The internet is lauded for increasing access to information, but it is unclear whether this translates into a better-informed and more engaged voting populace. This column uses UK data to determine how the internet has changed voting patterns and aggregate policy choices. Internet penetration is found to be associated with a decrease in voter turnout, mainly among the lower socioeconomic demographic. Internet diffusion is also found to reduce local government expenditure, in particular on policies targeting less-educated voters. These findings point to a trade-off between the ‘digital divide’ and the ‘political divide’.
Alessandro Gavazza, Mattia Nardotto, Tommaso Valletti, 31 January 2016
Alessandra Bonfiglioli, Gino Gancia, 19 December 2015
The Great Recession highlighted the prominent role that economic uncertainty plays in hindering investment and growth. This column provides new evidence that economic uncertainty can actually play a positive role by promoting the implementation of structural reforms with long-run benefits. The effect appears to be strongest for countries with poorly informed voters. These findings suggest that times of uncertainty may present an opportunity to implement reforms that would otherwise not be passed.
Jiangtao Fu, Daichi Shimamoto, Yasuyuki Todo, 01 December 2015
It has been widely argued that firms obtain loans with relaxed terms if they are politically connected. This column presents evidence from Indonesia that firms whose owners or directors have a personal relationship with a politician are more likely to have their loans approved by state-owned banks, and are more likely to receive the full amount applied for. However, the labour productivity of such firms is on average lower. This suggests that in some cases, politically connected lending may distort the efficiency of resource allocation and be detrimental to economic development.
Manuel Funke, Moritz Schularick, Christoph Trebesch, 21 November 2015
Recent events in Europe provide ample evidence that the political aftershocks of financial crises can be severe. This column uses a new dataset that covers elections and crises in 20 advanced economies going back to 1870 to systematically study the political aftermath of financial crises. Far-right parties are the biggest beneficiaries of financial crises, while the fractionalisation of parliaments complicates post-crisis governance. These effects are not observed following normal recessions or severe non-financial macroeconomic shocks.
Jamal Ibrahim Haidar, Takeo Hoshi, 21 October 2015
The Abe administration has outlined a desire for Japan to rank among the top three OECD countries in the World Bank’s Doing Business ranking. This column uses the Doing Business ranking itself to identify potential reforms the country could pursue to improve its position. Several politically viable, non-judicial reforms could quickly and easily move Japan up in the ranking. The approach highlights how the Doing Business rankings can be used to inform policy reform discussions.
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.
Nauro F. Campos, Fabrizio Coricelli, 17 July 2015
Greece’s reluctance to implement ‘the structural reforms required for debt sustainability’ is a recurrent theme in the debate on the EZ Crisis. This column qualifies this conventional wisdom by reassessing the relationship between Greece and the EU over the past four decades. Although Greece has implemented structural reforms that were substantial enough to bring about a turning point in its relationship with the EU, these reforms have been overly localised, badly sequenced and implemented by short-sighted political elites. The role that structural reforms can play in solving the current crisis should not be overestimated.
Roland Bénabou, Davide Ticchi , Andrea Vindigni, 19 April 2015
History offers many examples of the recurring tensions between science and organized religion, but as part of the paper’s motivating evidence we also uncover a new fact: in both international and cross-state U.S. data, there is a significant and robust negative relationship between religiosity and patents per capita. Three long-term outcomes emerge. First, a "Secularization" or "Western-European" regime with declining religiosity, unimpeded science, a passive Church and high levels of taxes and transfers. Second, a "Theocratic" regime with knowledge stagnation, extreme religiosity with no modernization effort, and high public spending on religious public goods. In-between is a third, "American" regime that generally (not always) combines scientific progress and stable religiosity within a range where religious institutions engage in doctrinal adaptation.
Christoph Trebesch, Helios Herrera, Guillermo L. Ordoñez, 06 September 2014
Financial crises are often credit booms gone bust. This column argues that ‘political booms’, defined as an increase in government popularity, are also a good predictor of financial crises. The phenomenon of ‘political booms gone bust’ is, however, only observable in emerging markets. In these countries, politicians have more to gain from riding the popularity benefits of unsustainable booms.
Alan S. Blinder, Mark Watson, 04 September 2014
Since World War II, economic growth has been faster in the US under Democratic presidents than under Republican ones. This column documents that which party controls Congress does not matter for growth, that the Democratic growth advantage is concentrated in the first two years of a presidency, and that presidential party affiliation Granger-causes growth. Neither fiscal nor monetary policy can account for this gap. Instead, the factors that have explanatory promise are: shocks to oil prices, total factor productivity, European growth, and consumer expectations of future economic conditions.
Timothy J Hatton, 07 June 2014
In the recent European Parliament elections, right-wing populist parties made significant gains. Commentators have linked the rise of these parties to growing anti-immigration sentiment in the wake of the crisis. This column examines the extent to which public opinion has in fact shifted against immigration. Survey data shows that there was no Europe-wide surge in anti-immigration opinion between 2006 and 2010, although there was a marked change in Spain, Greece, and Ireland. This suggests that populist parties’ success cannot be attributed to anti-immigration sentiment alone.
Dani Rodrik, 01 July 2012
The design of international institutions is shaped by a fundamental trade-off; governance is pushed down with one hand and pulled up with the other. An intermediate outcome, a world divided into diverse polities, is the best that we can do.
Hans Gersbach, 03 January 2012
Incumbent politicians have a host of advantages in US elections; members of the US Congress are typically re-elected about 90% of the time. This column argues that such a head start can often be bad for the country, with leaders focusing on short-term populist policies rather than the greater good. It suggests raising the bar for incumbent candidates.
Riccardo Puglisi, James M. Snyder, Jr., 01 September 2011
Is the US media biased? According to a controversial new book, it is – and, perhaps surprisingly, to the left. This column takes a different analytical approach and argues that the press is actually much closer to the average voter’s sentiments than we might think. Might all these claims that the media is biased in one direction or the other be adding a whole new set of distortions?
Piergiuseppe Fortunato, Ugo Panizza, 04 June 2011
Is democracy the most efficient method to guarantee good governance? This column argues that democratic institutions work well only when the electorate is sufficiently educated.
Paul Sharp, 16 May 2008
Economic globalisation is a political phenomenon. This column presents new evidence on the Anglo-American wheat trade in the eighteenth century and explains how politics, war, and natural disasters thwarted economic integration.
Kevin Hjortshøj O’Rourke, Ronald Findlay, 10 March 2008
Globalisation is fundamentally political, not technological. This is the lesson from a new book tracing 1000 years of international trade history. Here the authors use lessons from the past to identify challenges for globalisation in the 21st century.