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Political Business Cycles: An Emergent-Dynamic Reformulation

27 Pages Posted: 3 Oct 2011  

Richard E. Wagner

George Mason University - Department of Economics

Date Written: October 2, 2011


The literature on political business cycles follows two analytical conventions: (1) polity is reasonably reduced to a single agent who is either opportunistic or partisan and (2) economy is an equilibrated entity that is subject to politically inspired shocks. This paper pursues a different conceptualization of the relationship between politics and macro-level variability, and is based on three key differences from conventional formulations: (1) macro variables are not direct objects of choice but are just aggregates that emerge out of some micro structure of relationships, (2) a presumption that competitive processes are naturally turbulent replaces the standard focus on equilibrium states, and (3) polity and economy are treated not as point-mass entities but as an entangled ecology of enterprises. Within this alternative framework, variability is a normal feature of open competition, and with the intensity of that variability depending on the constitutional framework that governs the ecology of enterprises that comprise a political economy.

Keywords: political business cycles, opportunistic cycles, partisan cycles, microfoundations, supervention, ecology of plans

JEL Classification: D72, E32, E61, H61

Suggested Citation

Wagner, Richard E., Political Business Cycles: An Emergent-Dynamic Reformulation (October 2, 2011). GMU Working Paper in Economics No. 11-41. Available at SSRN: or

Richard E. Wagner (Contact Author)

George Mason University - Department of Economics ( email )

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Fairfax, VA 22030
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