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ALBERTO ALESINA

Credit, and Banking (1993), co-authored with L. Summers; ‘Distributive

Politics and Economic Growth’, Quarterly Journal of Economics (1994), coauthored

with D. Rodrik; and ‘The Political Economy of the Budget Surplus

in the US’ , Journal of Economic Perspectives (2000).

We corresponded with Professor Alesina in March/April 1997.

Background Information

How did you become interested in economics and where did you study as an

undergraduate and postgraduate student?

In high school I was very interested in socio-political problems. I thought that

economics was the most rigorous of the social sciences. As an undergraduate

I studied at Università Bocconi in Milan, Italy [1976–81] and took both my

Masters degree and PhD at Harvard University [1982–6].

Which papers and/or books have influenced your research interests?

I have been much more influenced by ‘facts’ rather than by specific papers or

books and have always been very interested in the policy-making process.

The basic fact which has always impressed me is how different actual policy

making is from the predictions of models which assume social planners and a

representative consumer. I always noted how in politics discourse is about

redistributive conflicts while in most macroeconomic models distributive

issues are absent.

Is there any aspect of the Italian economy and/or political system that stimulated

your interest in the link between economics and politics?

Yes: the inability of government after government in Italy to address serious

fiscal problems has been an important influence. More generally, thinking

about Italy made me wonder about the relationship between political fragmentation

and economic performance.

Do you regard yourself as belonging to any identifiable school of thought in

macroeconomics?

No.