The Score: American Politics, Human Progress, Kurdish History, Michael Barone

This week on The Score: How did the Republicans and Democrats come to dominate American politics? Who are the heroes of progress and what is the stuff of progress? What explains the conflict between Kurds and Turks?

This episode of The Score looks at American politics, global economic history, and foreign affairs. We examine the political party system, human progress, and the conflict in the Middle East between Turks and Kurds.

American Political Parties
Republican elephant Democrat donkeyFirst, let’s talk about the American political parties. Michael Barone hangs his hat at the American Enterprise Institute but as a journalist and pundit he is a long-time observer of the U.S. political system. He has a new book coming out that chronicles the history of the two parties that dominate American politics, called How America’s Political Parties Change (and How They Don’t). There will be a formal launch for the book at AEI in next Wednesday, October 23.

For more than 40 years, Barone has been an author, editor, and contributor to the long-lived series of books titled The Almanac of American Politics. His other books include Shaping Our Nation: How Surges of Migration Transformed America and Its Politics (2013), Our First Revolution: The Remarkable British Upheaval That Inspired America’s Founding Fathers (2007), and The New Americans: How the Melting Pot Can Work Again (2001). I spoke to him by telephone from his office in Washington on Thursday afternoon.

Michael Barone can be found on Twitter as @MichaelBarone. Listen for him later in the show in our segment called “From the Archives.”

The Stuff and Heroes of Human Progress
When it comes to economic news, headlines prefer a pessimistic tone. Unemployment, recession, and dispossession make news while new jobs, expansion, and innovation sit below the surface.

Chelsea Follett HumanProgress.orgChelsea Follett is managing editor at, which tries to present the upside of the news about economics through collections of data and examinations of trends. It also has published a series of essays on the “Heroes of Progress,” the latest of which (Part 29) is Alessandro Volta. The first “Hero of Progress” in the series was agronomist and Nobel Peace Prize recipient Norman Borlaug, whom Follett mentions at length in our conversation.

A new essay series is called “Stuff of Progress” and its first entry, published on October 11, is about nitrogen.

In this conversation at the Cato Institute last Wednesday, Follett is cheery and enthusiastic about human progress — and deservedly so. Our exchange about Julian Simon’s bet with Paul Ehrlich is particularly illuminating.

During our interview, Follett specifically noted two books that inspired her to take on the role she plays now at Stephen Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, which she read for class in graduate school, and Matt Ridley’s The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves, which she read for pleasure around the same time.

Chelsea Follett is on Twitter as @chellivia. You can follow on Twitter at @HumanProgress.

Kurds vs. Turks
Mustafa Akyol kurds turks islam liberalismMustafa Akyol, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute’s Center for Liberty and Prosperity, has previously been a guest on The Score. He returns this week after he published an article in The New York Times (“No, Kurds and Turks Are Not ‘Natural Enemies,’ Mr. Trump“) about the seemingly intractable conflict between Turkey’s government and its minority Kurdish population – a conflict that has expanded to include Kurds in Syria, Iraq, and other countries in the region.

Akyol provides some much needed background information about who the Kurds are and why Turkey feels threatened by them.

I spoke to Mustafa Akyol last Wednesday in the library of the Cato Institute in Washington. Our lengthy conversation expands upon his essay that appeared October 13 in the Times.

Akyol previously appeared on The Score on May 4 to discuss Islam and liberalism. He is the author of The Islamic Jesus: How the King of the Jews Became a Prophet of the Muslims (2017) and Islam without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty (2011).

You can find Mustafa Akyol on Twitter in both English (@AkyolinEnglish) and Turkish (@AkyolMustafa).

From the Archives
Michael Barone Cato Institute 2012Earlier in the program, we talked to Michael Barone about his new book on American political parties. In this recording from the archives, I asked him about the election of 2012 – seven years ago – and specifically about the race between former Virginia governors Tim Kaine and George Allen for the U.S. Senate. (Spoiler alert: Kaine won.) We also touched on Mitt Romney and Bob McDonnell as his potential running mate. (Spoiler alert: Romney chose Paul Ryan.)

From the archives in August 2012, here’s Michael Barone. (For the record, I also interviewed him at CPAC in February 2010.)

Be sure to check out previous podcasts on Bearing Drift for current news, including our preview of the Virginia Film Festival, coming up October 23-27 in Charlottesville. I expect to interview a number of filmmakers and policymakers at the festival, which you will be able to hear in the next two or three episodes of The Score.

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