Ten Miles Square

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January 25, 2013 12:00 PM America the Incomparable

By Erik Voeten

Berkeley’s Martin Shapiro in the Law and Courts newsletter:

One of the most difficult institutional taboos to evade, however, may be God’s prohibition on any Americanist employing comparative methods or any comparativist using the U.S. as one of the countries to be compared. Only glimmers of a “trans-Atlantic” study of politics have so far emerged. It may be better until after getting a job not to admit that you want to mix meat and milk.

Shapiro is writing about the difficulties scholars of comparative law have making inroads in political science. But the point is valid more generally, including in the policy world. The argument that a policy has worked wonders elsewhere never seems to help sell a policy’s likely effectiveness here. We do not seem to have similar trepidations recommending our policies to other countries.

[Cross-posted at The Monkey Cage]

Erik Voeten is the Peter F. Krogh associate professor of geopolitics and global justice at Georgetown University.