28 February 2011

New issue of Capital & Class

1 February 2011; Vol. 35, No. 1 - available online:

26 February 2011

The rise of government spending


Source: Page 28 of Maddison's paper The Nature and functioning of European Capitalism: A historical and comparative perspective, probably one of the best reference on long term quantitative measures.

Are public sectors jobs to blame for our fiscal problems?

With the current fiscal problems and the emerging agenda proning 'austerity'measures, there has been a tendency to argue that we're having these issues because the public sector has grown beyond any reasonable limits. Hence we now need to cut back. Leaving aside the fairly obvious point that part of the budgetary  problems we face are cyclical (i.e.; automatic fiscal stablisers or discretionary expansionary policies), is there any evidence that the public sector is too big?

One way to look at this issue is to analyse the number of public sector jobs per 1000 individuals in the OECD and see whether there has been any drastic change in the past three decades. The first thing which is blindingly obvious is that few countries have experienced significant increases once you adjust for population growth: Though some (Spain and Finland for example) have experienced increases, the UK and Canada have seen important falls in the adjusted number of public sector jobs. And while there were non-trivial increases in Greece and Portugal, but the level in  comparative perspective remains low. Last but not least, the UK, Ireland and the US which currently face particularly acute fiscal problems do not stand out in terms of public jobs as profligate.

Source: Tableau de bord de l’emploi public, Situation de la France et comparaisons internationales. Amélie Barbier-Gauchard, Annick Guilloux, Marie-Françoise Le Guilly. DÉCEMBRE 2010, Centre d’analyse stratégique.

24 February 2011

Ranking of 'welfare and work' Journals

In an earlier post, I had presented a brief ranking of political science journals. Though there is some degree of overlap, I thought it useful to look at Journals that deal more specifically with the welfare state. So here is the 2008 Impact factor for selected Journals on the welfare state:

European Journal of Political Research    
Journal of Common Market Studies      
Journal of European Public Policy        
Comparative Political Studies                
Politics and Society                               

West European Politics                        
Public Administration                            
Scandinavian Political Studies               
Ageing and Society                              
Journal of European Social Policy         

Social Policy and Administration          
British Journal of Political Science        
Critical Social Policy                           
Journal of Social Policy                       

Acta Politica                                        
Comparative Politics                            
Political Studies                                   
International Journal of Social Welfare 
Social Politics                                      

This list is taken from page 25 of the  Editorial resources in work and welfare which is compiled by the publication centre of the RECwowe network. Disclaimer: as they note on page 24 "the rankings with which we come up in the ... tables should not be interpreted uncritically".

22 February 2011

"Lack of money is the root of all evil"

One of the founders of the LSE, George Bernard Shaw, famously said that "Lack of money is the root of all evil".  

This is certainly how one should see the initial acceptance by the LSE of 1.5 million pounds given by the so called  "Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation" to fund a "a virtual democracy centre" (no, I'm not joking). In light of the ongoing cuts to the higher education budget, the pessimist might expect even more 'moral flexibility' concerning our sources of funding.

But don't worry the School has recently declared that "In current difficult circumstances across the region, the school has decided to stop new activities under that programme" and that "only £300,000 has been received to date"... and the school certainly knows how difficult the circumstances are right now, as illustrated by the somewhat comical and insightful declaration by a well known member of the academic staff:

"Watching Saif give that speech – looking so exhausted, nervous and, frankly, terrible – was the stuff of Shakespeare and of Freud: a young man torn by a struggle between loyalty to his father and his family, and the beliefs he had come to hold for reform, democracy and the rule of law. The man giving that speech wasn't the Saif I had got to know well over those years."

If "Democracy is a device that ensures we shall be governed no better than we deserve" (Shaw once again), what do current academic governance structure ensure?

21 February 2011

Who said that? (part 2)

“The bourgeoisie…has been the first to show what man’s activity can bring about. It has accomplished wonders far surpassing Egyptian pyramids, Roman aqueducts and Gothic cathedrals…. The bourgeoisie… draws all nations…into civilization…. It has created enormous cities… and thus rescued a considerable part of the population from the idiocy [sic!] of rural life…. The bourgeoisie, during its rule of scarce one hundred years, has created more massive and more colossal productive forces than have all preceding generations together.”

It was Marx (Communist Manifesto)!, indeed, as Schumpeter notes: "Observe that all the achievements referred to are attributed to the bourgeoisie alone which is more than many thoroughly bourgeois economists would claim. This is all I meant by the above passage—and strikingly different from the views of the vulgarized Marxism of today or from the Veblenite stuff of the modern non-Marxist radical." (footnote 2, Chapter 1, Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy). 

 In an earlier post I referred to quite critical quote by Adam Smith.Clearly, this should serve as a caution to simplifying the thoughts of fairly complex thinkers.

*UPDATE: A good friend of mine points out that the above quote should be taken against the backdrop that "Marx defines the bourgeoisie's existence only through the appropriation of labour power (exploitation) [and that] It is certainly implicit here". It's a good point, if you're interested in historical materialist approaches, have a look at his recent book.

Following events in Maghreb

Le monde reports that a new website called Bambuser allows users to upload videos from their smartphone, thereby making it possible for protesters in maghreb to upload their videos of unfolding events while on site.

Meanwhile the first baby called facebook is born...

20 February 2011

Manifesto for a European education system

"Educated side by side, untroubled from infancy by divisive prejudices, acquainted with all that is great and good in the different cultures, it will be borne in upon them as they mature that they belong together. Without ceasing to look to their own lands with love and pride, they will become in mind Europeans, schooled and ready to complete and consolidate the work of their fathers before them, to bring into being a united and thriving Europe."

Jean Monnet spoke in these words of the concept of European Schools more than half a century ago.

Who said that?

"civil government, so far as it is instituted for the security of property, is in reality instituted for the defence of the rich against the poor, or of those who have some property against those who have none at all".

It was Adam Smith! Yes, as Esping Andersen says 'Adam Smith sometimes read like Karl Marx'

14 February 2011

The great transformation - selected quotes

On the nineteenth century:
"Nineteenth century civilization rested on four institutions. The first was the balance-of-power system which for a century prevented the occurrence of any long and devastating war between the Great Powers. The second was the international gold standard which symbolized a unique organization of world economy. The third was the self-regulating market which produced an unheard-of material welfare. The fourth was the liberal state. Classified in one way, two of these institutions were economic, two political. Classified in another way, two of them were national, two international. Between them they determined the characteristic outlines of the history of our civilization"

12 February 2011

A Corporate Coup d’Etat

A Corporate Coup d’Etat

A century of the American Economic Review: Top 20 articles

The Top 20 Committee, consisting of Arrow,  Bernheim,  Feldstein,  McFadden,  Poterba, and  Solow, was appointed with the task of selecting the “Top 20” articles published in the American Economic Review during its first hundred years... here they are:

Alchian, Armen A., and Harold Demsetz. 1972. “Production, Information Costs, and Economic Organization.” American Economic Review, 62(5): 777–95.
This article explains why production processes takes place within the firm as opposed to within the market, mainly it is the result of the greater ability of the firm to better allocate the inputs.

Arrow, Kenneth J. 1963. “Uncertainty and the Welfare Economics of Medical Care.” American Economic
Review, 53(5): 941–73.
There are significant market failures in the market for medical care which results from the presence of uninsurable risks, moral hasard, and consumers' lack of information as well as expertise.

11 February 2011

The resurrection of the Celtic tiger?

The worst might be behind Ireland now, though the stability of the recovery is still questionable.

Most of the recovery seems to be driven by exports, while Investment and Consumption haven't fully picked up yet.

10 February 2011

Here comes the pain... or not?

This figure displays Public Spending Trends in selected Advanced Economies 2008-15 IMF (per cent GDP). I've taken it from an interesting new publication by the Social Policy Association called "In defence of welfare: the Impacts of the spending review". The graph is computed by Taylor Gooby (page 13 of the report) on the basis of data extracted from the IMF (2010) World Economic outlook database.

09 February 2011

John A. Paulson funds the study of Europe's dynamic political economy at LSE

Paulson & Co. founder, John A. Paulson has donated more than £2.5 million to fund new research and teaching on Europe's unique role in the post-crisis financial world at the European Institute, London School of Economics and Political Science. More on this

02 February 2011

Source: IMF

Islamic face veils and women's rights in France

An interesting discussion today on the question of whether the ban on the Islamic veil in France follows from republican and laic conceptions of the french civil society or whether it represents a travesty of true republicanism in that it imposes a notion of identity which is partial and rooted in (catholic) tradition.

Given that the rights of women are often mobilised to support the legislation, I wondered whether France is consistent in this respect and whether women have in fact been the driving force behind the legislation. The issue here is not whether the ban is justified or not ,but rather whether the enthusiasm with which some purport to advance women's rights is applied with a similar verve to other domains. With an estimated 2000 women in France wearing the veil in France, everyone is free to make their own assessment as to whether this requires the legislator to intervene.

01 February 2011

On the implications of the veil of ignorance

What criteria should one rely on to assess whether a policy is moral and what system we should live under? Rawls introduced in his Theory of Justice* the notion of the veil of ignorance. The idea is quite simple and starts from the premise that a group of people must agree on a set of policies that would constitute the rights of people and the rules under which the society is structured. In other words, they must establish the principles of justice of the society they will live in.