Politics and economics

James A Robinson, Ragnar Torvik, Thierry Verdier, 27 July 2015

Economists have long understood that policy chosen by politics is unlikely to be socially optimal. This is because politicians face the probability of losing power and may discount the future too much, or act to improve their re-election probability. This column explores these issues taking into account the fact that future government revenue is uncertain. Public income volatility acts to reduce the efficiency of public policy. This has important implications for developing countries that rely on income from volatile sources, such as natural resource extraction.

Igal Hendel, Saul Lach, Yossi Spiegel, 19 June 2015

It is well-documented that social media is an enabler of mass protests. Social media-led protests and how they interact with the economy are, however, less well-understood. This column focusses on boycotts of cottage cheese (a staple food) in Israel as a protest against increased prices and finds that firms seem to react to these threats and set prices not only on the basis of demand elasticities, as traditional analysis in industrial organisation assumes, but also on the basis of the business environment – something which is not easily captured by traditional analysis.

Paola Conconi, David DeRemer, Georg Kirchsteiger, Lorenzo Trimarchi, Maurizio Zanardi, 16 June 2015

Economic cycles patently influence politics. This column explores an unexplored avenue of political economy research by assessing whether US politicians file international trade disputes to win votes. It turns out they do. This means that disputes might be brought earlier or later than they otherwise would – potentially costing lots more than they should – and that violations in industries that are deemed unimportant by electioneering politicians go unpunished.

Jeffrey Chwieroth, Cohen R. Simpson, Andrew Walter, 01 June 2015

Many fear that a Greek default would lead voters elsewhere in Europe to favour default over austerity. This column argues that it is more likely to have the opposite effect. Network interdependencies among countries affect the domestic politics of default because defaults are both rare and vivid. Foreign default increases the propensity for voters to punish their governments for failing to repay external private creditors. 

Yuriy Gorodnichenko, Gérard Roland, 14 May 2015

Social science studies usually explain democratisation of countries with the increase in incomes. In contrast, this column argues that culture is a neglected but important determinant of democracy. The findings show that countries with individualist culture democratise earlier than collectivist cultures that may remain stuck for a long time with relatively efficient autocracies.

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