Comparative politics, altruism,
& doing research right
a blog by Tim Liptrot




3.29.2021
Up and Down with the Pandemic; Why Pandemic Policies Do Not Last and How to Change That

Community control measures, such as closing nonessential indoor spaces has successfully suppressed past Covid-19 outbreaks and saved lives. For political reasons these policies have not lasted long enough to prevent Covid-19 infecting 20-40% of Americans. The current response relies on ephemeral public support. When deaths and hospitalizations recede, the public’s interest and cost-tolerance decline. Without strong public support, politicians face irresistible pressure to relax costly restrictions. This article uses the issue attention cycle and policy feedbacks to explain the fragility of restrictions to fight Covid-19 and to advocate for antigen testing as viable and durable alternative.

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2.2.2021
A brief explanation of the Myanmar coup

...The military realized that once democracy consolidated under the opposition NLD, it would be too late to protect their interests. The timing of the coup supports this explanation; it was launched the day before the parliament accepted the NLD’s second landslide electoral victory. More electoral victories would enable NLD to consolidate and shift the balance of de facto power away from the military. Without a coup, the NLD could have waited until the military was weakest then broken them and dismantled their corruption machine. A faction of the military preferred a stunted national economy and international sanctions to this outcome, so they launched the coup.

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8.11.2020
Interventions on local legitimacy making in fragile states: Practical lessons from the field

Over the past 15 years, major international donor agencies shifted their approach to local politics in fragile states. In order to build stable state-society relations in conflict-affected societies, they committed to studying popular expectations on states, which may differ greatly from international norms like competitive elections and service provision. This blog post examines donor interventions to improve service provision in refugee-crisis-affected communities in Lebanon and Jordan from 2011 to 2019. Donor states hoped that improving service provision capacity of municipalities would increase public trust, but encountered problems with block voting and patronage, leading them to question the value of service provision. Future posts discuss alternate strategies that some donors attempted.

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6.24.2020
Tim burns out

The high stress, culture shock, and expectations of humanitarian work make burnout unfortunately common. The archetypical case is a program manager, deep in the bush, implementing a Kafkaesque log-frame. Or the project development officer in a hardship posting, facing dwindling donor interest, who has not left the base for months and starts to refuse her vacation leave. The trouble about burnout is that while everyone knows about it, no one thinks it will happen to them. Until it does.

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6.3.2020
Tim solves the covid crisis: A policy entrepreneurship post-mortem

This article discusses Tim’s attempt to enact water and hygiene survey for unhoused people in Seattle in 2020, during the COVID crisis. The project was eventually abandoned due to a lack of audience and competition from projects with greater expected benefits. The post lists lessons for future policy entrepreneurs from strengths and weaknesses of the project. I discuss when and why to close your projects.

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5.22.20
The affect heuristic and studying autocracies

General Juan Velasco Alvarado was the military dictator of Peru from 1968 to 1975. In 1964-5 he put down revolutionary peasant guerilla movements, defending an unequal and brutally exploitative pattern of land ownership. Afterward he became frustrated with the bickering and gridlock of Peru’s parliament. With a small cadre of military coconspirators, he planned a coup d’état. Forestalling an uprising by pro-peasant parties, he sent tanks to kidnap the democratically elected president. The parliament was closed indefinitely. On the one year anniversary of his coup, Velasco stated “Some people expected very different things and were confident, as had been the custom, that we came to power for the sole purpose of calling elections and returning to them all their privileges. The people who thought that way were and are mistaken”.

What would you expect Velasco’s policy toward land ownership and peasants to be? You would probably expect him to continue their exploitation by the oligarchy land-owning families. But you would be mistaken.


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5.14.20
Human rights as an applause light

I noticed that when I heard altruists bring up human rights while framing an issue, I would listening less closely. I wrote this post to explore why my subconscious bias developed. I suspect that teaching young international do-gooders about human rights law is often less valuable compared to empirical disciplines. Warning, the argument is a total strawman.

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