What should I ask Henry Farrell?

I will be doing a Conversation with him, no associated public event.  As you read blogs, you might know Henry’s longstanding work over at CrookedTimber, and also his role in Monkey Cage.  Henry is also professor of political science at George Washington University, has with Abraham L. Newman recently published a path-breaking book on the increasingly important concept of weaponized interdependence, is an expert on comparative labor relations, and is an all-around polymath, including on fiction, science fiction, and the politics of Ireland, his home country.  Here is his home page.

So what should I ask Henry?


"Hi, how are you?" Also whether he was drawn to GWU due to their strong Pol.Sci department.

What he would do for a klondike bar. lol!

What does he think of Corey robin’s thesis in The Reactionary Mind?

The thesis is rubbish, as delineated by Mark Lilla. Since he's in a cooperative project with Robin, he cannot very well say its rubbish.

Omar and Tlaib are non-Jews on the left who freely and regularly speak their mind.

Any thoughts on ideological diversity (or the perception lack thereof) in the Council of Foreign Relations?

Any thoughts on Council on Foreign Relations as being a beneficiary of Epstein donations?


You don't seem to realize this, but advertising your guest as a "polymath" does them a disservice and will backfire. Never oversell your product.

How is he a polymath just because he knows political science and science fiction and other fiction? Anything in the arts, economics, hard sciences or mathematics?

Answer: he's not because polymaths don't exist anymore and only egotists with delusions that they themselves are or will be a polymath need to think otherwise.

You don't need to be a "polymath" in order to be a smart, creative, insightful thinker; being an expert in a couple of things is more than enough.

I agree. There are perhaps bimaths out there, or even some trimaths. But no real polymaths.

Being a polymath is overrated anyway. At least he didn't call him a Renaissance man. That's the worst.

Can the arts, particularly literature (and science fiction) help galvanise social and political change. And specifically, in terms of averting climate change.

Alas, yes.

How woke is the campus? From what I've observed, it only seems like a matter of time before its renamed Harriet Tubman U.

ask Henry if he thinks there is ANY possibility that he is completely wrong about his belief in severe global AGW/Climate-change future effects.

I just read Farrell's recent article in Wired where he states 150,000 people die from climate change each year, or 0.27% of world deaths. This figure seems too high. It is from a U.N. report that argues the deaths are due to increased heat deaths and deaths due to increased disease from increased rainfall. However, the 2012 IPCC report on extreme weather states that the confidence is low that rainfall has increased thus far due to climate change.

Farrell then writes: "This death toll is estimated to increase to 1.5 million people annually by the turn of the century."

But that estimate is only if CO2 emissions continue at the current rate, which will definitely not happen over the next 80 years. Farrell is implicitly using the unrealistic RCP8.5 scenario that assumes for the next 80 years there will be little technological advancement and much less exchange of ideas between countries as stated in an earlier IPCC report.

He continues: "Some are confronting the likelihood of failed crops; others have been forced to flee floodplains." Failed crops in 2088? The IPCC predicts a slow rise in sea levels so no "fleeing" required. He also mentions: "the people in the developing world, the poor, the sick, the elderly, and the very young." Again, in 2089? What "developing world" then?

So the question Tyler can ask is: "Why do you assume little technical innovation in communication, transportation, food, energy and health for the next 80 years?"

If disruptions like the overnight demise of Thomas Cook can wreak havoc for hundreds of thousands for an indefinite term, we might anticipate that far more severe disruptions will ensue quickly enough, affecting hundreds of thousands prior to affecting millions, should our present climatological models show themselves to've already been tardy in assimilating available data.

IPCC data may already be understated, that is: no one in Iceland, it seems, was expecting to lose a glacier this past season they were expecting to admire for another fifty years or so.

Why are we failing to expect sudden ACCELERATION(s) in climate mayhem, given the relative accelerations in climate phenomena we already can see?

(Note, too: Greta Thunberg seems NOT to have booked through Thomas Cook.)

These troubling data were published as recently as last week (no idea how or whether they correlate with current IPCC data and analysis):


You're making the analogy of an airline going bankrupt and 150,000 British tourists being momentarily inconvenienced with a future fictional mass disruption that would affect millions due to climate change?

And what troubling data from last week?

Your assumption that technical innovations in communications, transportation, food, energy, and health over the next eighty years will proceed unimpeded with the global arrival of Technogenic Climate Change look at least equally fanciful.

(The Thomas Cook affair is reported to be affecting some 600,000 clients worldwide, and this event was anticipated to occur for weeks with fairly unambiguous data at hand.)

Technogenic Climate Change is not "simply" climatic and meteorological in scope: as the glacial melts in Greenland, Iceland, and Antarctica are all showing, ocean temperatures are rising at least in part because our seas and oceans have captured a lot more carbon than was "previously estimated".

The IPCC's RCH8.5, which is wrongly called the "business as usual scenario," and was detailed in the Third IPCC Assessment Report, assumes little innovation in any area out to 2100. Does that remotely make sense given what has happened on the planet over the past 80 years? Are we supposed to believe that after 2050 that ideas will no longer spread very well across? Maybe airplanes will travel half as fast as today and we'll ban high speed internet connections, but it seems unlikely.

One hundred years ago, in 1919, nobody had a radio, almost nobody flew, there was no effective nuclear, solar, wind or geothermal power, no television, no tape recorders , no portable music, no computers, etc. that developed over the decades and add cell phones, laptops and the internet for the last five years out to 2100.

What have I said about technology that is fanciful? I'm not sure what "growing unimpeded" means in this case. Those who read Farrell's article should know that his link to an estimate of 1.5 million people dying per year due to climate change clearly states an assumption "if past emissions trends continue", which is the RCH8.5 assumption as well.

("Are we supposed to believe after 2050 that ideas will no longer spread very well across countries? The RCH8.5 assumes this.")

All four IPCC RCP (from 2014?) trajectories suggest both global temperature increases and ocean temp increases through the end of this century. (Their 2014 data and/or projections already merit reassessment.)

Disruptions occur already, more are on the way, no matter what, at this stage. How massive and expensive these disruptions become is anyone's guess, but they could easily prove so disruptive that "normal" patterns of investment and tech development may well have to be redirected--for entire decades or more--towards TCC-"coping mechanisms". (E. g.--a global pandemic unleashed by mosquito hordes roaming out of tropical and sub-tropical climes could take off unexpectedly: a lethal strain of bird flu erupting across East Asia, or some new jungle virus emerging from the wilds of Africa or the Amazon--both viruses and insects can be expected to exploit every opportunity that TCC sends their respective ways). A global pandemic slapping a world populated for the first time with over eight billion human beings could indeed prove far-reaching and highly disruptive.

If quantum computing emerges to give us enhanced analytic capability, maybe we'll gain an edge: until or unless that occurs, however, "the future" as guaranteed or anticipated by the momentum of "progress" across the past two centuries looks increasingly uncertain.

You might want to read the part of the IPCC Third Assessment Report that discusses what I summarized. The projected range of sea level rise for 2100 from 0.26 m to 0.82 m [10 inches to 32 inches] but that includes RCH8.5. For the likely scenarios, the rise is expected to be between 0.26 m and 0.63 m [10 inches and 25 inches].

There have been no climate based "disruptions". An example, perhaps? How is climate change going to trigger your science fiction pandemic? In the last one hundred years:

1918 Flu pandemic 40 million (2%)
1956 Asian pandemic 1 million (0.03%)
1968 Flu pandemic 1 million

We don't need quantum computing in order to have significant progress out to 2100 but that is likely coming.

Why consult the Third Assessment Report when it has been superseded by both AR4 and AR5? The data for the Third Assessment, apart from the analysis itself, are mostly about twenty years old already.

We already see signs that the reported and analyzed data are NOT keeping up with the phenomena occurring. (E. g.: only in 2019 did researchers report the apparent collapse of the second largest colony of emperor penguins in 2016 [that year's penguin chicks seem to've all or mostly died prematurely because of the colony's habitat loss from its compromised ice-shelf breeding grounds]. One colony of emperor penguins is only one colony of emperor penguins, granted [even if it was the second-largest colony on the planet], but hungry and starving killer whales and others who depend on them for food probably noticed their demise well before our earnest scientists did. Emperor penguins are not the only species of penguin being compromised by habitat loss, either.

"There have been no climate based 'disruptions'." --not a prediction I'd be willing to make, with so much relevant data apparently not being reported.

The Third Assessment Report has gives the assumptions of RHC8.5. Otherwise, use the AR5 report.

OK, maybe there has been a disruption in the emperor penguin community, but why would a small increase in temperature be responsible for that?

I do not know, but sea ice the world over now looks vulnerable from the monthly satellite surveys.

Thanks, by the way, for alerting me to the RCP metrics, can hardly wait to see what AR6 comes up with.

Wikipedia seems to have a sound digest:


Looks like the 2.5/2.6 projection is already ancient history, which leaves only three of the four. Note that in ALL of them, sea level rises of AT LEAST one-quarter meter by 2100 are anticipated, and half-meter increases are not impossible among the three remaining projections from AR3 days.

If you ask me, kiss NOLA goodbye now, because local construction I don't think will permit NOLA to become "the Venice of the US", all the frame buildings will rot away in short order. Not only will NOLA be inundated, but I suppose the Corps of Engineers might soon be able to guess how much of the Mississippi delta itself will become submerged.

Galveston/Houston? Miami? Myrtle Beach won't make it, either, I don't much think. Excavations at Jamestown, Virginia, were being threatened with flooding five years ago, so I suppose even the shape of Chesapeake Bay will change markedly.

New markets for "environmental economics" we have not heard much horn-tooting for.

How do we secure the new autonomous flying drones?
How do we protect government data when employees cannot always be trusted?
Is there an inherent conflict between 'know your customer' banking rules and transaction security?

Why does the Shia god give Iran's devote so much mind control power over Wahhabist and Sunni believer so Iran can use Saudis, Pakistanis, African, Arabs to kill Americans, West and Eastern Europeans, Asians? And get Saudis to spend so much money funding terrorism?

Is it because Iran is an industrial nation giving it greater economic power over Arabs who only sell their land to buy from industrialized nations, mostly paying Americans and British to do the work of selling their land.?

What conservative and libertarian publications and Web sites does he read? (I ask this because some of his blog posts give the impression that he is not as familiar with these currents of thought as a political science professor should be.) Who are the current thinkers in his field he finds most interesting, and why?

How would he think about managing offensive speech on social media? Are there clever applications of social science to that field?

I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ; think it possible you may be mistaken.
--Oliver Cromwell

Not sure that Cromwell quotes are your best approach for convincing an Irishman.

Dear God, Tyler. No one cares. No one wants to hear professors interviewing each other. Let it go, man. Save some face here.

Lighten up dude, think about it this way: some conversations are interesting - I am sure you have engaged in a few in your life - some are not.

In my least modest moments I consider myself a supreme genius and to tell the truth lots of people who have talked to me thought I was dull

WE ARE NOT ANGELS, most of us, including me, and we just try our best.

Sure I would like if if everyone read the Bible and prayed 12 hours a day and shared amazing reflections from their amazingly insightful contemplations of the REAL TRUTH OF THIS WORLD but that ain't gonna happen right away, so be kind, and don't be such a Debby Downer, dude!

"In my least modest moments I consider myself a supreme genius"

Supreme genius... ha!

How does he think that blogging has impacted his career? How would it have gone differently if he had never been involved in blogging? What might play a similar role for a younger junior professor these days, now that blogging isn't as big of a deal?

'Weaponized interdependence" used to be called "Mercantilism" use what you got to screw the other guy. I am amazed that so many believe that "globalism" would not degenerate into the same mercantilism.

"Play nice" if you want to eat. "No fuel" [or medications or silicon chips] unless you agree to our demands. As it has always been. "Globalism" is a fantasy designed for humans who have never yet existed.

This has always been the danger of allowing jobs/skills/technology to move "over there". It seems that "weaponized interdependence" is only now so horrible since the U.S. is using it to interfere with Iranian dreams of glory and conquest. Or those of the Chinese Middle Kingdom. Cheap labor is cheap and plentiful and the industry and its profits can be relocated with the tweak of a tarrif.

Intrusive, but better than a nuclear exchange.

As it has always been.

How should a state responde to weaponized interdependence? E.g. should European states ban Huawei because China may weaponize it thus creating a downward spiral. Or should Europeans allow Huawei in, holding up an economic ideal of innocent interdependece in order not to further harm gloablization.

i see that "e.g" "i.e" sht, i know someone has read Ayn Rand.

You should ask him how he felt about having his mustache digitalized out.

No, wait, that's Henry Cavill.

"Can you cite, or give now, a succinct plain-English explanation of your work for the lay person?"

I'd like to hear about the nitty gritty of Irish politics and culture, especially the contrast between the Ireland he grew up in and the way it is today. Who gets the credit for the economic upturn? Is PR-STV really that much better than FPTP? What features of Irish life would he import to where he lives now and vice versa? Is the Irish contribution to the US overrated compared to other countries? Has he ever read Garret FitzGerald's PhD thesis? Is Brexit making international observers overrate the likes of e.g. Leo Varadkar, Simon Coveney, Phil Hogan, Fintan O'Toole, Miriam Lord?

And I know he reads crime fiction too, so a question on comparing the different international varieties might be interesting: Scandinavia vs UK vs French vs US vs Ireland etc. Does he read much fiction in translation? Should the Hugo Awards add an award for SF in translation?

What is the right size for a nation state?

How would he recommend someone get "up to speed," so to speak, on political economy? Henry's writing sometimes raises the political-economy critique of policies that might otherwise look wise on the economic merits. How would he suggest someone who's relatively well-versed in economics and even some political science learn about the key ideas, models, and evidence in political economy?

What is a pragmatic pacifist response to weaponized interdependence? I am thinking a reboot of Kubrick's Strangelove titled How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Carrot. What incentives are realistic to counter China, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, India, etc. ?

With respect to gender equity: Maria suggests that tech acts as an abusive man. What do you see as a viable remedy, the EU approach or something less top/down?

Why are some many leftists in favor of the neo-liberal EU?

Why don't more leftists commune their personal property above a certain limit? I get the free-rider problem, but isn't that the whole argument against leftism?

Why is Ireland still so sore about the Potato famine given all the tragedies of the world since? Is it because it is the only significant problem that could be attributed to laissez-faire?

Less snarky - it seems most leftists are motivated by good intentions regardless of outcomes, but how does he justify that moral approach vs other moral arguments such as consequentialism, or utilitarianism?

I'd ask him about the Protestants in NI. They seem to be in tough spot. Polls in England suggest the Brits want to cut them loose. The Catholics in NI are unfriendly. The Republic has no sympathy. What to do?

1) To what degree are Trump's comments on the Bidens and Ukraine an example of a 'common knowledge attack', if at all? 2) The rise of libertarianism has coincided with a decline in the function of the GOP of a mainstream party : do you see a connection?

Calls in the US to engage in more activist industrial policy, and impede economic relations with China on national security grounds, signal the "state" appears to be advancing over the "market". What is the optimal balance between states and markets to engage in great power competition in the 21st century? Is it closer to the Washington Consensus, or the Beijing consensus?

Ask him why the Crooked Timber people think that using profanity excuses them from having to defend their ideas.

Ask him about his views 25 years ago, when Clinton was president -- what did he advocate then? Were any of his desired policies tried that failed? What was his position on Chavez and Venezuela over the last 2 decades?

Two questions:

1. What do you think was behind the relatively rapid liberalization of Irish voters (re: Gay marriage referendum and abortion referendum)?

2. What do you think the biggest barriers to evidence-informed policy making are in Ireland?

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