Notes on a Theory…

Thoughts on politics, law, & social science

Top Five Posts That You Did Read: 2012

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Here are your top five posts from the last year, based solely on page views. The biggest thing driving traffic – one or two people who have a bigger megaphone than me passing it along.  (My thanks to those people).  Was there anything else they shared in common? Let’s take a look.

Also, don’t miss Top Five Posts that No One Read: 2012.

5) An Electoral Mandate is a Claim, Not a Fact : I draw from some classic political science by Marjorie Randon Hershey. Elections are institutions, not simple aggregations of individual choices.  This is one piece in a larger theme – politics is better understood as competing claims making rather than decisions. That’s important both for how we do politics, and how we study it. Or, another post on the importance of contestation.

4) Either Elections are Important or They’re Not: Unions and the Democratic Party : I object to the idea that elections are so important that unions must give anything in order to increase the chances that Democrats will win but at the same time Democrats shouldn’t have to do anything to earn that support.  When Democrats come calling for help, unions should ask what those officials have done to show they really care about workers and the strength of the union movement.

3) How Means Testing Exploits Well Intentioned Liberals : My thoughts about how bad ideas like ‘means testing’ exploits good instincts among liberals, in ways that undermine liberal goals.

2) Reading is Fundamental: The State of the Discipline of Political Science: In which I agree, in part, with the editors of the American Political Science Review.  The hypothesis testing approach to social science leads to lack of reading, which impedes knowledge building – despite what convention wisdom says. This problem has been well-recognized (if poorly diagnosed) but won’t get better because institutions, not atomized individuals, drive social outcomes.

1) No, Jeb Bush, Schools are not Like Milk – I tweet a lot about education, but haven’t written about it much.  I made up for it with this epic (long) post.  The main point is that schools and education are not like a simple consumer good.  Bad metaphors make for sloppy thinking.  More generally, “The long-term shift from social rights to commodification is one of the more important (and disastrous) political projects of my lifetime.”

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