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Globalization versus Redistribution? Egalitarian Policies in a Competitive World Economy


  • Samuel Bowles

    (Santa Fe Institute and University of Massachusetts)


A reduction of impediments to international flows of goods, capital and professional labor is thought to raise the economic costs of programs by the nation state (and labor unions) to redistribute income to the poor and to provide economic security. But some of the more politically and economically successful examples of such policies-for example, Nordic social democracy and East Asian land reform- have occurred in small open economies which would, on the above account, provide a prohibitive environment for egalitarian interventions. I present a model of globalization and redistribution to answer the following question: in a liberalized world economy, what programs of egalitarian redistribution and social insurance are implementable by democratic nation states acting independently? While in the absence of international coordination, globalization indeed makes it difficult for nation states to affect the relative (after tax) prices of mobile goods and factors of production and for this and other reasons may limit the effectiveness of some conventional strategies of redistribution, a large class of state and trade union interventions leading to substantial improvements in the wages, employment prospects, and economic security of workers is not ruled out by globalisation. Included are redistributions of assete which provide efficient solutions to incentive problems arising in principal agent relationships such as wage employment, form and residential tenancy.

Suggested Citation

  • Samuel Bowles, 2001. "Globalization versus Redistribution? Egalitarian Policies in a Competitive World Economy," Indian Economic Review, Department of Economics, Delhi School of Economics, vol. 36(2), pages 315-339, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:dse:indecr:v:36:y:2001:i:2:p:315-339

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Backus, David K & Kehoe, Patrick J & Kydland, Finn E, 1994. "Dynamics of the Trade Balance and the Terms of Trade: The J-Curve?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(1), pages 84-103, March.
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    4. Julio J. Rotemberg & Michael Woodford, 1993. "Dynamic General Equilibrium Models with Imperfectly Competitive Product Markets," NBER Working Papers 4502, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    7. David Backus & Patrick J. Kehoe & Finn E. Kydland, 1993. "International Business Cycles: Theory and Evidence," NBER Working Papers 4493, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Christian Zimmermann, 1994. "Technology Innovations and the Volatility of Output: An International Perspective," Cahiers de recherche CREFE / CREFE Working Papers 34, CREFE, Université du Québec à Montréal.
    9. Lucas, Robert Jr, 1976. "Econometric policy evaluation: A critique," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 1(1), pages 19-46, January.
    10. Ireland, Peter N., 2001. "Technology shocks and the business cycle: On empirical investigation," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 25(5), pages 703-719, May.
    11. Ingram, Beth F. & Whiteman, Charles H., 1994. "Supplanting the 'Minnesota' prior: Forecasting macroeconomic time series using real business cycle model priors," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 34(3), pages 497-510, December.
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    JEL classification:

    • F10 - International Economics - - Trade - - - General


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