How Docket Control Shapes Judicial Behavior

Mark McKenzie and co-authors have an article forthcoming in Journal of Law and Courts, “How docket control shapes judicial behavior: a comparative analysis of the Norwegian and Danish supreme courts.”

Abstract: European courts have responded to increasing caseloads by providing justices or other actors with a higher degree of discretionary docket control. Does docket type—mandatory or discretionary—shape judicial behavior? Using a most similar systems research design regarding tax decisions in the Norwegian and Danish supreme courts, we show that discretionary dockets are associated with higher dissent and reversal rates than mandatory dockets, that low-status litigants have a lower chance of winning under mandatory dockets, and that docket type conditions the effects of justices’ preferences. Our findings have implications for comparative judicial politics and for institutional design.

The Politics of Climate Policy Innovation

Daniel Ryan published “The politics of climate policy innovation: the case of the Argentine carbon tax” in Environmental Politics.

Abstract: This contribution analyzes the policymaking process of the carbon tax in Argentina based on the multiple streams approach (MSA). The study shows how policy entrepreneurs took advantage of a general tax reform bill to promote the idea of a carbon tax. Mainly driven by international emulation and reputational gains concerns, the carbon tax proposal successfully advanced through the government´s internal drafting process of the Tax Reform Bill, however, it faced strong opposition during the legislative decision-making process, which resulted in the adoption of a weaker carbon tax. From a climate politics perspective, the Argentine carbon tax case suggests the political limitations of an over-reliance on international reputation arguments to advance climate policy innovation. In relation to the MSA, the study highlights how policy windows can shape processes of policy innovation and the analytical convenience of differentiating the coupling processes between the agenda-setting and decision-making stages.

Recent PhD Alumni Promotions, Appointments, Honors

Joseph Smith has been promoted to Professor at University of Alabama.

Charles Zug will be assistant professor of research at the Center for the Study of Government and the Individual at UC-Colorado Springs.

Dennish  Hickey was named to the National Committee on United States-China Relations.

Ron Nelson is Professor Emeritus at University of Southern Alabama.

J.J. Kinkel is lecturer at Arizona State University.

David Heska Wanbli Weiden’s bestselling novel, Winter Counts (Ecco/HarperCollins) has been nominated for the 2021 Edgar Award by the Mystery Writers of America. Previous nominees include Stephen King, Viet Thanh Nguyen, and Dennis Lehane. The book was also nominated for the 2021 Hammett Prize and was the winner of the 2021 Spur Award for Best Contemporary Novel. The book will be translated into French, German, Turkish, and Japanese, and has been optioned by a major film production company.


Community-Level Postmaterialism and Anti-Migrant Attitudes

Matt Buehler published “Community-Level Postmateriailsm and Anti-Migrant Attitudes: An Original Survey on Opposition to Sub-Saharan African Migrants in the Middle East” in International Studies Quarterly.

Abstract: Why do native citizens of the Middle East and North Africa express greater opposition to certain types of migrants, refugees, and displaced persons? Why, particularly, do they express greater opposition to sub-Saharan African migrants? This article investigates these questions, leveraging results from an original, nationally representative survey of 2700 native Moroccan citizens. We find support for traditional theories, mostly developed from studies of Western Europe, that hypothesize that the perceived cultural, economic, and security threats migrants pose provoke citizen opposition to certain migrant subtypes. Diverging from past research, however, we argue that the importance of these threats waxes and wanes dramatically at the subnational level due to variation in community-level postmaterialism. In areas where economic development is high, and many citizens live in European-style conditions, postmaterialism—preoccupation with cultural, identity, and security-based concerns—helps to predict greater citizen opposition to sub-Saharan African migrants. However, in areas where economic development is low, and many citizens do not live like Europeans, this greater opposition to African migrants derives from economic concerns, notably job competition. While postmaterialism is considered an individual-level phenomenon, our work highlights its importance at the community level: The personal circumstances of citizens and the circumstances of the community in which they live interact to condition which perceived threats become more (or less) important to explaining anti-migrant attitudes.

All Enemies, Foreign and Domestic

Alvaro Corral published “”All Enemies, Foreign and Domestic”: The Presence of Anti-Latinx Political Rhetoric and Latinxs as Third World Threats in Secondary U.S. Citizenship Curriculum” in Teachers College Record.

Findings: Findings indicate that Latin America and, by extension, Latinxs are regularly situated as social and political dangers to the overall welfare of the United States, suggesting the presence of what we refer to as the Latinx Third World Threat Narrative. We argue that this hemispheric homogenization of Latinx peoples in curricular standards flattens important historical and cultural distinctions, thereby facilitating exchange of anti-Latinx stereotypes present in contemporary political rhetoric. We also show how U.S. Latinx civic agency is encoded as an illicit, corrupt, and destabilizing force.

Hobbes on Wealth, Poverty, and Economic Inequality

David Williams published “Hobbes on Wealth, Poverty, and Economic Inequality”



While Thomas Hobbes is not typically cited as a philosopher concerned with economic inequality, there is a great deal of evidence in his writings to suggest that he was aware of inequality and worried about its effects on the commonwealth. This essay first contextualizes Hobbes in the development of the 17th-century English political economy to understand the mercantilist milieu that might have shaped Hobbes’s thoughts. Second, it then explores Hobbes’s thoughts on wealth, poverty, and inequality, as outlined in his major political works – revealing distinctively Hobbesian grounds for understanding these phenomena. Third and finally, it explores Hobbes’s constructive political philosophy for means by which he might offer prescriptions for addressing them.

Alum Wins Soros Fellowship

Syed Mahmud Raza Rizvi, won a fellowship from The Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans, the premier graduate school fellowship for immigrants and children of immigrants in the United States to support work towards a JD at Harvard University. While at UT, Syed was elected as vice president of the National Association of Blind Students (NABS). Traveling the country hosting empowerment seminars for blind students, Syed chaired the NABS’ legislative committee and worked to remove arbitrary barriers within higher education through policy making. Syed cofounded the NABS Diversity and Inclusion Committee, and as the appointed Central Texas field director for the NFB, he traveled to Capitol Hill, promoting domestic policies and international treaties to empower the disabled in academia.Syed was named a Dean’s Distinguished Graduate and graduated in 2020.

Do Natural Resources Really Cause Civil Conflict?

“Do Natural Resources Really Cause Civil Conflict? Evidence from the New Global Resources Dataset,” by Michael  Denly, Michael Findley, Joelean Hall, Andrew Stravers, and James Walsh, has been accepted at Journal of Conflict Resolution.

Abstract: Scholars have long examined the relationship between natural resources and conflict at the country level. More recently, researchers have turned to subnational analyses, using either individual countries or subnational data for a small number of resources in sub-Saharan Africa. We introduce a new sub-national dataset of 197 resources that adds many resource types, locations, and countries from Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Latin America, and Europe. To demonstrate the value of the new dataset, we examine how conflict incidence varies with the value of the collective set of resources in a given location using world prices. We then introduce new country-specific price data, which are more relevant for conflict dynamics. Since country-specific prices can be endogenous to conflict, we instrument country-specific prices using U.S. and world prices. We find that subnational resource wealth is associated with higher levels of conflict using some specifications, though the results vary widely by data source and world region. Using the instrumental variables strategy lends the strongest support to this positive relationship, but only for African countries.

External Validity: Forthcoming Paper at Annual Review of Political Science

Michael Findley’s, Kyosuke Kikuta’s and Michael Denly’s paper, “External Validity,” has been accepted at Annual Review of Political Science.

Abstract: External validity captures the extent to which inferences drawn from a given study’s sample apply to a broader population or other target populations. Social scientists frequently invoke external validity as an ideal, but they rarely attempt to make rigorous, credible external validity inferences. In recent years, methodologically-oriented scholars have advanced a flurry of work on various components of external validity, and this article reviews and systematizes many of those insights. We first clarify the core conceptual dimensions of external validity and introduce a simple formalization that demonstrates why external validity matters so critically. We then organize disparate arguments about how to address external validity by advancing three evaluative criteria: Model Utility, Scope Plausibility, and Specification Credibility. We conclude with a practical aspiration that scholars supplement existing reporting standards to include routine discussion of external validity. It is our hope that these evaluation and reporting standards help re-balance scientific inquiry, such that the current obsession with causal inference is complemented with an equal interest in generalized knowledge.

Zoltan Barany: The Gulf Monarchies and Gulf Defense Establishments

Zoltan Barany has published an article and Cambridge elements manuscript.

“The Gulf Monarchies and Israel:From Aversion to Pragmatism” (The Middle East Journal)

Abstract: The relationship between most of the Gulf monarchies and Israel has improved in recent years. This article argues that four fundamental reasons account for the shift in Gulf leaders’ attitudes: growing alignment of geopolitical interests against Iran, failings of American Middle East policy, recognition of the potential economic benefits of détente, and attitudinal shifts about the Palestinian cause. While this trend is present nearly throughout the Gulf, individual states’ evolving nexuses to Israel underscore the divergences in their foreign policies.

The Political Economy of Gulf Defense Establishments:

The six monarchies on the Arabian Peninsula have devoted enormous sums to defense in past decades. Nevertheless, the gap between their expensive armaments and their capacity to deter aggression and/or project military strength has narrowed but little in that time. This Element takes a political economy approach and argues that structural factors inherent in the Gulf states’ political systems prohibit civilian oversight of the defense sector and are responsible for this outcome. Lax restraints on military outlays, in turn, enable widespread corruption, lead to large-scale waste, and account for the purchasing of unneeded, unsuitable, and incompatible weapons systems. The Element explores the challenges caused by plummeting oil prices and the resulting budget cuts and considers the development of domestic defense industries in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, intended as a part of their economic diversification program. The setbacks of the Saudi-led coalition’s on-going war in Yemen starkly illustrate the narrative.


Kurt Weyland: Assault on Democracy

Kurt Weyland has published Assault on Democracy: Communism, Fascism, and Authoritarianism During the Interwar Years

From the introduction: Does the recent wave of right-wing populism foreshadow a revival of fascism? To elucidate this question, this book examines the politics of fascism, authoritarianism, and Communism during the interwar years. In this way, the study sheds light on the reversal of liberal progress during this era, which brought the frequent downfall of democracy and the proliferation of authoritarianism and fascism. This autocratic riptide arose from a massive backlash against Communism and from conservative elites’ wariness of fascism and their preference for authoritarian rule.

Rachel Wellhausen: Contingent Advantage? Sovereign Borrowing, Democratic Institutions and Global Capital Cycles

Rachel Wellhausen (with Cameron Ballard-Rosa and Layna Mosley) has published “Contingent Advantage? Sovereign Borrowing, Democratic Institutions and Global Capital Cycles” in the British Journal of Political Science.

Abstract: How do domestic and global factors shape governments’ capacity to issue debt in primary capital markets? Consistent with the ‘democratic advantage’, we identify domestic institutional mechanisms, including executive constraints and policy transparency, that facilitate debt issuance rather than electoral events. Most importantly, we argue that the democratic advantage is contingent: investors’ attention to domestic politics varies with conditions in global capital markets. When global financial liquidity is low, investors are risk-averse, and political risk constrains governments’ capacity to borrow. But when global markets are flush, investors are risk-tolerant and less sensitive to political risk. We support our argument with new data on 245,000 government bond issues in primary capital markets – the point at which governments’ costs of market access matter most – for 131 sovereign issuers (1990–2016). In doing so, we highlight the role of systemic factors, which are under-appreciated in much ‘open economy politics’ research, in determining access to capital markets.

The price of doing business: Why replaceable foreign firms get worse government treatment

Rachel Wellhausen (and Leslie Johns) published “The price of doing business: Why replaceable foreign firms get worse government treatment” in Economics & Politics.

Abstract: We argue that a host government treats foreign firms better if those foreign firms have fewer replacements. We identify a key structural determinant of replaceability: the startup costs that foreign firms must incur to begin production. Since the host government can only take from foreign firms that actually produce in its market, it must treat foreign firms better when their startup costs are high, lest the government drive all foreign firms out. Our theoretical model applies contemporary trade theory to foreign direct investment and provides insights about the understudied relationship between foreign and domestic firms. Most importantly, it endogenizes market entry and exit, establishing the importance of entry despite scholars’ long‐time focus on exit. Our analysis uses cross‐national firm‐level data on taxes and production outcomes, and we provide a new industry‐level measure of government treatment of foreign firms.

Collective Deterrence in the Shadow of Shifting Power

Julianne Phillips and Scott Wolford published, “Collective Deterrence in the Shadow of Shifting Power,” in International Studies Quarterly.

Abstract: Twelve of twenty-six war-winning coalitions since 1815 have seen at least two members go to war against one another after victory. What separates durable and fragile war-winning coalitions? To answer this question, we analyze a game-theoretic model of shifting intra-coalition power and collective deterrence. We show that (1) shifting power within war-winning coalitions can undermine commitments to the postwar settlement, but (2) revisionist threats from a powerful defeated side can enhance the credibility of commitments within the winning coalition, securing peace when intra-coalition war would otherwise be inevitable. We also recover these patterns in empirical models of the outbreak of war between former coalition partners: shifting power within a coalition is associated with increased probabilities of intra-coalition war, but only when the defeated side is not too powerful. A common enemy can thus preserve peace between former partners who would otherwise go to war over the terms of shared victory.

HW Perry: Human Rights Issues, and the Elitification of the U.S. Supreme Court

HW Perry has two new publications:
Abstract: Unlike thirty years ago, human rights issues are now routinely raised in Australian constitutional cases. In this article, the authors examine the role of the amicus curiae in the United States Supreme Court and consider how far and to what extent the amicus curiae device has been accepted in decisions of the High Court of Australia. The authors analyse the High Court’s treatment of applications for admissions as amici curiae, noting the divergent approaches taken by Chief Justice Brennan and Justice Kirby, and drawing attention to the practical difficulties faced by applicants who seek admission to make oral submissions. Human rights cases raise questions of minority rights that should not be adjudicated without input from those minorities. The authors recommend that Australia adopt the U.S. approach, to admit written submissions as a matter of course, and to allow applicants to make oral submissions when they have a serious and arguable point to make. This approach is consistent with the Court’s significant role of establishing legal policy norms for the entire nation, including for the identity groups that increasingly occupy the Court’s attention. The focus here is on Australia, but the argument for the role of amici is more general and might well apply to high courts elsewhere.
“The Elitification of the U.S. Supreme Court and Appellate Lawyering,” 72 S.C. L. Rev. 245 (2020): 245-304.  

Kim Guiler – Honorable Mention

Kim Guiler received an honorable mention from the editors of Mediterranean Politics in the selection for the 2020 “Richard Gillespie Mediterranean Prize” for her article “From prison to parliament: Victimhood, identity and electoral support.”

Rachel Wellhausen – VPR Award

Rachel Wellhausen won a $10,000 Research and Creative Grant from the Office of the Vice President for Research, for her project, “Weaponizing Waste: How Developing Countries use Garbage Imports for Political Advantage.”

Recent PhDs – Fall 2020

Megan Farrell: Affiliation Among Political Violence Groups: Signaling Commitment
Iasmin Goes Aragão Santana: The Source of Self-Restraint? How Domestic Politics and International Markets Shape Natural Resource Policy in the Developing World
Daniel Weitzel: The Causes and Consequences of Valence Attacks in European Multi-Party Systems

Calvin Thrall – David A. Lake Best Paper Award

Calvin Thrall won the David A. Lake Award for Best Paper at the 2020 International Political Economy Society conference, the biggest conference for the subfield, for his paper, “Spillover Effects in International Law: The Case of TaxPlanning and Investor-State Dispute Settlement.”

Abstract: Even if their home state has no investment treaty with the host state, investors cangain access to ISDS by investing “indirectly” through a subsidiary located in a thirdstate. It has been claimed that this practice of “proxy arbitration”, which expands thescope of the investment treaty regime as well as the potential legal liabilities faced bycapital-importing states, is driven by investors’ strategic investment treaty-shoppingbehavior. In this paper, I argue that proxy arbitration is actually aspillover effectfrom the international tax treaty regime: firms and individuals are motivated to investindirectly through third state subsidiaries in order to reduce their tax burden by gainingaccess to the bilateral tax treaty network. Once the subsidiaries are created, theycan be repurposed as ISDS claimants if a dispute arises. Using novel data on theownership structures of ISDS claimants as well as several detailed tax data sources, Ifind support for this theory. The results highlight the extent of the interdependencebetween different regimes for regulating global business: firm behaviors incentivizedby one regime may have unintended downstream consequences for other regimes. Thepotential for such spillover effects is magnified by the primacy of the bilateral treatyas a tool for regulating international commerce, as well as private actors’ ability tofragment their ownership chains across several states.

Tse-min Lin wins Grant

Tse-Min Lin has won a grant from the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Houston to establish a Center for Taiwan Studies at UT, with Yvonne Chang. The sum total of the grant is $800,000 ($160,000 per year for 5 years).

Philip Moniz: JEPS Article on COVID

Philip Moniz has published “How Bad Is It? Elite Influence and the Perceived Seriousness of the Coronavirus Pandemic” in the Journal of Experimental Political Science.

Abstract: In spite of its immense global impact, Republicans and Democrats disagree on how serious a problem the coronavirus pandemic is. One likely reason is the political elites to whom partisans listen. As a means of shoring up support, President Trump has largely downplayed and but sometimes hyped the severity of the virus’s toll on American lives. Do these messages influence the perceived seriousness of the virus, how the president is evaluated as well as support for and compliance with social distancing guidelines? Results suggest that Republican identifiers had already crystallized their views on the virus’s seriousness, the president’s performance, and social distancing policies and behaviors. Unexpectedly, information critical of President Trump’s policy decisions produced a backlash causing people to show less concern about the virus’s death toll and rate the president’s performance even more highly.

Evaluating the Evaluator: Has the ABA Rated President Trump’s Judicial Nominees Fairly?

Austin Nelson published a student note in the Texas Law Review entitled “Evaluating the Evaluator: Has the ABA Rated President Trump’s Judicial Nominees Fairly?
Abstract: Since 1953, the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary has evaluated presidential nominees for federal judgeships, rating them as Well Qualified, Qualified, or Not Qualified. The ABA insists that these ratings are “independent” and “nonpartisan,” but high-ranking Republicans, dating back to President George W. Bush and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, have challenged this assertion. To date, research published in journals of law, political science, and economics has largely supported Republican suspicions, finding a pro-Democratic and anti-Republican bias in the ABA’s judicial ratings. Senators from both major parties have recently questioned the credibility of the ABA and have called for a federal investigation into the ABA’s judicial evaluation process. In the words of Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal, “the ABA has to assess whether its ratings are going to continue to have the kind of credibility they had merited and deserved in the past.”This Note takes up the question of the ABA judicial committee’s nonpartisanship. It evaluates the ABA ratings assigned to nominees for the U.S. courts of appeals, made during the administrations of George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump. This Note employs an ordered logistic regression model, it controls for relevant nonpolitical qualifications, and it finds no statistically significant difference in the way the ABA treated the appellate nominees of Presidents Bush, Obama, and Trump. Whatever was true in the past, today’s ABA ratings do not exhibit a clear partisan bias in either direction. The ABA’s judicial ratings favor appellate nominees who are legally experienced, regardless of the nominating president.

Separation of Powers: Legitimacy, not Liberty

Tara Ginnane published “Separation of Powers: Legitimacy, not Liberty” in Polity.

Abstract: The normative justification for separation of powers is canonically articulated in terms of liberty. However, critics of this justification claim that separation of powers either does not or is not necessary to protect liberty and therefore is obsolete. This article argues that separation of powers still has a valuable role to play in American politics, but not one articulable in terms of liberty. Instead, its value hinges on its potential to contribute to normative political legitimacy. I present the legitimacy model of separation of powers as an ideal to evaluate practice and assess proposed reforms. I build from political science work on conflictual constitutionalism to argue that the American separation of powers’ structure makes the branches differentially competent at identifying and considering certain types of reasons for actions. This makes it more likely that government decisions will be based on relevant reasons considered through appropriate procedures, which is a way to institutionalize a legitimacy-enhancing requirement that government treat those subject to its decisions according to an attitude that respects their autonomous capacities. The legitimacy model offers good theoretical reasons to affirm separation of powers’ potential value to contemporary political life.