In 2003, The Soapbox Magazine was founded to encourage political discourse on campus. Ten years later, after changing its name, the magazine is still the University’s “soapbox.”
Last night, political science professor Ian Lustick spoke at Houston Hall for Penn Political Review’s 2013 kickoff event, which celebrated the publication’s 10th anniversary.
His speech addressed the question of, “Can Washington be the problem at home and the solution abroad?”
First, Lustick focused on what he called fundamental political ideas, referring to President Woodrow Wilson’s contribution to the theory of public administration and the Founding Fathers’ preference for a limited government.
He explained that American policy-making is marked by two types of logical error — type 1 and type 2. Type 1 error occurs when people accept a false hypothesis to be true. Its counterpart, type 2 error, occurs when people consider what is true to be false.
Lustick argued that the Founding Fathers were cautious and, in turn, preferred type 2 error. In domestic policy, that means they would rather vote down a potential policy than pass a law with the risk of negative consequences.
“This is why every single thing the president wants to do, there will be someone trying to stop him,” Lustick said. “The only exception is foreign policy and issues on national security — take a look at what happened after 9/11.”
He considers this the reason for the abuse of using war as a metaphor for passing policy — a means by which a president can claim more power by defining a situation as a war.
“The problem is that our government usually tends to make type 2 error at home, while making type 1 error abroad, and that produces unnecessary intervention,” he added.
Lustick also praised Obama’s installation of international cooperation in foreign policy, and considers his strategy of “leading from behind” brilliant.
“The only downside is that you don’t have a doctrine named after you, which is a good thing — doctrines are just hammering rules,” he said.
After the event, College sophomore Peter Hess said Lustick’s theoretical approach and reference to United States history were very interesting, although Wharton and Engineering sophomore Aditi Verma thought his claim was “too one-sided” and “left more to be wanted.”
Aiming to voice nonpartisan opinions all over campus, PPR has published quarterly for its entire history. It accepts submissions from Penn students while also maintaining its own writing staff.
College junior Jon Fried, who started writing for PPR his freshman year, believes that the magazine provides a good opportunity to get his voice heard.
“We started off more ad hoc at the beginning,” said College senior Stephen Fritz, who used to serve as the magazine’s editor-in-chief, “and gradually built up this community to bring together different opinions for a dialogue.”