1688 and all that: property rights, the Glorious Revolution and the rise of British capitalism

GEOFFREY M. HODGSON

JOURNAL OF INSTITUTIONAL ECONOMICS, Volume 13, Issue 1

Abstract: In a seminal 1989 article, Douglass North and Barry Weingast argued that by making the monarch more answerable to Parliament, the Glorious Revolution of 1688 helped to secure property rights in England and stimulate the rise of capitalism. Similarly, Daron Acemoglu, Simon Johnson, and James Robinson later wrote that in the English Middle Ages there was a ‘lack of property rights for landowners, merchants and proto-industrialists’ and the ‘strengthening’ of property rights in the late 17th century ‘spurred a process of financial and commercial expansion’. There are several problems with these arguments. Property rights in England were relatively secure from the 13th century. A major developmental problem was not the security of rights but their feudal nature, including widespread ‘entails’ and ‘strict settlements’. 1688 had no obvious direct effect on property rights. Given these criticisms, what changes promoted the rise of capitalism? A more plausible answer is found by addressing the post-1688 Financial and Administrative Revolutions, which were pressured by the enhanced needs of war and Britain’s expanding global role. Guided by a more powerful Parliament, this new financial system stimulated reforms to landed property rights, the growth of collateralizable property and saleable debt, and thus enabled the Industrial Revolution.

The Economics Impact of Sovereign Defaults in Latin America 1870-2012

TJEERD MENNO BOONMAN

REVISTA DE HISTORIA ECONOMICA, Volume 35, Issue 1

Abstract: This article analyzes sovereign debt defaults in four Latin American countries—Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Mexico—for the period 1870-2012. The impact of sovereign defaults on real GDP growth is generally short-lived, while the impact in terms of output losses is deep and lasts long. Defaults in the period 1972-2012 show a deep and long-lasting impact compared to defaults in earlier periods. Moreover, the length of the contraction that follows a default is associated with favourable international conditions in the run-up to a default, while the depth of the contraction is associated with an expansive domestic economy in the run-up to a default. The results fit with boom–bust theories and sudden stop models.

Language Shapes People’s Time Perspective and Support for Future-Oriented Policies

EFRÉN O. PÉREZ & MARGIT TAVITS

AMERICAN JOURNAL OF POLITICAL SCIENCE

Abstract: Can the way we speak affect the way we perceive time and think about politics? Languages vary by how much they require speakers to grammatically encode temporal differences. Futureless tongues (e.g., Estonian) do not oblige speakers to distinguish between the present and future tense, whereas futured tongues do (e.g., Russian). By grammatically conflating “today” and “tomorrow,” we hypothesize that speakers of futureless tongues will view the future as temporally closer to the present, causing them to discount the future less and support future-oriented policies more. Using an original survey experiment that randomly assigned the interview language to Estonian/Russian bilinguals, we find support for this proposition and document the absence of this language effect when a policy has no obvious time referent. We then replicate and extend our principal result through a cross-national analysis of survey data. Our results imply that language may have significant consequences for mass opinion.

Cognitive rules, institutions, and economic growth: Douglass North and beyond

AVNER GREIF &  JOEL MOKYR

JOURNAL OF INSTITUTIONAL ECONOMICS, Volume 13, Issue 1

Abstract:  Douglass North’s writing on institutional change recognized from the very start that such change depends on cognition and beliefs. Yet, although he focused on individual beliefs, we argue in this paper that such beliefs are social constructs. We suggest that institutions – rules, expectations, and norms – are based on shared cognitive rules. Cognitive rules are social constructs that convey information that distills and summarizes society’s beliefs and experience. These rules have to be self-enforcing and self-confirming, but they do not have to be ‘correct’. We describe the characteristics of such rules in the context of a market for ideas, and illustrate their importance in two developments central to the growth of modern economies: the rise of the modern state with its legitimacy based on consent, and the rise of modern science-based technology that was the product of the scientific revolution and the Enlightenment.

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

ALBERTO MINGARDI

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

JOHN KENNAN

THE NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

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

DARON ACEMOGLU & PASCUAL RESTREPO

THE NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

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.