Robert Gmeiner

Download my CV here.


"Interest Group Support for Non-Group Issues" (with Randall Holcombe), Constitutional Political Economy Vol. 29, No. 3 (September 2018), pp. 303-316

Abstract: Organized interest groups tend to focus on a narrow set of issues that promote the common interests of their members. They support political candidates who are favorable toward the group’s interests. But whereas interest groups support politicians based on a narrow set of issues, politicians have platforms that cover the entire political spectrum, so supporting a politician implies supporting all of that politician’s positions. A secondary effect of interest group support for politicians on one issue is that they are also supporting positions on other issues that are well outside the scope of that group’s interests. This analysis shows that the systematic relationships among politicians’ political platforms result in interest groups supporting issues that are well outside the stated common interests of the groups.

"Term Limits and State Budgets" (with Randall Holcombe), Journal of Public Finance and Public Choice, forthcoming (journal web site)

Abstract: While a substantial amount of research has been done on the effect of state legislative term limits, there has been little work looking specifically at how term limits affect state government budgets. An examination of state budgets before and after the implementation of term limits shows that prior to the implementation of term limits, state revenues and expenditures tended to grow at about the same rate in states that implemented term limits and those that did not. After the implementation of term limits, revenues and expenditures grew more slowly in states that implemented them. The reduction in the growth of state budgets after the implementation of term limits is both economically and statistically significant.

Working/Submitted Papers

If you would like to read a copy of a working paper that is not linked, please feel free to email me.

Presented at the 87th Annual Meetings of the American Economic Association in Tampa Florida, November 2017

Abstract: The capture theory of regulation concludes that regulatory agencies tend to be captured by the firms they are regulating. This paper tests the capture theory in the environment of nuanced agency regulation by the administrative state of the U.S. oil refining industry. Regulation has tended to narrow refiners' margins, which comparatively harms nonintegrated oil refiners more. A complementary analysis of stock returns shows that regulations have produced benefited the stocks of vertically integrated firms. The narrowing of the margins is primarily due to rising input costs. The administrative state shows clear signs of capture by powerful industry interests.

"Amimetic Property and Profit Creation: Innovation or Rent Seeking?"

To be presented at the 2019 Conference of the Association of Private Enterprise Education in Nassau, Bahamas

Abstract: Some industries are very innovative, dynamic, and competitive, others are oligopolized, and still others are known for rent seeking. In a market economy, competitive pressures cause businesses to continually adapt to changing conditions. Different approaches can be taken - innovation, consolidation, or rent seeking. This paper examines incentives for these different strategies with a view toward understanding what preserves an innovative economy characterized by Schumpeter's creative destruction. In an innovative, dynamic economy, profits only can be had if a business has productive assets that offer a unique advantage over competitors. Property rights must be protected, but property itself must have characteristics that offer its owner a unique advantage in order for it to be a profitable investment. This can be termed amimetic property, a term based on the Greek word amimitos, meaning ``inimitable.'' When such property exists for a business, it can orient its business model to exploit it. When no natural advantage in productive assets exists, incentives for rent seeking are magnified. Conversely, the presence of amimetic property can be a hedge against rent seeking incentives. This paper develops a theory of amimetic property and its specific relevance to a business as the fundamental element in a dynamic, innovative economy.

"Property Rights as Constitutional Constraints for the Tech Giants"

To be presented at the May 2019 Regional Meeting of the Mont Pelerin Society in Fort Worth, Texas

Abstract: Personal data has become a fundamental part of the business models of many companies. Its value in targeting advertisements and personalizing user experiences provides revenue for companies that offer free services. Governments also have an interest in this data, but it is not for commercial purposes, so the need to please customers does not constrain them. When tech firms interact with the government, commercial data collection and noncommercial purposes collide, creating privacy issues. In this setting, the line between government and the private sector is blurred, necessitating a public-choice approach to some nominally private firms. This paper proposes a regime of property rights in personal information as a constraint on acceptable use and sharing of personally identified data.

"The America Invents Act and a Distorted Legal System for Enforcing Patent Rights"

Abstract: Intellectual property rights are a point of contention among those who believe that patents promote innovation and those who believe they lead toward monopoly and harm the free market. The mechanism by which patent validity is ascertained and infringement is punished has received far less attention. The Leahy-Smith America Invents Act of 2011 was the first major piece of patent legislation in over fifty years, but it did not alter the standards of patentability. The law’s most influential changes were to the litigation system. In this paper, I analyze these changes as well as their subsequent implementation. I find that the changes disproportionately benefited patent infringers over patent owners. It became easier to invalidate a patent through judicial proceedings due to specifics of the America Invents Act. These changes were most pronounced in high tech and software industries and gave advantage to larger firms over small, independent inventors.

Abstract: Contemporary politics in most western countries can be modeled with two dominant left and right factions, with some third parties, some of whom are noninterventionists. Although unsuccessful, they occasionally claim widespread support. Treating such claims as valid I develop a model of political competition relying on asymmetric preferences and the ability to trade votes, or logroll, to show why majority noninterventionist positions fail against interventionist minorities. This loss would occur even in the presence of majority support for the libertarian position on any given issue. This result explains any multi-issue outcome in which an overall majority opinion is not implemented.

"Central Place Theory, Government Tourism Revenue, and Tourism Promotion Policies"

Abstract: Many governments, both state and local, attempt to promote tourism as a way of raising revenue and encourage economic development. This is especially prevalent in Florida, where tourism revenue constitutes a major source of revenue through the sales tax. However, some areas in Florida are considerably more popular as tourist destinations than others. In this paper, I use central place theory to provide a theoretical framework for dividing metropolitan areas into categories with similar characteristics and similar levels of tourism in order to provide policy recommendations specific to each category. I conclude that a uniform approach to tourism promotion will have far less meaningful overall effects compared to policies targeted based on this division of tourism destinations.


"Why Libertarians Don't Win: The Pareto Optimality of a Majority Loss"

86th Annual Meetings of the Southern Economic Association in Washington, D.C., November 2016

This is an earlier version of "Tyranny by Collusive Minorities"

"Income Tax Evasion Prior to Withholding" (with Randall Holcombe)

86th Annual Meetings of the Southern Economic Association in Washington, D.C., November 2016

Abstract: World War II brought with it a substantial increase in federal income tax rates, and introduced income tax withholding for wage income. Rates increased prior to withholding, so an examination of tax payments paid prior to and subsequent to withholding can offer some insight into the degree to which taxes were evaded prior to withholding. The data reveal a substantial increase in number of returns filed, taxable income reported, and income taxes paid due to the implementation of withholding.

"Central Place Theory, Government Tourism Revenue, and Tourism Promotion Policies"

DeVoe Moore Center at Florida State University Paper Workshop in Tallahassee, Florida, November 2015