Politics and economics

Roberto Bonfatti, Steven Poelhekke, 03 December 2020

Africa’s interior-to-coast roads are well placed to export natural resources, but not to support regional trade. Are they the optimal response to geography and comparative advantage, or the result of suboptimal political distortions? This column investigates the political determinants of road paving in West Africa in 1965–2014. Autocracies focused more than democracies on connecting metal and mineral deposits to ports, resulting in more interior-to-coast networks. This deposit-to-port bias was only present for deposits located on the elite’s ethnic homeland, suggesting that Africa’s interior-to-coast roads were the result of ethnic favouritism by autocracies.

Juan Felipe Riaño, Felipe Valencia Caicedo, 29 November 2020

Studies of the short-term impact that armed conflicts have on economic development abound, but there is little consensus about their long-term legacy. This column evaluates the enduring effects of the US government’s ‘Secret War’ in Laos, waged from 1964 to 1975. As a result of the intense bombing campaign, Laos is now severely contaminated with unexploded ordnance, which has impaired Laotians’ health, education, and migration choices. These factors have in turn hindered the structural transformation and economic growth of the country, which remains one of the world’s poorest. ro come

James Snyder, Hasin Yousaf, 28 November 2020

Holding large rallies is an especially important campaign activity for many populist leaders, including for Donald Trump during the 2016 US presidential race. This column studies the effect of campaign rallies held by Democratic and Republican US presidential candidates since 2008, including Donald Trump. It explores the effect of rallies on citizens’ preferences over candidates, policy issues, and their intention to vote. Populist leaders may be particularly effective in gaining support via their campaign rallies, at least temporarily. Populist leaders’ success may depend on connecting with voters via rallies.

Guido de Blasio, Alessio D'Ignazio, Marco Letta, 27 November 2020

The use of artificial intelligence in preventing crime is gaining increasing interest in research and policymaking circles. This column discusses how machine learning can be leveraged to predict local corruption in Italy. It highlights how such algorithmic predictions could be employed in the service of anti-corruption efforts, while preserving transparency and accountability of the decisions taken by the policymaker.

Maja Adena, Ruben Enikolopov, Maria Petrova, Hans-Joachim Voth, 19 November 2020

In conflicts, adversaries aim for victory by using both direct and indirect forces to break the enemy’s will to resist. During WWII, Allied forces used strategic bombing and radio propaganda to undermine German morale. This column compares German domestic resistance to the Nazi regime, based on treason trial records, with the monthly volume of bombing and the locations of BBC radio transmitters. Where radio reception was better and Allied air forces bombed more heavily, German domestic resistance was markedly more likely, despite the draconian punishments for even the mildest transgressions.

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