What happens when native Americans pay themselves unconditional cash from casino profits?

The profits — amounting to $150 million in 2004 and growing to nearly $400 million in 2010 — enabled the tribe to build a new school, hospital, and fire station. However, the lion’s share of the takings went directly into the pockets of the 8,000 men, women, and children of the Eastern Band Cherokee tribe. From $500 a year at the outset, their earnings from the casino quickly mounted to $6,000 in 2001, constituting a quarter to a third of the average family income.

As coincidence would have it, a Duke University professor by the name of Jane Costello had been researching the mental health of youngsters south of the Great Smoky Mountains since 1993.

…Soon after the casino opened, Costello was already noting huge improvements for her subjects. Behavioral problems among children who had been lifted out of poverty went down 40%, putting them in the same range as their peers who had never known privation. Juvenile crime rates among the Cherokee also declined, along with drug and alcohol use, while their school scores improved markedly. At school, the Cherokee kids were now on a par with the study’s non-tribal participants.

Full news article.

From Costello’s paper with my friend Randall Akee, and coauthors:

An additional $4,000 per year for the poorest households increases educational attainment by one year at age 21, and reduces the chances of committing a minor crime by 22 percent for 16 and 17 year olds. Our evidence suggests improved parental quality is a likely mechanism for the change.

“White Savior Barbie”, a $25 portable standing desk, and other links I liked

white-savior-barbie-on-instagram

  1. The story on White Savior Barbie, Ken Opalo’s advice of volunteering, and my own posts on development tourism
  2. A Kickstarter for an ultra-affordable standing desk (I donated)
  3. If you’re at all interested in why people say blogging is dead, why rumors of its death is premature, and the economics of blogging in 2016, you’ll enjoy Ezra Klein’s interview with Ben Thompson
  4. In addition to updating his regular CV, Princeton’s Johannes Haushofer has started his CV of failures
  5. Saumitra Jha’s PhD syllabus for Political Economy of Development (if you don’t know him or his work then you are missing out)

IPA’s weekly links

Guest Post by Jeff Mosenkis of Innovations for Poverty Action.

Population per radiotherapy machine

  • Most of us hear about radiation for cancer treatment in the troika with surgery and chemotherapy, and hopefully don’t have to think too much about it, but it is critical for treating many kinds of cancers. It also requires more infrastructure than the other two (a multi-million dollar machine, a radiation-shielded room, and specially trained technical staff to safely operate, often under oversight of a nuclear regulator like the NRC in the US or IAEA).

With life expectancies increasing in low-income countries, most cancer cases are now in the developing world, but many health systems aren’t equipped for the increased burden. A Kenyan program, for example, is sending patients abroad to India and Turkey for radiation treatments.

Now Uganda’s only radiation therapy machine (donated 26 years ago) has broken. Uganda has over 20,000 cancer cases a year, and officials say they also have a plan to send patients out of the country for treatment – to Kenya.

  • An amazing data visualization of the amount of dialogue by men vs. women in Disney movies. The graphs transform as you scroll and are clickable. The surprise in there to me was that Frozen, about the relationship between two sisters, was still 57% male dialogue. (via Katherine Milkman)
  • Google calendar is integrating Dan Ariely’s nudge to help people complete long-term goals like learning a new language. It uses free space in your calendar to suggest devoting time to them.
  • Glewwe, Rutledge, and Wydick report on their evaluation of a child sponsorship program in several countries (10,144 adults, 1,860 of them sponsored as children by an NGO). It appears to have raised secondary school completion, and adult wages (for men) significantly, which they think happened by raising the aspirations of the kids who were sponsored.

My 5-year-old daughter came home from the school library with a book for kids on survey methods and how to present data. Maria Dieci from IPA Zambia’s office suggested there are economists who could benefit from it…

Survey Tips

 

My Political Economy of Development exam for SIPA Master’s students

pacon-bb7816-examination-book-pic1Below are 7 sample essay questions, some with multiple parts. The actual exam will present you with 4 of these questions. You will be asked to answer your choice of 3, longhand, in exam booklets.

You will be allowed to bring in one 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper with whatever you want on it. It can be handwritten or machine produced. It can be a picture of a puppy if you like.

Your answers should draw as much as possible on the course material, referencing the ideas and authors as clearly as possible.

  1. Sources in the Obama administration have said that he will devote a part of his post-presidential years to the issue of “African governance.” One of his aides asks you draw on what you have learned in your course to write a memo outlining: (a) some of the crucial things he needs to understand about good governance in developing countries; (b) what policies he could focus on to be most effective; (c) whether he should focus on democratization; and (d) pitfalls and unintended consequences he should keep in mind.
  2. We’ve been talking about some of the parallels between weak states and bandits in European history, as well as modern day state-building in Liberia or Afghanistan. What do you think are some of the main similarities and differences between historic processes of state-building and modern ones?
  3. Make an argument for how more Western imperialism in the 21st century would lead to better development outcomes in the world’s poorest states. Then highlight at least three drawbacks to this argument. (Note: a good answer will be very clear about what you mean by imperialism and what development outcomes are important.)
  4. Name four policies (domestic or international) that, if implemented, could make autocratic states more responsive to their citizens. Argue each one using the Exit, Voice, and Loyalty (EVL) model, illustrating each one with the extensive form game, and illustrating the equilibrium in each case. Ideally, name at least one policy for each of E, V and L. Be sure to explain your reasoning.
  5. “The anti-corruption campaigns promoted by Western donors in developing countries are naïve, ignore the realities of local politics, and may even be harmful to these countries.” Discuss this question, explaining arguments for and against the statement.
  6. “War-making, autocracy, and elite deal-making were good for state-making in the last millennium. The experiences of Liberia, Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Afghanistan, and Iraq all show that war-making, autocracy, and elite deal-making can build stable states in this millennium too.” Discuss this question, explaining arguments for and against the statement.
  7. A new U.S. President will take office in less than a year. Their transition teams are already beginning to plan for the first 100 days. The team that is interested in reforming foreign aid turns to you for advice. What have you learned in this course that can guide their reforms of the U.S. system of foreign aid? In either case, assume the reformers/transition teams want the most effective aid policy, not the one that serves the national interest.If you prefer, you can write this memo instead to the leaders of the Chinese Communist Party, who are embarking on a major foreign aid effort for the first time.

The syllabus is here.

Was today my first vote ever?

rs_600x413-140711095538-BT2bQrgCEAAWL7vIt’s only as a 41 year old that, looking back, I see the value of keeping a diary. After I moved to the U.S. in 2000, and gave us Canadian tax residency, I effectively lost my right to vote. But I turned 26 the day I moved, and so I could have voted before that. Tonight I realized that I have absolutely no recollection of voting in the 1993 or 1997 national elections.

It’s entirely possible I voted. With my memory, it’s even possible I ran a voting center and still forgot. But I have vague recollections of being one of those away-from-home university students who never registered in their new riding. And vague memories of thinking “maybe I’ll vote by mail” but missing the deadlines.

I have a coauthor who, on principle, refuses to vote. It’s individually irrational, he says, since it takes up time and there’s no chance it will sway the election. Of course there are a dozen counter arguments. I’m not sure it matters, since I think he mostly likes to not vote because it infuriates all his friends when he tells them at parties. That is the real reward.

I, on the other hand, have an overdeveloped sense of civic duty. I am one of those people who threw themselves into every student council role through high school, including school president. I can’t imagine not voting. Except that I think I never have.

Except today. Last April I became an American, and so the New York primary was my first chance.

It’s been interesting: Only my more liberal friends ask me why. I say “I just became and American” and the average citizen says “Congratulations!!!”. I say the same thing to my academic coworkers and I get almost the same response: “Congratulations?”

I had many reasons. I can’t deny that one was defensive. In principle, a grumpy border guard could turn me back any time I returned to the US. You might think this is a trivial risk, but if your job involves talking to rebels and criminals and warlords (at least on occasion) that risk is no longer so negligible.

But more importantly, at some point I realized I identified more as an American than as a Canadian.

It came very slowly. I remember my first day in the U.S. A friend and I drove a U-Haul from Toronto to Boston. We stopped for gas in some isolated spot off an interstate. The kind of place where everyone is a stranger to one another. As we walked into the station to pay for our gas, the man entering ahead of us was black. The man exiting the door ahead of all of us was also black. They looked at each other, gave a sort of nod, and kept walking. They paid no attention to us. I remember looking at my friend and saying, “What the hell just happened? Where have we come?”

Toronto at the time was just tilting to be more brown and black than white. The city is certainly no paradise free of prejudice, but I’d never seen anything like that gas station nod before. With a little time in the U.S., it all makes sense. A conspiratorial look saying “we’re in this shit together” is completely understandable. It was my first sense that life in America, no matter how close in distance to Canada, would be different in subtle and disturbing ways. (One example: the photo above is what happens if you type “most American photo ever” into Google Images.)

I think of my American time in three five-year blocks. The first five years I lived here, I experienced what I think a lot of non-Americans experience: A feeling, every few days, that “Holy crap these people are CRAZY”. It’s probably the immigrant experience everywhere.

In my second five years, though, that thought stopped occurring. I found I had more and more American friends, and no longer naturally gravitated to the other foreigners. In some ways I simply got used to the troubles facing America. But I also started seeing the great things too.

It wasn’t until my third five-year block that, visiting Canada, I caught myself thinking, “Holy crap these people are CRAZY.” My transformation was complete.

Little things also changed over the years. I went from skipping past the U.S. news section of the paper, and only reading the international news, to reading the U.S. news first. Big things changed too. At some point, looking at the country, I stopped thinking “not my problem” to “I could help that.”

You know you love a country when you want to shake it and scream at it because it is driving you crazy.

This brings me back to what was, for all intents, purposes, and apparently memories, my first vote. As much as I like and admire Bernie, my vote was with Clinton.

There are many reasons for this. You have heard some of these before: more qualified than almost any other imaginable candidate, blah blah blah.

But what makes my decision a little different from others is that, however much I might identify as an American, I’m no nationalist.

The one thing that will keep me from public office in this country is simple: I don’t think American lives are more important than other people’s lives. I’ll fight for principles, and do the most good where I can (which might be at home), but to me “the national interest” is an empty concept. (And so, having put that in writing on the Internet, “high school President” will be the highest office I ever hold.)

Both Clinton and Sanders are nationalists. What else would a Presidential candidate be? Both also care about the poor and oppressed elsewhere in the world, very deeply. The big difference, at least to me, is that one of the candidates has spent much of their life understanding and working in that wider world. That mastery matters to me. In fact, I think it’s even simpler than that: it simply matters. There are 6 billion non-Americans who also have a lot at stake in this election. I’m convinced Sanders has their interests at heart. But I don’t think he knows how to serve them.

I didn’t mean for this post to become an election pitch. In fact, when I started writing 30 minutes ago, I thought “I’ll write a few sentences about my glimmer of civic delight today”, mainly to avoid grading midterms. And here I am, hundreds of autobiographical words later.

This is the great advantage of the blog. It’s the diary I didn’t think to have in 1993 or 1997. My immigrant story, in 30 minutes, without the conceit of writing a book.

Or an editor, time delay, or chance for second thoughts, for that matter. I can’t quite believe I’m about to press the “Publish” button. Here goes…

I can’t even think of a title for this. It has to be read to be believed. And enjoyed.

UPDATE: It turns out the backstory is even weirder and more interesting

There are so many layers of absurdity I kept laughing and laughing. Full disclosure: that could simply be the consequence of last minute frantic lecture slide preparation plus bourbon.

Hat tip to @texasinafrica.

Eliminating NSF grant deadlines halved the number of proposals they received

How can the National Science Foundation cope with an exploding number of grant proposals?

Annual or semiannual grant deadlines lead to enormous spikes in submissions, which in turn cause headaches for the program managers who have to organize merit review panels. Now, one piece of the agency has found a potentially powerful new tool to flatten the spikes and cut the number of proposals: It can simply eliminate deadlines.

This week, at an NSF geosciences advisory committee meeting, Assistant Director for Geosciences Roger Wakimoto revealed the preliminary results from a pilot program that got rid of grant proposal deadlines in favor of an anytime submission. The numbers were staggering. Across four grant programs, proposals dropped by 59% after deadlines were eliminated. “We’ve found something that many programs around the foundation can use,” Wakimoto told the advisory committee on 13 April.

From Science Magazine.

My first reaction was that procrastinators are penalized. That is, there’s a behavioral explanation. That was what many people in the article said. And it’s surely true.

That means it might also be a short term effect, and the equilibrium number of proposals will be the same.

But, after eight years working with Yale, Columbia, and IPA, another idea occurred to me: it’s sometimes impossible to get  bureaucracies to do anything without a hard deadline. Every day is “address the emergency day”. So I predict better bureaucrats and managers will be rewarded. Will the incentives finally get it right?

IPA’s weekly links

Guest post by Jeff Mosenkis of Innovations for Poverty Action.

kenyan-shilling

Somehow yesterday turned into Guaranteed Basic Income Day.

  • In the morning, Freakonomics released a podcast about the idea – a simple social safety net of a minimum income everybody would be guaranteed. Liberals and libertarians alike have gotten behind the idea in the past, and now some in high-income countries see it as a solution in increasingly high-tech economies where some make a lot of money while others have a very difficult time in the labor market. The main concern others have is whether it would discourage people from working.
    • The Canadian Government did a 5-year experiment with an entire town in the 1970’s. The 30% who qualified were given about $15,000 in today’s dollars a year. Amazingly, the data was never analyzed – the papers are still sitting in 1,800 boxes in the national archives (there’s a major opportunity for a funder!)
    • However, one economist was able to use health insurance records to look at the town in a quasi-experiment, and found it improved health, and education for boys (who apparently weren’t under as much pressure to drop out of high school to work). It didn’t discourage work (the main fear) for the primary earner, but did seem to allow second earners to work less (such as mothers who’d just had babies).
  • Later in the day, GiveDirectly (which just gives cash to poor people) co-founders Michael Faye and Paul Niehaus announced on Slate that the organization would be embarking on a 10-year, $30 million experiment giving a basic income to 6,000 Kenyans, and are fundraising for it.
  • Vox’s Dylan Matthews also had an article on the announcement and previous research.
  • This morning Berk Özler suggested that just comparing people who get the money to those who don’t is a wasted opportunity. Why not compare cash alone to another successful program such as the Ultrapoor Graduation Model, which offers a six-pronged approach for the poorest?
  • Some more resources on this for those interested: IPA’s currently working with GiveDirecly on a general equilibrium study, to test the broader economic effects of these kinds of cash grants on area economies and individual well-being.  We’re also doing what Berk suggested, comparing the Ultrapoor Graduation model to cash grants, in Ghana. And of course, the original evaluation is available (paper & plain language summary).
  • If you’re new to the cash transfers discussion, a couple of notes: basic income policies of course would look different in wealthy and low-income countries (tests have been announced in several wealthy countries). And nobody thinks cash to individuals can solve broader systemic problems in poor countries, such as infrastructure or governance. The question being debated really is what’s the most effective way to spend limited aid dollars. As Chris put it:

    I’ve seen many, many, many projects that spend $1500 training and all the “other stuff” in order to give people $300 or a cow. Is it fair to ask, what if we’d just given them $1800? Or what if we’d given six people cows?

  • Deaton, (as I understand him) would be skeptical of this cash influx, assuming officials will find ways to exploit it, or that it undermines the motivation of the government to provide services when people are receiving assistance from outside sources. The 10-year scope of the new study should be a good opportunity to test his hypothesis as well.

IPA’s weekly links

Guest post by Jeff Mosenkis of Innovations for Poverty Action.

Anas Aremeyaw Anas

  • There’s a new documentary about Ghanaian reporter Anas Aremeyaw Anas, who has gone undercover to expose corruption, abuse in psychiatric hospitals, killing of albinos, and many other things (including once hiding disguised as a rock to film). On The Media had a nice interview where he explains that the problems his country faces requires a more forward style of journalism than often seen in the West.
  • Dan Kopf at Priceonomics has been writing about the obscure histories of common statistics. His latest looks into why the average won over the median, which involves an 11th C. Persian mathematician trying to figure out the longitude of a city in (now) Afghanistan.
  • Sierra Leone’s latest export is Sea Cucumbers (which are more of a slug than vegetable). They’re considered to have healing and aphrodisiac properties in China, which is never good news for a species.
  • Venezuela is declaring Fridays for the next two months a holiday to save electricity. Marketplace has a nice primer on their economy since the 1920’s, which is essentially the story of the resource curse – freely flowing oil discourages the economy from diversifying. The Caracas Chronicles journalism project projected that by May the Bolivar will be worth less than the paper it’s printed on.
  • The YouTube drama An African City chronicles the lives of five Ghanaian women who return home after living abroad, and their career and personal lives.
  • ICYMI, Chris has an interesting thread on twitter asking how to secure data when working in an autocratic country. (Both IPA and ISIS prefer TrueCrypt for data encryption, its backstory is in the New Yorker).
  • A new Science paper from the research team who exposed the LaCour fraud, finds the same technique – long (~10 min) non-judgemental conversations – does change attitudes, in this case about transgender rights (10 points on a 100 point scale, persisting three months later). The problem with this approach is that canvassing is very time-consuming (e.g. expensive) because of the many non-responses. In this case, they were able to better target people willing to participate by using a pre-screening survey. FiveThirtyEight talks about the paper here, and Princeton’s Elizabeth Paluck has a commentary on it in Science here.

And we may have lost Merle Haggard, but the only economics country singer, Merle Hazard (give it a sec) is still going strong.

Harvard’s general examination in the Department of Economics, in 1953

Question 5 is as follows:

“Future historians may well write the epitaph of our civilization as follows:

From freedom and science came rapid growth and change.

From rapid growth and change came economic instability.

From instability came demands which ended growth and change.

Ending growth and change ended science and freedom.”

Discuss this alleged conflict between economic growth and measures to secure economic stability. In your answer refer to the views of some of the great economists, for example, Schumpeter and Keynes, on this problem.

Here is the full exam. Two reactions.

First, the blogger noted this:

Needless to say all this has changed dramatically. Earlier it required understanding of history and economics, now it is just about math.

Actually, my development and labor field exams at Berkeley were full of general questions like, such as “What do we know about the effects of raising the minimum wage” or “why is there corruption and what are its consequences?” Some of the answers required math. And a lot of the evidence I had to marshal involved complicated statistical studies. Economic history was ignored, but then I didn’t take the economic history field exam. But history was central in the department, with figures like Eichengreen and Delong as leaders, and a cohesive group of historians across the UC system who met together all the time.

So I don’t recognize the caricature of economics graduate school many paint.

Second, I am so asking this question on my political economy of development exam in May. Some of the most prominent political economists alive today have built their careers, articles and books tackling Question 5. Economics has never been more focused or better on this question. It could be better, I’m happy to see it trending in the good direction.

IPA’s weekly links

Guest post by Jeff Mosenkis of Innovations for Poverty Action.

PoliticalHacker

  • Bloomberg Businessweek’s How to Hack an Election profiles Andrés Sepúlveda, who has been manipulating elections in Latin America for a decade.
  • IPA is funding research into financial services for the poor (deadline April 29).
  • The great Development Impact Blog turns five today, and contributors look back over some of their favorite posts.
  • A friend posed a good question: Why aren’t the horrible sexual abuses by UN peacekeeping troops of children they were sent to protect sparking the same public outrage as the Catholic Church abuses?
  • Markus Goldstein and David Evans have a helpful post on turning your research into a 15-minute presentation (hints: skip the lit review, decide on model or results, and no tables).
  • From AER, big impacts for sons when mothers got a cash transfer as part of the first US welfare program (1911-1935). They:

    …lived one year longer than those of rejected mothers. They also obtained one-third more years of schooling, were less likely to be underweight, and had higher income in adulthood than children of rejected mothers.

  • Previous research has suggested a U.S. Southern “Culture of Honor,” among Southern white men, where disputes can more often result in violence (including the famous insult experiment). A new political science study looks at whether the President’s background matters for conflicts:

    Interstate conflicts under Southern presidents are shown to be twice as likely to involve uses of force, last on average twice as long, and are three times more likely to end in victory for the United States than disputes under non-Southern presidents.

And, some poor State Department worker was forced to delete a series of tweets warning Americans about dangers traveling for spring break after upsetting a number of people. Because if there’s one truth about international affairs we can’t handle, it’s that we might not be hot:

StateDepartmentTravelWarning

(h/t Lindsey Shaughnessy & David Batcheck)

Thrilled to announce I’ll be joining the Trump campaign to advise on development and humanitarian assistance…

…Is the most common April Fools joke I am seeing in my Facebook and Twitter feed. We really did all wake up with the same idea this morning.

The thing is, somebody really does need to start advising him. The transcripts of his foreign policy discussions and Washington Post and New York Times have to be read to be believed. The simplest and probably correct reading is that he has not spent much time thinking about the issues, in part because it’s not a serious primary issue, and so is making it up as he goes along. In the absence of any advisors, it’s actually a very effective way to float and get feedback on policy ideas, especially if you have no compunction about doing the opposite of what you said later on. It’s the gift of a populist too.

Meanwhile, the American Politics faculty at Columbia ran a panel for other faculty yesterday on what we’ve learned about politics from Trump and what we haven’t. Many interesting things were said. A sampling:

  • For all the talk of the party not getting behind Trump as the nominated candidate, it’s important to remember that this hasn’t happened in a century. Anything is possible, but both parties have unified behind polarizing figures in the past. Therefore you can expect some serious foreign policy advisers to jump on soon.
  • History also suggests that, in the general election, a candidate’s ability and character matter less than the party affiliation and current conditions. That is, it might be more accurate to think about the general election as a referendum on the Obama administration that a vote for (or against) Clinton or Trump.
  • Primary rhetoric is partly emotion and partly an act. The politicians know this. A lot of the public knows this. And divides that seem impossible to bridge often have bridges six months later.
  • If you looked at the breadth of candidates at the outset, it wasn’t hard to predict that the Republican primary would go to the convention. But no one would have predicted it would be these three.
  • Looking back, you can understand Trump as having some advantages in this kind of crowded field: a gift for capturing the mood of the people, a guy who can think on his feet.
  • Also, while there have always been voters with a degree of intolerance, and a taste for the authoritarian, historically they have been spread across both parties. But that distribution has changed in recent years. You no longer have many conservative Democrats or liberal Republicans, in Congress or the voter ranks. So that raises the support base for their kind of candidate.

My reading is that the political scientists haven’t decided to change their theories yet, so much as they have updated their beliefs about some features of the American public. You cannot fit a theory to a single case, and a single unusual result doesn’t and shouldn’t upend theories of how politics works.

Another way you might say this is that “Trump is in the error term.” That to me is the most plausible explanation.

An open letter to Senator Chuck Grassley from an Iowan high school student

The argument many Republicans are making is that Barack Obama is a “lame duck” president, and, because “the people have not spoken,” he should not be allowed to nominate a replacement for Justice Antonin Scalia.

However, you are running for reelection in Iowa this November. At that time, Iowans will go to the polls and their voice will be heard. Until then, who speaks for the people of Iowa? You, as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, carry significant power in determining who gets to become the next Supreme Court Justice. But senator, since you, too, are in an election year, how can you possess the authority to make a decision that will affect the future of our country if “the people have not yet spoken”? Following the direction of the Republican’s logic, I politely ask you to step aside as chairman of the Senate Judiciary committee until the elections take place.

Bonus points because the Harvard admissions committee will love this.

Everything I need to know about democratization I can learn from Wikipedia

In February 2002, just one year after its launch, Wikipedia was rising quickly, but it was still officially an experimental project of the for-profit company Bomis.com. When then-CEO Jimmy Wales mused on the Wikipedia email list whether to put advertisements on Wikipedia’s pages to generate revenue, it hit the community like a shock wave.

Influential members of the Spanish Wikipedia were so outraged by even a remote possibility of profiting from volunteer work that within days, they broke off into their own faction. So in 2002, very early in the Web site’s history, Spanish Wikipedians copied the entire contents of Spanish Wikipedia onto their own Internet server and asked community members to abandon Wikipedia in favor of this new alternative project, Enciclopedia Libre.

It was a jarring setback and a stark lesson about the passionate community Wales had assembled. Despite pleas from Wales, Sanger, and others that advertising was only an idea for discussion, and not in the works, the damage had been done. Most of the Spanish volunteers had left. It would take years for Wikipedia’s Spanish-language edition to recover from what is now known as the “Spanish Fork.”

Some good did result from the episode. It convinced Wales and his partners that they had to spin off Wikipedia into a nonprofit entity to convince the community never to doubt its intentions.

From the book The Wikipedia Revolution by Andrew Lih, which I’ve been reading in relation to my WIkipedia-based course (on which I’ll blog more later this semester).

I’ve been teaching students about the historical processes of democratization this semester, and the parallels are amazing. When citizens can exit or exercise voice, and are valuable to the elites, the citizens can force concessions of power. Unable to credibly commit, elites must find some way, perhaps a constitutional change, to credibly devolve power.

This reminds me: one of the valuable things on politics I’ve read this semester is this paper on a simple exit, voice and loyalty game by Clark, Golder and Golder. At first I thought it was just a useful framework for teaching about political power and change. But the more it sits with me, the more I think this simple model is a useful framework for thinking about a great deal of politics. It’s simplicity is a drawback but also a virtue. Maybe the most influential paper on my thinking in 2016.

This blogger might be the only thing that makes sense of this election season (and help you keep your sanity)

Move over Nate Silver, some of the election season’s most accurate election forecasts are coming from blogger and pundit, Carl Diggler, the fake persona created by two comedians who forecast primary winners based on their the worst caricatures and prejudices you can draw about a population.

For example:

The voters who will decide tomorrow’s Washington caucuses are what I like to call “Riot Grrrl Democrats.” Their main issues are reducing the cost of photocopying zines, ending the “one in, one out” penalty, and increasing subsidies for putting boys at the back of punk shows. One would think these acolytes of Bratmobile, Bikini Kill, and Sleater Kinney would flock to Hillary Clinton, a fellow female who has promised to form a committee to evaluate the constitutionality of drink minimums. Yet these riot grrrl votrrrs are fully in Bernie’s camp, seduced by the Vermont socialist’s promises of putting Glenn Danzig behind bars, where he belongs. In this veteran pundit’s mind, it “smells like Bern spirit” in Washington state.

From the same article, reflections on the Ted Cruz sex scandals:

The biggest issue Ted Cruz has run into this campaign has been people refusing to accept him as a human being. They look at his flesh, that resembles ashen wood that was bloated with water, then dried into a warped version of itself. They see his terrifying Russian doll eyes. They look at his gut, that isn’t large in the way Chris Christie’s is, but heaving, as if he’s carrying an egg similar to that of a lizard in pregnancy. They hear his voice screech about ad hominem attacks and the gold standard. Even if they agree with him, they’re likely to think, “someone should put him out of his misery.”
But a potential series of sex scandals would be a gamechanger. Once people get past the horrifying mental image of Cruz removing his proboscis from his pleated jeans, they’ll realize this is more or less a human being who has normal carnal desires. He’s standing in front of us and saying, yes, I am a man. Yes, I get desires. No, my mating habits do not differ from a normal person’s just because of my wholly repulsive being. Cruz may lose a bit of evangelical support, but he can more than make that up in the millions who were on the fence about his humanity. The fact that he can point to a potential five women that love him and accept his melted candle body is absolutely massive.