HKS in the News January 23, 2012

January 23, 2012

1. Why Lie When You Can Evade? (Rogers)
The New York Times

2. What You (Really) Need to Know (Summers) The New York Times

3. Harvard Reacts to South Carolina Primary (Baum and Kamarck) The Harvard Crimson

4. Warren and Brown Form Truce on Super-PAC Spending (Heineman and King) The Harvard Crimson

5. I Disclose ... Nothing (Fung) The New York Times

6. The best approach to management: Tough love (Kelman) Federal Computer Week

Why Lie When You Can Evade?
The New York Times
January 22
Commentary by: Todd Rogers
Topic: The art of dodging questions in politics

“You get to ask the questions you like. I get to give the answers I like,” Mitt Romney told a reporter dissatisfied with an evasive answer. The ensuing criticism – “How dare he not answer our questions?” – seemingly suggested that Romney’s efforts to dodge questions was out of the ordinary. In fact, the only thing unusual about Romney’s dodge attempt was that it failed. Successful politicians elevate dodging questions to an art form, and our research suggests that dodging can be a surprisingly easy – and effective – way for politicians to hoodwink voters without technically lying.

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What You (Really) Need to Know
The New York Times
January 20
Commentary by: Lawrence Summers, Center for Business and Government
Topic: Summers’ analysis of higher education

A PARADOX of American higher education is this: The expectations of leading universities do much to define what secondary schools teach, and much to establish a template for what it means to be an educated man or woman. College campuses are seen as the source for the newest thinking and for the generation of new ideas, as society’s cutting edge.

And the world is changing very rapidly. Think social networking, gay marriage, stem cells or the rise of China. Most companies look nothing like they did 50 years ago. Think General Motors, AT&T or Goldman Sachs.

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Harvard Reacts to South Carolina Primary
The Harvard Crimson
January 23
Quoted: Matthew Baum and Elaine Kamarck
Topic: The South Carolina GOP Primary

As the 2012 Republican presidential contest unfolds, Romney’s position as the front-runner has been called into question following Newt Gingrich’s win in the South Carolina primary on Saturday.

Until now, pundits have all but crowned Romney the front-runner after he placed second in the Iowa caucuses and won the New Hampshire primary. According to a Gallup poll released earlier this month, six in ten likely voters believe Romney will be the Republican nominee….

“I think the conservative and traditional-values wing of the Republican party has been very dissatisfied with Romney,” Baum said. “There’s been a desire to find an alternative to Romney, and Gingrich has fired up the base very effectively….”

“South Carolina was always going to be a good state for him and he knew it,” Kamarck said. “He won because he had really strong support among evangelicals. That was one state where Romney’s Mormonism might really matter.”

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Warren and Brown Form Truce on Super-PAC Spending
The Harvard Crimson
January 20
Quoted: Benjamin Heineman and David King
Topic: The impact of Super PACs on today’s political climate

For nearly two weeks, both Harvard Law School professor Elizabeth Warren and U.S. Senator Scott Brown have called for limitations on third-party spending in the upcoming Massachusetts Senate election. But though the two camps will sit down Friday to discuss the proposition, Harvard professors have called this temporary cease-fire a political stunt that will not have much influence on the race.

“This is for public consumption only,” said Harvard Kennedy School lecturer David C. King. “The Warren and Brown campaigns both understand that the first amendment allows this kind of speech by the Super PACs, so in trying to halt their influence, this is really about political posturing on an issue over which they have no control….”

“The whole point of Super PACs [is] on premise that the financial entity is independent of the campaigns. So they can put out nice lines about how they would like to have out of, but they have no control over it by definition,” said Kennedy School professor Benjamin W. Heineman Jr. ’65.

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I Disclose ... Nothing
The New York Times
January 21
Quoted: Archon Fung, Transparency Policy Project
Topic: Issues with disclosure programs and transparency among organizations and businesses alike

IN New York and a growing number of American cities, diners are encountering sanitary grades in restaurants’ windows — A, B or C. That system is an example of helpful disclosure, researchers say: information that is simple and comprehensible, important to recipients and easily acted upon. I recently chose between outwardly identical Japanese noodle shops on East Ninth Street in Manhattan based on the system, walking into the A rather than the B.

But as greater disclosure has become the go-to solution for a wide range of problems — from unethical campaign financing to rising corporate carbon emissions — it has often delivered lackluster results, researchers say….

Unlike the restaurant-grading system, such threat-level disclosure “is ineffective because there’s no way to act on it,” said Archon Fung, co-founder of the Transparency Policy Project at the Harvard Kennedy School.

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The best approach to management: Tough love
Federal Computer Week
January 15
Commentary by: Steve Kelman
Topic: Effective management styles

One of the most pervasive debates about managing people is whether using “hard” or “soft” approaches produces better performance. Hard approaches seek to influence behavior by pressuring people to do things they would not have freely chosen to do. Soft ones seek to influence behavior by nurturing people to build a commitment to doing a good job.

Pop psychologists talk about tough love — the application of both hard and soft approaches at the same time. The basic idea is that people are willing to accept pressure and demands placed on them when they feel good about the source of those demands. As a college football star once said about his coach, “Bo is the only person in the world I will let kick me in the butt.” When the interviewer asked why, the player responded, “Because I know he loves me.”

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This selection of media appearances is compiled by the Office of Communications and Public Affairs.

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