Determinants of banks’ capital structure in the Pre-Regulation Era



Abstract: The article explores the determinants of banks’ capital ratio in the Pre-Regulation Era where capital structure decisions were not influenced by deposit-insurance schemes, capital requirements, or high tax shields. The analysis builds on partial-adjustment capital-structure models estimated on the basis of panel data for all Danish commercial banks 1847–1919. The results suggest that banks with low levels of liquidity had a higher capital ratio in periods with financial instability. This enabled them to suffer larger losses and thereby reduce the risk of facing costs of financial distress. The article is the first bank-level study on capital structure in the Pre-Regulation Era.

Thomas Hodgskin, Socialist or Anti-Privilege Libertarian?



Abstract: Thomas Hodgskin (1797–1869) is still studied as a forerunner of modern socialism: in fact, he is typically characterized as a prominent “Ricardian socialist”. Among the most influential of Hodgskin’s works was his pamphlet Labour Defended Against the Claims of Capital (1825a), thus prefiguring with its very title announces a denunciation of capitalism. Hodgskin’s work should be considered instead in its entirety, paying proper attention to its nuances. If Hodgskin indeed chastised “capitalism,” he meant precisely what we now call “crony capitalism.” He did not condemn the “higgling of the market,” which he thought should be the sole mechanism by which resources, including human labour, are allocated. But he saw clearly that legislative meddling served specific interests and often prevented market forces to emerge and blossom. If he was unfriendly towards the “capitalist” class, it was only because he saw them as disproportionally benefiting from the favour of political power. Hodgskin denounced the idle classes but did not want to substitute the market process with any alternative distributive scheme. He considered a sound understanding of an innovation-fostering economy incompatible with archaic distribution of privilege on the part of government. His work can help to clarify how embracing the market economy did and does not entail a defence of the status quo.

Suffrage, labour markets and coalitions in colonial Virginia



Abstract: We study Virginia’s suffrage from the early-17th century until the American Revolution using an analytical narrative and econometric analysis of unique data on franchise restrictions. First, we hold that suffrage changes reflected labour market dynamics. Indeed, Virginia’s liberal institutions initially served to attract indentured servants from England who were needed in the labour-intensive tobacco farming but deteriorated once worker demand subsided and planters replaced white workers with slaves. Second, we argue that Virginia’s suffrage was also the result of political bargaining influenced by shifting societal coalitions. We show that new politically influential coalitions of freemen and then of small and large slave-holding farmers emerged in the second half of the 17th and early-18th centuries, respectively. These coalitions were instrumental in reversing the earlier democratic institution\s. Our main contribution stems from integrating the labour markets and bargaining/coalitions arguments, thus proving a novel theoretical and empirical explanation for institutional change.

A model of the beginnings of coinage in antiquity



Abstract: There have been important advances by archeologists and numismatists in recent decades in the study of the beginnings of coinage in Ionia, Lydia, and Greece before the fifth century B.C. This paper provides a model of the birth of coinage that brings these advances into a broad analysis of the subject-matter. It pulls together many factors that are often treated separately. In addition, the model yields one important new result. Contrary to popular assumption, early coinage was not highly profitable. The Lydian government and the Greek city-states provided an extremely wide array of denominations of coins in a single precious metal at considerable cost. Their willingness to bear this cost must have reflected a political strategy of promoting coinage. Such a political strategy would also be easy to explain. As a large payer and recipient of money in the form of precious metals, the government had much to gain from the spread of coinage in order to economize on transaction costs in its own affairs.

Classical Liberalism in Italian Economic Thought, from the Time of Unification


ECON JOURNAL WATCH, Volume 14, Issue 1

Abstract: Although classical liberalism has not had a profound impact on political institutions in Italy since its unification in the 1860s, the country had a vibrant classical liberal tradition, especially among economists. The Italian scuola di scienza delle finanze played a key role in anticipating the approach later identified with public choice economics, and accordingly it was highly valued and appraised by James M. Buchanan. While many Italian classical liberal thinkers, both in the 19th and in the 20th century, are still by and large ignored outside the boundaries of Italy, several have had an important impact on the ideas of liberals around the world. This paper summarizes the development of classical liberalism in Italy since the 1860s, focusing on liberal economists who took part in public debate. Political realism has been a unifying feature of the Italian liberal tradition, including a strong skepticism toward ‘industrial policy,’ as top-down industrial development has been promoted by government ever since unification. This paper broadly outlines the key thinkers in this tradition: Francesco Ferrara, Vilfredo Pareto, Luigi Einaudi, Bruno Leoni, and Sergio Ricossa.

Open Borders in the European Union and Beyond: Migration Flows and Labor Market Implications



Abstract: In 2004, the European Union admitted 10 new countries, and wages in these countries were generally well below the levels in the existing member countries. Citizens of these newly-admitted countries were subsequently free to take jobs anywhere in the EU, and many did so. In 2015, a large number of refugees from Syria and other broken countries sought to migrate to EU countries (along very dangerous routes), and these refugees were met with fierce resistance, at least in some places. This paper seeks to understand the labor market implications of allowing free migration across borders, with particular reference to the EU. The aim is to quantify the migration flows associated with EU enlargement, and to analyze the extent to which these flows affected equilibrium wages. The main conclusion is that the real wage effects are small, and the gains from open borders are large.

Secular Stagnation? The Effect of Aging on Economic Growth in the Age of Automation



Abstract: Several recent theories emphasize the negative effects of an aging population on economic growth, either because of the lower labor force participation and productivity of older workers or because aging will create an excess of savings over desired investment, leading to secular stagnation. We show that there is no such negative relationship in the data. If anything, countries experiencing more rapid aging have grown more in recent decades. We suggest that this counterintuitive finding might reflect the more rapid adoption of automation technologies in countries undergoing more pronounced demographic changes, and provide evidence and theoretical underpinnings for this argument.