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.

Greying the Budget: Ageing and Preferences over Public Policies


KYKLOS, Volume 70, Issue 1

Abstract: This paper looks at how individual attitudes towards the allocation of government spending change along the life cycle. As individuals age and re-evaluate the benefits and costs of government programs, such as education, healthcare and old-age pensions, they also influence the level and composition of government spending. Using the Life in Transition Survey II for 34 countries of Europe and Central Asia, we find that older individuals are less likely to support hikes in government outlays on education and more likely to support increases in spending on pensions. These results are very similar across countries, and they do not change when using alternative model specifications, estimation methods and data sources. To our knowledge, this the first paper to provide evidence of the “grey peril” effect for a large group of developed, middle-income and low-income economies. Our findings are consistent with a body of literature arguing that conflict across generations over the allocation of government expenditure may intensify in ageing economies.

Value and capital: Austrian capital theory, retrospect and Prospect



Abstract: The time is right for a reexamination of Austrian capital-theory. We attempt to capture the essence of Carl Menger’s approach to capital, highlighting the important distinction between goods and the valuable services they yield (implying that goods are valuable only because they yield valuable services) and highlighting also the importance of money in facilitating exchange and production and in providing the means to value them. We look at the capital-theory of Böhm-Bawerk and suggest that, in many respects, this was a wrong turn, although it did set in motion valuable efforts to clarify the importance of the heterogeneity of productive-resources and their growing complexity over time. We examine the production-function, micro and macro, and show that it is logically untenable and useless as an instrument for empirical investigation, and that this has been known for decades. Of the Austrians after Menger, only Mises followed Irving Fisher in focusing on valuation. He did so in the context of explaining the importance of calculation. Mises’s approach to capital has been insufficiently understood and appreciated. By way of conclusion we draw from our considerations to provide a research agenda in Austrian capital theory.

Historical Prevalence of Infectious Diseases, Cultural Values, and the Origins of Economic Institutions


KYKLOS, Volume 70, Issue 1

Abstract: It is widely believed that economic institutions such as competitive markets, the banking system, and the structure of property rights are essential for economic development. But why economic institutions vary across countries and what are their deep origins is still a question that is widely debated in the developmental economics literature. In this study, we provide an empirical test for the provocative hypothesis that the prevalence of infectious diseases influenced the formation of personality traits, cultural values, and even morality at the regional level (the so called Parasite- Stress Theory of Values and Sociality), which then shaped economic institutions across countries. Using the prevalence of pathogens as an instrument for cultural traits such as individualism, we show in a two-stage least squares analysis that various economic institutions, measured by different areas of the index of Economic Freedom by the Heritage Foundation, have their deep origins in the historical prevalence of infectious diseases across countries. Our causal identification strategy suggests that cultural values affect economic institutions even after controlling for a number of confounding variables, geographic controls, and for different sub-samples of countries. We further show that the results are robust to four alternative measures of economic and political institutions.

What was the Message of Friedman’s Presidential Address to the American Economic Association?


HISTORY AND PHILOSOPHY OF ECONOMICS, Oxford University Department of Economics Discussion Paper Series, Number 814

Abstract: It is widely accepted that the importance of Friedman’s Presidential Address to the American Economic Association lies in its criticism of policy based on the Phillips curve. It is argued that a reading of the text does not support such a view, and this and other considerations suggest that any such aim was far from Friedman’s mind in 1968. His objective was the quite different one of making a case for policy ‘rules’ rather than discretion.