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Recipient of the Stephen and Margery Russell Distinguished Teaching Award, 2006

Undergraduate-Level Courses, 2012-13


Graduate-Level Courses, 2012-13


Fall 2012

Government 3999: How Do You Know That?

Does allowing citizens to carry concealed weapons reduce violent crime? Do affirmative action policies at law schools cause black students to fail the bar? What caused the real “pirates of the Caribbean” to adopt democratic, egalitarian rules of organization? Does the death penalty save lives by deterring murders? Do micro-finance policies make the poor better off? Does something about democratic political institutions cause their militaries to fight better in the field than those of non-democracies? Answering questions like these implies cause and effect knowledge: if we implement policy X, we will get effect Y. But on what evidence should answers to questions like these rest? How do you know the answer, and under what conditions can you know the answer? Providing robust answers to cause-and-effect questions in a (mostly) non-experimental field like political science is devilishly difficult. In this course, we will become acquainted with the pitfalls that make it so hard to evaluate evidence in the public policy realm, how to judge the quality of evidence cited in the media, and how to ask the right questions to get the best possible evidence. We’ll do so by working through the evidence supporting “yes” or “no” answers to the questions listed above.

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Fall 2012


None offered



Spring 2013

Government 3867: Causes of War

This course surveys leading theories of the causes of interstate war – that is, large scale organized violence between the armed forces of states. Why is war a recurring feature of international politics? Are democracies more peaceful than other types of states, and if so what explains this “democratic peace”? Why do democratic publics seem to reward threats to use force by “rallying around the flag” in support of their governments? Does the inexorable pattern of the rise and fall of nations lead to cycles of great power wars throughout history? These and other questions will be examined in our survey of theories of war at three levels of analysis: the individual and small groups, domestic politics, and the international system. Topics covered include: 1) theoretical explanations for war; 2) evaluation of the evidence for the various explanations; 3) the impact of nuclear weapons on international politics; 4) ethics and warfare;  5) the uses and limitations of air power.

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Spring 2013

Government 4937: Going Nuclear-The Spread of Nuclear Weapons and Energy

What are the causes and consequences of the spread of nuclear weapons and of nuclear energy? What are the drivers of the spread of nuclear energy? Who can operate nuclear energy plants safely, and who cannot? And will the widely predicted “nuclear renaissance” still occur given the Fukushima-Daiichi disaster? Does the spread of nuclear energy fuel the spread of nuclear weapons? Why do some countries pursue nuclear weapons while others refrain from doing so? This class focuses on building the basic background knowledge to allow students to engage questions like these and to undertake an original research project. Assignments center on a substantial original research project. My goal for you in this class is to enable you to conduct a genuinely interesting and original research project that actually contributes something new to this area of enquiry. Familiarity with nuclear weapons/energy issues is not required to take the class.

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Courses Taught (including those not offered 2012-13)
Click on title for syllabus
(if currently available)

Government 227: The Atomic Age

Government 338: Comparative Political Economy

Government 386: The Causes of War

Government 399: How Do You Know That?

Government 400: Democracies in the International System

Government 605: Comparative Methods (Graduate)

Government 656: Comparative Political Economy

Government 685: International Political Economy

Government 689: International Security