Constraining Predation: Formal and Informal Institutions

If a monopoly on legitimate force (government) is set up to prevent private predation, then what constrains government predation? This new paper presents intriguing results (a snippet of the abstract):

Previous findings suggest that informal, cultural rules underlie constraints on government predation. Following this logic, this study asks how contract enforcement is achieved – through formal or informal mechanisms? After controlling for reverse causality, the empirical results suggest that informal cultural mechanisms protect against private predation and support contracting institutions while the formal institutions are insignificant.

The author is Claudia Williamson and it follows on her article in Public Choice and her Journal of Law & Economics piece with Carrie Kerekes. While limited by the quality of available measures of informal rules, this work is building a case that cultural norms do much heavy lifting when it comes to constraining both private and government predation.


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