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About Paul J. Quirk

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 can't 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 might add that this kind of concern has been easier to explain in conversation since the first year of the Iraq War, which many see as a calamitous mistake. 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 have also agreed to write a chapter on "Deliberation in Congress" for the Oxford Handbook of Congress. Finally, 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.


Present Faculty Member, Policy Studies Organization
Present Political Science, University of British Columbia

Research Interests

Defense and security and Policy process theory

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Contact Information

Buchanan C4261866 Main Mall
Vancouver, B.C.
Canada V6T 1Z1