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Lin-Manuel Mayakovsky

Blogging took a back seat over the holidays, but I'm back and ready to talk...Hamilton. I've been hooked since hearing the soundtrack for the first time last summer, and earlier this week we saw the show in Chicago. Seeing Hamilton on the stage definitely brought out a few elements not obvious from the...

History, Variously Defined

If you read my last post, you know that I've been busy moving. That, at least, is my excuse for not writing up some thoughts earlier on the first annual Summer Workshop in the Economic History and Historical Political Economy of Russia, held in Madison in late May. For three days, we had economists, historians, and political scientists in town...

Not According to Plan

David Bordwell—the William Riker of film studies—writes: It’s a commonplace of film history that under Stalin (a name much in American news these days) the USSR forged a mass propaganda cinema. In order for Lenin’s “most important art” to transform society, cinema fell under central control. Between 1930 and 1953 a tightly coordinated bureaucracy...

John Dingell, Heresthetician

In one of two or three previous lives, I worked on Capitol Hill in the early 1990s as a legislative assistant to the member of Congress from my home district. It was a heady experience. I had always loved politics, and while my own political views were evolving—ultimately contributing to my decision to move overseas and try something else—I...

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...

1989

November 9, the day the Berlin Wall came down. I was watching CNN with my friends in Ann Arbor. It must have been early evening, as there was live video of young people on the wall—singing, crying, drinking champagne. I remember thinking at the time that this was a once-in-a-lifetime event, that I should scrape together enough...

Last Lecture

It is a tradition at UW for faculty to attend the last lecture that a colleague gives before retirement. Today it was our turn to send off Byron Shafer, Hawkins Chair of Political Science and author of numerous books on American politics—most recently, The American Political Pattern: Stability and Change, 1932-2016.1 Byron's lecture centered on this monograph's thesis that...

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...

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...

Drawing the Wrong Lessons from Socialism

I have just forced myself to read the CEA report on "The Opportunity Costs of Socialism." Personally, I rather prefer Francis Spufford's Red Plenty for a palatable introduction to actually existing socialism. But a couple of observations. Somewhat surprisingly for an economic analysis, the CEA report confuses the costs of transition to socialism (e.g., collectivization-induced famine) with the efficiency losses...