Eggers A, Spirling A. Ministerial Responsiveness in Westminster Systems. 2012.Abstract
Westminster systems feature a strong government and a weak opposition, but the origins of this arrangement--the tacit acquiescence to reduced minority rights by non-government parties in the late 19th Century House of Commons—present a profound puzzle to researchers. We argue that oppositions voluntarily surrendered initiation and amendment rights, making parliamentary business more efficient for governments, in exchange for more certain opportunities to hold cabinet ministers to account. We gather a new data set comprising half-a-million parliamentary speeches and biographical information on over 8000 MPs to investigate our claims. We estimate the parameters of a novel Markov-chain model of parliamentary discourse to measure ministerial `responsiveness' over time, and present findings supporting our case. In particular, we show that the period 1880-1902 (culminating in Balfour's `railway timetable') was critical for the emergence of this characteristically adversarial part of the Westminster System.
Renshon J, Spirling A. Foundations for Modeling ‘Effectiveness’ in International Relations. 2011.Abstract
We consider the estimation of the ‘effectiveness’ of states in international relations. Noting that pairwise contest data is the norm in applied research, we motivate a straightforward Bradley-Terry statistical model for this problem from first principles, which will allow for a closer integration of theoretical and statistical practice for scholars in this subfield. The essence of this approach is that we learn about the latent abilities of states from observing conflict outcomes between them. We demonstrate the novelty and appeal of this set-up with reference to previous attempts to capture estimands of interest, and show that for many questions of concern—especially regarding ‘initiation effects’—our approach may be preferred on theoretical and statistical grounds. We show how the model may be used in application, and how its results may be interpreted, with a commonly used international relations conflict data set.