We use public choice theory to examine the calculus of the Russian aggression against Ukraine. We hypothesize that Putin’s regime acts as a tinpot dictatorship, using political loyalty and repression to stay in office. During Putin’s first two-term presidency, an improvement in Russia’s economic performance increased the supply of political loyalty and resulted in a slow fall in political repression. The global financial crisis deteriorated Russians’ living standards between Putin’s second and third terms in office. The deterioration in the country’s economic performance unambiguously resulted in a fall in the supply of loyalty and increased repression. Consistent with our hypothesis, we argue that Putin’s regime pursued military conquest to increase the aggregate supply of political loyalty.
With this article, I present a public choice perspective on Russia’s war on Ukraine. I criticise the realist view according to which Russia’s security concerns, defined by President Putin, prompted the conflict. I argue that realism offers a deficient analytic framework to the extent that it disregards the political and economic structure of Russia and, generally speaking, how the political economy of each case study shapes preferences, strategies and intra-elite relations, which feed into foreign policy formation. Russia is a government-controlled economy and society; a key property of Russia’s political economy is the dependency of key socio-economic actors and groups on the regime’s survival. This landscape pre-empts the expression of genuine feedback and dissent from society, and explains why Putin’s decision has faced very little disagreement and resistance. Given the previously close economic ties between Russia and Ukraine, this article also challenges capitalist peace theory for its blanket assertion that dense economic relations would provide a strong disincentive for countries to resort to war. Instead of talking about capitalism generically, we can discern varieties of capitalism, as they condition state–society relations differently. In Russia, the value that key socio-economic elites assign to their relationship with Putin outweighs the costs they are experiencing from the conflict and the external sanctions. Developing a public choice perspective in the study of international relations focuses on the preferences and strategies of the leadership and of domestic elite-level actors within the aggressor state, and invites attention to the power asymmetries that characterise their relationship.
The October Revolution in Russia is better understood in light of Gordon Tullock’s by-product theory of revolution. This approach entails a focus on private costs and benefits rather than on public goods. It is shown that in terms of economic development, fiscal stability, and income distribution, that is, public goods, conditions in late-tsarist Russia were improving, not deteriorating, as the revolution approached. We reinterpret the impact of the many political concessions that followed the earlier Russian Revolution of 1905 and conclude that they had ultimately increased, rather than decreased, the probability of revolution. Finally, we show that various forms of foreign intervention (financial, military, and philosophical) made the unlikely Lenin the ultimate victor in the outcome of the Russian Revolution.
Buchanan and Wagner pointed to an asymmetry in the political rewards of deficits and surpluses, with the former being preferable to the latter. They assigned the rise of this asymmetry to the popularization of Keynesian ideas. We test both claims by relying on the historical reputation surveys of US presidents since 1948. Historical reputations have long been something presidents have cared about, and they constitute a reliable way to assess whether their reputations suffer or gain from having run deficits. We find evidence that the size of deficits tends to be associated with greater presidential scores and that this effect is stronger in more recent surveys, when Keynesian ideas were more popular.
Addressing growth challenges in developing countries requires mobilising domestic resources in the face of declining external financing. This paper explores the effects of financial inclusion on tax efforts in sub-Saharan Africa, conditioned by institutional quality. To do this, a finite mixture model that takes into account the potential presence of unobserved heterogeneity was estimated based on a sample taken from 43 countries over the 1996 -2019 period. Tax effort scores were constructed using several stochastic frontier models. The results show that the impact of financial inclusion on tax efforts differs across country groups. For example, financial inclusion stimulates tax effort in sub-Saharan Africa in 93.8 per cent of cases and inhibits tax effort in only 6.2 per cent of cases. These results are robust to several sensitivity tests. This paper highlights the need for countries in sub-Saharan Africa to improve access to financial systems by increasing mobile banking coverage and accessibility and reducing financial services costs. These countries should also look to capitalise on the benefits of financial inclusion by protecting political rights and fighting corruption.
We link the literature on social media adoption among local governments to the literature on local public finance. We argue that the demand for social media adoption is higher the more citizens knowingly contribute to the local budget through local salient taxes. We test this hypothesis using panel data on municipalities in the German state of Hesse and their adoption of Facebook between 2009 and 2019. We show that social media adoption among local governments in Germany is driven by citizens’ demand for transparency, accountability and political participation. This demand increases the more citizens knowingly contribute to the local budget through salient local taxes. This article shows that exploring the link between issues of local public finance and political communication via social media can deepen our understanding of local public affairs.
During and prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, a predominantly female, significantly racialised, activist health and social care union in British Columbia, Canada, built and won decisive resistance/solidarity strategies not only for union members, but also for non-union and previously unionised workers, residents/patients, and the larger careseeking public. The formal and informal strategies were broad, inclusive, values-driven actions that raised wages and conditions while simultaneously extending and improving care. The article draws on and extends concepts used in moral economy and labour process theorising to argue that the three interlaced, gendered resistance strategies reflected interwoven, cross-sector, situational and enduring solidarities. The analysis in this article highlights the almost indivisible aspects of formal and informal, long contention and situational resistance strategies, and suggests that a moral economy of ‘care’ and ‘restoring fairness’ formed the core of the entwined solidarity narratives and resistance strategies successfully coming together during the time of COVID-19. The article contributes to further theorising of gendered resistance (informal, liminal, unpaid work), the moral economy and care work as part of the labour process (interwoven solidarity), and adds to theorising long resistance strategies (enduring solidarity), and situational resistance strategies (cross-sector solidarity) in care work contexts.
In this Theory into Practice article we discuss the collective agency of Hong Kong medical workers in COVID-19 in the context of social movement unionism (SMU). In particular, the article utilises Dhatt’s framework defining factors influencing health social movements (2019). We focus on the way the pro-democracy movement underpinned and shaped the five-day strike by 7000 healthcare workers that forced the government to close the Hong Kong–China border in February 2020. We argue that the strike was made possible by the political opportunities linked to collective fear arising from the SARS epidemic in 2003 and to revitalised civil society resulting from the Anti-Extradition Bill Movement in 2019. It illustrates that framing strategies and organisational capacity capitalised on the discursive power and solidarity linked to these political opportunities. However, the failure to achieve demands related to resource redistribution, occupational safety and union rights reflect professionals’ dilemma on fulfilling their duty of care and the limitations of SMU in Hong Kong.
Drawing on ethnographic data, this article analyses employees’ cultural appropriation of AI systems within delivery platforms and manufacturing in Germany. Cultures of technology appropriation in workplaces emerge in a context of domination. Deviant forms of appropriation thus constitute a form of organisational misbehaviour for which employees must assume repercussions. Employees’ criticism of AI systems at their workplaces therefore differs strongly depending on whether management is present or not. In those cases studied here, the dysfunctionalities and disciplining functions of AI systems were criticised openly in settings where management was absent, while in situations of co-presence this criticism predominantly took the form of subversive humour. Systematically, employees ascribed absurd identities to technologies; this functioned as a low-risk form of criticism and provided continual mutual affirmation of a shared critical stance towards specific technologies. It thus established a critical organisational technoculture. Such practices of subversive humour are indicative of the critical lucidity of employees, but also signify a relative inability to influence workplaces and their technological infrastructures. In some cases, however, subversive humour laid the cultural basis for more practical forms of technological misbehaviour including the manipulation of algorithms and even sabotage.