Skip to content

Month: October 2011

Governing by Polls

The study of policy responsiveness to public opinion is blossoming and propagating. Work published over the last two years includes the 2010 book by Stuart Soroka and Chris Wlezien (Canada, US and the UK), this paper by Sattler, Brandt, and Freeeman on the UK,  this paper on Denmark, my own article on the EU, Roberts and Kim’s work on post-Communist Europe, etc.  The latest edition to the literature is this article by Jeffrey Lax and Justin Phillips from Columbia University (forthcoming in AJPS). “The Democratic Deficit in the States” takes a cross-sectional rather than a dynamic (time series) perspective and analyzes both responsiveness  (correlation)  and congruence between policy outcomes and public opinion in the US states for eight policies. In short, there is a high degree of responsiveness but far from perfect congruence between majority opinion and policy. More salient policies fair better, and having powerful interest groups on your side helps. Altogether, this is an interesting and important study that adds yet another piece to our understanding of policy responsiveness. What starts to worry me, however, is that the normative implications of the policy responsiveness literature are too often taken for granted. Lax and Phillips seem to equate the lack of correspondence between public opinion and policy to democratic deficit(similarly, Sattler, Brandt and Freeman speak of ‘democratic accountability’). But there is quite a gap between the fact the a policy contradicts the majority of public opinion and the pronouncement of democratic failure. And we need to start unpacking the normative implications of the (lack of) policy responsiveness.  Of course, at a very general level no political system can be democratic unless…

Veto players and policy making (UK style)

 The concept of ‘veto players’ (developed initially by George Tsebelis) plays a prominent role in research on policy making, legislative production, policy implementation, etc. All these analyses need to be revised, however, because the measure of the number of British veto players has been revealed to be wrong. Everyone forgot to include ….. Prince Charles. Here is the story from the Guardian: Prince Charles has been offered a veto over 12 government bills since 2005. Ministers sought prince’s consent under secretive constitutional loophole on bills covering issues from gambling to the Olympics…Ministers have been forced to seek permission from Prince Charles to pass at least a dozen government bills, according to a Guardian investigation into a secretive constitutional loophole that gives him the right to veto legislation that might impact his private interests.  Plus one (veto player) for the UK. Minus one for democracy.


Bisphenol-A  (a  chemical found in plastic bottles) linked to anxiety and hyperactivity  in young girls Childhood  poverty can reset genes A beautiful map of economic complexity A  rant against (American) liberal art professors (and  Anthropology in particular) Andrew Gelman exposes (again) a lying pollster

More than you ever wanted to know about compliance with EU law in Europe

I  spent the last week finalizing a  review of the literature  on compliance with EU  law at the national level. It was a rather masochistic experience which I had promised  myself never to repeat but alas… This time at least somebody will take note it since I am going to present it next week to a small workshop in Berlin. Here is the abstract: This article introduces two bibliographical databases that provide systematic overviews of the existing statistical and qualitative academic research on (non)compliance with EU law and takes stock of the state of the art of the literature. Reviewing more than 35 statistical analyses and 80 small-N studies, I find that a small but coherent set of inferences emerges from the scholarship: transposition and practical application of EU law is limited by administrative capacity and prone to domestic conflicts spurred by the adaptation to the European rules. Political institutions influence the potential for such conflict while co-ordination and oversight mechanisms can enhance compliance. Beyond this core account, scholars disagree about the influence of policy misfit, individual preferences of domestic actors and a myriad of other variables being analyzed. I discuss matching, multi-level modeling and better case selection for qualitative studies as ways to move beyond these controversies and deliver more policy-relevant knowledge about the causes of (non)compliance with EU rules. If you want to read more, here is a link to the full version and a link to a very short summary.

Concentration of control in the global economy

All conspiracy theorists know that the global economy is concentrated in the hands of a few. But even they will be blown away by this paper which maps the network of global corporate ownership and control. Here is the (somewhat understated) abstract: “The structure of the control network of transnational corporations affects global market competition and financial stability. So far, only small national samples were studied and there was no appropriate methodology to assess control globally. We present the first investigation of the architecture of the international ownership network, along with the computation of the control held by each global player. We find that transnational corporations form a giant bow-tie structure and that a large portion of control flows to a small tightly-knit core of financial institutions. This core can be seen as an economic “super-entity” that raises new important issues both for researchers and policy makers.”  (Vitali, Glattfelder and Battiston) Some of the findings: – almost 40% of the economic value of transnational companies in the world is in the hands of a group of 147 tightly-interconnected companies “which has almost full control over itself” (p.6) – “[N]etwork control is much more unequally distributed than wealth…[T]he top ranked actors hold a control ten times bigger than what could be expected based on their wealth” (p.6) – 10 companies control 20% of the network; 50 companies control 40% of the network (!) – 35 of these 50 companies belong to a strongly connected core, meaning that they are all “tied together in an extremely entangled…

How to get more citations: red hot new evidence?

Wanna get more  citations to your papers? Start with the title. No colons, no question marks [evidence here  (gated); don’t look here]. More  acronyms [link]. And don’t even think about humorous and  amusing phrases [link]. Didn’t help? Don’t despair: “no more than 20% of citations of prominent papers involve the citer actually reading the papers in question” [link]