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Political Economy of Fairness


  • Edward E. Zajac

    () (University of Arizona Eller College)


How should the government balance the aims of justice and economic efficiency when intervening in the economy? In Political Economy of Fairness Edward Zajac seeks not only to raise the level of the fairness-economic efficiency debate, but to show both the importance and the difficulty (illustrated by the ongoing struggle of the Supreme Court to put meaning into the Sherman and Clayton antitrust acts) of getting the economic theory right in executing fairness-motivated policy. He also reveals both the pervasiveness of government interference in the marketplace and the generality of the stakeholders-fairness-efficiency paradigm as an organizing framework for identifying and analyzing the interaction of the major elements in the policy debates. Political Economy of Fairness covers the main advances of fairness theory, providing a vocabulary of concepts and terms that will allow more efficient and informed communication about policy. It explains these sometimes quite difficult concepts in clear language with maximum appeal to intuition and little mathematics and reviews the experimental work of economists as well as the more standard approaches of moral philosophers. Part I looks at how economists understand and commonly define the concepts of efficiency, costs, prices, exit/entry, externalities, public goods, firms, risks and incentives, and principal-agent theory. Part II reviews fairness theory, including the basic elements of the theories of John Rawls, Robert Nozick, utilitarianism, and superfairness, and the extensive work of experimental economists to develop positive theories of fairness. Part III covers economic theories of regulation and government intervention, introducing the different concepts of taxation, "cures" for market failures, theories of public choice, and rent seeking. Zajac concludes this part by observing that incentive-compatible regulation appears to economists as the most promising approach to government intervention. The book closes with several case studies that illustrate recurrent themes in regulation and policy. The case studies include progressive taxation, unfair pricing (cross-subsidization and predatory pricing and dumping), mergers and acquisitions, and health, safety, and environmental regulation.

Suggested Citation

  • Edward E. Zajac, 1996. "Political Economy of Fairness," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262740192, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:mtp:titles:0262740192

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Carmen M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff & Miguel A. Savastano, 2003. "Debt Intolerance," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 34(1), pages 1-74.
    2. Kaminsky, Graciela L. & Reinhart, Carmen M., 2002. "Financial markets in times of stress," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(2), pages 451-470, December.
    3. Gerardo della Paolera & Alan M. Taylor, 2001. "Introduction to "Straining at the Anchor: The Argentine Currency Board and the Search for Macroeconomic Stability, 1880-1935"," NBER Chapters,in: Straining at the Anchor: The Argentine Currency Board and the Search for Macroeconomic Stability, 1880-1935, pages 3-36 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Rodrik, Dani, 2004. "Industrial Policy for the Twenty-First Century," Working Paper Series rwp04-047, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
    5. Gerardo della Paolera & Alan M. Taylor, 2001. "Straining at the Anchor: The Argentine Currency Board and the Search for Macroeconomic Stability, 1880-1935," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number paol01-1, January.
    6. Guillermo A. Calvo, 2008. "Crises in Emerging Markets Economies: A Global Perspective," Central Banking, Analysis, and Economic Policies Book Series,in: Kevin Cowan & Sebastián Edwards & Rodrigo O. Valdés & Norman Loayza (Series Editor) & Klaus Schmidt- (ed.), Current Account and External Financing, edition 1, volume 12, chapter 3, pages 085-115 Central Bank of Chile.
    7. Kaminsky, Graciela L & Reinhart, Carmen M, 1998. "Financial Crises in Asia and Latin America: Then and Now," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(2), pages 444-448, May.
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    10. Calvo, Guillermo A. & Izquierdo, Alejandro & Loo-Kung, Rudy, 2006. "Relative price volatility under Sudden Stops: The relevance of balance sheet effects," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(1), pages 231-254, June.
    11. Gerardo Della Paolera & Alan M. Taylor, 2003. "Gaucho Banking Redux," ECONOMIA JOURNAL, THE LATIN AMERICAN AND CARIBBEAN ECONOMIC ASSOCIATION - LACEA, vol. 0(Spring 20), pages 1-42, January.
    12. Roberto Chang & Andres Velasco, 2001. "A Model of Financial Crises in Emerging Markets," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(2), pages 489-517.
    13. Guillermo A. Calvo & Ernesto Talvi, 2005. "Sudden Stop, Financial Factors and Economic Collpase in Latin America: Learning from Argentina and Chile," NBER Working Papers 11153, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    14. Carmen M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff, 2004. "Serial Default and the "Paradox" of Rich-to-Poor Capital Flows," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(2), pages 53-58, May.
    15. Martínez, Juan & Santiso, Javier, 2003. "Financial Markets and Politics: The Confidence Game in Latin American Emerging Economies," MPRA Paper 12909, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    16. Cohen, Joseph N. & Centeno, Miguel A., 2006. "Neoliberalism and patterns of economic performance: 1980 to 2000," MPRA Paper 22436, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    17. Michael D. Bordo & Alan M. Taylor & Jeffrey G. Williamson, 2003. "Introduction to "Globalization in Historical Perspective"," NBER Chapters,in: Globalization in Historical Perspective, pages 1-10 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    More about this item


    economic policy; fairness theory; incentive-compatible regulation;

    JEL classification:

    • K2 - Law and Economics - - Regulation and Business Law
    • G38 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Government Policy and Regulation


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