Institute for Research in Economic and Fiscal issues

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Fiscal competition
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Mafia and the market

Mafia and the marketMany people share the opinion that Mafia is a typical Italian phenomenon, something about which only Italians should worry. This opinion is wrong. Data recently released by Europol show that thousands of criminal organizations active in Europe can be labelled as of mafia-type, with about 70% of (...)

Principled Tax Competition

Principled Tax CompetitionThe structure of a country’s tax code is an important determinant of its economic performance. The Tax Foundation’s International Tax Competitiveness Index has ranked OECD countries’ tax systems for the last six years, and every year Estonia has been the number one country on the Index while (...)

Another Day, Another Ban

Another Day, Another BanSummer is not only the season of swimming trunks and barbecues, but also of vociferous politicians. One of the warhorses of this year’s silly season are bans. Whether it is plastic cutlery, oil heating or domestic flights, calls for bans are becoming louder across the political spectrum. Bans, (...)

Supervisory schizophrenia?

Supervisory schizophrenia?The Joint Committee of the three European Supervisory Authorities (European Banking Authority, European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority, European Securities and Market Authority) publishes a quarterly report on risks and vulnerabilities in the European financial system. This (...)

What Regulators Should Understand About the Sharing Economy

What Regulators Should Understand About the Sharing EconomyOn September 10th, California lawmakers have passed the much disputed Assembly Bill 5 that targets a change in the status of gig economy workers, from freelancers to actual employees. The bill allegedly aims to protect workers that are treated unfairly by companies which avoid paying for (...)

The harsh fight of populism against reality

The harsh fight of populism against realityIn May 2018, Giuseppe Conte became prime minister after an electoral campaign in which Italians were being told that a honey and milk Age was about to begin. It was clear to everybody that an unknown professor of Law, with no political legitimacy (he had not figured prominently in the electoral (...)

Why do central bankers tend to get it wrong?

Why do central bankers tend to get it wrong?Central banks play a prominent role in regulating modern economies. They enjoy a high reputation for their technical competence, and provide analyses and forecasts that influence the behavior of markets and the policymakers’ decisions, with emphasis on monetary policy. What if their forecasts (...)

Mass Unemployment and Skilled Labour Shortage?

Mass Unemployment and Skilled Labour Shortage?Germany’s labour market is buzzing. The unemployment rate is currently close to 5%. Althoughthe business cycle could cool down in the near future, the trend is not expected to reverse course in the coming years. In the long run, however, pessimism dominates. As automation intensifies, many (...)

The Skilled Immigration Act: A Missed Opportunity

The Skilled Immigration Act: A Missed OpportunityFor several decades, labour market experts and economists have been advocating what now seems to become real: in 2020, Germany’s new immigration act will come into effect. The ‘Skilled Immigration Act’ is supposed to make immigration of qualified, non-EU citizens significantly easier. In the (...)

The contractual approach to welfare policy design

The contractual approach to welfare policy design«From now on our nation’s answer to this great social challenge will no longer be a never-ending cycle of welfare: it will be the dignity, the power, and the ethic of work. Today we are taking an historic chance to make welfare what it was meant to be: a second chance, not a way of life…The new (...)

Organ Donations and Transplants. Should we accept to be nudged towards better choices?

Organ Donations and Transplants. Should we accept to be nudged towards better choices?«Would you be willing to donate one of your organs to an organ donation service immediately after your death?». This question was asked to a sample of Europeans through an Internet based enquiry promoted by the European Commission and completed in September 2006. It was included in a survey aimed (...)

New Working Paper: Taxing Artificial Intelligences

New Working Paper: Taxing Artificial IntelligencesIn the new IREF working paper “Taxing Artificial Intelligences”, Julian Arndts and Kalle Kappner analyse the fiscal implications of the presence of artificial-intelligence (AI) machines in the production processes.

So different, yet so alike (to Donald Trump?) The 2019 Democratic Primaries on Twitter

So different, yet so alike (to Donald Trump?) The 2019 Democratic Primaries on TwitterAfter the incredible Republican presidential primaries opened the path to the surprising, to say the least, Donald Trump Presidency in 2016, today the Democracy Party is involved in a quite similar situation. While three years ago there were 17 candidates at the Republican primaries (5 of them (...)

The flirtation with illiberalism

The flirtation with illiberalismWhile all of the former socialist economies have liberalised and strengthened their markets over the past two decades, they have failed to strengthen the rule of law (see Table 1). Under socialism, legal systems are not designed to protect the rights of individuals. Instead, they serve the (...)

High Standards: Curse or Blessing?

High Standards: Curse or Blessing?Over the last few decades, our living standards have improved significantly. Today, cars are technologically sophisticated, apartments are comfortable, and pharmaceuticals are safer. The working of the markets has enhanced technological progress. Yet, technology does not progress linearly. (...)

EU Parliamentary Elections: An Assessment

EU Parliamentary Elections: An AssessmentDespite plenty of terrifying predictions about populist coalition victory and its consequences, the latest European election provided a rather different outcome. No tsunami materialized, no earthquake. Nothing that would wipe-out the political equilibrium at the heart of the European Union as (...)

Call for Papers
Guidelines and Information

Call for PapersIREF is a free-market oriented think tank. It promotes ideas, events, and academic research.
With regard to research, IREF supports original projects that lead to the production of papers of academic quality of at least 7,000 words. This support is not a prize to published work, nor is it an (...)

STEM Popularity in Germany – A Reason for Optimism

STEM Popularity in Germany – A Reason for OptimismGerman chancellor Angela Merkel recently expressed concerns over Germany’s and Europe’s technological competitiveness. Others voiced doubts about Germany’s tech future, too. One of the reasons mentioned more frequently to justify this pessimism is the shortage of skilled labour. As a result, calls (...)

Property Taxes in OECD Countries

Property Taxes in OECD Countries There is no doubt that wealth mirrors taxpayers’ ability to pay better than other measures such as income. There is also no doubt that private wealth is much more unequally distributed than income, and that the dispersion in the distribution of wealth has been increasing in recent decades. (...)

Eastern Europe 30 Years After Revolution

Eastern Europe 30 Years After RevolutionIn 1989, revolutions began sweeping across Eastern Europe. Communism was counting down its final days and what would soon be the end of the Iron Curtain. Eastern European economies were on the verge of leaving socialism behind and welcoming a market economy. Thirty years later, public policies (...)

Can The Market Stop Populism?

Can The Market Stop Populism?The relationship between populism and market economy is problematic. Despite some important exceptions (e.g. President Donald Trump), populist parties (and candidates) quite often place themselves much closer to the pro-State extreme than to the pro-Market one. It is often argued that populist (...)

Vehicle-Specific CO2 Emission Caps: An Outdated Policy Tool

Vehicle-Specific CO2 Emission Caps: An Outdated Policy ToolCO2 emission limits and targets are currently all over the news. For example, the European Union is gradually strengthening the environmental standards for new vehicles, with a view to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 60% by 2050. These emission targets, however, could be reached more (...)

Freedom of the Press and the Rule of Law: A Necessary Marriage

Freedom of the Press and the Rule of Law: A Necessary MarriagePress freedom in Europe is more fragile now than at any time since the end of the Cold War». This pessimistic and rather surprising statement appears at the beginning of the 2019 Annual Report published by the Council of Europe, which is the continent’s leading human rights organisation, (...)

The Politicised Nature of European Competition Policy

The Politicised Nature of European Competition PolicyA merger between the German conglomerate Siemens and French rail firm Alstom was blocked by the European Commission at the beginning of February over concerns that the new European rail giant would raise costs to consumers and stifle competition in transport. Less than two weeks later, the (...)

Representation in Democracies: Unequal and Unfair?

Representation in Democracies: Unequal and Unfair? In light of increasing income inequality and wealth inequality in many Western democracies, some social scientists believe that democracy is in jeopardy. Do the rich have a disproportionally high influence on political decisions – in contrast with the ideal of equal representation of all voters? (...)

Synthetic Control and Extended Critics

Synthetic Control and Extended CriticsThe recent paper “20 Years of the Euro: Winners and Losers” by Gasparotti & Kullas estimates that the introduction of the euro increased the pro-capita income in Germany and the Netherlands, while it impoverished the other EMU members. Critics have poured on the statistical technique. In our (...)

Financial vs Business: What Cycle Comes First?

Financial vs Business: What Cycle Comes First?It is common opinion that financial cycles generate business cycles and crises, and that central banks intervene to sterilise this causal link. But there are reasons to doubt both statements.

Brexit Exposes The Hidden Costs Of Tariffs

Brexit Exposes The Hidden Costs Of TariffsThe collection of tariffs on imports not only involves direct costs, which is the price of the tariff itself, but also numerous indirect costs. Civil servants, as an example, employed in the collection process add to the overall financial burden. So do the importers hiring employees to do the (...)

Paris At Loggerheads With Rome As European Parliamentary Elections Approach

Paris At Loggerheads With Rome As European Parliamentary Elections ApproachParis has decided to recall its ambassador from Rome, further deepening one of the worst crises between the two neighbouring countries in recent European history. The dramatic (some say theatrical) move was motivated by the repeated verbal attacks that prominent Italian political leaders – Luigi (...)

The Solitude of Neoliberalism

The Solitude of NeoliberalismSo-called "neoliberalism" is nowadays more often than ever the scapegoat of anything wrong happening in contemporary democracies: from economic crisis to increase inequality, from the rise of populism to environmental catastrophes. Those who criticise it assume that support for laissez-faire (...)

European Union’s Disastrous Digital Services Tax

European Union's Disastrous Digital Services TaxOver the last few months of 2018, several European Union member states intensified their opposition to a proposed Digital Services Tax (DST), also known as the “Google Tax”. Yet, these efforts have not prevented the campaign to further damage the EU’s innovation ecosystem. As more pro-innovation (...)

Mandatory Year of Service: Coerced Community?

Mandatory Year of Service: Coerced Community?“This state is not for free,” said the recently-elected leader of the Christian Democratic Union, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, promoting a mandatory year of service in the military or in the social sector for all 18-25 year-olds. The idea seems well-received among the population: a survey by (...)

The Reassessed OECD Jobs Strategy Revisited

The Reassessed OECD Jobs Strategy RevisitedThe OECD Jobs Strategy was launched in 1994 in response to high and persistent unemployment in the member countries. Although unevenly spread across the labour force, at the time unemployment was indeed perceived as the main policy challenge facing the advanced countries.
The Jobs Strategy (...)

Trade Liberalisation: The Challenge of Non-Tariff Barriers

Trade Liberalisation: The Challenge of Non-Tariff BarriersThe latest tariff debate between the United States and China, and between the US and the European Union, could give the impression that tariffs are the only impediment to global trade. Yet, trade flows are also burdened by other, far less transparent, measures: non-tariff barriers. Indeed, the (...)

Game of Thrones: Italian Style

Game of Thrones: Italian StyleIn less than 25 years, the Italian political system has experienced three watershed elections, an unmatched record among most (if not all) Western European democracies. In 1994, the entire Italian political galaxy, which had been dominated by Christian Democracy party for almost 50 years, (...)

Sugden’s Response to Behavioural Paternalism

Sugden's Response to Behavioural PaternalismThe Community of Advantage by Robert Sugden has just been published by Oxford University Press. The author is a professor at the University of East Anglia, a member of the British Academy, and an influential economist. In his youth, influenced by Nobel Prize winner James Buchanan, Sugden worked (...)

The Economics of Donald Trump’s Twitter Account

The Economics of Donald Trump's Twitter AccountUS President Donald Trump’s (in)famous tweet-storms have been used as anecdotal evidence of his volatility, anger, etc., but they are also an important source of policy information. After all, it has been repeatedly noted how Trump uses social media, particularly Twitter, as a way of addressing (...)

GDP Per Capita of OECD Countries: Good News

GDP Per Capita of OECD Countries: Good NewsCrises, shortages, and bad news are often dominating daily politics and media coverage. Under the radar of politics and media, however, highly desirable developments have been taking place. Among those is growing GDP per capita across the OECD since the 1990s. The strong economic growth in the (...)

Visibility or Virtue Signalling? The Liberalisation of Salon de Paris

Visibility or Virtue Signalling? The Liberalisation of Salon de ParisThere exists more or less a consensus that the state must promote the arts. This exists even among many who know that state intervention brings market distortions, and it should be clear the arts are no exception. The case of the Salon de Paris, investigated by F. Etro, S. Marchesi and E. (...)

How Do Governments Circumvent EU Fiscal Rules?

How Do Governments Circumvent EU Fiscal Rules?The European Fiscal Board (EFB) - an agency established in 2015 by the European Commission to evaluate the implementation of EU fiscal rules and to advise the Commission on fiscal policies suitable to the euro area - has published its second annual Report (10th October 2018). The Report reviews (...)

The Reliability of Quantitative Results in Social Science

The Reliability of Quantitative Results in Social ScienceIn a recent paper titled "Evaluating the replicability of social science experiments in Nature and Science Between 2010 and 2015", a group of researchers set out to replicate a series of experiments published in prestigious academic journals, employing larger samples and different sophisticated (...)

Britain’s Unsustainable Higher Education Financials

Britain's Unsustainable Higher Education FinancialsWhile the country and the main political parties are still focused on the Brexit debate, there is a potential educational, economic and financial crisis in the making, which may in the near future affect people involved in higher education in England.
After a government-supported process of (...)

The Faults In The Macron System: Wind Turbines At The LA Consulate

The Faults In The Macron System: Wind Turbines At The LA ConsulateMinister Hulot is leaving. We should rejoice, if only we knew the story of the old woman of Syracuse, told by Valerius Maximus (1st century AD historian), about Denys, one of Syracuse’s tyrants, loathed by everybody. One day, Denys heard about an old woman who prayed for him every single day. (...)

Who Is Afraid Of Populism?

Who Is Afraid Of Populism?If one wonders what Donald Trump, Marine Le Pen, Jeremy Corbyn and Matteo Salvini have in common, the answer is that each of them has been labelled populist, a word whose meaning is therefore being diluted as a result of loose usage. As emphasized by the BBC commentator Lionel Shriver, starting (...)

The EU Needs Property Rights In Spectrum

The EU Needs Property Rights In SpectrumThe European Union has been hard at work attempting to harmonise national markets in an effort to build a competitive and innovative Digital Single Market by reducing the ability for individual member states to develop cumbersome barriers to market entry. One of the flagship proposals of the (...)

Will The ECB Step In and Help Turkey Stabilise Its Currency?

Will The ECB Step In and Help Turkey Stabilise Its Currency?Why is Turkey’s Currency Falling?
During the past five years, we have observed the ebbs and flows of US and European capital markets investment appetite for the emerging markets (EM). Nothing deters EM investment more than currency fears, and many European fund managers must be pleased that (...)

Growth of the World Population: Good News for Humans and the Planet

Growth of the World Population: Good News for Humans and the PlanetThe extent of the climate change is significantly affected by the size of the world population. A larger population increases the use of resources and more greenhouse gases are emitted. It is usually assumed the world population will continue to grow at the same pace as in the recent past. In (...)

What Will The Fourth Industrial Revolution Require?

What Will The Fourth Industrial Revolution Require?In the last few years, the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) has become one of the most investigated and discussed topics in the political and economic debate. 4IR is based on the application of new technologies, primarily digital ones, in production. Specifically, according to Boston (...)

Activist Trade Policies: More Risks than Benefits

Activist Trade Policies: More Risks than BenefitsThe global economic order is changing: The free trade agreement TTIP has been put on hold; the World Trade Organisation (WTO) which held a dominant position after WWII with its multilateral rules has lost influence; the US, the EU and China are threatening each other with higher tariffs one (...)

Would De-Growth Make Us Happier?

Would De-Growth Make Us Happier?Economists use the per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as the main indicator of the level of material well-being achieved by a country. The GDP is the cake with which we feed ourselves; the portfolio to draw on to meet our material needs. In recent years, there have been many critical (...)

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