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Capitol Investments

The Marketability of Political Skills

Glenn R. Parker

Publication Year: 2008

What would you do if, the very day you were hired, you knew you could be unemployed in as little as two years? You'd seek opportunities in your current job to develop a portfolio of skills and contacts in order to make yourself more attractive to future employers. Representatives and senators think about their jobs in Congress in this way, according to Glenn R. Parker. While in office, members of Congress plan not merely for the next election but for the next stage of their careers. By networking, serving on committees, and championing particular legislation, they deliberately accumulate human capital---expertise, networks, and reputation---which later will give them bargaining power in the job market. Parker's study of the postelective careers of more than 200 former members of Congress, both U.S. representatives and senators, who have left office during the last half century shows that such strategic planning generally succeeds. In most cases, the human capital these politicians amassed while in office increased their occupational mobility and earning power. Capitol Investments offers a sophisticated yet accessible analysis of the acquisition and marketability of political skills. It suggests that an awareness of the trade in human capital shapes an officeholder's actions as much as the desire to win another election. Glenn R. Parker is Distinguished Professor in the Department of Political Science at Purdue University.

Published by: University of Michigan Press

Series: Economics, Cognition, and Society


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pp. vii


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pp. ix


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pp. xi-xii

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pp. xiii-xiv

Readers will quickly notice that references to the author throughout the book are written in the plural, although but a single name appears on the title page. My wife, Professor Suzanne L. Parker, played an instrumental role in this inquiry but refused to...

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Chapter 1 Introduction

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pp. 1-16

As the subtitle suggests, this book concerns the marketability of political skills, where marketability refers to the speed and ease with which securities can be sold and securities represent instruments...

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Chapter 2 Politicians, Institutions, and Human Capital; or, Becker Goes to Washington

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pp. 17-45

It might seem rather pessimistic or perhaps outlandishly cynical to characterize public officials as consumed with economic self-interest, since they are often depicted in civics texts as just the opposite—that is, as serving broad societal goals rather than merely individual, personal ones. Even when self-interest has been assumed, the motive is incorporated into a reelection incentive...

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Chapter 3 Methodology: Data and Variables

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pp. 46-62

In chapter 2, we described the basic elements of our theory and how Becker’s(1993) work on human capital can be applied to politics—in particular, legislative politics. When we say that our analysis draws on Becker’s theory of human capital, we are referring to the proposition that investments in the...

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Chapter 4 Congress as Workplace: The Production of Marketable Human Capital

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pp. 63-91

In analyzing the organization of legislatures, scholars have highlighted anumber of important characteristics, including susceptibility to decentralization (Weingast 1979), accent on retention (Mayhew 1974; Fiorina 1989; Parker 1992), and capacity to constrain opportunistic behavior (Shepsle and Weingast 1987; Weingast and Marshall 1988). But lost in these illuminating,...

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Chapter 5 Returns to Specialized Training: Career Mobility and Grooming Lobbyists

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pp. 92-122

As we have repeatedly argued, legislators invest in on-the-job training because of the expected returns. To judge by media expos

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Chapter 6 Returns to General Training: Competitive Wages—But at a Price

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pp. 123-160

In the previous chapter, we demonstrated that the returns from specialized training primarily took the form of career changes. General skill sets were either inconsequential or negatively related to this objective. With respect to postelective wages, however, general skill packages are far more relevant. We conclude our statistical analysis by examining the remaining two hypotheses...

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Chapter 7 Summary of Findings and Implications

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pp. 161-179

Table 7.1 summarizes the major findings about human capital and politics uncovered in our inquiry. Investments in on-the-job training clearly pay off handsomely for legislators, whether they anticipate changing careers or earning lucrative postelective salaries. In this sense, our study reaches the same conclusion as Becker (1993) and other human capitalists: job training...


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pp. 181-182


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pp. 183-191

Name Index

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pp. 193-195

Subject Index

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pp. 197-199

E-ISBN-13: 9780472024292
E-ISBN-10: 0472024299
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472050376
Print-ISBN-10: 0472050370

Page Count: 216
Illustrations: 5 figures & 34 tables
Publication Year: 2008

Series Title: Economics, Cognition, and Society