Human Rights and Economic Liberalization



Robert A. Lawson and I just published our paper “Human Rights and Economic Liberalization” in Business and Politics. The paper can be downloaded here. Here’s 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 was inspired by my reading of Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine and a critical essay by Johan Norberg. I wrote a review essay on The Shock Doctrine for the Journal of Lutheran Ethics last year. Klein’s discussions of human rights abuses carried out by US-backed regimes are gripping and saddening, but her thesis that torture and human rights abuses are “silent partner[s] in the global free-market crusade” is undermined by the data. People who really want to understand the interplay between crises and institutional change would be much better served by reading Robert Higgs’s Crisis and Leviathan (the link is to the Independent.org bookstore, but Amazon.com has a used paperback for $7.20 + shipping as of right now). For data-driven approaches to liberalization over the last thirty years, here’s Andrei Shleifer’s paper “The Age of Milton Friedman,” and here’s Peter Leeson’s “Two Cheers for Capitalism.”

Cross-posted at the Mises Economics Blog.

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