MSSU Beamer Template

I took some time to design a nice looking Beamer template for my university – Missouri Southern State University (MSSU). The slideshow template includes our school colors, primary logo, and the lantern logo on all slides. I also built in an APA reference style for scholarly presentations. The .zip file also includes a .bib file with some source templates as well.

There are a variety of other features built in as well. I am not sure how many people at MSSU use Beamer or LaTeX, but maybe this will be of interest to someone.

Here is the link to the .zip file with the template.

Here are some pictures of the finished product.

Title Page
Outline
Content
Graphic Example
References
Posted in Interesting Stuff, LaTeX, Teaching | Leave a comment

Nordic Capitalism and the Varieties of Capitalism (VofC) Literature

On November 1, 2018 I gave a presentation for the MSSU Nordic Semester. It was on the Varieties of Capitalism literature, specifically differentiating the Nordic Model from other Liberal Market Economies (LMEs) and Coordinated Market Economies (CMEs). I am happy to be a part of the International Semesters at MSSU!

You can check out the video below. 

Posted in Interesting Stuff, International Political Economy, International Relations, International Trade, Nordic Capitalism | Leave a comment

2018 Midterm Elections Preview

It is mid-October and the 2018 Midterm elections arrive in just a few weeks on November 6, 2018. The GOP and the Trump Administration need to retain control of Congress to continue to enact their agenda, while the Democrats are desperate to flip either Chamber and start blocking Republican efforts. 

The entire Political Science Department at Missouri Southern State University (MSSU) took part in a Round Table discussion on the Midterms for KGCS Newsmakers. We discuss the national political environment and also the Missouri-specific ballot. One of the most important decisions Missouri voters will have to make will be on the legalization of Medical Marijuana. There are three different initiatives – two Constitutional Amendments and one proposition. There is also an important initiative on campaign contributions and gift giving in the General Assembly. You can see a description of all of these initiatives here. 

Check out the full episode below!

Posted in 2018 Midterms, Congress, Donald Trump, Interesting Stuff, International Trade | Leave a comment

Teaching Research Methods to more Disciplines than the Social Sciences…

This year I begin my first semester (of hopefully many) teaching the Honors Research Seminar course. The course is 3-credit hours and it is designed to help Honors students develop a Research Proposal, which will eventually become their Senior Thesis required to graduate with a degree from the Honors Program. I have been on the Honors Committee for three years now so I am familiar with the process. The committee acts as an undergraduate “thesis proposal defense” committee at the end of the semester, as students’ proposals are held to the scrutiny of the scholars on the committee who approve, approve with revisions, or disapprove the proposals. This process is the closest thing to a Masters or Doctoral Defense at the undergraduate level I have seen at an institution.

Before the process begins, each student seeks out and asks a professor in their field to be an expert mentor and help them with the research design and eventually the completion of the project. In some situations the student has an original project and completes it from the ground up. In other situations the professor has a research project and extends an offer to have the student essentially take the lead as Research Assistant on a current project and possibly become a co-author on a published paper.

The key difference this year is that the class will focus on teaching research methods, rather than only guiding the students through the proposal process. Students will have to learn research methods writ large in a broad context and be responsible for more than the methods they are using on their project. This presents a significant difference from the past course and is the primary reason it was changed from a 2-credit hour to a 3-credit hour class. 

I have taught Social Science Research Methods for well over 5-years now at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. However, I have never taught a methods class that needed to appeal to a wide-variety of disciplines. I am hoping that the basic “Research Design” skillset applies across disciplines, but I am well aware that there are going to be serious differences. For one, I know that not every discipline (often including my own) is theory driven. I also know that the literature review differs from discipline to discipline – for example in the natural sciences the literature review might only be a page or two citing a handful of scholars. I am excited to dive in and assist with all of different projects and I am hoping to make the class better as I continue to the teach the course. 

I wanted to share the structure of the Research Proposal here to demonstrate the broad outline of the project. 

  • Literature Review and Research Question
  • Theoretical Framework and Hypotheses
  • Significance and Purpose
  • Methodology and Discussion

I am hoping that these basic segments of a Research Design apply across many disciplines and areas of scientific research. The students will also learn about many methodologies including Experiments, Surveys, Observational (Historical or Secondary) Data Analysis, Ethnography, Qualitative Interviews, Focus Groups, Case Studies, and Field Research. Students will also be exposed to a wide-variety of statistical methodologies and issues including conceptualization, operationalization. scientific sampling, contingency tables, measures of association (PRE and correlation), t-Tests, ANOVA, regression (bivariate and multivariate), and limited dependent variable analysis (logit and probit). I know that these methods have applications in all of these sciences (natural/hard and social sciences). 

The most interesting part of this process will be working with the mentors, as they know their field best. My expert knowledge is limited to political science, so the students will have to rely on their mentor to be sure they are finding real gaps in the literature and dealing with knowledge creation in their field properly. It is hard enough to get students to conduct a proper literature review in political science (where I am aware of the literature), let alone a field for which I have no knowledge. 

In any case, this post is really just a reflection as I enter the process. I hope that as I move through the semester I will be able to learn from this experience and post some thoughts from my adventure in Research Seminar – possibly even some tricks and tips that I learn from teaching methods outside of my discipline.   

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A Take on Political Discourse Post-2016

I have been thinking about the current political environment in the United States over the last few weeks. I have also been trying to engage in discussions about Trump’s recent election to the Presidency. I – as many scholars – think that Donald Trump was an abnormal candidate who has proposed some policy ideas that are disconcerting.

For example, a recent Trump surrogate cited Japanese Internment as a precedent for a possible Muslim Registry that Trump has been discussing for some time. In my introduction to American government course, we discuss how Japanese Internment, which was done with an Executive Order, was one of the most heinous and unconstitutional Civil Liberties violations in American history – along with Slavery and the Trail of Tears. The Supreme Court ruled the Executive Order to be Constitutional in 1944, but in 1983 a U.S. District Court partially overturned a subsection of the ruling (not the entire thing). More importantly, in 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act to compensate more than 100,000 people of Japanese descent who were incarcerated in internment camps during World War II. The legislation offered a formal apology and paid out $20,000 in compensation to each surviving victim. It is widely held in the U.S. that Executive Order 9066 was wrongfully argued and unconstitutional. It is not normal for the President Elect to seriously entertain Japanese Internment as a precedent for another possible Civil Liberties violation.

However, when trying to discuss something like this with an avid Trump supporter, one’s arguments will probably be dismissed. The same is true for those that supported Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton. Clinton supporters ignore her issues such as the improper handling of sensitive emails (yes this was rather corrupt on Hillary’s part). In fact, anecdotally I am finding it impossible to have any constructive dialogue with most Trump advocates. The argument is usually something like, “Donald Trump won the election, so now it is time to (be respectful) and unite behind the new president… Give him a chance…. Just because he said he would do those things doesn’t mean he will…” It seems to matter not that many things Trump is advocating for are unconstitutional. It matters not that he appointed Stephen Bannon snd Stephen Miller – Alternative Right spokesmen that even mainstream conservatives are concerned about.

My response to those that say give “him is a chance” is simple. Imagine you have a cute little puppy. Imagine you are out for a walk with that puppy and a person approaches you. They tell you they want to pet your cute little puppy. But they also tell you that dogs with fleas should be put to death. That they like to pull on the hair of little puppies. That they like puppies but can’t help squeezing them too hard. Now you have to decide whether this person can pet your puppy. Well? Why not give them a chance? So what, they said all these horrible things about puppies. That doesn’t mean anything. It doesn’t mean they are going to do those things? Let them pet your puppy. Just give them a chance. For me, Trump is the person who wants to pet the puppy and that puppy is the Constitution. This metaphor will be dismissed too. Rather than deal with the analogy, it will be summarily rejected.

Nothing seems to matter when it comes to Trump supporters, as he said very early on in the election, he could shoot somebody and not lose voters. The question is why? What is going on in the American political landscape that has given rise to a candidate who can literally do no wrong with a subset of voters?

This post will not matter, and not just because no one reads this blog :). Some people check it out every once in a while and family, friends, and sometimes students click on my posts. The reason is because, if you agree with what I am saying, I will just reinforce your opinion. But, if you disagree, you will most likely completely disregard everything I am writing. Nothing will matter. The fact that I have a Ph.D. In political science will be more of a reason to disregard everything – I will be just another Liberal Academic against Trump. In fact, you may not even get this far into the post. You probably already closed the browser after you read my critical statements about Trump’s citing Japanese Internment as legal precedent. What is even more interesting about this electoral cycle and political environment is that fake news is running rampant!

My Facebook newsfeed was filled with so much fake news this election cycle and everybody is starting to notice, including the President! Here is one example with the headline, “Wikileaks CONFIRMS, Hillary Sold Weapons to ISIS… Then Drops Another Bombshell…” This story appeared on millions of users’ newsfeed. They clicked on the story, shared the story, and then most likely told others about what they read. This story is completely false! The article is written in the most biased language possible and is completely fake. There has not been a lot of published research on fake news. There are some papers on how satirical news affects individuals and these studies generally find that the more someone is exposed to satire (like the Onion or Clickhole), the more likely they are to have increased cynicism and low efficacy, but only when they are also exposed to low levels of hard news. In other words, those only exposed to satire and no hard news experience these negative effects.  There has been a lot of research on how we view and perceive the news. For example, selective exposure is the phenomenon where individuals seek out news that fits their ideological predispositions to avoid cognitive dissonance. We also know of selective perception, where individuals internalize new facts differently to fit with their ideological predispositions. We even know about perceived bias, where the source of the information – such as Fox News or MSNBC – provides a cognitive heuristic in which respondents perceive bias in the news when no bias is actually present.

But I think there is a new, more dangerous, phenomenon at work. We might call this cognitive process willful misinformation or the purposeful belief in political fiction. Rather than seeking out information that is biased or interpreting new facts in a way consistent with one’s ideology, this new phenomenon is the willful belief in political fiction. The belief in fake news seems to be a symptom of a greater disease. A subset of society has become so entrenched in their beliefs that they ultimately reject anything – even legitimate dialogue – that comes even slightly close to attacking their subjective prior beliefs. Even fact checking sites won’t help if people don’t believe them. Facebook is even considering an algorithm to filter this fake news out. This is like cognitive dissonance on steroids combined with out of control confirmation bias (hence the acceptance of fake news).

This phenomenon also coincides with some research William Delehanty and I have been doing on Moral Psychology. Much of the evolutionary psychology literature on morality argues that morality is an evolutionary trait that evolved as groups competed in natural selection at an aggregate level (something still heavily debated by those studying evolution). Johnathan Haidt, one of the more well-known originators of this idea, argues that most moral reasoning is conducted post hoc, and the actual decision to dislike or like something within one’s moral framework is the job of the subconscious mind. His metaphor is the rider and the elephant. The Elephant is the autonomous mind who jerks one way or another in response to some moral stimulus. The Rider, then, is the rational part of the brain that explains (post hoc) the reasons for the Elephant’s decision. You can check out Haidt’s book here. He applies this idea to political debate and comes to the conclusion that political dialogue is becoming more difficult because people are making instant decisions on issues and then post hoc rationalizing their decision and thus people are unable to actually have productive conversation because the decision on an issue has been made before people even talk. Of course, there are issues with this particular theory and many have criticized and praised Haidt’s work. But the idea is a powerful one because it does help to explain why some political discussions have become almost impossible to have with opposing sides.

Political discourse has been becoming harder and harder in today’s political environment. People dismiss each other off-hand or “agree to disagree.” Exposure to a perceived liberal or conservative argument sets off a cognitive process of rejection off-hand and complete dismissal. Conservatives are assumed to be racists and liberals are assumed to be socialist/communist. Fake news fits in beautifully with this group (on both sides) as they jump at the chance to share something that fits their belief system. All of this is compounded by the wide-spread political ignorance on behalf of the electorate. This Huffington Post article does a nice job of discussing misinformation in today’s social media fake news world – but don’t just read the title, read the article. My conclusion here is that  something like Richard J. Hofstadter’s Paranoid Style is becoming mainstream for a very large group of people. Basically, individuals are using fake news to confirm their paranoid and angry belief in elements that are infiltrating their society. They are also rejecting real news and other logical arguments because they assume these are the fakes or biased from the “Liberal Media.” And Trump made sure to lead this charge with accusations of rigged elections in the weeks leading up to November 8, 2016. Or his accusations that the media was out to get him because they are a Liberal political actor trying to change the electoral outcome. Fear and paranoia (of Muslims, refugees, Mexicans, immigrants, and trading partners), combined with selective exposure, selective perception, cognitive dissonance, confirmation bias, and a plethora of fake news have put the U.S. Political landscape in quite an upheaval. It is making it so that political discourse is even harder than it was before the election or the 2016 Primaries – and political polarization made it fairly difficult just a year ago!

So, if you read this all the way through – despite who you supported in this election – remember, democracies are based on the ability for the public to converse, deliberate, and ultimately make good decisions. If the public isn’t able to talk to each other anymore, and we fall so deep into political enclaves that we start to believe in, and propagate, fake news, it will be impossible to compromise… ever. I don’t usually write posts like this one, but I feel as though serious discussion regarding American Democracy are necessary.

Posted in 2016 Election, Donald Trump, Interesting Stuff | Leave a comment

Trump and the New Anti-Globalism

The recent U.S. election has beeen puzzling for many people. The prediction modelers clearly got it wrong, but many of the national polls had the election within the margin of error. The exit polls are showing something that has been slowly happening for years – white, uneducated, unskilled, men have turned against the Democratic party and shifted toward the Republiucans. Those demographics who made up the New Deal coalition have left the Democratic party this election in mass numbers. Moreover, many of these voters are evangelical christians, which is not surprising since these voters aligned with the Republicans since the Reagan coalition.

We also see that immigration has played a significant role in this election, specifically illegal immigration. Trump played on the fears of economic threat. The two issues of global trade and immigration have interacted to produce a defiant election. The U.S. has lost its comparative advantage in manufacturing. China, Mexico, most of Latin America, and developing nations in Asia can produce manufactures at some of the lowest costs in history. These nations have the comparative advantage in, and a massive surpluss of, unskilled or semi-skilled labor. Advanced Industrial Nations (AINs), such as the U.S. and those in the EU, have transitioned toward service economies and high technology. The AINs are in a state of economic growth I like to call Innovation Led Growth (ILG). Patents, Research and Development, and Innovation are driving GDP growth in countries like the U.S. Apple’s slogan, “Designed in California. Made in China” sums the transition up perfectly. However, with the loss of comparative advantage in manufacturing, the calls for protectionism have ramped up immensely – as international trade theory, such as Stolper–Samuelson and Ricardo-Viner, would predict. Those workers in the U.S. who used to come right out of college and into an assembly line job are lost. They feel left out of the modern economy in states such as Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, and the others in the Midwest. Because unskilled labor is a scarce factor of production in the U.S. it is not surprising that these groups would favor protectionism.


Combine this feeling of being left out of the economy with the belief that illegal immigrants are taking the unskilled jobs that American citizens could be benefiting from and you have a recipe for anti-globalism. It doesn’t not matter that illegal immigration actually increases economic growth in counties like the U.S. Frankly, the anti-globalism of the 1990s and early 2000s is nothing compared to what we are seeing now. Citizens gave the economy time to transition. They enjoyed the benefits of the IT boom in the 1990s. They enjoyed the lower prices reaped form free-trade. But now, they are seeing the full fledged consequences of globalization. Donald Trump played on these feelings of anger and resentment. He combined this with a strong anti-trade message and fear of immigration. He played on terrorism, ISIS, and the refugee crisis. But these items are ancillary to the real message – Trade has taken your jobs and I will renogoatiate these trade deals and bring them back. That is the message that won Trump the Rust Belt. That is also the message that resonated with Brexit voters in the UK. That is the message that carried Bernie Sanders in the Democratic Primary. These are early signs of a spreading anti-globalism around the world.

But there are consequences to anti-globalism. Nation-states once lived in a world of mercantilism, where economic growth came at the expense of other nation-states and colonies. Economic growth was a zero sum game. It was violent, subjugating, and expansionist. Empires such as Spain participated in economic extraction of its colonies. Great Britain used a restrictive tax system with trade policies where colonies could only sell to the mother country – such Virginia being restricted to selling tobacco to Great Britain, reducing Britain’s overall cost and leaving dead weight on the table for Virginia. The world was much more destructive and conflictual. When Great Britain emerged as the global hegemon, they repealed the Corn Laws, increased world trade, and benefited from lower global prices. The first wave of Globalization lasted from around 1848 until WWI. The interwar period saw some globalism but it was short lived. Right before WWII the world entered a state of autarky again, as with the Smoot-Hawley tariff in the U.S. and the subsequent grab for land by Italy and Germany, which led to WWII – of course there were serval additional causal mechanisms at work but autarky played a serious role.

However, post WWII the U.S. Led the world into the new economic order – Bretton Woods, The International Monetary Fund, the International Bank for Develpoment and Reconstruction and Development (now the World Bank), the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (now the World Trade Organization), and NATO. This new world order led international political economics into a new wave – a wave of globalization and world trade. For a while the AINs benefited – so much so, that developing nations retreated toward Import Substitution and Dependency Thoery. But those nations that instituted Export Led Develooment and harnessed global trade grew and benefited. China (post 1980), Vietnam, South Korea, and many others began to rapidly grow. Globalization has decreased world poverty and benefited the world poor. But as these nations grew, so did their comparative advantage in manufacturing, decimating the unskilled labor in the AINs. In fact, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) has given way to organic growth in developing and emerging markets. Rather than invest in manufacturing plants in these developing nations, the developing nations are simply doing it themselves and AINs are outsourcing jobs. Even the service economy in AINs has seen competition from countries such as India. This is the natural course of global trade. This is a good thing for the global poor. But it also has consequences for AINs. We know that the AINs must move forward toward capital markets and innovation, but workers have been left behind.

At this point those citizens in the AINs are revolting against the new world order and international trade. Human capital is not fungible – at least not instantly – and thus these populations are rejecting globalism. But, as this anti-globalism rushes across the AINs we must ask whether or not autarky is around the corner? Will the leaders in global trade retreat? Will Donald Trump bail out of deals like NAFTA? If so, this will not bring jobs back to the U.S. The tenants of international trade are clear – these industries are gone. Instead, this will bring back competition among countries in ways that cannot be sorted out peacefully. Many scholars have discussed a triangle of liberalism that can prevent war – Democracy, International Trade and interdependence, and International Organizations. It seems like the latter two are being questioned as isolationist voices are retreating from trade and the organizations that facilitate it. Trump has said he would reduce funding to the United Nations, pull out of NAFTA, and reconsider the U.S. role in NATO. The UK has left the EU, which is the epitome of interdependence and international organizations.

This leads me to beleive we are moving toward an anti-globalist world. A world like that of the late 1930s. Nothing good can come from that – economically or politically. If we combine anti-globalist sentiments with a new form of nationalism it may spell propblems to come in the international order we have become accustomed to. In the UK hate crimes spiked directly after Brexit. Anecdotal evidence suggests a similar effect is happening in the United States. Trump mobilized a set of voters that truly beleive that immigrants and others are creating their economic problems. Also, lets not forget that Bernie Sanders used the same message – anti-trade – to mobilize a competitive primary campaign against Hilary Clinton. These are good indicators that Americans are moving toward isolationist economic policies. Add this to a multipolar international landscape and we have conflict in the making.

Of course, it doesn’t help that Hilary Clinton was a poor candidate. In an environment of corruption, the last thing people wanted was a candidate accused of corruption – deleting 30,000 emails is not a good signal to voters. In any case, I feel that a warning is necessary. The signs are leading toward an international environment rife with potential clashes. If this trend continues in more countries around the world, we may be seeing a move back toward a zero sum game of military and economic relations that will be disastrous for global politics. The prediction that Benjamin Barber spoke of in his book, Jihad vs. McWorld, where modernity would clash against tribalism (defined broadly) may be coming to fruition.

Posted in 2016 Election, Donald Trump, European Union, Interesting Stuff, International Relations, International Trade, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The UK’s Rocky Relationship with the EU – Brexit Talk

In late October I presented a discussion of the Brexit vote for the Missouri Southern State University themed semester on the U.K.  I present an original analysis of the Wave 7 British Election Study, attempting to disentangle who voted to leave the EU and why. It is clear from the data that, like the recent election of Donald Trump in the United States, this was an anti-globalization vote. Those hurt by free trade and the free movement of people, specifically immigrants believed to be an economic threat, led to the Brexit decision. This rise in nationalism and move away from globalism may have serious consequences for international relations as we know them post WWII. Full talk below.

UPDATE: You can download my slides from this presentation here.

Posted in European Union, Interesting Stuff, International Relations, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Bright Side of Brexit

Brexit is Real

As many interested Americans, I stayed awake through the night watching (rather reading live blogs because U.S. coverage was minimal until the vote ended – they were too focussed on Trump and Hillary bickering to notice) what was happening with the British referendum on whether to leave the European Union (EU). The BBC and other UK news outlets called the vote at around 5:00 AM BST (about 12:00 AM in the U.S.). The vote shocked many observers – the UK voted to leave the EU. This is an historic moment in time for international politics, international political economy, integration politics, and countless theoretical perspectives within many of these subfields. It will also have a drastic affect – at least in the short-term – for global markets.

The fallout came fast. During the night the the pound dropped about 10% against the dollar, although as it stands now the drop is about 8% from before the vote. Asian markets took a hit, the U.S. market reacted as with a downturn, and European stocks are dropping. The charts below from Business Insider capture the initial fallout nicely. There is no doubt that Brexit will have consequences. Prime Minister David Cameron has already resigned. The UK will need a government that supported a “Leave” vote going in to the negotiations. Once they invoke Article 50 of the Treaty on the European Union, the UK will have two years to negotiate their exit. They will also need to negotiate new trade deals with every country where EU trade treaties once dictated trade. The web has exploded with stories, blogs, and news articles, most them explicating all the negative consequences of Brexit. I want to take a different path here. Something very few scholars and pundits are talking about is the consequences for EU integration post-Brexit. There is reason to believe that a UK exit will have positive consequences for integration, as the UK was often the thorn in the side of further progress.

poundvolatility1Brexit, a Symptom of a Greater Disease

euromarketseurefThe EU has been in crisis for a while now. The refugee crisis in Syria and surrounding countries only exacerbated the economic turmoil that already existed. The EU is plagued by the structure of the Euro – they have a central monetary policy, without the necessary fiscal and political structures in place. Nations on the Euro must rely on the European Central Bank for monetary control and the ECB is historically based on the German Bundesbank model, focusing on inflation rather than growth. This means that struggling countries, that want to spark their economy, cannot simply lower interest rates unilaterally. It also means that struggling countries cannot devalue their currency against world trading partners in order to get a favorable balance of trade. So they use the only course of action available, fiscal spending and debt. Even worse, for countries like Greece and Cyprus with a large segment of the economy relying of tourism, a strong Euro leaves them with an expensive destination that tourists ignore in favor of cheaper locations. Add the refugee crisis to the mix and we have a crisis. Greece began to become overwhelmed with Syrian refugees, the greater EU nations were hesitant to take them in, Turkey stepped in to help significantly, and this exacerbated the issue. These problems are structural and are not going away anytime soon.

889669a_margaret_thatcher-xlarge_trans++APvGH1GeBVZtN__nBo5wjgIg02Yxm8EtrtPbUhQI05EThe UK’s situation is different, but related, to the above problems. The UK has always has a special relationship with the EU. France – under de Gaulle – blocked UK entrance into what was then the European Community for a long time, citing sovereignty issues. Essentially, France was worried it would lose some of it power within the community if the UK joined, and because the UK has a special relationship with the U.S., there was belief that the U.S. would have some control over the Community. But Britain was persistent, de Gaulle left office, and the UK joined after a favorable referendum. Initially, even Margaret Thatcher was pro-Europe, as the picture to the left shows here wearing the infamous sweater with European flags in support of the Community. However, that didn’t last. She would eventually become against greater Europe and nationalist sentiment would continue to grow. At the core of Brexit is the rise of the far-right – which does not seem to be isolated to the UK. The UK Independence Party (UKIP) was a driving force in Brexit and the split in the Conservatives pushed Cameron to call for this vote to get reelected Prime Minister – it was clearly a mistake for his political career. The campaign for the Leave camp focused on migrant workers, immigration, and the (remote) “threat” of Turkish accession. Turkish accession is very far away and the Cyprus delegation is far from allowing for the Chapters of Accession to be reopened. But they played on these fears, exacerbated by recent events in Syria, and used the guise of nationalism and sovereignty to drive the Leave camp to a win. The Remain camp tried the fear route too, warning of great economic damage to the UK if they left, but rarely focused on the benefits of being in the EU. Even though the UK received a pretty good renegotiation deal, the politics of the situation were ripe for the Leave vote.

The fallout includes many threats for a domino effect as Italy and others start to talk about leaving the EU and holding referenda. Countries all across Europe have Euroskeptic  parties and these parties actually won many seats in the European Parliament – although, these votes tend to be cyclical because EP votes are held in off election years when out-parties have a greater chance of being elected. Regardless, there is a strong anti-EU movement in Europe.

But I disagree that this will lead to a domino effect and to the disintegration of the EU. I am hesitant to predict a stronger EU rising from the ashes of Brexit, but I do think there is an argument to be made that EU integration will progress further after the UK exit is finished.

Brexit Good for Europe?

The UK has been an obstacle to further EU integration for some time. They had enormous voting power under the new Qualified Majority Voting rules, which requires a double majority – 15 out of 28 (55%) member states plus at least 65% of the total EU population for an affirmative vote in the Council of Ministers. The UK makes up about 13% of the total EU population, giving their vote a lot of weight – third after Germany and France, respectively. The UK was a sovereignty protector in the EU. They often derailed additional attempts at further integration or opted-out of EU actions to preserve their position in global politics. In fact, I would argue that UK sovereignty was not (severely) threatened by being a part of the EU because of the opt-out mechanism basically created for the UK. The UK opted-out of the Schengen area (not a surprise here), the EU Charter of Fundamental Human Rights, the Area of Freedom, and Security and Justice. The EU was was quick to give the UK what they wanted because the UK paid about 12.57% of the total EU budget, just under Germany and France, respectively (2015 statistics). This meant that the UK had leverage in almost everything the EU did, while also opting out of the things they disliked. They were able to mold EU policy and integration, without actually abiding by the things they felt threatened their sovereignty. This can happen no more and their leverage is minimal at best.

Moving ahead, Europe is now free from the obstacle of the UK. France and Germany, among others, have been pro-integration for a long time. Yes, there are nationalist parties that want to leave. Yes, there are Euroskeptics, but the political climate is different in these countries. France and Germany, along with Belgium, Italy, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands started what is now the EU. France has been dedicated to further integration and Germany has shown the desire to keep the Eurozone together by its acceptance of recent bailouts in Greece and Cyprus. When the smoke clears and the exit negations are finished, the EU will go on with business as usual. Other EU countries will see the consequences of leaving – economic and geopolitical – and will refrain from exiting in quick fashion. Moreover, the consequences of a nation using the Euro leaving will be much more drastic than that of Brexit – without the Euro in play. Even so, having Italy, Spain, Greece, and other struggling Southern European nations leave may not be a bad thing (aside form the economic fallout) for Europe. These countries – combined with a central monetary policy without a central fiscal policy – are the primary reason for Europe’s economic woes. But again, this is unlikely to happen, and if there is a domino effect of exits, I do not think the EU can withstand the fallout. That being said, assuming the EU stays together post-Brexit, further integration may be the result.

This situation fits well with Liberal Intergovernmentalism, where the nation-state is at the center of further EU integration. Unlike Neofunctionalism and its arguments that spillover (functional and political) will lead to a spiral of integration, Liberal Intergovernmentalism argues that the process is much more reliant on national interests, changing (geo)political climates, and the ongoing bargain between nations in the intergovernmental organization. Thus, integration is not irreversible, but depends on the bargaining process and the interests of the member states – each member’s bargaining leverage based on their relative power. In the context of the EU, the UK had enormous bargaining power and used it to stifle integration, citing the fear of lost sovereignty and economic and political consequences. But now, the bargaining process will happen without the UK. If the current member states behave as they have in the past, more – not less – integration is likely. The interests of the regime that is left after Brexit converge on a set of shared interests – mainly economic but also geopolitical. “An international regime can be viewed as a set of implicit and explicit principles, norms, rules, and procedures around which actors’ expectations converge in a particular issue-area.” These norms, rules, and procedures are not just going to disappear post-Brexit. In fact, I would argue that issue and expectation convergence around EU integration will be strengthened without the UK. The path forward for the EU, according to Europe 2020 is as follows:

“The European Union has been working hard to move decisively beyond the crisis and create the conditions for a more competitive economy with higher employment.

The Europe 2020 strategy is about delivering growth that is: smart, through more effective investments in education, research and innovation; sustainable, thanks to a decisive move towards a low-carbon economy; and inclusive, with a strong emphasis on job creation and poverty reduction. The strategy is focused on five ambitious goals in the areas of employment, innovation, education, poverty reduction and climate/energy.

To ensure that the Europe 2020 strategy delivers, a strong and effective system of economic governance has been set up to coordinate policy actions between the EU and national levels.”

The last portion is most important. The Stability and Growth Pact’s rules need to be strengthened and surveillance needs to be more intrusive – yes, leading to more sovereignty lost. But this is the way forward for a Supranational and Federal Europe. Without the UK, these items may be easier to tackle and France and Germany will most definitely be able to control the agenda in the coming years.

Now of course, severe problems exist. The monetary union is not sustainable without a fiscal equivalent. Struggling countries turn to government spending to increase growth because they lack monetary options. This leads to debt crises and then bailouts. This is unsustainable. The Eurozone cannot be sustained in the long-term in this way. But only further integration and further erosion of sovereignty can solve this problem. More, not less, integration is required to solve these deep structural problems. Given that the UK will not be involved in these negotiations, it may be possible to move forward with integration to solve some of these issues. Many scholars in the recent past began to seriously focus on the Federalism perspective, treating Europe more and more like a nation-state. Of course, Brexit falls in the face of this paradigm (although secession from nation-states is not unheard of). But when one looks at the institutions of the EU, one cannot help but see what appears to be a federal government. The EU has an Executive in the Commission, a bicameral legislature with the Council of Ministers and European Parliament (both with voting power), and the European Court of Justice, which has independent power and has ruled EU law to be supreme. It has a vast committee system, a giant bureaucracy (sometimes blamed for creating a regulatory state), and is governed by an extreme system of multi-tiered pluralism (with lobbying happening at both the supranational and member state levels). Brexit will give the remaining powers more leverage in negotiation with the UK and even more leverage with controlling the EU’s future toward integration. The interesting thing for the UK is that not much is likely to change in terms of the EU policies they dislike! In fact, they may get a worse deal.

Brexit’s Failure

The UK will have to negotiate an exit with the EU, which will include a trade deal. To trade with the EU, a nation has to follow its rules (even non-members). The UK may be subject to the same tariff and non-tariff barriers that the U.S. faces when trading with the EU. UK farmers will lose the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) benefits and the payments that come with that benefit. EU regional funding will disappear from the UK. The UK will have to negotiate new trade deals with about 50 countries where the EU’s treaties were in place, and they have to do this without the leverage of the EU common market with over 500 million consumers. Moreover, to trade with the EU, a nation still has to follow their regulations. In fact, one of the biggest benefits of the EU is a single regulatory policy, making trade with all EU nations easier than having 28 (now 27) different national regulations. Multinational firms appreciate one regulatory policy rather than 28. The EU will be firm on the negotiation to set a precedent for other countries wanting to leave. Plus, since the World Trade Organization (WTO) regulates trade with its members (including the U.S., EU, and China), and the Most Favored Nation (MFN) principle requires that all members of the WTO get equivalent deals on most everything, the UK isn’t likely to get better trade deals outside of the EU, as many in the Leave camp suggested.

But worst of all, the UK will have no leverage in where the EU goes from here. No voting power. No budgetary power. They will watch from the sidelines as greater Europe moves forward with the largest market in the world. Interestingly, this is exactly why they wanted to join in the first place, so they could have a say in Europe, protect the nation from getting left behind, and take advantage of the benefits from vast transaction cost elimination.

In the meantime we will see how Europe moves forward. There will be struggles. There may even be more exits (I doubt it, but as nationalism and far-right parties grow, it is not impossible). But in the end, without the UK, greater integration is possible. If the interests of the member states converge, further progress can be made and possibly lead to a more Federal Europe – maybe it will even have a common fiscal policy. Don’t hold your breath though, these are possible long-term pathways. For now, the short-term consequences of Brexit will be powerful and deeply felt by many economies around the world.

Posted in European Union, Interesting Stuff, International Relations | Leave a comment

Survey Monkey and Mechanical Turk – The Verification Code

Survey Monkey and Mechanical Turk

Mechanical Turk (MTurk) has become an important data collection tool for social scientists – especially experimental political science research. For a very low cost, one can collect thousands of responses and there is a growing literature regarding the representativeness of the samples collected from MTurk (see this 2011 article by Berinsky, Huber, and Lenz). I have used MTurk several times with the Qualtrics Survey Suite. It is easy to link Qualtrics with MTurk by using their Web Service element (see this fantastic tutorial for how to link Qualtrics with MTurk). Essentially, MTurk allows “requesters” to link “workers” to an external survey link. The way that the “workers” verify that they took the entire survey is to enter a randomly generated code into MTurk after completion. The survey software that the requester uses must be able to generate this code and store it within the dataset. The requester then verifies that the code that was entered is the code that was generated and then approves the submission so the worker can get paid.

I love Qualtrics! It is by far the best survey software I have ever used. When your institution is willing to pay the cost, it is the best option. However, when you work at a smaller institution or have a reasonable budget, Qualtrics might be off the table. Survey Monkey can do almost anything Qualtrics can do. If you pay for the base subscription it is about 1/3 of the cost per year than Qualtrics with unlimited surveys and survey responses. It allows for randomization of the treatment, skip logic, question, logic, etc. I switched from Qualtrics to Survey Monkey mainly because of the cost and I have been reasonably happy. However, when I went to collect responses form MTurk I quickly realized that Survey Monkey does not allow the user to generate random strings and show it to the user. It also does not allow scripts or custom HTML or Java code. The most expensive subscription allows for custom variable collection, but for the cost you might as well get Qualtrics and the custom variable option is unnecessarily complex and does not really get the job done. I scoured the web looking for solutions and finding none. I contacted Survey Monkey and they were also without solution. So after some thought I have come up with an answer – it is not perfect but it works!

The Solution

If you are in this position, this information might be of use to you. After creating your survey, create a text variable to be shown to the user at the end of the survey. Find a random string generator on the web such as RANDOM.org and generate some random strings. I used a 10 character string with both letters (upper and lower case) and numbers and made sure they were all unique. In Survey Monkey I used the Random Assignment feature to construct 20 different “text” variables each consisting of one of the random strings that I generated earlier. Survey Monkey only allows random assignment for up to 20 treatments, each with a 5% chance of being displayed. When the user completes the survey they will be shown one of the randomly generated strings which will then be stored in the dataset. The worker copies the random string and pastes it into MTurk. This makes it easy to verify that a worker has taken your survey and simulates an actual random number generator. At the end of the survey, your randomly assigned string will be shown to the user and they will enter that code into MTurk making verification easy.

It is not perfect, but it works. There are a few precautions. First, make sure to only allow one survey per IP address to make sure that workers cannot stack responses. Second, always verify the code submitted with the results in the Survey Monkey dataset. The reason for this is that even with the random assignment the same code can be shown more than once (this is because each text string has a 5% chance of being displayed and thus strings have the possibility of being shown multiple times). However, this will not matter if the code matches with the variable in the dataset with the proper time stamp. If a user were to copy a previous code and use it again, you would be able to verify that that code was actually generated in Survey Monkey by looking at the code that was actually displayed to the user at the time of survey completion. Also, do not use the same set of 20 codes for every batch. It is time consuming, but for every batch I replace the random assignment “text” variables with a different set of random strings.  You can also be sure that different workers are taking the survey by checking their Worker ID in MTurk.

Of course, this is not as good as having an actual random number generator built into the survey itself – as Qualtrics has successfully done. Hopefully, Survey Monkey will add something similar in the future. But it does get around the problem with a simple fix that allows for verification and gets your workers paid.

If you have comments or suggestions I would love to hear them. Maybe I am overlooking something that could go wrong with the process. But generally all you are trying to do is get a code you can match up in both MTurk and the dataset that can verify your workers. This is the only solution that I have found for Survey Monkey without paying for more functionality and then messing around with custom variables (see the link to learn more about Custom Variables in Survey Monkey). I find it odd that Survey Monkey does not allow scripts to be embedded into their surveys. I also find it strange that even free services like Google Docs can do this sort of thing. Anyway, the functionality in Survey Monkey is adequate and with the simple fix anyone can use the software with MTurk.

I hope someone finds this useful! If you have a better solution please let me know!

Posted in Experimental Political Science, Interesting Stuff, Survey Monkey, Survey Software | Leave a comment

Interview With KGCS-TV

This month was a very interesting time for Middle Eastern politics and American Foreign Policy. The Missouri Southern State University television channel KGCS-TV interviewed Dr. Conrad Gubera and myself for their Newsmakers television program. We tackle recent issues on the Syrian diplomatic effort currently underway in the United Nations, Middle Eastern politics, and American Foreign policy. This is local channel 22 in Joplin, Missouri but you can watch it on YouTube.com as well. I have posted the video below.

Posted in Interesting Stuff, International Relations | Leave a comment