Politics and economics

Stefano Gagliarducci, Massimiliano Onorato, Francesco Sobbrio, Guido Tabellini, 22 April 2018

During WWII the BBC was actively engaged in fostering opposition to the German occupation throughout Europe. This column uses data on variations in radio signal strength during the war to analyse the role played by the BBC’s “Radio Londra” programme in civilian and partisan resistance against the Nazi-fascist regime. The findings suggest that BBC radio played a significant role in coordinating resistance activities against foreign occupation, but only a minor role in mobilising the civilian population against the fascist regime.

Rui Esteves, Gabriel Geisler Mesevage, 06 April 2018

The social costs of corruption in government have made policies to reduce it a priority. This column uses the example of the expansion of the British rail network in the 1840s to show that conflict-of-interest rules and transparency requirements are insufficient to prevent corruption. Faced with a major administrative reform to insulate the provision of public infrastructure from private interests, MPs traded votes to ensure their interests prevailed.

Ashoka Mody, 21 March 2018

Two European elections – in Germany on 24 September 2017 and Italy on 4 March 2018 – warn that the peoples of Europe are drifting apart. Much of the recent deepening of these divisions can be traced to Europe’s single currency, the euro. This column argues that the political divide in Europe may now be hard to roll back absent a shift in focus to national priorities that pay urgent attention to the needs of those being left behind.

Marcel Fafchamps, Ana Vaz, Pedro Vicente, 03 March 2018

Voter turnout is crucial in electing a politically representative government, but turnout depends on many social norms as well as the likelihood of casting a pivotal vote. This column uses evidence from a campaign to increase turnout in the 2009 elections in Mozambique to examine how peer effects impact both these channels. The results reveal positive peer effects on information and interest in politics, but negative effects on voter participation, perhaps due to voters becoming aware that their vote is less likely to matter as overall turnout increases.

Daron Acemoğlu, Giuseppe De Feo, Giacomo De Luca, 02 March 2018

The Mafia is often cited as one of the main reasons why Sicily has lagged behind the rest of Italy in economic and social development. This column describes how in an environment with weak state presence, the socialist threat of Peasant Fasci organisations at the end of the 19th century induced landholders, estate managers, and local politicians in Sicily to turn to the Mafia to resist and combat peasant demands. Within a few decades, the presence of the Mafia appears to have significantly reduced literacy, increased infant mortality, limited the provision of a variety of local public goods, and may also have significantly reduced local political competition.

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