SID Thematic Projects
The thematic projects initiated by the SID project addressed institutional matters (national elections and the partisan composition of legislatures, legal infrastructures, media structures (distribution and ownership of media outlets), free trade, central bank independence), contextual factors (educational attainment, natural resource production, agricultural production) and welfare measures (environmental quality). Additional projects will be initiated as needed to achieve SID's goals.
Despite increases in their industrial capacities, many developing nations remain heavily dependent on the agricultural sectors of their economy for their well-being. The productivity of a nation's agricultural sector may be affected, over time, by institutional reforms. At the same time, agricultural productivity may be affected by exogenous factors (floods, droughts, pestilence, shifts in international demand) that have little to a nation's institutional design. Thus, it is important to incorporate data on crop and livestock production into cross-national assessments of institutional effects on societal development. It was supervised by Peter F. Nardulli and implemented by Joseph Bajjalieh, who gathered and organized production and price data for most marketable natural resources. A white paper is available that describes the scope and sources of the data collection effort.
Price stability is a major concern for governments of developed and developing countries alike. Unchecked inflation is among the most dangerous threats to steady, long-term economic growth. Governments that proactively manage inflation rates soften the economic swings resulting from business cycles; this allows both consumers and investors to form more accurate and steady expectations of the future. This stable environment is increasingly valuable for all nations. But it is particularly important for developing states, where evidence of instability can result in the withdrawal of foreign investment funds that are vital to their economic development.
In addition to data compiled by the Comparative Constitutions Project and other existing data sources, developing refined cross-national measures of national political institutions required data on election results, regime change, and the composition of governments. Without such data it is impossible to gauge the role elections play in the strategic calculations of political leaders, or their role in reshaping governments. Because an organized and comprehensive dataset on such matters did not exist, the Center supported the on-going efforts of Professor Jose Antonio Cheibub, the Boeschenstein Professor of Political Economy and Public Policy and Professor Tasos Kalandrakis of Rochester University. Their efforts were integrated into the Comparative Political Regimes and Elections Project, which was supervised by Professor Cheibub after his arrival at Illinois.
Educational attainment is both a driver of developmental processes and a key indicator of human development. Yet cross-national data on educational attainment for the post WWII era is spotty, despite significant efforts by the UN and several highly respected academic teams to compile it. Compounding the data availability problems in this area is the uneven distribution of missing information across regions of the world: the highest rates of missing data are in Africa and the post-Soviet states. This situation is lamentable because the uneven distribution of data has the potential to seriously skew efforts to understand the developmental role of education.
Most quantitative studies of societal development employ utilize some measure of economic growth or wealth as a dependent variable. While this was a useful and natural starting point, it is important for both intellectual and policy reasons to enlarge the range of welfare indicators analyzed. Among the most important to include are measures of environmental quality. The tradeoffs between rapid economic growth and environmental quality have received a great deal of commentary. Moreover, there is a need for serious study as to how tradeoffs between economic growth and environmental quality are managed by different institutional design. Correspondingly, the Center initiated the Environmental Quality Project, which was supervised by Peter F. Nardulli and implemented by Grzegorz Wojslaw and Joseph Bajjalieh.
Free trade - the absence of governmental barriers to international trade - has been an integral part of conceptions of free enterprise since the early 19th century. The reason for its centrality is that free trade is essential to securing the comparative advantages that, like specialization and the division of labor, are at the heart of the efficiencies attributed to free enterprise economies. The importance of a free trade component to the SID project is enhanced by the enormous domestic political pressures that globalization has produced on governments. Pressures from both domestic producers and workers have led various governments to adopt myriad policies that restrict or enhance their international trade. Moreover, for political reasons, these policies have varied across both trading partners and economic sectors.
Constructing cross-national measures of the extent to which a law-based order has been institutionalized requires a multi-faceted approach. The Comparative Constitutions Project and the SPEED project provide important sources of data for this undertaking. Constitutional data can provide important insights into the role of law in a nation's institutional design. Event data is useful for gauging the role of law as a constraint on the behavior of both citizens and government officials. But another indicator of the extent to which a nation has institutionalized a law-based social order is the state of its legal infrastructure: its system of legal education, bodies of legal publications, network of professional legal associations, etc.
With respect to natural resources not all countries are created equal. Some have plentiful endowments, while others struggle with exceptionally meager endowments. The differences often affect the standard of living of its citizens. Moreover, conflicts over natural resources have led to innumerable international wars. In addition, rich endowments of natural resources have frequently led to internal battles that have had enduring consequences for a state's governance. Even where natural resource endowments have not led to external or internal conflicts, exogenous influences (technological innovations, resource depletion, shifts in international demand) had affected their impact on a society's well-being. Thus, it is important to incorporate data on natural resources into cross-national assessments of institutional effects on societal welfare. Consequently, in the summer of 2006, the Cline Center initiated the Natural Resources Project. It was supervised by Peter F. Nardulli and implemented by Joseph Bajjalieh, who gathered and organized production and price data for most marketable natural resources. A white paper is available that describes the scope and sources of the data collection effort.