Illegitimate I


Realism & idealism, WWI, and the history of IR

Foundational to the discipline of international relations, historian E. H. Carr’s path-breaking book Twenty Years’ Crisis was the first to systematically assess the (then-emerging) field as consisting of ‘realist’ and ‘idealist’ approaches. Published in 1939, the book carefully outlines the economic, military, and legal underpinnings of the outbreak of World War I, and the failure of the utopianism that preceded it.

From the book:

“We can accept neither the Darwinian doctrine, which identifies the good of the whole with the good of the fittest and contemplates without repugnance the elimination of the unfit, nor the doctrine of a natural harmony of interests which has lost such foundation in reality as it once had, and which inevitably becomes a cloak for the vested interests of the privileged.

“This then is the basic reason for the overwhelming importance of international politics after 1919. The conflict between privileged and unprivileged, between the champions of an existing order and the revolutionaries, which was fought out in the nineteenth century within the national communities of Western Europe, was transferred by the twentieth century to the international community. The nation became, more than ever before, the supreme unit round which centre human demands for equality and human ambitions for predominance. Everywhere in Europe, national governments and one-party states made their appearance; and where party issues survived, they were thought of as something outmoded and deplorable—a blot on national unity which cried out to be erased. The inequality which threatened a world upheaval was not inequality between individuals, nor inequality between classes, but inequality between nations.”

Link to the book.

  • Jack Levy & William Thompson’s 2010 book provides a comprehensive analysis of the determinants of interstate and civil wars, encompassing a wide range of historical cases and theoretical frameworks. Link. And Dale Copeland’s 2015 book Economic Interdependence and War asks, contra the typical debates, “When and under what conditions will the trade and investment ties between nations lead to peace or military conflict?” Link.
  • A 2005 paper by Oona Hathaway develops “an integrated theory of international law,” in order to “explain why countries would commit to treaties that potentially constrain their behavior and how treaties influence or fail to influence state behavior.” Link.
  • Carr’s other most famous work is his 1961 book What Is History?, a classic work of historiography that poses challenging questions about the facts of history. Link. A 2010 paper by George Lawson examines discipline of IR’s relationship to history and historical research. Link.
  • Historian Susan Pederson reviews a 2015 book by Robert Vitalis on the origins of the discipline of International Relations in the US. Link. (Link to Vitalis’s book, link also to Pederson’s book The Guardians, on the League of Nations.)
  • Tangentially related, an economic history paper by Cong Liu looks at the effects of WWI on Chinese textile industry. Link.

Unequal and Uneven

The Geography of Higher Education Access

In place of our usual spotlight on an early-career researcher, we’re highlighting a project we made public just before the holidays: the first part in a new series on the geography of market power in the US higher education industry.

The series, led by JFI’s Laura Beamer, Marshall Steinbaum, and Francis Tseng, introduces a new measurement of market concentration, the School Concentration Index, and an interactive map that allows exploration of higher education options in every ZIP code. Among the findings: 10.1 million individuals live in public education deserts; 30.7 million people have access to only public school nearby.

From the report:

“The geography of higher ed institutions strongly determines the options available to a given student. While a large share of higher education policy discourse justly attempts to improve students’ access to information (on school costs, financial aid information, completion rates, or post-graduation employment statistics, and the like) to inform their school choices, political attention to geographic access remains sparse.”

The interactive map is available for perusal here.

  • Marshall Steinbaum, co-author on the report, elucidated a key point in the press release: “The most interesting single thing may be the difference between access to traditional and for-profit higher education, by geography. One policy implication is that, if free college is just leaving the existing public higher education system as-is, but better-funded, that won’t address access issues for non-traditional populations.” Link.
  • Inside Higher Ed spoke to Laura Beamer and Marshall Steinbaum here; Education Dive also covered the research here.
  • Notable Twitter threads in response: Daniel Kuehn gave a number of insights from the map, and on methodology, noted, “One thing I really like about this compared to prior work on ‘education deserts’ is that it treats community colleges the same as four years in the analysis.” Bill DeBaun wrote a summary of the work, and argued against a seemingly obvious solution: “I think the kneejerk reaction here for addressing geography challenges is ‘online programs!’ but there are infrastructure challenges with broadband in rural places and these postsecondary experiences are qualitatively different so I don’t think that’s the fix.”
  • A forthcoming World Bank publication by M. Ayhan Kose, Peter Nagle, et al. entitled Global Waves of Debt “presents the first in-depth analysis of the main features of global and national debt accumulation episodes.” Link.
  • Li Gan, Qing He, Ruichao Si, and Daichun Yi on patterns of urbanization across China. Link. Another recent NBER paper presents new data on railroad construction and American manufacturing development. Link.
  • Greg Mankiw’s skeptical guide to Modern Monetary Theory. Link.
  • UK Housing benefit cuts “substantially increased evictions, individual bankruptcies, property crimes, temporary accommodation, statutory homelessness and rough sleeping,” according to new research by Thiemo Fetzer, Srinjoy Sen, and Pedro CL Souza. Link. In the LRB, Susan Pederson reviews two books on the degradation of Britain’s postwar housing program. Link.
  • A working paper from Nacho Álvarez et al. sets out “general principles for fiscal governance reform aiming at a better economic, social and environmental performance on the part of the European Monetary Union.” Link.
  • From Joslyn Barnhart, Allan Dafoe, Elizabeth Saunders, and Robert Trager: The Suffragist Peace. “Women have been increasingly incorporated into political decision-making over the last century through suffragist movements, raising the question of whether these changes have had effects on the conflict behavior of nations consistent with their large effects in other areas, such as the size and competencies of governments. We find that the evidence is consistent with the view that the increasing enfranchisement of women, not merely the rise of democracy itself, is the cause of the democratic peace.” Link.
  • An OECD working paper by Mikkel Hermansen examines the relationship between occupational licensing and job-job mobility rates. Link.
  • At the Philadelphia Fed, a working paper by Nathan Blascak and Vyacheslav Mikhed on the financial consequences of health insurance: “estimates show that increasing access to health insurance lowered young adults’ out-of-pocket medical expenditures, debt in third-party collections, and the probability of personal bankruptcy. However, most improvements in financial outcomes are transitory, as they diminish after an individual ages out of the mandate at age 26.” Link.
  • Economic Policy Institute’s roundup of the most significant charts of 2019. Link. Of particular note: labor violations and racial employment disparities. Link and link to the respective reports.
  • Alan Auerbach, Yuriy Gorodnichenko, and Daniel Murphy use “new empirical data on demand shocks to evaluate the predictions of neoclassical and neo-Keynesian macroeconomic models for labour share, labour wedge, wage and price response, and multipliers.” Link.
  • A paper by Gojko Barjamovic et al, for all our Zipf’s-law lovers: “We analyze a large data set of commercial records produced by Assyrian merchants in the nineteenth century BCE. Using the information from these records, we estimate a structural gravity model of long-distance trade in the Bronze Age. We use our structural gravity model to locate lost ancient cities. In many cases, our estimates confirm the conjectures of historians who follow different methodologies. In some instances, our estimates confirm one conjecture against others. We also structurally estimate ancient city sizes and offer evidence in support of the hypothesis that large cities tend to emerge at the intersections of natural transport routes, as dictated by topography. Finally, we document persistent patterns in the distribution of city sizes across four millennia, find a distance elasticity of trade in the Bronze Age close to modern estimates, and show suggestive evidence that the distribution of ancient city sizes, inferred from trade data, is well approximated by Zipf’s law.” Link.

Each week we highlight research from a graduate student, postdoc, or early-career professor. Send us recommendations:

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