Category: Political Science

The finite pool of worry

These rents are more than exhausted:

According to Weber’s psychological theory of the finite pool of worry, people avoid dealing with multiple negative events at the same time. Consistent with this theory, as people worry more about the COVID-19 pandemic, they tend to neglect the problem of climate change. Here, we examine the number and content of climate change discussions on Twitter from 2019 through 2021. We show that as COVID-19 cases and deaths increase, climate change tweets have a less negative sentiment. There is also less content associated with fear and anger, the emotions related to worry and anxiety. These results support the finite pool of worry hypothesis and imply that the pandemic redirects public attention from the important problem of climate change mitigation.

Here is the full article, via tekl.  Perhaps I could induce you to worry about the finite pool of worry?

Interrupting Janet Yellen

How prevalent is gender bias among U.S. politicians? We analyze the transcripts of every congressional hearing attended by the chair of the U.S. Federal Reserve from 2001 to 2020 to provide a carefully identified effect of sexism, using Janet Yellen as a bundled treatment. We find that legislators who interacted with both Yellen and at least one other male Fed chair over this period interrupt Yellen more, and interact with her using more aggressive tones. Furthermore, we show that the increase in hostility experienced by Yellen relative to her immediate predecessor and successor are absent among those legislators with daughters. Our results point to the important role of societal biases bleeding into seemingly unrelated policy domains, underscoring the vulnerability of democratic accountability and oversight mechanisms to existing gender norms and societal biases.

That is from a new paper by James Bisbee, Nicolò Fraccaroli, and Andreas Kern.  The recurring strength of the daughter effect remains under-discussed in the social sciences!

All via the excellent Kevin Lewis.

*A Man of Iron*

The author is Troy Senik and the subtitle is The Turbulent Life and Improbably Presidency of Grover Cleveland.  Here is one excerpt:

At the age of forty-four, the only elected office Grover Cleveland had ever held was sheriff of Eric County, New York — a role he had relinquished nearly a decade earlier, returning to a rather uneventful life as a whorkaholic bachelor lawyer.  In the next four years, he would become, in rapid succession, the mayor Buffalo, the governor of New York, and the twenty-second president of the United States.  Four years later, he would win the popular vote but nevertheless lose the presidency.  And in another four, he’s become the first — and to date, only — president to be returned to office after having been previously turned out.

His normal work hours were from 8 a.m. to 3 a.m. (p.31).  And he was broadly libertarian:

He would be the final Democratic president to embrace the classical liberal principles of the party’s founder, Thomas Jefferson.  Cleveland believed in a narrow interpretation of the Constitution, a limited role for the federal government, and a light touch on economic affairs.  To casual observers, such an approach is often mistaken for do-nothing passivity…that epithet, however, represents a fundamental misunderstanding of his presidency.

…Over the course of his two terms, this led to an astonishing 584 vetoes, more than any other president save Franklin Roosevelt…In his first term alone, Cleveland vetoed more bills than all twenty-one of his predecessors combined.

I am happy to recommend this book, you can buy it here.  I am also happy to recommend the new book by Stacy Schiff, The Revolutionary: Samuel Adams, New Yorker coverage here.

Model Oath Keepers

They did:

The Oath Keepers’ national organization is unusual among groups conducting political violence in that they seem to behave as a business. Using leaked membership data, internal chat forums and publicly available articles posted to their website, I show that, unlike other far-right organizations, such as the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers do not organize as a club. Rather, its behavior is better explained as a firm that adjusts the price of membership over time to maximize profit. I then estimate the Oath Keepers’ price elasticity of demand for new membership using five membership sales between 2014 and 2018. I find the organization’s demand is highly sensitive to changes in price. These results imply that political violence can be motivated by nonideological entrepreneurs maximizing profits under current legal institutions — a chilling conclusion.

That is from a new paper by Danny Klinenberg, from a loyal MR reader.

My Conversation with Reza Aslan

On a bunch of normal issues, I disagree with him rather vehemently, but overall I thought this Conversation worked out quite well.  Here is the audio and video and transcript.  Here is part of the episode summary:

He joined Tyler to discuss Shi’a and Christian notions of martyrdom, the heroism of Howard Baskerville, the differences between Sunni and Shi’a Islam, esoteric vs. exoteric expressions of religion, how mystical movements arise more organically than religion, the conflicts over Imams in the Islamic world, how his upbringing as an Iranian immigrant shaped his view of religion, his roundabout spiritual journey, the synthesis of Spinoza and Sufism, the origins of Wahhabism, the relationship (or lackthereof) between religion and political philosophy, the sad repetition of history in Iran, his favorite Iranian movie, and more.

Here is one excerpt:

COWEN: In your understanding, can Sufism stand alongside the prophetic structure of Islam as something separate? Or is it synthesized with it into one consistent picture?

ASLAN: That’s a hardcore, brilliant theological question because it’s been debated for generations. What I will say is this: that Sufism is, like all mystical traditions, incredibly eclectic. It comes in thousands of different forms.

There are some Sufis that are very traditionalist, very hard to even, sometimes, tell the difference between them and your basic Sunni. And there are some Sufis that take part in the spectacular displays, sometimes displays that involve putting swords through their bodies, taking part in painful acts, ways of trying to deny the self and the body in a way that most Muslims would look at and say, “That looks nothing like Islam.” Sufism is what a Sufi says it is, basically.

COWEN: If I go to Albania and I chat with the Bektashi, how is their version of Sufism different?

ASLAN: Then say the Naqshbandi? Absolutely. What’s great about Sufism — and again, this is a standard description of all mystical movements — is that they absorb themselves into local cultures and local practices. When you have these kinds of deeply spiritual, mystical movements, they most often arise from the culture. They’re not so often brought in from the outside.

Religion, in its most orthodox sense, is usually introduced to a culture or to a people. Somebody shows up and says, “This is Islam, this is Christianity, this is Buddhism.” Sufism, like much of mystical movements, is something that comes out of the ground itself and then starts to marry itself to that dominant religion.

We see Christian mysticism all around the world that in some places looks like paganism, and in some places looks like traditional nature worship. It uses some of the symbols and metaphors of Christianity, and it becomes an indigenous version of Christianity. That’s exactly the same thing with Sufism and Islam. It depends on where you go —

Interesting throughout.

A simple explainer on global warming positions

Here is Chris Hayes calling for lower gas prices, here is the White House.  I do understand the median voter theorem!

But let me explain how a lot of the Right wing sees this issue.  They believe the Left was never entirely serious about the climate change crusade in the first place, but wanted to use it to achieve certain political goals.  “Why go along with this charade if the Left is going to pull the plug on the effort anyway?”  A lot of the Right is less naive about climate change than you might think.  They won’t come out and say all this, but they also think the Left is at least as dishonest about the issue, albeit in a more self-deceiving, ostensibly more sincere fashion.  The Right sees messages like this and then they feel “Ah, we were right!”.

To be clear, I believe that economists should present good policies to internalize externalities in simple, straightforward non-Straussian fashion.  Someone has to!  So we ought to stay the course.

But if you are trying to understand the debate, and why it is not as morally one-sided as you might think, I find this a useful framework.

Classical liberalism vs. The New Right

It has become increasingly clear that the political Right in America is not what it used to be. In particular, my own preferred slant of classical liberalism is being replaced. In its stead are rising alternatives that don’t yet have a common name. Some are called “national conservatism,” and some (by no means all) strands are pro-Trump, but I will refer to the New Right.  My use of the term covers a broad range of sources, from Curtis Yarvin to J.D. Vance to Adrian Vermeule to Sohrab Ahmari to Rod Dreher to Tucker Carlson, and also a lot of anonymous internet discourse. Most of all I am thinking of the smart young people I meet who in the 1980s might have become libertarians, but these days absorb some mix of these other influences.

I would like to consider where the older classical liberal view differs from these more recent innovations. I don’t so much intend a cataloguing of policy positions as a quest to find the most fundamental difference, at a conceptual level, between the classical liberal views and their New Right competitors. That main difference – to cut to the chase — is how much faith each group puts in the possibility of trustworthy, well-functioning elites.

A common version of the standard classical liberal view stresses the benefits of capitalism, democracy, civil liberties, free trade (with national security exceptions), and a generally cosmopolitan outlook, which in turn brings sympathy for immigration. The role of government is to provide basic public goods, such as national defense, a non-exorbitant safety net, and protection against pandemics.

In the classical liberal view, elites usually fall short of what we would like. They end up captured by some mix of special interest groups and poorly informed voters. There is thus a certain disillusionment with democratic government, while recognizing it is the best of available alternatives and far superior to autocracy for basic civil liberties.

That said, classical liberals do not consider the elites to be totally hopeless. After all, someone has to steer the ship and to this day we do indeed have a ship to steer. Most elites are intelligent and also they are as well-meaning as the rest of us, even if the bureaucratic nature of politics hinders their performance. We can entrust them with supplying basic public goods, and indeed we have little choice. Those truths hold even if the DMV will never be as efficient as Amazon, and even if sometimes our elites commit grave errors, for instance when the Johnson administration escalated the Vietnam War, to cite one example of many.

In the classical liberal view, the great failing of elites is that they do not keep society as free as it ought to be.

The New Right thinkers are far more skeptical of elites. They are more likely to see elites as evil and pernicious, and sometimes they (implicitly) see these evil elites as competent enough to actually wreck society. The classical liberals see checks and balances as strong enough to limit the worst outcomes, whereas the New Right sees ideological conformity and indeed collusion within the Establishment. Checks and balances are a paper tiger.

Once you start seeing elites as so bad and also so collusive, many other changes in your views might follow. You might become more skeptical about free speech, because you view it as a recipe for putting a lot of power in the hands of (often Democratic-led) major tech companies. And is there de facto free speech if a conservative sociologist cannot get hired at Yale? You also might become more skeptical about immigration, not because you are racist (though of course there are racists), but because you see it as a plot of the Democratic Party to remake America in a new image and with a new set of voters (“you will not replace us!”). Free trade becomes seen as a line peddled by the elite, and that is an elite unconcerned with the social and national security costs of a deindustrialized America. Globalization more generally becomes a failed project of the previous elite.

The New Right doesn’t entirely reject the basic principles of free market economics, but it does try to transcend libertarian views with a deeper understanding of the current power structure. In each case there are sociological forces operating that are seen as more important than “mere” free market economics. In this regard the New Right has a more interdisciplinary worldview than do many of the classical liberals. The New Right thinkers regard most power as cultural in nature, rather than rooted in coercive government alone.

Using this kind of contrast, just about every classical liberal view can be redone along New Right lines. The policy emphasis then becomes learning how to use the government to constrain the Left and its cultural agenda, rather than ensuring basic liberties for everyone. The New Right view is that this obsession with basic liberties leads, in reality, to the hegemony of a statist Left, and a Left that will use its power centers of government, media and academia to crush and cancel the New Right.

There is also a self-validating structure to New Right arguments over time. You can’t easily persuade New Right advocates by pointing to mainstream media reports that contradict their main narrative. Mainstream media is one of the least trusted sources. Academic research also has fallen under increasing mistrust, as the academy predominantly hires individuals who support the Democratic Party.

Most classical liberals are uncomfortable with the New Right approaches, and seek to disavow them. I share those concerns, and yet I also recognize that hard and fast lines are not so easy to draw. The New Right is in essence accepting the original classical liberal critique of the state and pushing it a few steps further, adding further skepticism of elites, a greater emphasis on culture, and a belief in elite collusion rather than checks and balances. You may or may not agree with those intellectual moves, but many common premises still are shared between the classical liberals and the New Right, even if neither side is fully comfortable admitting this.

The New Right also tends to see the classical liberals as naïve about power (the same charge classical liberals fling at the establishment), and as standing on the losing side of history. Those aren’t the easiest arguments to refute. Furthermore, the last twenty years have seen 9/11, a failed Iraq War, a major financial crisis and recession, and a major pandemic, mishandled in some critical regards. It doesn’t seem that wrong to become additionally skeptical about American elites, and the New Right wields these points effectively.

While I try my best to understand the New Right, I am far from being persuaded. One worry I have is about how it initially negative emphasis feeds upon itself. Successful societies are based on trust, including trust in leaders, and the New Right doesn’t offer resources for forming that trust or any kind of comparable substitute. As a nation-building project it seems like a dead end. If anything, it may hasten the Brazilianification of the United States rather than avoiding it, Brazil being a paradigmatic example of a low trust society and government.

I also do not see how the New Right stance avoids the risks from an extremely corrupt and self-seeking power elite. Let’s say the New Right description of the rottenness of elites were true – would we really solve that problem by electing more New Right-oriented individuals to government? Under a New Right worldview, there is all the more reason to be cynical about New Right leaders, no matter which ideological side they start on. If elites are so corrupt right now, the force corrupting elites are likely to be truly fundamental.

The New Right also overrates the collusive nature of mainstream elites. Many New Right adherents see a world ever more dominated by “The Woke.” In contrast, I see an America where Virginia elected a Republican governor, Louis C.K. won a 2022 Grammy award on a secret ballot and some trans issues are falling in popularity. Wokism likely has peaked. Similarly, the New Right places great stress on corruption and groupthink in American universities. I don’t like the status quo either, but I also see a world where the most left-wing majors – humanities majors – are losing enrollments and influence. Furthermore, the internet is gaining in intellectual influence, relative to university professors.

The New Right also seems bad at coalition building, most of all because it is so polarizing about the elites on the other side. Many of the most beneficial changes in American history have come about through broad coalitions, not just from one political side or the other. Libertarians such as William Lloyd Garrison played a key role an anti-slavery debates, but they would not have gotten very far without support from the more statist Republicans, including Abraham Lincoln. If you so demonize the elites that do not belong to your side, it is more likely we will end up in situations where all elites have to preside over a morally unacceptable status quo.

The New Right (and the classical liberals I might add) also seem to neglect the many cases where American governance has improved over time. My DMV really is many times better than it was thirty years ago. New York City is currently seeing some trying times, due to the pandemic aftermath, but the city is significant better run today than it was in the 1970s. Social Security, for all of its flaws, remains one of the world’s better-functioning retirement systems. The weapons the U.S. military is supplying to Ukraine seem remarkably effective. The Fed and Treasury, for all their initial oversights, did forestall a great depression in 2008-2009. Operation Warp Speed was a major success and saved millions of lives.

It is missing the point to provide a counter-narrative of all of our government’s major and numerous screw-ups. The point is that good or at least satisfactory elite performance is by no means entirely out of our reach. We then have to ask the question – which philosophy of governance is most likely to get us there next time around? I can see that some New Right ideas might contribute to useful reform, but it is not my number one wish to have New Right leaders firmly in charge or to have New Right ideology primary in our nation’s youth.

Finally, I worry about excess negativism in New Right thinking. Negative thoughts tend to breed further negative thoughts. If the choice is a bit of naivete and excess optimism, or excess pessimism, I for one will opt for the former.

Perhaps most of all, it is dangerous when “how much can we trust elites?” becomes a major dividing line in society. We’ve already seen the unfairness and cascading negativism of cancel culture. To apply cancel culture to our own elites, as in essence the New Right is proposing to do, is not likely to lead to higher trust and better reputations for those in power, even for those who deserve decent reputations.

Very recently we have seen low trust lead to easily induced skepticism about the 2020 election results, and also easily induced skepticism about vaccines. The best New Right thinkers will avoid those mistakes, but still every political philosophy has to be willing to live with “the stupider version” of its core tenets. I fear that the stupider version of some of the New Right views are very hard to make compatible with political stability or for that matter with public health.

I would readily grant that my opinion of our mainstream elites has fallen over the last five to ten years, and in part from consuming intellectual outputs from the New Right. But I don’t long for tearing down the entire edifice as quickly as possible. That would break the remaining bonds of trust and competence we do have, and lead to reconstituted governments, bureaucracies, and media elites with lower competence yet and even less worthy of trust. If you yank out a tooth, you cannot automatically expect a new and better tooth to grow back.

The polarizing nature of much of New Right thought means it is often derided rather than taken seriously. That is a mistake, as the New Right has been at least partially correct about many of the failings of the modern world. But it is an even bigger mistake to think New Right ideology is ready to step into the space long occupied by classical liberal ideals.

Plod has a bunch of questions

From my request for requests, here goes:

– What does the NYT do well? And conversely what are they bad at?
– What is your theory on the rising lack of male ambition?
– Why do modern fantasy authors (Martin, Rothfuss, others) not finish their works?
– If you were chief economist czar of the US, what is the policy would you implement first? In the UK?
– Will non-12-tone equal temperament music ever become popular?
– What do you think will become of charter cities like Prospera?

I will do the answers by number:

1. The New York Times can publish superb culture pieces, most of all when they are not pandering on PC issues. Their music and movie reviews are not the very best, but certainly worth the time.  International coverage is high variance, but they have plenty of articles with information you won’t find elsewhere. Some of the finest obituaries.  The best parts of the Op-Ed section are indispensable, and the worst parts are important to read for other reasons.  Perhaps most importantly, the NYT has all sorts of random articles that are just great, even if I don’t always like the framing.  Try this one on non-profit hospitals.

On the other side of the ledger, the metro and sports sections I do not very much read (probably they are OK?).  The business section has long been skimpy, and is not currently at its peak.  Historical coverage with racial angles can be atrocious.  The worst Op-Eds are beyond the pale in their deficient reasoning, and there are quite a few of them.  On “Big Tech” the paper is abysmal, and refuses to look the conflict of interest issues in the eye.  They just blew it on a new Covid study.  The book review section used to be much better, I think mainly because it has become a low cost way to appease the Wokies.

2. Male ambition in the United States is increasing in variance, not waning altogether.  But on the left hand side of that distribution I would blame (in no particular order): deindustrialization, women who don’t need male financial support anymore, marijuana, on-line pornography, improved measurement of worker quality, the ongoing rise of the service sector, too much homework in schools, better entertainment options, and the general increasing competitiveness of the world, causing many to retreat in pre-emptive defeat.

3. Male fantasy writers do not finish their works because those works have no natural ending.  There is always another kingdom, a lost family member, a new magic power to be discovered, and so on.  And the successful fantasy authors keep getting paid to produce more content, and their opportunity cost is otherwise low.  Why exactly should they tie everything up in a neat bow, as Tolkien did with the three main volumes of LOTR?

4. For the United States, I would have more freedom to build, massive deregulations of most things other than carbon and finance, and much more high-skilled immigration, followed by some accompanying low-skilled immigration.  For the UK I would do broadly the same, but also would focus more on human capital problems in northern England as a means of boosting economic growth.

5. Non-12-tone equal temperament music is for instance very popular in the Arabic world, and has been for a long time.

6. I have been meaning to visit Prospera, but have not yet had the chance to go.  I expect to.  My general worries with charter cities usually involve scale, and also whether they will just get squashed by the host governments, which almost by definition are dysfunctional to begin with.  Most successful charter cities in history have had the support of a major outside hegemon, such as Hong Kong relying on Britain.

Price caps on Russian oil and gas

A number of you have written in to ask what I think of the recent economists’ letter to Janet Yellen, proposing such price caps.  I don’t disagree with any of their economics, but I am less convinced this is a good idea.  This strikes me as a paramount example of what I call “foreign policy first.”  There is some chance that Russia initiates a nuclear attack, or takes some other set of drastic steps.  Does this price cap raise or lower that chance?  I genuinely do not know.  And thus for that reason I am agnostic about the policy.  The nuclear expected value calculations would seem to outweigh the other aspects of the proposal, and those calculations are beyond my ability to assess with much accuracy.

Often, when I have nothing to say, it is because I do not know exactly what to say.

The Invisible Hand Increases Trust, Cooperation, and Universal Moral Action

Montesquieu famously noted that

Commerce is a cure for the most destructive prejudices; for it is almost a general rule, that wherever we find agreeable manners, there commerce flourishes; and that wherever there is commerce, there we meet with agreeable manners.

and Voltaire said of the London Stock Exchange:

Go into the London Stock Exchange – a more respectable place than many a court – and you will see representatives from all nations gathered together for the utility of men. Here Jew, Mohammedan and Christian deal with each other as though they were all of the same faith, and only apply the word infidel to people who go bankrupt. Here the Presbyterian trusts the Anabaptist and the Anglican accepts a promise from the Quaker. On leaving these peaceful and free assemblies some go to the Synagogue and others for a drink, this one goes to be baptized in a great bath in the name of Father, Son and Holy Ghost, that one has his son’s foreskin cut and has some Hebrew words he doesn’t understand mumbled over the child, others go to heir church and await the inspiration of God with their hats on, and everybody is happy.

Commerce makes people traders and by and large traders must be benevolent, agreeable and willing to bargain and compromise with people of different sects, religions and beliefs. Contrary to what one naively might expect, people with more exposure to markets behave more cooperatively and in less nakedly self-interested ways. Similarly, in a letter-return experiment in Italy, Baldassarri finds that market integration increases pro-social behavior towards in and outgroups:

In areas where market exchange is dominant, letter-return rates are high. Moreover, prosocial behavior toward ingroup and outgroup members moves hand in hand, thus suggesting that norms of solidarity extend beyond group boundaries.

Also, contrary to what you may have read about the mythical Wall Street game versus Community game, priming people in the lab with phrases evocative of markets and trade, increases trust.

In a new paper, Gustav Agneman and Esther Chevrot-Bianco test the idea that markets generate more universal behavior. They run their tests in villages in Greenland where some people buy and sell in markets for their primary living while others in the same village still rely for a substantial part of their subsistence on hunting, fishing and personal exchange. They use a dice game in which players report the number of a roll with higher numbers being better for the player. Only the player knows their true roll and there is no way to detect cheaters on an individual basis. In some variants, other people (in-group or out-group) benefit when players report lower numbers. The upshot is that people exposed to market institutions are honest while traditional people cheat. Cheating is only ameliorated in the traditional group when cheating comes at the expense of an in-group (fellow-villager) but not when it comes at the expense of an out-grou member. More generally the authors summarize:

…We conduct rule-breaking experiments in 13 villages across Greenland (N=543), where stark contrasts in market participation within villages allow us to examine the relationship between market participation and moral decision-making holding village-level factors constant. First, we document a robust positive association between market participation and moral behaviour towards anonymous others. Second, market-integrated participants display universalism in moral decision-making, whereas non-market participants make more moral decisions towards co-villagers. A battery of robustness tests confirms that the behavioural differences between market and non-market participants are not driven by socioeconomic variables, childhood background, cultural identities, kinship structure, global connectedness, and exposure to religious and political institutions.

Markets and trade increase trust, cooperation and universal moral action–it is hard to think of a more important finding for the world today.

Hat tip: The still excellent Kevin Lewis.

My Conversation with the excellent Walter Russell Mead

Here is the audio and transcript, here is the summary:

He joined Tyler to discuss how the decline of American religiosity has influenced US foreign policy, which American presidents best and least understood the Middle East, the shrewd reasons Stalin supported Israel, the Saudi secret to political stability, the fate of Pakistan, the most likely scenario for China moving on Taiwan, the gun pointed at the head of German business, the US’s “murderous fetishization of ideology over reality” in Sub-Saharan Africa, the inherent weakness in having a foreign policy establishment dominated by academics, what he learned from attending the Groton School, and much more.

Here is one excerpt:

COWEN: How would you change or improve the training that goes into America’s foreign policy elite?

MEAD: Well, I would start by trying to draw people’s attention to that, over the last 40 years, there’s been an enormous increase in the number of PhD grads engaged in the formation of American foreign policy. There’s also been an extraordinary decline in the effectiveness of American foreign policy. We really ought to take that to heart.

COWEN: Do you think of it as an advantage that you don’t have a PhD?

MEAD: Huge advantage.

COWEN: How would you describe that advantage?

MEAD: I don’t really believe in disciplines. I see connections between things. I start from reality. I’m not trying to be anti-intellectual here. You need ideas to help you organize your perceptions of reality. But I think there’s a tendency in a lot of social science disciplines — you start from a bunch of really smart, engaged people who have been thinking about a set of questions and say, “We’ll do a lot better if we stop randomly thinking about everything that pops up and try, in some systematic way, to organize our thinking of this.”

I think you do get some gains from that, but you see, over time, the focus of the discipline has this tendency to shift. The discipline tends to become more inward navel-gazing. “What’s the history of our efforts to systematize our thinking about this?” The discipline becomes more and more, in a sense, ideological and internally focused and less pragmatic.

I think that some of the problem, though, is not so much in the intellectual weaknesses of a lot of conventional postgrad education, but simply almost the crime against humanity of having whole generations of smart people spend the first 30, 35 years of their lives in a total bubble, where they’re in this academic setting, and the rule . . . They become socialized into the academy, just as much as prisoners get socialized into the routines of a prison.

The American academy is actually a terrible place for coming to understand how world politics works. Recently, I had a conversation with an American official who was very proud of the way that the US had broken the mold by revealing intelligence about Russia’s plans to invade Ukraine, and pointed out how that had really helped build the NATO coalition against Russian aggression, and so on.

So far as he goes, it’s true. But I said, however, if you really look at the total message the US was projecting to Russia in those critical months, there were two messages. One is, “We’ve got great intelligence on you. We actually understand you much better than you think.” It was shocking. I think it shocked the Russians. But on the other hand, we’re saying, “We think you’re going to win quickly in Ukraine. We’re offering Zelenskyy a plane ride out of Kyiv. We’re pulling out all our diplomats and urging other countries to pull out their diplomats.”

The message, actually the totality of the message that we sent to Putin is, “You are going to win if you do this.”

And this, on what makes for talent in the foreign policy arena:

…you can’t know too much history. A hunger for travel. I think too many foreign policy types don’t actually get out into the field nearly as much as they should. Curiosity about other cultures. A strong grounding in a faith of your own, which can be a secular ideology, perhaps, in some cases, but more often is likely to be a great religious tradition of some kind.

A very good conversation.  And I am happy to recommend Walter’s new book The Arc of a Covenant: The United States, Israel, and the Fate of the Jewish People.

That was then, this is now — Iranian edition

Women protestors were part of the constitutional movement from its earliest stages.  They facilitated the strikes, lent their moral and financial support to the constitutionalists, and defended them physically against the forces of the shah.  In 1905 women reportedly created human barriers and protected the ‘ulama who had taken sanctuary at the Shah ‘Abd al-‘Azim Shrine from the armed government forces.  In the summer of 1906, when nationalists obtained sanctuary at the garden of the British legation, several thousand women gathered to join the strikers.

That is from Janet Afary’s quite interesting The Iranian Constitutional Revolution, 1906-1911, Grassroots Democracy, Social Democracy, & the Origins of Feminism.

Are Immigrants more Left leaning than Natives?

We analyze whether second-generation immigrants have different political preferences relative to observationally identical children of citizens in the host countries. Using data on individual voting behavior in 22 European countries between 2001 and 2017, we characterize each vote on a left-right scale based on the ideological and policy positions of the party receiving the vote. In the first part of the paper, we characterize the size of the “left-wing bias” in the vote of second-generation immigrants after controlling for a large set of individual characteristics and origin and destination country fixed effects. We find a significant left-wing bias of second-generation immigrants, comparable in magnitude to the left-wing bias associated with living in urban (rather than rural) areas. We then show that this left-wing bias is associated with stronger preferences for inequality-reducing government intervention, internationalism and multiculturalism. We do not find that second-generation immigrants are biased towards or away from populist political agendas.

That is from a new paper by Simone Moriconi, Giovanni Peri, and Riccardo Turati.