Alberto Alesina

Alberto Alesina is Nathaniel Ropes Professor of Political Economics at Harvard University. He is the coauthor (with Enrico Spolaore) of The Size of Nations (MIT Press, 2003).

  • The Future of Europe

    The Future of Europe

    Reform or Decline

    Alberto Alesina and Francesco Giavazzi

    A provocative argument that unless Europe takes serious action soon, its economic and political decline is unavoidable, and a clear statement of the steps Europe must take before it's too late.

    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. In The Future of Europe, Alesina and Giavazzi (themselves Europeans) outline the steps that Europe must take to prevent its economic and political eclipse.

    Europe, the authors say, has much to learn from the market liberalism of America. Europeans work less and vacation more than Americans; they value job stability and security above all. Americans, Alesina and Giavazzi argue, work harder and longer and are more willing to endure the ups and downs of a market economy. Europeans prize their welfare states; Americans abhor government spending. America is a melting pot; European countries—witness the November 2005 unrest in France—have trouble absorbing their immigrant populations. If Europe is to arrest its decline, Alesina and Giavazzi warn, it needs to adopt something closer to the American free-market model for dealing with these issues.

    Alesina and Giavazzi's prescriptions for how Europe should handle worker productivity, labor market regulation, globalization, support for higher education and technology research, fiscal policy, and its multiethnic societies are sure to stir controversy, as will their eye-opening view of the European Union and the euro. But their wake-up call will ring loud and clear for anyone concerned about the future of Europe and the global economy.

    • Hardcover $27.00
    • Paperback $20.00
  • Institutional Reforms

    Institutional Reforms

    The Case of Colombia

    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.

    Colombia suffers not only from institutional problems—many of which may stem from its overly rigid 1991 constitution—but also high rates of violent crime, endemic drug trafficking, guerrilla warfare, and political corruption; the authors do not shrink from these topics, but treat them for the most part from an institutional perspective.

    Following a useful overview of recent economic history in Colombia, three chapters examine political institutions, discussing separation of powers, Colombia's complicated electoral and political party system, and reform of the judicial system. The remaining chapters treat economic and social institutions, covering the fiscal imbalance of centralized taxing and decentralized spending, transparent and fiscally responsible budget processes, education reform, the provision of social services, and the advantages of an independent central bank. Each chapter includes specific policy proposals that are politically feasible and require minimal legislative action. The proposed solutions to Colombia's institutional problems also shed light on similar problems in other developing countries.

    • Hardcover $75.00
    • Paperback $8.75
  • The Size of Nations

    The Size of Nations

    Alberto Alesina and Enrico Spolaore

    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. In The Size of Nations, they argue that the optimal size of a country is determined by a cost-benefit trade-off between the benefits of size and the costs of heterogeneity. In a large country, per capita costs may be low, but the heterogeneous preferences of a large population make it hard to deliver services and formulate policy. Smaller countries may find it easier to respond to citizen preferences in a democratic way. Alesina and Spolaore substantiate their analysis with simple analytical models that show how the patterns of globalization, international conflict, and democratization of the last two hundred years can explain patterns of state formation. Their aim is not only "normative" but also "positive"—that is, not only to compute the optimal size of a state in theory but also to explain the phenomenon of country size in reality. They argue that the complexity of real world conditions does not preclude a systematic analysis, and that such an analysis, synthesizing economics, political science, and history, can help us understand real world events.

    • Hardcover $8.75
    • Paperback $30.00
  • Political Cycles and the Macroeconomy

    Political Cycles and the Macroeconomy

    Alberto Alesina, Nouriel Roubini, and Gerald D. Cohen

    The relationship between political and economic cycles is one of the most widely studied topics in political economics. This book examines how electoral laws, the timing of elections, the ideological orientation of governments, and the nature of competition between political parties influence unemployment, economic growth, inflation, and monetary and fiscal policy. The book presents both a thorough overview of the theoretical literature and a vast amount of empirical evidence. A common belief is that voters reward incumbents who artificially create favorable conditions before an election, even though the economy may take a turn for the worse immediately thereafter. The authors argue that the dynamics of political cycles are far more complex. In their review of the main theoretical approaches to the issues, they demonstrate the multifaceted relationships between macroeconomic and political policies. They also present a broad range of empirical data, from the United States as well as OECD countries. One of their most striking findings is that the United States is not exceptional; the relationships between political and economic cycles are remarkably similar in other democracies, particularly those with two-party systems.

    • Hardcover $60.00
    • Paperback $35.00

Contributor

  • The Processing and Acquisition of Reference

    The Processing and Acquisition of Reference

    Edward A. Gibson and Neal J. Pearlmutter

    How people refer to objects in the world, how people comprehend reference, and how children acquire an understanding of and an ability to use reference.

    This volume brings together contributions by prominent researchers in the fields of language processing and language acquisition on topics of common interest: how people refer to objects in the world, how people comprehend such referential expressions, and how children acquire the ability to refer and to understand reference. The contributors first discuss issues related to children's acquisition and processing of reference, then consider evidence of adults' processing of reference from eye-tracking methods (the visual-world paradigm) and from corpora and reading experiments. They go on to discuss such topics as how children resolve ambiguity, children's difficulty in understanding coreference, the use of eye movements to physical objects to measure the accessibility of different referents, the uses of probabilistic and pragmatic information in language comprehension, antecedent accessibility and salience in reference, and neuropsychological data from the event-related potential (ERP) recording literature.

    • Hardcover $45.00
  • Artificial Life X

    Artificial Life X

    Proceedings of the Tenth International Conference on the Simulation and Synthesis of Living Systems

    Luis M. Rocha

    Proceedings from the Tenth International Conference on Artificial Life, marking two decades of interdisciplinary research in this growing scientific community.

    Artificial Life is an interdisciplinary effort to investigate the fundamental properties of living systems through the simulation and synthesis of life-like processes in artificial media. The field brings a powerful set of tools to the study of how high-level behavior can arise in systems governed by simple rules of interaction.

    This tenth volume marks two decades of research in this interdisciplinary scientific community, a period marked by vast advances in the life sciences. The field has contributed fundamentally to our understanding of life itself through computer models, and has led to novel solutions to complex real-world problems—from disease prevention to stock market prediction—across high technology and human society. The proceedings of the biennial A-life conference—which has grown over the years from a small workshop in Santa Fe to a major international meeting—reflect the increasing importance of the work to all areas of contemporary science.

    • Paperback $85.00
  • Coherence in Natural Language

    Coherence in Natural Language

    Data Structures and Applications

    Florian Wolf and Edward A. Gibson

    A discussion of coherence in natural language that develops criteria for descriptively adequate data structures and examines the influence of coherence on psycholinguistic processes and determining the relative importance of document segments.

    In Coherence and Natural Language, Florian Wolf and Edward Gibson specify and evaluate criteria for descriptively adequate data structures for representing discourse coherence. They test the influence of discourse structure on pronoun processing, evaluate different approaches for determining the relative importance of document segments, and propose a new coherence-based algorithm to accomplish this task. Their book offers the first large-scale empirical evaluation of data structures for representing coherence and also includes novel psycholinguistic tests of existing information extraction and text summarization systems. Wolf and Gibson evaluate whether tree structures are descriptively adequate for representing discourse coherence and conclude that more powerful data structure is needed because there are many different kinds of crossed dependencies and nodes with multiple parents in the discourse structures of naturally occurring texts. They propose that connected, labeled chain graphs make a better representation of coherence. They find additionally that causal coherence relations affect people's strategies for pronoun processing, which points to the psychological validity of coherence relations. Finally, they evaluate word-based, layout-based, and coherence-based approaches for estimating the importance of document segments in a document and find that coherence-based methods that operate on chain graphs perform best. With its attention to empirical validation and psycholinguistic processing, the book raises issues that are relevant to cognitive science as well as natural language processing and information extraction.

    • Hardcover $8.75
  • Group Cognition

    Group Cognition

    Computer Support for Building Collaborative Knowledge

    Gerry Stahl

    Exploring the software design, social practices, and collaboration theory that would be needed to support group cognition; collective knowledge that is constructed by small groups online.

    Innovative uses of global and local networks of linked computers make new ways of collaborative working, learning, and acting possible. In Group Cognition Gerry Stahl explores the technological and social reconfigurations that are needed to achieve computer-supported collaborative knowledge building—group cognition that transcends the limits of individual cognition. Computers can provide active media for social group cognition where ideas grow through the interactions within groups of people; software functionality can manage group discourse that results in shared understandings, new meanings, and collaborative learning. Stahl offers software design prototypes, analyzes empirical instances of collaboration, and elaborates a theory of collaboration that takes the group, rather than the individual, as the unit of analysis.

    Stahl's design studies concentrate on mechanisms to support group formation, multiple interpretive perspectives, and the negotiation of group knowledge in applications as varied as collaborative curriculum development by teachers, writing summaries by students, and designing space voyages by NASA engineers. His empirical analysis shows how, in small-group collaborations, the group constructs intersubjective knowledge that emerges from and appears in the discourse itself. This discovery of group meaning becomes the springboard for Stahl's outline of a social theory of collaborative knowing. Stahl also discusses such related issues as the distinction between meaning making at the group level and interpretation at the individual level, appropriate research methodology, philosophical directions for group cognition theory, and suggestions for further empirical work.

    • Hardcover $47.00
  • The Application of Plasmas to Chemical Processing

    Raymond Baddour and Robert S. Timmons

    The use of plasma for chemical processing provides a new and powerful tool for carrying out a number of chemical reactions at high temperatures. This book brings together much significant material on the basic characteristics, the generation, the diagnostics, and the application of plasmas to a wide variety of chemical systems. These specific topics are covered in an integrated fashion, so that all important aspects of plasma processing are seen in their proper context. The material presented is directly usable by the research chemist as well as the engineer. The approach presupposes a basic knowledge of physics and chemistry but does not require any prior experience in the plasma field.

    The availability of continuous gas streams at very high temperature has made possible the development of a number of techniques for chemical syntheses and material processing, illumination, simulated re-entry, and other severe-environment studies. A summary of the latest work in these and other areas is given in the nine chapters of this book.

    The first chapter discusses the physical properties of various types of plasmas and presents quantitative relations describing plasma phenomena of particular importance to chemical processing. Other chapters describe the three types of plasms systems: arc plasmas, radio-frequency plasmas, and microwave plasmas. Methods for producing arc plasmas are outlined, together with scaling relationships that can be used to translate pilot operations to large-scale devices. The application of arc techniques to nitrogen fluoride synthesis is the subject of two-separate chapters. The use of radio-frequency plasmas is illustrated for several chemical systems. Diagnostic techniques for characterizing plasma are outlined. One chapter is devoted to the nature of microwave discharges and to the applications of microwave plasmas. Another discusses the thermodynamic and kinetic relations for the important graphite-hydrogen system. Throughout the presentation a balance of treatment is maintained, so that the insights and experience gained in one application are made available in useful form to those considering others. The book thus provides a solid base for further developments in these fields.

    • Hardcover $37.50