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.
James A Robinson, Ragnar Torvik, Thierry Verdier, Monday, July 27, 2015
Nauro F. Campos, Fabrizio Coricelli, Friday, July 17, 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, Sunday, April 19, 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, Saturday, September 6, 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, Thursday, September 4, 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, Saturday, June 7, 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, Sunday, July 1, 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, Tuesday, January 3, 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., Thursday, September 1, 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, Saturday, June 4, 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, Friday, May 16, 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, Monday, March 10, 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.