Corruption in the public sphere is typically defined as the use of public office for private gain, and in addition to undermining public faith in governmental legitimacy, it also carries a significant economic cost in terms of growth and development. Using data from 2001-2002, the World Bank Institute estimated that $1 trillion in bribes is paid every year and that addressing corruption would quadruple income per capita in the long term. Beginning in the 1990s, increased attention was paid to addressing corruption, with the lead primarily taken by governments, including the U.S., and international organizations, including the World Bank and […]

When a book about economics rises to the No. 1 spot on the bestseller list, it says as much about society as it does about the book. That’s why the explosive rise of “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” by Thomas Piketty, is so revealing and why the book will become a self-reinforcing phenomenon likely to carve a deep mark in the political landscape. Piketty’s work, on its own, is an important and impressive accomplishment. But the fact that it has been welcomed so enthusiastically by such a wide spectrum of the population proves that it has hit a nerve. Because […]

Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee last month, retired Gen. Keith Alexander, who recently stepped down as head of U.S. Cyber Command and director of the National Security Agency, expressed misgivings about America’s deterrent posture in cyberspace. In particular, he raised concerns about the lack of a threshold that, when crossed by cyberattackers, would prompt a U.S. response. According to Alexander, “The question is, when do we act? That’s a policy decision. . . . What we don’t want to do is let it get to the point where we find out, ‘OK, that was unacceptable,’ and we didn’t […]

Workers in the Seagate factory in Wuxi, Jiangsu Province, China (Photo by Wikimedia user Robert Scoble, licensed under the Creative Commons 2.0 Attribtion license).

Since the Fourth United Nations World Conference on Women and the adoption of the Beijing Platform for Action in 1995, many governments and international development institutions have expressed their commitment toward gender equality goals. Most development actors and policymakers, however, remain focused on a narrow interpretation of women’s empowerment and often argue for “investing in women and girls” as a means to achieve poverty reduction and GDP growth, rather than as an end in itself and as a matter of social justice. For example, the main argument behind the slogan “gender equality is smart economics” coined by the World Bank […]

The original and most immediate rationale for redistributive land reform is that, at low levels of capital intensity, large farms operated by wage labor will be less efficient than small owner-operated ones. This has given rise to an inverse relationship between farm size and productivity that continues to be widely observed in the literature. In fact, colonial powers had often tried to restrict access to land by the local population to ensure a continued supply of cheap and relatively uneducated labor, despite the associated economic cost. In a sense, land reform is an effort to rectify this historical injustice and […]

It is now very much old news that economic inequality has risen dramatically in the United States and many other developed democracies over the past 30 years. This dramatic increase has produced a flurry of discussion over how severe the increase has been, how much of a problem inequality really is and what can and should be done about it. While inequality is resurgent as an issue in U.S. politics, it has a much longer and more prominent history in middle- and low-income countries. This is likely due to the fact that inequality in developing countries has historically been much […]

Having just spent several days in Israel and Palestine for the launch of Molad, a new Israeli think tank, I had hoped to devote this column to some of the takeaways of my trip. However, I was reminded this week that the first thing a stay in Israel and Palestine teaches, or ought to teach, is that a 1,000-word column is not the easiest format for nuanced exploration of whatever one has learned. So instead of a trip report, I’m going to turn a regional lens on another source of full employment for foreign policy pundits these days: the twin […]