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Hibbs: Political parties and macroeconomic policy

Disclaimer. Don't rely on these old notes in lieu of reading the literature, but they can jog your memory. As a grad student long ago, my peers and I collaborated to write and exchange summaries of political science research. I posted them to a wiki-style website. "Wikisum" is now dead but archived here. I cannot vouch for these notes' accuracy, nor can I say who wrote them.

Hibbs. 1977. Political parties and macroeconomic policy. American Political Science Review 71: 1467-87.

Abstract: "This study examines postwar patterns in macroeconomic policies and outcomes associated with Ieft- and right-wing governments in capitalist democracies. It argues that the objective economic interests as well as the subjective preferences of lower income and occupational status groups are best served by a relatively low unemployment-high inflation macroeconomic configuration, whereas a comparatively high unemployment-low inflation configuration is compatible with the interests and preferences of upper income and occupational status groups. Highly aggregated data on unemployment and inflation outcomes in relation to the political orientation of governments in 12 West European and North American nations are analyzed revealing a low unemployment-high inflation configuration in nations regularly governed by the Left and a high unemployment-low inflation pattern in political systems dominated by center and rightist parties. Finally, time-series analyses of quarterly postwar unemployment data for the United States and Great Britain suggests that the unemployment rate has been driven downward by Democratic and Labour administrations and upward by Republican and Conservative governments. The general conclusion is that governments pursue macroeconomic policies broadly in accordance with the objective economic interests and subjective preferences of their class-defined core political constituencies."

The point: partisan conflict determines macroeconomic policy. Leftist governments favor low unemployment and higher inflation. Rightist and Centrist governments favor high unemployment and lower inflation.

Rooted in a since-discredited model of inflation and unemployment (the Philips curve).

Research on similar subjects


Hibbs, Douglas (author)EconomicsInflationPublic OpinionIdeologyClass ConflictCredible CommitmentEconomic Policy

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