democratic contestation, in place of electoral competition, as a basic value to be pursued in the law of democracy and as foundation for new theory that helps reconcile approaches to race, representation, and political competition. A theory of democratic contestation shifts the normative focus from the pluralist absorption about which groups get what from politics, to a new focus on the tenor and quality of democratic contestation among leaders.

When viewed through a theory of democratic contestation, the VRA is crucially pro-competitive in the broader sense of democratic contestation. By carving out safe majority-minority districts, the VRA breaks the discursive stasis of racial polarization in which politics by definition revolve around the single axis of race. A theory of democratic contestation reveals how majority-minority districts energize the process of democratic contestation and enable an internal discourse of ideas that moves beyond the racially polarized divide, otherwise impossible in the face of racial polarized opposition. A theory of democratic contestation thus demands a thorough re-evaluation of the Supreme Court’s recent decision in LULAC v. Perry and provides a new understanding of the renewed VRA going forward in the modern political world of national partisan competition.

Michael S. Kang (2008), “”Race and Democratic Contestation”,” Yale Law Journal, forthcoming. Available here.