2 Today’s puzzle World is complicated Lots of potential interrelations between phenomenaHow do we explain politics?
3 Our goal Arguments Also called causal inference Link between cause and effectShows that one thing follows from anotherX Y (or more complicated versions)Can always draw arrow diagramsAlso called causal inferenceSome arguments better than othersMore truthful, correspond to way world actually works
4 Types of Arguments Normative Argument Positive Argument Ethical or moral argument – valuesWhat “should” or “ought” to bePositive ArgumentAbout actual state of worldShows the way things areAnswers question “Why?” or “How?”
5 Which are positive and normative? Incumbents win when the economy is growingWe should reduce the amount of money in politicsAmerica needs to spend more on foreign aidLobbying doesn’t change legislative votesEducating women will lead to more democracyAn Obama victory is better for AmericaThe US needs to intervene in Syria because the Syrians have used poison gas.
6 One key normative argument Normal standards of ethics don’t apply to politicsBecause politicians are responsible for people’s lives, they need to weigh expected consequences of their actionsCan’t act just morally and let chips fall where they mayTo achieve best outcomes may need to compromise, double-deal, lie, etc.Ethic of responsibility versus ethic of ultimate ends
7 Positive argument has two parts Dependent variablePhenomenon we want to explainEffectIndependent variable(s)Phenomenon that explains itCauseSystematically affects dependent variable
8 Types of Positive Arguments Deductivefrom general theory to specific casebut only as good as your assumptionsEmpirical/Inductivefrom specific facts to general theorysearch for patterns in the worldbut world is complex
10 Where to start? A good question An interesting puzzle What causes countries to become democratic?An interesting puzzleWhy is India democratic?Seems unexpected b/c so poor and so diverse
11 Causality = counterfactual To say that X causes Y means that if we take away X, we don’t get Y“Not X” is the counterfactualThe problem is that we can’t observe both X and not X at the same timeYou either get the drug or you don’t
12 Gold standard Ideally an experiment Assign subjects randomly to two groupsOne groups receives treatment, other doesn’tThe control group is the counterfactualBut how to do in comparative politics?Give democracy drug to some undemocratic countries but not othersEthical & practical issues
13 Inductive approachLook at countries and see what they have in common and where they differ: search for patternsWhich countries?Might start with democraciesWhy also look at non-democracies?Which independent variables?Is this correlation enough?
14 Correlations Positive: as one variable rises, second rises Negative: as one variable rises, second fallsSignificant: unlikely to be result of random chanceInsignificant: likely to be result of random chance
15 Inductivist approach Country Democracy Wealth Ethnic divisions Parliamen-taryUSYesNoUKBelgiumSaudi Arabia
16 Inductivist turkey Too many potential causes Never enough cases Which ones are important?Never enough casesWe can’t isolate the counterfactual
17 Deductive approach Start with theory Assumptions about human nature plus set of constraints – then logically reason to outcomeWhat would lead political elites to allow democracy or citizens to demand it?If this is true, what implications should we see in the world?
18 Usually go together Need a theory to prevent inductivist turkey Need data to keep theory tied to realityOften go back and forth
19 Not as easy as it looks Say we find a correlation, a pattern Richer countries tend to be democraticHow do we know if it is a truthful argument?Does the pattern indicate genuine causation or is it spurious
20 Does wealth distinguish democracies and non-democracies?
21 Pitfalls in causal inference (1) Case selection – how did you choose your examples?Selecting on the dependent variablei.e., choosing only “successes” or only “failures”
25 Pitfalls in causal inference (3) Endogeneity (reverse causality)Does Y cause XGoing to Harvard and getting rich
26 Pitfalls in causal inference (4) Causal mechanismCan I tell a reasonable story connecting cause and effect including all the intermediate steps?Helps to have evidence for these stepsCorrelation between distance from Berlin and postcommunist democracy/economic reform
27 Pitfalls in causal inference (5) FalsifiabilityHow would I know if it was false
29 Pitfalls in causal inference (6) MeasurementHave I measured everything well?
30 Does wealth cause democracy? Correlation: Yes, but not perfectOmitted variables: Possibilities?Case selection: Middle East? India? Population? Time periodEndogeneity: democracy => wealthCausal mechanismMeasurement: How have we defined democracy? Wealth?
31 How to read a political science article What is the author trying to explain? (dependent variable)What is the cause? (independent variable)What mechanism connects cause and effect?
32 How to critique an article How were cases selected?Omitted variablesEndogeneityShows all the connectionsMeasurement of conceptsWhat evidence might disprove
33 Being a good political thinker Are you becoming angry at politics?Do you have strong opinions before you look at the evidence?Do your opinions change as you gather evidence?Do you seek info only from sources you agree with?Do you think those who disagree with you are evil?