Daniel Altman

Epic Soccer-Like Battles of History

Here's our martial World Cup wrap-up -- where the beautiful game is just war by other means.

In his classic book on English soccer hooligans, Among the Thugs, the author Bill Buford suggested that violence among English soccer fans in the 1980s had its roots in a displaced and unsatisfied need for mass conflict. A people who had for centuries fought wars among themselves, with neighbors and in the far corners of the globe, found in hooliganism a new source for the adrenaline generated by being part of a violent mob. That may also be true, but sometimes the parallels with war originate with what happens on the field. 

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Swimming in Money

Income inequality matters less than wealth inequality, so why is everyone still talking about taxing your salary?

For the first time in decades, economies around the world are having serious debates about inequality. The recent wave of opportunity created by globalization and technological change has reduced inequality between countries, but it has also increased inequality within many of them. This can have serious costs for society, so it's a shame that most of the debate is focused on the wrong kind of disparity.

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The GNOE’s Last Hurrah

Surprise -- there are limits to how well politics and economics can predict World Cup matches.

We gave it our best shot. Our Greatest Nation On Earth predictor for the World Cup in Brazil had some early successes, but the knockout rounds were rough sledding. A country's ability to take care of its citizens and provide an attractive environment for investment may not be the ultimate determinant of its soccer prowess. But we're not going to give up on the GNOE yet, since it may yet come up with the biggest winner of all.

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What Happened to Picardía?

Argentina has made it to the semifinals of the World Cup without its usual tricks.

Let me start by telling a true story. A couple of weeks ago, in the early days of this World Cup, I went to an Argentine restaurant in New York to watch a match involving Argentina's national team. Though I arrived an hour early, the line was already snaking out the door and down the block. Men and women were wearing Argentine jerseys, everyone was speaking unmistakably Argentine Spanish, and the mood was festive. But the line didn't move.

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It’s All Fun and Games Until Someone Loses a Vertebra

Neymar’s injury shows what happens when soccer enters a bad equilibrium.

It has not been the best week at the World Cup, especially for American fans. Striker Jozy Altidore failed to take the field for the United States, which lacked a spearpoint to its attack in its heartbreaking loss to Belgium. Meanwhile, after a goal glut in the group stage, the scoring taps have almost run dry. And worst of all, the tournament's poster boy has been knocked out by injury. All of these unfortunate events can be explained using game theory -- and at least one of them could have been avoided. Here's how.

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