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Political Economy

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A Revolution in Economics

Revolutionary developments in economics are rare. The conservative bias of the field and its enshrined knowledge make it difficult to introduce new ideas not in line with received theory. Happiness research, however, has the potential to change economics substantially in the future.

The rapidly aging populations of many developed countries--most notably Japan and member countries of the European Union--present obvious problems for the public pension plans of these countries. Not only will there be disproportionately fewer workers making pension contributions than there are retirees drawing pension benefits, but the youth-to-age imbalance would significantly affect the total contributive capacity of future generations and hence their total income growth.

The Malaise of the World's First Welfare State

What has happened to the German economic miracle? Rebuilding from the rubble and ruin of two world wars, Germany in the second half of the twentieth century recaptured its economic strength. High-quality German-made products ranging from precision tools to automobiles again conquered world markets, and the country experienced stratospheric growth and virtually full employment. Germany (or West Germany, until 1989) returned to its position as the economic powerhouse of Europe and became the world's third-largest economy after the United States and Japan.

Doubts about the ability of industrialized countries to continue to provide a sufficient level of retirement benefits to a growing number of retirees has fueled much recent debate and inspired a variety of recommendations for reform. Few major reforms, however, have actually been implemented. In The Political Future of Social Security in Aging Societies, Vincenzo Galasso argues that the success of any reform proposals depends on political factors rather than economic theory.

Reform or Decline

Unless Europe takes action soon, its further economic and political decline is almost inevitable, economists Alberto Alesina and Francesco Giavazzi write in this provocative book. Without comprehensive reform, continental Western Europe's overprotected, overregulated economies will continue to slow--and its political influence will become negligible. This doesn't mean that Italy, Germany, France, and other now-prosperous countries will become poor; their standard of living will remain comfortable. But they will become largely irrelevant on the world scene.

The Dance of Ideology and Unequal Riches

The idea of America as politically polarizedthat there is an unbridgeable divide between right and left, red and blue stateshas become a cliché. What commentators miss, however, is that increasing polarization in recent decades has been closely accompanied by fundamental social and economic changesmost notably, a parallel rise in income inequality.

The enemies of globalization--whether they denounce the exploitation of poor countries by rich ones or the imposition of Western values on traditional cultures--see the new world economy as forcing a system on people who do not want it. But the truth of the matter, writes Daniel Cohen in this provocative account, may be the reverse. Globalization, thanks to the speed of twenty-first-century communications, shows people a world of material prosperity that they do want--a vivid world of promises that have yet to be fulfilled.

Beyond Good Revolutionaries and Free-Marketeers

Neither socialism nor free-market neoliberalism has been a very helpful model for Latin America, writes Javier Santiso in this witty and literate reading of that region's economic and political condition. Latin America must move beyond utopian schemes and rigid ideologies invented in other hemispheres and acknowledge its own social realities of inequality and poverty.

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