Government & Politics

216 Results

 

Poverty and Crime: Evidence from Rainfall and Trade Shocks in India

Concern about climate change has spurred a large body of scholarship examining how climate influences human behavior, particularly human conflict. While a link between climate and human conflict is well established, we still do not fully understand the mechanisms that underlie the observed relationship between rainfall and crime. In this paper the authors shed light on these mechanisms using four decades of district-level data from India. They first establish a robust effect of rainfall on different types of crime, with the strongest effects on violent crimes (including murder) and property crimes. They then go beyond previous studies, which simply document the link between weather variations and human conflict, and examine to what extent poverty is the main causal pathway between rainfall and crime. To do so they identify a source of income shocks for households in rural India that is completely independent of the amount of rainfall: trade reform that began in 1991. Findings show that violent crimes and property crimes, the types of criminal activities that are most sensitive to rainfall shocks, indeed respond to trade shocks. The larger the loss in trade protection a district experienced, the higher is the incidence of these crimes. Overall, the results provide evidence for income as a mechanism behind the observed rainfall-crime relationship, which had mostly been assumed in previous scholarship. Read More

Calderón: Economic Arguments Needed to Fight Climate Change

Former President of Mexico Felipe Calderón says the United States Congress and Chinese coal plants are the biggest obstacles to fixing climate change. Open for comment; 3 Comments posted.

A Playbook for Small-Business Job Creation

Karen Mills left her post as SBA Administrator for a joint fellowship at Harvard to tackle a question she's faced her whole career: How can the United States drive innovation and turn it into jobs? Open for comment; 1 Comment posted.

Book Excerpt: ‘Can China Lead?’

Creativity and innovation can be nurtured in different educational and institutional settings, but does China have a good institutional framework for innovation? An excerpt from Can China Lead? Open for comment; 0 Comments posted.

China’s Economic System has Difficult Road Overcoming its Political System

It's fashionable to be bullish on China. But the new book "Can China Lead?" urges a more cautious view on the prospects of the country, where government bureaucracy stifles innovation. Open for comment; 0 Comments posted.

Can We Get To Where We Need To Go?

America's infrastructure woes and how to fix them were front and center at the recent summit, America on the Move: Transportation and Infrastructure for the 21st Century, led by Rosabeth Moss Kanter. Open for comment; 2 Comments posted.

Counting Up the Effects of Sarbanes-Oxley

More than a decade after its inception, the effects of Sarbanes-Oxley seem, if anything, beneficial, say Harvard's Suraj Srinivasan and John C. Coates. Why then do so many critics remain? Open for comment; 5 Comments posted.

Resolving Patent Disputes that Impede Innovation

Technical standards both spur innovation and protect the innovators, but abuses in the intellectual property protection system threaten US competitiveness. Josh Lerner and Jean Tirole discuss remedies. Open for comment; 2 Comments posted.

Redrawing the Lines: Did Political Incumbents Influence Electoral Redistricting in the World’s Largest Democracy?

Most democratic countries undergo a process of redrawing their electoral boundaries every few years, usually with the goal of equalizing population sizes across constituencies. While this is important in maintaining the principle of one-person, one-vote, there is concern that the redistricting process can be influenced by political incumbents to create safe seats, where incumbents are unlikely to face strong electoral challenges ("gerrymandering"). In this paper the authors study this issue in the context of India, the world's largest democracy. India redrew the boundaries of national and state electoral constituencies in 2008 after a gap of three decades. Examining the influence of political incumbents on this redistricting process, the authors find that, by and large, the process achieved its primary goal of equalizing population sizes across constituencies. More importantly, the redistricting process does not appear to have been influenced by incumbent politicians to a great extent, although there is some evidence that the constituencies of specific politicians (advisory committee members) were less likely to undergo unfavorable changes. Overall, the redistricting process did not make a large difference to either the advantage enjoyed by the incumbent party or the electoral prospects of incumbent politicians. An important policy conclusion of the study is that it is possible to implement politically neutral redistricting plans in a developing country, provided that a non-political body is in charge of the process, and that the process is transparent and inclusive of all relevant stakeholders. Read More

How Government Can Restore the Faith of Citizens

Would we like government more if we could see what it was doing to help citizens? Research by Michael Norton and Ryan Buell. Open for comment; 11 Comments posted.

HBS Faculty Remember Nelson Mandela

Harvard Business School faculty Nitin Nohria, Linda Hill, Rosabeth Moss Kanter, and Gautam Mukunda remember Nelson Mandela, a leader who truly made a difference in the world. Open for comment; 5 Comments posted.

Surfacing the Submerged State with Operational Transparency in Government Services

Research shows that Americans' trust in government is near historic lows and frustration with government performance is approaching record highs. While debates rage about how effective government is in providing basic services, one explanation for these trends in public opinion is that, independent of effectiveness, many voters may simply be unaware that government provides any services at all. Previous research by the authors reveals that seeing the labor in which firms engage improves customer satisfaction. In this paper, the authors design and test an intervention targeted toward increasing citizens' awareness of the services provided by government. Specifically, they present the results of an experiment in which Boston-area residents interacted with a website that visualized the service requests submitted by members of the public and the City's efforts to address those requests. Does seeing the work of government—fixing potholes, repairing streetlamps, removing graffiti, collecting garbage—lead citizens to express more positive attitudes toward government and increase their support for maintaining and expanding the scale of government programs? The study shows that providing greater operational transparency into government's efforts to address citizens' needs can improve attitudes toward government. Read More

Path-Breakers: How Does Women’s Political Participation Respond to Electoral Success?

Many explanations have been put forward to explain the gender gap in executive positions in finance, business, and politics. However, scholars know surprisingly little about the effects of exposure to women who are competitively selected into leadership positions. Focusing on India, the world's largest democracy, the authors obtained data on elections to state legislative assemblies in 3,473 constituencies from the Election Commission of India over the period 1980-2007 in which most states had six elections. They used data for the 16 major states of India which account for over 95 percent of the total population. The authors identified a large and significant increase in the subsequent share of women candidates fielded by major parties in Indian state elections. The increase arises mainly from an increased propensity for previous candidates to run for re-election, rather than the entry of new women candidates. Given that a substantial fraction of incumbents in Indian state elections do not re-run and female incumbents overall are less likely to re-run than male incumbents, this is an important result. There is, however, no significant increase in the probability that a woman wins the next election. Consistent with this, the estimated impact on women's candidacy fades over time although a significant impact persists through two elections, which is a period of 10 years. Overall, this study makes clear that it is important to identify the extent to which a spontaneous dynamic operates in launching women into the political sphere when quotas are absent. Read More

Reserve Bank Governor Discusses India’s Financial Opportunities

A month after becoming the new governor of the Reserve Bank of India, Raghuram Rajan came to HBS to deliver the 2013 Leatherbee Lecture, "India: The Opportunities and Challenges Ahead." Open for comment; 7 Comments posted.

Response to Readers: Combating Climate Change with Nuclear Power and Fracking

Following a contentious online debate, Professor Joe Lassiter expands his argument that nuclear power and fracking are the lesser evils when stacked up against coal power, and presents a way forward. Open for comment; 4 Comments posted.

Time that Government Reopens for Business

Senior Lecturer Joe Fuller, an expert on competitiveness, sheds light on the government shutdown in Washington, DC and why it's time to "reopen for business." Open for comment; 0 Comments posted.

Lehman Brothers Plus Five: Have We Learned from Our Mistakes?

Is the US financial system in better shape today than it was five years ago? Finance professors Victoria Ivashina, David Scharfstein, and Arthur Segel see real progress—but also missed opportunities and more challenges. Open for comment; 2 Comments posted.

Behind India’s Economic and Political Woes

Declining value of the rupee and soaring prices for onions are just two of the problems plaguing India. Professor Tarun Khanna explains the political and economic causes. Open for comment; 7 Comments posted.

The Curse of Double-Digit Growth

Liberia wants fast growth in order to solidify its social and political advances. Problem is, says Eric D. Werker, countries growing that quickly "are not unequivocally a club that one should strive to join." Closed for comment; 1 Comment posted.

Detroit Files for Bankruptcy: HBS Faculty Weigh In

After a long period of economic decline, the city of Detroit filed for bankruptcy protection last week. John Macomber, Robert Pozen, Eric Werker, and Benjamin Kennedy offer their views on some down-the-road scenarios. Closed for comment; 22 Comments posted.

What Are the Limits of Transparency?

Summing Up: What's the proper balance in an organization between transparency and opaqueness? Many of Jim Heskett's readers would err on the side of management forthrightness. Closed for comment; 22 Comments posted.

A Roadmap for Afghanistan’s Economic Future

Most discussions about the immediate future of Afghanistan center on security. A consideration just as important, says Professor Tarun Khanna, is rebuilding the embattled country's economy. Open for comment; 3 Comments posted.

Corporate Leaders Need to Step Up on Climate Change

Despite perceptions that sustainable business efforts are progressing, the environment reminds us we're failing to deal with the problem sufficiently. Here's what business leaders must do next, according to Michael Toffel and Auden Schendler. Closed for comment; 14 Comments posted.

Clusters of Entrepreneurship and Innovation

For many decades, the common wisdom among local officials pursuing employment growth for their areas was to attract a large firm to relocate. This "smokestack chasing" led to many regional governments bidding against each other and providing substantial incentives to large plants making their location choice decisions. The success of entrepreneurial clusters in recent decades, however, has challenged this wisdom, and now many policy makers state that they want their regions "to be the next Silicon Valley." This has led to extensive efforts to seed local entrepreneurship, with today's politicians routinely announcing the launch of an entrepreneurial cluster in a hot industry, such as biotechnology, nanotechnology, or advanced manufacturing. In this paper, the authors explore the rationale for and efficacy of policies to promote local entrepreneurship and innovation and reflect on recent initiatives in this domain. Read More

Are First-Time Buyers Left Out of Real Estate’s Rebound?

Real estate is again on the move in the United States. Nicolas P. Retsinas examines the impact on home buyers, renters, and policymakers. Closed for comment; 2 Comments posted.

How Elastic Are Preferences for Redistribution? Evidence from Randomized Survey Experiments

The United States has witnessed a large increase in income concentration over the past several decades. While standard theory predicts that support for redistribution should increase with income inequality, there has been little evidence of greater demand for redistribution despite historic increases in income concentration. A possible explanation is that people are unaware of the increase in inequality, and greater information would substantially move redistributive preferences. The authors examine the determinants of redistributive preferences through randomized online survey experiments with Amazon Mechanical Turk, a rapidly growing new laboratory to carry out social experiments. The results show that information changes people's beliefs about the current level of inequality and leads them to become more favorable to redistributive policies like the estate tax. Read More

How Chapter 11 Saved the US Economy

In a relatively short time, much of the corporate debt that defaulted during the US financial crisis has been managed down and corporate profits have rebounded. Stuart C. Gilson reviews the power of Chapter 11 bankruptcy Closed for comment; 5 Comments posted.

Carry Trade and Exchange-Rate Regimes

In emerging countries, carry-trade activity and foreign participation in local-currency bond markets have increased dramatically over the past decade. This study revisits the issue of choosing an exchange-rate regime under the assumption that emerging markets can borrow internationally in local currency. This hypothesis reflects a new trend in international capital flows: carry trade and relevant foreign participation in local-currency bond markets. Results show that, by means of international borrowing in domestic currency, emerging countries can partially offset foreign shocks. The authors argue that as emerging nations develop their local currency markets, a "pseudo-flexible regime," whereby a country accumulates reserves in conjunction with debt, is the best policy alternative under real external shocks. Read More

No Taxation without Information: Deterrence and Self-Enforcement in the Value Added Tax

This research investigates the effectiveness of the Value Added Tax in facilitating tax enforcement and sheds light on the role of information and third-party reporting for taxation. Drawing on results from two field experiments with over 400,000 Chilean firms, it provides evidence for the self-enforcing power of the paper trail in the VAT and for spillovers in tax enforcement through firms' trading networks more generally. The findings also show that while the VAT paper trail seems to be highly effective in Chile overall, the mere existence of a VAT system, in the absence of credible deterrence, does not lead to self-enforcement. Results have implications for public finance in developing countries and for tax policy in general. Read More

Is ‘Conscious Capitalism’ an Antidote to Income Inequality?

Summing-Up If capitalism creates unacceptable income inequality, what can be done about it? asks Jim Heskett. Whole Foods Market offers one possible solution, and now Jim's readers offer their own. Closed for comment; 46 Comments posted.

Are the Big Four Audit Firms Too Big to Fail?

Although the number of audit firms has decreased over the past few decades, concerns that the "Big Four" survivors have become too big to fail may be a stretch. Research by professor Karthik Ramanna and colleagues suggests instead that audit firms are more concerned about taking risks. Open for comment; 13 Comments posted.

Are the Big Four Audit Firms Too Big to Fail?

Although the number of audit firms has decreased over the past few decades, concerns that the "Big Four" survivors have become too big to fail may be a stretch. Research by professor Karthik Ramanna and colleagues suggests instead that audit firms are more concerned about taking risks. Open for comment; 13 Comments posted.

Why a Harvard Finance Instructor Went to the Kumbh Mela

Every 12 years, millions of Hindu pilgrims travel to the Indian city of Allahabad for the Kumbh Mela, the largest public gathering in the world. In this first-person account, Senior Lecturer John Macomber shares his first impressions and explains what he's doing there. Closed for comment; 12 Comments posted.

Deregulation, Misallocation, and Size: Evidence from India

India carried out wide-ranging deregulation policies in 1991. Significant sectors of the economy were opened up for private participation through de-licensing and allowing entry to industries previously reserved exclusively for the state-owned sector. This paper analyzes the efficiency impact of the removal of a specific distortion: compulsory industrial licensing that regulated firm entry and imposed output capacity constraints on Indian firms prior to 1991. Did industrial delicensing in India, which relaxed entry barriers and capacity constraints on firm size, lead to a change in firm size distributions within industries? Read More

The Promise of Positive Optimal Taxation: A Generalized Theory Calibrated to Survey Evidence on Normative Preferences Explains Puzzling Features of Policy

The traditional goal of optimal tax research among economists has been to choose the "right" normative objective for policy and characterize the tax system that best attains it. However, public opinion on the appropriate normative criterion has been seen as beside the point. An alternative goal, pursued in this paper, is to characterize the tax system that best attains the normative objective that prevails in reality. Weinzierl makes three contributions. First, he presents novel survey evidence on the empirical normative preferences of individuals in the United States. The evidence shows that few respondents prefer the conventional Utilitarian policy or the Rawlsian alternative, and a plurality (nearly half) prefer policies that reflect a mixed objective that gives weight to both Utilitarianism and Equal Sacrifice. Second, he generalizes the conventional optimal tax model to accommodate evidence of a mixed objective for taxation. Third, he shows that the empirically-preferred calibration of the generalized theory has remarkable explanatory power as a positive optimal tax model. Taken together, the survey results, theoretical analysis, and calibrated simulations of this paper demonstrate the potential of a positive optimal taxation research agenda. They show that we can rigorously capture empirical evidence on what tax policies individuals find acceptable and, as one might hope, use the resulting model to better understand how actual tax policy is and (arguably) ought to be designed. Read More

Pay for Environmental Performance: The Effect of Incentive Provision on Carbon Emissions

Research has shown that reducing carbon emissions and exhibiting good environmental performance are important for corporations. But how exactly are these environmental goals carried out within organizations? In this paper, the authors analyze the incentive structures of climate change management for a sample of large, predominantly multinational organizations. The authors then characterize and assess the effectiveness of different types of incentive schemes that corporations have adopted to encourage employees to reduce carbon emissions. Results suggest that contrary to widespread belief in the effectiveness of monetary incentives, in fact the adoption of monetary incentives is associated with higher carbon emissions. By contrast, the use of nonmonetary incentives is associated with lower carbon emissions. Overall, the study suggests that socially positive tasks significantly impact the effectiveness of different types of incentives and should be considered in the design of accounting and control systems. Read More

The Political Economy of Bilateral Foreign Aid

Foreign aid has always been political, a fact long noted by diplomats, journalists, and scholars. But then, political forces are behind why aid was developed in the first place and why it continues to survive, even as much of this aid has as its goal to promote economic development or poverty reduction. From a developmental standpoint the political economy of aid allocation and receipt can interfere with its optimal distribution. Aid policymakers, who want to maximize the developmental impact of foreign assistance, have devised a number of ways to attempt to subvert the political forces at work. This paper, a chapter in a forthcoming book, explores the distortions present in aid allocation and spending, and the development community's efforts to depoliticize such allocation and spending. As it turns out, none of their solutions can shield foreign aid from the heavy hand of politics. Read More

Reinforcing Regulatory Regimes: How States, Civil Society, and Codes of Conduct Promote Adherence to Global Labor Standards

Multinational corporations are under increasing pressure to manage their global supply chains in ways that are environmentally sustainable and socially responsible. Many companies have responded to this pressure by asking their suppliers to adhere to codes of conduct governing labor conditions and environmental management. This paper examines the conditions under which tens of thousands of suppliers across many countries are more likely to adhere to the labor practices these codes of conduct call for. Findings indicate that suppliers are more likely to adhere to codes of conduct in countries that not only have made binding domestic and international legal commitments to protect workers' rights, but that also have high levels of press freedom and nongovernmental organization activity. Greater code of conduct adherence is also found among suppliers that serve buyers located in countries where child labor is a more salient issue. This research reveals the critical importance of maintaining multiple, overlapping, and reinforcing governance systems, and urges caution to those hoping that private regulatory regimes can substitute for effective government regulation. Overall, this paper points the way toward building more effective private regulatory regimes. Read More

Affordable Housing: Israel and the United States

At a recent conference in Herzliya, Israel, Nicolas P. Retsinas, John H. Vogel, and Charles S. Laven joined residential developers, non-profits, national and local government officials, and academics to brainstorm approaches to affordable rental housing. Open for comment; 1 Comment posted.

Power to the People: The Unexpected Influence of Small Coalitions

J. Gunnar Trumbull discusses his new book, Strength in Numbers, in which he argues that diffuse groups—environmentalists, consumer activists, farmers—wield great influence in areas of regulation including trade to product safety and labor policy. Open for comment; 1 Comment posted.

Book Excerpt: Strength in Numbers

In his new book, Strength in Numbers: The Political Power of Weak Interests, Gunnar Trumbull shows how consumer groups can effect change by forming interest-driven alliances among activists, regulators, and corporations. Open for comment; 0 Comments posted.

Vulnerable Banks

Since the beginning of the US financial crisis in 2007, regulators in the United States and Europe have been frustrated by the difficulty in identifying the risk exposures at the largest and most levered financial institutions. Yet, at the time, it was unclear how such data might have been used to make the financial system safer. This paper is an attempt to show simple ways in which this information can be used to understand how deleveraging scenarios could play out. To do so the authors develop and test a model to analyze financial sector stability under different configurations of leverage and risk exposure across banks. They then apply the model to the largest financial institutions in Europe, focusing on banks' exposure to sovereign bonds and using the model to evaluate a number of policy proposals to reduce systemic risk. When analyzing the European banks in 2011, they show how a policy of targeted equity injections, if distributed appropriately across the most systemic banks, can significantly reduce systemic risk. The approach in this paper fits into, and contributes to, a growing literature on systemic risk. Read More

Funding the Design of Livable Cities

As a burgeoning global population migrates to the world's urban centers, it's crucial to design livable cities that function with scarce natural resources. John Macomber discusses the critical connection between real estate financing and innovative design in the built environment. Open for comment; 4 Comments posted.

Not Your Father’s State-Run Capitalism

The face of state-owned companies in Russia, China, and other countries has changed dramatically over the last several decades, says professor Aldo Musacchio. What capitalists need to know about these increasingly powerful competitors. Open for comment; 1 Comment posted.

Can We Bring Back the “Industrial Commons” for Manufacturing?

Summing Up: Does the US have the political will or educational ability to remake its manufacturing sector on the back of an 'industrial commons?' Professor Jim Heskett's readers are dubious. Open for comment; 26 Comments posted.

Why Do We Tax?

As the US presidential election bears down for November, it's prime time to ask how the income tax system could be improved. Assistant Professor Matthew C. Weinzierl suggests how. Open for comment; 20 Comments posted.

US Competitiveness at Risk

America's declining global competitiveness—it ranks No. 7 this year in one respected survey—began long before the current recession took hold. Harvard Business School Professors Michael E. Porter and Jan W. Rivkin discuss causes and possible solutions. From Harvard magazine. Open for comment; 5 Comments posted.

Equalizing Outcomes vs. Equalizing Opportunities: Optimal Taxation when Children’s Abilities Depend on Parents’ Resources

Economists have long recognized that parents' resources and investment in their children may be key determinants of their children's outcomes. Recent evidence indicates that increasing the disposable incomes of poor parents raises the performance of their children on tests of cognitive ability. That finding suggests that current tax policy may affect the future distribution of underlying income-earning abilities in the taxpayer population. However, the dominant model of optimal taxation has been unable to take this effect into account. This study explores the implications for optimal policy of taking a more nuanced approach. Using a calibrated model to simulate optimal policy, the authors find that the optimal policy redistributes substantially more toward low-ability parents and earlier generations than does status quo policy. This paper may be the first to model this complexity and derive policy implications. Read More

Legislating Stock Prices

This paper examines the importance of firms' relationships with their legal and political environment, and the actors who form this environment. Governments pass laws that affect firms' competitive landscape, products, labor force, and capital, both directly and indirectly. And yet, it remains difficult to determine which firms any given piece of legislation will affect, and how it will affect them. By observing the actions of legislators whose constituents are the affected firms, the authors gather insights into the likely impact of government legislation on firms. Specifically, the authors demonstrate that legislation has a simple yet previously undetected impact on firm prices. Read More

Unobserved State Fragility and the Political Transfer Problem

This paper describes how the dynamics of unobserved state fragility may generate negative consequences for other countries. Ahmed and Werker argue for the theoretical possibility that autocrats experiencing a windfall in unearned income may find it optimal to donate some of the windfall away in order to make the state less attractive a prize to a potential insurgent. Additionally, recipients of the aid may themselves become more repressive with high aid and fall into conflict with lower levels of aid. These joint phenomena make up what the authors term the political transfer problem. The largest windfall in unearned income of the 20th century, the period from 1973-85 during which oil prices were at all-time highs, produced political dynamics consistent with this model. Read More

Monetary Policy and Long-Term Real Rates

Samuel G. Hanson and Jeremy C. Stein document that distant real forward rates react strongly to news about the future stance of monetary policy. These movements in forward rates appear to reflect changes in term premia, which largely accrue over the next year, as opposed to varying expectations about future real rates. The evidence suggests that one driving force behind time-varying term premia is the behavior of yield-oriented investors, who react to a cut in short rates by increasing their demand for longer-term bonds, thereby putting downward pressure on long-term rates. Read More

Off and Running: Professors Comment on Olympics

The most difficult challenge at The Olympics is the behind-the-scenes efforts to actually get them up and running. Is it worth it? HBS professors Stephen A. Greyser, John D. Macomber, and John T. Gourville offer insights into the business behind the games. Open for comment; 5 Comments posted.

De Gustibus non est Taxandum: Theory and Evidence on Preference Heterogeneity and Redistribution

Individuals differ in the value they place on consumption relative to leisure. These preference differences help explain why some earn more than others, and they are a central part of popular and scholarly debates over taxation. In this paper, Benjamin Lockwood and Matthew Weinzierl show that variation in these preferences may also help explain why the extent of redistribution varies across countries and US states, and why (at least in the case of the United States) redistribution is weaker than conventional theory would suggest. More generally, Lockwood and Weinzierl argue that neglecting the role of preferences substantially impairs our understanding of both optimal and existing tax policy. Overall, findings suggest that this paper's generalized normative optimal tax model may be a better guide to policy advice than the conventional one. Read More

Leviathan in Business: Varieties of State Capitalism and their Implications for Economic Performance

State capitalism, the widespread influence of the government in the economy, still looms large in developed and developing countries after over two decades of extensive state reform and privatization. Research by Aldo Musacchio and Sergio G. Lazzarini documents the extent and reach of state capitalism around the world and explores the economic implications of these new forms of state capitalism. There are three key arguments: First, state capitalism in the twenty-first century combines majority ownership of state-owned enterprises with a hybrid form that includes minority equity investments as well as other forms of support for private firms (such as subsidized loans). Second, all of those forms are present around the world, both in rich and poor countries, and in most cases they co-exist. Although some countries appear to have a prevalence of the minority investor mode while other countries emphasize the majority mode, in most cases the two modes jointly occur. Third, the emergence of those modes is explained by a host of environmental, political, and historical factors; and the economic performance of each mode depends on certain contingencies that should affect their benefits and costs, such as the economic distortions that they may generate. Read More

How Short-Termism Invites Corruption--And What to Do About It

A long-term time horizon is most sensible where a business or investor has some edge and when short-term risks associated with a longer-term strategy are hedged and opportunity costs minimized. However, when perverse, short-term incentives artificially encourage executives to ignore high-yielding, long-term opportunities, then the costs of short-termism set in. The recent financial crisis suggests that the rise of short-termism has been especially troublesome in the finance industry. In this paper, Malcom Salter starts by analyzing a case involving the mortgage-banking desk at Citigroup because it can help us think about how short-termism-the collapsed time horizon of both business decision makers and investors-not only sabotages an enterprise's reputation and value, but also invites individual and institutional corruption. He then examines the key drivers of short-termism in contemporary business, and their potential effects on the behavior of both executives and their organizations. He concludes by proposing mechanisms to deter the corrupting effects of short-termism, including changes in both business and public policy. Read More

Who Sways the USDA on GMO Approvals?

Government agencies can be "captured" by the very companies or industries they regulate. Looking at how genetically altered food products are approved, Assistant Professor Shon R. Hiatt finds unexpected influencers on the US Department of Agriculture. Open for comment; 15 Comments posted.

Clear and Present Danger: Planning and New Venture Survival Amid Political and Civil Violence

Strategy theory often takes for granted the role of state institutions in providing stable, predictable environments in which new firms are founded. Yet, many states around the world (such as Iraq, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria, and the Democratic Republic of Congo) lack political institutions of sufficient strength to ensure personal safety and public order, thereby creating environments where civil and political violence can ferment. This paper explores the impact of such violence on new venture processes. Results show that comprehensive planning was negatively correlated with venture survival in such environments. While there are implications for strategy theory, the study is also relevant to entrepreneurs and organizations promoting new venture planning in less-developed countries, particularly those experiencing political and civil turmoil. Currently, prospective entrepreneurs are taught the importance of business planning by both universities and non-governmental organizations that offer entrepreneurial training. But this study suggests that such training will have mixed effects on new venture survival, depending on the extent to which these entrepreneurs pursue ventures in violent and uncertain environments. In such contexts where governments fail to maintain public safety and order, these training programs may actually increase the likelihood of new venture failure. Read More

Are Factory Jobs Important to the Economy?

Summing Up: The manufacturing field is key to a strong economy, but a renewed focus on the industry will not necessarily lead to significant job growth, Jim Heskett's readers say. What do you think? Closed for comment; 51 Comments posted.

Is Support for Small Business Misplaced?

Summing Up Is small business overhyped as a panacea for our economic troubles? Jim Heskett's readers don't think so. Closed for comment; 35 Comments posted.

A Few Firms Have Outsized Influence in D.C.

New research by Harvard Business School Associate Professor William R. Kerr suggests the number of companies affecting government policy through lobbying may be smaller—but more powerful—than previously thought. Open for comment; 4 Comments posted.

What Do Development Banks Do? Evidence from Brazil, 2002-2009

Private firms in developed and developing markets find themselves competing with the so-called "national champions"—private and state-owned enterprises that receive entitlements, mostly trade protections and/or subsidized credit from the government. Most of these national champions get support by proposing long-term projects with large capital investment that would usually not be easy to fund using private capital. This paper, written by Research by Sergio G. Lazzarini, Aldo Musacchio, Rodrigo Bandeira-de-Mello, and Rosilene Marcon, uses evidence from Brazil to look at what happens to firm performance, investment, and financial expenditures when companies get subsidized credit from the Brazilian National Bank of Economic and Social Development, known as BNDES. Read More

What Do Development Banks Do? Evidence from Brazil, 2002-2009

Private firms in developed and developing markets find themselves competing with the so-called "national champions"—private and state-owned enterprises that receive entitlements, mostly trade protections and/or subsidized credit from the government. Most of these national champions get support by proposing long-term projects with large capital investment that would usually not be easy to fund using private capital. This paper, written by Research by Sergio G. Lazzarini, Aldo Musacchio, Rodrigo Bandeira-de-Mello, and Rosilene Marcon, uses evidence from Brazil to look at what happens to firm performance, investment, and financial expenditures when companies get subsidized credit from the Brazilian National Bank of Economic and Social Development, known as BNDES. Read More

Private Meetings of Public Companies Thwart Disclosure Rules

Despite a federal regulation, executives at public firms still spend a great deal of time in private powwows with hedge fund managers. Eugene F. Soltes and David H. Solomon suggest that such meetings give these investors unfair advantage. Closed for comment; 5 Comments posted.

The Evolving Basis for Legitimacy of the World Trade Organization: Dispute Settlement and the Rebalancing of Global Interests

The WTO is reconfiguring people's relationships to goods and services by facilitating trade and the consequent conversion of goods and ideas into property, including ones previously gifted or kept local. Unsurprisingly, there has been considerable opposition from the losers in the free trade system and attendant challenges to the legitimacy of the WTO. Arthur Daemmrich argues that understandings of legitimacy change over time, especially as organizations like the WTO interact with organized interests, including member countries and outside NGOs. He provides a brief history of the WTO as an organizational entity managing the institution of free trade, and a case study of a lengthy international trade dispute between Brazil and the United States over agricultural subsidies generally and cotton subsidies in particular. At the WTO, he writes, an important shift has taken place from the strategy of building organizational legitimacy through expanding membership to institutional deepening via the dispute process. Thus the WTO has become one of a few key sites for working out how knowledge claims will be formulated, framed, and validated on the international level. Read More

Where Green Corporate Ratings Fail

Many companies receiving high marks in environmental sustainability are hurting the planet in other ways, write professor Michael Toffel and executive Auden Schendler. Here's where green rankings fall short. Open for comment; 7 Comments posted.

Greater Fiscal Integration Best Solution for Euro Crisis

Ministers and central bankers are working to solve the debt crisis that threatens the European integration project. Is there hope? There is reason to be optimistic, according to Harvard Business School's Dante Roscini, a former investment banker. Open for comment; 1 Comment posted.

The Dynamics of Firm Lobbying

Lobbying is a primary avenue through which firms attempt to change policy in the United States, with total expenditures outnumbering campaign contributions by a factor of nine. While lobbying by businesses is a frequently debated issue, there has been little systematic empirical evidence on these behaviors at the firm level. This paper is one of the first to begin to fill this gap. To do so, the researchers constructed an empirical model of lobbying behavior of publicly traded, US-headquartered firms between 1998 and 2006. They also looked in depth at a specific policy shift that has been the subject of significant public debate: the dramatic decline in the limit on H-1B visas that occurred in 2004. Findings show that the decline in the limit on H-1Bs did not induce new firms to lobby that were not previously lobbying on other issues. The decline did, however, significantly shift lobbying resources towards high-skilled immigration issues amongst firms that had lobbied previously for other issues. Moreover, the manner in which this shift occurs among firms already lobbying indicates little constraint on adjustments across issues important for firms. Read More

Historical Trajectories and Corporate Competences in Wind Energy

Analyzing developments in the wind turbine business over more than a century, Geoffrey Jones and Loubna Bouamane argue that public policy has been a key variable in the spread of wind energy since the 1980s, but that public policy was more of a problem than a facilitator in the earlier history of the industry. Geography has mattered to some extent, also: Both in the United States and Denmark, the existence of rural areas not supplied by electricity provided the initial stimulus to entrepreneurs and innovators. Building firm-level capabilities has been essential in an industry which has been both technically difficult and vulnerable to policy shifts. Read More

Decoding Insider Information and Other Secrets of Old School Chums

Associate Professors Lauren H. Cohen and Christopher J. Malloy study how social connections affect important decisions and, ultimately, how those connections help shape the economy. Their research shows that it's possible to make better stock picks simply by knowing whether two industry players went to the same college or university. What's more, knowing whether two congressional members share an alma mater can help predict the outcome of pending legislation on the Senate floor. Open for comment; 1 Comment posted.

Managing Political Risk in Global Business: Beiersdorf 1914-1990

After the outbreak of World War 1, management of political risk became a central concern for firms, especially those operating internationally. These risks were on many levels, from expropriation to exchange controls and other economic policies. German firms, which had flourished during the second industrial revolution of the late nineteenth century, and enthusiastically expanded internationally, found themselves especially exposed to such risks. Focusing on one such firm, Beiersdorf, a German-based pharmaceutical and skin care company (and, during the Nazi years, a so-called Jewish business), the authors examine corporate strategies of political risk management during the twentieth century, especially the volatile years of Nazi Germany. The history of Beiersdorf highlights areas of managerial discretion. Faced by the worst of all worlds, the firm survived and was able, albeit at great cost, to rebuild its business. Read More

HBS Faculty Views on Debt Crisis

In the midst of the US debt crisis, Harvard Business School faculty offer their views on what went wrong and what needs to be done to right the US ship of state. Open for comment; 27 Comments posted.

How Firms Respond to Mandatory Information Disclosure

Companies are facing increasing pressure to reveal information about their operations, including their environmental performance. This research examines which types of organizations are especially likely to reduce their pollution levels once they face mandatory disclosure requirements. Research conducted by Anil Doshi and Michael Toffel of Harvard Business School, and Glen Dowell of the Johnson School of Management at Cornell University compares the responses of companies based on their proximity to headquarters and to corporate siblings, organizational size and the density of their surrounding communities, and whether they are part of publicly- or privately-held firms. Read More

An Exploration of Optimal Stabilization Policy

The researchers explore alternative policy responses to a recession caused by a decline in aggregate demand, the situation affecting the global economy over the last several years. They show that policies that stimulate the economy at the lowest budgetary cost may not be the best policies in terms of well-being, as well-being depends not only on the level of activity but also on the composition of it (due to consumption, investment, and government spending). In their model of the economy, monetary policy is the best response, and if it is sufficient to stop the recession, government spending ought to move in the same direction as private spending. If monetary policy is insufficient or restricted, fiscal policy should try to replicate what monetary policy would do. If that option, too, is restricted, conventional policies that increase government spending are merited. Read More

Tax Policy and the Efficiency of US Direct Investment Abroad

The tax policy toward multinational firms has come under increased scrutiny with the rise of global activities of firms and concerns that these activities displace activities at home. This scrutiny has raised the question of whether current tax policy inefficiently subsidizes the foreign activities of firms. Mihir A. Desai, C. Fritz Foley, and James R. Hines, Jr. consider this claim by applying the theory of dynamic efficiency to the activities of multinational firms. Specifically, by comparing direct investment abroad with repatriated investment returns over the last sixty years, they conclude that firms are not investing to dynamically inefficient levels, suggesting that current tax policy is not an inefficient subsidy. Read More

Is it Time for a National Bankruptcy?

Summing Up Is a national bankruptcy a tragedy or a needed lesson in fiscal reform? Jim Heskett's readers ponder the implications of a country going insolvent. Closed for comment; 47 Comments posted.

Mandatory IFRS Adoption and Financial Statement Comparability

In the past decade, many countries have adopted International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) developed by the International Accounting Standards Board, which has impelled economists to examine the benefits of the standards. This paper discusses how IFRS adoption affects financial reporting comparability—that is, the properties of financial statements that allow users to identify similarities or differences between the economics of different reporting entities over any given period of time. Research was conducted by Francois Brochet and Edward J. Riedl of Harvard Business School, and Alan Jagolinzer of the University of Colorado at Boulder. Read More

How ‘Political Voice’ Empowers the Powerless

Women in India often are targets of verbal abuse, discrimination, and violent crimes—crimes that are underreported. Fortunately, an increase in female political representation seems to be giving female crime victims a voice in the criminal justice system, according to new research by Harvard Business School professor Lakshmi Iyer and colleagues. Open for comment; 4 Comments posted.

While Waiting for Japan’s Recovery, Let’s Enhance Supplier Competitiveness at Home

The Obama administration and US companies do not have to wait for Japanese suppliers to recover from earthquake damage, argues Harvard Business School professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter. Action can be taken now to ensure that America invests in growing our domestic stock of world-class suppliers. Open for comment; 3 Comments posted.

HBS Faculty Comment on Environmental Issues for Earth Day

Harvard Business School faculty members offer their views on the many business facets of "going green." Open for comment; 4 Comments posted.

When Should the Public Sector Take Over in a Meltdown?

Summing Up Jim Heskett's readers have wildly differing opinions as to what extent governments should step in to remedy public sector "meltdowns." Closed for comment; 39 Comments posted.

The Power of Political Voice: Women’s Political Representation and Crime in India

Protecting the rights of disadvantaged citizens remains a challenge in both developing and developed countries. These individuals often are targets of verbal abuse, discrimination, and violent crime. Using evidence from India, this paper shows that political representation of disadvantaged groups is an important means of giving them a voice in the criminal justice system. Research was conducted by Lakshmi Iyer of Harvard Business School, Anandi Mani of the University of Warwick, and Prachi Mishra and Petia Topalova of the International Monetary Fund. Read More

Why Manufacturing Matters

After decades of outsourcing, America's ability to innovate and create high-tech products essential for future prosperity is on the decline, argue professors Gary Pisano and Willy Shih. Is it too late to get it back? From HBS Alumni Bulletin. Open for comment; 44 Comments posted.

Harvard Business School Faculty Comment on Crisis in Japan

Harvard Business School faculty share their views and insights about the challenges that lie ahead for Japan's business leaders and for global companies operating there. Closed for comment; 11 Comments posted.

Water, Electricity, and Transportation: Preparing for the Population Boom

By 2050, the world's cities will have to support 3 billion more inhabitants, mostly in developing countries, with crucial investments needed in three areas: water, energy, and transportation. Several of the planet's top city planning and environmental business experts gathered at Harvard Business School earlier this month to discuss available options. Closed for comment; 18 Comments posted.

Keeping Credit Flowing to Consumers in Need

Regulators and policymakers are debating the best ways to revamp our damaged system of consumer and housing finance. The problem: turning the regulatory spigot too tightly could shut off the flow of needed credit to millions of lower-income Americans. A discussion with professor Nicolas P. Retsinas. Open for comment; 4 Comments posted.

HBS Faculty on Revolution in the Middle East and North Africa

The historic events in North Africa and the Middle East are examined by three professors: Deepak Malhotra, an authority on negotiation strategy; Noel Maurer, an expert on the politics and economics of the energy business; and Magnus Thor Torfason, an authority on how behavior is influenced by the social structures of individuals and organizations. Open for comment; 7 Comments posted.

Issuer Quality and Corporate Bond Returns

In research that could help regulators and policymakers tell if credit markets are becoming overheated, HBS professor Robin Greenwood and doctoral candidate Samuel G. Hanson suggest that measures of credit quality are just as important to monitor as the more traditional reviews of credit quantity. They also find that time-varying investor beliefs such as over-optimism, or tastes such as a heightened tolerance for risk, can contribute to fluctuations in credit quantity. Read More

What’s Government’s Role in Regulating Home Purchase Financing?

The Obama administration recently proposed housing finance reforms to wind down Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and bring private capital back to the mortgage markets. HBS professor David Scharfstein and doctoral student Adi Sunderam put forth a proposal to replace Fannie and Freddie and ensure a more stable supply of housing finance. Read More

Preference Heterogeneity and Optimal Capital Income Taxation

Professor Matthew Weinzierl and coauthors test the idea that savings, which is concentrated among highly skilled workers, ought to be taxed as part of an optimal tax policy. They find that the welfare gains from these taxes would be negligible. Read More

Leviathan as a Minority Shareholder: A Study of Equity Purchases by the Brazilian National Development Bank (BNDES), 1995-2003

There is a trend in many developing countries toward governments buying minority stakes in private companies. While there has been ample discussion on the wisdom of such actions, little has been said about how governments can make such interventions work better. This paper aims to fill that void, using data from the Brazilian National Development Bank (BNDES). Research was conducted by Sergio G. Lazzarini of the Insper Institute of Education and Research, and Aldo Musacchio of Harvard Business School. Read More

Lawful but Corrupt: Gaming and the Problem of Institutional Corruption in the Private Sector

In the business world, "gaming" refers to the act of subverting the intent of rules or laws without technically breaking them--a skillful if unsavory way to achieve private gain. Harvard Business School professor emeritus Malcolm S. Salter explores how gaming the system can lead to institutional corruption, citing examples from Enron and early efforts by some banks to game the implementation of the Dodd-Frank financial reform act. Read More

Conveniently Upset: Avoiding Altruism by Distorting Beliefs about Others

This paper explores the idea that people who can take advantage of a particular situation will tend to believe that others would choose to take advantage of the same situation if given the chance-thus helping to justify the decision to act selfishly. In their research, Harvard Business School professor Rafael Di Tella and Harvard PhD student Ricardo Pérez-Truglia test their hypothesis on a group of well-heeled Argentinean college students, using a modified version of the "dictator game" in which both the "dictators" and the "recipients" are given the chance to make a selfish choice. Read More

Funding Unpredictability Around Stem-Cell Research Inflicts Heavy Cost on Scientific Progress

Funding unpredictability in human embryonic stem-cell research inflicts a heavy cost on all scientific progress, says professor William Sahlman. Open for comment; 6 Comments posted.

Panama Canal: Troubled History, Astounding Turnaround

In their new book, The Big Ditch, Harvard Business School professor Noel Maurer and economic historian Carlos Yu discuss the complicated history of the Panama Canal and its remarkable turnaround after Panama took control in 1999. Q&A with Maurer, plus book excerpt. Open for comment; 5 Comments posted.

Tax US Companies to Spur Spending

With traditional monetary and fiscal policy instruments to stimulate the economy seemingly exhausted, professor Mihir Desai offers a radical proposal: Use taxes to motivate corporations to spend a trillion dollars in cash. Open for comment; 9 Comments posted.

Regulating for Legitimacy: Consumer Credit Access in France and America

Why have American households consistently borrowed so heavily? And why have their counterparts in France borrowed so little? This comparative historical analysis by HBS professor Gunnar Trumbull traces the roots of these different attitudes. In the United States, early welfare reformers embraced credit "on a business-like basis" as an alternative to expansive welfare states of the sort that were emerging in Europe. In France, early social planners saw consumer credit as a drain on savings that threatened to crowd out industrial investment. Regulatory regimes that emerged in the postwar period in the two countries reflected these different interpretations of the economic and social role of credit in society. Read More

The New Face of Chinese Industrial Policy: Making Sense of Anti-Dumping Cases in the Petrochemical and Steel Industry

The researchers set out to explain differences in China's antidumping actions against importers in the petrochemical and steel industries. During the study period, 66 percent of the country's antidumping cases targeted petrochemical imports, while steel imports were targeted only in 5 percent of the cases. Why did China's petrochemical and steel industries behave so differently in seeking trade protection? The answers put forward by researchers Regina Abrami (Harvard Business School) and Yu Zheng (University of Connecticut) point toward the structural nature of the industries themselves, and against arguments that antidumping actions in China have been driven by retaliation or national industrial strategy alone. Read More

GM’s IPO: Back to the Future

General Motors reaches a milestone this week as it presents an initial public offering. HBS faculty discuss issues facing the automaker's revival. Read More

Data.gov: Matching Government Data with Rapid Innovation

Data.gov is a young initiative of President Barack Obama for making raw data available on the Web. In an HBS executive education class for technology specialists, professor Karim Lakhani and the US Chief Information Officer, Vivek Kundra, sparked dialogue about new routes to innovation. Read More

Venture Capital’s Disconnect with Clean Tech

Clean-tech start-ups depend on patience and public policy to thrive—the Internet models for VC funding don't apply. That's why Harvard Business School professor Joseph Lassiter is making an unusual recommendation to his entrepreneurship students: Spend a few years serving time in a government job. Closed for comment; 18 Comments posted.

A Comparative-Advantage Approach to Government Debt Maturity

Can the government do anything to discourage short-term borrowing by the private sector? HBS Professor Robin Greenwood, Harvard University and Harvard Business School PhD candidate Samuel Hanson, and Harvard University Professor Jeremy C. Stein suggest the government could actively influence the corporate sector's borrowing decisions by shifting its own financing between T-bills and bonds. Read More

How Government can Discourage Private Sector Reliance on Short-Term Debt

Financial institutions have relied increasingly and excessively on short-term financing--putting the overall system at risk. Should government step in? Harvard researchers Robin Greenwood, Samuel Hanson, and Jeremy C. Stein propose a "comparative advantage approach" that allows government to actively influence the corporate sector's borrowing decisions. Read More

The Profits of Power: Commercial Realpolitik in Eurasia

The concept of good old-fashioned realpolitik-politics primarily shaped by practicality and power-has returned to Europe, clashing with the traditional ideologies of the European Union, says Harvard Business School professor Rawi Abdelal. Citing supporting evidence from the Russian gas giant Gazprom, he argues that scholars need to pay better attention to the role of large corporations in international relations. Read More

The Role of Organizational Scope and Governance in Strengthening Private Monitoring

Governments have long debated which tasks should be outsourced to the private sector. Although often justified on the basis of the cost-efficiencies of market competition, outsourcing to private firms carries its own risks, which can reduce the quality of services provided. In addition to more conventional services such as garbage and recycling collection, some governments outsource the enforcement of laws and regulations. This paper by Olin Business School's Lamar Pierce and HBS professor Michael W. Toffel examines the automobile emissions testing market in one state where this form of regulatory enforcement has been outsourced to the private sector. Their analysis illustrates the importance of considering organizational scope and private governance mechanisms such as monitoring provided by corporate headquarters and independent third-parties in efforts to assure the reliability of firms that provide outsourced services. Read More

HBS Faculty Debate Financial Reform Legislation

Harvard Business School professors Robert Steven Kaplan, David A. Moss, Robert C. Pozen, Clayton S. Rose and Luis M. Viceira share their perspectives on the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, slated to be signed this week by U.S. President Barack Obama. Read More

Trade Policy and Firm Boundaries

What is the impact of trade policies on firms' ownership structures? Drawing on analysis based on a unique database from Dun and Bradstreet that contains both listed and unlisted plant-level observations in more than 200 countries, HBS professor Laura Alfaro and coauthors describe a simple model in which firms' boundaries depend on the prices of the products they sell: The higher the prices, the more integrated firms will be. More generally, when equilibrium prices converge across economies, so do ownership structures. The reason behind these predictions is that integration, although more productive than non-integration because of its comparative advantage in the coordination of firms' operating decisions, also imposes higher private costs on enterprise managers. At low prices, the productivity gains from integrating have little value, and managers choose non-integration. As prices rise, the relative value of coordination increases, favoring integration. Read More

From Russia with Love: The Impact of Relocated Firms on Incumbent Survival

The relocation of the machine tool industry from the Soviet-occupied zone of postwar Germany to western regions is a unique laboratory for studying the impact of industrial structures on incumbent survival. Typically, geographic agglomerations of similar firms offer benefits to each member firm by reducing the transportation costs for material goods, specialized workers, and industry knowledge among the firms. Of course, tight geographic concentration comes with countervailing costs as firms compete for local inputs. In this paper, HBS professor William R. Kerr and coauthors study the impact of increased local concentration on incumbent firms by considering postwar Germany, when the fear of expropriation (or worse) in the wake of World War II prompted many machine tool firm owners to flee to western Germany, where they reestablished their firms. Read More

Renewable Energy: Winds at Our Back?

It certainly stirred up controversy in 2001 when an entrepreneur proposed erecting 130 wind turbines off the coast of Massachusetts' Cape Cod. After nine years of struggle over regulatory, environmental, safety, and social issues, the plan appears closer to becoming a reality. HBS professor Richard Vietor reflects on wind energy and innovations in the renewable energy industry. Read More

The Empire Struck Back: The Mexican Oil Expropriation of 1938 Reconsidered

The Mexican petroleum expropriation of 1938 looms large as the beginning of Latin American resource nationalism and the apogee of America's "Good Neighbor" policy. In Mexico, the expropriation is viewed as a patriotic triumph, in which the federal government seized control of the country's most valuable natural resource. In the U.S., the temperate reaction of the Roosevelt Administration is seen as the decisive break with Washington's imperial relationship towards Latin America. Washington "curbed its finance capital," it is said, and downgraded the protection of American overseas private investments. In this paper, HBS professor Noel Maurer explains how the actual historical record diverges substantially from the accepted view. Read More

“An Unfair Advantage”? Combining Banking with Private Equity Investing

Does the combination of banking and private equity investing endow banks with superior information that allows them to identify good prospects and garner superior returns? Or does the combination bestow banks with an unfair ability to expand their balance sheets, capturing benefits within the bank at the expense of the overall market and ultimately the taxpayers? INSEAD's Lily Fang and Harvard Business School professors Victoria Ivashina and Josh Lerner examined nearly 8,000 unique private equity transactions between 1978 and 2009, looking in depth at the nature of the private equity investors, the structure of the investments, and the performance of the firms. Collectively, findings suggest that there are risks in combining banking and private equity investing. The results are consistent with many of the worries about these transactions articulated by policymakers. Read More

Stimulus Surprise: Companies Retrench When Government Spends

New research from Harvard Business School suggests that federal spending in states appears to cause local businesses to cut back rather than grow. A conversation with Joshua Coval. Read More

The Great Leap Forward: The Political Economy of Education in Brazil, 1889-1930

In 1890, with only 15 percent of the population literate, Brazil had the lowest literacy rate among the large economies in the Americas. Yet between 1890 and 1940, Brazil had the most rapid increase in literacy rates in the Americas, catching up with and even surpassing some of its more educated peers such as Mexico, Colombia, and Venezuela. This jump in literacy was simultaneously accompanied by a brisk increase in the number of teachers, number of public schools, and enrollment rates. Why were political elites in Brazil willing to finance this expansion of public education for all? André Martínez-Fritscher of Banco de México, Aldo Musacchio of HBS, and Martina Viarengo of the London School of Economics explain how state governments secured funds to pay for education and examine the incentives of politicians to spend on education. They conclude that the progress made in education during these decades had mixed results in the long run. Read More

Environmental Federalism in the European Union and the United States

Under what circumstances will individual states take the lead in passing the most stringent environmental regulations, and when will the federal government take the lead? When a state takes a leadership role, will other states follow? HBS professor Michael Toffel and coauthors describe the development of environmental regulations in the U.S. and EU that address automobile emissions, packaging waste, and global climate change. They use these three topics to illustrate different patterns of environmental policymaking, describe the changing dynamics between state and centralized regulation in the United States and the EU. Read More

Developing Asia’s Largest Slum

In a recent case study, HBS assistant professor Lakshmi Iyer and lecturer John Macomber examine ongoing efforts to forge a public-private mixed development in Dharavi—featured in the film Slumdog Millionaire. But there is a reason this project has languished for years. From the HBS Alumni Bulletin. Read More

To What Degree Does “Identity” Affect Economic Performance?

Summing up comments to his March column, Jim Heskett says perceptions vary widely on the issue of "identity" and economic performance, particularly as it applies to the U.S. What will it take to turn around negative trends in employee identity? (Forum now closed. Next forum begins April 2.) Closed for comment; 33 Comments posted.

A Macroeconomic View of the Current Economy

Concerned or confused by the economic environment? Take some lessons from history and concepts from macroeconomics to get a better understanding of how the economy works. A Q&A with HBS professor David A. Moss, author of A Concise Guide to Macroeconomics: What Managers, Executives, and Students Need to Know. Read More

Is a Stringent Climate Change Agreement a Pot of Gold?

Reading this month's comments, HBS professor Jim Heskett wonders if we even need a climate change agreement as a catalyst to foster innovation and the VC investment required to support it. (Online forum has closed; next forum opens February 4.) Closed for comment; 19 Comments posted.

Good Banks, Bad Banks, and Government’s Role as Fixer

Government action to stem collapse of the U.S. financial system was certainly warranted, agrees professor Robert Pozen. But results include less competition and increased risk to taxpayers. A Q&A from the HBS Alumni Bulletin and book excerpt from Too Big to Save? Read More

The End of Chimerica

For the better part of the past decade, the world economy has been dominated by a unique geoeconomic constellation that the authors call "Chimerica": a world economic order that combined Chinese export-led development with U.S. overconsumption on the basis of a financial marriage between the world's sole superpower and its most likely future rival. For China, the key attraction of the relationship was its potential to propel the Chinese economy forward by means of export-led growth. For the United States, Chimerica meant being able to consume more, save less, and still maintain low interest rates and a stable rate of investment. Yet, like many another marriage between a saver and a spender, Chimerica was not destined to last. In this paper, economic historians Niall Ferguson of HBS and Moritz Schularick of Freie Universität Berlin consider the problem of global imbalances and try to set events in a longer-term perspective. Read More

Can Entrepreneurs Drive People Movers to Success?

Call them next-generation driverless taxis or people movers, the age of personal rapid transport is just around the bend. Could PRT change the face of public transportation in cities and smaller communities? HBS professor Benjamin G. Edelman weighs the benefits and opportunities for entrepreneurs and for society. "Right now, the field is wide open," he says. Read More

State Owned Entity Reform in Absence of Privatization: Reforming Indian National Laboratories and Role of Leadership

Is privatization necessary? In India and across emerging markets, state-owned entities (SOEs) continue to make up a large proportion of industrial sales, yet they lag behind private counterparts on performance measures. But SOEs may be able to significantly improve performance even in the absence of property rights, according to HBS doctoral candidate Prithwiraj Choudhury and professor Tarun Khanna. As they document, 42 Indian state-owned laboratories started from a base of negligible U.S. patents, yet in the period 1993-2006 (during which the Indian government launched an ambitious privatization program), the labs were granted more patents than all domestic private firms combined. The labs then licensed several of these patents to multinationals, and licensing revenue increased from 3 percent to 15 percent as a fraction of government budgetary support. Findings are relevant to firms and R&D entities around the world that depend on varying degrees of government budgetary support and government control, especially in emerging markets like India, where SOEs control up to one-third of all industrial activity. Read More

Should Immigration Policies Be More Welcoming to Low-Skilled Workers?

Immigration is a topic that stirs passions globally, judging from the responses to this month's column, says HBS professor Jim Heskett. Readers suggested ways to bring immigration policy into alignment with the reality of what is happening at borders and in workplaces around the world. (Online forum now closed. Next forum begins January 6.) Closed for comment; 43 Comments posted.

India Transformed? Insights from the Firm Level 1988-2005

Between 1986 and 2005, Indian growth put to rest the concern that there was something about the "nature of India" that made rapid growth difficult. Following broad-ranging reforms in the mid-1980s and early 1990s, the state deregulated entry, both domestic and foreign, in many industries, and also hugely reduced barriers to trade. Laura Alfaro of Harvard Business School and Anusha Chari of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill analyze the evolution of India's industrial structure at the firm level following the reforms. Despite the substantial increase in the number of private and foreign firms, the overall pattern that emerges is one of continued incumbent dominance in terms of assets, sales, and profits in both state-owned and traditional private firms. Read More

What is the Role of Government Vis-à-Vis Capitalism?

The debate this month boiled down to the extent of government's role in relation to capitalism, says professor Jim Heskett. While some readers argued for a relatively narrow role for government, others disagreed, and commented on the challenges it faces today. (Forum now closed. Next forum begins Dec. 3.) Closed for comment; 59 Comments posted.

Systemic Risk and the Refinancing Ratchet Effect

During periods of rising house prices, falling interest rates, and increasingly competitive and efficient refinancing markets, cash-out refinancing is like a ratchet, incrementally increasing homeowner debt as real-estate values appreciate without the ability to symmetrically decrease debt by increments as real-estate values decline. This paper suggests that systemic risk in the housing and mortgage markets can arise quite naturally from the confluence of these three apparently salutary economic trends. Using a numerical simulation of the U.S. mortgage market, the researchers show that the ratchet effect is capable of generating the magnitude of losses suffered by mortgage lenders during the financial crisis of 2007-2008. These observations have important implications for risk management practices and regulatory reform. Read More

Financing Constraints and Entrepreneurship

Financing constraints are one of the biggest concerns impacting potential entrepreneurs around the world. Given the important role that entrepreneurship is believed to play in the process of economic growth, alleviating financing constraints for would-be entrepreneurs is also an important goal for policymakers worldwide. In this paper HBS professors William R. Kerr and Ramana Nanda review two major streams of research examining the relevance of financing constraints for entrepreneurship. They then introduce a framework that provides a unified perspective on these research streams, thereby highlighting some important areas for future research and policy analysis in entrepreneurial finance. Read More

Why Competition May Not Improve Credit Rating Agencies

Competition usually creates better products and services. But when competition increased among credit rating agencies, the result was less accurate ratings, according to a study by HBS professor Bo Becker and finance professor Todd Milbourn of Washington University in St Louis. In our Q&A, Becker discusses why users of ratings should exercise a little caution. Read More

The Impact of Private Equity Ownership on Portfolio Firms’ Corporate Tax Planning

Although private firms are important components of the U.S. economy, their tax practices remains largely unknown due to the lack of publicly available financial information. In recent years, private equity (PE) firms have been broadly criticized based on the substantial tax benefits enjoyed by their owners and managers. Editorials have inflamed public opinion by accusing PE firm owners and managers as having excessively low tax rates, and pointing out that the substantial wealth generated by PE firms can "pay for sophisticated tax planning," including the use of offshore investment companies based in tax havens. More generally, critics contend that PE firms aggressively manage their tax liabilities and those of their portfolio companies. This study investigates the latter contention. In particular, the authors look at whether private companies that are majority-owned by PE firms ("majority PE-backed firms") engage in more tax avoidance than other publicly traded and privately held firms. This may be the first study to compare the tax practices of firms with different private ownership structures. Read More

Where Cash for Clunkers Ran Off the Road

Marketing professor John Quelch says the federal government's "Cash for Clunkers" program was poorly run and failed to meet its main objectives, proving again the government has no business trying to shape consumer behavior. Join the discussion. Read More

Informed and Interconnected: A Manifesto for Smarter Cities

To make our cities and communities smarter, we must become a little smarter ourselves, seeking information and an agenda to forge connections enabling collaboration, according to HBS professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter and IBM's Stanley S. Litow. Their vision is that someday soon, leaders will combine technological capabilities and social innovation to help produce a smarter world. That world will be seen on the ground in smarter cities composed of smarter communities that support the well-being of all citizens. This paper outlines eight challenges facing cities and the communities they encompass, based on experience in the United States. Kanter and Litow provide examples of practices and programs led by both government and nonprofit organizations, many technology-enabled, that point the way to solutions, and they conclude with a call for leaders to embrace an agenda for change. Read More

Policy Bundling to Overcome Loss Aversion: A Method for Improving Legislative Outcomes

Citizens hope their elected representatives will pass legislation that creates net gains that outweigh net harms—in other words, legislation that has positive expected value for society. However, economist Joseph Stiglitz has noted that legislators often fail to pass such legislation, even when its net positive expected value is highly significant. The psychology and economics literature suggests that legislators face an uphill battle when proposing legislation that has both costs and benefits due to the power of loss aversion, a cognitive bias that has been found to cause individuals to dramatically overweight losses relative to gains. Here the authors propose and test a new type of policy bundling technique in which related bills that have both costs and benefits are combined in a way that reduces the harmful effects of loss aversion. Read More

Diagnosing the Public Health Care Alternative

With deep experience in health insurance reform, HBS faculty describe how improved competition in insurance plans could improve value for patients. Professors Regina E. Herzlinger, Robert Huckman, and Michael E. Porter take the pulse of a debate. Read More

“Too Big To Fail”: Reining In Large Financial Firms

Four little words have cost U.S. taxpayers dearly in government bailouts of once-mighty Wall Street firms. Congress can put an end to such costly rescues, says HBS professor David A. Moss, and the Federal Reserve could be a super regulator, adds senior lecturer Robert C. Pozen. But will Congress enact the regulatory cure that is required? From the HBS Alumni Bulletin. Read More

Elections and Discretionary Accruals: Evidence from 2004

How does the political process affect accounting? During the 2004 U.S. congressional elections, outsourcing of American jobs was a major campaign issue. Because outsourcing is assumed to be net profitable, the use of income-decreasing accruals would enable donor firms to deflect public scrutiny of both the firm and the political candidate over outsourcing. HBS professor Karthik Ramanna and MIT Sloan School professor Sugata Roychowdhury examine the accrual choices made by outsourcing firms with links to U.S. congressional candidates during the 2004 elections, and specifically test for income-decreasing discretionary accruals. Evidence is consistent with firms using earnings management to reduce both direct political costs and the costs associated with causing embarrassment to affiliated political candidates. Read More

An Ounce of Prevention: The Power of Public Risk Management in Stabilizing the Financial System

The present financial crisis should remind us that private financial institutions and markets cannot always be counted upon to manage risk optimally on their own. Almost everyone now recognizes that the government has a critical role to play—as the lender, insurer, and spender of last resort—in times of crisis. But effective public risk management is also needed in normal times to protect consumers and investors and to help prevent financial crises from starting in the first place. According to HBS professor David Moss, the biggest threat to our financial system today is posed not by commercial banks (as in 1933), but rather by systemically significant institutions (outside of commercial banking) that have the potential to trigger financial avalanches. The threat posed by these financial institutions is only compounded by the unprecedented federal guarantees introduced in response to the current crisis and the pervasive moral hazard they spawn. Under the system that Moss proposes, no financial institution would be too big to fail. Read More

Where is the Pharmacy to the World? International Regulatory Variation and Pharmaceutical Industry Location

The era of paternalistic medicine has passed, but the notion that patients can act as consumers and make appropriate decisions concerning medical treatment poses countervailing risks of its own. A better accommodation among key players needs to be struck to foster the safe use of pharmaceuticals, according to HBS professor Arthur Daemmrich. The "pharmacy to the world," once located at the intersection of Germany, Switzerland, and France, today is found in the United States. Studies of the industry have attributed this sustained competitive advantage to a variety of factors, including U.S. intellectual property policies, funding for biomedical research through the National Institutes of Health, the absence of government controls on drug prices, and the availability of venture capital and other factors that fostered the growth of the biotechnology industry. The data and analysis presented in this working paper, however speculative, are an initial step toward deepening the understanding of interrelationships between government regulation, patients' mobilization both as regulators and as consumers, and the functioning of the pharmaceutical industry. Read More

Corporate Misgovernance at the World Bank

This paper examines the politics of corporate governance at the world's largest appropriations committee, the World Bank's Board of Executive Directors, and exposes a weakness in the design of the World Bank's decision-making structure. Any large public organization faces a challenge of representation and management. Since all decisions cannot be made by all members, founders often grant a more nimble body with decision-making powers. But representatives on the decision-making body may face a temptation to govern in the interests of their own wallet or narrow constituency rather than in the interests of the larger body. In 2008, the Bank's two primary component institutions—the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and the International Development Association (IDA)—committed nearly $25 billion in loans and grants through some 300 development projects around the globe. Where did it go? By exploring the political dynamics and corporate governance of an international appropriations committee, we not only learn about international organizations but also the nature of the international system itself. Read More

The Bloody Millennium: Internal Conflict in South Asia

What accounts for the disturbing trend of increasing terrorism and associated fatalities in South Asia? In 2007, a quarter of all terrorist attacks worldwide were committed in South Asia, second only to Iraq. HBS professor Lakshmi Iyer presents the first comprehensive analysis of internal conflict in South Asia using multiple data sources and incorporating a long-run time frame. She finds that the intensity of internal conflict in the post-2001 period is strongly associated with poverty, both in a cross-country comparison and in a comparison of districts within India and Nepal. Measures implemented by regional and national governments to combat internal violence vary considerably across countries and over time. Typically, the use of military force or relying on unofficial militias has not proved to be a successful counterinsurgency tactic in South Asia; strengthening police activity and using a political accommodation approach has led to some successes in the past. Read More

Securing Jobs or the New Protectionism? Taxing the Overseas Activities of Multinational Firms

Popular imagination often links two significant economic developments: the rapid escalation of the foreign activities of American multinational firms over the last 15 years, and rising levels of economic insecurity, particularly among workers in certain sectors. The presumed linkages between these phenomena have led many to call for a reconsideration of the tax treatment of foreign investment. Increasing the tax burden on outbound investment by American multinational firms, it is claimed, offers the promise of alleviating domestic employment losses and insecurity while also raising considerable revenue. HBS professor Mihir A. Desai looks beneath the trends, examining the economic determinants of outbound investment decisions and synthesizing what is known about the relationship between domestic and foreign activities. Read More

The Energy Politics of Russia vs. Ukraine

A recent Harvard Business School case looks at Russia's decision in 2006 to cut off supply of natural gas to Ukraine's energy company—a move repeated this year. Is Russia just an energy bully? Students of professor Rawi Abdelal learn there is nothing black and white when it comes to Russia's energy politics. From HBS Alumni Bulletin. Read More

Credit is Not the Bogey

"As we attempt to jump-start the economy of 2009, we should recognize both the risks and the advantages inherent in a robust credit industry," write HBS lecturer Nicolas P. Retsinas and Eric S. Belsky. The director and executive director, respectively, of Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies, they offer a prescription for making credit neither too easy nor too hard to get. Read More

Podcast: Preventing Future Financial Failures

Professor David Moss says we need ongoing federal regulation of the few "systemically significant" institutions whose demise could threaten financial stability. Read More

Barriers to Acting in Time on Energy and Strategies for Overcoming Them

What can the new presidential administration do to address our energy problems? For the past decade, most experts have accepted climate change as a fact, making the issue difficult to ignore—yet many politicians, and the voters who elect them, have done exactly that: ignored the problem. Scientists, policymakers, and others have come up with good ideas to address climate change and other energy issues. Many people seek to identify one cause of climate change, when it is abundantly clear that there are multiple causes. Cognitive, organizational, and political barriers exist that prevent us from addressing energy problems despite clearly identified courses of action. The creation and implementation of wise policy recommendations requires us to anticipate resistance to change and develop strategies that can overcome these barriers. Enacting wise legislation to act in time to solve energy problems requires surmounting cognitive, organizational, and political barriers to change. Read More

Decoding the Artful Sidestep

Do you notice when someone changes the subject after you ask them a question? If you don't always notice or even mind such conversational transformations, you're not alone. New research by Todd Rogers and Harvard Business School professor Michael I. Norton explores the common occurrence of "conversational blindness." Q&A with Rogers. Read More

Do Voters Appreciate Responsive Governments? Evidence from Indian Disaster Relief

In a functioning democracy, politicians' ability to win reelection declines when they perform poorly. This idea fits well with models of political accountability. Recent evidence suggests, however, that voters may punish politicians even for events outside their control. This behavior may violate standard models of democratic accountability, and has been advanced as evidence of voter irrationality. This paper uses detailed weather, electoral, and relief data to identify the relationship between government responsiveness to an emergency and electoral decisions. Specifically, the authors look at the decisions that Indian voters made in provincial elections, using the intensity of the monsoon rains as an exogenous shock to welfare. They find that voters, on average, punish incumbent politicians for being in office during weather events beyond their control. However, the degree of voter punishment is reduced somewhat when the government responds more vigorously to the crisis. Read More

The Artful Dodger: Answering the Wrong Question the Right Way

Individuals frequently attempt to avoid questions they do not want to answer, from politicians dodging reporters' requests to clarify their position on when life begins, to employees sidestepping their bosses' questions as to why they are late for the third straight day. Rogers, a recent PhD grad from HBS, and Norton, an assistant professor in the Marketing unit, suggest that when faced with unwanted queries, question-dodgers sometimes exploit conversational blindness—a phenomenon whereby listeners fail to notice when speakers respond to a different question than the one they are asked—by responding with answers that seem to address the question asked, but which in fact address an entirely different question. In the context of political debates, two studies demonstrate conversational blindness, exploring both the conditions that impact the likelihood of such dodges going unnoticed, and how speakers' successful—and failed—attempts to capitalize on conversational blindness impact listeners' opinions of them. Read More

Workout vs. Bailout: Should Government Take Advantage of the Buffett Effect?

The depth of the global financial crisis is becoming clearer day by day, says HBS professor Jim Heskett. Respondents to this month's column offered creative solutions, and by and large resisted the temptation to venture into the realm of ideology. (Online forum now closed.) Closed for comment; 50 Comments posted.

Traveling Agents: Political Change and Bureaucratic Turnover in India

Politicians and bureaucrats are two important pillars of governance, but while politicians are motivated by short-term electoral pressures, bureaucrats are driven by long-term career concerns. This difference in the nature of their incentives is, in most cases, deliberate and constitutionally provided for. Iyer and Mani address two key questions in this paper: How do politicians facing short-term electoral pressures control bureaucrats with low-powered incentives? In turn, how do bureaucrats respond to these incentives? The authors develop a simple framework and provide empirical evidence on both the politicians' and the bureaucrats' strategies, using a detailed data set on the entire career histories of officers in the Indian Administrative Service, the top layer of government bureaucracy in India. Read More

Google-Yahoo Ad Deal is Bad for Online Advertising

A proposed advertising deal between Internet competitors Google and Yahoo would reduce competitiveness in the Internet advertising market, likely resulting in higher advertising rates, says Harvard Business School professor Benjamin G. Edelman. Read More

Are the Olympics a Catalyst for China Reforms?

By hosting the Summer Games, China is putting itself at the center of the world's stage, a position some reformers would like to leverage to spark human rights improvements in the country. Can outsiders influence Chinese policy? Not without help, says HBS professor Tarun Khanna. Read More

Fixing Market Failures or Fixing Elections? Agricultural Credit in India

There are strong theoretical reasons to believe that politicians manipulate resources under their control to achieve electoral success. Yet, compelling examples of this manipulation are heretofore rarely documented in scholarly literature. Cole's paper presents evidence that government-owned banks in India serve the electoral interests of politicians. It also analyzes how resources are strategically distributed. Read More

Does Market Capitalism Have a Future?

Does capitalism have a future? That intriguing topic was the subject of an HBS faculty colloquium led by professor Joe Bower, with fellow faculty members Dutch Leonard, David Moss, and Lynn Pain. Read More

Why the U.S. Should Encourage FDI

American financial executives are courting foreign direct investors, particularly sovereign wealth funds, for new investments. Should these investments draw increased scrutiny from U.S. regulators? Harvard Business School professor Mihir Desai argues that most of these deals work out in America's best financial interest. Read More

Financial Development, Bank Ownership, and Growth. Or, Does Quantity Imply Quality?

Government ownership of banks, a common phenomenon, is among the most important policy tools used to influence financial development. But what is the actual effect of such ownership on the financial development of a country? This paper uses a policy experiment in India to evaluate the effect of government ownership of banks on development. Read More

HBS Cases: Reforming New Orleans Schools After Katrina

The New Orleans public school system, ravaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, is now getting a boost from charter schools—today about half of the city's 80 schools are charter schools, says HBS lecturer and senior researcher Stacey M. Childress. She explains what New Orleans represents for entrepreneurial opportunities in U.S. public education. Read More

Using Financial Innovation to Support Savers: From Coercion to Excitement

This paper acknowledges the wide range of solutions to the problem of low family savings. Families, and of particular interest to the authors, low-income families, save for a wide variety of purposes, including identifiable reasons such as education and retirement and others that are more broad, like rainy days or emergencies. Given societal pressures to consume, and given the diversity among people, it is unlikely that there is a single solution to the savings problem. Yet a number of programs described by Tufano and Schneider have great promise in supporting household savings. Tufano and Schneider discuss each program from the perspectives of would-be savers as well as from that of other key stakeholders. Read More

Innovative Ways to Encourage Personal Savings

Saving money doesn't need to be so difficult. According to HBS professor Peter Tufano, "The most interesting ideas—indeed the oldest—try to make savings a fun or satisfying experience." As Tufano describes in this Q&A, different solutions appeal to different people. Here's what government policy, the private sector, and nonprofits can do. Read More

Accounting Information as Political Currency

The study of accounting and the political process has long been viewed through the political cost hypothesis, the basic premise of which is that firms manage earnings in order to extract first-order benefits (or avoid first-order costs) from regulators. This paper develops and tests a distinct, yet likely, complementary hypothesis: Firms manage reported earnings in order to supply first-order benefits to regulators. Focusing on Democratic and Republican candidates in congressional races in 2004, Ramanna and Roychowdhury test whether the management of accounting information is in some circumstances akin to a political contribution from firms to politicians: in other words, whether accounting information can be used as political currency. The authors predict and find that identified corporate donors to candidates in closely watched races in 2004 managed information related to outsourcing, a hot-button issue in those races. Read More

Evaluating the Impact of SA 8000 Certification

The Social Accountability 8000 Standard (SA 8000), along with other types of certification standards and corporate codes of conduct, represents a new form of voluntary "private-governance" of working conditions in the private sector, initiated and implemented by companies, labor unions, and nongovernmental activist groups cooperating together. There is an ongoing debate about whether this type of governance represents real and substantial progress or mere symbolism. This paper reviews prior evaluations of private codes of conduct governing workplace conditions, including Ethical Trading Initiative's Base Code, Nike's Code of Conduct, and Fair Trade certification. The authors then discuss several best practices that should be employed in future evaluations of such codes of conduct. Read More

Accountability and Inequality in Single-Party Regimes: A Comparative Analysis of Vietnam and China

While both China and Vietnam have experienced rapid annual growth over the past two decades, income inequality has risen more rapidly in China than in Vietnam during the same period. Structural and socio-cultural determinants fail to account for these divergent paths, as nearly every variable predicts higher inequality in Vietnam. This paper by Regina Abrami and colleagues focuses on differences in political institutions to explain these divergent paths. In so doing, it contributes to a growing body of literature describing variation in authoritarian regimes, but focuses on variation within one authoritarian regime type. Read More

Coming Clean and Cleaning Up: Is Voluntary Disclosure a Signal of Effective Self-Policing?

This paper demonstrates some of the benefits and limitations of industry self-policing programs. Many self-regulation programs are operated exclusively by the private sector, often in the hope of garnering goodwill with consumers or staving off more stringent government regulation. Less well known are voluntary self-regulation programs operated by government regulators seeking innovative approaches to further regulatory objectives and to stretch shrinking agency budgets. Little is known about the effects of these programs, or how they might contribute to the overall effectiveness of a regulatory regime. Michael Toffel and Jodi Short seek to determine whether the self-policing required under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Audit Policy affects the behavior of regulators and participating facilities and the relationship between them. Specifically, the researchers examine whether self-policing is associated with improved environmental performance at these facilities and whether regulators reduce their scrutiny over self-policing facilities. Read More

Going Negative in Political Advertising

Companies rarely run negative ads against competitors, but political candidates often do. Why the difference? It's a byproduct of our political system's winner-take-all approach, says professor John Quelch. Read More

Accounting Information as Political Currency

Corporate donors that gave at least $10,000 to closely watched races in the U.S. congressional elections of 2004 were more likely to understate their earnings, say Harvard Business School's Karthik Ramanna and MIT colleague Sugata Roychowdhury. Such "downward earnings management" may have functioned as a political contribution. In this Q&A, Ramanna explains how accounting and politics influence each other. Read More

Encouraging Entrepreneurs: Lessons for Government Policy

Who you know and how much money is in your pocket have always been significant contributors to entrepreneurial success. New research by Harvard Business School professor Ramana Nanda explores new wrinkles in this age-old formula—and how government policy may impact entrepreneurship. Read More

Colonial Land Tenure, Electoral Competition and Public Goods in India

How is the impact of historical institutions felt today? This comparative analysis by Banerjee and Iyer highlights the impact of a specific historical institution on long-term development, specifically the land tenure systems instituted during British colonial rule. The paper compares the long-term development outcomes between areas where controls rights in land were historically given to a few landlords and areas where such rights were more broadly distributed. The paper also documents the impact of these differing historical institutions on political participation and electoral competition in the post-colonial period. Read More

Podcast: Revisiting Rental Housing

The subprime loan debacle, which has caused thousands of families to lose their homes, has cast light on another housing crisis in the U.S.: the lack of affordable rentals. In this podcast Harvard Business School professor Nicholas Retsinas discusses how this situation came to be, and his new book, Revisiting Rental Housing. Read More

Does Democracy Need a Marketing Manager?

It's more than coincidence that we feel more association with our favorite consumer brands than with our elected politicians or government institutions. Can the power of marketing be used to promote public participation in politics? Harvard Business School professor John A. Quelch and research associate Katherine E. Jocz discuss their new book, Greater Good: How Good Marketing Makes for Better Democracy. Plus: book excerpt. Read More

Billions of Entrepreneurs in China and India

Entrepreneurship in both China and India is rising dramatically and thriving under quite different conditions. HBS professor Tarun Khanna explains what it all means in this Q&A about his new book, Billions of Entrepreneurs: How China and India Are Reshaping Their Futures and Yours. Plus: book excerpt. Read More

If Marketing Experts Ran Elections

Most Americans seem indifferent about the political process, judging by lackluster voter turnout historically, although the primaries so far seem to be bucking the trend. Professor John Quelch discusses what politicians can learn from consumer marketing. Read More

The Political Economy of “Natural” Disasters

With the onset of global warming, it is likely that the incidence of natural shocks will only increase in the years ahead. In addition, rising inequality between rich and poor countries combined with a commitment on the part of developed countries to increase foreign aid disbursements indicates that international relief in natural disasters will grow. Disaster relief is one of the most basic and important transfers of wealth between developed and developing countries. This paper argues that the relief enters and affects a highly political situation. It also argues that the political economy of natural disasters is understandable and predictable, and may be mitigated. Read More

Does Judgment Trump Experience?

It's a question as relevant for business as for the U.S. presidential campaign, says HBS professor Jim Heskett. If "judgment capability" is a function of experience, what kind of experience is important? Does plenty of experience really improve judgment? Online forum now CLOSED. Closed for comment; 111 Comments posted.

Six Steps for Reinvigorating America

In the early stages of the 21st century, America has lost its way both at home and in the world, argues Harvard Business School professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter. In her new book, America the Principled, she details 6 opportunities for America to boost its economic vitality and democratic ideals. Q&A plus excerpt. Read More

How Firms Respond to Being Rated

(Previously titled "Shamed and Able: How Firms Respond to Information Disclosure.") As national governments lose the ability to regulate business activities, interest groups and concerned citizens are turning to private governance to monitor global supply chains, ensure product safety, and provide incentives for improved corporate environmental performance. Proponents hope that private governance incentives will encourage firms to act responsibly, but critics worry that these developments will merely forestall necessary government regulation. Social ratings provide one way to benchmark and compare firms' social performance. But are such ratings schemes effective? This paper investigates the effects of third-party environmental ratings, and finds that firms are particularly likely to respond to such ratings by improving their environmental performance when two circumstances arise simultaneously: (1) when the ratings threaten their legitimacy, and (2) when they face relatively low cost improvement opportunities. Read More

Harnessing Our Inner Angels and Demons: What We Have Learned About Want/Should Conflicts and How That Knowledge Can Help Us Reduce Short-Sighted Decision Making

Many of the most important problems facing the world today are exacerbated by myopic decision-making. Examples include climate change, under-saving for retirement, deficit spending, and obesity. As observed by Freud, contemporary psychologists and researchers, and entertainers, people everywhere struggle to choose between doing what they want to do and what they should do. This paper synthesizes 15 years of empirical explorations of this "want/should" conflict and discusses the most important applications of this work. The results of recent studies have the potential to help individuals and policymakers by arming them with insights about how to increase the chances that they and their constituents, respectively, will favor options that are in their best interest. Read More

The Causes and Consequences of Industry Self-Policing

The corporate confession is a paradox, as described in this paper aimed at managers, policymakers, and citizens. Why would a firm that identifies regulatory compliance violations within its own operations turn itself in to regulators, rather than quietly fix the problem? Economic intuition suggests that firms will self-disclose violations only when the cost of doing so is less than the expected cost of hiding violations. However, while the cost of doing so can be increased regulatory scrutiny, there is often almost no expected cost of hiding violations. To explore the complex behavior of corporate self-disclosure, Short and Toffel conducted a large-scale analysis in the context of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Audit Policy. They investigated what factors lead organizations to self-disclose violations that went undiscovered by regulators, and asked whether these self-disclosing organizations were obtaining any unofficial regulatory benefits above and beyond formal penalty mitigation. They also evaluated whether self-policing promotes the regulatory objective of improving compliance records. Read More

The FDA: What Will the Next 100 Years Bring?

With the possible exception of the Internal Revenue Service, no other governmental agency touches the lives of more Americans than the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which ensures the safety of $1.5 trillion worth of consumer goods and medicines. Harvard Business School professor Arthur A. Daemmrich discusses the impact and challenges of the agency and his new book, Perspectives on Risk and Regulation: The FDA at 100. Read More

The Excess Burden of Government Indecision

Virtually all U.S. policymakers, budget analysts, and academic experts agree that the United States faces a very serious, if not a grave, long-term fiscal problem. Yet few policymakers will publicly say how or when they would fix it, perhaps because they fear being the bearer of bad news and getting voted out of office. Delaying the resolution of fiscal imbalances incurs two costs, however. First, it leaves a larger bill for a smaller number of people to pay. Second, and of primary interest to this research, it perpetuates uncertainty, leading economic agents to make suboptimal saving, investment, and other decisions, and reducing welfare. This research identifies and measures this "excess burden" of government indecision and finds that it is economically significant. Read More

Company Town: Fixing Corrupt Governments

Too many democracies are ruled by corrupt leaders, says HBS professor Eric Werker. So how about letting good corporate citizens run for elected office in Third World regions? Read More

Is Health Care Making You Better—or Dead?

Professor Regina Herzlinger has been studying the U.S. health care system for decades, advocating for consumer-driven reform as the best remedy. But the slow pace of change, which she attributes to a fat-cat network of insurers, policymakers, hospitals, and even employers, has her fed up. Her new book, Who Killed Health Care? adopts the emotional language of a manifesto in demanding change to make health care more responsive to customers, affordable to those in need, and a hotbed of innovation and entrepreneurship. Read More

Media Markets and Localism: Does Local News en Español Boost Hispanic Voter Turnout?

The increased integration of markets for news and entertainment means that more viewers can watch shows that better match their preferences, whether that means American football, Japanese anime, or Mexican soap operas. But is there an attendant risk to civic society, as some scholars claim? Do locally engaged citizens turn into passive viewers? The explosion in the U.S. of local television news in Spanish provides an ideal stage for probing these questions. This paper tests whether the presence of local television news affects local civic engagement in the form of voter turnout. Read More

On The General Relativity of Fiscal Language

The failure to distinguish economics from linguistics is distressingly common in fiscal policy and theoretical research. Like measures of time and distance, standard fiscal measures such as deficits, taxes, and transfer payments depend on one's reference point, reporting procedure, language, and labels. Green and Kotlikoff's paper provides a general proof that such standard fiscal measures are economically ill-defined and instead reflect the arbitrary labeling of underlying fiscal conditions. Read More

All Eyes on Slovakia’s Flat Tax

The flat tax is an idea that's burst to life in post-communist Eastern and Central Europe, especially in Slovakia. But is the rest of the world ready? A new Harvard Business School case on Slovakia's complex experience highlights many hurdles elsewhere, as HBS professor Laura Alfaro, Europe Research Center Director Vincent Dessain, and Research Assistant Ane Damgaard Jensen explain in this Q&A. Read More

Learning from Failed Political Leadership

Strategic independence and better leadership assessment—these are the critical issues for both business and government in the future, says Professor D. Quinn Mills. In this Q&A he describes key lessons from his new book, Masters of Illusion, coauthored with Steven Rosefielde. A book excerpt follows. Read More

Government’s Misguided Probe of Private Equity

The U.S Department of Justice has begun an inquiry into potentially anti-competitive behavior on the part of leading private equity firms. Professor Josh Lerner looks to history to underscore why this move carries the prospect of damaging what is actually an incredibly competitive industry that creates much value. Read More

Risky Business? Protecting Foreign Investments

After a string of forced nationalizations of private enterprises in the 1960s and 1970s, the pendulum swung back and companies were again encouraged by host countries to build and run major infrastructure projects such as power and water. But a set of new property protections has done little to manage the risk in many of these politically unstable environments. Professor Louis T. Wells, coauthor of a new book on making foreign investment safe, discusses the current landscape. Read More

What Is the Government’s Role in U.S. Healthcare?

Healthcare will grab ever more headlines in the U.S. in the coming months, says Jim Heskett. Any service that is on track to consume 40 percent of the gross national product of the world's largest economy by the year 2050 will be hard to ignore. But are we addressing healthcare cost issues with the creativity they deserve? What do you think? Closed for comment; 66 Comments posted.

Capital Rules: The Tensions of Global Finance

With the start of the new decade, most global financial powers are rethinking a previously powerful trend toward liberalizing global finance. In his new book Capital Rules, Professor Rawi Abdelal charts the intellectual, legal, and political history of financial globalization, and the tensions facing today's world economy. Read an excerpt. Read More

Helping Low-Income Families Save More

Marketers are quite efficient at targeting potential customers when they have money—that is, at tax-refund time. Professor Peter Tufano thinks tax time could also be perfect for helping low-income families save more. Read More

Behavioral Decision Research, Legislation, and Society: Three Cases

Insights about how people make decisions have enormous importance for society and public policy, yet often behavioral decision findings are overlooked or dismissed in favor of arguments based on sometimes-simplistic economic theory. This is particularly true in Washington, D.C., where Bazerman provided expert testimony in government cases on auditor bias, pharmaceutical company collusion, and big tobacco, respectively. His experiences highlight the barriers to the use of the most appropriate social science under the existing legal and legislative frameworks. In this article that is based on analysis and opinion, he tells what happened and reflects on the need for social sciences, in addition to economics, to be brought to the legal and policy-making domains. Read More

Future Lock-in: Or, I’ll Agree to Do the Right Thing...Next Week

Most of us believe that we should make certain choices—save more money or reduce gas consumption, for example—but we do not want to carry out these choices. In psychology this tension has been referred to as a "want/should" conflict. Rogers and Bazerman show through four experiments that people are more likely to choose what they believe they should choose when the choice will be implemented in the future rather than in the present, a tendency they call "future lock-in." They also discuss directions for future research and applications for public policy, an arena in which citizens are often asked to consider binding policies that trade short-term interests for long-term benefits. Read More

The Political Economy of Capitalism

Capitalism is often defined as an economic system where private actors are allowed to own and control the use of property according to their own interests, and where the invisible hand of the pricing mechanism coordinates supply and demand in markets in a way that is automatically in the best interests of society. Government, in this perspective, is often described as responsible for peace, justice, and tolerable taxes. Bruce Scott argues in this chapter that for a capitalist system to evolve in an effective developmental sense through time, it must have two hands, not one: an invisible hand that is implicit in the pricing mechanism, and a visible hand that is explicitly managed by government through a legislature and a bureaucracy. Inevitably the actions of the visible hand imply a strategy, no matter how implicit, shortsighted, or incoherent that strategy may be. Read More

Coerced Confessions: Self-Policing in the Shadow of the Regulator

Are regulators necessary? In industry, self-regulation and self-policing have been touted as a new paradigm of regulation that trades outmoded "command-and-control" strategies for industry-directed, market-based solutions. Short and Toffel's work, one of the first empirical studies to address self-policing behavior, examined a rich data set of companies' voluntary disclosures of regulatory violations under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Audit Policy. The goal: to learn how violators behave when offered the option of voluntarily self-disclosing. The results show that even as corporations are given an expanding role in their own governance, the success of "voluntary" self-policing depends on the continued involvement of regulators with coercive powers. Read More

U.S. Tops Business Competitiveness Index 2006

The United States and Germany continue to top an annual review of the business competitiveness of 121 countries, which is compiled by Professor Michael Porter's Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness at Harvard Business School. While India climbed in the rankings, China fell. Read More

When Words Get in the Way: The Failure of Fiscal Language

Professor Jerry Green and coauthor Laurence J. Kotlikoff agree with the long-made argument that the deficit and related fiscal measures are basically labeling conventions with no intrinsic meaning. So why, they wonder, aren't economists getting the message? Read More

How Europe Wrote the Rules of Global Finance

Following decades of liberalization, controls on cross-border capital movements are again being discussed by financial institutions, governments, and policymakers around the globe. Professor Rawi Abdelal discusses implications and the historical roles of Europe and the United States in promoting the flow of capital across national borders. Read More

Whatever Happened to Caveat Emptor?

In many world nations, consumers enjoy vast protections that are relatively new on the scene. Why the rapid rise in consumer protectionism? Why do these efforts vary from country to country? A discussion with professor Gunnar Trumbull on his new book, Consumer Capitalism. Read More

Political Turmoil and Mexico’s Economy

Professor Noel Maurer's historical research into Mexico and other countries with unstable governments shows that their economies perform better than might be expected. Why? Read More

The Case for Consumer-Driven Medicaid

The Medicaid program is a health insurance safety net for 52 million Americans, but the price tag threatens the financial stability of the states. Regina Herzlinger looks to South Carolina for a model in consumer-driven healthcare. Read More

The Hidden Market for Babies

Surrogates. Fertility clinics. Egg donors. Adoption. It's time to recognize (and perhaps regulate) the huge market being created by reproductive technologies, says HBS professor Debora L. Spar. She discusses her new book, The Baby Business. Read More

What are the Lessons of New Orleans?

The response by public officials to the Hurricane Katrina disaster will be analyzed for years. Can lessons learned in the private sector instruct us in minimizing the suffering and damage from inevitable future calamities? Closed for comment; 44 Comments posted.

Reinventing Savings Bonds

At one point in American history, savings bonds were an important tool families used to build assets and get ahead. While times have changed, this function of savings bonds may be even more important now, especially for the 41 million low- and moderate-income American households. Tufano and Schneider lay out a case for why savings bonds should be reimagined to help millions of Americans build assets now. Read More

The U.S. Patent Game: How to Change It

Innovators and society are paying too high a price in the current patent system, says a new book by Adam B. Jaffe and Harvard Business School’s Josh Lerner. A book excerpt and Q&A with Lerner. Read More

The Business of Babies

The demand for babies by infertile couples and other would-be parents is huge—and little discussed. HBS professor Debora L. Spar looks at the market realities. Read More

Expensing Options Won’t Hurt High Tech

Will expensing stock options harm the competitiveness of start-ups? Not likely, say Zvi Bodie, Robert S. Kaplan, and Robert C. Merton in this Harvard Business Review excerpt. Read More

Greed, Fear, and The System Hinder Corporate Reform

If we’re going to fix the system we need to take a realistic look at the possibilities and limitations of regulation, said panelists. Here’s their diagnosis. Read More

Homeland Security: A Ready-made Market

The Department for Homeland Security has a budget of $38 billion, and companies are lining up to help the government spend it. What are the needs of this market and who is best positioned to serve it? Harvard Business School professor Scott Snook lead this discussion with industry players. Read More

The Role of Government When All Else Fails

A new book by Harvard Business School professor David A. Moss explores government's under-appreciated role as risk manager in everything from disaster relief to Social Security. How did this role evolve into something today that touches on almost every aspect of economic life? Read More

‘Let the Buyer Beware’ Doesn’t Protect Investors

"Let the buyer beware" is a poor warning for investors, says HBS professor D. Quinn Mills. In this excerpt from his new book, Buy, Lie, and Sell High: How Investors Lost Out on Enron and the Internet Bubble, he offers a way to shape up the system. Plus: Author Q&A. Read More

The Trick of Balancing Business and Government

Institutions, such as a competent judiciary, an efficient civil service, and a good highway system, are all important for African countries. But who creates them? And what should be the role of business in the mix? At an Africa Business Conference panel session called "Institutional Foundations," five experts weighed in. Read More

Is Government Just Stupid? How Bad Decisions Are Made

Why is it that politicos make such poor decisions? The authors of "You Can't Enlarge the Pie" suggest that government leaders could benefit from basic decision-making skills. Plus: Q&A with HBS professor Max Bazerman. Read More

Making an Ally of Uncle Sam

Most business leaders just want government out of their way. But ignorance of the political landscape can lead to unpleasant consequences. The good news: You can make government an ally. Also: Q&A with Michael Watkins. Read More

The State of the Markets

Technology is bringing about vast changes in worldwide financial markets, generating improvements in efficiency, speed and economies of scale. But as technological change continues to occur, attention must also be paid to changes in the role that regulation plays, said industry leaders in a panel on "Technology and the Future of the Financial Markets." Read More

Adjusting the Fit for Government

It is no simple task to strike the right balance between too much government intervention and not enough. And when corruption has seeped into a society at all levels, it's hard to know how to create an environment that welcomes investors yet does not neglect vital human services such as health care and education. Debating the balance for African societies and business were panelists with personal experience on the continent, in a conversation led by HBS Professor Debora Spar. Read More