Updates: Government and Markets

The Tobin Project is pleased to announce that the MacArthur Foundation has renewed its support for Tobin Project programs with a generous, multi-year grant.

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In recent years, our country has weathered shared disasters of great magnitude, calling into question the resilience of a range of societal institutions, from our financial system to our oil rigs. These events suggest that proper regulation is both necessary and, in too many cases, in need of significant improvement. Yet, as policymakers aim to prevent future crises, contemporary scholarship has not offered adequate insight into where regulation can  be effective and how to strengthen weak or captured agencies.

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In the spring of 2010, the Tobin Project issued a call for fellowship aplications from students doing work that addresses the intersection between democratic institutions and economic markets. Fellowships were awarded to fourteen students, whose projects ranged from "Policymaking at the U.S. Federal Reserve" to "Farming Families, Farm Policy, and the Business of Southern Agriculture, 1940-1980." Many of the felloship recipients came together in September for the first fall meeting of the Democracy & Markets forum.

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In the wake of the financial crisis, it became clear that existing models of the financial system were not only mistaken, but lacking real-world perspective and empirical foundation. Confronting these deficiencies, the Tobin Project supported a workshop in June, entitled "Behavioral and Institutional Research and Financial Regulation," to forge a better understanding of our financial system and develop innovative social-science based frameworks that illuminate its workings.

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Personal identity, long a concern of sociology, is now being incorporated into economic models thanks to the pioneering work presented in Identity Economics (Princeton University Press, 2010), a new volume by Nobel Prize-winning economist and longtime Tobin Project friend, George Akerlof (University of California-Berkeley, Economics), and co-author Rachel Kranton (Duke University, Economics). 

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The Tobin Project held its second graduate student forum on November 20. The day-long discussion centered on innovative new directions in the study of political economy — in particular, working through the implications of the recent financial crisis.

These interdisciplinary graduate student forums have involved 24 students from the nation’s leading Ph.D. programs, providing unique opportunities to develop and share new research on topics that fall outside of the narrow parameters of current academic discourse.

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In November, the Tobin Project hosted Lord Robert Skidelsky, preeminent biographer of John Maynard Keynes, for a dialogue on the intersection of markets and morals. Participants included Sir Anthony Atkinson (Oxford University, Economics), David Laibson (Harvard University, Economics), and Michael Sandel (Harvard University, Government). The day before, Lord Skidelsky offered a public lecture, sponsored by the Tobin Project, Harvard University’s Center for History & Economics, and the Project on Justice, Welfare & Economics.

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As the financial crisis has shown, neither traditional market failure models nor public choice theory, by themselves, sufficiently inform or explain our current regulatory challenges, nor point us toward the best solutions. Regulatory studies, long neglected in an atmosphere focused on deregulatory work, are in critical need of new models and theories that can guide effective policymaking.

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Arising out of conversations begun at the April 2009 Government & Markets conferenceTom Baker (University of Pennsylvania Law School) and Annelise Riles (Cornell University, Law and Anthropology), held a Tobin-supported workshop at University of Pennsylva

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The Tobin Project held an event in Washington, D.C. at Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro's (D-CT) home to introduce New Perspectives on Regulation to over two dozen members of Congress. Chapter authors Edward Balleisen (Duke University, History), Michael Barr (Assistant Secretary for Financial Institutions, Dept.

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