Archive for the 'economics' Category

The past and future of the Journal of Public Finance and Public Choice

JPFPC cover no logo

Bristol University Press is thrilled to announce the relaunch of the Journal of Public Finance and Public Choice (JPFPC).

In the Editorial below, Emma Galli (Editor-in-Chief) and Giampaolo Garzarelli (Editor) discuss the past, and future, of this important journal.

Volume 33, issue 1, of the journal is FREE until 20 April 2018. Read online here.


JPFPC, founded in 1983 (and directed, owned and principally sponsored) by Professor Domenico da Empoli (1941–2016), was the first European public economics journal explicitly covering Public Choice.1 Giannini Editore in Naples was JPFPC’s first publisher under the title Economia delle scelte pubbliche/Journal of Public Finance and Public Choice. In 1997 Gangemi Editore in Rome took over publishing responsibilities when Public Choice still continued to have a minority status in Italian academia. The journal then changed title to Journal of Public Finance and Public Choice/Economia delle scelte pubbliche. The last issue published by Gangemi was the 2014, Volume 32, single issue 1/3 (actually published in 2016). We are very grateful for their excellent job. The current owner and copyright holder of the journal is ‘Associazione Economia delle Scelte Pubbliche’ (AESP), which exclusively licenses all publication rights to Bristol University Press. At present, JPFPC will be published twice per year, continuing the original volume numbering. Back issues will also be available.

Da Empoli came into contact with Public Choice during a visiting period in the US, first at the University of Illinois (1965), and then at the University of Chicago (1966). At that time Public Choice – namely, the subfield of public economics that methodologically treats public sector analysis no differently from market analysis (homo economicus, methodological individualism, and politics as exchange) – was picking up momentum in the US. Da Empoli’s background until then had mostly been in the Italian tradition of Scienza delle finanze. The Scienza delle finanze is a unique approach to public economics. Developed in Italy, beginning approximately at the end of the 1880s, it always stressed the importance of law and politics when considering the study of the workings of the public sector. Moreover, in line with its Italian origin, it is an approach that always kept a non-idealistic stance to the body politic: politicians are, like everyone else, self-interested. This means that public decisions originate from political compromises within an institutional framework that must also be considered. Two implications immediately follow: comparative institutional analysis matters; the institutions of the public sector are not perfect, they can fail just as those of the private sector can fail.

Da Empoli’s Scienza delle finanze background was particularly congenial for Public Choice, also because Scienza delle finanze is one of the three traditions that build up Public Choice (the others being Austrian subjectivism and Wicksell’s approach to collective decision making). Therefore, da Empoli immediately was able to pick up the potential of then-emerging Public Choice, on both positive and normative grounds: Public Choice offered a rigorous analytical lens that Scienza delle finanze at that time still lacked.

“Since its birth JPFPC has published many works of Italian and international scholars, including Nobel Prize winners (M Allais, JM Buchanan, RH Coase, G Stigler). “

The rest is history. Since its birth JPFPC has published many works of Italian and international scholars, including Nobel Prize winners (M Allais, JM Buchanan, RH Coase, G Stigler). Over more than thirty years, thanks to constant and serious work by the former Editor and Editorial Board, all committed to publishing high-quality, peer-reviewed papers, and to their openness to new ideas, JPFPC has acquired a very good scientific reputation.


What about JPFPC’s future?

Our objective is to keep JPFPC a high-quality outlet for thought-provoking research. One change with the past is that we will aim to make the content of JPFPC more reflective of its title: that is, to advance knowledge in both public finance and public choice. We do not wish to favour one approach over the other. Rather, the attempt is to stimulate fruitful debate over different, rival positions. JPFPC therefore is an inclusive outlet.

In this sense, we also welcome behavioural, experimental and multidisciplinary approaches. Moreover, we encourage submissions from economics, as well as from cognate disciplines (geography, law, political science, sociology), that contribute to our understanding of the public economy and its broader constitutional, legal and political economy matrix. Theoretical and applied papers, including contributions on the history of economic thought, are welcome. When considering a contribution’s added value, JPFPC will continue to value originality over formalism.

We live in an era when journal indexing, metrics and turnaround times are increasingly influencing, especially in economics, an author’s ‘where to submit’ decision. JPFPC is already present in several databases, including Australian, EconLit, French, and MIAR. The objective is also to include JPFPC in other relevant databases, with the intention to obtain journal metrics. Furthermore, we are committed to a quick turnaround time.We are very grateful to Bristol University Press for believing in the JPFPC, and for recognising JPFPC’s uniqueness in the international landscape of public economics journals.


1 On Domenico da Empoli, see Galli, E, Garzarelli, G, Villani, M, 2016, Domenico da Empoli, In Memoriam, International Tax Law Review (Single Issue), 9–15, and Galli, E, Garzarelli, G, 2017, Domenico da Empoli (1941–2016), Homo Oeconomicus: Journal of Behavioral and Institutional Economics 34, 2–3, 253–5


Find out more about the Journal of Public Finance and Public Choice (JPFPC) on our website.

10 ways we can reverse inequality in Britain

Professor Roger Brown Book launch Liverpool Hope 16.4.13

Roger Brown

Roger Brown, author of The inequality crisis, explains how economic inequality in Britain and other advanced Western countries has got so bad, and highlights the measures we need to undertake that will start to reverse this devastating trend.

“Almost every day now the media carries stories about inequality and its effects.

In the past few weeks, the Department for Health has confirmed that the health gap between rich and poor in England is growing.

Reports by Lloyds Bank and the Social Market Foundation have drawn attention to our disparities in wealth, with a tenth of adults owning half of the country’s wealth while 15% own nothing or have negative wealth.

Respected independent ‘thinktanks’ like the Institute for Fiscal Studies and the Resolution Foundation have repeated their warnings that, at a time when wages generally are only growing slowly, the combination of tax cuts and cuts in welfare benefits means that income inequality will increase further over the next few years.

“Economic inequality has increased in nearly every advanced Western country…”

This is not just an English or British issue. In March, International Monetary Fund (IMF) researchers estimated that the US economy had lost a year of consumption growth because of increased income polarisation. And of course inequality was a major factor in the Brexit vote and in the election of President Trump.

My interest in the subject was first aroused by my work on the introduction of markets into higher education. I found that the associated increase in competition through mechanisms like tuition fees had exacerbated the inequalities between universities and the constituencies they serve, without any significant compensating benefits. This led me to wonder if there might be parallels in the economy and society more generally.

What I established was that economic inequality has increased in nearly every advanced Western country over the past thirty or so years, and that this has led to a huge range of costs and detriments. Moreover, these costs and detriments are not only social. As the IMF research confirms, increased economic inequality has an economic cost as well. Above all, growing inequality is disabling democratic politics as the concentration of economic power is increasingly reflected in a concentration of political power (as can be seen most clearly in the US).

“Growing inequality is disabling democratic politics…”

But whilst nearly everyone agrees that – to paraphrase Dunning’s famous 1780 Parliamentary motion, economic inequality has increased, is increasing, and ought to be reduced – there is no agreement on how this should be done.

Broadly speaking, there are two schools of thought:

One – the ‘market’ view – is that increased inequality is the inevitable outcome of underlying structural developments such as globalisation, skill-biased technological change, and financialisation (the growing economic role of such processes as banking and securities trading) over which individual countries and governments have little control. These changes are leading to what have been termed ‘winner-take-all’ markets where those at the top gain rewards out of all proportion to their contribution to society.

The alternative, ‘institutional’, theory is that it is due to the political choices made in individual countries, and especially the neoliberal policies of deregulation, privatisation, tax reductions, welfare cutbacks and deflation pursued in most Western countries since the mid- to late-70s, but particularly associated with Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan.

I believe that it is the combination of these underlying structural developments with those neoliberal policies that has driven the post-80s rise in inequality, with the US and Britain well above the other wealthy Western countries in the extent to which inequality has grown there over that period.

So the key to reversing, halting or slowing inequality lies in the first place in reversing these neoliberal policies, but without losing the benefits of properly regulated market competition in sectors where it is appropriate.

The following is a short list of measures that would start to reverse inequality in Britain:

  1. Require the potential impact on inequality to be a major test of every other policy or programme introduced by the Government.
  2. Show that we are serious about tax avoidance by reversing the long-term decline in the number of professional HMRC officials.
  3. Progressively adjust the balance between direct and indirect taxation (VAT), increasing the former and reducing the latter.
  4. Increase the income tax rates for higher earners (say, above £60,000).
  5. Introduce some form of wealth tax.
  6. Begin the rehabilitation of the trade unions by repealing most of the 2016 Trade Union Act.
  7. Reverse the cuts in welfare benefits made by the Coalition and Cameron Governments.
  8. Introduce measures that really will force companies to take account of interests wider than those of top management.
  9. Begin to end segregation in education by removing the charitable status of the private schools.
  10. Focus macroeconomic policy on demand and wage growth rather than inflation and corporate profits.

The Labour election manifesto has some proposals on these lines, but no political party has yet really got its mind round the full range of measures that are needed to combat inequality.

Until they do, inequality will continue to increase.


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Why we need social entrepreneurs

Chris Durkin, co-author of Social entrepreneurship; A skills approach, reflects on his experience of redundancy and how the uncertainty it brings is representative of life in the ‘gig economy’. He highlights the urgent need to teach new skills, creativity and resilience and how social entrepreneurs can show us the way.

Christopher Durkin

I have been very lucky throughout my working life and only recently experienced the indignity of being made redundant. What was apparent was that redundancy has a formality, which goes through various stages – notification, ‘consultation’ and final notice – a process that involves you in attending various meetings, both as a group and as an individual.

What sticks out for me on a personal level was that throughout the process there was a high level of uncertainty, a complete loss of confidence and a feeling of anger, loss and failure; feelings that are both natural and individual.

Continue reading ‘Why we need social entrepreneurs’

American Tianxia: The Chinese term for American power

Salvatore Babones discusses the position and power of America in global politics and economics in this adapted preface of his new book, American tianxia: Chinese money, American power and the end of history

Salvatore Babones

The Chinese word tianxia (pronounced tyen-shah) means “all under heaven.”

As China has come to play a major role in global affairs, Chinese scholars have resurrected this classical Confucian term to describe the kind of international system they would like to see: harmonious, ethical, relational, and (it literally goes without saying) centered on China. The classical Chinese tianxia was an East Asian world-system focused on one central state (China) to which all other peoples looked for legitimation and leadership.

Today’s millennial world-system is similarly focused on the United States. Chinese scholars have the right concept for today’s world, but they’ve applied it to the wrong country.

The size of the US economy and its location at the center of the world-system has led to a merging of US and global systems of distinction: in almost every field, success in the world means success in the US, and vice versa. This is most true in business, where global value chains are overwhelmingly dominated by US companies, but it is true in most other fields as well.

Continue reading ‘American Tianxia: The Chinese term for American power’

If not a hard Brexit, then what?


Janice Morphet

Now that a ‘hard’ Brexit seems less likely, Janice Morphet – author of Beyond Brexit? – looks at alternative options for the UK’s relationship with the EU.

“Following the apparent disruption of hard Brexit that has followed the General Election, it is now time to review the other options available to the UK.

It would have been better to review these before the referendum was called and to explain the options to more fully inform the electorate during the campaign. Even after the referendum result, a review of the options would have been helpful rather than the incoming Prime Minister opting for the hardest form of EU/UK relationship without appreciating the paradox that her social welfare agenda could best be achieved using EU values, programmes and policies.

However, better late than never. So what are the real options available rather than those frequently suggested by those politicians less familiar with the EU?


The European Free Trade Association (EFTA)

The most frequently discussed approaches are the potential for the UK to return as a member of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). This was set up in 1960 by the UK as an alternative free trade bloc to the EU when the UK realised that it had made a mistake in dismissing membership of the then Common Market. Its members are now Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. While EFTA works as a group on some issues, its members have different relationships with the EU. This might suit the UK, but Norway has already indicated that it may not take the UK back into EFTA membership. How do these relationships work individually?

Continue reading ‘If not a hard Brexit, then what?’

Of and for society: Thinking the prosocial

What would it take to make society better? Rowland Atkinson, Lisa McKenzie and Simon Winlow, co-editors of the new book Building better societies, discuss some of the obstacles we face in trying to improve society. 

Rowland Atkinson

Lisa McKenzie

Simon Winlow

Social researchers spend so much time investigating the problems of inequality, crime, poverty and ill-health that they rarely have time to step outside these painful realities to engage in the kinds of utopian, creative and counter-intuitive thinking that can change entire academic fields.

We are encouraged, more than ever before, to be ‘policy relevant’, and the space and time needed to identify new and imaginative routes forward is diminishing with every passing year.

Many of us act in ways that are self-disciplining, if not self-defeating. We make careful pre-judgements about who will listen to us, and this often prevents us from making proposals or running ideas that might make the world – dare we say it – a better place. Given the sheer scale of the problems we face today – unparalleled inequality, ecological crisis and deep economic and political uncertainty – the role, and perhaps the duty, of social researchers is to draw on their evidence and intervene effectively in helping social conversations about the issues that really matter.

Continue reading ‘Of and for society: Thinking the prosocial’

It doesn’t have to be like this: Why capitalism needs to change, and fast

Where has capitalism gone wrong? In Too much stuff, Kozo Yamamura upends conventional capitalist wisdom to provide a new approach. Read about his new perspective on capitalism’s “sickness.”


Kozo Yamamura 1934 – 2017

Over the past three decades, the financial and environmental prospects of the UK, US, Japan and Europe, have slowly but surely been moving in a calamitous direction because of ill-conceived “easy money” policies pursued by those in power, from governments and banks through to multinational corporations and the advertising industry.

The result: a self-perpetuating cycle of stagnating economies, social unrest and political upheaval.

The advanced economies of the world are sick and democracy is floundering. Capitalism as we know it has created a climate where extremist, anti-EU political parties are flourishing by tapping into widespread dissatisfaction with the way things are.

They’re right in one sense – the system does need to change, because if it doesn’t, “what becomes the issue will not be the survival of our system, but the survival of our civilizations”.

“The advanced economies are sick, and the environment is getting sicker.”

Continue reading ‘It doesn’t have to be like this: Why capitalism needs to change, and fast’

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