Publications by Author: Simon Johnson

Robinson, James A, Daron Acemoglu, Simon Johnson, and Davide Cantoni. 2007. “From Ancien Régime to Capitalism: The French Revolution as a Natural Experiment”. Abstract
In this paper we exploit the invasion of Europe, particularly Germany, by French Revolutionary armies as a ‘natural experiment’to investigate the causal effect of the institutions of the ancien régime on economic development. A central hypothesis which can account for comparative development within Europe is that economic growth emerged …first in places which earliest escaped ancien régime and feudal institutions. However, though there is a correlation between these two events, this does not demonstrate that it was the collapse of the ancien régime that caused the rise of capitalism. This is because there may be problems of reverse causation and omitted variable bias. We show how the institutional reforms (essentially the abolition of the ancien régime) brought by the French in Germany can be exploited to resolve these problems. These reforms were akin to an exogenous change in institutions unrelated to the underlying economic potential of the areas reformed. We can therefore compare the economic performance of the areas reformed to those not reformed before and after the Revolutionary period to examine the impact of the reforms. The evidence we present is consistent with the hypothesis that the institutions of the ancien régime did indeed impede capitalism.
Robinson, James A, Daron Acemoglu, Simon Johnson, and Pierre Yared. 2007. “Reevaluating the Modernization Hypothesis”. Abstract
This paper revisits and critically reevaluates the widely-accepted modernization hypothesis which claims that per capita income causes the creation and the consolidation of democracy. We argue that existing studies …find support for this hypothesis because they fail to control for the presence of omitted variables. There are many underlying historical factors that affect both the level of income per capita and the likelihood of democracy in a country, and failing to control for these factors may introduce a spurious relationship between income and democracy. We show that controlling for these historical factors by including …fixed country effects removes the correlation between income and democracy, as well as the correlation between income and the likelihood of transitions to and from democratic regimes. We argue that this evidence is consistent with another well-established approach in political science, which emphasizes how events during critical historical junctures can lead to divergent political-economic development paths, some leading to prosperity and democracy, others to relative poverty and non-democracy. We present evidence in favor of this interpretation by documenting that the …fixed effects we estimate in the post-war sample are strongly associated with historical variables that have previously been used to explain diverging development paths within the former colonial world.
Lopez-de-Silanes, Florencio, Rafael LaPorta, Andrei Shleifer, and Simon Johnson. 2000. “Tunnelling”. Abstract

Tunnelling is defined as the transfer of assets and profits out of firms for the benefit of their controlling shareholders. We describe the various forms that tunnelling can take, and examine under what circumstances it is legal. We discuss two important legal principles — the duty of care and the duty of loyalty — which courts use to analyze cases involving tunnelling. Several important legal cases from France, Belgium, and Italy illustrate how and why the law accommodates tunnelling in civil law countries, and why certain kinds of tunnelling are less likely to pass legal scrutiny in common law countries.