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Is the Trump Presidency at a Tipping Point?

A friend posts the following observation on Facebook: With multiple stories breaking about Trump-Russia, we may have hit a tipping point, from which the meltdown of the 45th presidency accelerates. Part of me wants to think it's true—the sooner the presidency is transferred to competent hands, the better—and part of me is worried about the meltdown. But let's step back for a...

What’s Next for the Study of Nondemocracy?

I'm back from a stimulating workshop on autocracy at Indiana University. Regina Smyth, Armando Razo, and Michael Alexeev have some exciting plans to institutionalize the study of nondemocracy at IU, and as part of the planning process they asked Konstantin (Kostya) Sonin and me to provide some perspective on the field. Armando joined us for a freewheeling discussion at...

Electoral Competition (Second Edition)

I have been describing the changes in store for my textbook on Formal Models of Domestic Politics. Let me now turn to the three opening chapters: electoral competition under certainty, electoral competition under uncertainty, and special interest politics (the last of these substantially but not only applied models of electoral competition). The formal analysis of elections was among the first...

(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,...

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...

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...

What is Socialism? (2018 edition)

Farah Stockman at the New York Times has the story of the emergence of Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) as a force within the Democratic Party. Ten years after "socialist" became a slur with which to paint Barack Obama, many Democratic candidates are embracing the label—a consequence, no doubt, of Bernie Sanders' strong showing in the Democratic nomination race....

An Interdisciplinary Conversation

A conversation with Tracy Dennison, cross-posted from Broadstreet, a new blog devoted to historical political economy. Scott: Tracy, this is the first post at Broadstreet for both of us. Welcome! Tracy: And welcome to you! It feels a bit like cheating to make the first post a shared effort, but it’s very much in the interdisciplinary spirit of the blog itself. Scott:...

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....