Paul J. Quirk

University of British Columbia
Political Science

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Although I work in several subfields of American politics, my overriding concern for a number of years has been with the ability of democratic government to make intelligent policy decisions. Stated crudely, the issue is not, who wins and who loses?--the main preoccupation of behavioral political science for generations--but does government do smart things or dumb things? Of course, we cannot often make such categorical distinctions; but decisions do vary with respect to their reliance on relevant evidence, thorough analysis, careful design, and so on. I have addressed this general problem of intelligence in policymaking--in varying degrees of depth--in relation to processes of debate and deliberation in Congress, the competence of public opinion, advisory processes in presidential decision making, campaign debate in elections, and the influence of public opinion on policymaking. My main current project is about how American Government deliberates over one the most challenging policy dilemmas it has ever faced: the conflict between enhancing security against terrorism, on the one hand, and preserving privacy, defendants' rights, and ultimately political freedom, on the other. In collaboration with William Bendix, a Ph.D. candidate in US politics at the University of British Columbia, I am working on a book that will analyze the development of policies about wiretapping, surveillance, detention of suspects, and related issues. I am co-editing a book that compares the US and Canadian political systems and their performance in policymaking. The two countries have generally quite similar societies and cultures, at least by world standards. But they have radically different formal political institutions. Two UBC colleagues and I have assembled a distinguished group of both American and Canadian authors and expect to produce a book that will attract wide interest on both sides of the border.

Kuklinski, James, and Paul J. Quirk. 2000. "Reconsidering the Rational Public: Cognition, Heuristics, and Mass Opinion." In The Elements of Reason, eds. Lupia, McCubbins, and Popkin. Cambridge University Press.
Mucciaroni, Gary, and Paul J. Quirk. 2006. Deliberative Choices: Debating Public Policy in Congress. University of Chicago Press.
Quirk, Paul. Forthcoming 2011. "Deliberation." In The Handbook of Congress, eds. Francis Lee and Eric Shickler. Oxford University Press.

Substantive Focus:
Environmental Policy SECONDARY
Defense and Security PRIMARY

Theoretical Focus:
Policy Process Theory PRIMARY