Faculty Friday: A chat with GSB political science professor David Brady

Nov. 28, 2014, 2:12 a.m.

The Stanford Daily recently sat down with professor of political science in the Stanford Graduate School of Business David Brady, renowned political scientist and author of numerous books, to discuss his thoughts on his experience teaching and projects he worked on at Stanford.

The Stanford Daily (TSD): What projects are you currently working on? Is there any subject that you are particularly excited about?

David Brady (DB): Well, the book I’m working on now deals with the fact that a lot of people think the American government is broken. But I don’t believe that.

I believe that the government in the United States, all the governments in Europe, Japan and all the modern economy democracies, are reacting to the second great transformation of the world economy. The first occurred after the American civil war. This one includes China and India – and basically the same set of issues has come up. Immigration, banks, equality – just like the Gilded Era. The reason is that as economies transform, you get a whole set of hard issues. The American government is not broken. It is however, in a long phase of uncertainty. And that uncertainty was characteristic of 1870 – 90. Neither party can find a majority capable of setting policy or going along with policy that will accommodate what’s happening in the world economy. The book then looks at how the US came to its particular form of gridlock.

TSD: You have written much about the polarization of the United States Congress. In light of the recent Republican Senate takeover, should we now expect to see more gridlock or less?

DB: Well that’s a 24-dollar question. I don’t think you’ll see any less polarization. There are some areas where the president and congress could agree: some mild tax reform, on immigration and several other areas, but there are pressures in the Republican party that don’t want that to happen, and there are those in the Democratic party that don’t want that to happen. What’s the possibility of brokering some kind of agreement? I’m not particularly optimistic about that, so I put that probability as below 0.4 percent – although it’s still possible.

TSF: What have been some of the most meaningful experiences you’ve had while teaching and working with students?

DB: For me, getting questions from students that push you, that’s number one. The second thing is that as you get older, and you’ve seen the world, and you’ve written about it, you tend to get more cynical, and the students are idealistic. So somehow, they need to know more about how the world works, but you need a little more optimism. The older you get, the worse it gets in terms of cynicism so you have to teach more or retire.

This interview has been condensed and edited.

This piece is part of a continuing series of faculty spotlight pieces.

Contact Erica Evans at elevans ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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