Why I blog

UPDATE: Antonio has some extremely kind words in the comments! In his last paragraph, he refers to five grandes maestros of contemporary political science: Lijphart, Taagepera, Linz, Grofman, and Sartori. Indeed, he has named those whom I consider to be my principal role models among senior scholars I have had the pleasure of knowing and working with, as their student or colleague (and I would also add Bing Powell and the late Harry Eckstein). Since my grad school days or shortly thereafter, each of these men was a role model not only for his remarkable, foundational academic achievements, but also for guidance graciously offered in the formative years of my academic experience.


Sure, some aspects of blogging are vanity, no doubt: the chance to do things I love to do (write and profess) and be read by people other than the readers of political-science journals (a narrow readership if there ever was one) or my students (who have little choice in such matters). Then there is the public service aspect: Someone may learn about a newly available fruit variety or growing technique, or maybe even understand electoral systems better from one of my posts. But there is a very direct individual benefit, too. Sometimes a reader points me to something in the academic literature that I might otherwise have missed. From Antonio’s comment to a remark I made in the Brazil presidential election thread about methods of electing presidents under different configurations of presidential power:

regarding your comments whether the majority runoff system is best for premier-presidential systems, but the logic for plurality (or qualified plurality, DCR…) is stronger the stronger the presidency a recent work by Heather Stoll argues that the greater the power of president (“the power of prize”) the more electoral coordination we will find both within electoral districts and aggregating accross them. In a more recent paper also Allen Hicken (your disciple?) suggest a non-linear relationship between the powers of the president and the number of presidential candidates. Increasing presidential powers is associated with fewer presidential candidates over a moderate range of presidential power. However, where presidents are extremely weak or extremely powerful increasing presidential power actually produces a larger number of candidates. Hicken demonstrates that the substantive effect of presidential powers on the effective number of candidates is more than twice as large as the effect of the electoral formula (plurality, majority run-off…).

Nifty. And thanks, Antonio!

This experience is a twist on the “blogging and academia” theme that I first noted back when this orchard was newly planted.

0 thoughts on “Why I blog

  1. The notion of “magisterio” is very strong in the Spanish academic tradition. The spanish “maestro” (master) not only teaches his disciples, he orients them in all of academic life. The true disciple is one who, in time, initiates his own magisterio with his respective students. What is characteristic of this maestro-disciple relationship is MSS’s very intense dedication to the work of his students, collaborators and apprentices. It could be said that it preoccupies him more than his own work and this blog is an example. The “Lessons of the Masters” by George Steiner is a book about the teaching transaction, the dissemination of knowledge as it is passed from generation to generation through teacher to student. George Steiner in this book offers an overview of the whole gamut of masters and the master-disciple relationships. But George Steiner does not really explain the magic in teaching. Why do some teachers so captivate their students that what they convey leaves a lifelong impression? Great question!

    This blog is not just the result of altruism; there is also a paradoxical, selfish reason. The blog generates many cases of serendipity, in the mertonian tradition of surprises which the patient researcher and always encounters. By the way, the word serendipity was coined by Horace Walpole, the son of british prime minister, and has come from an old Persian faire tale. In the other hand, the research objectives of Professor Shugart are vast, if not unattainable. He realizes he cannot possibly conduct research on everything, as his infinite curiosity demands, so his disciples undertake research that he could not tackle himself.

    Ah, una última ventaja de este blog es, siendo sinceros, que los discípulos del maestro Matthew Shugart (uno de los escasos herederos de la tradición de los grandes maestros Lijphart, Taagepera, Linz, Grofman o Sartori, los maestros de la ciencia política contemporánea) que nunca tuvimos la fortuna de trabajar con él, atender sus clases o ser conducidos en nuestras investigaciones por él, podemos por esta vía disfrutar de su magisterio.

  2. I’d like to say thanks for your continued posting, I’ve learned much since I started reading your blog. Also thanks to all the commenters, of course.

    The blog and discussions have really sparked my interest in electoral systems. So when I heard that Barcamp Montreal was taking place last weekend, I decided to present on the topic of electoral reform in Canada. The audience seemed receptive, and I’m glad I was able to introduce the topic to more people. Just thought you might want to know about another side-effect of your blog!

  3. Pingback: Fruits and Votes

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