PARSIMONY IN THE STUDY OF TOLERANCE
James L. Gibson
In replying to Mondak and Sanders, I introduce the notion of ‘‘Kelvinist tolerance,’’ or
an absolute absence of any intolerance whatsoever. I contend that while we can ima-
gine such an extreme level of tolerence, in our empirical world it occurs about as
frequently as the absolute zero of the Kelvin scale of temperature. Consequently, I
reject the assertion of Mondak and Sanders that special statistical approaches are
essential for analyzing tolerance, arguing instead in favor of parsimony in both con-
ceptualization and analytical strategies.
Key words: political tolerance; absolute tolerance; measurement error.
I should begin my reply to Mondak and Sanders with a note of apprecia-
tion for both the style and substance of their reactions to my comments.
The issues we are debating are serious intellectual ones, and they are wor-
thy of the careful and considered arguments of scholars adopting alternative
views on the nature of intolerance. I respect their viewpoint, even while
disagreeing with it, and it is obvious that they feel precisely the same.
After carefully considering the Mondak and Sanders argument, I con-
clude that we still differ considerably on the three crucial matters: the con-
ceptualization of the tolerance—intolerance continuum, issues of
operationalizing the concept and especially measurement error, and the
preferred analytical strategy for tolerance data. While hoping to avoid too
much redundancy, I will mainly focus on our unresolved differences in this
James L. Gibson, Sidney W. Souers Professor of Government, Department of Political Science,
Washington University in St. Louis, Campus Box 1063, 219 Eliot Hall, St. Louis, MO 63130-4899,
United States. (firstname.lastname@example.org); Fellow, Centre for Comparative and International Politics,
Stellenbosch University, South Africa.
Political Behavior, Vol. 27, No. 4, December 2005 (
0190-9320/05/1200-0339/0 Ó 2005 Springer ScienceþBusiness Media, Inc.