Politics and economics

[field_auth], 26 July 2016

While cases of state failure have risen in the last decade, most notably in the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa, they are not a new phenomenon. Historical evidence from the early modern period, and even the Bronze Age, shows that the majority of formed states have failed rather than thrived. This column introduces the ‘paradox of civilisation’ to characterise the obstacles settlements face in establishing civilisations. The paradox defines the success of a civilisation as a trade-off between the ability to produce economic surplus and to protect it. It is therefore important to correctly balance military and economic support when providing aid.

[field_auth], 22 July 2016

Despite Narendra Modi’s successful leadership as chief minister of Gujarat, some question his ability to achieve the same progress at the national level as India’s prime minister. This column analyses Modi’s political background and state- and national-level experience to assess his capacity to navigate India through a politically and economically important time towards its goal of becoming a prosperous economy. It finds that while Modi can lean on his Gujarati experience to some extent, in other aspects he will have to depart from his incremental approach to policymaking in favour of radical changes, particularly in the area of employment maximisation. 

[field_auth], 21 July 2016

Ethnic favouritism is widely regarded as an African phenomenon, or at most a problem of poor and weakly institutionalised countries. This column uses data on night-time light intensity to challenge these preconceptions. Ethnic favouritism is found to be as prevalent outside of Africa as it is within, and not restricted to poor or autocratic nations either. Rather, re-election concerns appear to be an important driver of the practice.

[field_auth], 14 July 2016

It is typically argued that the rising popularity of Islamist parties in parts of the Arab world reflects votes from the poor and disenfranchised. This column challenges this perspective, arguing that Islamist parties gain political support from the middle classes, due in large part to neoliberal economic policies. Using survey and electoral data from Tunisia, it shows that belonging to the middle class and living in a rich district together affect the decision to vote for the religious party more than actually being religious. These findings suggest that the same framework used to analyse political competition in the West can be fruitfully applied to the Muslim world. 

[field_auth], 09 July 2016

As US states amass control of business through public pension funds, important questions about potential agency conflicts are raised. This column uses a landmark ruling, which in effect created a new channel of corporate political activism, to investigate this agency conflict. Firms with high institutional ownership have seen lower returns following the ruling. The findings suggest that political connections are an important mechanism of political activism by corporations with state public pension fund ownership.

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