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10.1 Introduction: Political Distortions and Macroeconomic Performance

The relationship between the economy and the political system has always

attracted the interest of economists since it is obvious that politics will

influence the choice of economic policies and consequently economic performance.

During the last quarter of the twentieth century research into the

various forms of interaction between politics and macroeconomics has become

a major growth area, giving rise to a field known as ‘the new political

macroeconomics’, a research area which has developed at the interface of

macroeconomics, social choice theory and game theory. This burgeoning

field makes specific use of the modern technical apparatus of economic

analysis to investigate numerous key public policy issues. Of particular interest

to macroeconomists is the influence that the interaction of political and

economic factors has on such issues as business cycles, inflation, unemployment,

the conduct and implementation of stabilization policies, the relationship

between dictatorship, democracy, inequality and economic growth, instability

and conflict, the origin of persistent budget deficits, international integration

and the size of nations. Major contributions to this field of activity, both in

terms of theoretical analysis and empirical investigation, have come from the

research of economists such as Daron Acemoglu, Alberto Alesina, Alan Drazen,

Bruno Frey, Douglass Hibbs, William Nordhaus, Douglass North, Mancur

Olson, Kenneth Rogoff, Fredrich Schneider, and Andrei Shleifer (see Willett,

1988; Persson and Tabellini, 1990; Alesina and Rosenthal, 1995; Keech,

1995; Alesina and Roubini with Cohen, 1997; Drazen, 2000a, 2000b; Gartner,

2000; Olson, 2000; Hibbs, 2001; Besley and Case, 2003; Acemoglu and

Robinson, 2005).

In this chapter we will examine some of the progress that has been made

with regard to the development of the ‘new political macroeconomics’.