Friday, December 28, 2012

Some fascinating research by Ed Lazear, Kathryn Shaw and Christopher Stanton has evaluated the importance of a good boss. They find a substantial effect - a finding that has important implications for both the debate about remuneration of senior bosses and the more general question of how marginal productivity should be measured.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

The Chancellor of the Exchequer presented his Autumn Statement earlier today. At the time of the last election, the main parties offered economic policies that differed in terms of how quickly they would tackle the budget deficit. The reality is now that the deficit will be closed more slowly than either party planned. This throws into pretty sharp relief the extent to which wiggle room has vanished.

A major difficulty over the last two years has been the continued weakness of the Eurozone. This has hit growth, and consequently had an adverse effect on tax receipts.

Taxpayers know that the deficit must be paid off sometime. The trick is to phase the austerity measures in such a way that, in time, they result in a reduced burden of debt, while not choking off the growth that is essential to the repayment of that debt. Current forecasts suggest that it will be the latter half of next year before any significant growth resumes, and this makes the balancing act particularly difficult. In this context it is particularly important that fiscally neutral changes in tax and government spending should be tilted to favour growth - this means that the raising of tax allowances and the investments in infrastructure are both to be welcomed.

Meanwhile, the statement points to the spending review that is to take place in the first half of 2013. The plans for deficit reduction, and specifically for government spending, in this statement indicate that the review will need to take a draconian stance. The extent to which that turns out to be feasible in practice will depend heavily on the broader macroeconomic context. If the European economy remains fragile beyond 2013, further fiscal retrenchment at home is likely to prolong still further the return to significant levels of growth. Indeed, the extent of retrenchment that is anticipated in today's statement may prove infeasible.