Mentors and Giants of (Canadian) Political Science: An Interview with Tom Flanagan

This is the first of an occasional series I plan to launch today interviewing a number of Professors that have had an impact on my scholarly career, either directly or indirectly through their mentorship and/or work.  It’s an idea I borrowed from indecisionblog (I also borrowed most of their questions!), which is doing something similar on influential  economists in the United States. Enjoy!

Tom Flanagan is Professor of Political Science at the University of Calgary.  A political theorist by training, he has written on a wide range of topics, including Aboriginal politics, elections, electoral systems, the Reform and Conservative parties of Canada, the Supreme Court, rational choice and game theory, and Louis Riel, among many others.  In addition to his scholarly work, he has been active in public life: as an organizer for the Reform Party, the Conservative Party of Canada and the Wildrose Alliance, and as a public commentator for the CBC, the Globe and Mail, and other media outlets.

Tom was my thesis supervisor during my M.A. studies in political science at the University of Calgary and has had a powerful influence on my scholarly career.  Among other things, he showed me how to publish, how to be an efficient academic, and what it meant to be an intellectual, which means always remaining open to the possibility that one’s views and research are wrong.

Below is an interview I conducted with Tom via email in January 2013.
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I wish someone had told me at the beginning of my career

There’s a lot of advice that could have helped me, but I wouldn’t have listened!   I’m one of those people who only learn by making mistakes.

The individual I admire the most academically

The American economist Thomas Sowell.  He’s a great example of someone with solid accomplishments in his discipline who then broadened out to address public affairs in an illuminating way.

My best research project during my career

The Collected Writings of Louis Riel.  We had a great team, and we got the job done on time within budget.  It now provides a basis of information for scholars of all points of view.