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A Good Conference

What makes for a good conference? The opportunity to see old friends and make new ones. Quality panels with work that challenges and crosses intellectual boundaries. Outstanding plenary sessions. Pleasantly situated receptions and dinners. And what sort of conferences satisfy these criteria? To my mind, those that are small enough that everybody can fit into a banquet hall, that bring...

Game Theory and Medicine

It’s been radio silence for a few weeks as I have raced to beat various deadlines. The last of these lifted as I gave a talk on Thursday in the Internal Medicine Department at the University of Iowa. This was, needless to say, my first presentation to an audience in scrubs. I owe the rare privilege to my brother...

What Trump Knows (apropos of Korea, Putin, and Charlottesville)

Donald Trump is a little man who knows one big thing: the power of political rhetoric lies in not sounding like other politicians. He is not the first to understand this—Bill Clinton won the Democratic nomination in 1992 by playing against (1980s Democratic) type—but few have honed the tool to such perfection.During the presidential campaign, this furthered two goals....

Donald Trump as Lightning McQueen

Watching Donald Trump struggle to make good on his extravagant campaign promises, I am reminded of the opening scene in Pixar's Cars. Hot rod Lightning McQueen attempts to win the Dinoco 400 by ignoring the advice of his "expert" pit crew, who demand that McQueen change his tires. Announcers Darrel Cartrip and Bob...

(Not) Correcting Acemoglu and Robinson

When is an error not really an error? Daron Acemoglu and Jim Robinson recently posted a correction to the key proposition in “Why Did the West Extend the Franchise? Democracy, Inequality, and Growth in Historical Perspective,” the seminal paper in what has proven to be an enormously influential research enterprise. That proposition characterizes equilibrium in terms of the parameter q,...

Second Pancake (on Ukraine after the Euromaidan)

A big shout-out to Grigore Pop-Eleches and Graeme Robertson, who organized a great conference at Princeton on Wednesday. It was the latest opportunity for scholars and policymakers to come together to discuss the future of Ukraine, which—I don't think this is an overdramatization—is at a critical juncture in its history as an independent nation. There is a saying in Russian: первый...

How Propaganda Works, U.S. edition

The New York Times reports that Rush Limbaugh and company have decided to turn the label "fake news" against the mainstream media: Until now, that term had been widely understood to refer to fabricated news accounts that are meant to spread virally online. But conservative cable and radio personalities, top Republicans and even Mr....

The Rise of the Bullies

So, it's looking like the establishment will have its revenge on Trump. Trump is no Hitler in an important respect: he has no party of his own, just the one that he seized during the election, and so he is reliant on Republican regulars to staff the federal government. That's not a happy outcome for progressives—it is important to emphasize...

A Presentable Enemy (on the future of U.S.-Russian relations)

Andrei Kozyrev, Boris Yeltsin's foreign minister from 1991 to 1996, was in Madison Thursday for a talk on the future of U.S.-Russian relations. We covered a lot of ground at the public seminar and later at our house for dinner—a thrill for faculty and grads alike. What a moment to be discussing such issues, with a U.S. president under...

A Field in Search of a Name

Still catching up after a fun weekend at Harvard for a Political Institutions and Economic Policy conference. By pure coincidence, this year’s papers were all on the political economy of nineteenth-century agricultural societies: my work with Paul Dower, Evgeny Finkel, and Steve Nafziger on peasant unrest and local self-government in Imperial Russia; a paper by Bryan Leonard and Gary...