Tag: Political Science

Abstraction, Power, Virtue, and Vice


Abstraction is the flip side of Division of Labor. It’s been a long time since I’ve read Adam Smith’s pin factory example, so forgive me if I’m fuzzy on the details. Suppose that the operation consists of the wire stretcher upstream of me, myself on the point grinder, and the guy down below me puts the heads on, shooing away any dancing angels. Smith teaches us that by focusing on my job, on grinding pins, that me and my two fellows will make vastly more pins than we would have separately. And indeed our experience with society bears this out; I’ve never made a pin myself but I can purchase as many as I’d like at almost no cost.

So huzzah Division of Labor, right? That’s where Abstraction comes in. To focus on grinding pins I’ve got to stop worrying about cutting the wires and placing the heads. If I’m trying to cut my own wires then I’ve lost whatever advantage I’d gained from Division of Labor and now my pin output has plummeted. So I abstract away those concerns, contenting myself with the knowledge that there will always be a stretched wire for me to reach out and grab, and that the sharpened wires will always have heads placed. Because I’ve abstracted those away to the other guy’s concern I’ve necessarily given that other guy Power over me.

The Bond Between Democrats and Black Voters


Hat tip to Patrick Ruffini for the link to this interesting piece that shows how social pressure cements loyalty between Democrats and black voters.

There’s a kind of “Bradley Effect” where black voters are more likely to say they’re Democrats when asked by a black interviewer rather than a white interviewer. They also found that black voters will donate more money to Democratic candidates when faced with similar social pressure from other black Democrats.

This corroborates my hypothesis that voting Democrat, for black voters, is not a behavior. Rather, it is an attribute. It’s now what you do; it’s who you are.

Any Republican Would Have Won in 2016? It Ain’t Necessarily So.


Don’t bet your house on the roulette pattern — or your country on the election pattern. Correlation is not causation and past performance does not necessarily predict future results. We all know this, yet it is great fun to prognosticate and to chew the fat over past sports and presidential election seasons. Moving beyond such speculation towards serious analysis requires us to turn to the theory and practice of political science.

In Designing Social Inquiry: Scientific Inference in Qualitative Research, Gary King, Robert Keohane, and Sidney Verba laid out the case for research that is scientific even without large data sets — situations like the small set of presidential elections. Arguing against ad hoc explanations, they laid out the basics of research design: “the research question, the theory, the data, and the use of the data.” (p.13)

Obama’s Failed Experiment


Philip Fuxa/Shutterstock

In science, when you conduct an experiment to test a theory and get a result you didn’t expect, you learn from the experience and re-think your theory. But what do you do in politics, when you implement a policy you were certain would succeed but which fails miserably? We’re about to find out.

Member Post


Here’s Mr. Mansfield’s recent work telling the story of American politics in the 20th century & the challenge facing conservatives now. This first part deals with the problems of the Democrats. I think it lays out well both the strengths & the weaknesses of modern liberalism, & therefore raises the question, why do not conservatives […]

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A Scandal in Political Science – An Update


Michael LaCour, a UCLA graduate student in political science, has been accused of faking results for a paper that he published in the journal Science. Two days ago, Science retracted the article.

Four days ago, in my Ricochet post, I explained why I believe LaCour has faked the results of a second paper. Much of my explanation was speculation. For instance, I described how the confidence intervals for his estimates of media slants didn’t follow the pattern that one would have expected. I said in that post that I would have given 10:1 odds that the results were fake; that is, I was about 90% sure that this second paper was also an instance of fraud.

A Scandal in Political Science


shutterstock_120810916Over the past few days a scandal has begun to plague political science. A UCLA graduate student, Michael LaCour, appears to have faked a data set that was the basis for an article that he published in the highly prestigious journal Science. I have examined a second paper by LaCour. As I’ll explain, I’m convinced that it also is the product of faked results.

The Science article purportedly showed that personalized, door-to-door canvassing is effective at changing political views. LaCour and his co-author, Don Green of Columbia University, enlisted members of an LGBT organization at UCLA to contact voters who had earlier indicated on a survey that they opposed gay marriage. The article shows, based on follow-up surveys, that the LGBT door-to-door canvassing had a significant effect in shifting voters toward pro-gay-marriage views.

Two graduate students at UC Berkeley, however, had significant difficulties in replicating the study. They called the private firm that LaCour had supposedly enlisted to conduct his survey. The firm, however, said that it did not conduct such a survey. LaCour had also reported to the grad students the name of an employee of the survey firm with whom he worked. The firm, however, said that it had no records of such an employee ever working at the firm.

What is the Scent of a Liberal?


Yesterday’s Pravda-on-the-Hudson reported that the political science profession has done it again. It has come up with something that you desperately need to know:

Conservatives and liberals do not smell the same to potential mates. According to a study published this month in the American Journal of Political Science, people can literally sniff out ideology — and this may explain why so many couples share political beliefs. Or, as the study’s title says, “Assortative Mating on Ideology Could Operate Through Olfactory Cues.”

A Straw in the Wind


This past weekend, the American Political Science Association (ASPA) held its annual meeting in Washington, DC. It was a huge affair, involving 53 “divisions” and 60 “related groups,” and featuring more than one thousand separate panels. Here is the kicker: this year, there were no sessions at all devoted to an assessment of the foreign policy of Barack Obama, and not one panel was dedicated to an examination of Obama’s domestic policy.

There was, to be sure, a session entitled Author Meets Critics: Lebovic’s “Flawed Logics: Strategic Nuclear Arms Control from Truman to Obama, and there was another entitled Obama, Bush, and Grand Strategy.” But Obama was mentioned by name in the title of only one of the papers delivered at the latter panel: “Grand Strategy Constraints and Feedback During the GW Bush and Obama Administrations.” And its focus was a technical question. There was also a panel entitled Authors Meet Critics: “The Obama Effect: How the 2008 Campaign Changed White Racial Attitudes.” From a left-liberal perspective, those were the days!