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  • Author: Trevon Logan, Peter Temin
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET)
  • Abstract: This paper records the path by which African Americans were transformed from enslaved persons in the American economy to partial participants in the progress of the economy. The path was not monotonic, and we organize our tale by periods in which inclusiveness rose and fell. The history we recount demonstrates the staying power of the myth of black inferiority held by a changing white majority as the economy expanded dramatically. Slavery was outlawed after the Civil War, and blacks began to participate in American politics en masse for the first time during Reconstruction. This process met with white resistance, and black inclusion in the growing economy fell as the Gilded Age followed and white political will for black political participation faded. The Second World War also was followed by prosperity in which blacks were included more fully into the white economy, but still not completely. The Civil Rights Movement proved no more durable than Reconstruction, and blacks lost ground as the 20th century ended in the growth of a New Gilded Age. Resources that could be used to improve the welfare of whites and blacks continue to be spent on the continued repressions of blacks.
  • Topic: Economics, Race, History, Capitalism, Slavery
  • Political Geography: United States, Global Focus
  • Author: Tarek A. Hassan, Laurence van Lent, Stephan Hollander, Ahmed Tahoun
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET)
  • Abstract: Using tools from computational linguistics, we construct new measures of the impact of Brexit on listed firms in the United States and around the world: the share of discussions in quarterly earnings conference calls on costs, benefits, and risks associated with the UK’s intention to leave the EU. Using this approach, we identify which firms expect to gain or lose from Brexit and which are most affected by Brexit uncertainty. We then estimate the effects of these different kinds of Brexit exposure on firm-level outcomes. We find that concerns about Brexit-related uncertainty extend far beyond British or even European firms. US and international firms most exposed to Brexit uncertainty have lost a substantial fraction of their market value and have reduced hiring and investment. In addition to Brexit uncertainty (the second moment), we find that international firms overwhelmingly expect negative direct effects of Brexit (the first moment), should it come to pass. Most prominently, firms expect difficulties resulting from regulatory divergence, reduced labor mobility, trade access, and the costs of adjusting their operations post-Brexit. Consistent with the predictions of canonical theory, this negative sentiment is recognized and priced in stock markets but has not yet had significant effects on firm actions.
  • Topic: Economics, Political Economy, Regional Cooperation, Brexit, Global Political Economy, Economic Policy
  • Political Geography: Britain, United States, United Kingdom, Europe, European Union
  • Author: Joseph Halevi
  • Publication Date: 06-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET)
  • Abstract: This paper analyzes the early stages of the formation of the Common Market. The period covered runs from the end of WW2 to 1959, which is the year in which the European Payments Union ceased to operate. The essay begins by highlighting the differences between the prewar political economy of Europe and the new dimensions and institutions brought in by the United States after 1945. It focuses on the marginalization of Britain and on the relaunching of French great power ambitions and how the latter determined, in a very problematical way, the European complexion of France. Because of France’s imperial aspirations, France, not West Germany, emerged as the politically crisis prone country of Europe acting as a factor of instability thereby jeopardizing the process of European integration, Among the large European nations, Germany and Italy appear, for opposite economic reasons, as the countries most focused on furthering integration. Germany expressed the strongest form of neomercantilism while Italy the weakest.
  • Topic: Economics, Political Economy, Global Political Economy, World War II, Common Market
  • Political Geography: United States, Europe, Germany, Global Focus
  • Author: Joseph Halevi
  • Publication Date: 11-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET)
  • Abstract: This essay deals with the contradictory dynamics that engulfed Europe from 1959 to 1979, the year of the launching of the European Monetary System. It focuses on how the macroeconomic frame- work of stop-go policies in the 1960s ended up privileging external – intra-European - exports at the expense of domestic demand. The paper offers a very tentative explanation as to why stop-go policies, by weakening domestic demand, did not put an end to the to the ‘long boom’ earlier as they should have. The French crisis of 1968-69 leading to the demise of De Gaulle is discussed at length, as is the renewal of the German export drive in the wake of a nominal revaluation of the D-Mark in 1969. Finally, the revival of labor struggles in Italy in the same year is put in the context of the structural weaknesses of the Italian economy as analyzed by the late Marcello de Cecco. The conclusion is that European countries had neither the political culture nor the institutional mechanisms to coordinate mutually advantageous policies. Their so-called cooperation was an exercise in establishing hegemony while defending the interests specific to the dominant economic groups of each country. The essay then deals with the formation of the EMS as an expression of efforts to establish and enforce economic dominance.
  • Topic: Economics, Markets, History, Monetary Policy, Capitalism, Common Market, Macroeconomics
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Author: Joseph Halevi
  • Publication Date: 11-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET)
  • Abstract: The paper highlights the position of German authorities, showing that they were quite lucid about the fundamental weaknesses inherent in a process that separated monetary from fiscal policies by giving priority to the centralization of the former. Instead of repeating the well known critiques levelled against the EMU – for which readers are referred to the unsurpassed treatment by Stiglitz, the essay highlights the splintering of Europe in the way in which it has unfolded during the 1990s and in the first decade of the present millennium. In particular the early economic and political origins of the terminal crisis of Italy are located between the late 1980s and the 1990s. France is shown to belong increasingly to the so-called European periphery by virtue of a weakening industrial structure and persistent balance of payments deficits. The paper argues that France regains its central role by political means and through its weight as an active nuclear military power centered on maintaining its imperial interests and posture especially in Africa. The first decade of the present millennium is portrayed as the period in which a distinct German economic area had been formed in the midst of Europe with a strong drive to the east with an increasingly powerful gravitational pull towards the People’s Republic of China.
  • Topic: Economics, International Political Economy, Political Economy, History, Macroeconomics
  • Political Geography: Africa, China, Europe, Asia, Germany, Global Focus
  • Author: Lance Taylor
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET)
  • Abstract: Expansionary macroeconomic policy with a strong redistributive component is an attractive proposition, most recently launched on the basis of Modern Monetary Theory or MMT. The Theory is a synthesis of familiar ideas, newly relevant but scarcely path-breaking. Its basics – Chartalist or fiat money, functional finance, and models based on consistent national accounting – come straight from Maynard Keynes, Abba Lerner, and Wynne Godley. Functional finance is the heart of fiscalist Keynesianism built upon automatic stabilizers for the business cycle. MMT’s job guarantee proposal is one more stabilizer which could be a modest helpful supplement to the system which exists. National accounting comparisons of a possible MMT package with the 2008 crash and the Trump tax cut are presented with emphasis on autonomous shifts in demand. The package could have problems with debt sustainability and external balance. Inflation is unlikely if wage repression in the USA is not reversed. But strong wage increases are presumably a goal of MMT.
  • Topic: Economics, Monetary Policy, Finance, Economic Theory, Macroeconomics, Money
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Catherine Ruetschli, Mark Glick
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET)
  • Abstract: The Big Tech companies, including Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft and Apple, have individually and collectively engaged in an unprecedented number of acquisitions.When a dominant firm purchases a start-up that could be a future entrant and thereby increase competitive rivalry, it raises a potential competition issue. Unfortunately, the antitrust law of potential competition mergers is ill-equipped to address tech mergers. We contend that the Chicago School’s assumptions and policy prescriptions hobbled antitrust law and policy on potential competition mergers. We illustrate this problem with the example of Facebook. Facebook has engaged in 90 completed acquisitions in its short history (documented in the Appendix to this paper). Many antitrust commentators have focused on the Instagram and WhatsApp acquisitions as cases of mergers that have reduced potential competition. We show the impotence of the potential competition doctrine applied to these two acquisitions. We suggest that the remedy for Chicago School damage to the potential competition doctrine is a return to an empirically tractable structural approach to potential competition mergers.
  • Topic: Economics, Science and Technology, Communications, Law, Digital Economy, Macroeconomics, Monopoly, Antitrust Law
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Mark Glick
  • Publication Date: 07-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET)
  • Abstract: Since the publication of Robert Bork’s The Antitrust Paradox, lawyers, judges, and many economists have defended “Consumer welfare” (CW) as a standard for decisions about antitrust goals and enforcement priorities. This paper argues that the CW is actually an empty concept and is an inappropriate goal for antitrust. Welfare economists concede that there is no credible measurable link between price and output and human well-being. This means that the concept of CW does not legitimate limited antitrust enforcement, nor does it justify the exclusion of other antitrust goals that require more active enforcement practices. This paper contends that antitrust policy is not welfare based at all, and that if it were, antitrust policy and enforcement would differ significantly from the Chicago School vision. Without the fiction that economists can establish that in the short run lower price and higher output measurably increases welfare more than other goals, recent defenses of the CW standard resolve down to arguments based on unsupported assumptions.
  • Topic: Economics, Law, Legal Theory , Economic Theory, Macroeconomics, Antitrust Law, Microeconomics
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Publication Date: 07-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET)
  • Abstract: We validate our measure by showing it correctly identifies calls containing extensive conversations on risks that are political in nature, that it varies intuitively over time and across sectors, and that it correlates with the firm’s actions and stock market volatility in a manner that is highly indicative of political risk. Firms exposed to political risk retrench hiring and investment and actively lobby and donate to politicians. These results continue to hold after controlling for news about the mean (as opposed to the variance) of political shocks. Interestingly, the vast majority of the variation in our measure is at the firm level rather than at the aggregate or sector level, in the sense that it is neither captured by the interaction of sector and time fixed effects, nor by heterogeneous exposure of individual firms to aggregate political risk. The dispersion of this firm-level political risk increases significantly at times with high aggregate political risk. Decomposing our measure of political risk by topic, we find that firms that devote more time to discussing risks associated with a given political topic tend to increase lobbying on that topic, but not on other topics, in the following quarter.
  • Topic: Economics, Economy, Business , Risk
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Christian Breuer
  • Publication Date: 07-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET)
  • Abstract: In this paper we methodologically review and criticize a broad literature of empirical work on the effects of fiscal policy (the ‘conventional approach’). Beyond previous critiques of this approach, we show that the cyclical adjustment strategy as used in this literature entails erroneous assumptions that necessarily produce flawed results in support of expansionary austerity. Specifically, the cyclically-adjusted primary balance (CAPB) strategy this literature employs fails to correct for cyclical effects in the expenditure- GDP-ratio, so that the estimates of the results of expansionary fiscal consolidation are affected by reverse causality, i.e. increasing GDP causally decreases expenditure-GDP- ratios, rather than vice versa. We provide suggestions on how to fix this incomplete cyclical adjustment problem with a new approach. After replicating two famous articles of the conventional literature and controlling for this bias, the expansionary effects of fiscal adjustments disappear or turn into their opposite
  • Topic: Economics, Macroeconomics, Fiscal Policy
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Maxim Ananyev, Michael Poyker
  • Publication Date: 06-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET)
  • Abstract: We demonstrate that civil conflict erodes self-identification with a nation-state even among non- rebellious ethnic groups in non-conflict areas. We perform a difference-in-difference estimation using Afrobarometer data. Using the onset of Tuareg-led insurgency in Mali caused by the demise of the Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi as an exogenous shock to state capacity, we find that residents living closer to the border with the conflict zone experienced a larger decrease in national identification. The effect was greater on people who were more exposed to local media. We hypothesize about the mechanism and show that civil conflict erodes national identity through the peoples’ perception of a state weakness.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, State Formation, State Actors, State, Institutions
  • Political Geography: Africa, Libya, Mali
  • Publication Date: 05-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET)
  • Abstract: Finance and the macroeconomy, both policy and industry practices as well as academic research, have evolved substantially in recent years. While the old questions of business cycles, macroeconomic management, financial regulation, and social protection are still being debated, we are now confronted with new developments in the economy, characterized by digital technology, new modes of production and business models, and changing employment relations. Macroeconomics and finance need urgent rethinking as the global economy transforms. Our gathering on March 5, 2019 brought together economists, policymakers, financial regulators, and industry practitioners from around the world. We heard diverse perspectives on multilateralism, pension and labor market reform, international trade, and risks in the world economy, and we grappled with issues on stagnant wages, public debt, fiscal and monetary policy, and banking reforms. Our discussion was by no means exhaustive or conclusive, but we attempted to harness the group’s collective wisdom to address some of the most prominent questions of our day. This document is intended to inform our commissioners as they develop CGET’s final report and to share our timely conversation with policymakers and the general public. Fomenting multidisciplinary, critical discourse is one of the most important responsibilities of this initiative, and we sincerely thank the staff at the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET), our dedicated Commissioners, and our outside experts for helping us to promote this dialogue.
  • Topic: Economics, Industrial Policy, Regulation, Digital Economy, Economic Theory, Macroeconomics
  • Political Geography: United States, Global Focus
  • Author: Claudia Fontanari, Antonella Palumbo, Chiara Salvatori
  • Publication Date: 05-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET)
  • Abstract: This paper challenges the mainstream view of potential output, and enquires into the supposed effects of Great Recession on potential growth. We identify in the demand-led growth perspective a more promising theoretical framework both to define the notion and to gauge the long-term effects of a demand slow down. Based on the poor reliability of standard estimates of potential output, we also propose an alternative calculation. This is based on an update of Arthur M. Okun’s original method for estimating potential output, which, differently from the estimation methods currently in use, does not rely on the notion of NAIRU, thus being immune to its theoretical and empirical shortcomings. Our calculation, based on a re-estimation of Okun’s Law on US quarterly data, shows both how far an economy generally operates from its production possibilities, and how much potential growth is affected by the actual growth of demand over time. These wide margins for expansion of actual and potential output growth imply that a determined policy of demand expansion would create, given time, the very capacity that justifies it.
  • Topic: Economics, Global Recession, Economic growth, Macroeconomics, Demand
  • Political Geography: United States, Global Focus
  • Publication Date: 04-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET)
  • Abstract: Technology has become the most powerful disruptive force in our economy. It bears on the future of work, competition, market power, and national security, and it binds the other major areas of our commission’s investigation: macroeconomics and finance, globalization, and climate change. In essence, technological progress propels global economic transformation. Our gathering on February 6, 2019 brought economists together with leading voices from academia, labor, private industry, and the nonprofit/NGO sector. We heard from industry leaders with deep roots and history in the Silicon Valley technology revolution, academics who have also spent time in the policy arena, and from individuals who are already considering new models and approaches to digital rights and the future of work. Our discussion was by no means exhaustive or conclusive, but we attempted to harness the group’s collective wisdom to address some of the most vexing questions of our day. This document is intended to inform our commissioners as they develop CGET’s final report and to share our timely conversation with policymakers and the general public. Fomenting multidisciplinary, critical discourse is one of the most important responsibilities of this initiative, and we sincerely thank the staff at the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET), our dedicated commissioners, and our outside thought leaders for helping us to promote this dialogue.
  • Topic: Economics, Science and Technology, Global Markets, Digital Economy, Global Political Economy, Macroeconomics
  • Political Geography: United States, Global Focus
  • Author: Servaas Storm
  • Publication Date: 04-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET)
  • Abstract: Using macroeconomic data for 1960-2018, this paper analyzes the origins of the crisis of the ‘post-Maastricht Treaty order of Italian capitalism’. After 1992, Italy did more than most other Eurozone members to satisfy EMU conditions in terms of self-imposed fiscal consolidation, structural reform and real wage restraint—and the country was undeniably successful in bringing down inflation, moderating wages, running primary fiscal surpluses, reducing unemployment and raising the profit share. But its adherence to the EMU rulebook asphyxiated Italy’s domestic demand and exports—and resulted not just in economic stagnation and a generalized productivity slowdown, but in relative and absolute decline in many major dimensions of economic activity. Italy’s chronic shortage of demand has clear sources: (a) perpetual fiscal austerity; (b) permanent real wage restraint; and (c) a lack of technological competitiveness which, in combination with an overvalued euro, weakens the ability of Italian firms to maintain their global market shares in the face of increasing competition of low-wage countries. These three causes lower capacity utilization, reduce firm profitability and hurt investment, innovation and diversification. The EMU rulebook thus locks the Italian economy into economic decline and impoverishment. The analysis points to the need to end austerity and devise public investment and industrial policies to improve Italy’s ‘technological competitiveness’ and stop the structural divergence between the Italian economy and France/Germany. The issue is not just to revive demand in the short run (which is easy), but to create a self-reinforcing process of investment-led and innovation-driven process of long-run growth (which is difficult).
  • Topic: Economics, Capitalism, Global Political Economy, Macroeconomics, Eurozone
  • Political Geography: Europe, Italy
  • Author: Michael Poyker
  • Publication Date: 03-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET)
  • Abstract: I study the economic externalities of convict labor on local labor markets and firms. Using newly collected panel data on U.S. prisons and convict-labor camps from 1886 to 1940, I calculate each county’s exposure to prisons. I exploit quasi-random variation in county’s exposure to capacities of pre-convict-labor prisons as an instrument. I find that competition from cheap prison-made goods led to higher unemployment, lower labor-force participation, and reduced wages (particularly for women) in counties that housed competing manufacturing industries. The introduction of convict labor accounts for 0.5 percentage-point slower annual growth in manufacturing wages during 1880– 1900. At the same time, affected industries had to innovate away from the competition and thus had higher patenting rates. I also document that technological changes in affected industries were capital-biased.
  • Topic: Economics, Political Economy, Labor Issues, Capitalism, Domestic politics, Macroeconomics, Mass Incarceration, Manufacturing
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Roman Frydman, Søren Johansen, Anders Rahbek, Morten Tabor
  • Publication Date: 03-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET)
  • Abstract: This paper introduces the Knightian Uncertainty Hypothesis (KUH), a new approach to macroeconomics and finance theory. KUH rests on a novel mathematical framework that characterizes both measurable and Knightian uncertainty about economic outcomes. Relying on this framework and John Muth’s pathbreaking hypothesis, KUH represents participants’ forecasts to be consistent with both uncertainties. KUH thus enables models of aggregate outcomes that 1) are premised on market participants’ rationality, and 2) yet accord a role to both fundamental and psychological (and other non-fundamental) factors in driving outcomes. The paper also suggests how a KUH model’s quantitative predictions can be confronted with time-series data.
  • Topic: Economics, Markets, Economic Theory, Macroeconomics, Mathematics
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Shannon Monnat
  • Publication Date: 02-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET)
  • Abstract: Over the past two decades deaths from opioids and other drugs have grown to be a major U.S. population health problem, but the magnitude of the crisis varies across the U.S., and explanations for widespread geographic variation in the severity of the drug crisis are limited. An emerging debate is whether geographic differences in drug mortality rates are driven mostly by opioid supply factors or socioeconomic distress. To explore this topic, I examined relationships between county-level non-Hispanic white drug mortality rates for 2000-02 and 2014-16 and several socioeconomic and opioid supply measures across the urban-rural continuum and within different rural labor markets. Net of county demographic composition, average non-Hispanic white drug mortality rates are highest and increased the most in large metro counties. In 2014-16, the most rural counties had an average of 6.2 fewer deaths per 100,000 population than large metro counties. Economic distress, family distress, persistent population loss, and opioid supply factors (exposure to prescription opioids and fentanyl) are all associated with significantly higher drug mortality rates. However, the magnitude of associations varies across the urban-rural continuum and across different types of rural labor markets. In rural counties, economic distress appears to be a stronger predictor than opioid supply measures of drug mortality rates, but in urban counties, opioid supply factors are more strongly associated with drug mortality rates than is economic distress. Ultimately, the highest drug mortality rates are disproportionately concentrated in economically distressed mining and service sector dependent counties with high exposure to prescription opioids and fentanyl.
  • Topic: Economics, Health, Inequality, Macroeconomics, Drugs
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Servaas Storm
  • Publication Date: 02-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET)
  • Abstract: Strong labor protections for ordinary workers are often portrayed as a ‘luxury developing countries cannot afford’. No study has been more influential in propagating this perversity trope in the context of the Indian economy than the QJE article of Besley and Burgess (2004). Their article provides econometric evidence that pro-worker regulation resulted in lower output, employment, investment and productivity in India’s registered manufacturing sector. This paper reviews existing critiques of Besley and Burgess (2004), which highlight conceptual and measurement errors and uncover econometric weaknesses. The paper takes a step beyond these: it reports a failure to replicate Besley and Burgess’ findings and demonstrate the nonrobustness of their results. My deconstruction is not only about the econometrics, however. I show that Besley and Burgess’ findings are not just inconsistent with their theoretical priors, but also internally contradictory and empirically implausible, taxing any person’s capacity for belief. The paper, written by two ‘useful economists’, exhibits a gratuitous empiricism in which priors trump evidence. On all counts, it fails the test of being useful to the purpose of ‘evidence-based’ public policy advice.mp Evidence and Progress Gets Stalled
  • Topic: Economics, Political Economy, Labor Issues, Inequality, Labor Policies
  • Political Geography: India, Asia
  • Author: Enrico Sergio Levrero
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET)
  • Abstract: After briefly mentioning the determinants of the natural rate of interest in the New Keynesian models, the paper discusses the different notions of it that we find in these models and the problems encountered when the natural rate is estimated. It states that these problems are not only related to the difficulties in distinguishing the kind and persistency of economic shocks, but pertain to theory, namely to model specification and the alleged independence of the average or normal interest rate from monetary policy. Following Keynes’s suggestion regarding the monetary nature of interest rates, some final remarks will thus be advanced on their effects on prices and income distribution as well as on the objectives and stance of monetary policies.
  • Topic: Economics, Monetary Policy, Income Inequality, Macroeconomics, Keynes
  • Political Geography: United States, Global Focus