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The Parable of Vladimir Meciar

I received a message this morning from a friend unable to start the day, so in despair was she over recent events. My response was curt: "Get out of bed and write a check to the ACLU. Then find a protest to join or a refugee center where you can volunteer. This is no time to be defeatist. This...

Second Edition

In my second year at Wisconsin, in the fall of 2004, I taught for the first time the second course of a new sequence in formal theory. Leaning on my own graduate training, I organized the syllabus around Persson and Tabellini’s Political Economics—the book from which I learned many models of politics. It didn’t last long. Political Economics is...

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...

Navigating the Frontier between History and Social Science

Cross-posted from Broadstreet, a new blog devoted to historical political economy. The hottest debate in academia the past week has concerned the appropriateness of a new article on “Frontier Culture” by Samuel Bazzi, Martin Fiszbein, and Mesay Gebresilasse. In his post on Monday, Jared unpacked the paper’s argument and summarized the diverse evidence the authors bring to bear on one...

Trump’s Win, Putin’s Loss

Nice catch by Max Trudolyubov, who notes that the Kremlin may have mixed feelings about Donald Trump's victory. As Konstantin Sonin and I discussed a couple of weeks ago, Trump's campaign rhetoric of a rigged system played right into Putin's hands. The goal of Kremlin propaganda is not to convince Russians that their elections are free and fair—they know...

Is Formal Theory Back?

In blurbing my text on Formal Models of Domestic Politics, David Laitin expressed what I then only dimly perceived to be the book's ambition: My expectation is that Scott Gehlbach’s Formal Models of Domestic Politics will become the standard text for courses in positive political economy housed in political science departments. My hope, given...

Imagining Trump’s End

I'm teaching Socialism and Transitions to the Market this semester, and we're reading Francis Spufford's excellent Red Plenty. Here he is on Khrushchev's end: e was starting to frighten them…He had made alarmingly specific, alarmingly verifiable economic promises…He had tried to stick his thumb in the scales of the strategic balance by putting the...

Veto Players (Second Edition)

In my last post, I discussed in broad terms work on a second edition of my textbook, Formal Models of Domestic Politics. Beginning with this post, I will lay out the specific changes I have made to the text. For the existing chapters, most changes fall into one of three categories: new models, new exercises (which sometimes cover new models),...

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...

Life and Death During the Transition Depression

Cross-posted from Broadstreet, a new blog devoted to historical political economy. The New York Times published an interesting pair of reports on Tuesday. The first related a recent study in Health Affairs that documents a staggering, and unexpected, decline in hospital admissions since the arrival of COVID in the United States earlier this year. With the important exception of those...