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Populist Leaders and the Economy

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  • Funke, Manuel
  • Schularick, Moritz
  • Trebesch, Christoph

Abstract

Populism at the country level is at an all-time high, with more than 25% of nations currently governed by populists. How do economies perform under populist leaders? We build a new long-run cross-country database to study the macroeconomic history of populism. We identify 50 populist presidents and prime ministers from 1900 to 2018 and show that the economic cost of populism is high. After 15 years, GDP per capita is 10% lower compared to a plausible non-populist counterfactual. Rising economic nationalism and protectionism, unsustainable macroeconomic policies, and institutional decay under populist rule do lasting damage to the economy.

Suggested Citation

  • Funke, Manuel & Schularick, Moritz & Trebesch, Christoph, 2020. "Populist Leaders and the Economy," CEPR Discussion Papers 15405, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:15405
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    2. Oliver Kovacs, 2022. "Inclusive Industry 4.0 in Europe—Japanese Lessons on Socially Responsible Industry 4.0," Social Sciences, MDPI, vol. 11(1), pages 1-26, January.
    3. Ajzenman, N. & Cavalcanti, T. & Da Mata, D., 2020. "More than Words: Leaders' Speech and Risky Behavior During a Pandemic," Cambridge Working Papers in Economics 2034, Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge.
    4. Martonosi, Susan E. & Behzad, Banafsheh & Cummings, Kayla, 2021. "Pricing the COVID-19 vaccine: A mathematical approach," Omega, Elsevier, vol. 103(C).
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    6. Fremerey, Melinda & Hörnig, Lukas & Schaffner, Sandra, 2022. "Becoming neighbors with refugees and voting for the far-right? The impact of refugee inflows at the small-scale level," DICE Discussion Papers 387, Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf Institute for Competition Economics (DICE).
    7. Eugenio Levi & Isabelle Sin & Steven Stillman, 2021. "Understanding the Origins of Populist Political Parties and the Role of External Shocks," CESifo Working Paper Series 9036, CESifo.
    8. Beatrice Magistro, 2022. "The influence of financial and economic literacy on policy preferences in Italy," Economics and Politics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 34(2), pages 351-381, July.
    9. Eberhardt, Markus, 2022. "Democracy, growth, heterogeneity, and robustness," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 147(C).
    10. Acemoglu, Daron & Ajzenman, Nicolas & Aksoy, Cevat Giray & Fiszbein, Martin & Molina, Carlos, 2021. "(Successful) Democracies Breed Their Own Support," IZA Discussion Papers 14691, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    11. Gasperin, Simone, 2022. "Lessons from the past for 21st century systems of state-owned enterprises: The case of Italy's IRI in the 1930s," Structural Change and Economic Dynamics, Elsevier, vol. 62(C), pages 599-612.
    12. Bibek Adhikari, 2022. "A Guide to Using the Synthetic Control Method to Quantify the Effects of Shocks, Policies, and Shocking Policies," The American Economist, Sage Publications, vol. 67(1), pages 46-63, March.
    13. Murat Demirci, 2021. "Rising Political Populism and Outmigration of Youth as International Students," Koç University-TUSIAD Economic Research Forum Working Papers 2123, Koc University-TUSIAD Economic Research Forum.
    14. Michael Bayerlein & Vanessa A. Boese & Scott Gates & Katrin Kamin & Syed Mansoob Murshed, 2021. "Populism and COVID-19: How Populist Governments (Mis)Handle the Pandemic," Journal of Political Institutions and Political Economy, now publishers, vol. 2(3), pages 389-428, December.
    15. Hartwell, Christopher A. & Devinney, Timothy, 2021. "Populism, political risk, and pandemics: The challenges of political leadership for business in a post-COVID world," Journal of World Business, Elsevier, vol. 56(4).

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    institutions; populism; protectionism;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • E60 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - General
    • N10 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - General, International, or Comparative
    • P16 - Economic Systems - - Capitalist Systems - - - Political Economy of Capitalism

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