Productivity and Innovation

Avner Offer, 19 September 2014

Victory in World War I relied on three types of energy: renewable energy for food and fodder, fossil energy, and high explosive. This column argues that the Allies had a clear advantage in manpower, coal, and agriculture, but not enough for a quick decision. Mobilisation in continental economies curtailed food production, occasionally to a critical level. Technical competition was a matter of capacity for innovation, not of particular breakthroughs. Coercive military service and rationing of scarce energy and food had egalitarian consequences that continued after the war.

Daron Acemoglu, Matthew O. Jackson, 19 September 2014

Social norms shape interactions but can be in conflict with new laws, often making such laws ineffective. This column presents new research on the interplay of laws and norms. High law-breaking induces less private cooperation, increasing the law-breaking further. For a successful change in behaviour, gradual imposition of new laws is recommended. An important aspect is that these new laws should not be in a strong conflict with the existing norms. 

Lee Branstetter, Francesco Lima, Lowell Taylor, Ana Venâncio, 18 September 2014

Business groups and their political allies advocate deregulation as a pathway to faster growth, pointing to a strong negative relationship between regulatory barriers to entry and economic performance. This column argues that cross-sectional estimates have oversold the strength of this relationship and its implications for policy. Quasi-experimental evidence from a Portuguese policy reform shows that deregulation matters, but its impact is limited – it is not the panacea that pundits proclaim it to be.

Mercedes Delgado, Christian Ketels, Michael Porter, Scott Stern, 18 September 2014

There is a consensus among economists that ‘deep roots’ – geography, natural endowments, and institutions – are important determinants of prosperity differences across countries. This column argues that deep roots matter, but they are neither the whole story nor an excuse for political inaction today. Current policies are important – especially the broad range of policies that shape the business environment and the sophistication of companies – and they are affected but not determined by the past.

Andy Atkeson, Andrea Eisfeldt, Pierre-Olivier Weill, 17 September 2014

Entry and trading in over-the-counter (OTC) derivatives markets have received considerable attention. However, many critical questions remain unaddressed. This column describes a formal study of banks’ incentives to enter and trade in OTC derivatives markets. In equilibrium, only large banks enter to become dealers, and middle-sized banks only enter as customers. Care should be given not to reduce rents so much when dealer participation costs are high.

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