The real reason why Dani Rodrik is not a political scientist

by Henry Farrell on February 25, 2008

in Teaching

Jeffry Frieden had a post a few days ago telling Dani Rodrik that he should go back to working on political economy. Now Rodrik reveals who put him off political science as a career. Yet another thing that Bill Kristol has to answer for …

I have waited a really long time to do this, and I am happy that Bill Kristol finally gave me an opportunity with his column in today’s New York Times. … he was my dreaded instructor long ago in two of the classes that I took as a Harvard undergraduate … In each course, we had to write short papers once every couple of weeks. I can say that my performance on these papers, which Kristol graded, was fairly consistent. The essay on Machiavelli? Here is a C-. The essay on the Federalist Papers? Here is a C. John Stuart Mill? Well, how about, yes you guessed it, another C. You can say that Kristol did his best to discourage me from pursuing a career in political science.
… He walked into the classroom and his first words were: “Hello, my name is Mr. Kristol.” To underscore the point that he was that, and not Bill or any other friendly appellations by which we students may have chosen to address him, he went to the board and wrote “Mr. Kristol.” I may have been a poorly adjusted Turk in my first year in the U.S., but this still struck me as odd. … Well, Mr. Kristol’s column today takes aim at Barack (and Michelle) Obama, and does so quite unfairly in my view. … What caught my attention was this passage: [where Kristol says that in almost every empirical respect, American lives have in fact gotten better over the last quarter-century.] … Really? … for a high-school graduate, the odds that his compensation would have fallen by more than 10% is 50-50. Note that even college graduates have not seen any income gains since around 2000. … some groups have definitely been left worse off—not just in relative but also in absolute terms. So statistics aside, who do you think has a better sense of what has happened to “regular folk” since 1980? Michelle Obama or Mr. Kristol?

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