State Capacity in Nigeria

Cate Pollini


A case study by Dickovick and Eastwood explains what a weak state is and how it can be changed, in regards to Nigeria. They use the term state capacity that explains that a strong state is capable of implementing public service acts such as educational investments or establishing a rule of law. In regards to whether Nigeria is a strong state, it is dependent on whether or not “one thinks transforming the state is feasible in a given span of time, and what steps can be recommended to get there.”


In the month of April alone in Nigeria, armed robbers stormed five banks in Offa, Kwara and shot aimlessly and blew up entrances, resulting in 17 Nigerian deaths. There were also herdsman attacks that week as well. These attacks, in addition to others, in just the first 10 weeks of the new year already resulted in about 1,351 deaths. These violent attacks call to question the section of the 1999 constitution that states “the security and welfare of the people shall be a primary purpose of the government.” By these attacks, one can conclude that Nigeria’s rule of law and its state capacity are being completely ignored. The government is unable to submit to sections of their constitution as well as react swiftly to control violence amongst its citizens. Therefore, political scientists (according to Dickovick and Eastwood) thinking in a rationalist point of view can determine that by these acts of violence mean Nigeria is truly a failed state since the political institutions put in place do not provide adequate responses.


Is there a precise way to establish whether a nation is a “failed state,” without having to think in terms of rationalism or historical events?


While determining whether a nation is a failed state it is important to think in ambiguous terms. Being open to more than one interpretation is important in political science and in class, especially while determining statehood. It helps to establish multiple, unbias viewpoints on a particular subject that can move towards a definitive conclusion.



  1. Tyler J. Dickovick and Jonathan Eastwood. Comparative Politics: Integrating Theories, Methods, and Cases. New York: Oxford University Press, 2018.
  2. Yemisi Adegoke. “Is It Fair to Call Nigeria a Failed State?” The Guardian. April 11, 2018..

Can Quota Systems in Governments Achieve Equality?

Cate Pollini


Political parties based on gender, race, and ethnicity are linked to “cross-cutting” cleavages rather than “social stratification,” which means that they are able to represent multiple “cleavages” or ideals. Quotas are instituted in countries to guarantee minorities representation. Candidate quotas are best for crosscut cleavages and reservations, for groups that coincide. Reservations introduce group-specific means with separate electoral roles and special electoral districts that limit competition to group members. However, granting these quotas or reservations can undermine common citizenship and substantive representation.


In 1991, Argentina became the first country to invoke a quota that requires women to be nominated in political elections. Since then, 17 out of the 18 Latin American countries, including Mexico have a similar variation of this quota for women. However, these quotas rarely receive any of their intended results. As female friendly bills increase with new quota representation, they are rarely ever passed. They will only be passed if an abundant amount of females are able to back it. This means that quotas do not always provide assimilation in politics. Critics of these quotas believe that it deprives voters of desirable candidates even under proportional representation governance.


Are quota systems the best way to promote minority rights in government and give access to other high positions of power and even education?


According to Lijphart, quota systems are best instituted in a government with a PR system like in Mexico. However, even with quotas, Mexican female politicians are rarely ever elected or given true political authority. Chandra, on the other hand, believes that when a state creates institutions to mobilize different ethnic identity by language or tribe, it dilutes democracy. This is similar to Nigeria and their quota system that seeks to make sure Igbo, Hausa Fulani, and Yoruba have equal representation which in turn, diminishes their democracy.



  1. Tyler J. Dickovick and Jonathan Eastwood, Comparative Politics: Classic and Contemporary Readings:  Is Gender Like Ethnicity? The Political Representation of Identity Groups, (New York, Oxford University Press, 2017), 255-264. 
  2. The Americas, “Latin America has Embraced Quotas for Female Political Candidates.” .

Will the Trade War with America change Chinese Economics?

Cate Pollini


China is a single party dominant system, controlled by the Communist Party of China, which was established by Mao Zedong. After Mao’s death, economic reforms were made to create “market socialism” by providing greater autonomy to farmers and privatizing firms by using free market techniques. Today, China faces problems with high levels of poverty in rural areas, pollution, and the legacy of the “one child” policy that creates problems with a rapidly aging population.


This upcoming week, China heads into an important round of negotiations with the US as they hash out the final plan regarding the ongoing trade war. The Chinese economy has fallen below a 6.5% growth rate. For years China has attempted to make its economy less manufacturing dependent and more focused on domestic services. However, since privatizing firms, companies are struggling to stay afloat and the trade war is killing off business as tariffs increase. In hopes to simulate its economy again, China has pledged to open itself to foreign capital, cut tariffs and buy more US goods.


Will China still be able to retain a fully communist style of governance if they want to stabilize and stimulate its economy from the ongoing trade war with the US?

If China were to open itself to foreign capital and investments they would be ignoring communism in its purest form. Yet, the country has already done this since the death of Mao with privatizing many firms. This is similar to democracies and factions. 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. This would, in turn, dilute democracy in its purest form just as foreign capital and investments would alter the meaning of communism for China.



  1. Tyler Dickovick and Jonathan Eastwood, Comparative Politics: Integrating Theories, Methods, and Cases, (New York, Oxford University Press, 2016), 412-420.
  2. Lingling Wei. “Trade Tensions Take a Toll on China’s Economy.”

Russia and Influence

Last night, we read an article called “Putin’s Game.” Russia is very skilled at computer science and hacking. President Vladimir Putin is fearful of another collapse like the Soviet Union, and he uses aggression to mask the weakness of the state.1 Putin also feels that the US might try to use “democratic empowerment” to trap Russia under its sphere of influence.1 This explains Putin’s disgust for the US and the attempts to hack into US systems during the 2016 election.

I read an article in the New York Times called “Russia Is Returning to Growth (Just in Time for an Election).” which was published in 2017 just before Putin’s reelection. Just before the election, Russia was experiencing significant economic growth under Putin, which may have helped him win. Inflation was decreasing, the consumer demand was high, and the central bank was becoming more stable.2 Government spending helped overcome western sanctions imposed during the Ukraine crisis, supporting Putin’s fight to overcome western influence.2

How can Russia gain more credibility in the global theater and remain independent of influence?

Russia is a country that has experienced recurring periods of stability and collapse. After a collapse, a strong leader or party is needed to restabilize the state. This has happened with the creation of the Soviet Union, and later the election of Putin. Only now is Russia beginning to experience growth again. This is similar to the entrance of the PRI in Mexico during the 20th century. After the Mexican Revolution, Mexico was a fragile state. However, the PRI was a strong party that despite its authoritarian tendencies, transitioned Mexico from a period of weakness to a period of strength.


1 Julia Ioffe, “Putin’s Game” The Atlantic (January/February 2018)

2 Andrew E. Kramer, “Russia Is Returning to Growth (Just in Time for an Election).” The New York Times (November 24, 2017)

Turkey and Factionalism

Last night, we read federalist paper number 10 by James Madison. This paper talked about how factions can cause damage, but they are inevitable because people will naturally form different opinions based upon their interests.1 However, to abolish factions would be the same as to expel the freedom of assembly, and also man’s liberty.1 Madison describes more powerful factions versus less powerful ones and the importance of electing representatives to promote the greater good. He offers that the best way to suppress violence in factions is to grant every citizen a perpetuating commonality – the Union.1

I read an article in the New York Times called “Can Turkey Overcome Its Bitter Factionalism?” It explains the uncertainty of how the 2018 election will play out (which is now in the past), because of how highley factioned the country is. Turkey has not formed a unifying identity that includes all of its citizens, such as the Union Madison talks about. Turkey is split between many religious and ethnic interest groups.2 Factionalism is also abundant because institutions in Turkey mostly protect the interests of the state and lack civil society.2 Therefore, citizens are forced to turn to their own backgrounds for support and inclusion.2

Hypothetically, how could Turkey utilize it’s factions to protect a greater number of societal interests?

One way for all factions to be represented in government is through the use of a PR system. This is a great way for minority representation. Although it would worsen ethnic divisions and violence, it would allow for more of these interests to be regarded. The other option is through an SMD system. This would be most beneficial if all members of the same group were congregated in a distinct area. However, governments and parties must be more institutionalized for this to be successful. Turkey is still a developing democracy, and democratization takes a very long time, especially in a divided area with numerous parties.

1 James Madison “The Same Subject Continued: The Utility of the Union as a Safeguard against Domestic Faction and Insurrection” Comparative Politics: Classic and Contemporary Readings (2017).

2 Jenny White, “Can Turkey Overcome Its Bitter Factionalism?” The New York Times (June 18, 2018)

Asymmetric Federalism may be a solution to regional conflict

Kane’s article about Iraq’s Federalism Quandary describes the struggle over power, territory, and resources within the state, leading to the question of what type of federal structure should exist. The 2005 Iraqui Constitution describes the country as a federal state but gives a large amount of autonomy to groups such as the Kurds. Other providences begin to desire a similar amount of autonomy which risks the state partitioning into several individual bodies. The authors suggest a system of asymmetric federalism to solve the political issues that revolve around both cultural differences as well as oil.1

Ethiopia has a system of ethnic federalism in place that came to be after a fifteen-year civil war. This system has caused several problems from its beginning. It has forced people to align themselves with only one ethnicity even if they are mixed heritage and the different territories don’t have equal populations to rule over causing disputes over borders. Experts believe that these partitions due to ethnic identities have caused more harm than good and that the state’s unity may be at risk.2

How can a system of asymmetric federalism be used to solve political disputes in a multi-national state?

Federalism, the division of power between central and local governments, creates a check on the central government as well as allowing people of different regions to be better represented. In a system of symmetric federalism, the level of autonomy for each regional government is the same. On the other hand, a system of asymmetric federalism grants different levels of autonomy to each regional governing body. An asymmetric system would allow larger ethnicities to have greater self-governing abilities which are important if aspects such as their religion cause them to have specific sets of values. Also smaller regions who don’t have the ability to afford things such as a military would be protected by the central government with lower autonomy.  However, with the varying levels of autonomy, groups with lower levels of autonomy may strive to earn more leading to a segregated state.

  1.  Sean Kane, Joost R. Hiltermann, and Raad Alkadiri, “Iraq’s Federalism Quandary,” The National Interest, (March/April 2012.)
  2. Ethiopia’s Ethnic Federalism is being Tested” Economist (October 7, 2017)

Economic Indicators

The “Political Economy” from Dickovick and Eastwood describes the different measures of economic prosperity. For example, the state’s GDP and GNI can be helpful in attempting to get a broad sense of a state’s economic situation, although they neglect important factors like wealth distribution among the population. To better understand wealth distribution, the Gini coefficient measures wealth inequality in a given population on a scale from 0 to 1  However, more specific indices like the PPP are helpful in accounting for a country’s economic status in relation to its cost of living. Dickovick and Eastwood define political economy as “the interaction or interrelationship between politics and the economy in a given country or internationally, to include how politics affects economies and how economies affect politics”. Inflation, hyperinflation, and deflation all change the value of money in relation to prices, a process that harms the national economy. In modern states, most of the roles are played by private actors but there is still some space for government intervention like there is in the U.S. Many theories about government involvement exist, from Adam Smith’s laissez-faire to Friedman’s “Chicago Boys” and their free markets and John Maynard Keynes’ theories of government spending.


How do discrepancies in the cost of living in America specifically affect citizens?


In Business Insider’s “Many early retirees embrace a tough decision most people aren’t willing to make”, author Andy Kiersz describes the way that many savvy Americans are moving out of pricey cities like New York, San Francisco, or San Diego. Instead, they’re retiring or working fewer hours in places like Boulder, CO, Bend OR, and rural Tennessee. Low taxes and lower rents are driving these people out of the cities they called home in search of a simpler and cheaper life.


It’s very interesting to compare the cost of living between countries using tools like the PPP, but it can be just as important to look into the countries by region and level of urban development. Considering the cost of living domestically is the best way to get a sense of the true socio-political conditions of a given country like the United States.


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

Kiersz, Andy. “Many Early Retirees Embrace a Tough Decision Most People Aren’t Willing to Make.” Business Insider. September 17, 2018. Accessed October 02, 2018.

Can Iran’s democratic institutions last?

In “Democratic Features of Authoritarian Systems? The Case of Iran”, Dickovick and Eastwood dive into the intricacies of Iran’s Islamic republic nation. The population votes to elect a President and a legislative body, the Majlis. Furthermore, the Assembly of Experts is elected by the general public. However, the majority of power rests with religious leaders including the Ayatollah and the Guardian Council which do not answer to the public directly. The authors compare Iran’s rare theocratic republic to England in the 1600s.


The Arab News reports that two days ago, January 16, was the 40th anniversary of the Shah fleeing Iran during the Iranian Revolution of 1979. Much has changed in that time, the country has left behind the monarchical system and become an Islamic republic with nuclear weapons. However, Iran is not much more democratic than it was forty years ago. According to Arab News, the people of Iran are “searching for a genuinely representative and democratic system of governance, which they could not find either in the shah’s monarchy or the current theocracy.”


Is a hybrid regime with state-sanctioned religion and democratic features, like Iran’s, compatible in the long term?


If Iran moved toward democracy, it would be following a model like England in the 1600s (post- Glorious Revolution), with a state-sanctioned religion yet some budding aspects of democracy, like checks on the ruler’s power from a legislative body. From there, England democratized to the point of becoming a secular nation and a parliamentary democracy, as we saw in semester one. However, there are no guarantees that Iran will follow this Western model, as it has time and time again to be distinct and separate from the Western democratic, secularist tradition.


Dickovick, J. Tyler, and Jonathan Eastwood. Comparative Politics: Integrating Theories, Methods, and Cases. 2nd ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016. p476

Rafizadeh, Majid. “Iranians Still Seeking Democracy 40 Years on from Revolution.” Arab News. January 15, 2019. Accessed January 18, 2019.

BJP – A New Power in India

Last night, we read two articles that appeared in the New Yorker. Both concerned the most recent Indian election. Indian politics are fascinating because of how it’s democracy attempts to give almost a billion people a free and fair vote.2 The most recent election was especially captivating. In 2014, the BJP won the majority of seats in India’s lower house, marking the end of the INC’s long stretch of rule.1 Because of India’s need for decisive leadership, Narendra Modi became the prime minister.2 The BJP party is very conservative. They wish to redirect India towards Hindu tradition, as well as accentuate India’s free enterprise.

I read an article from Aljazeera called “Modi Unveils Towering Statue of India’s Independence Leader.” Very recently, Modi has built a statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, a figure of Indian independence. This statue is currently the tallest in the world, and was priced at 430m dollars.3 What is interesting though, is that Patel was member of the Nehru Dynasty and the great grandfather of the current Congress Party president.

Is this evidence for new peace between the parties, or a greed for more BJP power?

Although Modi claims the statue as an act of peace, this could prove that Modi is trying to cover up many of his reactionary goals to gain more support from INC members. Modi has had a past of authoritarian tendencies, and was even compared to Hitler. Modi is a part of the Hindu Nationalists, whose goal is to revert back to traditional, pure Hindu culture, therefore the opposite of the INC’s ideology of inclusion and secularism. However, Modi has accomplished much to protect the civil liberties of at least Hindu Indians, such as encouraging new bank accounts for citizens, streamlining welfare payments, and lowering oil prices. Therefore, although this might be a selfish act underneath, Modi has at least acknowledged the other side.

1 Samanth Subramanian, “The Stunning Result In India’s Elections” The New Yorker (May 16th, 2014).

2 Hendrick Hertzberg, “India’s Election: How To Win Big By Winning Small” The New Yorker (May 23rd, 2014).

3 Zeenat Saberin, “Modi Unveils Towering Statue of India’s Independence Leader” Aljazeera (October 31st, 2018).

The Welfare State

It is important to start off with the definition of the Welfare State, which is defined in ITMC as “A state that aims to provide a basic safety net for the most vulnerable elements of its population, often accomplished through social insurance, public health care plans and poverty relief.” There are currently three main types of welfare states, with one of them being the liberal welfare state (think US), which tends to have modes social insurance plans and helps lower classes. The second and third focus more on the middle class, and are the corporatist (think Germany), which is conservative and post industrial, and social democratic types (think Sweden), which believes in equality and vast social rights.

The current or relatively current situation in Sweden involving immigration has relation to this. Sweden’s Welfare State is described by the New York Times, not as a safety net, but as a “nest.” That is, the Swedish people and their father and grandfathers built the existing Welfare System. With a population of under 10 million, the addition of 150,000 new immigrants proved harmful to the Welfare State and the once welcoming Swedes are now trying to turn their backs on refugees.

To what extent are immigrants be blamed for hurting welfare states in countries?

In a liberal welfare state like the USA, immigration is hurting it. This is because liberal welfare states tend to help the lower class, and with new immigrants coming in and occupying jobs, it is not helpful for the poorer community. In middle class oriented welfare states, immigration can be problematic because immigrants will apply for welfare and when they recieve aid, it is taking it away from the working middle class.

Erlanger, Steven. “Sweden Was Long Seen as a ‘Moral Superpower.’ That May Be Changing.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 3 Sept. 2018,

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