In 1837-38, the British colonies of Upper and Lower Canada rebelled. The rebellion was most virulent in the latter of the two colonies. Historians have argued that economic consideration were marginal in explaining the causes of the rebellions. To make this claim, they argue that the areas that rebelled in Lower Canada were among the richest in the colony, and the least likely to be motivated by economic factors. In this paper, we use the census of 1831 and databases of rebellious events to question this claim. We argue that the rich areas were more prone to rebellion because they were where markets were most developed. These well-developed markets allowed for cheaper coordination of seditious elements while also increasing the wealth (i.e. the rent) over which to fight.
Despite vast efforts to build the state, profound political order in rural Afghanistan is maintained by self-governing, customary organizations. Informal Order and the State in Afghanistan explores the rules governing these organizations to explain why they can provide public goods. Instead of withering during decades of conflict, customary authority adapted to become more responsive and deliberative. Drawing on hundreds of interviews and observations from dozens of villages across Afghanistan, and statistical analysis of nationally representative surveys, Jennifer Brick Murtazashvili demonstrates that such authority enhances citizen support for democracy, enabling the rule of law by providing citizens with a bulwark of defence against predatory state officials. Contrary to conventional wisdom, it shows that ‘traditional’ order does not impede the development of the state because even the most independent-minded communities see a need for a central government – but question its effectiveness when it attempts to rule them directly and without substantive consultation.
Our conversation dives deep into the modern history of Afghanistan, including its 1978 communist revolution and subsequent Soviet invasion.
Problems associated with cronyism, corporatism, and policies that favor the elite over the masses have received increasing attention in recent years. Political Capitalism explains that what people often view as the result of corruption and unethical behavior are symptoms of a distinct system of political economy. The symptoms of political capitalism are often viewed as the result of government intervention in a market economy, or as attributes of a capitalist economy itself. Randall G. Holcombe combines well-established theories in economics and the social sciences to show that political capitalism is not a mixed economy, or government intervention in a market economy, or some intermediate step between capitalism and socialism. After developing the economic theory of political capitalism, Holcombe goes on to explain how changes in political ideology have facilitated the growth of political capitalism, and what can be done to redirect public policy back toward the public interest.
Free Trade and Prosperity offers the first full-scale defense of pro-free-trade policies with developing countries at its center. Arvind Panagariya, a professor at Columbia University and former top economic advisor to the government of India, supplies a historically informed analysis of many longstanding but flawed arguments for protection. He starts with an insightful overview of the positive case for free trade, and then closely examines the various contentions of protectionists. One protectionist argument is that “infant” industries need time to grow and become competitive, and thus should be sheltered. Other arguments are that emerging markets are especially prone to coordination failures, they are in need of diversification of their production structures, and they suffer from market imperfections. The panoply of protectionist arguments, including those for import substitution industrialization, fails when subject to close logical and empirical scrutiny.
This paper examines the impact of highway expansion on congestion. Because highway expansion lowers travel times, expanded highways attract additional vehicle traffic—so-called induced travel. The empirical evidence indicates that the magnitude of induced travel is economically significant. Some researchers find cases where, despite highway expansion, congestion changes very little owing to high levels of induced travel. These results suggest that costly highway expansion will increase access, which is beneficial to a community, but highway expansion is generally an inefficient solution to the high time costs of urban congestion. Instead, variable tolling of some or all lanes could manage traffic flows efficiently and reduce congestion.
My guest today is Matthew Curtis, founder of the startup Vice Lotteries. Vice Lotteries is a new startup that aims to challenge state governments’ legal monopolies over lotteries.
State lotteries are amazingly and bizarrely unethical. They drain billions of dollars out of communities, primarily poor ones. Lottery spending has increased substantially over the past decades, with the average lotto player spending $600 per year, and many spending significantly more than that.
Vice Lotteries aims to create a more ethical alternative to state lotteries, allowing people to have the fun of gambling without losing significant amounts of money. From the Vice Lotteries website:
Vice Lotteries was founded with one purpose: Allow our customers to enjoy gambling while saving money. With Vice Lotteries, you can enjoy the tremendous pleasure of tossing the dice without losing your ability to afford all the other things in life that you love.
However, it is currently illegal to run a private lottery. Before Vice Lotteries can start operating, they need to win one of the multiple lawsuits they are filing in state courts to challenge state lotteries.
The choice of college major is a key stage in the career search, and over a third of college students switch majors at least once. We provide the first comprehensive analysis of major switching, looking at the patterns of switching in both academic and non-academic dimensions. Low grades signal academic mismatch and predict switching majors – and the lower the grades, the larger the switch in terms of course content. Surprisingly, these switches do not improve students’ grades. When students switch majors, they switch to majors that “look like them”: females to female-heavy majors, and so on. Lower-ability women flee competitive majors at high rates, while men and higher-ability women are undeterred. Women are far more likely to leave STEM fields for majors that are less competitive – but still somewhat science-intensive – suggesting that leaving STEM may be more about fleeing the “culture” of STEM majors than fleeing science and math.
The United States suffers from a shortage of well-placed homes. This was true even at the peak of the housing boom in 2005. Using a broad array of evidence on housing inflation, income, migration, homeownership trends, and international comparisons, Shut Out demonstrates that high home prices have been largely caused by the constrained housing supply in a handful of magnet cities leading the new economy.
The same phenomenon is occurring in leading countries across the globe. Gentrifying cities have become exclusionary bastions in the new postindustrial economy. The US housing bubble that peaked in 2005 is more accurately described as a refugee crisis than a credit bubble. Surging demand for limited urban housing triggered a spike of migration away from the magnet cities among households with moderate and lower incomes who could no longer afford to remain, causing a brief contagion of high prices in the cities where the migrants moved.
Today’s guest on Economics Detective Radio is Anja Shortland of King’s College London, discussing her new book Kidnap: Inside the Ransom Business, where she brings an economist’s perspective to the shady world of the kidnapping for ransom business and to the professionals who specialize in getting hostages home safely. The book’s description reads as follows:
Kidnap for ransom is a lucrative but tricky business. Millions of people live, travel, and work in areas with significant kidnap risks, yet kidnaps of foreign workers, local VIPs, and tourists are surprisingly rare and the vast majority of abductions are peacefully resolved – often for remarkably low ransoms. In fact, the market for hostages is so well ordered that the crime is insurable. This is a puzzle: ransoming a hostage is the world’s most precarious trade. What would be the “right” price for your loved one – and can you avoid putting others at risk by paying it? What prevents criminals from maltreating hostages? How do you (safely) pay a ransom? And why would kidnappers release a potential future witness after receiving their money?
Kidnap: Inside the Ransom Business uncovers how a group of insurers at Lloyd’s of London have solved these thorny problems for their customers. Based on interviews with industry insiders (from both sides), as well as hostage stakeholders, it uncovers an intricate and powerful private governance system ordering transactions between the legal and the criminal economies.