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November 30, 2007

Putnam and Shapiro on whether treaties make citizens more likely to punish human rights violations

Since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, some sixty multilateral treaties and conventions on various aspects of human rights have been enacted. Despite this proliferation of agreements, evidence of their impact on how governments treat their citizens is decidedly mixed (Hafner-Burton & Ron 2008). In countries where compliance with human rights laws is uniformly high, non-treaty factors are often credited (Von Stein 2005). In states that routinely violate the fundamental rights of their citizens, international human rights norms and treaties are criticized as ‘toothless’ and irrelevant. Indeed, several scholars have observed that the constraining effects of human rights treaties are often felt least where they are needed most: inside autocratic states controlled by governments with a history of brutality and repression against their own populations (Neumayer 2005; Hafner-
Burton & Tutsui 2007). …

In this paper we combine experimental and case study methods to explore how international law influence the politics behind the external enforcement of international human rights norms. We first use an online survey of U.S. voting-age citizens to test whether support for sanctioning Myanmar for its forced labor practices is affected by awareness that the Myanmar government’s conduct violates international law.

To verify that our experimental results offer explanatory insight into actual events, we use case methods to trace efforts inside the United States to mobilize support for punishing the Myanmar government for its numerous human rights violations. Three points jump out from this case study. First, the status of Myanmar’s actions under international law impacted governmental debates over sanctions and non-governmental initiatives to impose costs on U.S. and foreign firms doing business in the country. Second, American political leaders believe citizens take international law into account in a manner consistent with out experimental results. Third, politicians and NGO-activists responded to this belief.

Our study builds on recent experimental work. Tomz (2007) finds American voters and British policy makers “…far more likely to oppose policies that would violate international law than to oppose otherwise identical policies that would not trammel on existing legal rights” (emphasis in original).2 We explore the generalizeability of Tomz’ findings to the realm of human rights, and also whether the international law effect Tomz identifies extends to sanctioning other governments for failures to act within the constraints of international law.

Tonya Putnam and Jacob Shapiro, “Do Treaties Matter to Citizens Willingness to Punish Foreign Rights Abusers?,” unpublished paper. Available here.

Mutz on the political consequences of 'in your face' television

Abstract: How do Americans acquire the impression that their political foes have some understandable basis for their views, and thus represent a legitimate opposition? How do they come to believe that reasonable people may disagree on any given political controversy? Given that few people talk regularly to those of opposing perspectives, some theorize that mass media, and television in particular, serve as an important source of exposure to the rationales for oppositional views. A series of experimental studies suggests that television does, indeed, have the capacity to encourage greater awareness of oppositional perspectives. However, common characteristics of televised political discourse—–incivility and close-up camera perspectives—–cause audiences to view oppositional perspectives as less legitimate than they would have otherwise. I discuss the broader implications of these findings for assessments of the impact of television on the political process, and for the perspective that televised political discourse provides on oppositional political views.

Available here.

Diane C. Mutz, “Effects of “In-Your-Face” Television Discourse on Perceptions of a Legitimate Opposition,” American Political Science Review 101:4, 521-635.

November 26, 2007

Denisova et al. on who wants to revisit privatization in formerly Communist countries.

Abstract: A 2006 survey of 28,000 individuals in 28 post-communist countries reveals overwhelming public support for the revision of privatization in the region. A majority of respondents, however, favors a revision of privatization that ultimately leaves firms in private hands. We identify which factors influence individuals’ support for revising privatization and explore whether respondents’ views are driven by a preference for state property or a concern for the fairness of privatization. We find that human capital poorly suited for a market economy with private ownership and a lack of privately owned assets increase support for revising privatization with the primary reason being a preference for state over private property. Economic hardships during transition and work in the state sector also increase support for revising privatization, but mainly due to the perceived unfairness of privatization. The effects of human capital and asset ownership on support for revising privatization are independent of a countries’ institutional environment. In contrast, good governance institutions amplify the impact of positive and negative transition experiences on attitudes toward revising privatization. In countries with low inequality, individuals with positive and negative transition experiences hold significantly different views about the superiority of private property, but this difference is much smaller in countries with high inequality.

Irina Denisova, Markus Eller, Timothy Frye and Ekatarina Zhuravskaya, “Who Wants to Revise Privatization and Why? Evidence from 28 Post-Communist Countries,” unpublished paper. Available here.

Alesina and Giuliano on the economic consequences of family values

We study the importance of culture, as measured by the strenght of family ties, on economic behavior and attitudes. We define our measure of family ties using individual responses from the World Value Survey regarding the role of the family and the love and respect that children need to have for their parents for over 70 countries. We show that strong family ties imply more reliance on the family as an economic unit which provides goods and services and less on the market and on the government for social insurance. With strong family ties home production is higher, labor force participation of women and youngsters, and geographical mobility, lower. Families are larger (higher fertility and higher family size) with strong family ties, which is consistent with the idea of the family as an important economic unit. We present evidence on cross country regressions. To assess causality we look at the behavior of second generation immigrants in the US and we employ a variable based on the grammatical rule of pronoun drop as an instrument for family ties. Our results overall indicate a significant influence of the strength of family ties on economic outcomes.

Alberto Alesina and Paola Giuliano, “The Power of the Family,” unpublished paper. Available here.

G.A. Cohen on a truth in conservatism

I have for decades harboured strongly conservative, that is, strongly small-c conservative, opinions, on many matters that are not matters of justice, and I here mount an exposition and defence of what I believe to be my widely, although perhaps not universally, shared, conservative attitude. (I do not have conservative views about matters of justice because what conservatives like me want to conserve is that which has intrinsic value, and injustice lacks intrinsic value (and has, indeed, intrinsic disvalue). I am a kind of conservative not only in that I have the strong small-c conservative attitude that I shall describe, but also in that I endorse certain conservative factual
assessments according to which a lot of valuable things have been disappearing lately. I join the ranks of the complainers down the ages who say: “Things ain’t what they used to be.” …

Please bear in mind throughout that I am trying here to describe, in an attractive light, one kind of conservative disposition, that is, my own. It is indeed my own disposition, and if I did not have it I would not have been motivated to write this paper, but I think that this disposition of mine is not an eccentric one: I think everyone who is sane has something of this disposition, even if the people that I am today calling conservatives have a stronger form of it than others do. … This is my first foray into this territory, and I have thus far been unable to place the several themes that I treat in satisfactory connection with one another. The themes include personal value, tradition, identity, acceptance of the given, slowing down the rate of change and the idea of conserving what is valuable, in opposition, for example, to maximizing value. I hope and believe that all or at least most of my themes are connected, and, indeed, that the idea of conserving what is valuable is intellectually foundational to all of the other themes, but I haven’t yet tried to establish all the connections (and disconnections).

G.A. Cohen, “A truth in conservatism: Rescuing conservatism from the conservatives,” unpublished paper. Available here.

The Monkey Cage

Since it looks as though Andrew Gelman has already announced it, I figure that I’m now allowed to publicize a new political science blog, The Monkey Cage. It’s written by three of my colleagues at GWU, David Park, John Sides, and Lee Sigelman (who’s received previous mention at CT for his groundbreaking collaborative research on Supreme Court Justice betting pools). One interesting post on the costs of wars:

Recent days have brought a shower of media attention to the long-term economic cost of the war in Iraq. … According to Clayton, the pattern of long-term costs associated with American wars indicates that “the bulk of the money is spent long after the fighting stops” — and when Clayton said “long after,” he meant it. The primary reason: veterans benefits, which for the Civil War, World Wars I and II, and the Korean War averaged 1.8 times the original cost of the wars themselves.

It would be interesting to know whether this is likely to hold for the Iraq war. Will veterans’ benefits be as costly for an all-volunteer army? Has the ratio of technology costs to manpower costs changed substantially since the earlier wars discussed?

[Crossposted at Crooked Timber.

November 08, 2007

Iqbal and Zorn on the Consequences of Assassination

The debate heats up …

Abstract: The assassination of a political leader is among the highest-profile acts of political violence, and conventional wisdom holds that such events often have substantial political, social, and economic effects on states. We investigate the extent to which the assassination of a head of state affects political stability, through an analysis of all assassinations of heads of state between 1952 and 1997. We examine the political consequences of assassination by assessing the levels of political unrest, instability, and civil war in states that experience the assassination of their head of state. Our findings support the existence of an interactive relationship among assassination, leadership succession, and political turmoil: in particular, we find that assassinations’ effects on political instability are greatest in systems in which the process of leadership succession is informal and unregulated.

Zaryab Iqbal and Christopher Zorn (forthcoming), “The Political Consequences of Assassination,” Journal of Conflict Resolution. Available here.

November 07, 2007

French political science papers blog

François Briatte has created a French political science papers blog, science politique en ligne, to collate interesting work done by French political scientists. Obviously, I approve thoroughly of this in principle and in practice - it has really begun to bring together some interesting work which certainly would have evaded the attention of anglophones like myself if not for François’s efforts. See here for example for discussion of an interesting-sounding piece on institutionalisms in political science. Unlike this blog, he has also succeeded in creating a reasonably lively comments section. I’m very happy to see this doing as well as it seems to be doing.

Jones and Olken on the political consequences of assassination

Abstract: Assassinations are a persistent feature of the political landscape. Using a new data set of assassination attempts on all world leaders from 1875 to 2004, we exploit inherent randomness in the success or failure of assassination attempts to identify assassination’s effects. We find that, on average, successful assassinations of autocrats produce sustained moves toward democracy. We also find that assassinations affect the intensity of small-scale conflicts. The results document a contemporary source of institutional change, inform theories of conflict, and show that small sources of randomness can have a pronounced effect on history.

Benjamin Jones and Benjamin Olken (2007), “Hit or Miss? The Effect of Assassinations on Institutions and War,” unpublished paper. Available here.

Edlin, Gelman and Kaplan on why it's rational to vote in large elections

Abstract: For voters with ‘social’ preferences, the expected utility of voting is approximately independent of the size of the electorate, suggesting that rational voter turnouts can be substantial even in large elections. Less important elections are predicted to have lower turnout, but a feedback mechanism keeps turnout at a reasonable level under a wide range of conditions. The main contributions of this paper are: (1) to show how, for an individual with both selfish and social preferences, the social preferences will dominate and make it rational for a typical person to vote even in large elections; (2) to show that rational socially motivated voting has a feedback mechanism that stabilizes turnout at reasonable levels (e.g., 50% of the electorate); (3) to link the rational social-utility model of voter turnout with survey findings on socially motivated vote choice.

Aaron Edlin, Andrew Gelman and Noah Kaplan, “Voting as a Rational Choice: Why and How People Vote to Improve the Well-Being of Others,” Rationality and Society 19: 293-314. Available here.

Via Andrew Gelman.

Enikolopov, Petrova and Zhuravskaya on Media Control in Russia

Abstract: Governments control media in much of the developing world. Does this have an effect on political choices of voters? We address this question using exogenous variation in the availability of the signal of the only independent from the government national TV channel in Russia during the 1999 parliamentary elections. We find that the presence of an independent source of political news on TV significantly decreased the vote in favor of the government party, increased the vote in favor of the opposition parties. We find that the difference in TV coverage significantly changed voting behavior even controlling for voters’ inclinations just one month prior to the elections. The effects we find are larger than those found in established democracies.

Ruben Enikolopov, Maria Petrova, and Ekaterina Zhuravskaya (2007), “Television and Political Persuasion in Young Democracies: Evidence from Russia,” unpublished paper. Available here.

Petrova on Inequality and Media Capture

Abstract: Popular support of redistributive policies depends on information they have about the tax system and efficiency of public projects. Mass media provides a convenient means for manipulating public opinion, even when voters understand that the media can be biased. I develop a theory of media capture in which the rich can influence information published in a media outlet at a cost. The model shows that higher inequality is associated with lower media freedom; this effect is stronger in democratic regimes. I find empirical support for the model in both panel data and cross-country analysis.

Maria Petrova (2007), “Inequality and Media Capture,” unpublished paper. Available here.

November 06, 2007

Shor, Berry and McCarty on estimating ideal points for state legislators

Abstract: Two major problems exist in applying ideal point estimation techniques to state legislatures. First, there has been a scarcity of available longitudinal roll call data. Second, even where such data exists, scaling ideal points within a single state su:ers from a basic defect. No comparisons can be made across institutions, whether to other state legislatures or to the US Congress. Our project is a solution to both of these problems. We use a new comparative data set of state legislative roll calls beginning in the mid-1990s to generate ideal points for legislators. We take advantage of the fact that state legislators sometimes go on to serve in Congress to create a common ideological scale between Congress and the various legislatures. These “bridge actors” are similar in concept to members of the House who go on to serve in the Senate, thereby providing the “glue” necessary to scale the House and Senate together. We use this approach for California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas. Using these bridge actors, we create a new state-federal congressional common space ideological scores. We conclude by using these common space scores to address important topics in legislative politics.

Boris Shor, Christopher Berry and Nolan McCarty (2007), “A Bridge to Somewhere: Mapping State and
Congressional Ideology on a Cross-Institutional Common Space,” unpublished paper. Available here. Via Statistical Modelling.

Blattmann and Annan on the Consequences of Child Soldiering

Abstract: Civil conflicts have afflicted a third of all nations and two thirds of Africa since 1991. In many cases, up to a third of male youth (including children) are drawn into armed groups, making soldiering one of the world’s most common occupations for the young. Little is known, however, about the impacts of military service on human capital and labor market outcomes due to an absence of data as well as sample selection: recruits are usually self-selected and screened, and may also selectively survive. We assess the impacts of participation in civil war using an original survey from Uganda, where a rebel group’s recruitment method provides arguably exogenous variation in conscription. Contrary to the prevailing view that participation in war leads to broad-based ‘traumatization’, we find that military service primarily hinders long-term economic performance because it is a poor substitute for civilian education and work experience. The most significant impact is upon a recruit’s skills and productivity: schooling falls by nearly a year, skilled employment halves, and earnings drop by a third. These impacts are highly robust to relaxation of the assumption of exogenous conscription. Effects are greatest for child soldiers, who lose the most education. There is no observed impact on social capital, and adverse impacts on mental health, while evident, are present in a relative minority.

Christopher Blattmann and Jeannie Annan (2007), “The Consequences of Child Soldiering” (unpublished paper). Available here.

November 03, 2007

Egan on what is distinctive about lesbians, gays and bisexuals in American politics

Abstract: Lesbians, gays and bisexuals (LGBs) tend to affiliate with the Democratic Party and hold distinctively liberal views on a wide range of issues - including issues that have nothing to do with gay rights. But little is known about how LGBs acquire partisanship and form political attitudes, and theories of group political distinctiveness apply poorly to this case. Using pooled survey data that permits statistically powerful analysis of nationally representative samples of LGBs, this article documents two mechanisms that make LGBs politically distinctive: selection (LGBs are more likely to be brought up in environments associated with liberal views later in life) and conversion (the life event of adopting a gay identity is accompanied by the acquisition of a cohesive set of liberal beliefs). Less evidence is found for the explanation typically offered for LGB political distinctiveness: that gay people acquire distinctive political views through intra-group contact and acculturation.

Patrick J. Egan (2007), “Explaining the Distinctiveness of Lesbians, Gays, and Bisexuals in American Politics,” unpublished paper. Available here.

Shapiro on the Internal Problems of Terrorist Organizations

Abstract: Terrorists organizations face a difficult task in a hostile operational setting. First, they must achieve the controlled application of violence in the service of political goals. Hitting the wrong targets, or conducting too many attacks, can be just as damaging to the group’s political cause as doing too little. Second, they must maintain this calibrated use of force in an environment where becoming known to government equals operational failure. The organizational challenge is that political and ideological leaders—the principals—have to delegate certain duties—planning attacks, soliciting funds, recruiting, and the like—to middlemen or low-level operatives, their agents. Such delegation poses no problem if all the agents are perfectly committed, see the world as their leaders do, and agree with them on how to best serve the cause. Under those conditions, the preferences of the principals and their agents will be aligned, and the agents will act exactly as the principals would like. However, where preferences diverge, the covert nature of terrorist groups necessarily implies that agents can take advantage of delegation to act as they prefer, not as their principals would like. Thus, terrorist groups and other covert organizations face two fundamental trade-offs. The first is between security and financial efficiency. Here selection pressures and recruiting dynamics drive divergent preferences over spending, creating inefficiencies in resource allocation from the leaders’ perspective. Strategies to mitigate these problems all entail security costs. The second tradeoff is between security and operational control. Here selection pressures, small group dynamics, and the information problems inherent in underground organization create preference divergence over strategy and tactics. Efforts to mitigate these problems through greater control entail security costs for groups as a whole. The enduring importance of these tradeoffs points to a series of strategic principles for counterterrorism policy and highlights the need for organizationally informed analysis of terrorist groups.

Jacob Shapiro (2007), “The Terrorist’s Challenge: Security, Efficiency, Control,” unpublished paper. Available here.

November 02, 2007

Lieberman on AIDS and ethnic politics

Abstract: What explains country policy responses to the AIDS pandemic? The author highlights ethnic politics as a negative influence on AIDS-related expenditures and other policies. When societies are ethnically divided and fragmented, elites are less likely to mobilize around the idea of risk from a stigmatized condition, fearing that their group will suffer reputational consequences. They are more likely to emphasize that the risks are contained within other groups, or that the threat is exaggerated. In turn, governments are less likely to provide policies because of lower demand and the potential for political resistance to actions viewed as unwelcome and/or unnecessary. A series of cross-national statistical analyses consistently reveal negative effects of ethnic fractionalization on AIDS policy. As compared with analogous analyses, it is possible to rule out the potential endogeneity concern that ethnic political competition might be a consequence as much as it was a cause of bad public policy and underdevelopment.

Lieberman, Evan S. (2007), “Ethnic Politics, Risk, and Policy-Making: A Cross-National Statistical Analysis of Government Responses to HIV/AIDS,” Comparative Political Studies 40:1407-1432 . Available here.