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    ABSTRACT: Despite the widely accepted theoretical prediction that high district magnitudes should yield less proportional results in plurality systems, empirical evidence is surprisingly mixed. We argue that these mixed results are ultimately due to a lack of clarity about the counterfactual being considered. We use a simple model to show that an increase in district magnitude reduces expected proportionality in a plurality system only if it is accompanied by a reduction in the number of districts. This conditional prediction helps to explain the diversity of existing findings and is consistent with our own analysis of both U.S. congressional delegations and local councils in Britain.
    Electoral Studies 01/2013; 33. DOI:10.1016/j.electstud.2013.08.006
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    ABSTRACT: Variation in the promotor region of the serotonin transporter gene (5-HTTLPR) is a promising candidate for better understanding individual heterogeneity in subjective well-being or happiness, as measured by life satisfaction. This functional polymorphism has previously been associated with mental health and selective processing of positive and negative emotional stimuli. A case-control association study on a representative sample of Americans (N=2574) finds that individuals with the transcriptionally more efficient version of the serotonin transporter gene, report significantly higher levels of life satisfaction (P=0.01). This new finding may help explain the important genetic component of the individual baseline levels of happiness.
    Journal of Human Genetics 06/2011; 56(6):456-9. DOI:10.1038/jhg.2011.39
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    ABSTRACT: William Howard Taft and Frederick A. Cleveland’s vision of executive budgeting clashes with the unique status of the U.S. Congress among the world’s legislatures, and its proponents may exaggerate the potential for presidents to act as fiscal guardians. This article advocates more congressional budgeting by reinstituting effective fiscal rules and strengthening the role of the budget committees. These mechanisms would enhance fiscal discipline and aid consolidation.
    Public Administration Review 04/2011; 71(3):349 - 351. DOI:10.1111/j.1540-6210.2011.02353.x
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    ABSTRACT: We present a theoretical framework and empirical strategy to measure the causal effect of interim feedback on individuals' performance. Our identification strategy exploits a natural experiment in a leading UK university where different departments have historically different rules on the provision of feedback to their students. Our theoretical framework makes precise that if feedback provides students with a signal of their true ability, then the effect of feedback depends on the balance of standard substitution and income effects, and whether students are over or under confident with regards to their true ability. Empirically, we find the provision of feedback has a positive effect on student's subsequent test scores throughout the ability distribution, with the effect being more pronounced for more able students. We find no evidence of any individuals being discouraged by feedback. The results are reconcilable with the theory if preferences and beliefs are correlated so that underconfident individuals exert more effort when their ability is revealed to be higher than they expected and vice versa. The results have implications for the interplay between the provision of feedback and incentives in organizations.
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    ABSTRACT: ‘Political science’ is a ‘vanguard’ field concerned with advancing generic knowledge of political processes, while a wider ‘political scholarship’ utilising eclectic approaches has more modest or varied ambitions. Political science nonetheless necessarily depends upon and is epistemologically comparable with political scholarship. I deploy Boyer's distinctions between discovery, integration, application and renewing the profession to show that these connections are close woven. Two sets of key challenges need to be tackled if contemporary political science is to develop positively. The first is to ditch the current unworkable and restrictive comparative politics approach, in favour of a genuinely global analysis framework. Instead of obsessively looking at data on nation states, we need to seek data completeness on the whole (multi-level) world we have. A second cluster of challenges involves looking far more deeply into political phenomena; reaping the benefits of ‘digital-era’ developments; moving from sample methods to online census methods in organisational analysis; analysing massive transactional databases and real-time political processes (again, instead of depending on surveys); and devising new forms of ‘instrumentation’, informed by post-rational choice theoretical perspectives.
    Political Studies 02/2010; 58(2):239 - 265. DOI:10.1111/j.1467-9248.2009.00834.x
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    ABSTRACT: Condorcet's jury theorem shows that when the members of a group have noisy but independent information about what is best for the group as a whole, majority decisions tend to outperform dictatorial ones. When voting is supplemented by communication, however, the resulting interdependencies between decision makers can strengthen or undermine this effect: they can facilitate information pooling, but also amplify errors. We consider an intriguing non-human case of independent information pooling combined with communication: the case of nest-site choice by honeybee (Apis mellifera) swarms. It is empirically well documented that when there are different nest sites that vary in quality, the bees usually choose the best one. We develop a new agent-based model of the bees' decision process and show that its remarkable reliability stems from a particular interplay of independence and interdependence between the bees.
    Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society B Biological Sciences 03/2009; 364(1518):755-62. DOI:10.1098/rstb.2008.0277
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    ABSTRACT: Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have voluntarily formed transnational political groups and invariably follow the voting instructions of these groups. This is intriguing as there are few obvious incentives for doing so. Unlike national parties, for example, the political groups in the European Parliament are not punished by the electorate if they are divided on key issues, as citizens know very little about what goes on inside the European Parliament. This paper pieces together an explanation of why the European political groups exist and why they have become so powerful by looking at the determinants of group cohesion and by undertaking a spatial analysis of voting in the European Parliament. MEPs who share preferences on a range of issues on the European Union policy agenda have an incentive to establish a division-of-labour contract and to share the costs of collecting information. Once internal party policy specialization and agenda setting has been established, MEPs have incentives to follow the voting instructions of their group owing to the advantages of cohesion in a context of repeated voting.
    Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society B Biological Sciences 01/2009; 364(1518):821-31. DOI:10.1098/rstb.2008.0263
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    ABSTRACT: This article provides an overview of the gradual establishment since 1982 of territorial administrative autonomy on the French island of Corsica. The impetus for the reforms was provided by a growing self-determination movement concerned with protecting the specific Corsican identity and dealing with the social and economic challenges arising from insularity. It argues that neither institutional experimentation coupled with substantial aid nor periodic crackdowns on nationalists have succeeded in resolving the conflict. The difficult functioning of autonomy can be attributed in part to the late initiation of reform following the onset of violence as well as to weak and confusing arrangements, as well as an unfavourable political, economic and social context. The persistent use of violence by nationalists, partially justified by the fact that a number of their key demands remain unaddressed, and fuelled by inconsistent state policies, have constituted further obstacles. Last but not least, the extension of measures initially designed for Corsica to the rest of the French territory in successive waves of decentralisation have undermined the symbolic impact of the reforms.
    International Journal on Minority and Group Rights 08/2008; 15(2-3):273-312. DOI:10.1163/157181108X332631
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    ABSTRACT: From Byron's death at Missolonghi in 1824 to D'Annunzio's capture of Fiume for Italy in 1919, the nationalism of universal liberalism and independence struggles changed, in literature as in politics, to cruel dictatorial fascism. Byron was followed by a series of idealistic fighter-poets and poet-martyrs for national freedom, but international tensions culminating in World War I exposed fully the intolerant, brutal side of nationalism. D'Annunzio, like Byron, both a major poet and charismatic war leader, was a key figure in transforming nineteenth-century democratic nationalism into twentieth-century dictatorial fascism. The poet's ‘lyrical dictatorship’ at Fiume (1919–20) inspired Mussolini's seizure of power in 1922, with far-reaching political consequences. The poet became the dangerous example of a Nietzschean Übermensch, above common morality, predatory and morally irresponsible. This article shows how the meaning of nationalism was partly determined and transformed by poets, illustrating their role as ‘unacknowledged legislators of the world’.
    Nations and Nationalism 07/2008; 14(3):478 - 497. DOI:10.1111/j.1469-8129.2008.00344.x
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    ABSTRACT: In Conflict Resolution situations where two parties with opposed preferences need to make a number of decisions simultaneously, we propose a simple mechanism that endows agents with a certain number of votes that can be distributed freely across issues. This mechanism allows parties to trade off their voting power across issues and extract gains from differences in the intensities of their preferences. The appealing properties of such a mechanism may be negated by strategic interactions among individuals. We test its properties using controlled laboratory experiments. We observe that equilibrium play increases over time and truthful/honest play decreases over time. The subjects almost reach the welfare predicted by the theory even when their behaviour is far from equilibrium. The fact that deviations from equilibrium do not do much damage to its welfare properties is a further argument in favour of the use of this mechanism in the real world.
    Games and Economic Behavior 02/2008; 70(2-70):375-391. DOI:10.1016/j.geb.2010.02.005
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