I specialize in political theory and American politics in the Department of Government at Dartmouth College. My work is eclectic, but my primary interest is in the concepts of size and scale, e.g., local, metropolitan, provincial, regional, national, supranational. How big should jurisdictions be? Which levels of government ought to control which tasks and functions? Which levels of government do the best job, in terms of efficiency, welfare, rights protection, etc? What attitudes and dispositions should we hold toward various levels of government?
My current book project—“Not In My Backyard!”—develops an unflinching critique of localism, the idea that decisions should be made, authority should be exercised, or policies should be implemented, more locally. More about the book manuscript can be found here.
Closely related to “Not In My Backyard!” are two articles on the principle of subsidiarity, one of four basic principles of Catholic social doctrine, as well as (since 1992) a regulative principle of the European Union. In “Against Subsidiarity” (The Journal of Political Philosophy), I show that the dominant secular interpretation of subsidiarity (e.g., in the European Union) is poorly justified in normative terms. In “The Principle of Subsidiarity: A Democratic Reinterpretation” (Constellations), I show how subsidiarity can be reinterpreted so as to earn our support.
My other work addresses such topics as the early American presidential veto (Presidential Studies Quarterly), the nature and ground of political equality (European Journal of Political Theory), Alexis de Tocqueville on white supremacy, the relationship between the American Anti-Federalists and Adam Smith, the self-deception of political leaders, and Tocqueville’s views on local government.