New Paper: Human Rights and Economic Liberalization

Carden, Art and Robert A. Lawson. 2009. Human Rights and Economic Liberalization, under review at Business and Politics.

This paper has made the rounds at a handful of conferences and is finally available. Thanks to everyone who has offered comments and suggestions.

The abstract:

Using several case studies and data from the Economic Freedom of the World annual report and from the CIRI Human Rights Data Project, we estimate the effect of human rights abuses on economic liberalization. The data suggest that human rights abuses reduce rather than accelerate the pace of economic liberalization.

The paper started as a specific comment on Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine, which I discuss here in a review essay for the Journal of Lutheran Ethics (HT: Bob Lawson for recommending me for that assignment). A side question: is a “review essay” a journal article? A book review? A floor wax? A dessert topping? After seeing this listed in “book reviews” I’ve decided to move it from “journal articles” to “book reviews” on my CV.

In any event, when I was reading The Shock Doctrine last summer I came across a bunch of claims that could be tested using the CIRI human rights data and the EFW Index. Not surprisingly, the data suggest that torture is not a “silent partner in the global free-market crusade” but an impediment to economic liberalization. Our data only go back to 1980, but I would suspect that the out-of-sample properties of the estimates are pretty good. At the margin, Pinochet’s tyranny likely reduced economic freedom. If not, then I’m inclined to agree with Milton Friedman that Pinochet’s Chile was an outlier.

This is worth considering in light of the development of “disaster statism” during the crises of 2008 and 2009. Here are a few more links. Tyler Cowen reviews The Shock Doctrine for the New York Sun and calls it “a true economics disaster.” Steve Horwitz asks two questions. Johan Norberg dismantles Klein. Klein responds. Norberg responds in kind. The Economist offers a “Naomi Klein smackdown roundup” (HT: Peter Klein). Jonathan Chait’s review in The New Republic pulled no punches. Chait’s review also explains why we think this is worth our time and energy: ideas matter, and if influential people are going to treat The Shock Doctrine as the Left’s twenty-first century answer to The Road To Serfdom, it warrants our attention.

Cross-Posted at Division of Labour and the Mises Blog.

Art Carden is a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute in Oakland, California, Associate Professor of Economics and Business at Rhodes College.
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