NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

When Ideas Trump Interests: Preferences, World Views, and Policy Innovations

Dani Rodrik

NBER Working Paper No. 19631
Issued in November 2013
NBER Program(s):   DEV   ITI   POL

The contemporary approach to political economy is built around vested interests – elites, lobbies, and rent-seeking groups which get their way at the expense of the general public. The role of ideas in shaping those interests is typically ignored or downplayed. Yet each of the three components of the standard optimization problem in political economy – preferences, constraints, and choice variables – rely on an implicit set of ideas. Once the manner in which ideas enter these frameworks is made explicit, a much richer and more convincing set of results can be obtained. In particular, new ideas about policy—or policy entrepreneurship—can exert an independent effect on equilibrium outcomes even in the absence of changes in the configuration of political power.

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