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Handbook of Research on Economic Freedom

Economic Freedom and Populism

Bergh, Andreas och Anders Kärnä (2024). ”Economic Freedom and Populism”. I Niclas Berggren (red.), Handbook of Research on Economic Freedom (297–314). Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing.

Andreas Bergh, Anders Kärnä

Niclas Berggren

The increase in support for populist politicians has led to an intensive search for explanations. A free market economy that creates winners and losers due to rapid economic transformation has been suggested as one key explanation. Reviewing the literature, we find little support that economic freedom causes populism, although trade with China has been shown to do so. In many cases populist politicians decrease economic freedom. Complementing the literature review by analyzing panel data on populist voting 1980-2020 in 33 European countries, we find that economic freedom correlates negatively with right-wing populism and is uncorrelated with left-wing populism.