Abstract: For a generation, political science has been dominated by the analysis of interests within the framework of rational choice. Although this has enabled major advances, it struggles to provide a plausible analysis of many instances of sociopolitical dysfunction. This article reviews recent innovations in economics, psychology, and economic history that are converging to rehabilitate culture as a legitimate element of analysis. Culture matters, and its evolution is amenable to formal scientific analysis. But these processes need not be benign: There is no equivalent to the invisible hand of the market, guiding a culture toward social optimality. An organizational culture can trap a vital public agency, such as a tax administration, into severe dysfunction. A societal culture can trap an entire country into autocracy or poverty.
B. ZORINA KHAN
Abstract: Endogenous growth models raise fundamental questions about the nature of human creativity, and the sorts of resources, skills, and knowledge inputs that shift the frontier of technology and production possibilities. Many argue that the experience of early British industrialization supports the thesis that economic advances depend on specialized scientific training, the acquisition of costly human capital, and the role of elites. This paper examines the contributions of different types of knowledge to industrialization, by assessing the backgrounds, education and inventive activity of major contributors to technological advances in Britain during the crucial period between 1750 and 1930. The results indicate that scientists, engineers or technicians were not well-represented among the cadre of important British inventors, and their contributions remained unspecialized until very late in the nineteenth century. The informal institution of apprenticeship and learning on the job provided effective means to enable productivity and innovation. For developing countries today, the implications are that costly investments in specialized human capital resources might be less important than incentives for creativity, flexibility, and the ability to make incremental adjustments that can transform existing technologies into inventions and innovations that are appropriate for prevailing domestic conditions.
Abstract: It is widely believed that individualistic societies, which emphasize personal freedom, award social status for accomplishment, and favor minimal government intervention, are more prone to higher levels of income inequality compared to more collectivist societies, which value conformity, loyalty, and tradition and favor more interventionist policies. The results in this paper, however, challenge this conventional view. Drawing on a rich literature in biology and evolutionary psychology, we test the provocative Parasite Stress Theory of Values, which suggests a possible link between the historical prevalence of infectious diseases, the cultural dimension of individualism–collectivism and differences in income inequality across countries. Specifically, in a two-stage least squares analysis, we use the historical prevalence of infectious diseases as an instrument for individualistic values, which, in the next stage, predict the level of income inequality, measured by the net GINI coefficient from the Standardized World Income Inequality Database (SWIID). Our findings suggest that societies with more individualistic values have significantly lower net income inequality. The results are robust even after controlling for a number of confounding factors such as economic development, legal origins, religion, human capital, other cultural values, economic institutions, and geographical controls.
LUKE PHILIP PLOTICA
Abstract: For much of the twentieth century the landscape of American federalism was characterized by accumulation of power by the national government. In recent decades influential political and legal thinkers have called for devolution of governmental power to the states and localities, where, they argue, such powers properly belong and are more effectively exercised. One of the recurrent argumentative tropes in the devolutionary literature maintains that devolution is more desirable than centralization because it better protects and enhances individual liberty, and not merely the sovereignty of the states. The project of this essay is to challenge this alleged linkage by examining four of its most common and compelling manifestations. Utilizing Isaiah Berlin’s distinction between negative and positive liberty, the essay offers critical analysis of claims that devolution serves individual liberty by (1) facilitating policy experimentation, (2) spurring interjurisdictional competition, (3) promoting local self-government, and (4) enforcing the limits of governmental power.
NINA BOBERG-FAZLIĆ & PAUL SHARP
Abstract: In this paper, we examine the long-run social mobility experience in England. We present evidence for surprisingly constant levels of social mobility over the period 1550–1749, despite huge structural changes. Examining regional differences, we show that the North of England exhibited higher rates of social mobility than the South. We link this to the hypothesis that historically high levels of social mobility can lead to a culture of non-acceptance of redistribution and welfare provision. Taking advantage of the fact that welfare provision was determined at the local level at the time, we are able to compare social mobility rates and welfare spending within a single country. Consistent with the hypothesis, we find evidence for historically higher levels of social mobility as well as lower welfare spending and less acceptance of redistribution in the North.