Category Archives: Idea of the week

Two kinds of liberty

At least since the days of the founders, ideas about America have been intertwined with ideas about liberty. At Thanksgiving we celebrate the Pilgrims who came seeking religious liberty, and one of our cherished national symbols is the Statue of … Continue reading

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How to read the newspaper

In my last post I wrote that John Zaller’s course Public opinion, mass media, parties, and elections (audio feed, website), gave me a whole new way to look at the news. Today’s newspaper furnished an example, an op-ed piece by … Continue reading

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Why African-Americans vote for Democrats

Okay, you political junkies — ever wonder how the Republican Party, the party of Lincoln, lost the allegiance of African-Americans? It’s quite a tale and UCLA political scientist John Zaller tells it in the February 23 and February 25 lectures … Continue reading

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Values that underlie our political choices

If you want to know someone’s politics, ask about his or her child rearing believes, and you’ll get a pretty good idea if the person will vote for the Democrats or the Republicans. That’s the conclusion of a study cited … Continue reading

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Close relationships: the importance of disclosures

Question: What do you do if someone gives you a gift? Answer: You open it. That simple dynamic turns out to be an important key in developing successful relationships, according to psychologist Thomas Bradbury, who teaches the UCLA course Close … Continue reading

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The rise of monasticism

According to historian Matthew Herbst, the rise of monasticism can be seen as an answer to this question: how do you perform heroic self-sacrifice when the age of martyrs is past? In lecture four of Herbst’s excellent course History of … Continue reading

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How to predict the future with game theory

Will the Copenhagen climate summit lead to any meaningful reductions in greenhouse gasses? In a word, no. That’s the confidant prediction of the “Predictioneer,” a.k.a. Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, professor of politics at New York University, who has developed a … Continue reading

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The accidental chosen people

In the ancient Near East there wasn’t much of a difference between a tribal community and a religious community. Every ethnic community had its own ethnic god. Thus, argues Reuven Firestone in his lecture Who Are the Real Chosen People? … Continue reading

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Unwanted side effects of democracy

Maybe it’s the legacy of the Cold War — all of those years of being the bastion of freedom and democracy — but somehow Americans got in the habit of viewing democracy as something completely good, something that everyone in … Continue reading

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The Cold War is history

Many conditions were necessary for the end of the Cold War to happen as it did. In an academic conference, entitled The Cold War is History (iTunes, website), Stanford historian James Sheehan reminds us that even when the Berlin wall … Continue reading

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