Our Regular Contributors

American Liberal Arts Professor of Policy Science at the Leiden University College, The Hague in The Netherlands. Teacher, Scholar, Father, Urban Homesteader.

Dr. Brandon Zicha

I received my PhD in 2010 from Binghamton University’s department of Political Science with a specialization in comparative constitutional political economy, political institutions, and comparative public policy-making. My dissertation focused on the role of different separation of power dynamics on policy dynamics and responsiveness. I’ve also done a good deal of work in comparative policy attention research and comparative party politics.

Since getting my PhD I spent the majority of my time building a Libeal Arts college in the Netherlands from its inception in 2010 until today, where I designed and chaired the Governance, Economics and Development major. Most of my scholarly time has been spent reading and synthesizing research for course development and other educational endeavors. Currently, in addition to a number of research projects (detailed here as a future date) I am conducting a research process on ‘Friendly Professing’ through the Leiden University Teachers Academy, which aims to evaluate the impact of recasting teaching development as a humane endeavor rather than an accumulation of methodological techniques.

Primary Interests and other activities

My primary interests lie at the intersections of political theory, political institutions, and self-governance. I am specifically interested in three dimensions:

1.) How do constitutional institutions aggregate disparate information into high quality policy decisions.

2.) How do constitutional institutions manage diversity for the furtherance of social peace.

3.) What implications does thinking about 1 and 2 have for our understandings of political theory and political life

All together, I am motivated by a concern for the ability of humans to use their social technologies – such as constitutions – to solve the paradoxes that make self-governance so challenging.

Relatedly I am also interested in cenrist politics and political culture and blog on that at The Parallel Republic where I am editor and founder. I also maintain a personal newsletter, Friendly Professing.


All views communicated here or any other forum outside of Leiden Univerity’s formal platforms are my own alone and do not reflect those of my employer, or even the things I might say when on the job. Basically, don’t attack my lovely university becuase you don’t like something I say.

Dutch PhD candidate at the University of Groningen/Researcher at COELO.

Joes de Natris, MSc.

I am a PhD candidate in economics at the University of Groningen and a researcher at the Centre for Research on Local Government Economics. My dissertation focuses on how citizens’ preferences are translated into municipal policies and the limits municipalities face in doing so.

The underlying questions that interest me are how do societies become prosperous, and how can we ensure that this prosperity is shared as equally as possible without undermining this prosperity. This translates in a broad set of interests, ranging from military history and economic history, to constitutional politics and political economy. After all, we need to understand the processes which lead to poverty and inequality, the incentives for politicians and business leaders to create widespread prosperity, and the policies governments can enact to foster prosperity and equality.

Primary Interests and other activities

I love doing research that helps to improve the quality of democracy and governance. My core assumption in my work is that politics and economics are flipsides of the same coin. Ignoring one means you don’t understand the other.

As a PhD candidate and a researcher at COELO I have been trying to develop my understand of political economy. I have co-authored a paper published in Electoral Studies on the effect of municipal amalgamation on voter turnout, and a chapter of Local Public Finance on how national governments can prevent municipal financial crises. Moreover, I have contributed to COELO’s Atlas of Local Taxation in a managing and editorial role, and managed the development of the online interactive Atlas and Local Tax Calculator.

I am currently working on five papers, two about how local government coalitions function, one about the incumbency effect in Dutch municipal elections, one about why 50% of Dutch municipalities cap their own taxes for the entire time between elections and one about the effects of these tax limits.


All views communicated here or any other forum outside of the University of Groningens’s or COELO’s formal platforms are my own alone and do not reflect those of my employer.

PhD candidate in political science, UC Davis, California. Red Sea Pedestrian, knower of things, wonderer, wonderer, Victorian soul.

jdmussel@ucdavis.edu fruitsandvotes.wordpress.com/

J.D. Mussel, MSc.

I am a PhD candidate at the University of California, Davis. My dissertation explores how parties and institutions interact to affect the frequency of formal constitutional amendment in democracies around the world.

Primary Interests and other activities

From the separation of powers to electoral systems and from federalism to rules of hereditary succession, I am interested in everything constitutional design or comparative political institutions. I want to draw lessons from how different societies across history and geography have experimented with various means of allocating and restraining power, making policy decisions, and making those decisions and structures last into the future. The aim is to deepen our insights and to improve humanity’s collective constitutional design toolkit, in order to make states and societies that do better at overcoming our collective challenges.

I find two connected areas of constitutional design particularly fascinating: the interaction of different layers and types of institutions, and the challenge of making certain institutional designs self-enforcing (that is to say, to structure incentives so that it is in the interest of powerful actors to follow the rules and maintain the system into the future). The kind of questions that fall under these headings remind us not to study specific institutions in isolation and not to forget the complex web of both informal institutions and beliefs and preferences which go into outcomes and equilibria.



Downs Under


All views communicated here or any other forum outside of the University of California’s formal platforms are my own alone and do not reflect those of my employer.