Thursday, 30 June 2005

Why political scientists try to be irrelevant

Today’s Washington Post carries a front-page article that (inadvertently) explains why empirically-oriented political scientists* like myself for the most part avoid doing anything that has anything close to real-world implications. And, it’s a no-win situation unless you’re a raging lefty “new politics” type (i.e., the sort who wouldn’t be hired by Democrats or Republicans to do this sort of work in the first place): somehow I doubt those in our discipline who want our discipline to be more “relevant” will be cheering the efforts of my future colleagues Peter Feaver and Christopher Gelpi to reinforce public support for the Iraq war and the War on Terror.

James Joyner’s comments further underscore the reasons for this reluctance:

Peter Baker and Dan Balz have a front page editorial, er “analysis,” at the Washington Post pointing out that President Bush is a politician who crafts his public speeches with his audience in mind. Even more damning is the suggestion that he hires experts to advise him.

Another data point: a few weeks ago, I made the mistake of trying to explain 50 years of empirical public opinion research to a reporter for the Jackson Free Press (for this article) who was asking why nobody voted in Jackson’s mayoral race, and all I got for it was being accused of being a “cynic.” Talk about shooting the messenger.

* Yes, this phrase is redundant.

German confidence tricks

Here’s a new one: a parliamentary leader who wants to lose a vote of no confidence:

Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder will call a vote of confidence in the German parliament on Friday as part of his plan to hold early elections.

Schroeder is hoping he will lose the vote of deputies in the Bundestag, a move that would allow him to resign as chancellor and call fresh elections in the autumn—probably in mid-September.

He would then begin campaigning for a fresh mandate to push through tough economic reforms.

There’s some background on Germany’s rather unusual confidence procedures here at Wikipedia (the standard Wikipedia caveat applies)—there are actually two different types of confidence vote, one of which replaces the chancellor (the “constructive” vote that most comparative politics textbooks talk about) and the other of which requests (but does not require) that the president call new elections.

The Bear necessities

Steven Taylor is organizing a new TTLB blogging community of professors, known as The Academy. Drop by Steven’s place and let him know if you meet the admissions requirements and are interested in joining the faculty club.

Phoners to get a tax cut?

Yet another proposal to eliminate the telephone excise tax that dates back to the Spanish-American War has apparently been introduced in the Senate, although given the ballooning deficit and the typical political wrangling, I wouldn’t hold my breath on seeing the repeal happen anytime soon.

þ: Ars Technica.