When Ideas Trump Interests: Preferences, World Views, and Policy Innovations
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.
I thank seminar participants at Harvard's Kennedy School and the Elinor Ostrom workshop at Indiana University for comments, Davit Autor, Chang-Tai Hsieh, Avinash Dixit, and Timothy Taylor for detailed suggestions, Sharun Mukand for helpful conversations along the way, and Mark Blyth for reading recommendations. I owe a special debt to the recent book by Wayne Leighton and Edward López (2013) for stimulating me to put down on paper a number of ideas I had been mulling over for some time. This paper is forthcoming in The Journal of Economic Perspectives. The views expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Dani Rodrik, 2014. "When Ideas Trump Interests: Preferences, Worldviews, and Policy Innovations," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 28(1), pages 189-208, Winter. citation courtesy of
D. Rodrik., 2015. "When Ideas Trump Interests: Preferences, Worldviews, and Policy Innovations," VOPROSY ECONOMIKI, N.P. Redaktsiya zhurnala "Voprosy Economiki", vol. 1. citation courtesy of