Arbitration in classical Athens

BRYAN C. MCCANNON

CONSTITUTIONAL POLITICAL ECONOMY

Abstract: The Classical Athenians developed two formal arbitration procedures. They assigned low stakes disputes to a panel of arbitrators, while high stakes cases were handled by a single arbitrator. Given the information aggregation benefit of collective decision making, one would have expected more individuals to be assigned to more important cases. I develop a theoretical model to provide an explanation for their design. Recognizing that arbitrator competence is endogenous, effort put into making a good decision takes time and effort. In larger groups free riding is a concern. Consequently, there exists environments where the free-riding loss is magnified in higher stakes disputes to the point where the socially optimal panel size is inversely related to the stakes involved.

Racial Bias in Bail Decisions

DAVID ARNOLD, WILL DOBBIE, CRYSTAL S. YANG

THE QUARTERLY JOURNAL OF ECONOMICS

Abstract: This article develops a new test for identifying racial bias in the context of bail decisions—a high-stakes setting with large disparities between white and black defendants. We motivate our analysis using Becker’s model of racial bias, which predicts that rates of pretrial misconduct will be identical for marginal white and marginal black defendants if bail judges are racially unbiased. In contrast, marginal white defendants will have higher rates of misconduct than marginal black defendants if bail judges are racially biased, whether that bias is driven by racial animus, inaccurate racial stereotypes, or any other form of bias. To test the model, we use the release tendencies of quasi-randomly assigned bail judges to identify the relevant race-specific misconduct rates. Estimates from Miami and Philadelphia show that bail judges are racially biased against black defendants, with substantially more racial bias among both inexperienced and part-time judges. We find suggestive evidence that this racial bias is driven by bail judges relying on inaccurate stereotypes that exaggerate the relative danger of releasing black defendants.

Tullock and the welfare costs of corruption: there is a “political Coase Theorem”

MICHAEL C. MUNGER

PUBLIC CHOICE

Abstract: Gordon Tullock developed an approach to understanding dynamic processes of political change and policy outcomes. The key insight is the notion that political insiders have a comparative advantage—because they face lower transaction costs—in manipulating rules. The result is that political actors can collect revenues from threatening to restrict, or offering to loosen, access to valuable permissions, permits, or services. To the extent that the ability to pay for such favorable treatment is a consequence of private activities that produce greater social value, there is a “political Coase theorem”: corruption makes bad systems more efficient. But the dynamic consequences are extremely negative, because of the inability to institute reforms resulting from application of Tullock’s “transitional gains trap.”

Fired Up by Morality: The Unique Physiological Response Tied to Moral Conviction in Politics

KRISTIN N. GARRETT

POLITICAL PSYCHOLOGY

Abstract: Studies provide mounting evidence that morally convicted attitudes elicit passionate and unyielding political responses. Questions remain, however, whether these effects occur because moral conviction is another strong, versus a distinctly moral dimension of attitude strength. Building on work in moral psychology and neuroscience, I argue that moral conviction stems from a distinctive mode of mental processing that is tied to automatic affective reactions. Testing this idea using a lab experiment designed to capture self‐reported moral conviction and physiological arousal, I find that conviction about political objects positively predicts arousal evoked by the objects, while attitude extremity and importance do not. These findings suggest that moral conviction items do tap into moral processing, helping to validate the conviction measure. They also illustrate the value of using physiological indicators to study politics, help explain why morally convicted attitudes trigger such fervent responses, and raise normative questions about political conflict and compromise.

Can fiscal rules constrain the size of government? An analysis of the “crown jewel” of tax and expenditure limitations

PAUL ELIASON, BYRON LUTZ

JOURNAL OF PUBLIC ECONOMICS, Volume 166

Abstract: Fiscal rules attempt to alter budget outcomes by constraining policy makers. They have been one of the primary responses to the recent string of fiscal crises around the globe. We ask if these rules succeed in altering fiscal outcomes by examining what is arguably the most stringent set of fiscal rules in the U.S.—Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR). As TABOR attempts to constrain both taxes and expenditures, we develop a novel approach of estimating treatment effects for multiple outcomes simultaneously using the synthetic control methodology of Abadie et al. (2010). Although there will always be a degree of uncertainty over external validity when a policy is enacted in only a single state, our results provide no evidence that TABOR affected the level of taxes or spending in Colorado and are precise enough to rule out large negative effects. Thus, no support is found for the contention that fiscal rules alter budget outcomes. Instead, TABOR appears to have been partly evaded by policy makers and voters despite its stringency and partly nothing more than a ratification of the state’s preference over the size of its public sector.

Reassessing the productivity gains from trade liberalization

JAEBIN AHN, ERA DABLA-NORRIS, ROMAIN DUVAL, BINGJIE HU, LAMIN NJIE

REVIEW OF INTERNATIONAL ECONOMICS

Abstract: This paper reassesses the impact of trade liberalization on productivity. We build a new, unique database of effective tariff rates at the country‐industry level for a broad range of countries over the past two decades. We then explore both the direct effect of liberalization in the sector considered, as well as its indirect impact in downstream industries via input linkages. Our findings point to a dominant role of the indirect input market channel in fostering productivity gains. A 1 percentage point decline in input tariffs is estimated to increase total factor productivity by about 2 percent in the sector considered. For advanced economies, the implied potential productivity gains from fully eliminating remaining tariffs are estimated at around 1 percent, on average, which do not factor in the presumably larger gains from removing existing non‐tariff barriers. Finally, we find suggestive evidence of complementarities between trade and FDI liberalization in boosting productivity. This calls for a broad liberalization agenda that cuts across different areas.

Government extraction and firm size: Local officials’ responses to fiscal distress in China

YU LIU

JOURNAL OF COMPARATIVE ECONOMICS

Abstract: This paper studies how government extraction behaviors respond to local fiscal distress in China. We exploit the 2002 Chinese Income Tax Reform which exogenously cut local government revenues from income taxes roughly by half. We find that, when facing fiscal distress, local officials resort to informal taxes, such as fees and levies, instead of formal taxes to supplement revenue. On average, the increase in informal taxes recovered 75 percent of the local government revenue loss due to the reform. The increases are more pronounced along the intensive margin and are primarily driven by more extractions from large firms. We also find that the reform led to reductions in investment and growth rates of small firms and consistently more small firms in the total size distribution.