Posted by: Patrick Allen Foster | May 23, 2013

Citizens United, Election Systems, and Other Papers of Note

1. John Samples (Cato), “Move to Defend: The Case against the Constitutional Amendments Seeking to Overturn Citizens United”: “Three years ago the U.S. Supreme Court decided the case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. It found that Congress lacked the power to prohibit independent spending on electoral speech by corporations. A later lower-court decision, SpeechNow v. Federal Election Commission, applied Citizens United to such spending and related fundraising by individuals. Concerns about the putative political and electoral consequences of the Citizens United decision have fostered several proposals to amend the Constitution. Most simply propose giving Congress unchecked new power over spending on political speech, power that will be certainly abused. The old and new public purposes cited for restricting political spending and speech (preventing corruption, restoring equality, and others) are not persuasive in general and do not justify the breadth of power granted under these amendments.” (H/T: Rick Hasen.)

2. Liran Einav and Jonathan Levin, “The Data Revolution and Economic Analysis”: “Many believe that ‘big data’ will transform business, government and other aspects of the economy. In this article we discuss how new data may impact economic policy and economic research. Large-scale administrative datasets and proprietary private sector data can greatly improve the way we measure, track and describe economic activity. They also can enable novel research designs that allow researchers to trace the consequences of different events or policies. We discuss some of the challenges in accessing and making use of these data. We also consider whether the big data predictive modeling tools that have emerged in statistics and computer science may prove useful in economics.” (H/T: Chris Blattmann.)

3. John D. Huber, “Measuring Ethnic Voting: Do Proportional Electoral Laws Politicize Ethnicity?”: “I develop four related measures of the ‘ethnicization’ of electoral behavior. Each measure increases as ethnic identity becomes more central to vote choice, but the measures differ along two theoretical dimensions. The first dimension contrasts a group-based perspective (which focuses on cohesion in the voting patterns of group members) with a party-based perspective (which focuses on the composition of groups supporting political parties). The second dimension contrasts a fractionalization perspective (which assumes that more groups or parties cause more problems) with a polarization perspective (which assumes that problems are greatest when there are two equal-sized groups or parties). Using survey data to implement the measures in 43 countries, the article shows that proportional electoral laws are associated with lower levels of ethnicization—the opposite of what is widely assumed. I argue that the lower levels of ethnicization in PR systems should be unsurprising.” An extract:

What is the best electoral law for stable democratic government in ethnically divided societies? Constitutional engineers have long debated this question, typically focusing on the relative merits of proportional electoral laws (“PR”), which provide representation to parties in proportion to the number of votes that parties receive. It has been widely believed that PR politicizes ethnicity, with some arguing that this is a good thing (because each ethnic group will have its own party, encouraging them to participate non-violently in the democratic process) and some arguing it is bad (because the goal should be to depoliticize ethnicity, encouraging voters to focus on other factors, such as economic class). This debate, however, has been plagued by the absence of facts: we have not had the technology to test the effect of electoral laws on the politicization of ethnicity.

This research develops measures that can be used to assess the degree to which ethnicity is politicized in the electoral politics of a country. The measures focus on the connection between ethnic identity and voting behavior. The tighter this connection, the greater the degree of ethnic politicization. Applying the measure to a wide range of countries, the study demonstrates that in fact PR is associated with lower levels of politicization. This finding has important implications for constitutional design in divided societies and provides fact-based evidence supporting advocates for PR.

See also this post by John Sides at the Monkey Cage (“The conundrum is this: can you design political institutions that enable ethnic groups to be or at least feel represented in government, while not simultaneously exacerbating ethnic divisions?”).

4. Mitali Das and Papa N’Diaye, “Chronicle of a Decline Foretold: Has China Reached the Lewis Turning Point?”: “China is on the eve of a demographic shift that will have profound consequences on its economic and social landscape. Within a few years the working age population will reach a historical peak, and then begin a precipitous decline. This fact, along with anecdotes of rapidly rising migrant wages and episodic labor shortages, has raised questions about whether China is poised to cross the Lewis Turning Point, a point at which it would move from a vast supply of low-cost workers to a labor shortage economy. Crossing this threshold will have far-reaching implications for both China and the rest of the world. This paper empirically assesses when the transition to a labor shortage economy is likely to occur. Our central result is that on current trends, the Lewis Turning Point will emerge between 2020 and 2025. Alternative scenarios—with higher fertility, greater labor participation rates, financial reform or higher productivity—may peripherally delay or accelerate the onset of the turning point, but demographics will be the dominant force driving the depletion of surplus labor.” (H/T: Stephen Grenville.)

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