BESLEY, Timothy, John (Biography)


September 14, 1960, Kesteven, England Current Positions

Professor of Economics, London School of Economics and Political Science, 1995-; Director, Suntory Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines, 2001-; Research Fellow, Institute for Fiscal Studies, 1995-; Program Director in Public Policy, Centre for Economic Policy Research, 1998.

Past Positions

Fellow, All Souls College, Oxford, 1983-1991, 1995-2000; Visiting Assistant Professor of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University, 1988-1989; Assistant Professor of Economics and International affairs, Princeton University, 1989-1995; Lecturer in Economics, Keble College, Oxford, 1985-1987.


B.A., M.Phil., D.Phil, Oxford University, 1983, 1985, 1987.

Offices and Honors

Fellow of the Econometric Society.

Fellow of the British Academy.

Elected Council Member, Royal Economic Society

Elected Council Member, European Economics Association.

Winner of Inaugural Richard Musgrave Prize (with Harvey Rosen) for paper "Sales Taxes and Prices: An Empirical Analysis" published in the National Tax Journal, 1999.

Editorial Duties

Co-Editor, American Economic Review, 1999-; Managing Editor, Economic Journal, 1996-1999; Editorial Boards of:Oxford Economic Papers, Journal of Development Economics, Economics and Politics, Journal of Developing Areas, American Economic Review, International Tax and Public Finance, Review of Economic Studies, World Bank Economic Review, Review of Development Economics.

Principal Fields of Interest

Development Economics; Political Economy; Public Economics.

Selected Publications


1. "Decentralizing public good supply." Econometrica, 59(6), November 1991 (with Ian Jewitt).

2. "Workfare versus welfare: incentive arguments for work requirements in poverty alleviation programs." American Economic Review, 82(1): 1992 (with Stephen Coate).

3. "Taxes and bribery: the role of wage incentives." Economic Journal 103(1): 1993 (with John McLaren).

4. "The economics of rotating savings and credit associations." American Economic Review, 83(4):1993 (with Stephen Coate and Glen Loury).

5. "Incumbent behavior: vote seeking, tax setting and yardstick competition." American Economic Review, 85(1): 1995 (with Anne Case).

6. "The design of income maintenance programs." Review of Economic Studies, 62(2): 1995 (with Stephen Coate).

7. "Does electoral accountability affect economic policy choices? Evidence from gubernatorial terms limits." Quarterly Journal of Economics, 110(3):1995 (with Anne Case).

8. "Property rights and investment incentives: theory and evidence from Ghana." Journal of Political Economy, 103(5): 1995.

9. "An economic model of representative democracy." Quarterly Journal of Economics, 112(1): 1997 (with Stephen Coate).

10. "Sources of inefficiency in a representative democracy: a dynamic analysis." American Economic Review, 88(1):1998 (with Stephen Coate).

11. "Lobbying and welfare in a Representative democracy." Review of Economic Studies, 68(1):2001 (with Stephen Coate).

12. "Public versus private ownership of public goods." Quarterly Journal of Economics, 116(4):2001 (with Maitreesh Ghatak).

Principal Contributions

Timothy Besley’s work in political economy has focused on developing models of the policy process that can ask welfare questions about the achievements of the political process in allocating resources. With Stephen Coate, he has developed an approach to the political process known as the "citizen-candidate" model. He has also worked on models that bring imperfect competition into the political process (political agency models). This lead to work on the using of yardstick political competition in federal systems (joint with Anne Case). This has also lead to an interest in the role of the press and independent agencies in information provision. Besley’s work in development economics has focused on a range of issues including: property rights and investment incentives, indigenous savings institutions, technology adoption, and tax evasion. His work in public economics has studied a range of issues including: income maintenance programs, tax competition, public provision of private goods, merit goods, and health insurance.

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