We investigate the market for news under two assumptions: that readers hold beliefs which they like to see confirmed, and that newspapers can slant stories toward these beliefs. We show that, on the topics where readers share common beliefs, one should not expect accuracy even from competitive media: competition results in lower prices, but common slanting toward reader biases. On topics where reader beliefs diverge (such as politically divisive issues), however, newspapers segment the market and slant toward extreme positions. Yet in the aggregate, a reader with access to all news sources could get an unbiased perspective. Generally speaking, reader heterogeneity is more important for accuracy in media than competition per se. (JEL D23, L82)
We present a model in which setting up and running a regulatory institution takes a fixed cost. As a consequence, the supply of regulation is limited by the extent of the market. We test three implications of this model. First, jurisdictions with larger populations affected by a given regulation are more likely to have it. Second, jurisdictions with lower incremental fixed costs of introducing and ad- ministering new regulations should regulate more. This implies that regulation spreads from higher to lower population jurisdictions, and that jurisdictions that build up transferable regulatory capabilities should regulate more intensely. Consistent with the model, we find that higher population U. S. states have more pages of legislation and adopt particular laws earlier in their history than do smaller states. We also find that the regulation of entry, the regulation of labor, and the military draft are more extensive in countries with larger populations, as well as in civil law countries, where we argue that the incremental fixed costs are lower.
We examine the effect of securities laws on stock market development in 49 countries. We find little evidence that public enforcement benefits stock markets, but strong evidence that laws mandating disclosure and facilitating private enforcement through liability rules benefit stock markets.
We investigate cross-country determinants of private credit, using new data on legal creditor rights and private and public credit registries in 129 countries. Both creditor protection through the legal system and information-sharing institutions are associated with higher ratios of private credit to gross domestic product, but the former is relatively more important in the richer countries. An analysis of legal reforms shows that credit rises after improvements in creditor rights and in information sharing. Creditor rights are remarkably stable over time, contrary to the hypothesis that legal rules are converging. Finally, legal origins are an important determinant of both creditor rights and information- sharing institutions. The analysis suggests that public credit registries, which are primarily a feature of French civil law countries, benefit private credit markets in developing countries. Copyright 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
We investigate the evolution of common law under overruling, a system of precedent change in which appellate courts replace existing legal rules with new ones. We use a legal realist model, in which judges change the law to reflect their own preferences or attitudes, but changing the law is costly to them. The model’s predictions are consistent with the empirical evidence on the overruling behavior of the US Supreme Court and appellate courts. We find that overruling leads to unstable legal rules that rarely converge to efficiency. The selection of disputes for litigation does not change this conclusion. Our findings provide a rationale for the value of precedent, as well as for the general preference of appellate courts for distinguishing rather than overruling as a law-making strategy. Journal of Comparative Economics 35 (2) (2007) 309–328. University of Stockholm, 10691 Stockholm, Sweden; Harvard University, M9 Littauer Center, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.
© 2007 Association for Comparative Economic Studies. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Across countries, education and democracy are highly correlated. We motivate empirically and then model a causal mechanism explaining this correlation. In our model, schooling teaches people to interact with others and raises the benefits of civic participation, including voting and organizing. In the battle between democracy and dictatorship, democracy has a wide potential base of support but offers weak incentives to its defenders. Dictatorship provides stronger incentives to a narrower base. As education raises the benefits of civic engagement, it raises participation in support of a broad-based regime (democracy) relative to that in support of a narrow-based regime (dictatorship). This increases the likelihood of successful democratic revolutions against dictatorships, and reduces that of successful anti-democratic coups.
Following legal realists, we model the causes and consequences of trial judges exercising discretion in finding facts in a trial. We identify two motivations for the exercise of such discretion: judicial policy preferences and judges’ aversion to reversal on appeal when the law is unsettled. In the latter case, judges exercising fact discretion find the facts that fit the settled precedents, even when they have no policy preferences. In a standard model of a tort, judicial fact discretion leads to setting of damages unpredictable from true facts of the case but predictable from knowledge of judicial preferences, distorts the number and severity of accidents, and generates welfare losses. It also encourages litigants to take extreme positions in court and raises the incidence of litigation relative to settlement, especially in new and complex disputes for which the law is unsettled.