A Big, Big, Swollen State

Max Weber’s Politics As A Vocation attempts to define the term “state” in the modern view of politics. Weber argues that the standard unit of political studies or debate is the state, which seemingly dictates the policies and thus the well-being of the political world. Weber states that in order for the dictated within the state to obey the ones in power, domination must have legitimacy or justifications of power. He suggests the three types of legitimations: charisma, traditions, and competence. Weber introduces the definition of the state as a community that “claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory.” 1

However, the territorial of the definition of a state is highly debated when the case of no borders is established. The Economist recently published an article about open borders and the debate surrounding this vision of the future. The article states that there are many benefits of the eradication of borders, both economically and morally, but there are also certain limitations to this proposal. 2

How will the definition of state change if there are no borders? Will there even be states?

Obviously, the territorial characteristic will not be included. But the distribution of power, both among the states and the ones in power within a state, will change drastically. There can be the radical case that the state will no longer be a prominent unit of politics anymore, but it is hardly possible since states would still be able to exist through national identity and legitimacy of leadership.

James Tyler Dickovick and Jonathan Eastwood, Comparative Politics: Classic and Contemporary Readings (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017), 49-50.

“The Case for Immigration,” The Economist  (April 16, 2018), https://www.economist.com/open-future/2018/04/16/the-case-for-immigration.

America Goes Socialist?

In his article The Three Worlds of Welfare Capitalism, Esping-Andersen categorizes the welfare states into clusters that exist in the modern states. The author states that although it is unlikely to classify a welfare state completely under one category, the states often lean towards one of the three types characterized by their dependence and belief on the free market versus on the government. The liberal state operates “modest” welfare, selectively targeting the lower classes and depending on the free markets. The corporatist state focuses on traditional values and the social democratic state believes in universal welfare policies to ensure high equality and basic needs for everyone.1


The Wall Street Journal publishes an op-ed article in which Mr. Sartwell, a Philosophy professor at Dickinson College, argues against the case of a social democratic welfare state in America under the Trump era and the young socialists that advocate for universal welfare policy. Mr. Sartwell proposes that since the definition of socialism itself is inherently impractical and authoritarian, the United States’ problems will only be exacerbated by the government’s over control on its people since “what if the Trump administration controlled the universities and hospitals?”2


What welfare reform does the United States need to solve their problems of inequality and extreme poverty?


If social democratic policies seem to be a radical change since the United States is a liberal welfare state, the reform needs to stand in the middle line between an extremely universal policy and one completely dependent on the free market. Like the Scandinavian welfare states, the salient examples of a social democratic state, private companies still play a role in providing welfare to the rising middle class, but the government is in charge of guaranteeing these basic needs and welfare to all people in the country.

1 James Tyler Dickovick and Jonathan Eastwood, Comparative Politics: Classic and Contemporary Readings (New York ; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017), 65-69.

Crispin Sartwell, “How to Argue With a Young Socialist,” The Wall Street Journal  (August 22, 2018), https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-to-argue-with-a-young-socialist-1534973784.


Interaction between state and non-state actors

In Dickovick and Eastwood’s section about security and peace, they explain threats to states including nuclear weapons, rivalries, and nonstate actors including terrorist groups. The section also describes the different approaches to international relations, including the realist, liberal, constructivist, and Marxist views.


On April 9, Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani of Qatar met with President Trump in D.C. and discussed Qatar’s new status in the Western fight against extremism. It’s an interesting example of the coinciding of state and nonstate actors, as the state of Qatar had been previously known for harboring terrorists. Even more, Trump had previously believed they had been allied with Iran, a nation that America and President Trump do not support due to their nuclear aspirations. States like Qatar can use their status to aid nonstate actors, similar to the way that Iran funds the Lebanese group Hezbollah or the PLO is funded by countries like Egypt.


Are authoritarian or democratic regimes more prone to terrorism?


A perfect democracy would never have a terror attack; the very nature of it provides a check on terrorist acts. In a nation where any citizen can vote, speak their mind, lobby their lawmakers, and take all sorts of nonviolent action, only the mentally troubled would be driven to domestic terrorism. However, authoritarian regimes do not provide those options so it would be more likely that the use of drastic force and public fear would be assets to citizens wishing for change. However, no democracy is perfect and domestic terror is still prevalent in many (including the US) and authoritarian regimes can bend to the will of the people, even if the move is more discreet than it would be in a democracy.



Dickovick, James Tyler, and Jonathan Eastwood. Comparative Politics: Integrating Theories, Methods, and Cases. New York: Oxford University Press, 2018. p388-397.

Baker, Peter. “Trump Now Sees Qatar as an Ally Against Terrorism.” The New York Times. April 10, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/10/world/middleeast/trump-qatar-terrorism.html.

Bipartisanship in a deeply divided nation

In Pietro S. Novela’s “In Defense of Partisan Politics”, he describes the way that America has become more partisan in recent years and decades. In the past, there were factions within political parties like the liberal Republicans and conservative Democrats, and laws were passed by throwing together coalitions. Now, voters and their representative stay along party lines. To Novela, bi-partisanship is unattainable, and Americans need to accept that. He also mentions that the national electorate is just as excited about the democratic process despite the newfound partisanship.

Is bi-partisanship truly dead in America?

In the Washington Examiner’s “Media bands together to back CNN and Jim Acosta in lawsuit against Trump” by Melissa Quinn, she describes the White House’s ban on reporter Jim Acosta. After Acosta asked a question that Trump didn’t like, his staff sent a young woman to take the microphone from him. When he refused, she began to wrestle him for it, and the White House revoked his press pass on the grounds that he had inappropriately treated this young woman. CNN is suing the White House for violation of his First Amendment right to free speech and Fifth Amendment right to due process. Sixteen other news companies have backed CNN in their suit, including their ideological nemesis Fox News. This is a refreshing example of American bi-partisanship and how both sides of the aisle can team up to protect the fundamental institutions that the U.S. holds so dear.


Nivola, Pietro S. “In Defense of Partisan Politics.” Brookings. July 28, 2016. https://www.brookings.edu/opinions/in-defense-of-partisan-politics/.

Quinn, Melissa. “Media Bands Together to Back CNN and Jim Acosta in Lawsuit against Trump.” Washington Examiner. November 14, 2018. Accessed November 16, 2018. https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/media-bands-together-to-back-cnn-and-jim-acosta-in-lawsuit-against-trump.

PR or SMD? It’s not all the same to me…

In Andrew Reynolds and John M. Carey’s “Getting Elections Wrong”, they argue against Meisburger’s defense of a single-member district system (SMD). Reynolds and Carey believe that proportional representation (PR) can be highly effective, and they debunk his idea that PR is only possible in established countries that have parties and strong ideologies. They also explain the PR has been successful in Tunisia post-Arab Spring, and that the PR system best represents minority groups.

Is proportional representation successful in reflecting the will of the people on crucial and divisive issues such as healthcare?

In The Star Vancouver’s November 1 article “Proportional representation could create a better health-care system, advocates say”, Cherise Seucharan says that British Columbia residents are choosing between a PR and SMD system of representation. The article says that PR provides the best system of election for healthcare, and does not affect the country’s economic growth. An expert she interviewed even stated that PR leads to “seamlessly integrated” healthcare in a society. It can be hard to tell which system will best reflect the will of the people but in terms of health care in Canada, it is the best option. However, it remains to seen how it would fair for other issues and in other countries with distinct cultures and characteristics. For example, in the United States, a change to a PR system could seriously dismantle the laws and ideas America has considered fundamental. To illustrate, the majority of Americans support further gun control legislation, and this change to the Second Amendment would actually be a reality in a PR system.


Reynolds, Andrew, and John M. Carey. “Getting Elections Wrong.” Journal of Democracy. April 17, 2012. https://www.journalofdemocracy.org/article/debating-electoral-systems-getting-elections-wrong.

Seucharan, Cherise. “Proportional Representation Could Create a Better Health-care System, Advocates Say.” Thestar.com. November 01, 2018. https://www.thestar.com/vancouver/2018/11/01/proportional-representation-could-create-a-better-health-care-system-advocates-say.html.

Investing in Institutions

According to Duflo and Karlan, data and research is the best way to combat poverty. They describe that stories about microloans that lead to small businesses make for nice stories but don’t increase income for most people in developing countries. In an experiment in Uganda,  kids were given money for school supplies. Kids who got cash saved more money and got higher test scores, showing that cash works best when encouraging responsible money management. In addition, Zambia faces a problem that they need teachers and health workers. However, they don’t want people who are just using it to get better jobs in the near future so they keep pay low.

Turns out, the ambitious workers do the best job, and now the Zambian government can use that information to pay better wages and recruit the right kind of people to do a good job. The authors emphasize that some aid might seem most beneficial, but the only way to know the best methods is to gather and analyze data.

Are there other ways to alleviate poverty that are also unexpectedly effective?

Stephen Krashen, a professor at USC, wrote a Letter to the Editor of the New York Times, taking the opportunity to advocate for libraries. He claims that children in poverty, who often have low literacy development, can cultivate a vocabulary, spelling, and grammar through the free resources of a local public library. These skills that libraries provide can help children in poverty find greater success in school.

Poverty tends to follow trends and patterns, and using data like Duflo and Karlan did can help provide researchers with the best ideas to combat its damage. Many of the most effective strategies involve investments in institutions, like public libraries. This way, the country is spending money on young people’s future rather than just letting people in poverty stay there.


Karlan, Annie Duflo and Dean. “Opinion | What Data Can Do to Fight Poverty.” The New York Times. December 21, 2017. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/31/opinion/sunday/what-data-can-do-to-fight-poverty.html.

Krashen, Stephen. “Libraries Help Alleviate Poverty and Rural Isolation.” The New York Times. September 20, 2018. Accessed October 17, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/20/opinion/letters/libraries.html.

Do Social Revolutions Stimulate Progress?

Cate Pollini


In “States and Social Revolutions: A Comparative Analysis of France, Russia, and China,” Skocpol analyzes the various components that intermesh together to create social revolutions. Social revolutions are best explained by finding the emergence of tension, instead of the making of the revolution. In Skopol’s terms, the emergence of a social revolution can be identified by a state breakdown and peasant mobilization. In France, Russia, and China social revolutions emerged due to military breakdown and the imperial state being caught between class uprisings and weak institutions. However, definitions of social revolutions are dependent on political and social backgrounds of countries as Skocpol stated, and some definitions are therefore insufficient like with Max Weber’s definition with bureaucratic domination.


As of July 24, 2018, Saudi women have been permitted to drive cars. Since Saudi Arabia is home to two holy Islamic sites and is a major oil exporter, successful social reforms would be able to bring about a moderate Islamic world. However, even though women being permitted to drive cars may be considered a social revolution it would be more accurate to categorize it as a social reform since there is no state breakdown or peasant mobilization like in Skocpol’s thesis.


Are social reforms able to stimulate the same amount of progress as social revolutions?


In regards to a country that has a long history of militants and repression like in Saudi Arabia, gradual social reforms may be best for change so no coup or insurgency will be sparked. An example of this would also be in Nigeria with the Biafran war. Nonetheless, social revolutions and reforms are dependable on a country’s political economy, social and international background.     



Tyler J. Dickovick and Jonathan Eastwood, Comparative Politics: Classic and Contemporary Readings: “States and Social Revolutions: A Comparative Analysis of France, Russia, and China, (New York, Oxford University Press, 2017), 220-225.

Leaders. “How to Ensure Muhammad Bin Salman’s Reforms Succeed.” The Economist. June 23, 2018. Accessed February 12, 2019. https://www.economist.com/leaders/2018/06/23/how-to-ensure-muhammad-bin-salmans-reforms-succeed.    


Australia and the Seven Prime Ministers

Cate Pollini


In The Formation of National Party Systems, the authors discuss party systems. The authors explain three concepts to analyze parties: first, party systems arise from divisions in society, second, parties emerge with collective societal change, that then form coalitions and third, party systems may arise from electoral rules or Duverger’s law. Durverger’s law is a government that favors a two-party system because of their plurality-rule elections and SMD run state. Regardless of this, parties are always seen to combine their political demands into policy, which is party aggregation.


Over the past eleven years, Australia has had seven prime ministers. To elected officials, Australia uses an alternative vote ballot in which voters rank candidates by preference. This narrows the race down to two major parties that will aggregate at the national level. Due to this voting structure, small parties are rarely ever able to gain seats in government. This relates to Duverger’s law because Australia favors a two-party system with their voting constituencies. This past year, Scott Morrison replaced Malcolm Turnbull. The change in party leader relates to the importance of factions in the Australian government. The conservative factions believed their voice was not being heard because of the Liberal Party, so they called for an election in an attempt to govern themselves.


Are factions democratic if they are able to control major aspects of government such as elections?


In democracy’s purest form, all power is given to the people. Factions are instituted in governments so that people with the same interests are able to share their opinions and possibly form an identity in government. According to James Madison, the problem with factions is that not everyone will have the same opinion and if there is a majority it is not always democratic because the majority can be a faction. Instead, large republics should be formed because they can control factions by making decisions for the country.


PradeepChhibber and Ken Kollman. 2004. The Formation of National Party Systems: Federalism and Party Competition in Canada, Great Britain, and the United States. Princeton: Princeton University Text. 

Luke Mansillo. “Australia Has Had 7 Prime Ministers in Just 11 Years. Blame Its Quirky Election Laws.” The Washington Post. September 20, 2018. Accessed November 14, 2018. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2018/09/20/australia-has-had-7-prime-ministers-in-just-11-years-blame-its-quirky-election-laws/?utm_term=.e09e3e802315.

New President… New Rules

Cate Pollini


Since the Mexican Revolution ended in 1917, the Mexican political system can be viewed as “peaceful.” The Constitution of 1917 laid the groundwork for Mexico to ensure that there would no doctoral uprisings/revolutions as well as establishing new economic systems to stimulate Mexico’s economy. However, although Mexico offers elections every six years and there is a little censure of the press, the political party called the PRI has “an inordinate amount of power,” making the government dominated by a secular party that often uses authoritative tactics to stifle opposition.


On July 1, 2018, the Mexican government held a presidential election in which Andrés Manuel López Obrador was elected president. In an article by the Economist, it states that once elected he pledged “a change in regime, not just a government.” He has pledged to improve Mexico’s economy by centralizing a moderate economy, but not necessarily democratizing which is seen in neoliberal economies. His efforts to do so have resulted in his commitment to not raise taxes in the first three years of his presidency. His cuts thus far in salaries of senior officials run the risk of being detrimental to a potential uprising within the state. AMLO has been able to fight corruption and violence and restored the authority of the federal government. However, the ways in which he has been fighting corruption appears to turn his Morena into the party of the state.


Can a country be considered a democracy if their leader holds authoritative tendencies, but overall democratic ideals?


In regards to Mexico, a way to measure if it is truly a democracy is by using Satori’s Ladder. It would start with the procedural minimum definition of democracy, which is if it meets the requirements for an electoral regime. This device would help to determine if Mexico is a democracy or an illiberal democracy with diminished subtypes.



Patrick H. O’Neil, Karl Fields, Don Share, Cases in Comparative Politics: Sixth Edition (2018). 

“Mexico’s New President Sets out to Change His Country’s Course.” The Economist. September 20, 2018. Accessed October 18, 2018. https://www.economist.com/the-americas/2018/09/22/mexicos-new-president-sets-out-to-change-his-countrys-course.   

Brazil’s Economy – Which Way To Go?

October 8th, 2018

The case study on Brazilian economy Does the Global Economy Help or Hurt Developing Nations Like Brazil analyzes Brazil’s flexibility and tactical economic policies in regards to the state’s openness to globalization and the debate between state-led and market-led economy. In the case of Brazil, what matters more than the policies themselves is when the policies are applied. Brazil was open to the global economy after its slavery abolition in order to maintain a healthy GDP in the 1920s, but switched to enhance domestic economy and industrialization after the Great Depression. During the neoliberal years in the 1980s, the economy geared towards a market-led and open economy.

With Brazil’s presidential election having arrived and approaching the second round in a few weeks, Bloomberg compiles an article explaining the state’s political and economic situation at the dawn of the polls. The author points at Brazil’s fluctuating political situation with its previous president, Lula, imprisoned for his association with money-laundering and graft. Biller also explains Brazil’s fluctuating economic situation in recent years, having established somewhat of welfare policy and just barely recovered from its severe recession in 2017. He specifies that the economy now relies heavily on business investment, which “sank by 1.8 percent in the second quarter of 2018, the most since the recession, with election uncertainty weighing on decision-making.”

What global economy policy should Brazil’s next president establish in order to provoke business investment that influences the growth of the economy?

Although the far-left candidate believes in the strength of state-owned companies, it is important that the state opens its market to the global economy. Privatizing most of the companies and inviting foreign investment will boost employment and therefore the middle class. This is one of the main economic boosters, especially after the recession.


J. Tyler Dickovick and Jonathan Eastwood, Comparative Politics: Integrating Theories, Methods and Cases (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016), 407.

David Biller, “’Brazil’s Highs and Lows,” Bloomberg, (October 5th, 2018) https://www.bloomberg.com/quicktake/brazils-highs-lows.