Spring 2016

Dondena Political Economy Seminar Series
Spring 2016

12:45 p.m. Room 5-e4-sr04, via Röntgen 1

Download the seminar series poster here.

**Abstracts will be posted as they become available.


March 8
David Levine, European University Institute

Voter Participation with Collusive Parties (with A. Mattozzi)

We reexamine the theory of rational voter participation where voting is by two collusive parties that can enforce social norms through costly peer punishment. This model nests both the ethical voter model and the pivotal voter model. We initially abstract from aggregate shocks to the population of voters in favor of the original Palfrey and Rosenthal  (1985) model and analyze the subsequent all-pay auction game. We show that this game has a unique mixed strategy equilibrium in which one party - the advantaged party - gets all the surplus and give a simple formula for determining which party is advantaged. This equilibrium is scale invariant - increasing the size of both parties in proportion has no effect on voter turnout by either party. Our main finding is that when the cost of enforcement of social norms is low and the benefit of winning the election is the same for both parties the larger party is always advantaged. By contrast, when the enforcement of social norms is costly we have a result reminiscent of Olson  (1965) in which - even if the benefit of winning the election is the same for both parties - the smaller party may be advantaged. We then examine more general contest resolution functions giving conditions under which pure strategy equilibria do and do not exist, examining the robustness of the comparative statistics of the all-pay auction model, and give conditions under which participation declines with the size of the electorate.

March 15
Filipe Campante, Harvard University

Connecting People: Economic Development in the Global Network of Air Links”(joint with David Yanagizawa-Drott)

We live in an increasingly connected world, where it is easier than ever for people to travel between distant places -- but what are the effects of these connections? We address this question by exploiting the exogenous variation induced by a discontinuity in the presence of air links: there is a sharp drop in the number of links between cities at a distance of 6000 miles, which appears starting in the 1990s. We first show that this variation increases the number and quality of long-distance connections to a city, which in turn increases the volume of passenger traffic. We then show a significant impact of air links on local economic activity. This impact fosters convergence, with the growth impact being larger in places that were initially poorer. However, this does not extend to places that were too poor: they tend not to get connected even when the exogenous variation favors them. Increasing connections also induces a homogenization of consumption patterns, as measured by the spread of US-based global restaurant chains. However, connections between two countries do not appear to decrease the cultural distance between them, as measured by attitudinal survey responses. Taken together, our results suggest that increasing interconnectedness fosters economic development and the homogenization of consumption patterns, but that the broader impact on economic and cultural convergence is mixed; instead, it may induce divergence in some cases.


April 12

Jack Snyder, Columbia University

Empowering Rights through Mass Movements, Religion, and Reform Parties

The human rights movement can make substantial progress toward achieving its goals if and only if it does a better job of tapping into the latent power of mass civil society. It can do this if it embeds legalistic, professionalized advocacy work in broad-based mass movements, including ones animated by religious and local cultural themes, and coordinates with broad-based reformist political parties. This does not mean that human rights NGOs’ accustomed style of work cannot contribute to the overall reform goal, but rather that its angle of vision is far too narrow to be the central engine of progressive change, even in its own arena of human rights.


April 19
Eric Snowberg, Caltech

Econographics and Political Attitudes: Evidence from Nationwide Incentivized Survey(s)

May 3
Ethan Iletzki, London School of Economics and Political Science

A Positive Theory of Tax Reform

The political impediments to reform and the forces allowing its success are studied in a model where the tax base and statutory rate are separate instruments of tax policy. The model predicts that big bang reforms—large changes in the tax code–may be easier to enact than marginal reforms. Preferences over the tax base face a tipping point where even the beneficiaries from tax exemptions support reform. At such a “reform moment”, tax reform is Pareto improving. Politically feasible tax reform occurs when fiscal needs are large, but may nonetheless involve reductions in marginal tax rates. There is strategic complementary in lobbying for tax exemptions, resulting in multiple equilibria. Evidence from tax-base changes in a panel of OECD countries supports a number of the main predictions. 


May 10
Matias Iaryczower, Princeton University

Competing for Loyalty: The Dynamics of Rallying Support

We consider a class of dynamic collective action problems in which either a single principal or two competing principals vie for the support of members of a group. We focus on the dynamic problem that emerges when agents negotiate and commit their support to principals sequentially. A danger for the agents in this context is that a principal may be able to succeed by exploiting competition among members of the group. Would agents benefit from introducing competition between opposing principals? We show that when principals’ policies provide value to the agents, competition actually reduces agents’ welfare. JEL codes: D70, D72, C78. 

May 17

Luigi Curini, Unversità degli Studi di Milano

Beyond Ideology: Measuring the intensity of the government-opposition divide from legislative speeches. An application to Japanese parliamentary debates, 1953-2013 (with prof. Airo Hino)

The “distance” separating a cabinet from its opposition (i.e., the largeness of the government-opposition divide) is clearly a relevant political metric. Usually such distance is measured in terms of ideological preferences only. However, the line of conflict between government and opposition, as well as the political consequences of that, can underline also several other factors, such as: evolving parliamentary dynamics, past behaviors, forward expectations, as well as emotional factors such as mutual (dis)trust. All previous aspects are quite difficult to measure in a direct way. In this paper we argue that by analyzing legislative speeches through a scaling method quite popular in the political science literature such as Wordfish (Proksch and Slapin 2009) we are able to place parties along a dimension that captures the evolution of the confrontational nature of a parliamentary democracy over time in a more robust way than relying on a pure measure based on the ideological positions of parties. We show the substantial relevance of such points by analyzing legislative speeches made by prime ministers and party representatives in the parliamentary sessions of the Japanese Diet from 1953 to 2013. We then briefly extend the analysis to the Italian case to show the robustness of our findings.




For more information:
Carlo F. Dondena Centre for Research on Social Dynamics & Public Policy
tel. +39 025836.5384
















Last updated 04 September 2016 - 08:12:19