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About The Author
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By Jay Cost

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About The Author

Updated November, 2009

Writing autobiographically is difficult, so I thought the best way to approach this is via an FAQ, even if the Q's are not really FA.

How long have you been doing this?

I have been blogging one way or another since the 2004 election. I have been writing for RealClearPolitics since November, 2005. This blog - named after the original "spit 'n' polish" construction once hosted on Blogger.com - began in May, 2007.

What's your educational background?

I'm ABD in political science at the University of Chicago. I went there originally to study political philosophy - only to learn that nobody really cares about J.S. Mill, Karl Popper, F.A. Hayek and the other philosophers who resonate with me. A notable professor once explained to me that Popper's critique of Rousseau in the Open Society and Its Enemies is not to be taken seriously. That was enough for me to get the idea. [Popper's critique is aimed at Plato, Hegel, and Marx. Not Rousseau.]

So, I ditched the political philosophy angle and began focusing on American politics. My knowledge base is deepest in the American political parties. I'm working on a dissertation about them at the moment, though obviously this blog keeps me busy.

What qualifies you to write a blog?

I have three advantages, I suppose.

First, as mentioned above, the political parties are my point of entry into political science. The parties touch pretty much everything in politics, so this has forced me to develop a fairly broad base of knowledge. I've had to learn about public opinion, campaigns and elections, political history, realignment theory, and so on. Unsurprisingly, two areas where I am lacking are the courts and the bureaucracy. You'll rarely see me write about them.

Second, I have a special interest in the methodologies of social science. This gives me the ability to do more data-heavy analysis on this page - as well as perspective on what makes for a good argument. Relatedly, I'm conversant in rational choice theory. I never learned the heavy mathematics of that subject, but I have a good practical understanding of it.

Third, I don't live in Washington - and thus am not afflicted with the Swamp Fever.

None of this should be taken to imply that I'm always right. I've screwed the pooch a number of times over the years. One thing I try very hard to do is learn from my mistakes.

How can we know you're unbiased?

Actually, you should know that I am biased. I make no claims to be "objective," which I think is just a convenient device designed by journalists during the media consolidation of the 20th century. I see my personal worldview reflected in everything I write, and I'd never deny that this is the case.

In the interest of full disclosure, I'll share a bit of that view here:

Above all, I believe in epistemological modesty. I don't think we actually know very much about the world - certainly not nearly as much as many claim to. This inclines me to conservatism, and ultimately the Republican Party. The connection to the latter is enhanced by my belief in the positive benefits of American business (which needs to be checked but is nevertheless enhances the public good even as its goal is personal profit) as well as my modest cultural conservatism.

One point on which I need to make a distinction is the following. I am a believer in the Democratic Party. Though it does not represent my interests - its voice is vital in the political process of a large, diverse republic such as ours. Accordingly, I am glad for its presence - and I think that all people who want our government to function well should be grateful that we have two competitive political parties. Single party government leads inevitably to corruption and an undermining of the democratic process, so the Democrats' recent ascendancy to the majority is a good thing from that perspective. The Republican Party most certainly deserved the rebuke it received in 2006 and 2008. However, I have grave doubts about President Barack Obama. I have been deeply concerned since March, 2008 that he lacked the proper perspective, experience, and temperament to be President. I hope and pray that my fears will ultimately be found to be incorrect, but they have only grown as we now enter the eighth full month of his presidency. I also wish the Democrats in Congress had chosen their party leaders in Congress in a way that reflected the diversity of their caucus - which is undoubtedly the party's greatest electoral strength - rather than dole out the leadership positions to the most senior, and most liberal members of the caucus.

So, does that mean you have an agenda?

Not really, beyond an agenda to do good work that's insightful and sensible. That's easier said than done, I have to admit!

But in terms of a political agenda, not so much.

Any Interests Outside Politics?

I'm a native Pittsburgher and a proud citizen of The Steelers Nation. My favorite shows on TV are 30 Rock and Breaking Bad, and I have near-encyclopedic knowledge of the Seinfeld universe.

I love to listen to rock and roll. Just about everything you'll read on this blog was written while something good was playing.

Top ten favorite albums (in order):

1. Sweetheart of the Rodeo, The Byrds
2. Exile on Main Street, The Rolling Stones
3. The Basement Tapes, Bob Dylan and The Band
4. Music from Big Pink, The Band
5. Highway 61, Revisited, Bob Dylan
6. All Things Must Pass, George Harrison
7. Grievous Angel, Gram Parsons
8. Live at Leeds, The Who
9. The Village Green Preservation Society, The Kinks
10. From Elvis in Memphis, Elvis Presley

A few albums I've been enjoying over the last several weeks (in no particular order):

-Before the Frost.../...Until the Freeze, The Black Crowes
-Pet Sounds, The Beach Boys
-Willy and the Poor Boys, Creedence Clearwater Revival
-Cosmo's Factory, Creedence Clearwater Revival
-Through the Morning, Through the Night, DIllard and Clark
-Raising Sand, Robert Plant and Allison Krauss
-Manassas, Stephen Stills/Manassas
-Mr. Tambourine Man, The Byrds
-Get Your Ya-Ya's Out (Expanded Re-release), The Rolling Stones
-Time Out of Mind, Bob Dylan