Efficient legal rules are central to efficient resource allocation in a market economy. But the question whether the common law actually converges to efficiency in commercial areas has remained empirically untested. We create a data set of 461 state court appellate decisions involving the economic loss rule in construction disputes and trace the evolution of this law from 1970 to 2005. We find that the law did not converge to any stable resting point and evolved differently in different states. Legal evolution is influenced by plaintiffs’ choice of which legal claims to make, the relative economic power of the parties, and nonbinding federal precedent.
We present new data on effective corporate income tax rates in 85 countries in 2004. The data come from a survey, conducted jointly with PricewaterhouseCoopers, of all taxes imposed on “the same” standardized mid-size domestic firm. In a cross-section of countries, our estimates of the effective corporate tax rate have a large adverse impact on aggregate investment, FDI, and entrepreneurial activity. Corporate tax rates are correlated with investment in manufacturing but not services, as well as with the size of the informal economy. The results are robust to the inclusion of many controls. (JEL E22, F23, G31, H25, H32, L26)
We document that, in a cross section of countries, government regulation is strongly negatively correlated with measures of trust. In a simple model ex- plaining this correlation, distrust creates public demand for regulation, whereas regulation in turn discourages formation of trust, leading to multiple equilibria. A key implication of the model is that individuals in low-trust countries want more government intervention even though they know the government is corrupt. We test this and other implications of the model using country- and individual-level data on trust and beliefs about the role of government, as well as on changes in beliefs during the transition from socialism.
We present a model of intuitive inference, called “local thinking,” in which an agent combines data received from the external world with information retrieved from memory to evaluate a hypothesis. In this model, selected and limited recall of information follows a version of the representativeness heuristic. The model can account for some of the evidence on judgment biases, including conjunction and dis- junction fallacies, but also for several anomalies related to demand for insurance.
We propose a theory of financial intermediaries operating in markets influenced by investor sentiment. In our model, banks make, securitize, distribute, and trade loans, or they hold cash. They also borrow money, using their security holdings as collateral. Banks maximize profits, and there are no conflicts of interest between bank shareholders and creditors. The theory predicts that bank credit and real investment will be volatile when market prices of loans are volatile, but it also points to the instability of banks, especially leveraged banks, participating in markets. Profit- maximizing behavior by banks creates systemic risk.
Copyright 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Regulation of economic activity is ubiquitous around the world, yet standard theories predict it should be rather uncommon. I argue that the ubiquity of regulation is explained not so much by the failure of markets, or by asymmetric information, as by the failure of courts to solve contract and tort disputes cheaply, predictably, and impartially. The approach accounts for the ubiquity of regulation, for its growth over time, as well as for the fact that contracts themselves are heavily regulated. It also makes predictions, both across activities and across jurisdictions, for the efficiency of regulation and litigation as strategies of enforcing efficient conduct.
We present a simple model in which rational but uninformed traders occasionally chase noise as if it were information, thereby amplifying sentiment shocks and moving prices away from fundamental values. In the model, noise traders can have an impact on market equilibrium disproportionate to their size in the market. The model offers a partial explanation for the surprisingly low market price of financial risk in the spring of 2007.
Copyright 2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
We present a standard model of financial innovation, in which intermediaries engineer securities with cash flows that investors seek, but modify two assumptions. First, investors (and possibly intermediaries) neglect certain unlikely risks. Second, investors demand securities with safe cash flows. Financial intermediaries cater to these preferences and beliefs by engineering securities perceived to be safe but exposed to neglected risks. Because the risks are neglected, security issuance is excessive. As investors eventually recognize these risks, they fly back to the safety of traditional securities and markets become fragile, even without leverage, precisely because the volume of new claims is excessive.
Copyright 2011 Published by Elsevier B.V.