Hostname: page-component-84b7d79bbc-lrf7s Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-07-25T14:32:14.809Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

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*
Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX79409, USA
Corresponding author. Email:


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.

Research Article
Copyright © Millennium Economics Ltd 2021

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Acemoglu, D., Johnson, S., Robinson, J. and Thaicharoen, Y. (2003), ‘Institutional Causes, Macroeconomic Symptoms: Volatility, Crises and growth’, Journal of Monetary Economics, 50(1): 49123.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Akai, N., Horiuchi, Y. and Sakata, M. (2005), ‘Short-Run and Long-Run Effects of Corruption on Economic Growth: Evidence from State-Level Cross-Section Data for the United States’, CIRJE Discussion Paper, CIRJE-F-348.Google Scholar
Alt, J. E. and Lassen, D. D. (2003), ‘The Political Economy of Institutions and Corruption in American States’, Journal of Theoretical Politics, 15(3): 341365.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Apergis, N., Dincer, O. and Payne, J. (2010), ‘The Relationship Between Corruption and Income Inequality in the U.S. States: Evidence from a Panel Cointegration and Error Correction Model’, Public Choice, 145(1-2): 125135.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Arezki, R. and Bruckner, M. (2011), ‘Oil Rents, Corruption, and State Stability: Evidence from Panel Data Regressions’, European Economic Review, 55(7): 955963.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Baker, J. S. Jr. (1985), ‘Nationalizing Criminal Law: Does Organized Crime Make It Necessary or Proper?Rutgers Law Journal, 16(3-4): 535536.Google Scholar
Barnett, R. E. (2016), ‘The Three Narratives of the Slaughterhouse Cases’, Journal of Supreme Court History, 41(3): 295309.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Beck, T., Demirgüç-Kunt, A. and Levin, R. (2003), ‘Law, Endowments, and Finance’, Journal of Financial Economics, 70(2): 137181.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Berkowitz, D. and Clay, K. (2005), ‘American Civil Law Origins: Implications for State Constitutions and State Courts’, American Law and Economics Review, 7(1): 6284.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Berkowitz, D. and Clay, K. (2006), ‘The Effect of Judicial Independence on Courts: Evidence from the American States’, Journal of Legal Studies, 35(2): 399440.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Brasted, C. (2019), Does Louisiana use the Napoleonic Code?’ Available at Scholar
Brooks, S. M. and Kurtz, M. J. (2016), ‘Oil and Democracy: Endogenous Natural Resources and the Political “Resource Curse”’, International Organization, 70(2): 279311.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Burris, W. (2009), ‘Louisiana Gambling: Safeguards from Public Corruption are Critical to the Industry’, Gaming Law Review and Economics, 13(2): 140144.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Carpenter, D. M. II., Knepper, L, Sweetland, K and McDonald, J. (2017), License to Work: A National Study of Burdens from Occupational Licensing (2nd edn), Washington, DC: Institute for Justice.Google Scholar
Chambers, G. (2014), ‘“Goodbye God, I'm Going to Texas”: The Migration of Louisiana Creoles of Colour and the Preservation of Black Catholic and Creole Traditions in Southeast Texas’, Journal of Religion and Popular Culture, 26(1): 124143.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Collier, P. (2010), Plundering the Planet: Why We Must and How We Can Manage Nature for Global Prosperity, New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Congleton, R. D. (2006), ‘The Story of Katrina: New Orleans and the Political Economy of Catastrophe’, Public Choice, 127(1-2): 530.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cordis, A. S. and Milyo, J. (2016), ‘Measuring Public Corruption in the United States: Evidence from Administrative Records of Federal Prosecutions’, Public Integrity, 18(2): 127148.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
D'Amico, D. and Williamson, C. (2015), ‘Do Legal Origins Affect Cross-Country Incarceration Rates?’, Journal of Comparative Economics, 43(3): 595612.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
de Pedro, J. M. (2000), The Spanish in New Orleans and Louisiana, Gretna: Pelican Publishing Company.Google Scholar
Dincer, O. and Gunalp, B. (2012), ‘Corruption and Income Inequality in the United States’, Contemporary Economic Policy, 30(2): 283292.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Djankov, S., La Porta, R., Lopez-de-Silanes, F. and Shleifer, A. (2002), ‘The Regulation of Entry’, Quarterly Journal of Economics, 67(1): 137.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Djankov, S., Glaeser, E. L., La Porta, R., Lopez-de-Silanes, F. and Shleifer, A. (2003), ‘The New Comparative Economics’, Journal of Comparative Economics, 31(4): 595619.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Douglas, S. and Walker, A. (2017), ‘Coal Mining and the Resource Curse in the Eastern United States’, Journal of Regional Science, 57(4): 568590.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dove, J. A. and Young, A. T. (2019), ‘US State Constitutional Entrenchment and Default in the 19th Century’, Journal of Institutional Economics, 15(6): 963982.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dutta, N. and Sobel, R. (2016), ‘Does Corruption Ever Help Entrepreneurship?’, Small Business Economics, 47(1): 179199.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Edwards, E. E. (1974), ‘The Role of the Governor in Louisiana Politics: An Historical Analysis’, Louisiana History: The Journal of the Louisiana Historical Association, 15(2): 101116.Google Scholar
Fernandez, M. F. (2001), From Chaos to Continuity: The Evolution of Louisiana's Judicial System, 1712–1862, Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press.Google Scholar
Fisman, R. and Gatti, R. (2002), ‘Decentralization and Corruption: Evidence from U.S. Federal Transfer Programs’, Public Choice, 113(1-2): 2535.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Glaeser, E. and Saks, R. (2006), ‘Corruption in America’, Journal of Public Economics, 90(6-7): 10531072.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Glaeser, E. and Shleifer, A. (2002), ‘Legal Origins’, Quarterly Journal of Economics, 117(4): 11931229.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Goel, R. K. and Nelson, M. A. (1998), ‘Corruption and Government Size: A Disaggregated Analysis’, Public Choice, 97(1-2): 107120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Goldberg, E., Wibbels, E. and Mvukiyehe, R. (2008), ‘Lessons from Strange Cases: Democracy, Development, and the Resource Curse in the U.S. States’, Comparative Political Studies, 41(4–5): 477514.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hayek, F. A. (1960), The Constitution of Liberty, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
Hayek, F. A. (1973), Law, Legislation, and Liberty, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
Holtman, R. B. (1981), The Napoleonic Revolution, Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press.Google Scholar
Isham, J., Woolcock, M., Pritchett, L. and Bushby, G. (2005), ‘The Varieties of Resource Experience: Natural Resource Export Structures and the Political Economy of Economic Growth’, The World Bank Economic Review, 19(2): 141174.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
James, A. and Aadland, D. (2011), ‘The Curse of Natural Resources: An Empirical Investigation of U.S. counties’, Resource and Energy Economics, 33(2): 440453.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Jensen, G. (2019), ‘The Slaughterhouse Cases: “Unforeseen” Consequences and Public Reaction’, Hamline University, College of Liberal Arts, Mimeo, 62 pages.Google Scholar
Johnson, N., LaFountain, C. and Yamarik, S. (2011), ‘Corruption is Bad for Growth (Even in the United States)’, Public Choice, 147(3-4): 377393.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Johnson, N., Ruger, W., Sorens, J. and Yamarik, S. (2014), ‘Corruption, Regulation, and Growth: An Empirical Study of the United States’, Economics of Governance, 15(1): 5169.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Jurkiewicz, C. (2009), ‘Political Leadership, Cultural Ethics, and Recovery: Louisiana Post-Katrina’, Public Organization Review, 9(4): 353366.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Karl, T. (2004), ‘Oil-led Development: Social, Political, and Economic Consequences’, in Cleveland, Cutler (ed), Encyclopedia of Energy, San Diego: Elsevier, pp.661672.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kolbert, E. (2006), The Big Sleazy, New York, New York: The New Yorker. Available at Scholar
Kushner, A. B. (2010), Is Louisiana the Most Corrupt State?, New York, New York: Newsweek. Available at Scholar
La Porta, R., Lopez-de-Silanes, F. and Shleifer, A. (2008), ‘The Economic Consequences of Legal Origins’, Journal of Economic Literature, 46(2): 285322.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
La Porta, R., Lopez-de-Silanes, F., Shleifer, A. and Vishny, R. W. (1997), ‘Legal Determinants of External Finance’, Journal of Finance, 52(3): 11311150.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
La Porta, R., Lopez-de-Silanes, F., Shleifer, A. and Vishny, R. W. (1998), ‘Law and Finance’, Journal of Political Economy, 106(6): 11131155.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
La Porta, R., Lopez-de-Silanes, F., Shleifer, A. and Vishny, R. W. (1999), ‘The Quality of Government’, The Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, 15(1): 222279.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Leeson, P. and Sobel, R. (2008), ‘Weathering Corruption’, Journal of Law and Economics, 51(4): 667681.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Levine, R. (2005), ‘Law, Endowments, and Property Rights’, Journal of Economic Perspectives, 19(3): 1688.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Long, H. (1964), Every Man a King: The Autobiography of Huey Long, Chicago: Quadrangle Books.Google Scholar
Mahoney, P. G. (2001), ‘The Common Law and Economic Growth: Hayek Might be Right’, The Journal of Legal Studies, 30(2): 503525.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
March, R. J., Lyford, C. and Powell, B. (2017), ‘Causes and Barriers to Increases in Economic Freedom’, International Review of Economics, 64(1): 87103.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mehlum, H., Moene, K. and Torvik, R. (2006), ‘Institutions and the Resource Curse’, The Economic Journal, 116(508): 120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Merryman, J. H. (1996), ‘The French Deviation’, The American Journal of Comparative Law, 44(1): 109119.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Murphy, R. (2020), ‘The Quality of Legal Systems and Property Rights by State: A Ranking and Their Implications for Economic Freedom’, Journal of Regional Analysis & Policy, 50(1): 2945.Google Scholar
North, C. M., Orman, W. H. and Gwin, C. R. (2013), ‘Religion, Corruption, and the Rule of Law’, Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, 45(5): 757779.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Papyrakis, E. and Gerlagh, R. (2007), ‘Resource Abundance and Economic Growth in the United States’, European Economic Review, 51(4): 10111039.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Posner, R. A. (1973), ‘An Economic Approach to Legal Procedure and Judicial Administration’, The Journal of Legal Studies, 2(2): 399458.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Powell, A. L. (1954), ‘A History of Louisiana Constitutions’, in Martin, Wade Jr. (ed), Project of a Constitution for the State of Louisiana, 4 vols, Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana University Press, pp.392508.Google Scholar
Priest, G. L. (1977), ‘The Common Law Process and Selection of Efficient Rules’, The Journal of Legal Studies, 6(1): 6582.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rostowski, S. and Stacescu, B. (2006), ‘The Wig and the Pith Helmut – The Impact of Legal School and Colonial Institutions on Economic Performance’, Center for Social and Economic Research Network Studies and Analyses, 300.Google Scholar
Rubin, P. H. (1977), ‘Why is the Common Law Efficient?’, The Journal of Legal Studies, 6(1): 5163.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sachs, J. D. and Warner, A. M. (1995), ‘Natural Resource Abundance and Economic Growth’, National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper, 5398.Google Scholar
Sachs, J. D. and Warner, A. M. (1999), ‘The Big Push, Natural Resource Booms and Growth’, Journal of Development Economics, 59(1): 4376.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sachs, J. D. and Warner, A. M. (2001), ‘The Curse of Natural Resource’, European Economic Review, 45(4–6): 827838.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Scott, L. C. (2018), ‘The Energy Sector: Still a Giant Economic Engine for the Louisiana Economy – An Update’, Grow for Louisiana Coalition.Google Scholar
Serra, D. (2006), ‘Empirical Determinants of Corruption: A Sensitivity Analysis’, Public Choice, 126(1-2): 225256.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Shadabi, L. (2013), ‘The Impact of Religion on Corruption’, The Journal of Business Inquiry, 12(1): 102117.Google Scholar
Shughart, W. II. (2006) Katrinanomics: The Politics and Economics of Disaster Relief. Public Choice 127(1-2): 3153.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sobel, R. (2008), ‘Testing Baumol: Institutional Quality and the Productivity of Entrepreneurship’, Journal of Business Venturing, 23(6): 641655.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sobel, R. S. and Leeson, P. T. (2006), ‘Government's Response to Hurricane Katrina: A Public Choice Analysis’, Public Choice, 127(1-2): 5573.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Stansel, D., Torra, J. and McMahon, F. (2019), Economic Freedom of North America, Vancouver: Fraser Institute.Google Scholar
Treisman, D. (2000), ‘The Causes of Corruption: A Cross-National Study’, Journal of Public Economics, 76(3): 399458.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Tsebelis, G. (2017), ‘The Time Inconsistency of Long Constitutions: Evidence from the World’, European Journal of Political Research, 56(4): 820845.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Tsebelis, G. and Nardi, D. J. (2016), ‘A Long Constitution is a (Positively) Bad Constitution: Evidence from OECD Countries’, British Journal of Political Science, 46(2): 457478.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Walker, D. M. and Calcagno, P. T. (2013), ‘Casinos and Political Corruption in the United States: A Granger Causality Analysis’, Applied Economics, 45(34): 47814795.CrossRefGoogle Scholar