Fashionable science

Louisville recently hosted the International Conference of Public Choice Society researchers. Only two representatives from Russia took part, one was Anna Bykova,  lecturer and Candidate of Economic Sciences from Perm’s Higher School of Economics (HSE).

This year is the 56th International Public Choice Society Annual Meeting, bringing together over 100 participants whose work is to assess how the state has an impact on economic, political and public life across various levels – from town and city districts to countries.

Participation in the conference is considered highly prestigious, as it is here that the most “fashionable” academic research topics in public sector economics are discussed using the most advanced methods and data to assess state policy. As the Society’s main focus is research in the field of public choice, the overarching theme of the Conference is the analysis of the impact of various state interventions on the behaviour of economic agents – individuals, companies, sectors, regions and countries.

— What have been the key features of the reports and the research this year?

— This year there has been a big focus on evaluating the effectiveness of various state programmes, and a significant amount of work has centred on the situation in the USA, with reports investigating different taxation systems also examined. In contrast to Russia, in the US these sectors are highly decentralised and every state, and in fact municipality, has significant powers in regulation and setting its own taxes. Investment in the education system was also discussed, and there has been a special emphasis on the use of big data and machine learning as in most other topics nowadays.

This is the second year running I have taken part in the conference in Louisville together with Dennis Coates from the University of Maryland Baltimore County, USA. We presented the preliminary results of our joint research on “Components of Economic Freedom and Corporate Performance: Case of Russia”. In our work we showed that there is a positive relationship between the level of development of the institutional environment as measured by the Economic Freedom Index and the results of the activities of Russian companies. The main mechanisms of this type of influence concern regulation in the taxation and labor spheres. A feature of the index which was constructed by Professor Coates and his colleagues for Russian regions starting in the 1990s is that it uses exclusively Goskomstat data, which makes longitudinal research possible. Secondly, the methodology is taken entirely from the well-known country-level Economic Freedom index developed by the Fraser Institute, and the Economic Freedom of North America index, which makes it possible, for example, to compare our country’s regions with individual states in America. This will be the subject of my next project with Dennis and it will focus on comparing the performance of football clubs. Professor Coates and I have been collaborating for almost 5 years, as in addition to his role at the university in Baltimore he is a leading researcher at the International Laboratory of Intangible-driven Economy (IDLAB) at the National Research University HSE-Perm . At the end of this week, Professor Coates is coming to HSE-Perm to give a lecture on sports economics and to participate in the Laboratory’s seminars.

— Which countries have the Conference participants been from?

— Naturally, most of the participants were from various universities in the United States (including the very top universities for political science, such as Chicago University, George Mason University, North Carolina University, Duke University, Columbia University etc.), and there were also many participants from European and Asian countries. Russia was represented by another participant from the Urals Federal University (named after B.N. Yeltsin) in Ekaterinburg.

Interestingly, one of the participants at the conference, Professor Nigel Ashford, told me that in the early 90’s he came to Perm at the invitation of Perm State University to participate in a seminar. Nigel was one of the first foreigners to come to our “closed” city.

To be honest, I saw no signs in Louisville indicating that it is a sister city of Perm, but the city itself left a very pleasant impression with all its infrastructure facilities being located compactly in the center (unlike, for example, Baltimore or Charleston, where I was last year). And the opportunity to be classed as “better” and hit 7 out of 10 baseballs on our visit to Louisville Sluggers – the world’s most famous baseball bat museum and factory where bats for all the Major League Baseball players are made – left lasting memories.