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Norwegian roads and swing voters February 24, 2009

Posted by Sverre in : Norwegian politics, Political economy, Public Policy , comments closed

navarseteIn recent weeks, there has been som controversy in Norwegian media over an article by Leif Helland and Rune J. Sørensen of the Norwegian School of Management (BI) about a systemic skew in Norwegian road building. Their research shows that there appears to be systematic self-serving rational choice behavior by Norwegian politicians, as districts with important swing voters tend to get more grants for road building, and that this affects the social efficiency of road building in general. Read the article (link at the bottom) for more on their findings.

This was picked up by Norwegian media when Norwegian parliamentarians met with Swedish counterparts and presented under the heading “Met by laughter in Sweden”. What the Swedes were laughing at was the level of micromanagement in road building that the Norwegian parliament is involved in. In Norway, every road builiding project is a parliament issue, and Helland and Sørensen have proved that this leads to non-optimal distributions of road construction money.

Norwegian Secretary of Transportation Liv Signe Navarsete doesn’t get the most important point:


Podcast review: Econtalk February 22, 2009

Posted by Sverre in : Political economy, Reviews , comments closed

podcastIn my quest to find good political science podcasts out there, I’ve now arrvied at the Library of Liberty and Economicspodcast series “Econtalk“. Like the previously reviewed LSE lectures, it’s a well established line with a lot of material from interesting speakers. There’s a lot of good material in there, although the style differs much from the lecture style of the LSE cast.

Econtalk is, like its name implies, talking on economics and related spheres – mostly political economy. If you regard the more policy-related parts of economics as being within the interest sphere of political science, there is an abundance of good material here. (more…)

Podcast Review: LSE Public Lectures February 11, 2009

Posted by Sverre in : Reviews , comments closed

podcastAs promised, I’ll be reviewing some of the political science relevant podcasts out there, starting with the London School of Economics’ Public Lectures and Events stream.

Let me start with loudly acclaiming the very thought of recording lectures and making them available to everyone over the internet. It’s part of the whole idea of open access to scientific material and knowledge that I happily notice seems to be gaining more ground. The LSE is a prestigious institution in an international metropolis, allowing it to attract names for guest lectures that I could only dream of here in my small Norwegian city. That’s why it’s so fantastic that I can still gain access to these lectures from some of the most brilliant minds of the world through the internet.

So, one point already to the LSE just for the effort. But what have they actually put out there? All lectures generally follow the same format. First there are one or more speeches by prominent scientists or society persons followed by a Q&A session with the members of the audience. They are conducted in an orderly manner with one of the LSE academic staff as moderator. (more…)

Perak, Malaysia – a constitutional monarchy gone haywire February 7, 2009

Posted by Sverre in : Malaysia , comments closed

perakAn interesting political conflict is taking place in the state of Perak in Malaysia these days. Things have turned into complete chaos with a government that won’t resign, a monarch that won’t dissolve the parliament and two political alliances trying to steal each other’s representatives with all means necessary. All claim to have the constitution on their side and accuse the others of acting unconstitutionally.

After the 2008 elections, the state parliament is divided almost 50-50 between the opposition alliance PKR and the government alliance BN. Until now, the state had a PKR government who ruled with a 3-member advantage in the parliament. So far pretty straightforward, but then it becomes complicated… (more…)

Political science podcasting February 5, 2009

Posted by Sverre in : meta, Reviews , comments closed

I’ve just used some of my research scholarship money to invest in a media player that I will use for recording purposes. But more than just record stuff like a dictaphone, I can also use it to play other media. Like podcasts.

I’ve never really had a player well suited to listening to podcasts before, but over the last two days I’ve been trying it out. And I was excited to find out how wonderful a tool this can be for those of us that have a somewhat more than average interest in political science. Now I can have political science lectures in debates in my ears all the time rather than just getting it in snippets on BBC or Norwegian broadcasting whenever they send something interesting. Now I can really cater to my nerdiness and be a political scientist even when out walking or skiing!

Henceforth, I will try to spread the gospel of political science podcasts through reviewing and recommending good podcast sources for political scientists from time to time. I’m currently trying out the podcasts from LSE, which show some real promise. A review will follow after I’ve listened through a couple of broadcasts and made up an opinion.

The crisis game – poker or chicken? February 1, 2009

Posted by Sverre in : Norwegian politics, Political economy , comments closed

Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten had an interesting report before the weekend about the games surrounding the Norwegian government relief packages. They compare the gamchickene now played between the government and the banks. On one side of the table we have Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg (Labour), and on the other we have the major bank managers, represented by Nordea CEO Gunn Wærsted. Each has three visible cards: a 7, Jack and Ace. The analogy might not be brilliant and ingenious, but it describes the game in a simillar manner to the game theories of Political Economy. (more…)

No change for Malaysia? January 27, 2009

Posted by Sverre in : Malaysia, World politics , comments closed

badawianwarThere is a mood of anticipation over the world as Barack H. Obama (as I now understand we should call him) has taken his seat in the Oval Office. This mood of anticipation and great expectation of change is not unlike what had the opposition movement in Malaysia whipped up last year when Anwar Ibrahim made his comeback into Malaysian politics. But did change never come?

September 16 2008, the opposition movement’s new national day, was announced to be the day the roots of the Malaysian establishment would shake and mass defections from the government coalition would be announced. The blogging community and opposition coalition leaks had the tally at more than 30 MPs ready to jump sides, and the Pakatan Rakyat opposition coalition ready to sweep in and take power. But the day came and went with out much of the announced ruckus. Certainly no mass defections. (more…)

Norway goes Keynesian January 26, 2009

Posted by Sverre in : Norwegian politics, Political economy , comments closed

keyneshalvorsenThe ongoing finance crisis has certainly given classic Keynesianism a new boost. And few countries have embraced this as clearly as Norway did today. The center-left government under Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg from Labour (Arbeiderpartiet) and Finance Minister Kristin Halvorsen from the Socialist Left Party (Sosialistisk Venstreparti) introduced a massive expansion package aimed at combating unemployment.

The package expands the national budget directly with about 2o billion NOK (roughly 2.2 billion € or 2.86 b$), with nearly 17 billions increased expenditure and over 3 billion worth of tax cuts. With secondary effects, the government estimates a total expansive effect of 27 billion NOK, reducing the substantial oil-boosted government surplus. When correcting for petroleum-based offshore income, the government now estimates a government deficit of 119 billion NOK for 2009. This sums up to an expansion of the oil-corrected government budget of 2.3%, substantially higher than the 1.5% goal set by the EU. (more…)

Rethinkning voter rationality December 22, 2008

Posted by Sverre in : Political behavior, Political economy , comments closed

A very interesting paper by Andrew Gelman and a few more, linked to in a post at The Monkey Cage, proved to be very much to my liking. They look at the act of voting from a rational actor perspective, but leave the premise that “rationality” is equal to “selfishness”. That means they give the voter a preference for the good of everyone else, thereby showing that voting can be a rational act.

What’s the logic behind this? Well, if you sum up the benefit every member of society would get from an election outcome, the number could become quite big, compensating for the low likelihood that your vote is the one that will decide. Thus if the cost of voting is rather low, it might still be worth it. This actually sounds rather reasonable. Perhaps voting might be rational.

The perceived benefit society could get from voting is of course limited by how much you actually believe candidates will follow through their policies. Also, the benefit of voting might have to be discounted by a factor reflecting to what degree you believe the election will be fair. This might explain why the big proportion of the voters that don’t participate still aren’t necessarily selfish either.

It gives me solace to know that I now have a scientific vay to explain that people that vote aren’t stupid and people in general aren’t necessarily selfish.

Fishkin vs. Hibbing – do people really want to decide? December 4, 2008

Posted by Sverre in : My master thesis, Political behavior, Political Theory , comments closed

The following is part of the ongoing research for my master (graduate) thesis.

“Society is like a ship, and everyone must be prepared to take the helm.”
(Henrik Ibsen, An enemy of the people,my translation.)

Those of us who hold deliberation (in any form) to be an important prerequisite for informed decision making, would also be interested in the topic of how deliberative functions in society can be improved.

James Fishkin has been one of the most quoted political scientists concerned with the topic of deliberation. He’s a normative scientist, concerned with the benefits that can be reaped from encouraging more democratic debate throughout the population. He has proposed new democratic institutions, such as deliberative opinion polls, or more grandly the thought of a universal “Deliberation Day” (Ackerman & Fishkin 2003). But both of these rest on one very important assumption, that  “[…]most citizens would be glad of the opportunity to play a serious role in important historical events” (Fishkin 1991:9). And this is an assumption Fishkin seems to take lightly. But is it realistic? (more…)