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Political Economy Forum

Political Economy Forum

By University of Washington
The Political Economy Forum of the University of Washington discusses cutting-edge academic research in the area of Political Economy.
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Beatrice Magistro on Economic Literacy

Political Economy Forum

Menaldo on Big Tech and Antitrust Policy
In this episode, Professor Victor Menaldo and Nicolas Wittstock explore the facts, logic, and evidence behind the consumer welfare approach to antitrust. That approach asks very simple questions: what is the effect of mergers between competitors or the behavior of firms with market power on prices and innovation? Since the early 1980s, this paradigm—away from a populist “big is bad” approach—has undergirded some of the greatest innovations the world has ever seen, including smartphones, software, and digital platforms that connect the globe together while charging a price equal to zero for their services. The consensus that antitrust should be exclusively about the price of goods and services and innovation is currently under attack by some scholars, pundits, politicians, and advocacy groups. Critics claim that lax antitrust has led to increased market concentration and monopolies in the tech sector, ushering in “less entrepreneurship”, “restrictions on free speech”, “lower privacy protections”, and “the abuse of consumer data”. Companies like Amazon are accused of harming players up and down the retail supply chain from selling their own goods in a digital marketplace they control or pricing out brick and mortar retailers. They are also accused of exacerbating inequality and being too systemically important due to their size, market impact, interconnectedness, and low “substitutability”. Finally, there is the fear that big tech firms’ economic power translates into political power and is bad for democracy. We  set the record straight on what digital platforms actually are (explain the economics of multi-sided markets),  what market concentration actually says about competition and consumer  welfare (fewer rivals may imply greater efficiency and thus lower  prices), how to define and measure “monopoly” (none of the big tech firms satisfy the  definition), how to identify whether firms abuse their market power to crimp competition (a technical issue that is actually quite rare) and what remedies, if any, should be employed by  policymakers in relation to digital platforms. We suggest that breaking up big tech is a radical solution in search of a problem.
November 30, 2020
Heath on International Scrutiny and Working Conditions in Manufacturing
UW Economics Professor and Forum Co-Founder Rachel Heath joins Forum Fellow Morgan Wack to discuss her paper on the effects of international scrutiny on worker conditions, wages, and contracts in the aftermath of the Rana Plaza factory collapse as well as contemporary issues in the global manufacturing sector. See links on the showpage here. 
November 23, 2020
Long and Menaldo on Coups and Contested Elections in the US
Victor Menaldo and James Long of Political Economy Forum discuss why a coup is unlikely in the US, the anxieties & realities of political transitions, and what the historical record can teach us about contested elections. See links on the showpage here.
November 14, 2020
Guy Grossman on Politician Performance Transparency
Forum Fellow Morgan Wack hosts Guy Grossman, Professor of Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania, founder and director of U Penn’s Development Research Initiative (PDRI), and faculty affiliate of Stanford University’s Immigration Policy Lab (IPL).
November 7, 2020
Beatrice Magistro on Economic Literacy
In this episode,  Nicolas Wittstock hosts  PhD Candidate Beatrice Magistro. They discuss Beatrice’s dissertation on the relationship between financial and economic literacy and policy preferences in Italy and the UK. They discuss her motivation to pursue this topic, its importance in today’s context of rampant populism and protectionism, the findings from her four papers, and future directions for research. During the episode they discuss the following works: Financial literacy and support for free trade in the UK  The effects of financial and economic literacy on policy preferences in Italy Party cues or policy information? The differential influence of financial and economic literacy  Financial literacy and time preference: A classroom experiment
October 30, 2020
Ben Glasner on the Gig Economy and Social Welfare Legislation
In this episode of the Political Economy Forum Podcast, James Long hosts  Victor Menaldo and Ben Glasner. They discuss the gig economy and the future of work. The topics range from Ben's dissertation on the role of labor market protections and the social safety net among the self-employed and independent contracts, Victor’s hobby horse of automation and the future of work, and the role COVID-19 might play in it all. The conversation bounces around as James, Victor, and Ben debate the changing nature of work, and what it might mean for the modern  American economy.  The session ends after consideration of what role a  Keynesian response to the current economic turmoil might play in the coming months and years.
October 23, 2020
Mark Menaldo on Heidegger and Totalitarianism
In this episode of the Political Economy Podcast Nicolas Wittstock hosts Mark Menaldo and Victor Menaldo. They discuss Mark's forthcoming piece on the existential philosopher Martin Heidegger and his influence on politics.  They discuss the different branches of philosophy, including metaphysics, namely, the study of reality, and the origins and consequences of postmodernism. One of the main topics they cover is whether the "Continental School" of philosophy tends to complement totalitarianism versus other schools of thought, such as classical or the so-called analytic approach inaugurated by the philosopher of language Ludwig Wittgenstein and represented by writers like George  Orwell. They also discuss the political dysfunction that racks the  United States and how it relates, if anything, to these issues. During the episode they discuss the following works: Philosophy in the Shadow of Nazism Goethe's Metamorphosis of Plants Orwell's Politics and the English Language
October 19, 2020
Menaldo and Wittsock on Liberalism, Academic Freedom, and Science
This episode is a conversation between Professor Victor Menaldo, Jesse – a friend of the forum who works for a Big Tech company – and Nicolas Wittstock. The conversation revolves around a recent piece published on Areo, authored by Victor Menaldo that discusses modern threats to Liberal Democracy around the globe.
October 12, 2020
Neither Free Nor Fair? Presidential Debates--Special Crossover Episode!
A special crossover episode of Neither Free Nor Fair? with the Political Economy Forum, James Long, Victor Menaldo, and Mark Smith discuss the presidential debates, whether the remaining debates should be canceled or not, and the role of debates to democracy.
October 5, 2020
Neither Free Nor Fair? - *New Podcast on Election Security*
In this new podcast series, “Neither Free Nor Fair?” we will try to make sense of the evolving threats to election security and democracy in the US and around the world. The series is produced by the Political Economy Forum at the University of Washington and hosted by me, James Long, Associate Professor of Political Science and co-founder of the Forum. I research and teach on elections, corruption, and democracy in a global context, and for more than a decade, have observed elections in Africa, South Asia, and the Middle East. Each episode, global experts from academia, advocacy, policymaking, and the tech industry will join me to discuss how we can apply lessons from around the world to understand threats to elections in the US, and how these lessons inform the conversation around the fate of global democracy in the 21st century. We hope you’ll join us.
September 26, 2020
Menaldo and Wittstock on Populism vs. Liberal Democracy
In this episode of the Political Economy Forum Podcast, Professor Victor Menaldo and Nicolas Wittstock discuss the meaning and virtues of Liberal Democracy and the political earthquakes that Populists have provoked across contemporary democracies. The conversation mentions works by North, Wallis, and Weingast, Levitsky and Ziblatt, John Wallis, Cas Mudde, Magistro and Menaldo, and Munger and Munger, as well as a New York Times op-ed by Victor Menaldo and Seattle Times op-ed by Menaldo. Produced by Nicolas Wittstock Any questions or feedback, please contact
September 25, 2020
Victor Menaldo on The End of Capitalism?
In this episode, Professor Victor Menaldo and Nicolas Wittstock discuss Capitalisms historical trajectory and the pathbreaking economic expansion of the last 250 years as well as concerns over the current economic performance of industrialized economies. The conversation mentions works by Deirdre McCloskey, James Bessen, Robert Gordon, Haber and Calomiris, Ronald Coase as well as Daron Acemoglu. Produced by Nicolas Wittstock Any questions or feedback, please contact
September 23, 2020
On Science and Evidence-Based Policymaking
In this episode, the founders and organizers of the UW Political Economy Forum discuss the importance of the scientific method to improve how policymakers make decisions. Professors Rachel Heath, James D. Long and Victor Menaldo discuss how scientific inquiry is conducted in political economy and public policy – the pitfalls of relying on intuition and ideology when deciding on policy – and how to ensure that dysfunctional approaches to solving problems get weeded out. The conversation repeatedly makes references to a recent post on Ronald Coase’s contribution to evidence-based policymaking as well as a more general post on the topic by Victor Menaldo. Produced by Nicolas Wittstock Any questions or feedback, please contact
September 14, 2020
Is Cancel Culture Threatening Free Speech?
“If we don’t try to solve the fundamental problem behind the speech that we dislike and work only to mitigate the symptom — by censoring it — we drive the problem somewhere else.” This week, Professor James D. Long hosts an eclectic group of thinkers to discuss the recent op-ed by Professor Victor Menaldo on free speech and liberal democratic politics, published in the Seattle Times. They are joined by Susan Whiting, Professor of Political Science at the UW, Jamie Mayerfeld, Professor of Political Science and Adjunct Professor in Law, Societies and Justice, Brian Leung, PhD student at the UW and Hong Kong pro-democracy activist, as well as Mark Smith, Professor of Political Science and Adjunct Professor of Comparative Religion and Communication. At the end of the conversation, Jamie Mayerfeld recommends an article by Magnus Vindig on Compassionate Free Speech. Produced by Nicolas Wittstock Any questions or feedback, please contact
September 2, 2020
Heath, Long and Menaldo on What is Political Economy?
In this episode, University of Washington Professors Rachel Heath, James Long, and Victor Menaldo discuss what Political Economy is and what it has to offer. 
September 2, 2020