Daron Acemoglu in James Robinson, avtorja izvrstne vendar kontroverzne knjige Why Nations Fail?, v še vročem eseju Economics versus Politics: Pitfalls of Policy Advice razpravljata o pasteh ekonomskih nasvetov politiki. Natančneje, razpravljata o tem, česa ekonomisti ne razumejo, ko dajejo ekonomske nasvete politikom in da morajo za večjo učinkovitost svojih nasvetov upoštevati politično realnost in dolgoročne politične in ekonomske posledice. Gre preprosto za to, o čemer s kolegi ekonomisti pogosto razpravljamo v povišanih tonih, da so “čisti”, “textbook” ekonomski nasveti, ki abstrahirajo politično realnost, večinoma povsem zgrešeni. Preprosto zato, ker, prvič, “čistih” ekonomskih idej običajno sploh ni mogoče uveljaviti v dani politični realnosti, ali pa je njihova uveljavitev, drugič, lahko celo škodljiva iz vidika, ki nas ekonomiste najbolj zanima – z vidika maksimizacije družbene blaginje.
Kot pravita Acemoglu in Robinson (2013):
The fundamental approach to policy prescription in economics derives from the recognition that the presence of market failures – like externalities, public goods, monopoly, and imperfect competition – creates room for well-designed public interventions to improve social welfare. This tradition, already clear in Pigou (1912), was elaborated by Samuelson (1947), and still provides the basis of most policy advice provided by economists. For example, the first development economists in the 1950s used market failure inspired ideas as the intellectual basis for the need for government intervention to promote development in poor countries (Killick 1978).
Though belief in the ability of the government or the effectiveness of aid has waxed and waned, current approaches to development problems have much in common with this early tradition, even if they have become more sophisticated: in recognizing second-best issues, for instance, by incorporating informational frictions explicitly in policy design (for example, Townsend, 2011); in highlighting the specificity of the appropriate policy depending on context (for example, Rodrik, 2007); and in emphasizing the role of rigorous empirical methods in determining which sorts of interventions can be effective (for eample, Banerjee and Duflo, 2011). But in all of these approaches, politics is largely absent from the scene.
In this essay, we argue not only that economic advice will ignore politics at its peril but also that there are systematic forces that sometimes turn good economics into bad politics, with the latter unfortunately often trumping the economic good. Of course, we are not claiming that economic advice should shy away from identifying market failures and creative solutions to them, nor are we suggesting a blanket bias away from good economic policy. Rather, our argument is that economic analysis needs to identify, theoretically and empirically, conditions under which politics and economics run into conflict, and then evaluate policy proposals taking this conflict and the potential backlashes it creates into account.
Our basic argument is simple: the extant political equilibrium may not be indepen- dent of the market failure; indeed it may critically rest upon it. Faced with a trade union exercising monopoly power and raising the wages of its members, most economists would advocate removing or limiting the union’s ability to exercise this monopoly power, and this is certainly the right policy in some circumstances. But unions do not just influence the way the labor market functions; they also have important implications for the political system. Historically, unions have played a key role in the creation of democracy in many parts of the world, particularly in Western Europe; they have founded, funded and supported political parties, such as the Labour Party in Britain or the Social Democratic parties of Scandinavia, which have had large impacts on public policy and on the extent of taxation and income redistribution, often balancing the political power of established business interests and political elites. Because the higher wages that unions generate for their members are one of the main reasons why people join unions, reducing their market power is likely to foster de-unionization. But this may, by further strengthening groups and interests that were already dominant in society, also change the political equilibrium in a direction involving greater efficiency losses.
This case illustrates a more general conclusion, which is the heart of our argument: even when it is possible, removing a market failure need not improve the allocation of resources because of its impact on future political equilibria. To understand whether it is likely to do so, one must look at the political consequences of a policy— it is not sufficient to just focus on the economic costs and benefits.
We then discuss three broad mechanisms generating circumstances under which good economic policy may make bad politics. First, economic rents in the present can affect political equilibria; policies that, in the process of solving market failures, reduce the economic rents for certain groups may have unintended political consequences, particularly when the rents that are destroyed are those of groups that are already weak, further tilting the balance of power in society. Second, even in the absence of changing rents, the distribution of income can effect the political equilibrium, which implies that the distributional effects of the policies that enhance economic efficiency cannot be ignored for an additional, political reason. Once again, policies that lead to a further increase in inequality would be the ones most likely to have counterproductive political implications. Third, political incentive compatibility constraints, which determine the interests a politician has to satisfy, may be violated for certain groups as a result of removing market failures, creating a political backlash.
Celotno razpravo lahko dobite tukaj.
Robinson in Acemoglu v tem eseju seveda ne povesta nič epohalno novega. Nič, kar nam ne bi bilo inuitivno jasno. Je pa njuna razprava pomembna iz vidika “priznanja”, da je oblikovanje “čiste” ekonomske politike na podlagi zgolj cost – benefit analize običajno povsem zgrešeno, velikokrat pa ima lahko povsem nezaželjene dolgoročne družbene učinke. Dober primer tega je vprašanje vloge sindikatov. Kakorkoli so sindikati “pain in the ass” in običajno blokirajo vse nujne reforme, pa je – kot kaže primer ZDA in V. Britanije v zadnjih treh desetletjih – njihova odprava ali minimizacija njihove vloge lahko dolgoročno še bolj škodljiva. Tudi zaradi njihove odprave/minimizacije se je vloga kapitala preveč okrepila, kar je razdelitev koristi od “družbene proizvodnje” preveč nagnilo v korist dobičkov, medtem ko so plače stagnirale. To pa je privedlo do povečanja družbene neenakosti, izginotja srednjega razreda itd.
Podobno velja glede odprave (mnogokrat sicer pretirane) regulacije. Postopna, vendar radikalna odprava regulacije v bančnem sektorju v ZDA od sedemdesetih let naprej je seveda glavni krivec za ekscesno povečanje dobičkov finančne industrije na eni strani ter seveda na drugi tudi za nastanek sedanje finančne in gospodarske krize. Pri tem pa je kar nekaj “uglednih ekonomistov” odigralo vsaj precej kratkovidno, če ne že (zelo preračunljivo) umazano vlogo. Dober pregled dogajanja v finančni industriji pred in med ameriško finančno krizo ter vlog posameznikov lahko najdete v odlični knjigi 13 Bankers ekonomistov Simona Johnsona in Johna Kwaka.