We present a model of uninformative persuasion in which individuals “think coarsely”: they group situations into categories, and apply the same model of inference to all situations within a category. Coarse thinking exhibits two features that persuaders take advantage of: (i) transference, whereby individuals transfer the informational content of a given message from situations in a category where it is useful to those where it is not, and (ii) framing, whereby objectively useless information influences individuals’ choice of category. The model sheds light on uninformative advertising and product branding, as well as on some otherwise anomalous evidence on mutual fund advertising.
In the last decade, economists have produced a considerable body of research suggesting that the historical origin of a country’s laws is highly correlated with a broad range of its legal rules and regulations, as well as with economic outcomes. We summarize this evidence and attempt a unified interpretation. We also address several objections to the empirical claim that legal origins matter. Finally, we assess the implications of this research for economic reform.
We present a new measure of legal protection of minority shareholders against expropriation by corporate insiders: the anti-self-dealing index. Assembled with the help of Lex Mundi law firms, the index is calculated for 72 countries based on legal rules prevailing in 2003, and focuses on private enforcement mechanisms, such as disclosure, approval, and litigation, that govern a specific self-dealing transaction. This theoretically grounded index predicts a variety of stock market outcomes, and generally works better than the previously introduced index of anti-director rights.
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Insolvency practitioners from 88 countries describe how debt enforcement will proceed against an identical hotel about to default on its debt. We use the data on time, cost, and the likely disposition of the assets (preservation as a going concern vs. piecemeal sale) to construct a measure of the efficiency of debt enforcement in each country. This measure is strongly correlated with per capita income and legal origin and predicts debt market development. Several characteristics of debt enforcement procedures, such as the structure of appeals and avail- ability of floating charge finance, influence efficiency.
In developing countries, informal firms account for up to about half of all economic activity. Using data from World Bank firm-level surveys, we find that informal firms are small and extremely unproductive compared with even the small formal firms in the sample, and especially relative to the larger formal firms. Formal firms are run by much better educated managers than informal ones and use more capital, have different customers, market their products, and use more external finance. Few formal firms have ever operated informally. This evidence supports the dual economy (“Wal-Mart”) theory of development, in which growth comes about from the creation of highly productive formal firms. Informal firms keep millions of people alive but disappear as the economy develops.
Between 1980 and 2005, as the world embraced free market policies, living standards rose sharply, while life expectancy, educational attainment, and democracy improved and absolute poverty declined. Is this a coincidence? A collection of essays edited by Balcerowicz and Fischer argues that indeed reliance on free market forces is key to economic growth. A book by Stiglitz and others disagrees. I review and com- pare the two arguments.
Simeon Djankov et al. (2003) introduce a measure of the quality of contract enforcement—the formalism of civil procedure—for 109 countries as of 2000. For 40 of these countries, we compute proce- dural formalism every year since 1950. We find that large differences in procedural formalism between common and civil law countries existed in 1950 and widened by 2000. For this area of law, the find- ings are inconsistent with the hypothesis that national legal systems are converging, and support the view that legal origins exert long lasting influence on legal rules. (JEL K41, O17)
Peter Bauer was one of the greatest development economists in liistory. He was an advocate of property rights protection and free trade before tliese ideas became commonplace. He appreciated before otliers did tlie crucial roles of entrepreneurship and trade in development. He was also one of the earliest opponents of the over- population tliesis, recognizing tliat tlie poor like tlie rich should have tlie right to choose the number of children tliey have, tliat many developing countries are underpopulated, and that population growtli will anyhow slow down once they become richer Bauer's writings are remarkable for tlieir deep humanity and commitment to tlie welfare of tlie people in die developing world, but without the fake sanctimony tliat characterizes much of die modem rhetoric.
We collect data on the rules and practices of financial and conflict disclosure by members of Parliament in 175 countries. Although two- thirds of the countries have some disclosure laws, less than one-third make disclosures available to the public, and less than one-sixth of potentially useful information is publicly available in practice, on average. Countries that are richer, more democratic, and have free press have more disclosure. Public disclosure, but not internal disclosure to parliament, is positively related to government quality, including lower corruption. (JEL J13, I21, I12)