nep-gro New Economics Papers
on Economic Growth
Issue of 2020‒12‒07
five papers chosen by
Marc Klemp
University of Copenhagen

  1. Back to the past: the historical roots of labour-saving automation By Staccioli, Jacopo; Virgillito, Maria Enrica
  2. Social Adaptation to Diseases and Inequality: Historical Evidence from Malaria in Italy By Paolo Buonanno; Elena Esposito; Giorgio Gulino
  3. Money, Growth, and Welfare in a Schumpeterian Model with the Spirit of Capitalism By Qinchun He; Yulei Luo; Jun Nie; Heng-fu Zou
  4. The fiscal origins of comparative inequality levels: an empirical and historical investigation By Irarrázaval, Andrés
  5. Induced shifting involvements and cycles of growth and distribution By Michalis Nikiforos

  1. By: Staccioli, Jacopo; Virgillito, Maria Enrica
    Abstract: This paper, relying on a still relatively unexplored long-term dataset on U.S. patenting activity, provides empirical evidence on the history of labour-saving innovations back to early 19th century. The identification of mechanisation/automation heuristics, retrieved via textual content analysis on current robotic technologies by Montobbio et al. (2020), allows to focus on a limited set of CPC codes where mechanisation and automation technologies are more prevalent. We track their time evolution, clustering, eventual emergence of wavy behaviour, and their comovements with long-term GDP growth. Our results challenge both the general-purpose technology approach and the strict 50-year Kondratiev cycle, while provide evidence of the emergence of erratic constellations of heterogeneous technological artefacts, in line with the developmentblock approach enabled by autocatalytic systems.
    Keywords: Labour-Saving Technologies,Search Heuristics,Industrial Revolutions,Wavelet analysis
    JEL: O3 C38 J24
    Date: 2020
  2. By: Paolo Buonanno; Elena Esposito; Giorgio Gulino
    Abstract: Disease and epidemics have been a constant presence throughout the history of humanity. In order to mitigate the risks of contagion, societies have long “adapted” to diseases, implementing an array of coping strategies that, in the long run, have had considerable economic and social consequences. This article advances the hypothesis, and documents empirically, that the need to alleviate the dangers of malaria shaped all aspects of life in agricultural communities, from where and how people settled, to how and what they could farm. As larger farms were better equipped to adopt these risk-mitigating strategies, centuries of exposure to malaria had important implications for inequality and wealth distribution.
    Keywords: land concentration, Inequality, malaria, diseases, human capital, long-run development
    JEL: O40 O13 O15 N30
    Date: 2020–11
  3. By: Qinchun He; Yulei Luo; Jun Nie; Heng-fu Zou
    Abstract: According to Schumpeter (1934), entrepreneurs are driven to innovate not only for the fruits of success but for success itself. This description of entrepreneurship echoes Weber’s (1958) description of the “spirit of capitalism,” which states that people enjoy the accumulation of wealth irrespective of its effect on smoothing consumption. This paper explores the implications of the spirit of capitalism on monetary policy, growth, and welfare in a Schumpeterian growth model. Different from the existing literature, we show that money is not superneutral in the long run and could promote economic growth when the spirit of capitalism is strong. Furthermore, we show that the optimal nominal interest rate decreases with the strength of the spirit of capitalism, potentially supporting a negative interest rate. Finally, our calibrated model suggests that the spirit of capitalism explains an important share (about one-third) of long-run growth in the United States.
    Keywords: Spirit of capitalism; Cash-in-advance; Schumpeterian model; Monetary policy; Growth and welfare
    JEL: E52 O42 O47
    Date: 2020–11–09
  4. By: Irarrázaval, Andrés
    Abstract: This research exploits novel evidence on current and historical inequality dynamics, as well as an instrumental variable (IV) strategy (founded on historical settler mortality à la Acemoglu et al.), to document the fundamental role of income redistribution through taxes and transfers in accounting for differences in inequality across regions and historical periods. This research challenges the conventional wisdom about the origins of world-leading inequality levels in Latin America, India or Africa, arguing that inequality is not rooted in the colonial period nor are current inequality levels explained by supposedly persistent “extractive” economic institutions maintaining an unequal playing field. De facto, Latin America, Africa and India have had, in most cases, lower inequality levels than Western countries (i.e. Western Europe and its Offshoots) until the early 20th century. Before this period, no different than in colonized nations, Western countries had a regressive fiscal system which required the poorest taxpayers to fund public services that benefited richer households. The IV strategy, and the evidence on inequality dynamics, both indicate that contemporary inequality differences are a product of the 20th century. The emergence of redistributive policies due to democratization, which have taken place in the past century, have led to an exceptional inequality reduction in Western countries. Despite that Latin America and India have converged towards “inclusive” economic institutions, high inequality has persisted through a regressive fiscal equilibrium which still is largely in place due to a slower democratization process.
    Keywords: inequality; redistribution; institutions; colonialism; Latin America; India
    JEL: D02 D31 D63 D72 F54 H23 N30 O15 O17 P16
    Date: 2020–11
  5. By: Michalis Nikiforos (University of Geneva (CH))
    Abstract: The paper builds on the concept of (shifting) involvements, originally proposed by Albert Hirschman (2002 [1982]). However, unlike Hirschman, the concept is framed in class terms. A model is presented where income distribution is determined by the involvement of the two classes, capitalists and workers. Higher involvement by capitalists and lower involvement by workers tends to increase the profit share and vice versa. In turn, shifts in involvements are induced by the potential effect of a change in distribution on economic activity and past levels of distribution. On the other hand, as the profit share increases, the economy tends to become more wage led. The dynamics of the resulting model are interesting. The more the two classes prioritize the increase of their income share over economic activity, the more possible it is that the economy is unstable. Under the stable configuration, the most likely outcome is Polanyian predator-prey cycles, which can explain some interesting historical episodes during the 20th century. Finally, the paper discusses the possibility of conflict and cooperation within each of the distribution-led regimes.
    Keywords: distribution; economic growth; institutions; social movements; political economy
    JEL: E11 E12 E21 E22 E32
    Date: 2020–11

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