Adam Smith, Prophet of Law and Economics

PAUL G. MAHONEY

THE JOURNAL OF LEGAL STUDIES, Volume 46, Number 1

Abstract: Law and economics scholars do not normally identify Adam Smith as an important figure in the field. However, his Lectures on Jurisprudence contain a wealth of insights and analytical techniques that law and economics scholars of the late 20th century would repeat. This paper argues for Smith’s place in law and economics, identifying some of his most important arguments and emphasizing their contributions to legal theory. It also argues that economic arguments play a central role in Smith’s theory of justice. Indeed, Smith’s jurisprudence provides an important bridge between his moral and economic theories.

Narrative Economics

ROBERT J. SHILLER

THE AMERICAN ECONOMIC REVIEW, Volume 107, Number 4

Abstract: This address considers the epidemiology of narratives relevant to economic fluctuations. The human brain has always been highly tuned toward narratives, whether factual or not, to justify ongoing actions, even such basic actions as spending and investing. Stories motivate and connect activities to deeply felt values and needs. Narratives “go viral” and spread far, even worldwide, with economic impact. The 1920–1921 Depression, the Great Depression of the 1930s, the so-called Great Recession of 2007–2009, and the contentious political-economic situation of today are considered as the results of the popular narratives of their respective times. Though these narratives are deeply human phenomena that are difficult to study in a scientific manner, quantitative analysis may help us gain a better understanding of these epidemics in the future.

The time inconsistency of long constitutions: Evidence from the world

GEORGE TSEBELIS

EUROPEAN JOURNAL OF POLITICAL RESEARCH

Abstract: This article analyses the mechanisms establishing time consistency of constitutions. It explains why shorter and more locked constitutions are more likely to be time consistent (change less) and that long constitutions are more time inconsistent (change more, despite locking). Empirical evidence from all of the democratic countries in the world indicates that the length and locking of constitutions are not independent criteria, and that their combination leads to less time consistency. To address this inter-relationship, a measure of time inconsistency (a combination of locking and amendment rate) is developed and it is demonstrated that it is connected with the length of constitutions. The article shows how time inconsistency is incompatible with theories of ‘constitutional amendment culture’ not only at the theoretical level, but also empirically. Finally, the article proves that the empirical finding that the length of constitutions is related to lower per capita income and higher corruption are not only in agreement with time inconsistency arguments, but this also extends beyond OECD countries to all democracies.

 

Are individualistic societies less equal? Evidence from the parasite stress theory of values

BORIS NIKOLAEV

JOURNAL OF ECONOMIC BEHAVIOR & ORGANIZATION, Volume 138

Abstract: It is widely believed that individualistic societies, which emphasize personal freedom, award social status for accomplishment, and favor minimal government intervention, are more prone to higher levels of income inequality compared to more collectivist societies, which value conformity, loyalty, and tradition and favor more interventionist policies. The results in this paper, however, challenge this conventional view. Drawing on a rich literature in biology and evolutionary psychology, we test the provocative Parasite Stress Theory of Values, which suggests a possible link between the historical prevalence of infectious diseases, the cultural dimension of individualism–collectivism and differences in income inequality across countries. Specifically, in a two-stage least squares analysis, we use the historical prevalence of infectious diseases as an instrument for individualistic values, which, in the next stage, predict the level of income inequality, measured by the net GINI coefficient from the Standardized World Income Inequality Database (SWIID). Our findings suggest that societies with more individualistic values have significantly lower net income inequality. The results are robust even after controlling for a number of confounding factors such as economic development, legal origins, religion, human capital, other cultural values, economic institutions, and geographical controls.

Over-incarceration and disenfranchisement

MURAT C. MUNGAN

PUBLIC CHOICE

Abstract: This article presents a model wherein law enforcers propose sentences to maximize their likelihood of reelection, and shows that elections typically generate over-incarceration, i.e., longer than optimal sentences. It then studies the effects of disenfranchisement laws, which prohibit convicted felons from voting. The removal of ex-convicts from the pool of eligible voters reduces the pressure politicians may otherwise face to protect the interests of this group, and thereby causes the political process to push the sentences for criminal offenses upwards. Therefore, disenfranchisement further widens the gap between the optimal sentence and the equilibrium sentence, and thereby exacerbates the problem of over-incarceration. Moreover, this result is valid even when voter turnout is negatively correlated with people’s criminal tendencies, i.e., when criminals vote less frequently than non-criminals.

Federalism, Devolution, and Liberty

LUKE PHILIP PLOTICA

AMERICAN POLITICAL THOUGHT, Volume 6, Number 1

Abstract: For much of the twentieth century the landscape of American federalism was characterized by accumulation of power by the national government. In recent decades influential political and legal thinkers have called for devolution of governmental power to the states and localities, where, they argue, such powers properly belong and are more effectively exercised. One of the recurrent argumentative tropes in the devolutionary literature maintains that devolution is more desirable than centralization because it better protects and enhances individual liberty, and not merely the sovereignty of the states. The project of this essay is to challenge this alleged linkage by examining four of its most common and compelling manifestations. Utilizing Isaiah Berlin’s distinction between negative and positive liberty, the essay offers critical analysis of claims that devolution serves individual liberty by (1) facilitating policy experimentation, (2) spurring interjurisdictional competition, (3) promoting local self-government, and (4) enforcing the limits of governmental power.

Colonization and Democracy: Tocqueville Reconsidered

EWA ATANASSOW

AMERICAN POLITICAL SCIENCE REVIEW, Volume 111, Issue 1

Abstract: The prominence of colonization in Tocqueville’s life and works has been widely noted, yet scholars disagree about its importance. The perceived tension between Tocqueville’s analysis of democracy and his advocacy of colonization continues to be the subject of heated scholarly debate. Revisiting Tocqueville’s analytical and practical engagement with colonization, this essay reexamines its relationship to Tocqueville’s account of democracy. It argues that, while lending political support to the French empire, Tocqueville was a clairvoyant critic of colonial rule; and that his involvement with colonization could only be properly understood in light of the historical and civilizational vista that informs his oeuvre as a whole. Proposing that Tocqueville viewed European expansionism as an instrument of the global movement toward democratic equality, the essay concludes with an assessment of the significance of Tocqueville’s colonial writings for his “new political science,” and their relevance today.