Working Papers

The Political Calculus of Bad Governance: The Fight against COVID-19 in Israel
June 2020

The fight against COVID-19 has highlighted the central role that the government plays in governance. State-centric studies almost unanimously agree that (i) effective governance requires formal governmental structures and processes, and that (ii) a differentiation should be made between the study of governance and the study of public policy. Based on the premise that in situations of extreme uncertainty political considerations may intermingle with governance choices, this paper complements the first claim by highlighting the conditions under which bad governance may at times constitute a politically well-calibrated and highly effective strategy that inflicts damage on political rivals; succeeds in shaping voters’ perceptions favorably; and creates a “noisy” governance environment, thus increasing the leader’s room for maneuver and enabling implementation of disproportionate policy responses almost unimpeded. The last point emphasizes the need to study governance and public policy together. These arguments are illustrated through an analysis of Israelʼs fight against COVID-19.

Key Words: governance, steering, Israel, COVID-19, disproportionate policy, underreaction, overreaction

The Canary in the Coal Mine: Mythical Institutions and Nonlinear Political Dynamics
march 2020
Studies examining nonlinear political dynamics focus on micro- and macro-level variables. Tipping points are pitched solely at these levels, and, therefore, no attention is devoted to institutional tipping points. This paper develops an analytical framework to explain the nonlinear political dynamics that occur when the collapse of a mythical institution triggers a political cascade, and when the deliberate dissolution of a mythical institution leads to a breakdown of authority. A mythical institution enjoys a mythical reputation for power and influence in public perception, relying on stereotypical beliefs that are generally false yet widespread and persistent. The breakdown or deliberate dissolution of such institutions constitute the first visible indication that events are spiraling out of control, and this, in turn, can destroy confidence in previously stable (albeit sometimes falsified) political valuations. This process is illustrated herein through an examination of the collapse of East Germany’s system of emigration restrictions in September 1989 and the deliberate dissolution of the tsarist police by the Russian Provisional Government after the 1917 February Revolution. These illustrations support the argument advanced herein, according to which mythical institutions reflect shared socio-psychological vulnerabilities and are, therefore, the canary in the coal mine. 

Key Words: tipping points, mythical institutions, cascades, nonlinear political dynamics

Disproportionate Policy Perspective on the Politics of Crisis Management

Disproportionate policy response—which is comprised of two core concepts, namely policy over- and underreaction—is typically understood to be a lack of ‘fit’ or balance between the costs of a public policy and the benefits deriving from this policy and/or between a policy’s ends and means. Drawing on the newly emergent disproportionate policy perspective, this chapter explores the disproportionate policy motivations and alternatives that help political executives gain leverage in the political game in times of crisis. It does so by outlining the conceptual foundation of deliberate disproportionate policy; describing the repertoire of policy over- and underreaction at the rhetorical and doctrinal levels as well as “on the ground” while illustrating their implications during crises; elaborating on the backlash costs of policy overreactions, the accumulation of which may lead to the discontinuation of such policies; and introducing a methodological toolbox that offers practical benchmarking strategies, such as perturbations in stock prices, legal proportionality, and comparative assessment of average responses to the crisis at hand. Its main contribution is theoretical in nature, highlighting an emerging angle for the study of elite decision-making in times of crisis. This angle sheds light on issues and tendencies relating to the challenges which policymakers encounter in times of global and domestic threats, in the face of publics that are relatively skeptical about politicians and political institutions and on the background of increasing negativity and populism in democratic politics.

Key Words: Disproportionate response, overreaction, underreaction, strategic crisis management, disasters, elite decision-making

Why a Policy Bubble is Sustainable: The Role of Institutional Context
November 2016

This conceptual paper suggests a crucial revision to the policy bubble agenda, wherein some bubbles may emerge within institutional settings which support efforts by policy entrepreneurs to advance and correct distorted policy valuations (I have termed them preference-driven policy bubbles), whereas others emerge in settings which inhibit efforts to advance and/or correct the distortion (I have termed them institution--driven policy bubbles). Institutional restrictions on the visibility of the policy domain and on the voicing of dissent may lead to stronger and more sustainable distorted policy valuations, and thereby, to relatively stable and self-sustaining policy bubbles. The lack of such restrictions may lead to weaker and less sustainable distorted policy valuations and, thereby, to relatively fragile policy bubbles.

Key Words: policy bubbles, comparison, valuation, accountability, transparency

Emotion Regulation by Emotional Entrepreneurs: Implications for Political Science and International Relations
June 2015

Despite robust evidence that emotions can have a powerful impact on public opinion, political behavior, and foreign policy, few studies have directly addressed the possibility that emotions may be strategically regulated by political and policy actors. To systematically examine the role of emotion regulation in domestic and global political domains, what is needed is a framework for organizing the large number of regulatory strategies available to actors who wish to influence others’ emotions in pursuit of their goals. One such framework is Gross’s (2014) process model of emotion regulation, which previously has been used primarily to examine psychological processes at the individual level in healthy and clinical populations. We use this framework to present an overview of the emerging field of emotion regulation by emotional entrepreneurs at the local, state, national and global levels, to identify gaps in the relevant literatures in political science and international relations, and to propose a research agenda which revolves around whether different emotion regulation strategies and implementation tactics have different political consequences, both immediately and over the long term.

Key Words: Emotion Regulation, Emotional Entrepreneurs, Opinion Formation, Political Behavior, Social Movements, Public Policy