We present a model of trade in which similar countries trade more with each other than with very different countries. The reason is that high human capital countries have a comparative advantage at producing high quality goods, but are also rich enough to want to consume high quality. As a result, countries choose trading partners at a similar level of development, who produce similar quality products. The model helps account for the observed trade patterns, and sheds light on international income comparisons. It also helps explain recent concerns of Eastern European countries that they have 'nothing to sell' to the West.
The speed of economic reforms is not the only important determinant of the success of the transition to a market economy: the transition of government from a communist state to an institution supporting a market economy is as critical. Survey evidence shows that Russia lags significantly behind Poland in the transition of its government, which may account for its inferior economic performance despite adopting similar economic reforms. I argue that the lack of turnover of old communist politicians, and the creation of inappropriate electoral and fiscal incentives for these politicians, may account for the poor performance of the Russian government, and suggest some strategies for improving the situation.
When should a government provide a service in-house, and when should it contract out provision? We develop a model in which the provider can invest in improving the quality of service or reducing cost. If contracts are incomplete, the private provider has a stronger incentive to engage in both quality improvement and cost reduction than a government employee has. However, the private contractor’s incentive to engage in cost reduction is typically too strong because he ignores the adverse effect on noncontractible quality. The model is applied to understanding the costs and benets of prison privatization.