Sunday, October 21, 2007

Constitutional Engineering 101

Last semester I designed a little “constitutional engineering” exercise for comparative politics. It’s probably better for a special topics course. Fortunately, I’m teaching just such a course this semester: Democracy & Democratization.

The simulation is rather simple. I designed a “Country Report” about a country (the Land of Oz). Students are then assigned into teams and asked to jointly write a 5-6 page policy brief recommending a constitutional design for a democratic Oz. After spending several weeks discussing issues of democratic theory, democratization, and constitutional design (presidentialism vs. parliamentarism, different kinds of electoral systems, issues of federalism, etc.) they should have enough from which to formulate a basic framework. The purpose is to test their ability to apply their readings to a “real” case (in this case, an imaginary one).

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Voting simulation

This is not technically about Latin America, but it is related to political institutions.

Last semester, I conducted a voting simulation in several political science classes at Dickinson College. This year, I hope to expand that to a much broader cross-section of the student body. In addition, I’m hoping to rope in a few other US colleges & universities, if possible. I’ll be running the simulation at Dickinson from October 22 through November 2.

The simulation is pretty simple, and shouldn’t take more than five minutes of class. Basically, I hand out three different kinds of ballots. Each ballot is handed out, explained, and then collected (after students vote), before handing out the next ballot.

I am using the same three ballots types from last semester: simple plurality, alternative vote, and ley de lemas. Additionally, though not requiring another ballot, I may count the plurality votes by “district” (each class) and use them to calculate a winner based on which candidate wins the most districts (a modified form of an electoral college).

If you would like to participate, please let me know. I want to collect as much data as possible and am curious to see the results from a broader sample. Here are the ballots, as well as the instructions (both are in Word format).

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

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

Abstract: 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 (from Political Science Weblog).

Friday, October 5, 2007

MPSA - Judicial Politics in Latin America

As you know, the MPSA proposal submission deadline is very close. I plan to present a paper on the strategic behavior of the Colombian Constitutional Court (which is part of my dissertation project) and I wonder if anyone knows of, or is interested in a panel on judicial politics in Latin America.
Juan Carlos Rodríguez-Raga
University of Pittsburgh

MPSA call for papers

The MPSA (Midwest Political Science Association) deadline for proposal abstracts is October 10th. If you are thinking about submitting a proposal, please do so. LAPIS members have a good track record of presenting papers at the MPSA (held each year in Chicago). MPSA has a number of tracks of potential interest to LAPIS members. The conference in scheduled for April 2-6, 2008.

LASA Survey on Congress

As you know, LASA is conducting a survey about the Congress organization. Apparently they are interested in new ideas to improve the organization of the conference and to offer grants for paper presenters.

I wonder if we have any ideas that we could promote using the survey. A consistent message may capture the attention of the Executive Committee.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Klesner on social capital in Latin America

Abstract: Scholars have argued that social capital—understood to mean those social networks, norms, and trust that allow citizens to act together more successfully to pursue shared goals—encourages political participation and a more robust democratic experience. Consequently, international development agencies have made promotion of social capital a major emphasis in recent years. Using data from the 1999-2001 wave of the World Values Survey, I show that in Argentina, Chile, Mexico, and Peru this relationship holds true. Greater involvement in nonpolitical organizations does lead to more participation in explicitly political activities. Higher levels of interpersonal trust also promote political participation. However, despite encouraging results from studies of popular participation in the region, Latin American levels of organizational involvement and political participation are moderate by the standards of more mature democracies, and levels of trust are relatively low.

Joseph L. Klesner (2007), “Social Capital and Political Participation in Latin America: Evidence from Argentina, Chile, Mexico, and Peru,” Latin American Research Review 42 (2): 1-32. Available here.

LAPS & Blackwell Publishing

Latin American Politics & Society (LAPS) has announced a partnership with Wiley-Blackwell, to distribute the journal beginning with the Spring 2008 issue. LAPS is based at the University of Miami’s Center for Latin American Studies and publishes peer reviewed articles on a range of topics such as: political institutions, regime change, and democratic governance; civil-military relations and national and regional security agendas; U.S.-Latin American relations in a globalizing world; civil society and social movements; social differences and hierarchies (race, class, gender); economic development and the political economy of market reforms; environmental politics and sustainable development; and hemispheric integration and the relationship between domestic and global economies. LAPS has an international Editorial Board comprised of two dozen leading scholars from the U.S., Latin America and Europe. William C. Smith (University of Miami) serves as the journal's Editor.