Does Capitalism Suffer Cycles of Statism?
| Benito Arruñada |
Does the current expansion of the State reverse a previous reduction, to be reduced once again in the future? Or, alternatively, is there a sort of ratchet effect, with a trend towards greater statism disguised by cycles along such increasing trend?
I am inclined to think that cycling has not taken place around a stationary average but around an increasing tendency (see the figures). But perhaps a better way of facing these questions would be to disaggregate in different dimensions. For instance, in several papers with Veneta Andonova we argue that freedom of contract has been in decline for more than a century in Western Law, both in civil- and common-law countries. Something similar could probably be said about trade, but in the opposite direction. However, in both freedom of contract and trade, it might be the case that exchange opportunities have expanded mainly as a result of technological change (e.g., cheaper transportation and communications), whatever the legal constraints. In terms of research, how could these trends be measured?
These thoughts were triggered by a timely and extremely suggestive paper by Witold J. Henisz presented at the Workshop on “Manufacturing Markets” organized last week in Villa Finaly, Florence, by Eric Brousseau and Jean-Michel Glachant. My next few blogs will address other aspects of Henisz’s views on the broader challenges facing capitalism.