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Sharun Mukand


Contact details

Telephone: +44 (0)24 761 50586

Fax: +44 (0)24 765 23032

Email: S dot Mukand at warwick dot ac dot uk

Room: S1.124

Office Hours: By appointment.

(on leave Fall 2014)

Research papers

I. Political Economy of Institutions and Policymaking

Ideas versus Interests (with Dani Rodrik) April 2016

We develop a conceptual framework to highlight the role of ideas as a catalyst for policy and institutional change, making an explicit distinction between ideas and vested interests. We show how ideas and interests make separate contributions to the determination of policy, as well as how they feed into each other. We distinguish between two kinds of ideational politics -- the battle among different worldviews on the efficacy of policy (worldview politics) versus the politics of victimhood, pride and identity salience (identity politics). Political entrepreneurs discover identity and policy 'memes' (narratives, cues, framing) that shifts beliefs about how the world works or a person's belief of who he is (i.e. identity). Our framework identifies a complementarity between worldview politics and identity politics and illustrates how they may reinforce each other. In particular, an increase in identity polarization may be associated with a shift in views about how the world works. Furthermore, an increase in income inequality is likely to result in a greater incidence of ideational politics.
In doing so the paper integrates the Keynes-Hayek perspective on the importance of ideas with the currently more fashionable Stigler-Becker (interests only) approach to political economy.

Erasing Ethnicity? (Mis)Trust, Nation Building and the Political Construction of Identity in Rwanda (with Arthur Blouin), October 2016 (Under revision for resubmission, Journal of Political Economy)

This paper provides the first systematic empirical evaluation of nation building in Rwanda. We show that despite operating in the shadow of one of the worst genocides ever and an environment of deep ethnic mistrust and hostility, the Rwandan government has helped 'bridge' the ethnic chasm between Hutus and Tutsis. In particular, we observe that exposure to government propaganda has encouraged nation building in the form of greater inter-ethnic trust and cooperation. Second, we provide evidence arguing that while part of this nation building has been due to a direct improvement in individual inter-ethnic attitudes and preferences, at least some of it has been driven by fear of social or government sanctions. Third, we provide some of the first evidence to show that ethnicity is a political construct that can be altered or 'erased' even in a relatively short time frame. In doing so, we introduce new methodological tools from cognitive psychology with applications to the economics of identity and stereotypes.

"Political Economy of Liberal Democracy" (with Dani Rodrik), NBER Working Paper 21540, September 2015 (under revision for resubmission, Journal of European Economic Association)

The Puzzle of Liberal Democracy (with Dani Rodrik), Project Syndicate, May 13, 2015

"The puzzle is not why democracy so often turns out to be illiberal. It is that liberal democracy can ever emerge....we should not be surprised by how uncommon it is in practice. Only rarely do political forces align to produce a sustainable version of it."

"Policy Gambles" (with Sumon Majumdar), American Economic Review (2004)

[Why do policymaker take gambles that they know are unlikely to be successful? We throw light on not only why Lyndon Johnson would persist with a military strategy in Vietnam (or Bush in Iraq), but also why leaders may have an incentive to gamble with escalation in the first place. At a broader level this paper throws light on the incentives of a policymaker to experiment (or not) with policy innovations over the course of his time in office.]

"Redistributive Promises and the Adoption of Economic Reform" (with Sanjay Jain) American Economic Review (2003)

"The Leader as Catalyst: On Mass Movements and the Mechanics of Institutonal Change" (with Sumon Majumdar). Working Paper (Latest Version)

"The Political Economy of Policy Reform" The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics (2009)

II. Political Economy of Development

A Bridge over the Ethnic Divide? Nation Building and Erasing Ethnicity in Rwanda (with Arthur Blouin), November 2015

"Walk the Line: Conflict, State Capacity and the Political Dynamics of Economic Reform" (with S. Jain and S. Majumdar) Journal of Development Economics (2014) 

Why do economic reforms that are proceeding successfully run into a political impasse? We address this issue in a dynamic model and show that a reform’s initial success may have a negative impact on its political sustainability. Second, we demonstrate that greater state capacity, to make compensatory transfers to those adversely affected by reform, need not always help the political sustainability of reform, but can also hinder it. Finally, we argue that in ethnically divided societies, economic reform may be completed not despite ethnic conflict, but because of it.

"Democracy, Visibility and Public Good Provision" (with Anandi Mani) Journal of Development Economics (2006)

[Despite their large benefits, why do governments in developing countries neglect the provision of several essential public goods, despite their considerable benefits? Furthermore, why are voters apathetic towards government neglect of essential public goods? We develop a simple framework that emphasizes the `visibility' of public goods as being key to understanding these differences. We argue that the forces that make a democracy responsive to the prevention of a famine are the very same forces that result in the great tolerance of malnutrition.]

"Politics, Information and the Urban Bias" (with Sumon Majumdar and Anandi Mani), Journal of Development Economics (2004)

Institutions and Political Accountability (with Sumon Majumdar), Journal of Public Economic Theory (2014)

III. Globalization and the International Economy

"Globalization and the 'Confidence Game' " Journal of International Economics (2007)

[Why would a government deliberately enact policies that it knows are likely to be inefficient? Why will a government's desire to earn the approval and confidence of international capital markets not have a positive 'disciplining' effect?]

"In Search of the Holy Grail: Policy Convergence, Experimentation and Economic Performance" (with Dani Rodrik), American Economic Review (2005)

This is the first paper to systematically develop and explore the idea that we live in a world in which appropriate policies and institutional arrangements have a large element of specificity. Such specificity could arise from differences in historical trajectories, institutional settings and cultural conditions. Given this, policy experimentation is key to discovering what works locally. Reforms that succeed in one setting may perform poorly or fail completely in other settings. For example, two-track reform may work well in Deng’s China but not in Gorbachev’s Soviet Union. Gradualism may be appropriate to India, but not Chile. Import-substitution may foster competitive industries in Brazil, but not in Argentina and so on. We explore the implications of this specificity for policy experimentation, economic growth and policy spillovers.

The Economics of High Visibility Terrorism (with S. Jain), European Journal of Political Economy (2004)

Globalization and the (In)Disciplining of Nations (with Arthur Blouin and Sayantan Ghosal), (2016)

"Workers Without Borders? Culture and the Political Economy of Globalization" (with Sanjay Jain and Sumon Majumdar), Working Paper [under revision]

[Increasing international labor mobility is arguably the one policy reform that will yield the largest gains in world output and welfare. Why do we not see greater cross-border worker mobility? This paper analyzes the role of culture in driving migration policy. In doing so this paper provides a framework to engage in some practical mechanism design - and suggests politically sustainable Pareto improving policy reforms.]

Policy Briefing Paper: Culture and the Case for Greater Labour Mobility

Media Coverage in The Economist Magazine

IV. Behavioral Economics: Applications To Politics And Development

The Persistence of Partisanship: Evidence from 9/11 (with Ethan Kaplan)

[The paper empirically identifies a new source of inefficiency in policymaking in democracies - namely, the persistence of partisanship. In particular, the mere act of registering (or not) with a political party today can years later have an impact on the trajectory of politics.]

Press Coverage in Slate (Washington Post) : "You Never Forget Your First"

The Tongue Set Free

* May 24, 1980

The Torch In My Ear

* Taraf de Haidouks Culai "Neacscu"

The Play Of The Eyes

* Ndebele

"We will not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time"
from Little Gidding