Institutions and economics

Antonio Ciccone, Adilzhan Ismailov, 17 May 2020

Persistence of democratisation following transitory economic shocks plays an important role in the theory of political institutions. This column tests the theory of democratic tipping points using rainfall shocks in the world’s most agricultural countries since 1946. Negative rainfall shocks have a strong and transitory effect on agricultural output, but a persistent positive effect on the probability of democratisation even after ten years. These findings suggest that even if it were short-lived, the COVID-19 crisis is likely to tip the scales against some authoritarian regimes and lead to persistent democratisation.

Tobias Krahnke, 14 April 2020

Fears of a next wave of emerging market debt crises recently sparked a renewed debate about the adequacy of IMF resources and its toolkit. This column argues that the issue is not whether the IMF has sufficient resources for large-scale financial assistance to all of its members in need, but that such assistance would ultimately be counterproductive and could, in fact, exacerbate the risk of liquidity crises morphing into solvency crises. One of the reasons is that large-scale IMF financial assistance coupled with the IMF’s preferred creditor status can lead to a crowding-out of private investors by increasing their expected loss in the event of default. This underlines the need for all elements of the international monetary and financial system to assume their full responsibility, including the private sector.

Richard Baldwin, Beatrice Weder di Mauro, 06 March 2020

The novel coronavirus is both something old and something new. As usual, the pandemic is both an aggregate demand and an aggregate supply shock, but the fact that it has hit China first and hardest, and the supply chain implications of this, make it something new. This column introduces a new Vox eBook containing 14 essays written by leading economists on a wide array of topics related to COVID-19 economics.

António Henriques, Nuno Palma, 10 December 2019

The decline of countries such as Castile and Portugal, which first benefited from access to the New World, relative to their followers, especially England and the Netherlands, is often attributed to the quality of the Iberian countries’ institutions at the time Atlantic trade opened. This column questions this narrative by comparing Iberian and English institutional quality over time, considering the frequency and nature of parliamentary meetings, the frequency and intensity of extraordinary taxation and coin debasement, and real interest spreads for public debt. It finds no evidence that the political institutions of Iberia were worse until at least 1650.

Andrés Rodríguez-Pose, Tobias Ketterer, 18 November 2019

Institutions are an important ingredient for economic growth. Using data from European regions for the period 1999-2013, this column shows that government quality matters for regional growth, and that relative improvements in the quality of government are a powerful driver of development. One-size-fits-all policies for lagging regions are not the solution. Government quality improvements are essential for low-growth regions, and in low-income regions, basic endowment shortages are still the main barrier to development. 

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