Introduction to the JIPD Special Issue on Infrastructure

November, 2019

Our intention in assembling this special issue of the Journal of Infrastructure, Policy and Development is to offer a state-of-the-art tour through the political economy issues associated with the provision of public infrastructure, and with the use of Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) in particular. Anyone who is familiar with PPPs cannot fail to be impressed by the diversity of positions and claims regarding their properties. Some scholars maintain that PPPs are an efficient tool to enhance productivity due to their ability to manage demand-side risk. In contrast, other scholars see in PPPs a scheme whereby the public assumes the risk while the private partner takes the profit.

Debt Default and Democracy

May, 2018

The original essays in this book connect the microeconomic and macroeconomic approaches to public debt. Through their thought-provoking views, leading scholars offer insights into the incentives that individuals and governments may have in resorting to public debt, thereby promoting a clearer understanding of its economic consequences.

Public Debt

June, 2017

Over the past decades, economists have witnessed with growing uneasiness their failure to explain the ballooning of public debt in most countries. Using methodological individualism and microeconomics, this book overcomes flaws inherent in the standard macro approach, according to which governments manipulate public debt to promote systemic stability. This unique analysis is grounded in the writings of Antonio de Viti de Marco, injecting current analytical contributions and formulations into the framework to offer a forthright insight into public debt and political economy.

Public Debt provides an alternative orientation that explains why concepts of public debt that are relevant for authoritarian regimes are not relevant for democratic regimes. It examines public debt in cooperative and monopolistic democracies as well as the corrupting quality of public debt in democracy. Including topics such as macro guidance within a Machiavellian approach, public debt as systemic lying and as a shell game, economy as an ecology vs. economy as an engine, individual vs. group action and cooperative state as ideal type, this book is a unique and refreshing approach to the material.

This comprehensive and cohesive sourcebook will serve as a critical resource for academics interested in public debt and political economy.

'Monstrous Moral Hybrids' and the Corrupting Quality of Public Debt

November, 2016

This is the penultimate version of the last of six chapters in a book titled Public Debt: An Illusion of Democratic Political Economy. This essay explores how public debt is a troubling practice for republican and democratic regimes because of its ability to corrupt the language and practice of political economy. For instance, the idea of contract is a perfectly good and sensible concept to apply to the private ordering of economic interaction. When that term is extended to public ordering outside the hypothetical construction of a cooperative state, it becomes a piece of ideology that obscures the role of public debt in promoting the interests of politically dominant groups within society.

Public Debt within Systems of Monopolistic Democracy

November, 2016

This paper is the penultimate draft of the fifth of six chapters of a book titled Public Debt: An Illusion of Democratic Political Economy. This paper modifies the benchmark condition of a cooperative democracy to incorporate a realistic treatment of democracy where there exist islands of political power within a relatively passive sea of generally modest democratic participation. This essay explains that descriptions of democracy as entailing self-governance are typically mythical or ideological formulations that promote the purposes of those who work with such notions. Public debt becomes a form of shell game, the success of which depends on most people looking somewhere other than where the real action occurs, and which entails a shifting of cost from dominant to subordinate groups as covered by an ideology of self-governance.

Budgeting and Public Debt within a System of Cooperative Democracy

November, 2016

This paper is the penultimate draft of the fourth of six chapters of a book titled Public Debt: An Illusion of Democratic Political Economy. This essay establishes an analytical benchmark of a democratic system in which political outcomes reflect genuine consensus among the participants. This benchmark traces to Antonio de Viti de Marco’s construction of contrasting models of democratic action. The theory of a wholly cooperative democratic regime provides a benchmark against which to examine actual democratic processes and arrangements. In this respect, and looking ahead, de Viti recognized that democratic regimes were not passive reflectors of individual preference orderings because they entailed relationships of domination-and-subordination.

Engines, Ecologies, and Economic Systems

November, 2016

This is the third of six chapters of the penultimate draft of a book titled Public Debt: An Illusion of Democratic Political Economy. This essay asks the reader to think whether an economy in its entirety is better construed as an engine or as an ecological system. By treating it as an engine, economists can pretend to be mechanics. Once an economy is recognized to be a complex ecological system, the mythology of global governance gives way to the reality of multiple sources of local governance. For democracies, there is no person who can reasonably be described as making choices for the regime. Instead, choices emerge out of processes of interaction among collections of people.

Political Economy and the Supply of Macro Guidance

November, 2016

This is the second of a six chapters of the penultimate draft of a book titled Public Debt: An Illusion of Democratic Political Economy. This essay explores just who it is that supplies the macro guidance that is envisioned in the various macro theories. The answer to this question is of great significance for the political economy of public debt and fiscal policy. Where the two extreme points of answer regarding this question are some macro czar as an analytical convenience and “the people” as a democratic platitude, this essay takes a Machiavellian-inspired tack whereby the few dominate the many.

Macroeconomics, Fiscal Policy, and Public Debt

November, 2016

This is the first of six chapters of the penultimate draft of a book titled Public Debt: An Illusion of Democratic Political Economy. The book’s theme is an elaboration and refinement of the early 20th century orientation toward public debt that Antonio de Viti de Marco set forth. As the book’s title asserts, public debt is a misnomer for a democratic scheme of political economy. To declare a democratic polity to be indebted is akin to observing a grin without a cat, to recall Dennis Robertson view of Keynes’s liquidity preference theory. While the entire book develops this claim, this chapter explains how standard macro theories of various types are more myth than reality, and with the mythology obscuring the realities of the domination-subordination relationships that suffuse democratic regimes. To provide an overview of the rest of the book, this essay ends with the book’s Preface.

De Viti De Marco vs. Ricardo on Public Debt

May 7, 2018

The most prominent Italian theorist of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Antonio de Viti de Marco, accepted David Ricardo’s proposition that an extraordinary tax and a public loan are equivalent. Despite this common point of analytical departure, their theories of public debt diverged sharply. In this divergence, moreover, lies a fundamental gulf between two distinct analytical schemes for connecting the micro and macro levels of analysis. Ricardo treated macro aggregates as analytical primitives, with individual action being induced from those aggregates. In sharp contrast, de Viti took individual variables as primitive, with aggregate conditions being induced from interaction among those individual variables. Within de Viti’s framework of a fully cooperative state, public debt would be self-extinguishing. De Viti also recognized that democracies were never exclusively cooperative, as continuing competition among elites striving for power would enable politically dominant groups to pass cost onto the remainder of society, thereby operating as a de facto form of default.