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2018

Most of our working papers are available online. Please browse by year via the submenu on the left.

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Download the full list of working paper abstracts (pdf, 721KB)

WP496: Will Robots Automate Your Job Away? Full Employment, Basic Income, and Economic Democracy

Ewan McGaughey

Will the internet, robotics and artificial intelligence mean a ‘jobless future’? A recent narrative says tomorrow’s technology will fundamentally differ from cotton mills, steam engines, or washing machines. Automation will be less like post-WW2 demobilisation for soldiers, and more like the car for horses. Driverless vehicles will oust truckers and taxi drivers. Hyper-intelligent clouds will oust financial advisers, doctors, and journalists. We face more ‘natural’ or ‘technological’ unemployment than ever. Government, it is said, must enact a basic income, because so many jobs will vanish. Also, maybe robots should become ‘electronic persons’, the subjects of rights and duties, so they can be taxed. This narrative is endorsed by prominent tech-billionaires, but it is flawed. Everything depends on social policy. Instead of mass unemployment and a basic income, the law can achieve full employment and fair incomes. This article explains three views of the causes of unemployment: as ‘natural’, as stemming from irrationality or technology, or as caused by laws that let people restrict the supply of capital to the job market. Only the third view has any credible evidence to support it. After WW2, 42 per cent of UK jobs were redundant (actually, not hypothetically) but social policy maintained full employment, and it can be done again. Unemployment is driven by inequality of wealth and of votes in the economy. Democratic governments should reprogramme the law: for full employment and universal fair incomes. The owners of the robots will not automate your job away, if we defend economic democracy.


WP495: The Use of Quantitative Methods in Labour Law Research: An Assessment and Reformulation

Simon Deakin

This paper considers the potential and limits of quantitative approaches to labour law research. It explores the methods used to construct and validate indicators of labour regulation (‘leximetrics’) and those used in the econometric analysis of the effects of labour law rules on employment, productivity and inequality. It is argued that while there is a risk of the misuse and misappropriation of legal indicators, they can provide new evidence on the nature and effects of labour law rules, and thereby contribute to labour law theory as well as to the resolution of some practical issues of regulatory policy.


WP494: Unexpected Corporate Outcomes from Hedge Find Activism in Japan

John Buchanan, Dominic H. Chai and Simon Deakin

Hedge fund activism has been identified in the USA as a driver of enduring corporate governance change and market perception. We investigate this claim in an empirical study to see whether activism produced similar results in Japan in four representative areas: management effectiveness, managerial decisions, labour management, and market perception. Experience from the USA would predict positive changes at Japanese target companies in these four areas. However, analysis of financial data shows that no enduring changes were apparent in the first three areas, and that market perception was consistently unfavourable. Our findings demonstrate that the same pressures need not produce the same results in different markets. Moreover, while the effects of the global financial crisis should not be ignored, we conclude that the country-level differences in corporate governance identified in the varieties of capitalism literature are robust, at least in the short term.


WP493: How the Economics Profession Got It Wrong on Brexit

Ken Coutts, Graham Gudgin and Jordan Buchanan

A wide range of reports from official bodies and academics have estimated the impact of Brexit. These influenced the outcome of the Brexit referendum and remain influential in informing views on the potential long-term consequences of a range of Brexit trade arrangements. This paper builds on a previous CBR working paper in examining the most influential of these reports, from HM Treasury, and the OECD. In this paper the work of the LSE’s Centre for Economic Performance is also included. Each of these reports base their analyses either on gravity models or a computable general equilibrium models. The addition in this paper a review of the link between trade and productivity, which plays an important role in these reports. We also examine three reports which take a direct approach to measuring the impact by assessing the likely prices increases across a large range of commodities due to the imposition of tariff and non-tariff barriers, and using elasticities to estimate the potential changes in the volume of trade. We find important flaws in both the application of gravity model results to a Brexit context, and in the knock-on impacts from trade to productivity. The flaws always have the result of exaggerating the negative impact of Brexit. The direct approaches involve partial rather than full equilibrium models but provide an important check on results from more complex models. However, the choice of elasticities can result in widely different results from ostensibly similar approaches. The paper starts by looking at the view, supported in the academic literature and widely repeated in the financial media, that accession to the EEC/in 1973 improved the economic growth performance of the UK. The evidence suggests that this view is incorrect.