Papers by Melberg
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Ph.D work

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Ph.D. in progress
Political Theory
Various papers

The Questions
Ph.D Work
Statistical Problems
Social Interaction
Centralization vs. Decentralization

Define economics!
Models, Formalism
Fluctuations, Crisis


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Belief formation
Inifinite regress

Collapse of Communism
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Selected Comments
Papers by Hans O. Melberg

Feel free to mail me comments, ideas, and criticism (


Selected comments

Comment from John Verkuilen about the review of "Political Culture and leadership in Soviet Russia" (Robert Tucker)
I agree with your points that culture is a sometimes useful, but often dangerous, explanatory variable in social explanation. While I don't agree that rational choice can get by without a consideration of culture (tastes differ and it is hard to understand this without considering the patterns of shared meaning, that is culture), using culture as a direct explanatory mechanism, if such could be said to be possible, is, in my view, weak. Too often, it simply becomes a residual category where suggestion and innuendo replace disciplined explanation. Various explanations in American politics are like that, but more careful work often shows an institutional foundation (for instance) for the phenomenon in question.

Oh, this is kind of nitpicky, but I'm sure that the GDP of the SU was substantially larger than Canada. Canada, while large in land mass, doesn't have a large population. France might be a better example.


My reply
I think you are right on both points. According to Maddison (Dynamic Forces in Capitalist Development) the population of Canada was 26 million in 1989 (you are right - the large land mass probably fooled me into thinking it had a greater population, at least 50 millon I thought. This shows my ignorance, but maybe it also illustrates a common cognitive mistake (?). Canada's GDP per capita was $17 567 in 1989, while USSR - according to A. Maddison, had a GDP per capita of $7 461. Now, since the population of the USSR was more than x2 Canada, and their per capita GDP was about 1/2 of Canada, the total GDP of USSR was bigger (The Russian population was about 150 mill.). Though, it is still not correct to argue that the USSR economy was the second largest in the world, since Japan's population and GDP per capita was, respectively, 123 mill. and $15 101. Then, there is China ($2 361 and 1100 mill.). In sum, although it is a small error it was wrong to say that the Soviet economy was the second largest in the world.

A short comment by S. Sheffrin (20. May, 1997)
On my review of his book ( Why (dis)believe rational expectations? A review of Sheffrin's Rational Expectations)
Thanks for letting me see your review. I will abstain (with one exception) from commenting in that all the issues you raise are substantive points which need to be dealt with by a thoughtful economist. However, as you can see from my book, I actually am very much in favor of models with mixtures on rational and non-rational agents (eg. noise traders).

Aasmund Egge
Comments (Egge's comments on the review- In Norwegian)
Melberg's reply to Egge's comments
Interpreting History (Melberg's review of Egge's book)

Lee Altenberg (
About Evolution or Creationism: Does science and religion compete in the same arena?
The difference between the sexes began as anisogamy i.e. not-the same-seeds. There was an advantage in producing more but smaller haploid cells that would get a free ride on the material in the bigger haploid cells. In other words, isogamy was evolutionarily unstable. A gene that produced the right perturbation toward a smaller but more numerous haploid (which then became known as male) was able to spread in the population. Once it got to a frequency of 50%, it is stable---with exceptions that are detailed in the theory of sex ratio. Of course, once there were two sexes with different reproductive strategies, all manner of fun and games is possible.

Also thanks to:
- Steven J. Blatt for long and useful comments on Non-utopian utopians? John Roemer's Coupon System.

- O. J. Roegeberg for pointing out that firms may actively seek "voice" information, so that Hirschman's argument in favour of monopolies may be partially misguided (See Five ideas.

- Daniel Ust for comments on a stimulating discussion on Four distinctive aspects of Soviet and Russian Military Thinking

- Gaute Torsvik for telling me to go "deeper!"