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Brian Solomon’s Guide To The Stars: Government Professor John Carey

Dartmouth has a wealth of experienced professors who lead their respective research fields, while also working closely with students — inspiring them in the classroom and leading them in laboratory environments. And while at Dartblog we talk frequently about problems that need to be fixed at the College, there are still many bright spots. Our professors deserve more recognition for their achievements. As such, this is one of a series of posts that shines a spotlight on the best professors in Hanover:

John Carey.jpgJohn Carey is the John Wentworth Professor in the Social Sciences in the Government department. His research on the success or failure of democracies based on their political and electoral structure is of particular relevance to American observers after this crazy week at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

Carey’s eventual path to Dartmouth took an early detour on a salmon fishing boat in Kasilof, Alaska. After graduating magna cum laude from Harvard in 1986 with a certificate in Latin American Studies, Carey went with some buddies up to Alaska to make a good paycheck working the summer fishing season. He loved working and living as a crew member of one boat, and he returned for the next four summers as well. As salmon prices peaked, Carey even considered buying a permit to start his own operation — but both he and Dartmouth are thankful that he decided against it.

Instead, Carey served for a year as a legislative assistant in Washington, D.C. for then-Senator John Kerry before earning his Ph.D. in political science from UCSD. After teaching stints at the Universidad Católica de Chile, Santiago, the University of Rochester, Washington University in St. Louis, and Harvard, Carey came to Hanover in 2003. Since then, he’s been an active teacher, researcher, and leader. After serving as chair of the government department from 2009 to 2015, Carey is now on both the Committee Advisory to the President (CAP) and the Institutional Review Board for Arts & Sciences.

At UCSD Carey began to analyze Latin American democracies and dictatorships — often a fine line. There he coauthored Presidents and Assemblies: Constitutional Design and Electoral Dynamics with Matthew Shugart, one of his professors. The book, which has since been translated into six languages, critiqued the popular notion that democracy could have survived in some countries if only they had had a parliamentary system with less power wielded by a single president. Carey’s two pieces of scholarship with Shugart (the other is: Incentives to cultivate a personal vote: A rank ordering of electoral formulas) have been cited 3,499 and 1,858 times respectively in the works of other researchers).

Carey noted in the first work above that not all presidential-based democracies are created equal, an argument he’s still making. Earlier this year in The Washington Post, he described how the United States was designed specifically to have a relatively weak presidency compared to other countries, even accounting for the creeping gain in power under the last two administrations. As Carey says, Ecuadorians or Colombians would have much more to be worried about from electing President Donald Trump than we do — a comforting thought during this election season.

Carey has also researched the effects term limits have had both in Latin America and state legislatures here at home. Unfortunately, none of his findings indicate that term limits encourage a more citizen-influenced (rather than career-politician) legislature or make the elected bodies more effective institutions. Rather, term-limited politicians simply look for the elected or appointed office that they can jump to next, and they tend to work to gain favor with the gatekeepers to those jobs rather than with the people who elected them.

While the themes of democratic rules and structure continue to form the core of Carey’s work, he has branched out into some new areas. He and his fellow Dartmouth government professor Yusaku Horiuchi waded into the radioactive topic of campus diversity recently. Instead of a poll, their study used fully randomized conjoint analysis, which presented respondents with a pair of hypothetical candidates for student admission or faculty hiring and asked which one he or she would select. Each candidate was assigned a random “bundle of attributes” that includes race and gender, as well as academic resumes and other factors. Their results showed remarkable consistency in valuing diversity on campus, with slight differences among various groups.

Carey is also teaming up with colleagues Brendan Nyhan, Benjamin Valentino and Mingnan Liu on a unique study of “Deflategate” — the NFL scandal surrounding New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s alleged deflation of footballs to give an edge to his team. The forthcoming paper, using conversations Carey had with other Patriots fans, will show “how preferences and predispositions shape conspiracy beliefs” about the scandal.

Meanwhile, Carey has a full load of courses, usually teaching GOV 4: Politics of the World, GOV 26: Elections and Reform, and GOV 49: Latin American Politics. This fall, however, he’ll be leading the government foreign study program to the London School of Economics. There he’ll be teaching a new course on the ethical and policy considerations of foreign aid.

Addendum: In this video, Carey interviews Hendrik Hertzberg, a Senior Editor and Staff Writer at The New Yorker:

Addendum: Carey consults widely on the structure of electoral systems. In the last decade his clients have included: the United States State Department, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, L-3 Communications, Freedom House, the Kadima Party of Israel, and the Government of Bolivia.

Addendum: Carey communicated his love of the College to his sons: Joe Carey graduated from Dartmouth in 2015, and he is now learning to fly in the Marines; Sam, a math major, is an ‘18.

Addendum: An admiring alumnus writes in:

A former JV hockey player at Harvard, John is also the academic advisor to the hockey team, and he has been involved in Hanover youth hockey for many years.

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