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Termites of the State
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Table of Contents

Part I. Changes in the Economic Role of the State in the Twentieth Century: 1. The age of laissez faire; 2. The role of the state between the world wars; 3. The coming of the welfare state; 4. When economists thought they had found Nirvana: welfare policies; 5. When economists thought they had found Nirvana: stabilization policies; 6. Barbarians at the gates: challenges to Nirvana; 7. General rules to guide governments; 8. Giving more freedom to markets; 9. A minimum economic role of the state?; 10. Implications of excessive government withdrawal; Part II. Complexity and the Rise of Termites: 11. The growth of termites; 12. Termites in regulations; 13. An inventory of policy tools; 14. A closer look at regulations; 15. Modernity and growing market termites; 16. The allocation role in modern economies; 17. Public goods and intellectual property; 18. The state and its economic objectives and institutions; 19. The state and the distribution of income; 20. Market operations and income distribution; 21. Poverty, inequality and government policy; 22. Market manipulations and economic outcomes; 23. Termites in the stabilization role; 24. Modern government role and constitutional guidelines; 25. The quality of the public sector and the legal framework; 26. The quality of public institutions; Part III. Equity and Inequality: 27. Wealth creation and government role; 28. Recent concerns about inequality; 29. How should governments intervene?; 30. Intellectual property and income distribution; 31. Historical background on intellectual property; 32. Tax rates, tax structures and tax avoidance; 33. Summing up of past developments; 34. Why worry about income distribution?; References; Index.

Promotional Information

A sweeping historical account of the crises of income inequality and crony capitalism from a world-renowned public economist.

About the Author

Vito Tanzi, an economist of international renown, served for twenty years as Director of the Fiscal Affairs Department of the International Monetary Fund in Washington, DC with which he was affiliated for nearly three decades. Dr Tanzi is the author or editor of over 25 books, including Government Versus Markets (2011) and Public Spending in the 20th Century (2000, with Ludger Schuknecht). A former Undersecretary for Economy and Finance of the Italian Government, he was President of the International Institute of Public Finance (IIPF) from 1990 to 1994. Dr Tanzi is known for the Tanzi effect, or Olivera-Tanzi effect, which refers to the diminished real value of tax revenues in periods of high inflation due to collection lags. He has served as a consultant to the World Bank and the United Nations and previously taught at George Washington University, Washington, DC, and American University, Washington, DC.

Reviews

'This book is the most thorough and intelligent review of the western world's economic development and the corresponding intellectual debates and lines of thought in economics and public policy from the end of World War I to the present that I have seen. Vito Tanzi is one of the most prominent public finance economists in modern times, and probably the one with the broadest practical experience. Offering unparalleled deep explanations, his book is a fascinating read. I was compelled enough to read the entire book in one swoop.' Hans-Werner Sinn, Emeritus Professor of Economics and Public Finance, University of Munich
'This book, in which you find both civil passion and scientific analysis, masterly explains how corruption and inequalities have nurtured two figures that seriously injure the functioning of our economies: the termites, who contribute to abuses in the application of the laws, and the new aristocrats, who seize for themselves skyrocketing compensations and live their exclusive lives ignoring the others. Will a new wisdom restore the healthy features of our democracies?' Giuliano Amato, former Prime Minister of Italy
'This book is a fascinating discussion of why government may sometimes aggravate the problems which they are set to solve. It offers a wealth of examples from New Zealand to the US to Italy, from current events to the Great Depression. Read it if you want to reflect upon the role of the public sector in modern economies. You will learn a lot from Vito Tanzi.' Alberto Alesina, Nathaniel Ropes Professor of Political Economy, Harvard University
'Vito Tanzi's breadth and depth of coverage of the changing role of the state in the last century is amazing. It is a masterpiece and I highly recommend it to both public finance experts, economists and the broader public.' Carol Cottarelli, former head of the IMF's Fiscal Affairs Department and Director of the Observatory on the Italian Public Sector
'In the Termites of the State, the reader is invited on a tour of public finance covering ideas, practices, and events over time and around the world. With more than fifty years of experience and reflection, of which about twenty years as the director of the IMF's Fiscal Affairs Department, Vito Tanzi is the best guide to explore such rugged landscape. This book, full of deep insights and practical wisdom, is an essential reading for policymakers but also for anyone with an interest in public policies.' Vitor Gaspar, Director of the Fiscal Affairs Department, International Monetary Fund
'In his long career as an academic and policymaker, Vito Tanzi has seen it all. In this book, he goes back to the 'Scienza delle Finanze' school developed by Italian economists between 1850 and the early 1920s and describes the dangers of overambitious government interventions. This is a must read for everybody interested in the role of the government in modern economies, especially for those who do not share Tanzi's views about the role of activist policies.' Ugo Panizza, Pictet Chair in Finance and Development, The Graduate Institute Geneva
'Vito Tanzi's latest tour de force is an unfashionable book, in the sense that it does not build on the latest fads in economics, but takes a holistic view of the role of the state and markets based on the classics of public economics. The book is in the tradition of Musgrave's seminal contribution of 1959, which Tanzi revisits in a critical way, showing how what the author dubs 'termites' - vested interests of private agents and bureaucracies leading to regulatory capture and rent seeking - affect allocation, stabilisation, and redistribution, as well as their interactions. The book, however, is not shy in pointing to the 'termites' of the market, which prevent the latter from being the easy alternative to state interventions. Vito Tanzi's book benefits from his unique experience as an academic, political economist and policy maker. It shows that, in carrying out their functions, economists have to take into account the increasing complexities of our economies and cannot rely on two-dimensional maps (state/markets), but need three-dimensional ones that show where 'termites' have excavated valleys and eroded mountains.' Marco Buti, Director General for Economic and Financial Affairs, European Commission
'In this age of polarization, Tanzi's book on the changing role of the state is ideally timed. Similar warnings have been sounded by others, but not with the acumen, tight reasoning, balanced arguments and respect for reality of Vito Tanzi's analysis. Read this very important book.' S. Schiavo-Campo, Formerly Senior Advisor, Asian Development Bank and University of Massachusetts
'Vito Tanzi, a former senior official at the International Monetary Fund, has written a thoughtful, historically grounded analysis of the discontents of today's high-income democracies. Our governments are overstretched and, in some respects, dysfunctional. Yet a plutocratic elite has also emerged, threatening to undermine both our democracy and our competitive economy. This development is partly due to deregulation and globalisation, but it is also partly due to regulation. So is government the problem or the solution? Tanzi concludes that we need a 'new wisdom' for our new age.' Financial Times
'This book is the most thorough and intelligent review of the western world's economic development and the corresponding intellectual debates and lines of thought in economics and public policy from the end of World War I to the present that I have seen. Vito Tanzi is one of the most prominent public finance economists in modern times, and probably the one with the broadest practical experience. Offering unparalleled deep explanations, his book is a fascinating read. I was compelled enough to read the entire book in one swoop.' Hans-Werner Sinn, Emeritus Professor of Economics and Public Finance, University of Munich
'This book, in which you find both civil passion and scientific analysis, masterly explains how corruption and inequalities have nurtured two figures that seriously injure the functioning of our economies: the termites, who contribute to abuses in the application of the laws, and the new aristocrats, who seize for themselves skyrocketing compensations and live their exclusive lives ignoring the others. Will a new wisdom restore the healthy features of our democracies?' Giuliano Amato, former Prime Minister of Italy
'This book is a fascinating discussion of why government may sometimes aggravate the problems which they are set to solve. It offers a wealth of examples from New Zealand to the US to Italy, from current events to the Great Depression. Read it if you want to reflect upon the role of the public sector in modern economies. You will learn a lot from Vito Tanzi.' Alberto Alesina, Nathaniel Ropes Professor of Political Economy, Harvard University
'Vito Tanzi's breadth and depth of coverage of the changing role of the state in the last century is amazing. It is a masterpiece and I highly recommend it to both public finance experts, economists and the broader public.' Carol Cottarelli, former head of the IMF's Fiscal Affairs Department and Director of the Observatory on the Italian Public Sector
'In the Termites of the State, the reader is invited on a tour of public finance covering ideas, practices, and events over time and around the world. With more than fifty years of experience and reflection, of which about twenty years as the director of the IMF's Fiscal Affairs Department, Vito Tanzi is the best guide to explore such rugged landscape. This book, full of deep insights and practical wisdom, is an essential reading for policymakers but also for anyone with an interest in public policies.' Vitor Gaspar, Director of the Fiscal Affairs Department, International Monetary Fund
'In his long career as an academic and policymaker, Vito Tanzi has seen it all. In this book, he goes back to the 'Scienza delle Finanze' school developed by Italian economists between 1850 and the early 1920s and describes the dangers of overambitious government interventions. This is a must read for everybody interested in the role of the government in modern economies, especially for those who do not share Tanzi's views about the role of activist policies.' Ugo Panizza, Pictet Chair in Finance and Development, The Graduate Institute Geneva
'Vito Tanzi's latest tour de force is an unfashionable book, in the sense that it does not build on the latest fads in economics, but takes a holistic view of the role of the state and markets based on the classics of public economics. The book is in the tradition of Musgrave's seminal contribution of 1959, which Tanzi revisits in a critical way, showing how what the author dubs 'termites' - vested interests of private agents and bureaucracies leading to regulatory capture and rent seeking - affect allocation, stabilisation, and redistribution, as well as their interactions. The book, however, is not shy in pointing to the 'termites' of the market, which prevent the latter from being the easy alternative to state interventions. Vito Tanzi's book benefits from his unique experience as an academic, political economist and policy maker. It shows that, in carrying out their functions, economists have to take into account the increasing complexities of our economies and cannot rely on two-dimensional maps (state/markets), but need three-dimensional ones that show where 'termites' have excavated valleys and eroded mountains.' Marco Buti, Director General for Economic and Financial Affairs, European Commission
`In this age of polarization, Tanzi's book on the changing role of the state is ideally timed. Similar warnings have been sounded by others, but not with the acumen, tight reasoning, balanced arguments and respect for reality of Vito Tanzi's analysis. Read this very important book.' S. Schiavo-Campo, Formerly Senior Advisor, Asian Development Bank and University of Massachusetts
'Vito Tanzi, a former senior official at the International Monetary Fund, has written a thoughtful, historically grounded analysis of the discontents of today's high-income democracies. Our governments are overstretched and, in some respects, dysfunctional. Yet a plutocratic elite has also emerged, threatening to undermine both our democracy and our competitive economy. This development is partly due to deregulation and globalisation, but it is also partly due to regulation. So is government the problem or the solution? Tanzi concludes that we need a 'new wisdom' for our new age.' Financial Times

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