I don't know what this whole reddit thing is, but my brother /u/mrweiner said I should do one of these. I am a political scientist at Assumption College, specializing in political theory. Before I became an academic, I worked in the senate. Most of my senate experience was in the 90s, so if you want to know what it was like back then, feel free to ask.

I have a new book out, on the political philosophy of the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan. It is available here, but I promise not to "pull a Rampart," whatever that means.

Ask me anything.

Proof: https://twitter.com/GregWeiner1/status/570640148347510784

Edit: Off to give a lecture at Assumption College on the 150th anniversary of Lincoln's Second Inaugural. Fun stuff. Back later tonight and looking forward to more questions. Thanks for all of them!

Edit 2: Back from Lincoln. If there are more questions, have at 'em!

Comments: 177 • Responses: 72  • Date: 

corruptmendicant28 karma

does your brother ever create passive-aggressive cartoons of you when you best him in an argument? Do you best him in many arguments?

GregWeiner34 karma

I always best him in arguments. Always.

sciencegal29 karma

As Zach's wife, I can support Greg's claim that he ALWAYS bests Zach in arguments.

MrWeiner38 karma

Screw you guys.

GregWeiner27 karma

That's not a denial.

seventh_deathstroke14 karma

Well, then.. I'll ask the obvious question. What was it like in the senate back in the 90s? And I'm sure you follow the political scenario of the present times. What differences, if any, do you find between the working of the senate, the temperament and the way senators worked between then and now?

GregWeiner22 karma

There is a tradition among Senate staffers and it goes like this. The day after you leave, you have to say it used to be better back in the old days. That said, it used to be better back in the old days. As recently as the 1990s, staffers were supposed to be neither seen nor heard; now they want to be celebrities. Senators had a rule that they never insulted each other in public; now staff insult senators in public. Man, do I sound crotchety.

1zee5 karma

How about in terms of the processes involved in getting shit done, any stark differences?

GregWeiner13 karma

The biggest change in procedure is the use of the filibuster for routine legislation. It has exploded since roughly 2007.

cunt-hooks15 karma

No, the obvious question is 'How often did you get bullied at school for being called "Weiner"?'

But yours is good too.

GregWeiner28 karma

It's like A Boy Named Sue. You develop gravel in your gut and spit in your eye.

Proprietous9 karma

I feel as though many people below the age of 30 have little idea what politics was like from 1950-1980, probably because most high school US History classes never actually get to the last few chapters of the textbook.

Are there any political lessons you think the US learned in that time period that non-politicians have forgotten today? Things that it would be prudent for us to remember?

GregWeiner10 karma

I think it would be well if both scholars and statesmen would remember they can learn from each other--that ideas have enduring value. So much of education is purely technical now that the enduring ideas, on which so much common ground can be based, are lost.

soesfairview0 karma

How many weiner jokes have you heard in your lifetime?

GregWeiner5 karma

Are we counting the ones Zach makes?

Proprietous7 karma

And, heck, why not, another one: for those of us who have not yet had the pleasure of reading the book: Moynihan emphasized that culture determines the success of a society, and that politics can save a culture from itself. But it seems that modern "always on" media culture puts pressure on politicians to pander to the pervading zeitgeist, no matter how uneducated or warped it is, at least in public, to earn people's vote. Does Moynihand (or do you) offer any suggestions that might help reverse that trend? Does politics still have the power to save culture from itself?

GregWeiner12 karma

Wonderful question. The line that follows that quotation from Moynihan is, "Witness the success of the civil rights legislation that conservatives so opposed." (That may not be an exact quote, but close.) He celebrated the fact that a change in law totally worked a change in society with respect to civil rights. Same with poverty among the elderly. But he also knew it couldn't do all the work. This is the ethic of limitation I discuss in the book. I think the always-on media culture is a serious problem. In fact, I somewhat doubt a Moynihan could launch a career today because the media culture doesn't deal well with nuance. But I'm not sure how the law changes that. Moynihan used to have wonderful, 30-minute-long appearances on Meet the Press. Now he'd be reduced to a four-minute shoutfest.

aeonfluxcore5 karma

What do you think about Austrian school of Economics and its role in Government?

GregWeiner5 karma

I think they need to read their Hayek. I am generally sympathetic to it as economics but that doesn't mean it's always good policy. Hayek said his economics were perfectly compatible with a generous safety net.

gabethedrone-1 karma

Are you familiar with Rothbard and his works?

GregWeiner2 karma

I'm not, I'm afraid.

Oneiropticon5 karma

What was the most objectionable thing you've seen or heard in the senate?

GregWeiner16 karma

Rick Santorum on the floor of the Senate referring to the president of the United States as "Bill."

memming5 karma

Who is your favorite philosopher and why?

GregWeiner4 karma

Wow. Lots of great questions. I would have to start with Aristotle, but more recently, James Madison. Worked at the intersection of theory and practice--scholarship and statesmanship.

pbacon334 karma

What was Moynihan's key influences in shaping his political philosophy?

GregWeiner6 karma

Great question. There were many. He was a Roosevelt/New Deal Democrat who also was deeply touched by conservative philosophers like Michael Oakeshott, with whom he studied at the London School of Economics. He had a complex intellectual relationship with Woodrow Wilson, but he was certainly another.

QualityGiraffe4 karma

What do you think of Zach's political comics?

GregWeiner22 karma

The bastard is cleverer than I am and I resent him for it.

Oneiropticon1 karma

Specifically, how about the most recent one on the efficiency of voting?

GregWeiner4 karma

How awkward is next Thanksgiving if I say I haven't seen it yet? Kidding. It was great. I answered a question below on voting as a duty. It's baloney.

GregWeiner2 karma

See Jason Brennan's The Ethics of Voting on this.

nigh_unsusual3 karma

Do you think that senators' terms are a good length?

GregWeiner7 karma

Very good. Federalist 62 and 63 cover this well. The terms give Senators a little breathing room so they are accountable, but not immediately, which is the key, to public opinion.

chromeanon3 karma

Hi, thanks so much for taking the time to do this AMA.

I have a few questions about our nations campaign finance system:

  • To what extent you feel our nations campaign finance system impacts congressional legislative priorities.
  • Would you characterize the use of limited liability companies to anonymize contributions to political action committees as "corruption?"
  • Do you have any suggestions for an electorate that feels under-represented in the current political system?

Thank you!

GregWeiner4 karma

I'm enjoying doing this. I have a working paper on the first question and the thesis is basically this: Campaign finance only affects congressional behavior on small, needle-in-a-haystack issues that are unseen and for which politicians are consequently unaccountable. I think the challenge is not to regulate campaign finance, which is immensely difficult. The First Amendment makes it virtually impossible to keep money out of the system (nor do I believe money is inherently corrupt). The challenge is to keep government out of unseen areas where it is unaccountable. That is not a call for small government. It is a call for simple government. By the way, all contributions to candidates have to be disclosed. In terms of feeling under-represented, my first suggestion is to use the considerable power you have. I've been behind the curtain. Believe it or not, politicians listen. Maybe even too much.

mattb103 karma

Do you like hot dogs?

GregWeiner5 karma

Absolutely. And I feel confident Moynihan did too.

NormBethune3 karma

It must be a bit annoying to have everyone start by referencing your brother (his comics are too damn good), but when I saw this AMA I thought of polystates. I'm curious what you think about the idea of a distributed government system like a polystate, liquid democracy, or even forms of anarchism (anarcho-synidcalism speficially)?

MrWeiner14 karma

Come at me, bro.

GregWeiner6 karma

Bring it, brother. Bring it. His book of course is terrific, but I think place is important. I think attachment to the particular is important. And I wonder who in a Polystate would take out the trash. I suppose I'm an Aristotelian underneath.

GregWeiner1 karma

Sorry -- there was something Freudian in my reply, I suppose. I meant who from the city hauls away the trash.

Chimp7113 karma

Do you think our political system still works? What changes do you think need to happen to make it work better? Do you see anything as a major threat to a working democracy? Party politics? Campaign funding?

GregWeiner8 karma

Yes, I think it basically works, but polarization is becoming more and more of a threat. I think we need to break the habit of evaluating it according to whether it "gets things done" -- i.e., pure volume -- and think more in terms of whether it is doing what needs to be done. Those are different questions. So the fact that Congress isn't passing a high volume of bills doesn't bother me. If Congress can't get together on things that need to happen, that's a problem. I'm actually a heretic on campaign finance, which is to say I don't think it's a problem. I do think parties are--they obviate the separation of powers, among other things. But they are so woven into our political culture that I don't know we can go back on that.

Ithawashala3 karma

How do you feel about Newt Gingrich? What kind of man do you think he is?

GregWeiner12 karma

Never met him, but I am suspicious of people who see themselves as transformative figures. I am giving a public lecture on Lincoln's Second Inaugural this afternoon (was that a Rampart too?), and one of the things I am going to talk about is his Lyceum Address, in which he says the greatest danger to liberty is the pursuit of historical fame and glory in times that don't require it.

_randName_3 karma

Are you already starting to get tired of questions about your brother?

Have you studied other political systems (more specifically, that of Asian nations (like Singapore))?

GregWeiner3 karma

I never tire of questions about my brother. I'm afraid I haven't studied a lot of comparative politics, though.

xaaraan3 karma

Where would you point someone who is entirely ignorant on serious political thought to get their introduction?

GregWeiner5 karma

There is a good book called The History of Political Philosophy(Strauss and Cropsey) that covers a series of thinkers from the ancient to the modern worlds. Just know that it comes from a point of view. In terms of original sources, I would start with some Platonic dialogues like the Gorgias, then Aristotle's Politics, Augustine's City of God, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke ... I'm going to get carried away here.

ghostmcspiritwolf3 karma

The general consensus among academics that I've read or seen speak who specialize in IR seems to be that most elected legislators are generally just not that good at dealing with foreign policy. First, do you think there is merit to this idea? Second, if you buy it, where would you say the source of the problem lies? Do you think this an unavoidable consequence of American governmental structure, a result of the lack of formal diplomatic education for many senators, a result of American cultural aversion to certain aspects of foreign policy, or something else?

GregWeiner7 karma

IR isn't my field, so I'm not familiar with the literature to which you refer. But my initial response is that executives haven't handled it too well recently either. One problem with the executive is that it (as an office, not speaking of current or recent occupants) is given to impulsivity. Legislatures are deliberative. Madison's Helvidius essays (can find them at oll.libertyfund.org) discuss this. I am a Congressional supremacist. I think that's the constitutional design, and I think deliberation is worth what I recognize to be its costs. Another thought: I am skeptical of the need for foreign policy experts. They have gotten us into some trouble and I don't know, perish the thought, that foreign policy is sufficiently complicated that a reasonably thoughtful person can't figure it out. But I'm interested in, and of course open to, the literature you mention.

poopsmith4113 karma

I only know Moynihan as the guy who authored the Moynihan Report, which sort of established the "culture of poverty" argument in the US, for better or for worse.

What else should I know about him?

GregWeiner6 karma

You should know he was a political thinker who covered a range of topics, from ethnicity in America and in international politics, to international law, to excessive government secrecy. He was a liberal of a forgotten variety who believed government could ameliorate economic distress but that it could not transform society. I call this a "Burkean liberal." And he worked for four decades at the intersection of scholarship and statesmanship.

stoter2 karma

Last year in Scotland there was a referendum regarding independence from Westminster rule. A major thread in the debate was an appeal to the enlightenment principles which contributed to the political philosophy of the USA, with particular attention given to the unelected house of lords and, from some sectors, the monarchy. Yet when prominent US political figures were asked their opinions on independence they largely opposed. Obama famously said "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" to which the response was "it is broken".

Do you think Scottish independence is a non-issue in US politics leading to apparently ignorant statements, or is there a strong will to maintain the status quo of the UK?


GregWeiner6 karma

I don't think it was a big issue in the US. But Americans also have an impulse toward small-c conservatism. Locke talks about this as a basic human impulse, so I wonder how much that inherent reluctance toward change affected the result. I'm afraid I don't know as much as I should about this.

HeavyHarris2 karma

What's your opinion on the Net Neutrality issue, especially with a possible decision coming to pass this week?

GregWeiner5 karma

Here's where I have to confess technoignorance. I just don't know a lot about it, except that everyone I know who does know a lot about it says neutrality is important.

teknobo2 karma

Beyond Moynihan, who are some of the most underrated figures in American political philosophy?

GregWeiner3 karma

That's a fun one. John Quincy Adams. John Adams, for that matter. James Wilson. (All from the Founding era.) George W. Carey, my dissertation advisor. Robert Nisbet. Reinhold Niebuhr. Irving Babbitt. Moynihan!

MauricioBabilonia2 karma

What would be your advice to an undergrad with dreams of going into academia?

GregWeiner11 karma

Do it. Ideas matter and are worth the pursuit. But two things: One, focus on ideas, not information. There's an important difference that has gotten lost in the era of technical information I referenced above. Two, I am sad to say this, but academia is intensely focused on credentials these days -- namely, where you got your graduate degree. So unfortunately you have to pay careful attention to that.

MauricioBabilonia2 karma

Thank you for the answer. To follow up, what matters in a credential? My plan for my master's degree is currently to seek a university that will give me funding and TA work experience. Is there something else I should be looking for?

GregWeiner3 karma

That sounds like a plan. I would look up rankings and recent hirings in your field. Your field, by the way, may be entirely different from mine.

thestamos2 karma

I am a political science major at a relatively small California State University (Sonoma State, to be specific). I'm 21 and I currently don't have any experience with internships or much else in the field. I plan on graduating by this December. What's your advice for how I should move forward in this field once I have graduated?

GregWeiner5 karma

One option is to seek work in your state legislature or Congress. I started in the mailroom. People who are willing to start low and work hard tend to do well.

RanglyMofo2 karma

What are your thoughts on the argument that the United States is starting to resemble an oligarchy? Furthermore, do you believe that this can solely be attributed to the increased power of corporate influence? Or are there other factors contributing to this? Sorry if that's a lot, thanks for the AMA, it's really interesting.

GregWeiner8 karma

I don't buy it, no pun intended. I do think individual power is diluted, but that is the natural consequence of there being >300 million people and I think the solution is to push as many decisions as possible down to the local level. Not all can be, of course. But see my answer above (or was it below?) on campaign finance. The problem to my mind isn't corrupt government. It's complex government.

phiguru2 karma

Do you feel that McCain-Feingold had the desired effect to reduce soft money on the Hill? I was also a Senate staffer in the 90's. I've thought that it really pushed it from being open and obvious to being shady. For example, pre-reforms, I could eat three meals a day funded by various groups, but there were signs, labels, names on tote bags - it was very open. I knew who was trying to buy my opinion on a given day.

Thanks for doing this AMA.

GregWeiner2 karma

Maybe our paths crossed back then. I tend to agree with you. Money never goes out of the system. It just goes into different places. The question is whether you can see it.

MenageaHeinlein2 karma

I'm glad I saw this linked off of the SMBC Facebook page.

I'm a political science/economics undergrad that'll be headed off to grad school in 2016, but I want to go to grad school for computer science. For a while I anticipated being a "methods guy" in a more mathy department, but I realized that all the work that I was really interested in came largely from computer science or math (Game theory, natural language processing, etc) and became somewhat disillusioned with the idea of sticking in Political science. Doing a bid as an intern in a Senator's office, though an incredible and thoroughly surreal experience, was the nail in the coffin for my interest in political science as life post-undergrad.

Because you worked in the senate for a while, and you got your PhD in Political science, I'm particularly interested to know: what kept you invested in the field? How did your experience in your doctoral program differ from colleagues in other disciplines?

Thanks for doing this, and thanks to your clever bastard of a brother too.

GregWeiner3 karma

It sounds like we have different interests (I'm a theory guy, not a methods guy, for example). I loved the enduring ideas. I loved reading Federalist papers on the Senate and seeing them play out (or not play out) in real life. Unfortunately, I just haven't had a lot of exposure to doctoral programs in other disciplines. I say "unfortunately" deliberately. It's one of the casualties of the hyper-specialization of the modern academy.

MenageaHeinlein1 karma

Thanks for the prompt reply. Despite the lack of exposure to other programs, were your experiences in the MA and PhD programs in Georgetown generally positive?

GregWeiner1 karma

Absolutely. Georgetown has changed a lot since I was there because many of the faculty have left (in theory).

gophergun2 karma

Do you think that changing the voting system in the US from first-past-the-post to a ranked ballot system would improve the state of American politics? Would it be legal for a state to pass a ballot initiative/constitutional amendment stating that its representatives in Congress should be elected via a different method?

GregWeiner1 karma

There are two issues here in terms of the mechanism of election. States control the rules for electing their own representatives, but a ranked ballot system would change their apportionment in Congress as a whole, which would be a national issue. I prefer geographic to party representation. Geographic representation roots people in community, which I think is more important than ideology. But there are thoughtful people who argue that a parliamentary system is our best bet against runaway presidential government. See F.H. Buckley, The Once and Future King, an excellent recent book on this.

allbrawl2 karma

Do you think the sensationalism surrounding congressional elections has increased, decreased or stayed the same since the 90s? Also congratulations on your book.

GregWeiner11 karma

I think it's increased. I tell students the problem is that advertising is now hyper-accurate but untrue, which is to say the information is unassailable but wholly acontextual. And people can get their information, such as it is, only from sources with which they agree. That totally changes the dynamic of political conversation. Incidentally, I talked to a class yesterday about how this contributes to polarization and said it was different when there were three networks and they were the source of news. Student response: "You were alive then?"

Nickbeat1 karma

I see this everyday, on all sides of the political spectrum. What can we do to alleviate this issue? What efforts exist currently?

GregWeiner3 karma

I think what we have to do is urge people to seek out sources with which they disagree. Actively seek them out. That's Moynihan's example.

philybdizzle2 karma

What was the US political scene like at the fall of the soviet union?

GregWeiner6 karma

That was before my time, but one remarkable thing on which I can comment is that Moynihan predicted it in 1979 and no one would listen. During arms control talks in the 1980s, he asked some of the negotiators what made them think there was going to be a Soviet Union. They couldn't get their heads wrapped around it.

kinkychub1 karma

Are you jealous of a name like weinersmith?

GregWeiner6 karma

Far be it from me to judge another person's last name.

SarkazmMusic1 karma

I'll take my second and final helping. What do you think of politicians undertaking paid work while they maintain a seat in parliament? What may be the consequences of this?

GregWeiner2 karma

Interesting -- outside income in the US is severely restricted. I would think it would be a pretty serious problem, but that also means politicians need to be adequately compensated. They are generally highly valued professionals who are being asked to take big salary and time hits mid-career.

mattheman331 karma

What are you currently studying in the world of political theory?

GregWeiner1 karma

I'm trying to decide on my next book. It's a close call between a study of the New Deal's implications for the political theory of The Federalist and a study of the political theory of John, John Quincy and Henry Adams. Opinions welcome!

SarkazmMusic1 karma

Are you planning on doing the both of those, just unsure of the order they should come in?

GregWeiner1 karma

Trying to decide on both/either/order. The Adams one would be a big undertaking.

casamundo1 karma

What does your daily routine look like?

What're a few books you've given away most as a gift?

What's your favourite documentary?

If people wanted to imitate real actionable change in the way our political system works and make it less corrupt, is there a way to do it peacefully?

GregWeiner3 karma

I write in the early mornings, teach during the day, read at night. I think. I guess I'd have to think about that some more. Favorite documentary: I just saw and enjoyed Citizen Four. I love Rivers and Tides, about Andrew Goldsworthy. Big fan of Ricky Jay. Deceptive Practice is great. Political change: This always gets me in trouble, but I think our system is less corrupt and more open to change than we think. The problem is that other people disagree with us and the system is designed to work slowly.

gabethedrone1 karma

How true is the "Closer to middle always wins" approach to campaigns? Seems historically speaking the politicians more radically one wing tend to get elected (FDR, Reagan, etc).

GregWeiner2 karma

The evidence is that polarization is growing. The question is why. Low voter turnout in primaries is a big reason--only the most motivated partisans turn out when it's time to choose candidates. People being able to choose their own media sources is another. But the bottom line for me is that politicians are polarized because we are. There is even evidence that people are choosing where to live based on neighborhoods populated by people who agree with them politically.

gabethedrone1 karma

How accurate is House of Cards?

GregWeiner3 karma

I've only watched it once or twice and found it pretty wildly inaccurate. But I've also heard that once you've worked in a given sector, you're ruined for any TV show on that sector: cops and cop shows, etc.

1zee1 karma

If you recall, what particular facets were most wildly inaccurate about the show?

GregWeiner3 karma

I recall one shooting, I think, which is ridiculous. But more particularly, nobody engineers conspiracies or political processes like that. There are simply too many moving and unpredictable parts.

Laugarhraun1 karma

What is the stupidest thing your brother did in his younger years? The most shameful one?

GregWeiner8 karma

Wait, have we stopped the clock on him doing stupid or shameful things?

DougGlover1 karma

Just curious of where the bar currently sits, methinks.

GregWeiner5 karma

I signed a non-disclosure agreement when he was born. We saw where things were headed.

I_smell_awesome1 karma

What are your favorite pizza toppings?

GregWeiner2 karma

Olives, feta. I think Zach goes exotic on these.

greatluck1 karma

What do you think of the whole Netanyahu speech fiasco? Do you think it was blown out of proportion or are congressmen right to boycott?

GregWeiner1 karma

I think Congress has a constitutional right as a coequal -- I would actually say more than coequal -- branch of government to invite who it wants, so I don't think there's a constitutional issue here. But having a right and exercising it prudently are different things.

Tenauri1 karma

Hello Dr. Weiner! I was a PoliSci major at Assumption College and graduated the year before you started there. We met once when you gave a talk on Madison and the tempo of politics which I enjoyed though I have not yet read your book on the subject.

I tend to feel that on liberal websites like reddit theres a good deal of outrage towards the way the GOP is currently handling this 'tempo' via threatening government shutdowns, abusing the filibuster, blocking bills, etc. Do you feel we're still in "to be expected" territory of government slowness, or are we reaching a point where we should be genuinely concerned at the refusal for our politicians to work together?

I'm on my lunch break at work otherwise I'd love to ask more. I hope Dobski, Mahoney & vaughn are all doing well.

GregWeiner1 karma

All three are doing well! The key on the book is to buy it, not necessarily to read it. I think the general tempo of the regime is supposed to be -- let me see if I can blow the metaphor here -- adagio. I'm not convinced the shutdowns contribute to that. Filibusters can if judiciously used. But you are picking up on a key point, which is the assumption that a legislature that is not cranking out laws is not doing its job. That is patently false, and it encourages excess lawmaking.

gabethedrone1 karma

Considering that the chance of one vote effecting the out come of an election is basically zero, why the hell do people vote?

GregWeiner3 karma

There was a study once that said that, down to state legislative elections, the chance of one's vote being decisive was less than the chance of being struck by lightning on the way to the polling place. So why vote? A sense of duty, a sense of catharsis. I am not one who thinks voting is a duty. I think not voting can sometimes be a duty.

monkees4va1 karma

My politics tutor has been preaching your beliefs surrounding nuclear deterrence for the past week, weird that you're now on here. Shout out from Scotland. I guess my question would be, as a political science student, what great political theorist inspires you more?

GregWeiner2 karma

I'm totally going to take credit for that but I'm not sure I've been saying anything on nuclear deterrence. Do you mean Moynihan on nuclear deterrence? In terms of who inspires me, Aristotle, Madison, Moynihan among others.

aeonfluxcore1 karma

Who's your favorite and least favorite president? Also why? Loving the AMA!

GregWeiner3 karma

Least favorite ... I'm going to exclude anyone recent lest passion get in the way and sober judgment go out the window. One has to mention Buchanan of course. Polk engineered a probably unnecessary war. But my least favorite of all time has to be Wilson. An imprudent moralizer who helped set up the rest of the 20th century.

GregWeiner3 karma

Not sure I can get down to one. Let me be a weasel and go with Washington, who actually appreciated the separation of powers and welcomed diverse views into his Cabinet. Lincoln was suited to his time but not to others. Loved Amity Shlaes' bio of Coolidge -- again, suited to his time. I tend to like presidents who govern according to need rather than always trying to make their mark on history.

liberal_logic1 karma

Name names here; who are the most corrupt members of congress that need to be booted from office?

GregWeiner4 karma

Is Zach in Congress yet?

I'm actually not willing to single anyone out. I know that's a weasel answer, but I really think corruption is vastly less than we tend to think. Certainly literal, suitcase-of-cash-under-the-table corruption has been virtually eradicated. Legal corruption, meanwhile, is exceedingly hard to define. If I give $25 to a congressional candidate because I think he or she will support a health care bill from which I will benefit, is that corrupt? It's quid pro quo. Somewhere between $25 and $2,500 we start to believe it's corruption. But the fact is that even $2,500 isn't a sensible bargain for members of Congress. It's a drop in the bucket of campaign costs compared to the votes they could lose if they embarrass themselves by taking dirty money.

kierkkadon1 karma

As someone whose entire professional and educational background is STEM but who has a great love of politics and political theory, what's a way I might be able to enter the field professionally? What are some avocational ways to participate in the field besides just consuming written content, such as I already do?

GregWeiner2 karma

Have you tried volunteering on a campaign? That can be a very rewarding experience. Lots of cities and towns have official boards that are underpopulated because no one will volunteer to serve.

4x0r1 karma

Do you think that there is any way to make party politics more "efficient"? Maybe something like a technocracy, has there ever been one successful example?
I ask this because things like corruption or petty rivalries are the main reason why people get disenchanted with politics and then they don't even bother to vote.

GregWeiner2 karma

There are plenty of ways to make politics more efficient. I just don't think they're a good idea. Efficiency isn't the measure of politics. Deliberation and prudence are. There's also a fine line between serious disagreement and petty rivalry. Most questions in politics don't have technocratic answers.

Kulty1 karma

Hi Greg! As a politically engaged person I care about voter turnout. I would like to learn more, on an academic level, about the factors that affect voter participation today, and how different levels of turnout affect the democratic process. Do you have any input on that, a personal position, or can you recommend any books or resources?

Also, if Zach reads this: the moral relativist under the bed made me laugh the most hardest of all hard laughs. Bravo.

GregWeiner3 karma

Jason Brennan's The Ethics of Voting is very good, but it would challenge the supposition that voter turnout is necessarily a good thing. James Morone has a good textbook (By the People) that covers some of this stuff and would probably direct you to other resources. My own position is that people who are informed and prudent ought to vote; people who aren't shouldn't. I don't think that more voting is necessarily better or that less voting is necessarily bad. In terms of what affects voter participation, one place to look is Robert Putnam's Bowling Alone, which doesn't directly address this but does deal with the general fact that people are simply disengaged from institutions as a whole--social organizations, religious organizations and political ones too.

AtticusFynch1 karma

I've always wanted to do a stint on the Hill, but the pay always seemed too low, and now that I have enough money saved up to consider it, I'm too old. Or at least that's what I tell myself.

How old do you reckon is too old to give it a shot?

GregWeiner2 karma

I wouldn't think there's an age issue. Legally, of course, there can't be. I'd give it a shot.

tonello1 karma

How do you pronounce your last name?

GregWeiner5 karma

The bad way ...

TheHugeJohnson1 karma

I graduated last year with a Bachelors in political science. Do you think a Masters in political science is valuable outside academia? Or would working experience be a better use of that time and tuition money?

GregWeiner1 karma

When I worked in politics, I never hired based on academic credentials. It's worthwhile, I would think, if the ideas interest you. But I can't speak for hiring in other fields.

TheHugeJohnson1 karma

If not academics, what credentials made one candidate more desirable than another?

GregWeiner3 karma

Writing skills and a willingness to start at the bottom and work up -- the latter depending on credentials coming in, of course.

shitcock69691 karma

Do you have any opinion on the works of Robert Caro (especially 'Master of the Senate') and, if you are familiar with them, do you feel that Lyndon Johnson would be as effective in the Senate of today - or the 1990s - as he was in the Senate of the 1950s?

GregWeiner2 karma

I don't think he would be as effective because leaders no longer control the circumstances of members' re-election. Today bucking your leadership not only isn't dangerous, it makes you a folk hero. So leaders can really only work through persuasion. Granted, Johnson was good at that, but he was better at threats.

abadidea1 karma

I read this whole ama, thank you, it is interesting.

Do the Federalists Papers contain the essential Madison or is there more must-read Madison mania to be had?

GregWeiner2 karma

There's more. For a precĂ­s, I recommend Marvin Meyers' The Mind of the Founder. There is also a good Library of America collection. I do have a book on Madison's political thought (Madison's Metronome), but it is not a comprehensive treatment -- it deals with his theory of majority rule. It might give you a sense of other sources, though.

Aumah1 karma

When I think of the Constitution's big flaws I think 1) reinforced slavery and 2) Didn't plan for two-party system. What's your view?

GregWeiner2 karma

I agree with the second. We might even say it encourages a party system via the mechanism for electing presidents but its theory (i.e. the separation of powers as elucidated in the second) assumes there won't be one. Slavery simply was not a soluble problem at the time. There would have been no Constitution and hence no union had they tried to force it. One point worth emphasizing is that the three-fifths compromise was actually an attempt to dilute the representation and thus the political power of the slaveholding South, not to dehumanize slaves. Had slaves counted as full persons for purposes of calculating representation, the South would have had permanent and overwhelming majorities in the House.

orrazib91 karma

You think Elizabeth Warren would run for office in 2016?

GregWeiner4 karma

Conventional wisdom says no. Conventional wisdom said the same about Obama in 2007. But I still tend to think not.

SarkazmMusic1 karma

What do you think of the whole "Obama doesn't truly love America" view that a number of prominent figures seem to have these days?

GregWeiner9 karma

Wholly unproductive and unnecessary rhetoric.

InfinityFlat1 karma

Did your work in the senate at all influence the kinds of projects you investigate now in academia?

GregWeiner5 karma

Yes, I think so. I think it helped sensitize me to how both Madison -- subject of my first book, Madison's Metronome (is that what "pulling a Rampart" means?) -- and Moynihan worked at the intersection of ideas and action. That intersection really interests me. I am teaching a course next year on the political theory of practicing statesmen and am very much looking forward to it. Mary Ann Glendon has a great book on this called The Forum and the Tower.