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Abstract

Significant parts of the work of the great economist and economic visionary János Kornai function as a magnifying glass in economic theory, philosophy and history. Kornai examined economic systems and system-mixes with substantial details, for then being able to focus his audiences' attention on the most relevant and critical aspects of them. One of Kornai's masterpieces, The Socialist System – a book which recently passed its 30-year publishing anniversary – is such a political economy lens on communism. I am attempting a concise conversion of this magnifying glass, to apply a Galileian metaphor, into an economic telescope. In other words, I am adding another economic lens – that of moral economics – to the Kornaian viewpoints. In a short analysis going through various dimensions of The Socialist System, I am coupling Kornai's thoughts with moral economic ideas, both from the classical and the contemporary moral economy streams. The goal with this exercise of respectfully refreshing a toolkit and style of economic analysis is to then gaze into, and partially describe a potential multitude, or spectra of economic systems, which may manifest in econodiversity.

Open access

Abstract

Kornai challenged not only the dominant economic views of the socialist system, but also those of market economies. The former brought him fame, and the latter remained, so to speak, his scientific testament. He studied the systemic properties of different economic systems through the analytical grid of the sign of aggregate excess supply, which defined three categories: shortage economies, equilibrium economies and surplus economies. In this paper, we show that business plans postulated with the aim of realizing strictly positive net retained profits in nominal terms exclude equilibrium economies; these business plans imply a surplus economy. This definition of the business plan makes it possible to combine seemingly disparate results from different parts of the economic literature. An economy in which business plans are the rule and no economic agent can run a permanent negative budget is a surplus economy, which manifests itself in the phenomena of both growth imperative and realization problem. In short, all these phenomena are the manifestations of the same essence: the working of the business plans.

Open access

Abstract

A key observation of the endogenous money theory is that banks create deposits (money) by lending. This means that banks apparently face soft budget constraint in responding to demand for credit. However, there are several limiting factors, which can make the banks' money creation somewhat constrained, and can thus harden their budget constraint. Such factors include the need to preserve banks' profitability and the bank regulations (the capital and liquidity requirements). Previous literature on soft budget constraint (SBC) in banking mentioned government bailouts, central banks lender-of-last-resort policies, or the poorly informed depositors who over-finance banks, as reasons for the SBC for banks. Taking the endogenous money theory as a starting point, we use a different approach. We analyze whether the tools that aimed to keep the bank's budget constrain hard are appropriate for this purpose. Our analysis, as well as lessons from several recent bank crisis episodes suggest, that under current banking regulation SBC is an inherent feature of banking.

Open access

Abstract

This paper discusses the contributions of János Kornai to the “language reform” of socialism and post-socialism, meaning the creation of new conceptual frameworks to replace the mainstream interpretation of the system with a more realistic, critical description. We show that, in the three waves of language reform under the Kádár regime – economics, sociology, and law – Kornai was a trailblazer by introducing concepts like “soft budget constraint,” “plan bargaining,” and “shortage,” which became key concepts for reform economists and dissident intellectuals in Eastern Europe. We discuss Kornai's work on post-socialism as well, particularly his paper “The System Paradigm Revisited,” and point out its merits and shortcomings in the description of the regimes of the region. Presenting our offer for a new language reform, based on Kornai, we underline the importance of proper words for understanding “actually existing post-socialism,” and the task of political economists to revise the current mainstream and analyse the phenomena of post-communist “relational economies.”

Open access

Abstract

The objective of this study is to identify how globalisation influences China and how China affects globalisation in the context of János Kornai's Frankenstein metaphor. Kornai (2019) felt moral responsibility for unwillingly contributing with his advice in the 1980s to the birth of a modern version of Frankenstein, the Monster which his creators could not control. A crucial guiding principle of this paper is how the US and the advanced democratic economies can respond to Kornai's dilemma and reconcile the diverging requirements of economic interests with national security priorities. There is a research gap in the systematic mapping of the external economic environment on China's development. The primary conclusion of this paper is that China is less dependent on the rest of the world than the world on China. As the de-risking concept suggests, trade restrictions and domestic industrial policy measures focused on a narrow range of strategic sectors should be combined with unlimited trade and cooperation in the remaining non-strategic sectors. This study's conceptual and methodological framework can be used to analyse the relationship between advanced democratic economies and autocratic regimes in Kornai's Frankenstein dilemma.

Open access

Abstract

Based on the structure of János Kornai's ‘main line of causality’, two unique country cases are compared within the former European socialist bloc: Albania and the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The research provides a comparative analysis with an overview of the two countries' development between World War II and the fall of the socialist regimes. Special attention is paid to the period following the 1970s as the underlying reforms had been implemented in Yugoslavia by then, leading to fundamentally different socialist prototypes. Regarding the differences, the analysis also gives an insight into the structure of the two respective banking systems. Kornai's ‘main line of causality’ provides the framework for the current research, supplemented by the respective literature. The analysis concludes that despite the fact that all blocks of the causality line differed in the two systems, similar challenges had to be addressed during the transition period. Furthermore, Albania and the successor states of Yugoslavia reflected a range of common characteristics, which implies the relevance of path dependence.

Open access
Acta Oeconomica
Authors:
Edina Berlinger
,
Zsolt Bihary
,
Katalin Dobránszky-Bartus
, and
György Molnár

Abstract

We model the consequences of the soft budget constraint in the context of retail borrowers. While János Kornai formulated the term of “soft budget constraint” mainly for organizations (firms, banks, municipalities, NGOs, etc.), we show that it can be applied to individual borrowers as well. We derive the feasibility conditions for private and public debt relief programs in a utilitarian framework and find that lenders have no interest in offering payment reductions if non-performing borrowers are few, have small debts, and are difficult to reach – precisely the characteristics of the poor. In this situation, poor debtors serve better as deterrents, similarly if we put them into a pillory. We calibrate the model parameters to survey data on poor households struggling with overdue debts in small villages in a disadvantaged rural region in Hungary. We find that in normal economic circumstances, private debt relief programs are not feasible. State intervention can be justified by positive externalities and moral considerations.

Open access

Abstract

The most significant concept of János Kornai's oeuvre is the shortage economy theory as it was presented in Anti-equilibrium more than fifty years ago. According to this, modern economies are never in equilibrium. On the markets of goods and services, the aggregate demand is either significantly higher or significantly lower than the aggregate supply. This dichotomous model is discussed in the first part of the paper.

After the collapse of the communist system in 1989/90, shortages disappeared everywhere unexpectedly quickly. But it was also an unexpected development that the institutions of liberal democracy have not developed in several countries and/or collapsed after a short period. Regarding Hungary, Kornai issued an alarm signal at the turn of 2010/2011. He was the first who said that the Orbán regime had turned the country into an autocracy in barely a year. The second part of the paper examines whether Kornai's assertion, shared by many transition-economy specialist, that there are only two political systems (democracies and autocracies) is adequate for the entire range of post-socialist countries. The author's answer to this question is negative.

Open access

Abstract

János Kornai published an interesting and important paper in 2000 about the “system paradigm”, and another in 2016 about the “system paradigm revisited”. In the last one he made a theoretical approach for differences between democracies, autocracies and dictatorships; made a typology for the most important elements for characterization of different political systems. In the second half of the 2010’s a debate has started among political analysts, public intellectuals and journalists, how we can characterize the new political system of Hungary led by Viktor Orbán. We can read detailed analyses about “hybrid regime”, “limited democracy”, “illiberal democracy”, “plebiscite leader democracy” etc. In this paper I would like to deal with the question of different political systems in general, and – on the experiences of the debates about the current Hungarian system – I would like to think further – the Kornai's model. Kornai pointed out 10 elements for characterization of it (the questions of removable governments, opposition parties in parliaments, elections, civil society, freedom of press, etc.) – I would like to differentiate 10 new potential elements, especially from the side of the political ideas, historical backgrounds and other viewpoints.

Open access
Society and Economy
Authors:
Volodymyr Kulikov
,
Mykhaylo Simanovskyy
,
Abigail Eichenberg
, and
Ksenija Angelina Braese

Abstract

This article explores the communication strategies of multinational corporations in response to the Russo-Ukrainian War and the public pressure to divest from the Russian domestic market. By content analyzing official statements from the top 50 revenue-generating multinational corporations in Russia, the article identifies patterns in corporate narratives about the war, their actions and concerns, and potential solutions. The findings reveal that most companies declare scaling down their presence in Russia while maintaining certain basic obligations, prioritizing employee safety, and expressing concerns about the global economy. While few explicitly condemn Russia's aggression, many adopt neutral language to avoid naming Russia as the aggressor. Corporations emphasize the importance of diplomacy, adherence to international law, and the pursuit of peace, but often avoid proposing concrete solutions. Despite variations across industries, countries of origin, and decisions to stay or leave Russia, the differences in statements were not significant. The uniformity of corporate statements and evidence that companies frequently do not follow their declared promises suggest potential “bluewashing” – making vague or false claims of social responsibility or anti-war stances to improve their public image. These findings emphasize the need for multinational corporations to develop sincere and original wartime communication strategies.

Open access