August 25, 2012

The Political Economy of Human Rights Scandals

  • Christopher Coyne

    Associate Director, F. A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics
  • Rachel Mathers

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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.

Read the working paper at