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Alastair Smith

Professor of Politics
Ph.D. 1995 University of Rochester; B.A. (Hons) 1990 (Chemistry) Oxford University.

Email:
Phone:  (212) 992 9678
Office Address:  NYU Department of Politics, 19 W. 4th Street, New York, NY 10012
Office Room Number:  406

For a full list of my work, see my Vita.

Areas of Research/Interest: International relations.

Teaching
Useful Links

Select Publications:

The Dictator's Handbook 2011 PublicAffairs.

Punishing the Prince  2008 Princeton University Press.

Election Timing 2004 Cambridge University Press.

The Logic of Political Survival 2003 Co-authored with Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, Randolph Siverson and James Morrow. MIT  Press.




Published Papers


  1. The Impact of Leader Turnover on the Onset and the Resolution of WTO Disputes. Talya Bobick and Alastair Smith. Review of International Organizations. 2013. 8:423–445
  2. Leader Survival and Natural Disasters, with Alejandro Quiroz Flores. British Journal of Political Science  October 2013, 43(4): 821 – 843
  3. Aid: Blame It All on “Easy Money” with Bruce Bueno de Mesquita. Journal of Conflict Resolution June 2013 57: 524-537
  4. Domestic Explanations of International Relations. Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith. 2012. Annual Review of Political Science 2012. 15:161–81
  5. Contingent Prize Allocation and Pivotal Voting with Bruce Bueno de Mesquita 2011.  British Journal of Political Science.
  6. Leader Survival, Revolutions, and the Nature of Government Finance with Bruce Bueno de Mesquita October 2010.  American Journal of Political Science. 54(4): 936-950
  7. The Pernicious Consequences of UN Security Council Membership with Bruce Bueno de Mesquita June 2010.  Journal of Conflict Resolution 54(5): 667-686
  8. A Political Economy of Aid with Bruce Bueno de Mesquita
  9. Retesting Selectorate Theory: Separating the Effects of W from Other Elements of Democracy. With James Morrow, Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, and Randolph Siverson. American Political Science Review August 2008.
  10. The Perils of Unearned Income 2008. Journal of Politics. 70(3): 780-793.
  11. Political Survival and Endogenous Institutional Change. (Forthcoming 2009) Comparative Political Studies (Coauthored with Bruce Bueno de Mesquita).
  12. Foreign Aid and Policy Concessions, 2007, with Bruce Bueno de Mesquita. Journal of Conflict Resolution. 51(2): 251-284
  13. Divergent Beliefs in “Bargaining and the Nature of War” with Allan C. Stam. Journal of Conflict Resolution August 2006 50(4): 614-618.
  14. Credibility in Compliance and Punishment: Leader Specific Punishments and Credibility. With Fiona McGillivray, Journal of Politics, May 2006 68(2): 248-258.
  15. Why International Organizations Will Continue to Fail Their Development Goals.” Perspective on Politics 3(3): 565-567.
  16. Qualitative Leverage and the Epistemology of Expert Opinion. With Sanford Gordon. Political Analysis, Summer 2005, 13(3): 280-291.
  17. Bargaining and the Nature of War. Coauthored with Allan Stam. Journal of Conflict Resolution. 2004, 48(6, December): 783-813. [Numerical Fix]
  18. Testing Novel Implications from the Selectorate Theory of War. Coauthored with Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, James D. Morrow and Randolph M. Siverson. World Politics April 2004 56: 363-388.
  19. Quantitative Leverage Through Qualitative Knowledge: Augmenting the Statistical Analysis of Complex Causes,” 2004 with Sanford C. Gordon. Political Analysis 12: 233-255.
  20. The Impact of Leadership Turnover on Relations Between States. Coauthored with Fiona McGillivray. International Organization. 58 Summer 2004: 567-600.
  21. Election Timing in Majoritarian Parliamentary Systems 2003. British Journal of Political Science, 33, 379-418.
  22. Political Institutions, Policy Choice and the Survival of Leaders with Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, James Morrow and Randolph Siverson. British Journal of Political Science. Volume 32  Issue 04  October 2002 p.559-590
  23. Honest Threats: The Interaction of Reputation and Political Institutions in International Crises. With Alexandra Guisinger. Journal of Conflict Resolution. April 2002 Vol 46. No. 2 pp. 175-200.
  24. "Payment, Protection and Punishment: The Role of Information and Reputation in the Mafia." With Federico Varesse. Rationality and Society Vol 13. No. 3 August 2001.
  25. Trust and Cooperation through Agent Specific Punishments. Written with Fiona McGillivray. International Organization. 54,4 Autumn 2000, p. 809-824.
  26. An Institutional Explanation of the Democratic Peace written with Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, James D. Morrow, and Randolph M. Siverson American Political Science Review. December 1999. December 93(4):791-808.
  27. Testing Theories of Strategic Choice: The Example of Crisis Escalation. American Journal of Political Science Vol. 43 No. 4 p. 1254-1283.
  28. So You Say You Want a Revolution: A Game Theoretic Explanation of Revolution in Repressive Regimes  Journal of Conflict Resolution June 1999 with John Peter Ginkel
  29. "Policy Failure and Political Survival: the Contribution of Political Institutions" Journal of Conflict Resolution 43 (April 1999) with Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, James D. Morrow, and Randolph M. Siverson.
  30. "International Crises and Domestic Politics" American Political Science Review, September 1998. Vol. 92. No.3. p. 623-638.
  31. "Fighting Battles, Winning Wars." Journal of Conflict Resolution June 1998 Vol. 42, No. 3, pp.301-320.
  32. "The Success and Use of Sanctions" 1996. International Interactions Vol. 21, No. 3 p. 229-245.
  33. "To Intervene Or Not To Intervene: A Biased Decision" 1996. Journal of Conflict Resolution Vol. 40, No. 1, p. 16-40.
  34. "Diversionary Foreign Policy in Democratic Systems" 1996. International Studies Quarterly, Vol. 40, No. 1, p. 133-153.
  35. "Alliance Formation and War," 1995. International Studies Quarterly Vol. 39, No. 4, p.405-425.

Unpublished Papers


  1. The Political Economy of Corporate Fraud: A Theory and Empirical Tests. By Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith
  2. Political Succession: A Model of Coups, Revolution,Purges and Everyday Politics.  Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith

Data and Other Materials

  • The Logic of Political Survival
    by Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, Alastair Smith Randolph Siverson and James Morrow.
    The data, additional results and the programs required to replicate our results are available at http://www.nyu.edu/gsas/dept/politics/data.shtml.
  • Honest Threats: The Interaction of Reputation and Political Institutions in International Crises

Alexandra Guisinger and Alastair Smith  Journal of Conflict Resolution. April 2002 Vol 46. No. 2 pp. 175-200.   

o  The mathematical appendix to this article was exclude at the request of the editor. It appears here as a pdf file.

o  Abstract. We examine the role of an honest record in the credibility of diplomatic communications: why, on the brink of a crisis, an aggressive state may be deterred by a claim to resist. In contrast to traditional arguments linking credibility to a reputation for resolve, power, or strength, we posit that credibility arises from the expectation of future, continued gains from retaining an honest record. Diplomatic statements are believed only if a country's or leader's credibility is unmarred. Leaders keep their word so that they are believed in later crises. Two environments are contrasted: one in which a country's record for honesty resides within the country as a whole and another in which reputation resides with individual leaders. In this later case, citizens have an incentive to remove leaders caught bluffing. More robust than previous reputation theories, this model also offers comparative statics for when diplomacy will be more effective, namely when leaders are domestically accountable.

  •  Election Timing in Majoritarian Parliaments.
I have a British Journal of Political Science article. Due to space constraints the editors requested that I suppress part of the analysis from that article. It is included here as an electronic appendix.

I have also written a book, “Election Timing”, Cambridge University Press 2004, which is reviewed in Perspective in Politics.  The data related to that project can be found here.

The data and statistical routines for this paper.

o Abstract. If we believe that politics involves a significant amount of strategic interaction then classical statistical tests, such as Ordinary Least Squares, Probit or Logit, cannot give us the right answers. This is true for two reasons: The dependent variables under observation are interdependent-- that is the essence of game theoretic logic-- and the data is censored -- that is an inherent feature of off the path expectations that leads to selection effects. I explore the consequences of strategic decision making on empirical estimation in the context of international crisis escalation. I show how and why classical estimation techniques fail in strategic settings. I develop a simple strategic model of decision making during crises. I ask what this explanation implies about the distribution of the dependent variable: the level of violence used by each nation. Counterfactuals play a key role in this theoretical explanation. Yet, conventional econometric techniques take no account of unrealized opportunities. For example, suppose a weak nation (B) is threatened by a powerful neighbor (A). If we believe that power strongly influences the use of force then the weak nation realizes that the aggressor's threats are probably credible. Not wishing to fight a more powerful opponent, nation B is likely to acquiesce to the aggressor's demands. Empirically, we observe A threaten B. The actual level of violence that A uses is low. However, the theoretical model suggests that B acquiesced precisely because A would use force. Although the theoretical model assumes a strong relationship between strength and the use of force, traditional techniques find a much weaker relationship. Our ability to observe whether nation A is actually prepared to use force is censored when nation B acquiesces. I develop a Strategically Censored Discrete Choice (SCDC) model which accounts for the interdependent and censored nature of strategic decision making. I use this model to test existing theories of dispute escalation. Specifically, I analyze Bueno de Mesquita and Lalman's (1992) dyadically coded version of the Militarized Interstate Dispute data (Gochman and Moaz 1984). I estimate this model using a Bayesian Markov chain Monte Carlo simulation method. Using Bayesian model testing, I compare the explanatory power of a variety of theories. I conclude that strategic choice explanations of crisis escalation far out-perform non-strategic ones.


The Pernicious Consequences of UN Security Council Membership

Journal of Conflict Resolution

Bruce Bueno De Mesquita
Alastair Smith


Leader Survival, Revolutions, and the Nature of government Finance

Forthcoming American Journal of Political Science

Bruce Bueno De Mesquita
Alastair Smith

Foreign Policy and Policy Concessions
Bruce Bueno de Mesquita
Alastair Smith
Abstract
Data
Punishing the Prince

Fiona McGillivray
Alastair Smith

Political Survival and Endogenous Institutional Change

Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith
Comparative Political Studies (forthcoming)

A Political Economy of Foreign Aid

Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith
Forthcoming at International Organizations

Thinking Inside the Box: A Closer Look at Democracy and Human Rights

International Studies Quarterly (2005) 49, 439-457

Bruce Bueno de Mesquita
Feryal Cherif
George Downs
Alastair Smith

Testing Novel Implications from the Selectorate Theory of War
World Politics April 2004 56(3): 363-388.
Bruce Bueno de Mesquita
Alastair Smith
Randolph Siverson
James Morrow

The Impact of Leadership Turnover on Relations Between States
Fiona McGillivray
Alastair Smith

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