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New and exciting research from scholars in the Tobin Project network.
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National Security


The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers in the Twenty-first Century: China's Rise and the Fate of America's Global Position

Both academics and policymakers have long used the concept of polarity to analyze the international system, Stephen Brooks and William Wohlforth write, with today’s debate largely centering on China’s rise and the possible end of American unipolarity. However, Brooks and Wohlforth argue, while polarity is a useful tool for understanding the international system, it is too blunt an instrument to be useful in analyzing how close China is to challenging U.S. unipolarity. In fact, they write, a closer examination of economic and military power shows that while China is ahead of other great powers, it is still far behind the U.S. in economic capacity, technological advancement, and military power. Crucially, they add, the process of translating economic power into military power has become so slow and difficult - especially if a country seeks global power projection - that it will be decades, at least, before China has any chance of becoming a true superpower.
[Read the paper]
 

Institutions as Causes and Effects: North African Electoral Systems During the Arab Spring

Could different electoral rules have produced different results in the elections after the Arab Spring? By simulating the elections from district-level data using different rules, John Carey, Tarek Masoud, and Andrew Reynolds find that choosing a different proportional representation formula could have altered election results, sometimes very significantly. In Tunisia, for instance, a formula that favored large instead of small parties would have given the Islamist Ennahda party a supermajority instead of a less-than-50% plurality, allowing it to write Tunisia’s constitution with little to no input from other groups. However, they also find that the electoral rules chosen in these countries were far from exogenous, and, especially in the cases where the choice of rules mattered the most, resulted from bargaining between different political groups and reflected the existing balance of power. Further, they suggest that this process of determining electoral rules may help increase the chance that democracy survives founding elections - rules that are fairer to all parties should lessen the risk of electoral losers rejecting democracy entirely.
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Contingent Deference and Support for International Legal Institutions

In this paper, Terrence Chapman and Stephen Chaudoin use survey experiments in Kyrgyzstan and the United States to explore the factors affecting support for international legal institutions. They find that respondents in Kyrgyzstan tend to support hypothetical investigations by the International Criminal Court (ICC) that take place in foreign countries, but are much less supportive of potential ICC investigations of specific episodes of violence in Kyrgyzstan itself, with the least support coming from respondents in the region where the incidents took place. They find similar results in the United States, where generally high support for the rule of law and international legal institutions coexists with lower support for ICC investigations of Americans - especially from Americans with links to the U.S. military. Their results shed light on the difficulties that the ICC faces in its dependence on state cooperation in investigations and prosecutions.
[Read the paper]
 

United Nations Endorsement & Support for Human Rights: An Experiment on Women's Rights in Pakistan

Do United Nations reports on human rights help increase support for these rights and enhance conformity with human rights treaties? Gulnaz Anjum, Adam Chilton, and Zahid Usman investigate this question using a survey experiment in Pakistan, which asked respondents if they supported a set of women’s rights recommendations recently included in a UN report, and told half of the respondents that these proposals were endorsed by the UN. They find that UN endorsement has a significant positive effect on support for women’s rights reforms and increases people’s stated willingness to “mobilize” in support of these reforms - but that the effect only exists for respondents who already have confidence in the United Nations.
[Read the paper]
 

Do you have any new work you would like to share with the network? Let us know!

Tobin Project News

Tobin Convenes Meeting on “Reassessing Threat Assessment”

What practices of threat assessment have been most accurate in the past, and how can they help us discern better and worse approaches to assessment going forward? The Tobin Project held a meeting on these questions in Washington, DC in May with more than 40 scholars, policymakers, and practitioners. They discussed cases of successful, unsuccessful, and ongoing threat assessment ranging from the early days of the Cold War to cutting-edge biological weapons technology, and began to map out an agenda for future research. We are excited about the participants’ deep engagement with these important questions and the research projects that we hope will grow out of it.
 

Tobin Holds Prospectus Development Workshop

On June 11-12, the Tobin Project held its second Prospectus Development Workshop. The event brought together six graduate students with Tobin staff and alumni of Tobin graduate student programs to discuss the participants’ early-stage dissertation research, with the goal of helping them refine their research questions and enhance the relevance of their work to important real-world problems. The workshop participants brought a wide range of disciplinary perspectives to topics including the generation and use of soft power, the use of monetary and non-monetary incentives to encourage recycling, and more. We look forward to seeing the results of their research in the years to come.
[Learn about the participants]
[More about the Workshop]
 

Meet the New Graduate Student Workshop Participants

The Tobin Project has selected the participants for the Fall Graduate Student Workshop and Fellowship. This year’s group includes students of political science, history, public policy, and economics from six different institutions. We are excited to work with them and help them strengthen the contribution of their research to both scholarship and public debate.
[Graduate Student Fellows]
[More about the program]

 Government & Markets

Clerks or Kings? Partisan Alignment and Delegation to the US Bureaucracy

Do bureaucrats have more or less policy discretion when their political party holds power? Using data from a survey of state administrative agency heads, Christine Kelleher Palus and Susan Webb Yackee find evidence that challenges the dominant theory of the “ally principle,” which claims that bureaucrats should have more freedom when they hold the same views as their political leaders. They find that agency heads actually perceive less discretion over policy, budgets, and agency program priorities when their partisanship aligns with political principals. They suggest that this counterintuitive finding may result from the greater pressure that agency heads feel to conform to the party line when their party is in power.
[Read the paper]

 Institutions of Democracy

Do CEO Activists Make a Difference? Evidence from a Field Experiment

Can policy statements by CEOs affect the public’s policy or commercial preferences? Using a survey experiment that asked about support for Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, Aaron Chatterji and Michael Toffel find that the answer, in both cases, is yes. Survey respondents who were told that Apple CEO Tim Cook (or one of a number of other corporate leaders) believed that the Indiana law was discriminatory were significantly less likely to support the law, by about the same margin as people who were told that a prominent politician considered the law discriminatory. Furthermore, these respondents signalled a higher willingness to buy products made by the CEO’s company.
[Read the paper]

  Economic Inequality

Local Community Characteristics and Cooperation for Shared Green Reputation

Does economic inequality enhance or inhibit environmental cooperation? Using data from the Costa Rica Ecological Blue Flag Program, a voluntary program in which beach communities apply for an environmental certification, Jorge Rivera, Maria Angelica Naranjo, Juan Robalino, Francisco Alpizar, and Allen Blackman find that higher levels of inequality are linked with less cooperation for “shared green reputation.” They hypothesize that this effect stems from communities with a more even income distribution having more “shared interests, values, and identities” and reduced barriers to information sharing. They also find that communities with more businesses, more democratic political participation, and more foreign residents are more likely to be involved in the Blue Flag Program.
[Read the paper]
 

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