The current agenda


Among the ongoing studies that constitute types of research that could be further developed within the perimeter of the unit, one example is the evaluation of the consequences of political instability for the quantity and quality of laws and reforms in a civil law vs common law system, and the consequent risk of collapse of the bureaucracy. Comparative studies of the evolution of institutions and individual incentives in Germany, Italy and the United States are ongoing, and we hope to create incentives for further studies on comparative institutional evolutions. An understudied important consequence of reforms is that, especially when not well designed and/or coordinated, they can create excessive institutional complexity. Hence the negative evaluation of an institution creates a need of reform, but the reform response must take into account the consequences of the reform for the future regulatory complexity. This type of study requires interaction of many kinds of expertise.

Another area of concern for a unit devoted to institutional performance and reform evaluation is the causes and consequences of populism, knowing that the consequences dimension is particularly important in order to understand the future of liberal democratic systems. Effects range from selection and incentive problems in the political class and the bureaucracy, to demands of changes in the checks and balances of the state, to the path of further deterioration of political and social communication and distorted use of the media.

At the heart of the need of rethinking institutions is the Rodrik trilemma: it is impossible to have (1) democracy, (2) national self determination of rules and policies, and (3) economic globalization. The Rodrik's prescription involves government supply of good jobs directly, because the traditional pre-production interventions of the welfare state systems were presuming the availability of middle class private jobs, which are instead disappearing. But more creative solutions to the trilemma can be designed, mainly global governance solutions that supplement the second element of the trilemma. Projects on new types of issue linkages connecting the WTO to the respect of capital taxation constraints for multinational companies could be encouraged. All the current research projects on the desirability of fiscal union and banking union or even the design of the various forms of fiscal European intervention for the next generation EU belong to the large set of global solutions being considered or experimented to replace again the second element of the trilemma, in order to save the democracy and economic globalization pillars.

An understudied distinction is that between reforms and radical change of institutions, both for organizations and for systems. A prerequisit for making such a choice is the evaluation of existing institutions, which requires different methodologies with respect to policy evaluation. Adaptability of institutions to contexts of course requires also an analysis of the interplay with culture, hence some of the projects that could fall within the domain of the unit could be projects that belong to the culture and institutions nexus.