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Working papers: 2018

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WP510: The Depths of The Cuts: The Uneven Geography of Local Government Austerity

Mia Gray and Anna Barford

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Austerity, the sustained and widespread cuts to government budgets, has characterised Britain’s public policy since 2010. The local state has undergone substantial restructuring, driven by major budget reductions from central government. Hitherto, few studies of austerity in the UK have considered the interplay of national and local policies. We contribute a fine-grained spatial analysis of local authority budgets, highlighting their socioeconomically- and geographically-uneven impacts. We identify substantial variations between authorities in terms of funding, local tax-base, fiscal resources, assets, political control, service-need and demographics. We argue that austerity has actively reshaped the relationship between central and local government in Britain, shrinking the capacity of the local state, increasing inequality between local governments, and exacerbating territorial injustice.

WP509: Shareholder Protection, Stock Markets and Cross-Border Mergers

Frederick S Ahiabor, Gregory A James, Frank O Kwabi and Mathias M Siems

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This paper is the first one that uses a panel data of different types of shareholder protection in order to examine (i) the effect of such laws on stock market development and (ii) the convergence of shareholder protection laws through cross-border mergers and acquisitions. We find significant results for enabling laws but less so for paternalistic ones.

WP508: Blockchain Technology and International Relations: Decetralised Solutions To Foster Cooperation in an Anarchic World?

Bernhard Reinsberg

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Blockchain technology enables ‘trustless’ interactions among individuals by replacing centralised enforcement with distributed consensus. It therefore has been used for commercial applications, including transfer of cryptocurrency, digital file storage, digital identity services, and supply-chain management. This article probes the potential of blockchain technology to foster international cooperation among states – given the lack of a world government to enforce their mutual commitments. The article outlines four facilitators of blockchain-based global governance systems, including the need for credible commitment, the availability of resourceful non-state actors, verification needs that can be addressed through ‘oracles’, and routine interactions. These facilitators are further illustrated for the case of climate governance. Overall, the discussion suggests that blockchains – if appropriately designed to address the underlying cooperation problems – hold significant promise. Their key strength is to enable states to design ‘smart contracts’ that execute automatically when agreed conditions are fulfilled. To some extent, blockchain technology thus challenges the primacy of international organizations. However, even with blockchain technology, international organisations continue to play a role with regard to pre-agreement policy deliberation, validating real-world events, and providing technical assistance for policy implementation.

WP507: The Double Crisis: In What Sense A Regional Problem?

Betsy Donald and Mia Gray

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We are now facing Sayer’s ‘diabolical double crisis’ – which encompasses both a deep financial crisis and an environmental one. The scale, scope and nature of this double-crisis is downplayed in the regional studies literature, much of which still focuses on innovative growth models often divorced from broader social and ecological contexts. To help solve both crises we call for regional studies to explore new models that allow us to focus on the most important issues of our time. We illustrate this by focusing on the contradictions in the waste produced by contemporary regional economies – waste of abundance, labour, and resources.

WP506: Institutional Complementarities Between Labour Laws and Innovation

Filippo Belloc

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We analyse how institutional complementarities between employee representation laws and dismissal restrictions influence aggregate innovation outcomes. We argue that greater employee voice, due to improved employee representation legislations, may spur innovative effort by employees only when shareholders cannot renegotiate ex-ante agreements with workers over revenue sharing, by threatening dismissal. We perform a panel regression analysis, exploiting country-sector panel data over the 1977-2005 period, and find that stronger employee representation laws in the presence of stricter firing restrictions are in fact associated with higher patenting activity. Consistently with our theoretical argument, the magnitude of this empirical relationship is seen to be relatively larger in those sectors where the human capital contribution to production is higher. Implications for the analysis of economic institutions and for legal policy-making are proposed.

WP505: Blockchain Technology and the Governance of Foreign Aid

Bernhard Reinsberg

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Blockchain technology has been considered a vehicle to foster development in poor countries by promoting applications such as secure delivery of humanitarian aid, digital identity services, and proof of provenance. This article examines whether (and if so how) blockchain technology – if appropriately designed – can enhance the effectiveness (and efficiency) of foreign aid governance, thereby moving beyond completely anonymous contexts. Foreign aid governance is plagued by lack of credible commitments among states which are further exacerbated by information asymmetries and which often undermine aid effectiveness. In this context, blockchain technology holds two promises. First, through guaranteed enforcement of smart contracts, it can strengthen the credibility of state commitments, for example collective burden-sharing rules among a group of donors or recipient-country compliance with policy conditionality in return for aid. Second, through leveraging prediction markets, blockchain technology can allay information problems related to the verification of real-world events along the entire aid delivery chain. Overall, the article shows that blockchain technology can be understood as a mechanism with institution-like features, with significant potential to complement real-existing institutions. The article also suggests that deploying blockchain technology in semi-trusted environments and at the international level avoids many of its well-known disadvantages.

WP504: The Law-Technology Cycle & the Future of Work

Simon Deakin and Christopher Markou

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Features of the ‘fourth industrial revolution’, such as platforms, AI and machine learning, pose challenges for the application of regulatory rules, in the area of labour law as elsewhere. However, today’s digital technologies have their origins in earlier phases of industrialisation, and do not, in themselves, mark a step change in the evolution of capitalism, which was, and is, characterised by successive waves of creative destruction. The law does not simply respond to technological change; it also facilitates and mediates it. Digitalisation, by permitting the appropriation of collective knowledge, has the capacity to undermine existing forms of regulation, while creating the space for new ones. It may erode the position of some professions while enabling others, complementary to new technologies, to emerge. It is unlikely to bring about the redundancy of forms of labour law regulation centred on the employment relationship. We appear to reaching a point in the law-technology cycle where push-back against regulatory arbitrage can be expected.

WP503: The World System & the Hollowing-out of State Capacity: How Structural Adjustment Programs Impact Bureaucratic Quality in Developing Countries

Bernhard Reinsberg, Alexander Kentikelenis, Thomas Stubbs and Lawrence King

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The administrative ability of the state to deliver effective policy is essential for economic development. While sociologists have long devoted attention to domestic forces underpinning state capacity, we focus on world system pressures from Western-dominated international organisations. Scrutinising policy reforms mandated by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), we argue that ‘structural conditions’ exert deleterious effects on bureaucratic quality by increasing the risk of bureaucrats falling prey to special interests and narrowing potential policy instruments available to them. We test these arguments using a new dataset on IMF conditionality from 1985-2014. Our analysis shows that structural conditions – especially conditions on privatisation, price deregulation, and public-sector employment – reduce bureaucratic quality. Using instrumentation techniques, we also discount the possibility that the relationship is driven by the IMF imposing structural conditions precisely in countries with low bureaucratic quality. A careful reconsideration of IMF policy reforms is therefore required to avoid undermining local institutions.

WP502: Investigating New Types of ‘Decoupling’: Minority Shareholder Protection in the Law & Corporate Practice

Gerhard Schnyder

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The study of decoupling – i.e. the discrepancies between formal policies and actual practices and outcomes – has seen a remarkable revival. Importantly, a distinction between policy-practice and means-ends decoupling has become widely-used. We argue that the decoupling literature still neglects a key feature of decoupling, namely that it is inherently a multi-level concept. Distinguishing explicitly the macro- (country) and the micro- (organisation) levels, we develop a more fine-grained typology of policy–practice and means–ends decoupling. We hypothesise that differences in the macro-environment may influence the type and extent of decoupling that prevails in a given country. We test our hypotheses in the context of the adoption of legal minority shareholder protection in four European countries. We go beyond previous studies that have investigated policy–practice and means-end decoupling in the same context by using a unique dataset for firm-level corporate governance practices that allows us to investigate the multi-level nature of decoupling more directly. Our findings suggest that that decoupling is context specific and the extent to which policy-practice decoupling occurs may depend on a country’s legal style.

WP501: Twenty Years of ‘Law & Finance’: Time to Take Law Seriously

Gerhard Schnyder, Mathias Siems and Ruth Aguilera

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The Law and Finance School (LFS) has become an important stream of re-search in management and socio-economic studies. This paper provides the first comprehensive discussion of the first 20 years of LFS literature. Draw-ing on legal theory, we show that, despite the centrality of law to the LFS, the LFS is based on a surprisingly ‘thin’ theory of law. It does not provide a coherent definition of what primary function law plays in the economy, what criterion makes law ‘valid’ law, and what mechanism links law to ac-tors’ behaviours. Therefore, contrary to existing criticisms of the LFS, we argue that the main issue is not that the LFS overstates the importance of law, but rather that it does not take law seriously enough. We propose ways in which future research could develop a more solid conceptual framework to empirically investigate the impact of law on economic and social outcomes.

WP500: The Economic Significance of Laws Relating to Employment Protection & Different Forms of Employment: Analysis of a Panel of 117 Countries, 1990-2013

Zoe Adams, Louise Bishop, Simon Deakin, Colin Fenwick, Sara Martinsson Garzelli and Giudy Rusconi

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This paper presents findings from analysis of a dataset of labour laws, based on the Centre for Business Research Labour Regulation Index (CBR-LRI), which has recently been extended to cover 117 countries and the period from 1970 to 2013. The dataset shows that laws regulating different forms of employment (DFE), including part-time work, fixed-term employment and agency work, have become significantly more protective over time, in particular since the late 1990s. Employment protection laws (EPL), covering individual dismissal, collective consultation and codetermination rights, have become steadily more protective since the 1970s. Europe has seen a decline in the level of EPL since the onset of the sovereign debt crisis in 2008, but this trend is small, on average, by comparison to earlier increases in protection beginning in the 1970s, and has not been replicated in other regions. Time-series econometric analysis using non-stationary panel data methods suggests that strengthening worker protection in relation to DFE and EPL is associated with an increase in labour’s share of national income, rising labour force participation, rising employment, and falling unemployment, although the observed magnitudes are small when set against wider economic trends.

WP499: ‘Wage’, ‘Salary’ & ‘Remuneration’: A Genealogical Exploration of Juridical Terms & Their Significance for the Employer’s Power to Make Deductions from Wages

Zoe Adams

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The Supreme Court in Hartley v King Edwards VI College (2017) has confirmed that an employee who refuses to work in accordance with his contract forfeits his right to be paid for the duration of the breach. The decision extends to professional employees paid a periodic salary the principle established in Miles v Wakefield MDC (1987). The present article sheds new light on these decisions by situating them within a broader debate concerning the function of the wage and the proper relationship between work and payment. Drawing on insights from economic theory, and engaging in a genealogical analysis of legal concepts, the article shows how this debate has, over time, conditioned the use of concepts such as the ‘wage’, ‘the salary’ and ‘remuneration’ in legislation and case law concerning deductions. It shows that the legal concept of the ‘wage’ is closely related to the economic idea of the wage as the price of a commodity, while the legal concepts of ‘salary’ and ‘remuneration’ are more closely analogous to the economic idea of the wage as the cost of subsistence. The courts’ tendency to confuse these concepts, and to analyse the employer’s power to deduct as a right to withhold wages for non-performance of the contract, tells us much about the implicit assumptions underpinning cases such as Miles and Hartley, and how they have shaped the path of the law.

WP498: A Comment on Oulton, “The UK Productivity Puzzle: Does Arthur Lewis Hold the Key?”

Bill Martin

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In Version One of his new paper, Oulton merges supply-side and demand-side theoretical models as a means better to understand why, since the financial crisis that broke in 2007, the UK’s productivity growth has not only been negligible but also a very poor outlier judged by international experience. Drawing on Arthur Lewis’s famous model of development, Oulton concludes, “rapid rates of immigration in conjunction with low rates of growth of export demand in the aftermath of the Great Recession can explain the UK productivity puzzle”. According to Oulton, the UK’s relatively poor productivity performance is attributable to a combination of the export demand constraint and of the continued growth of labour supply, which led to capital shallowing – a reduction in the rate of growth of capital services per hour worked. Bill Martin concludes, alas, that Arthur Lewis does not hold the key. The dominant, proximate “explanation” of the UK’s relatively poor performance is relatively weak Total Factor Productivity (TFP), not relatively weak capital intensity. Moreover, the UK was not relatively more exposed to export demand shocks but delivered relatively worse output growth outcomes. Oulton nevertheless articulates the profound idea that full-employment capacity has adjusted to weak effective demand arising from adverse global developments. If this deep insight is correct, TFP would be a “measure of our ignorance” of the mechanisms that drove productive capacity to align with low aggregate demand.

WP497: A Human Is Not a Resource

Ewan McGaughey

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The language of “human resource management” treats people as a means to an end. Three core tenets of human resource literature are that it is desirable to have (1) labour “flexibility” and “mobility” in a peripheral workforce, (2) individual (not social) responsibility for employment searching, and (3) a manager’s right to manage, without collective accountability. This article explores the cutting edge evidence, which show human resource theory harms productivity and human development. It explores the effects of “HR” in the UK, EU and international regulation on atypical work, full employment, and union voice. Where human resource beliefs have pervaded the most, the outcomes are the worst: lower productivity, higher unemployment, more inequality, less growth. To advance prosperity, economic risks must be distributed to the organisations best placed to bear them, people must have security to plan for the future, and people must have real votes at work through collective bargaining and corporate governance. Many people who themselves work in “HR” strongly disagree with the essential elements of their discipline. They support equality, security and democracy at work. Just as international law once affirmed that “labour is not a commodity”, for social justice in the 21st century there must be a conviction that a human is not a resource. “HR” must change in name and substance, to advance human development and human rights.

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

Ewan McGaughey

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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% 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

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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

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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

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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.