Thursday, October 27, 2016

Rodrik expands on Roemer

In a recent post about what the left could do to recapture working class voters that are now captured by national populism, Dani Rodrik stresses the importance of ideas and narratives more than concrete policies. He links to two recent papers of himself on these issues. The two papers are very interesting and open new avenues for research. They touch on the old topic of the role of ideas as worldviews, but also on the topic of how identities can be made salient to convince for example the poor to vote for the rich that share the same identity. This topic was also addresed previously by John Roemer and somehow also by Branko Milanovic, which is why it is surprising that their work is not mentioned in the references. What Rodrik does is adding behavioral issues that have to do with the endogeneity of preferences, something also mentioned by Samuel Bowles in his recent work. A very simplified way to describe what Rodrik does in these articles is "Roemer+behavioral political economy," or adding psychology to the re-invention of the wheel. Something the reader interested in identities might suggest to Rodrik is to apply to himself his idea that his approach can be used to build bridges between normative and positive economics. For example, his recent view that we should stop globalization and focus on the nation-state perhaps can be qualified by thinking about the impact on preferences of making salient that frontiers are again important. But overall the articles are interesting and important and point to directions that deserve to be followed. Rodrik finishes his post on these issues with these words:  "Progressives need to shape the narrative that structures voters’ interests. They need to be able to appeal to identities beyond race and gender – occupation, social class, income status, and patriotism. They need to convince the electorate that it is their interests they have at heart – not those of bankers or of large corporations.  They need to forge a story line that will shape a package of policy proposals into a politically appealing whole. Progressives need not give up on the white, male working class. But they need to understand that politics is as much about redefining perceptions of interests as it is about responding to those interests."

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