Research Papers

Rodrik D, Di Tella R. Labour Market Shocks and the Demand for Trade Protection: Evidence from Online Surveys. Economic Journal. 2020;130 :1008-1030.Abstract
We study preferences for government action in response to layoffs resulting from different types of labourmarket shocks. We consider: technological change, a demand shift, bad management and three kinds of international outsourcing. Support for government intervention rises sharply in response to shocks and is heavily biased towards trade protection. Trade shocks generate more demand for protectionism and, among trade shocks, outsourcing to a developing country elicits greater demand for protectionism. The ‘bad management’ shock is the only scenario that induces a desired increase in compensatory transfers. Trump supporters are more protectionist than Clinton supporters, but preferences seem easy to manipulate: Clinton supporters primed with trade shocks are as protectionist as baseline Trump voters. Highlighting labour abuses in the exporting country increases the demand for trade protection by Clinton supporters but not Trump supporters.
Why Does Globalization Fuel Populism? Economics, Culture, and the Rise of Right-Wing Populism. 2020.Abstract
There is compelling evidence that globalization shocks, often working through culture and identity, have played an important role in driving up support for populist movements, particularly of the right-wing kind. I start with an empirical analysis of the 2016 presidential election in the U.S. to show globalization-related attitudinal variables were important correlates of the switch to Trump. I then provide a conceptual framework that identifies four distinct channels through which globalization can stimulate populism, two each on the demand and supply sides of politics, respectively. I evaluate the empirical literature with the help of this framework, discussing trade, financial globalization, and immigration separately. I conclude the paper by discussing some apparently anomalous cases where populists have been against, rather than in favor of trade protection
September 2020
Rodrik D, Mukand S. The Political Economy of Liberal Democracy. The Economic Journal. 2020.Abstract

This paper develops a taxonomy of political regimes that distinguishes between three sets of rights - property rights, political rights and civil rights. The truly distinctive nature of liberal democracy is the protection of civil rights (equal treatment by the state for all groups) in addition to the other two. The paper shows how democratic transitions that are the product of a settlement between the elite (who care mostly about property rights) and the majority (who care about political rights), generically fail to produce liberal democracy. Instead, the emergence of liberal democracy requires low levels of inequality and weak identity cleavages.

Rodrik D, Diao X, McMillan M. The Recent Growth Boom in Developing Economies: A Structural-Change Perspective. In: The Palgrave Handbook of Development Economics. Palgrave Macmillan ; 2019.Abstract

Growth has accelerated in a wide range of developing countries over the last couple of decades, resulting in an extraordinary period of convergence with the advanced economies. We analyze this experience from the lens of structural change – the reallocation of labor from low- to high-productivity sectors. Patterns of structural change differ greatly in the recent growth experience. In contrast to the East Asian experience, none of the recent growth accelerations in Latin America, Africa, or South Asia was driven by rapid industrialization. Beyond that, we document that recent growth accelerations were based on either rapid within-sector labor productivity growth (Latin America) or growth-increasing structural change (Africa), but rarely both at the same time. The African experience is particularly intriguing, as growth-enhancing structural change appears to have come typically at the expense of declining labor productivity growth in the more modern sectors of the economy. We explain this anomaly by arguing that the forces that promoted structural change in Africa originated on the demand side, through either external transfers or increase in agricultural incomes. In contrast to Asia, structural change was the result of increased demand for goods and services produced in the modern sectors of the economy rather than productivity improvements in these sectors.

August 2019

Is Populism Necessarily Bad Economics?. AEA Papers and Proceedings 2018. 2018;(108) :196-199.Abstract

I distinguish between political and economic populism. Both are averse to agencies of restraint, or, equivalently, delegation to technocrats or external rules. In the economic domain, delegation to independent agencies (domestic or foreign) occurs in two different contexts: (a) in order to prevent the majority from harming itself in the future; and (b) in order to cement a redistribution arising from a temporary political advantage for the longer-term. Economic policy restraints that arise in the first case are desirable; those that arise in the second case are much less so.

What Do Trade Agreements Really Do?. Journal of Economic Perspectives. 2018;23 (2) :73-90.Abstract
As trade agreements have evolved and gone beyond import tariffs and quotas into regulatory rules and harmonization, they have become more difficult to fit into received economic theory. Nevertheless, most economists continue to regard trade agreements such as the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) favorably. The default view seems to be that these arrangements get us closer to free trade by reducing transaction costs associated with regulatory differences or explicit protectionism. An alternative perspective is that trade agreements are the result of rent-seeking, self-interested behavior on the part of politically well-connected firms – international banks, pharmaceutical companies, multinational firms. They may result in freer, mutually beneficial trade, through exchange of market access. But they are as likely to produce purely redistributive outcomes under the guise of “freer trade.”
Rodrik D, Mukand S. The Political Economy of Ideas: On Ideas Versus Interests in Policymaking. 2018.Abstract

We develop a conceptual framework to highlight the role of ideas as a catalyst for policy and institutional change. We make an explicit distinction between ideas and vested interests and show how they feed into each other. In doing so the paper integrates the Keynes-Hayek perspective on the importance of ideas with the currently more fashionable Stigler-Becker (in-terests only) approach to political economy. We distinguish between two kinds of ideational politics – the battle among different worldviews on the efficacy of policy (worldview politics) versus the politics of victimhood, pride and identity (identity politics). Political entrepreneurs discover identity and policy ‘memes’ (narratives, cues, framing) that shift beliefs about how the world works or a person’s belief of who he is (i.e. identity). Our framework identifies a complementarity between worldview politics and identity politics and illustrates how they may reinforce each other. In particular, an increase in identity polarization may be associated with a shift in views about how the world works. Furthermore, an increase in income inequality is likely to result in a greater incidence of ideational politics. Finally, we show how ideas may not just constrain, but also ‘bite’ the interests that helped propagate them in the first instance.

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