The Political Economy of Human Rights Scandals

August 25, 2012

This paper develops the political economy of human rights scandals involving government agencies. Human rights scandals occur when violations of human rights are made public and cause, or threaten to cause, damage to the reputation of the agencies involved. It is argued that human rights scandals serve as “fire alarms” which alert legislators and the public that existing rules are failing to prevent discretionary human rights abuses by government agents. An analysis of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal is provided to illustrate the economic approach to human rights scandals.

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April 1, 2011

This paper provides a rational choice analysis of rituals, defined as predictable and regular observances of acts or procedures, which have a symbolic element resulting in the inculcation or reinforcement of shared values and beliefs. The purpose is threefold. First, to make clear why rituals matter for economic and social outcomes. Second, to engage in interdisciplinary exchange by demonstrating how economics can be blended with insights from other social sciences. Third, to gain insight into why rituals exist and persist, as well as the process through which rituals change.

Read the article at ScienceDirect.

The Fatal Conceit of Foreign Intervention

July 1, 2010

The fatal conceit is the assumption that the world can be shaped according to human desires. This chapter argues that the logic of the fatal conceit can be applied to foreign interventions which go beyond the limits of what can be rationally constructed by reason alone. In suffering from the fatal conceit, these interventions are characterized by: (1) the realization that intentions do not equal results, (2) a reliance on top-down planning, (3) the view of development as a technological issue, (4) a reliance on bureaucracy over markets, and (5) the primacy of collectivism over individualism. These characteristics explain why interventions extending beyond the limits of what can be rationally constructed tend to fail.

Read this article at Emerald.

Economic Freedom, Culture, and Growth

October, 2009

How do economic freedom and culture impact economic growth? This paper argues that culture and economic institutions, specifically economic freedom, both play a role in economic development independently, but the strength of their impact can only be better understood when both are included in the growth regression. It finds that, when both are included in the growth regression, the impact of culture is greatly diminished, while economic freedom continues to have a significant impact on economic growth. The results suggest that economic freedom is more important than culture for growth outcomes, though the mechanisms through which culture affects growth warrant further investigation. The authors posit that culture may be more important for initial growth, diminishing in significance once the institutions of economic freedom have been established.


Citation (Chicago Style):

Williamson, Claudia R., and Rachel Mathers. "Economic Freedom, Culture, and Growth." Working Paper, Mercatus Center at George Mason University, 2009.