Faculty

Berkeley Center for Economics and Politics

First-Person

John Morgan

John Morgan

Professor of Entrepreneurship at the University of California, Berkeley

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John Morgan is a prolific scholar who applies the tools of economics to analyze political institutions, governance, and a wide range of contemporary political phenomena.

As the Gary and Sherron Kalbach Professor of Business Administration at the Berkeley-Haas School of Business, Professor Morgan has published on many topics. Among them: the surprising benefits of voluntary voting over mandatory voting; the unique ability of simple majority-rule voting to accurately mirror citizen preferences; the double-edged impact of tougher lobbying-disclosure rules; and the importance of meritocracy in attracting top talent to public service.

In a series of studies co-authored with Vijay Krishna of Pennsylvania, Morgan analyzed the costs and benefits of voluntary voting. While mandatory voting increases political participation, the scholars found, voluntary voting reveals more information about what voters want and how strongly they want it. In a system with simple majority rule, they found, voluntary voting reliably produces "optimal" outcomes that reflect voters' true preferences.

In a separate line of research, Morgan and several co-authors examined the institutional conditions that are most likely to attract top public servants. Offering high base salaries, they found, is only effective if the institution also offers abundant promotional opportunities - a problem for professions such as teaching. Offering promotional opportunities is an ambiguous attraction as well, if prospective employees suspect that cronyism plays a role in awarding promotions. The best results, the study found, are most likely to come in a strict meritocracy. A meritocracy attract the most talented and motivated people and discourage second-tier candidates, the study found; it will also spur competition among employees to do their best work.

In yet another area of study, Morgan and his colleagues found that tougher public disclosure of lobbying activity has a potential downside. Though increased transparency gives the public a better picture of who is lobbying for what, it also provides information to the lobbyists themselves. That, in turn, can spark competition among lobbyists and lead to wasteful over-spending.

Those are just a few examples from a large body of work that uses the tools of economic analysis to understand politics and governance.

John Morgan earned a bachelor's degree in economics at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School and a doctorate in economics at Pennsylvania State University. He joined the economics faculty at Berkeley-Haas in 2002. He is faculty director of the Center for Executive Education and founding director of XLAB, the U.C. Berkeley Experimental Social Sciences Laboratory. He has received many academic honors and has serve on the editorial boards of numerous peer-reviewed economic journals.

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