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Political Economy

The contrasting trends toward earlier retirement and greater longevity have resulted in steadily increasing retirement costs over the last forty years. One important factor influencing early retirement decisions is the expansion of retirement benefits; but studies predict that most countries, particularly those with early retirement incentives, will be unable to meet future pension and social security obligations.

Problems and Prospects

Colombia, once a model of fiscal discipline for other Latin American nations, has seen its fiscal situation deteriorate since the early 1990s. Higher government spending, taxes that did not keep pace with expenditures, and severe recession led to an unsustainable debt-to-GDP ratio of 52 percent in 2002. Short-term tax increases, even coupled with spending reforms, have not restored Colombia to fiscal balance.

This NBER series presents current academic research findings in the areas of taxation and government spending. The papers included provide important background information for policy analysts in government and the private sector without making specific policy recommendations.

Problems and Prescriptions

Japan, the world's second largest economy, has suffered from a prolonged period of stagnation and malaise since 1991. Subpar growth, failing banks, plummeting real estate and stock prices, deflation, unprecedented unemployment, and huge government liabilities have persisted, despite extraordinary fiscal and monetary policy fixes.

This new edition of the leading text on business and government focuses on the insights economic reasoning can provide in analyzing regulatory and antitrust issues.

In 2000, the average driver in US metropolitan areas endured 27 hours of traffic delays, a rise from 7 hours in 1980. In many other countries, traffic delays are considerably worse than in the United States, and in developing countries urban traffic congestion is increasing with alarming rapidity. For fifty years, economists have been advocating congestion pricing as the way to deal with urban traffic congestion; but today, even after some successes, congestion pricing is encountering considerable political resistance.

Inflation targeting—when central bank policies set specific inflation rate objectives—is widely used by both developed and developing countries around the world (although not by the United States or the European Central Bank). This collection of original essays looks at how Brazil's policy of inflation targeting, coupled with a floating exchange rate, survived a series of severe economic shocks and examines the policy lessons that can be drawn from Brazil's experience.

Credibility, Transparency, and Centralization

The adoption of the euro in 1999 by 11 member states of the European Union created a single currency area second in economic size only to the United States. The euro zone's monetary policy is now set by the European Central Bank (ECB) and its Governing Council rather than by individual national central banks. This CESifo volume examines issues that have arisen in the first years of ECB monetary policy and analyzes the effect that current ECB policy strategy and structures may have in the future.

The authors of this timely and provocative book use the tools of economic analysis to examine the formation and change of political borders. They argue that while these issues have always been at the core of historical analysis, international economists have tended to regard the size of a country as "exogenous," or no more subject to explanation than the location of a mountain range or the course of a river. Alesina and Spolaore consider a country's borders to be subject to the same analysis as any other man-made institution.

The Case of Colombia
Edited by Alberto Alesina

These studies of Colombian economic, political, and social institutions offer not only theoretically grounded analyses but also practical recommendations for policy reform. Experts from the United States, Europe, and Colombia approach such problems as executive-legislative branch conflict, fragmented political parties, crime prevention, inefficient decentralization, and mistargeted social spending from a political economics perspective. Their findings provide an illuminating example of the way ideas from this relatively new area of research can be applied to real-world problems.