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Laissez les bons temps rouler? The persistent effect French civil law has on corruption, institutions, and incomes in Louisiana

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 February 2021

Justin T. Callais*
Affiliation:
Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX79409, USA
*
Corresponding author. Email: justin.callais@ttu.edu

Abstract

Louisiana consistently ranks as one of the most corrupt states in the nation. In fact, the Pelican State is the most corrupt state when looking at the most common indicator of corruption: corruption convictions per 100,000. What is less clear about Louisiana is how the state became corrupt. This paper seeks to provide the missing link. I argue that the high levels of corruption in the state can be explained by its origins in French civil law. This historical influence has perverse and persistent effects on the state, despite occurring over 200 years ago. Through these origins in civil law, corruption in Louisiana impacts its economic institutions. These institutions then lead to a variety of other bad outcomes in the state such as a high dependency on oil and low incomes. This argument implies that resource dependency is bad for development only when institutional quality is low. By linking legal origins to corruption, institutions, and economic outcomes, I seek to offer a clearer explanation for why Louisiana sets itself apart from other states in its politically corrupt environment.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Millennium Economics Ltd 2021

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