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This concluding chapter reflects on the contributions in this volume in light of Dan S. Lev’s work on legal evolution and political change. Munger highlights Lev’s admirable lifetime of academic-activism on Indonesian law. It is this mix of academic scholarship and practical advocacy that informs the chapters in this volume and orients the chapters towards Lev’s work as an example of scholarship infused with activism.
Commentators and some political scholars claim to have observed a “dumbing down” in the level of sophistication of political language, leading to anxiety over the quality of democratic deliberation, knowledge, policy design, and implementation. This work typically focuses on the president’s State of the Union addresses. Using quantitative indicators of textual complexity, we measure trends since 1790 in that and other key political corpora, including rulings of the Supreme Court, the Congressional Record, and presidential executive orders. To draw comparative lessons, we also study political texts from the United Kingdom, in the form of party broadcasts and manifestos. Not only do we cast shade on the supposed relentless simplification of the State of the Union corpus, we show that this trend is not evident in other forms of elite political communication, including presidential ones. Finally, we argue that a stylistic—rather than an obviously substantive—shift toward shorter sentences is driving much of the variation over time we see in traditional measures of political sophistication.
This essay develops a notion of “functional corruption,” adapted from sociology, to note that the harm of corruption appears to be contingent. In a system of dysfunctional institutions, corruption can improve the efficiency and speed of allocative mechanisms of the bureaucracy, possibly quite substantially. The problem is that this “short run” benefit locks in the long run harm of corruption by making institutions much more difficult to reform. In particular, a nation with bad institutions but without bureaucracy may be much more open to reform than a nation with similarly bad institutions but with “efficiently corrupt” bureaucrats. The idea of a “long run” is developed using the North, Wallis, and Weingast conception of open access orders. Corrupt systems are likely to be locked into closed access orders indefinitely, even though everyone knows there are better institutions available.
As non-democratic regimes have adapted to the proliferation of social media, they have began actively engaging with Twitter to enhance regime resilience. Using data taken from the Twitter accounts of Venezuelan legislators during the 2014 anti-Maduro protests in Venezuela, we fit a topic model on the text of the tweets and analyze patterns in hashtag use by the two coalitions. We argue that the regime’s best strategy in the face of an existential threat like the narrative developed by La Salida and promoted on Twitter was to advance many competing narratives that addressed issues unrelated to the opposition’s criticism. Our results show that the two coalitions pursued different rhetorical strategies in keeping with our predictions about managing the conflict advanced by the protesters. This article extends the literature on social media use during protests by focusing on active engagement with social media on the part of the regime. This approach corroborates and expands on recent research on inferring regime strategies from propaganda and censorship.
With the growing popularity of apps such as Uber and Airbnb, there has been a keen interest in the rise of the sharing economy. Michael C. Munger brings these new trends in the economy down to earth by focusing on their relation to the fundamental economic concept of transaction costs. In doing so Munger brings a fresh perspective on the 'sharing economy' in clear and engaging writing that is accessible to both general and specialist readers. He shows how, for the first time, entrepreneurs can sell reductions in transaction costs, rather than reductions in the costs of the products themselves. He predicts that smartphones will be used to commodify excess capacity, and reaches the controversial conclusion that a basic income will be required as a consequence of this new 'transaction costs revolution'.