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Politics and macroeconomic performance in the OECD countries

  • Cusack, Thomas R.
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    This paper provides an overview of the major macroeconomic problems that have confronted the OECD countries during the last four decades. It also explores some leading arguments regarding the political bases of these problems. An extensive account of the experiences of these countries in terms of five major macroeconomic problem areas, growth, employment, price stability, external balances, and equality, is provided. The relative performance of these countries is given particular emphasis. An attempt is made to place their economic progress and difficulties into a broader historical perspective and to provide some background with respect to related developments. This is followed by a discussion of three of the leading arguments regarding the political basis of economic performance (social consensus, class-based partisan politics, and government failure). An evaluation of the empirical validity of these arguments is provided. None of the three arguments (and their variants) garnered evidence that was uniformly supportive. Aside from somemodest support for the coherence version of the class-based partisan politics model, the effects of political factors on growth appear to be nil. The existence of tradeoffs between left and right preferences in terms of other macroeconomic outcomes, specifically with respect to unemployment and inflation, seem not to manifest themselves in the presence of social consensus. Both the desired outcome of full employment and price stability can be achieved under conditions of social consensus. Interestingly, such consensus will do nothing to advance the goal of income equalization. Partisan politics does seem to matter in most of the economic problem areas examined. There is some evidence that a strong left and labor will bring about lower unemployment and greater equality at the cost of higher inflation and a poorer performance on the external account.

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    Paper provided by Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB) in its series Discussion Papers, Research Unit: Economic Change and Employment with number FS I 95-315.

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    Date of creation: 1995
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    Handle: RePEc:zbw:wzbece:fsi95315
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    1. Alesina, Alberto & Summers, Lawrence H, 1993. "Central Bank Independence and Macroeconomic Performance: Some Comparative Evidence," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 25(2), pages 151-62, May.
    2. McCallum, John, 1986. "Unemployment in OECD Countries in the 1980s," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 96(384), pages 942-60, December.
    3. Romer, David, 1993. "Openness and Inflation: Theory and Evidence," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 108(4), pages 869-903, November.
    4. Levitt, M S, 1976. "The Redistributive Effects of Taxation in the Report of the Royal Commission on the Distribution of Income and Wealth," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 86(343), pages 579-88, September.
    5. Cukierman Alex, 1992. "Central Bank Strategy, Credibility, And Independance: Theory And Evidence," Journal des Economistes et des Etudes Humaines, De Gruyter, vol. 3(4), pages 10, December.
    6. Dowrick, Steve, 1989. "Sectoral change, catching up and slowing down : OECD post-war economic growth revisited," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 31(4), pages 331-335, December.
    7. Pryor, Frederic L., 1988. "Corporatism as an economic system: A review essay," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 12(3), pages 317-344, September.
    8. Summers, Lawrence H & Gruber, Jonathan & Vergara, Rodrigo, 1993. "Taxation and the Structure of Labor Markets: The Case of Corporatism," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 108(2), pages 385-411, May.
    9. Summers, Robert & Heston, Alan, 1991. "The Penn World Table (Mark 5): An Expanded Set of International Comparisons, 1950-1988," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 106(2), pages 327-68, May.
    10. McCallum, John, 1983. "Inflation and Social Consensus in the Seventies," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 93(372), pages 784-805, December.
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