A central challenge in securing property rights is the subversion of justice through legal skill, bribery, or physical force by the strong—the state or its powerful citizens—against the weak. We present evidence that undue influence on judges is a common concern in many countries, especially among the poor. We then present a model of a water polluter whose discharges contaminate adjacent land. If this polluter can subvert the assessment of damages caused by his activity, there is an efficiency case for granting the landowner the right to an injunction that stops the polluter, rather than the right to compensation for the harm. If the polluter can subvert even the determination of his responsibility for harm, there is an efficiency case for regulation that restricts pollution regardless of its effects. We then conduct an empirical analysis of water quality in the U.S. before and after the Clean Water Act, and show how regulation brought about cleaner water, particularly in states with higher corruption.
We revisit several leading puzzles about the aggregate stock market by incorporating into a standard dividend discount model survey expectations of earnings of S&P 500 firms. Using survey expectations, while keeping discount rates constant, explains a significant part of “excess” stock price volatility, price-earnings ratio variation, and return predictability. The evidence is consistent with a mechanism in which good news about fundamentals leads to excessively optimistic forecasts of earnings, especially at long horizons, which inflate stock prices and lead to subsequent low returns. Relaxing rational expectations of fundamentals in a standard asset pricing model accounts for stock market anomalies in a parsimonious way.
We examine a new data set of laws and practices governing public procurement, as well as procurement outcomes, in 187 countries. We measure regulation as restrictions on discretion of the procuring agents. We find that laws and practices are highly correlated with each other across countries, better practices are correlated with better outcomes, but laws themselves are not correlated with outcomes. To shed light on this puzzle, we present a model of procurement in which both regulation and public sector capacity determine the efficiency of procurement. In the model, regulation is effective in countries with low public sector capacity, and detrimental in countries with high public sector capacity because it inhibits the socially optimal exercise of discretion. We find evidence broadly consistent with this prediction: regulation of procurement improves outcomes, but only in countries with low public sector capacity.
We explore the idea that judgment by representativeness reflects the workings of episodic memory, especially interference. In a new laboratory experiment on cued recall, participants are shown two groups of images with different distributions of colors. We find that i) decreasing the frequency of a given color in one group significantly increases the recalled frequency of that color in the other group, ii) for a fixed set of images, different cues for the same objective distribution entail different interference patterns and different probabilistic assessments. Selective retrieval and interference may offer a foundation for the representativeness heuristic, but more generally for understanding the formation of probability judgments from experienced statistical associations.