State Making Quotations

This term I have been teaching a new seminar entitled, "State Making and State Breaking." It's basically about state formation and capacity building from medieval Europe to contemporary Africa ("state making") plus secessionism, irredentism, de facto statehood, and other challenges to sovereignty ("state breaking"). We've now reached about the halfway point, having dealt with the … Continue reading State Making Quotations


Happy Earth Day (unless you are a Republican in Congress, then it is Happy Tuesday) The courts may force the most transparent administration in history to become transparent. How is that possible? Beauty and the Beast (of inequality). Can we infer that libertarians think they are more attractive? Regardless of levels of attractiveness, it may … Continue reading Links

A Law of Political Entropy?

Libertarians often bemoan the expansion of the federal government over the centuries and cite Thomas Jefferson's quotation, "The natural progress of things is for liberty to yeild [sic], and government to gain ground." Of course, there have been important advances for liberty in the U.S. in the 20th and 21st centuries too, yet overall, government's … Continue reading A Law of Political Entropy?

Why So Little Decentralization? Part Two: Secession Prevention

Having finally turned the corner on a brutal, 11-day (and counting) cold, I feel up to getting back to my blogging routine. First up: a followup to last month's post, "Why So Little Decentralization?" To review, that post posed a puzzle (a problem for political scientists to ponder, you might say). The puzzle is this: … Continue reading Why So Little Decentralization? Part Two: Secession Prevention

The Empirical Record

  The Census Bureau is changing its annual survey, making it difficult to measure the impact of the Affordable Care Act. As the NYT reports:   An internal Census Bureau document said that the new questionnaire included a ‘total revision to health insurance questions” and, in a test last year, produced lower estimates of the … Continue reading The Empirical Record

Good News, Bad News and Silence

The Congressional Budget Office has released its updated budget projections. Good news: CBO now estimates that if the current laws that govern federal taxes and spending do not change, the budget deficit in fiscal year 2014 will be $492 billion. Relative to the size of the economy, that deficit—at 2.8 percent of gross domestic product … Continue reading Good News, Bad News and Silence

Time Sink

The Sunlight Foundation has released a wonderful program (Capitol Words) that allows one to chart the number of times that members of the House and Senate have used specific words on the floor. You can chart the number of occurrences by party (try "debt" and see that both parties are concerned about the debt, albeit only when the … Continue reading Time Sink

The Unbearable Lightness of Being (Bill Clinton)

Bill Clinton is often quite a delight as ex-president, free to opine on a variety of subjects without being confined by anyone's talking points. Case in point: his comments on Edward Snowden delivered before the Naval Academy earlier this week. As reported by Dustin Volz (National Journal): "Mr. Snowden has been sort of an imperfect … Continue reading The Unbearable Lightness of Being (Bill Clinton)


There has been much coverage of last week’s Supreme Court decision on campaign finance (McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission), most of it negative (insert shocked surprise here) given that it will provide more opportunities for the wealthy to shape public policy. As Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) observes: "It is far too often the case in … Continue reading McCutcheon

Veneto: The Next Catalonia? (update)

Public opinion has moved very quickly there against Italy: Veneto - IPR poll: 63% against secession from Italy 28% in favour 8% in favour as part of broader Northern #Italy (“Padania”)— electionista (@electionista) April 4, 2014 UPDATE: I misread the poll. These numbers are consistent with what we have seen in the past: a solid majority against independence. … Continue reading Veneto: The Next Catalonia? (update)

Too Early?

Charlie Cook (National Journal) has some initial thoughts on the 2016 GOP candidate (his "Republican Bracket"). I always find Cook interesting. One particularly odd observation: “Sometimes after losing two consecutive presidential contests, parties become more pragmatic and move toward the center. Other times, they double down on ideology. Logic would argue for a GOP move … Continue reading Too Early?

Assorted Links of Interest

Charles Koch’s response to the recent anti-Koch efforts on the part of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.  Jonathan Chait is unimpressed (and I am unsurprised). The White House’s control of the visual record of the Obama presidency—a great frustration for the AP and the press corps more generally—has its limits (in this case, David Ortiz … Continue reading Assorted Links of Interest

A Fallacy of Mood Affiliation

If you knew that a person believed that corporations primarily like to outsource production to poor countries to get lower labor costs, what would you predict about that person's view on whether the minimum wage has significant disemployment effects? Just from my observation of the world, I would predict that people believing that low labor … Continue reading A Fallacy of Mood Affiliation