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Political Economy

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Eight Long-Range Scenarios

This book presents eight varied scenarios of possible global futures, emphasizing the interconnectedness of three drivers of change: energy prices, economic growth, and geopolitics. Other published global future scenarios focus on only one of these factors, viewing, for example, economic growth as unaffected by energy prices or energy prices in isolation from geopolitical conditions. In this book, Evan Hillebrand and Stacy Closson offer a new approach to scenario construction that acknowledges the codependence of these key drivers and integrates qualitative analysis with a quantitative model.

The eight scenarios represent possible combinations of high or low energy prices, strong or weak economic growth, and global harmony or disharmony across three time periods: the 2010s, 2020 to 2040, and 2040 to 2050. The “Regional Mercantilism” scenario, for example, envisions high energy prices, weak economic growth, and global disharmony. To impose numerical consistency across scenarios, Hillebrand and Closson employ the International Futures (IFs) model developed by Barry Hughes. (Interested readers can download this interactive model to alter or build scenarios themselves.) Assessing the probability of each scenario, they conclude that increased U.S. energy supply and the sustainability of the Chinese growth miracle are the most significant drivers over the next forty years.

Experts, pundits, and politicians agree: public debt is hindering growth and increasing unemployment. Governments must reduce debt at all cost if they want to restore confidence and get back on a path to prosperity. Maurizio Lazzarato’s diagnosis, however, is completely different: under capitalism, debt is not primarily a question of budget and economic concerns but a political relation of subjection and enslavement. Debt has become infinite and unpayable. It disciplines populations, calls for structural reforms, justifies authoritarian crackdowns, and even legitimizes the suspension of democracy in favor of “technocratic governments” beholden to the interests of capital. The 2008 economic crisis only accelerated the establishment of a “new State capitalism,” which has carried out a massive confiscation of societies’ wealth through taxes. And who benefits? Finance capital. In a calamitous return to the situation before the two world wars, the entire process of accumulation is now governed by finance, which has absorbed sectors it once ignored, like higher education, and today is often identified with life itself. Faced with the current catastrophe and the disaster to come, Lazzarato contends, we must overcome capitalist valorization and reappropriate our existence, knowledge, and technology.

In Governing by Debt, Lazzarato confronts a wide range of thinkers—from Félix Guattari and Michel Foucault to David Graeber and Carl Schmitt—and draws on examples from the United States and Europe to argue that it is time that we unite in a collective refusal of this most dire status quo.

Leading Economists Reassess Economic Policy

In 2011, the International Monetary Fund invited prominent economists and economic policymakers to consider the brave new world of the post-crisis global economy. The result is a book that captures the state of macroeconomic thinking at a transformational moment.

The crisis and the weak recovery that has followed raise fundamental questions concerning macroeconomics and economic policy. These top economists discuss future directions for monetary policy, fiscal policy, financial regulation, capital-account management, growth strategies, the international monetary system, and the economic models that should underpin thinking about critical policy choices.

Olivier Blanchard, Ricardo Caballero, Charles Collyns, Arminio Fraga, Már Guðmundsson, Sri Mulyani Indrawati, Otmar Issing, Olivier Jeanne, Rakesh Mohan, Maurice Obstfeld, José Antonio Ocampo, Guillermo Ortiz, Y. V. Reddy, Dani Rodrik, David Romer, Paul Romer, Andrew Sheng, Hyun Song Shin, Parthasarathi Shome, Robert Solow, Michael Spence, Joseph Stiglitz, Adair Turner

Fiscal policy makers have faced an extraordinarily challenging environment over the last few years. At the outset of the global financial crisis, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for the first time advocated a fiscal expansion across all countries able to afford it, a seeming departure from the long-held consensus among economists that monetary policy rather than fiscal policy was the appropriate response to fluctuations in economic activity. Since then, the IMF has emphasized that the speed of fiscal adjustment should be determined by the specific circumstances in each country. Its recommendation that deficit reduction proceed steadily, but gradually, positions the IMF between the fiscal doves (who argue for postponing fiscal adjustment altogether) and the fiscal hawks (who argue for a front-loaded adjustment). This volume brings together the analysis underpinning the IMF’s position on the evolving role of fiscal policy.

After establishing its analytical foundation, with chapters on such topics as fiscal risk and debt dynamics, the book analyzes the buildup of fiscal vulnerabilities before the crisis, presents the policy response during the crisis, discusses the fiscal outlook and policy challenges ahead, and offers lessons learned from the crisis and its aftermath. Topics discussed include a historical view of debt accumulation; the timing, size, and composition of fiscal stimulus packages in advanced and emerging economies; the heated debate surrounding the size of fiscal multipliers and the effectiveness of fiscal policy as a countercyclical tool; coordination of fiscal and monetary policies; the sovereign debt crisis in Europe; and institutional reform aimed at fostering fiscal discipline.

Ali Abbas, Nate Arnold, Aqib Aslam, Thomas Baunsgaard, Nazim Belhocine, Dora Benedek, Carlo Cottarelli, Petra Dacheva, Mark De Broeck, Xavier Debrun, Asmaa ElGanainy, Julio Escolano, Lorenzo Forni, Philip Gerson, Borja Gracia,, Martine Guerguil, Alejandro Guerson, Laura Jaramillo, Jiri Jonas, Mika Kortelainen, Manmohan Kumar, Suchitra, Kumarapathy, Douglas Laxton, Pablo Lopez-Murphy, Thornton Matheson, Jimmy McHugh, Uffe Mikkelsen, Kyung-Seol Min, Aiko Mineshima, Marialuz Moreno, John Norregaard, Ceyla Pazarbasioglu, Iva Petrova, Tigran Poghosyan, Marcos Poplawski-Ribeiro, Anna Shabunina, Andrea Schaechter, Jack Selody, Abdelhak Senhadji, Baoping Shang, Mauricio Soto, Bruno Versailles, Anke Weber, Jaejoon Woo, Li Zeng

Macroeconomic Policy after the Crisis

Since 2008, economic policymakers and researchers have occupied a brave new economic world. Previous consensuses have been upended, former assumptions have been cast into doubt, and new approaches have yet to stand the test of time. Policymakers have been forced to improvise and researchers to rethink basic theory. George Akerlof, Nobel Laureate and one of this volume’s editors, compares the crisis to a cat stuck in a tree, afraid to move. In April 2013, the International Monetary Fund brought together leading economists and economic policymakers to discuss the slowly emerging contours of the macroeconomic future. This book offers their combined insights.

The editors and contributors--who include the Nobel Laureate and bestselling author Joseph Stiglitz, Federal Reserve Vice Chair Janet Yellen, and the former Governor of the Bank of Israel Stanley Fischer--consider the lessons learned from the crisis and its aftermath. They discuss, among other things, post-crisis questions about the traditional policy focus on inflation; macroprudential tools (which focus on the stability of the entire financial system rather than of individual firms) and their effectiveness; fiscal stimulus, public debt, and fiscal consolidation; and exchange rate arrangements.

Theory and Empirical Evidence
Edited by Karl Wärneryd

Modern economics has largely ignored the issue of outright conflict as an alternative way of allocating goods, assuming instead the existence of well-defined property rights enforced by an undefined third party. And yet even in ostensibly peaceful market transactions, conflict exists as an outside option, sometimes constraining the outcomes reached through voluntary agreement. In this volume, economists offer a crucial rational-choice perspective on conflict, using methodological approaches that range from the game theoretic to the experimental.

Several chapters use the recently developed contest success function to model conflict, examining such topics as alliance formation, regional conflicts under fiscal federalism, coups d’etat in developing countries, and the correlation between conflict and economic growth in Bolivia. Other chapters consider subjects that include the link between occupational choices and antigovernment activity in Afghanistan, social unrest and the IMF’s Structural Adjustment Program, and the effect of Tajikistan’s civil war on ex-combatants’ capacity for trust and cooperation.

Taken together, these contributions show that economics needs a theory of conflict to understand both outright conflict and transactions in the shadow of conflict. But beyond this, they show that the study of conflict also needs the rigorous, methodology-based perspectives of economics.

Vincenzo Bove, Raul Caruso, Alessandra Cassar, Jacopo Costa, Maria Cubel, Leandro Elia, Jose Luis Evia, Davide Fiaschi, Pauline Grosjean, Ruixue Jia, Kai A. Konrad, Roberto Laserna, Pinghan Liang, Roberto Ricciuti, Stergios Skaperdas, Caleb Stroup, Karl Wärneryd, Sam Whitt, Ben Zissimos

Saving Ourselves, Our Kids, and Our Economy

The United States is bankrupt, flat broke. Thanks to accounting that would make Enron blush, America’s insolvency goes far beyond what our leaders are disclosing. The United States is a fiscal basket case, in worse shape than the notoriously bailed-out countries of Greece, Ireland, and others. How did this happen? In The Clash of Generations, experts Laurence Kotlikoff and Scott Burns document our six-decade, off-balance-sheet, unsustainable financing scheme. They explain how we have balanced our longer lives on the backs of our (relatively few) children. At the same time, we've been on a consumption spree, saving and investing less than nothing. And that’s not to mention the evisceration of the middle class and a financial system that has proven it can’t be trusted. Kotlikoff and Burns outline grassroots strategies for saving ourselves--and especially our children--from what could be a truly catastrophic financial collapse.

Kotlikoff and Burns sounded the alarm in their widely acclaimed The Coming Generational Storm, but politicians didn’t listen. Now the need for action is even more urgent. It’s up to us to demand radical reform of our tax system, our healthcare system, and our Social Security system, and to insist on better paths to investment return than those provided by Wall Street (mis)managers. Kotlikoff and Burns's "Purple Plans" (so called because they will appeal to both Republicans and Democrats) have been endorsed by a who’s who of economists and offer a new way forward; and their revolutionary investment strategy for individuals replaces the idea of financial capital with "life decision capital."

Of course, we won't be doing all this just for ourselves. We need to fix America’s fiscal mess before our kids inherit it.

The Evolution of Legitimacy and Development in Modern States

Liberal internationalism has been the West’s foreign policy agenda since the Cold War, and the West has long occupied the top rung of a hierarchical system. In this book, Hilton Root argues that international relations, like other complex ecosystems, exists in a constantly shifting landscape, in which hierarchical structures are giving way to systems of networked interdependence, changing every facet of global interaction. Accordingly, policymakers will need a new way to understand the process of change. Root suggests that the science of complex systems offers an analytical framework to explain the unforeseen development failures, governance trends, and alliance shifts in today’s global political economy.

Root examines both the networked systems that make up modern states and the larger, interdependent landscapes they share. Using systems analysis—in which institutional change and economic development are understood as self-organizing complexities—he offers an alternative view of institutional resilience and persistence. From this perspective, Root considers the divergence of East and West; the emergence of the European state, its contrast with the rise of China, and the network properties of their respective innovation systems; the trajectory of democracy in developing regions; and the systemic impact of China on the liberal world order. Complexity science, Root argues, will not explain historical change processes with algorithmic precision, but it may offer explanations that match the messy richness of those processes.

A Textual Analysis

American monetary policy is formulated by the Federal Reserve and overseen by Congress. Both policy making and oversight are deliberative processes, although the effect of this deliberation has been difficult to quantify. In this book, Cheryl Schonhardt-Bailey provides a systematic examination of deliberation on monetary policy from 1976 to 2008 by the Federal Reserve’s Open Market Committee (FOMC) and House and Senate banking committees. Her innovative account employs automated textual analysis software to study the verbatim transcripts of FOMC meetings and congressional hearings; these empirical data are supplemented and supported by in-depth interviews with participants in these deliberations. The automated textual analysis measures the characteristic words, phrases, and arguments of committee members; the interviews offer a way to gauge the extent to which the empirical findings accord with the participants’ personal experiences.

Analyzing why and under what conditions deliberation matters for monetary policy, the author identifies several strategies of persuasion used by FOMC members, including Paul Volcker’s emphasis on policy credibility and efforts to influence economic expectations. Members of Congress, however, constrained by political considerations, show a relative passivity on the details of monetary policy.

This book offers a rigorous, concise, and nontechnical introduction to some of the fundamental insights of rational choice theory. It draws on formal theories of microeconomics, decision making, games, and social choice, and on ideas developed in philosophy, psychology, and sociology. Itzhak Gilboa argues that economic theory has provided a set of powerful models and broad insights that have changed the way we think about everyday life. He focuses on basic insights of the rational choice paradigm--the general conceptualization rather than a particular theory--that survive recent (and well-justified) critiques of economic theory’s various failures. Gilboa explains the main concepts in language accessible to the nonspecialist, offering a nonmathematical guide to some of the main ideas developed in economic theory in the second half of the twentieth century.

Chapters cover feasibility and desirability, utility maximization, constrained optimization, expected utility, probability and statistics, aggregation of preferences, games and equilibria, free markets, and rationality and emotions. Online appendixes offer additional material, including a survey of relevant mathematical concepts.

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