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November 13, 2007

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Jamus Lim

Dani, this is a problem that is not unique to academic quibbling. It is an issue that---on a more practical front---those looking to objectively capture different aspects of governance for the purposes of policy have to struggle with as well. There is a recent paper by Kaufmann & Kraay that addresses this very issue: See http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTWBIGOVANTCOR/Resources/wps4370.pdf.
In addition, the issue is also nontrivial: There is some evidence that, after decomposing governance into its constituent indicators, researchers have found that some measures are more important than others in explaining, say, growth outcomes.

Dominic

Dani,

Would you consider bringing in an outsider from the School of Law to run a class on legal institutions in your development masters course?

Having recently completed a similar course in Australia I know I would have benefited from it and enjoyed it.

I think economists (especially development economists) really need much more understanding of a wide variety of disciplines, and law is one of the key ones which we typically don't get at all.

Dominic

for those people wanting to follow the link given by Jamus Lim above, you may need to remove the period (full stop) "." from the end of the link.

jsalvati

I found Brian Tamanaha's On the Rule of Law (http://www.amazon.com/Rule-Law-History-Politics-Theory/dp/0521604656) very helpful for clearing up the different conceptions of the rule of law. It's short, clearly written and well organized.

My impression has been that the important nugget in the "rule of law" is that the government should reduce the costs of uncertainty that it imposes on people. But I doubt I have any special insight.

Peter Boettke

Dani,

Todd Zywicki and I taught a course on the rule of law and economic development for a few years as part of joint effort of the economics and law school at GMU.

http://www.law.gmu.edu/academics/syllabus/Fall99/legalfound.html

Todd and I both found the ambiguity you talk about in the literature, but also the intellectual excitement that can result in studying this material both theoretically and empirically.

Pete

Peter Boettke

Dani,

Todd Zywicki and I taught a course on the rule of law and economic development for a few years as part of joint effort of the economics and law school at GMU.

http://www.law.gmu.edu/academics/syllabus/Fall99/legalfound.html

Todd and I both found the ambiguity you talk about in the literature, but also the intellectual excitement that can result in studying this material both theoretically and empirically.

Pete

corvad

can't wait to get to that particular manuscript! the "rule of law" is a political discourse of course, in the US one line of it emerges from 1960s objections to civil rights-related civil disobedience -- "law and order" being preferable to "those uppity so-and-sos" not keeping their place. In the 1980s it emerged in relation to development especially with respect to uppity indigenous people in Bolivia not being satisfied with available job opps in Bolivia, hence migrating to the "lawless Chapare" and screwing up the Bolivian economy by growing coca, which actually was screwed not only by its oligarchy-dictator management of ISI but by some of the earliest variants of IMF loan conditionalities, that plus the US dumping tin on the world market and driving that particular commodity's price down below where it was viable as a Bolivian export commodity. Throughout the 80s, the "rule of law" was code for the "rule of US punitive prohibition law", which according to quite a few mainstream orthodox US economists was actually to blame for the escalation of the drug trade with its attendant corruption and bad governance effects.

So, whose law? whose cultural norms informing whose enforcement practices against what populations? Universal definitions of the rule of law ought to take into account law -- and criminology -- as a set of codes and enforcement practices that reflect asymmetric historical, spatial and cultural politics.

thanks for bringing this up and I really can't wait to see that paper!

Gary Shiu

Hi Dani:

Ken Dam at U of Chicago law school has a new book out addressing the very same issue of legal system and economic development.

One can get it here:

http://www.brookings.edu/press/Books/2006/lawgrowthnexus.aspx

amv

Dear Mr. Rodrik,

I am no expert on this, but I usually associate the Rule of Law with the principle that there is no group or individual above the law and that everyone should be treated alike by the law (e.g. no difference regarding race, religion ... and I would add income as well). It is in this respect that Hayek opposes the concept of social justice, since it is based on treating people different by whatever criteria is thought to be important.

robertdfeinman

There was a lot of work done on this as a result of the rise of the Nazis. They changed the law as they went along so that everything they did was "legal".

This led to the rise of a school of legal philosophy which tried to extract universal principles that could be used as a basis for judging societies.

The person that I've found who was the most successful was Franz Neumann. There is a nice book published in the 1950's which has some of his shorter essays and doesn't require delving into his magnum opus "Behemoth".

This is what I extracted from reading this:

1. All men are equal before the law.
2. Laws must be general, not specific (this rules out bills of attainder).
3. Retroactive laws are illegitimate.
4. Enforcement must be separate from the decision-making agencies.

[I go into this in more detail in my essay:
http://robertdfeinman.com/society/save_democracy.html ]

corvad

enforvement can never be separate from decision-making agencies -- enforcers decide where, when and against whom to enforce laws, from cheating on taxes to speeding to illicit drug possession, growing, manufacturing and distribution. this is, among other things, because at any given time, far more people are breaking laws than are vulnerable to policing efforts, unless you have an omniscient state. this may be an argument for fewer laws, and ones that make more sense, but at any given time at any given place the reasons for and effects of law breaking are in relatively legitimate. As for retroactive laws, how about the current controversy over granting amnesty to approximately 20,000 persons convicted under disproportionate crack sentencing (which was recently changed)? This is the difference between social justice and rule of law: the former recognizes that the laws reflect the prejudices, passions, political, and economic inequalities present at the time of their passing (Jim Crow, anyone?, involuntary coca eradication?) and that unless one arrogantly decides that everything's been fixed and we're finally completely Enlightened the legal system must be contested through social justice activism, whether it be civil rights or anti-prohibition groups and individuals. Not only do we have a long way to go towards that goal, it's a Utopia that will never be reached. Legal positivists are naive through and through, a just rule of law is one that provides multiple and ongoing opportunities to challenge the justice of laws and their applications in historically and geographically contingent ways.

robertdfeinman

Tell you what corvad you read the man's work first and then we can have a discussion.

Here's the citation to the book I had in mind:

Neumann, Franz Leopold (1957). "The Democratic and the Authoritarian State: Essays in Political and Legal Theory." Free Press.

I'm discussing philosophical principles. No one contends that any present state lives up to them completely. In fact if you read my essay you will see where give examples of how every one of them is being violated by the current administration.

It is this fact that has revived the discussion of the "rule of law".

Dominic

Dani,

Thanks for pointing out the course on legal institutions and development. I had a look at the outline you linked to. It seems to be an introduction to legal institutions which are relevant to economics, but I don't get a sense from the outline how much it deals with the channels through which law effects economic development.

By this I mean, how legal institutions affect the costs and risks of doing business and barriers to competition, and how these in turn affect investment and growth. An excellent report which addresses these issues is:
APEC (2007), Enhancing investment liberalisation and facilitation in the Asia-Pacific region (stage 2): reducing behind-the-border barriers to investment

Of course I only could read outline of the course, so these issues could well be included without me realising.

corvad

apologies robertdfeinman, a discussion is indeed in order and my thoughts as expressed are monological.

Alvaro Santos

Dear Professor Rodrik,

I’ve read this post with interest. I am excited that you are asking this question and would like to suggest a book on the topic that David Trubek and I recently co-edited. The book is entitled “The New Law and Economic Development: A Critical Appraisal” (Cambridge 2006). It contains essays by legal scholars exploring the legal ideas underpinning what we see as the current consensus in economic development thinking, in which, as you note, the idea of rule of law is pervasive.

Several of the chapters address the idea of the rule of law and its relationship with economic theory and policy, putting it also in historical perspective. My chapter analyzes the meaning of the rule of law drawing from the literature in jurisprudence and development theory. I was intrigued by the vagueness with which the concept is used by academics and policy makers to justify a variety of projects. So, the article provides an institutional analysis of the different units in the World Bank working on legal and judicial reforms to show more concretely how the concept is used.

I always thought this is a conversation that economists and legal scholars should have.

Jamus Lim

Dani,

Another update: Howard Rosenthal and Eric Voeten have a recently-published article in the Journal of Comparative Economics on the issue of measuring legal systems (which in turn expands on the work of Djankov et al 2003):

Measuring legal systems
http://www.sciencedirect.com.oca.ucsc.edu/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6WHV-4PF1WG5-1&_user=4428&_coverDate=12%2F31%2F2007&_rdoc=5&_fmt=summary&_orig=browse&_srch=doc-info(%23toc%236860%232007%23999649995%23674422%23FLA%23display%23Volume)&_cdi=6860&_sort=d&_docanchor=&_ct=8&_acct=C000059601&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=4428&md5=da34e889ee75b8d0350435c60907a578

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