Showing posts with label political theory. Show all posts
Showing posts with label political theory. Show all posts

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Natural Disasters and Political Engagement: Evidence from the 2010–11 Pakistani Floods

Natural Disasters and Political Engagement: Evidence from the 2010–11 Pakistani Floods. By Christine Fair et al.
Quarterly Journal of Political Science, Spring 2017, Pages 99-141. https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2978047

Abstract: How natural disasters affect politics in developing countries is an important question, given the fragility of fledgling democratic institutions in some of these countries as well as likely increased exposure to natural disasters over time due to climate change. Research in sociology and psychology suggests traumatic events can inspire pro-social behavior and therefore might increase political engagement. Research in political science argues that economic resources are critical for political engagement and thus the economic dislocation from disasters may dampen participation. We argue that when the government and civil society response effectively blunts a disaster's economic impacts, then political engagement may increase as citizens learn about government capacity. Using diverse data from the massive 2010–11 Pakistan floods, we find that Pakistanis in highly flood-affected areas turned out to vote at substantially higher rates three years later than those less exposed. We also provide speculative evidence on the mechanism. The increase in turnout was higher in areas with lower ex ante flood risk, which is consistent with a learning process. These results suggest that natural disasters may not necessarily undermine civil society in emerging developing democracies.

Strategic gerontocracy: Why nondemocratic systems produce older leaders

Strategic gerontocracy: Why nondemocratic systems produce older leaders. By Raul Magni Berton & Sophie Panel
Public Choice, June 2017, Pages 409–427. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11127-017-0449-5

Abstract: One characteristic of nondemocratic regimes is that leaders cannot be removed from office by legal means: in most authoritarian regimes, no institutional way of dismissing incompetent rulers is available, and overthrowing them is costly. Anticipating this, people who have a say in the selection of the leader are likely to resort to alternative strategies to limit his tenure. In this paper, we examine empirically the “strategic gerontocracy” hypothesis: Because selecting aging leaders is a convenient way of reducing their expected time in office, gerontocracy will become a likely outcome whenever leaders are expected to rule for life. We test this hypothesis using data on political leaders for the period from 1960 to 2008, and find that dictators have shorter life expectancies than democrats at the time they take office. We also observe variations in the life expectancies of dictators: those who are selected by consent are on average closer to death than those who seize power in an irregular manner. This finding suggests that gerontocracy is a consequence of the choice process, since it disappears when dictators self-select into leadership positions.

When the appeal of a dominant leader is greater than a prestige leader

When the appeal of a dominant leader is greater than a prestige leader. By Hemant Kakkar & Niro Sivanathan
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2017/06/06/1617711114.full

Abstract: Across the globe we witness the rise of populist authoritarian leaders who are overbearing in their narrative, aggressive in behavior, and often exhibit questionable moral character. Drawing on evolutionary theory of leadership emergence, in which dominance and prestige are seen as dual routes to leadership, we provide a situational and psychological account for when and why dominant leaders are preferred over other respected and admired candidates. We test our hypothesis using three studies, encompassing more than 140,000 participants, across 69 countries and spanning the past two decades. We find robust support for our hypothesis that under a situational threat of economic uncertainty (as exemplified by the poverty rate, the housing vacancy rate, and the unemployment rate) people escalate their support for dominant leaders. Further, we find that this phenomenon is mediated by participants’ psychological sense of a lack of personal control. Together, these results provide large-scale, globally representative evidence for the structural and psychological antecedents that increase the preference for dominant leaders over their prestigious counterparts.

Not taking responsibility: Equity trumps efficiency in allocation decisions

Not taking responsibility: Equity trumps efficiency in allocation decisions. By  Gordon-Hecker, Tom; Rosensaft-Eshel, Daniela; Pittarello, Andrea; Shalvi, Shaul; Bereby-Meyer, Yoella
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, Vol 146(6), Jun 2017, 771-775. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/xge0000273

Abstract: When allocating resources, equity and efficiency may conflict. When resources are scarce and cannot be distributed equally, one may choose to destroy resources and reduce societal welfare to maintain equity among its members. We examined whether people are averse to inequitable outcomes per se or to being responsible for deciding how inequity should be implemented. Three scenario-based experiments and one incentivized experiment revealed that participants are inequity responsibility averse: when asked to decide which of the 2 equally deserving individuals should receive a reward, they rather discarded the reward than choosing who will get it. This tendency diminished significantly when participants had the possibility to use a random device to allocate the reward. The finding suggests that it is more difficult to be responsible for the way inequity is implemented than to create inequity per se.

The effect of sexual violence on negotiated outcomes in civil conflicts

The effect of sexual violence on negotiated outcomes in civil conflicts. By Tiffany Chu & Jessica Maves Braithwaite
Conflict Management and Peace Science, http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0738894217693595?journalCode=cmpb

Abstract: Combatants used sexual violence in approximately half of all civil conflicts since 1989. We expect that when groups resort to sexual violence they are organizationally vulnerable, unlikely to win, and as such they are inclined to salvage something from the conflict by way of a settlement. Using quantitative analysis of data on civil conflicts in the post-Cold War period, we find that a higher prevalence of sexual violence perpetrated by government forces precipitates negotiated outcomes. This is particularly true in contexts where both government and rebel forces utilize comparable levels of wartime rape and other forms of sexual abuse.

Mi resumen de lo que las autoras defienden: se estima que se ha utilizado la violencia sexual en approx la mitad de los conflictos desde 1989. Una mayor prevalencia de tal violencia perpetrada por fuerzas gubernamentales precipita negociaciones. Esto es especialmente cierto cuando el gobierno y los rebeldes utilizan niveles comparables de violación y otras formas de abuso sexual.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Bag "Leakage": The Effect of Disposable Carryout Bag Regulations on Unregulated Bags

Bag "Leakage": The Effect of Disposable Carryout Bag Regulations on Unregulated Bags. By Rebecca Taylor
University of California Working Paper, May 2017, https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2964036

Abstract: Governments often regulate the consumption of products with negative externalities (e.g., gasoline, tobacco, sugar). Leakage occurs when partial regulation results in increased consumption of products in unregulated parts of the economy. If unregulated consumption is easily substituted for regulated consumption, basing the success of a regulation solely on reduced consumption in the regulated market overstates the regulation’s welfare gains. This article quantifies leakage from an increasingly popular environmental policy — the regulation of disposable carryout bags (DCB). In California, DCB policies prohibit retail food stores from providing customers with thin plastic carryout bags at checkout and require stores to charge a minimum fee for paper carryout bags. However, all remaining types of disposable bags are unregulated (e.g., garbage bags, food storage bags, paper lunch sacks). Using quasi-random variation in local government DCB policy adoption in California from 2008-2015, I employ an event study design to quantify the effect of bag regulations on the consumption of plastic and paper carryout bags, as well as the consumption of other disposable bags sold. This article brings together two data sources: (i) weekly retail scanner data with product-level price and quantity information from 201 food stores in California, and (ii) observational data collected at checkout in seven Californian supermarkets. The main results show that a 40 million pound reduction of plastic from the elimination of plastic carryout bags is offset by an additional 16 million pounds of plastic from increased purchases of garbage bags (i.e., sales of small, medium, and tall garbage bags increase by 67%, 50%, and 5%, respectively). Additionally, DCB policies lead to a 69 million pound increase in paper carryout bags used annually. Altogether, I show that DCB policies are shifting consumers towards fewer but heavier bags. This bag "leakage" is an unintended consequence of DCB policies that offsets the benefits of reduced plastic carryout bag use. I conclude by discussing the environmental implications of policy-induced changes in the composition of plastic and paper bags, with respect to carbon footprint, landfilling, and marine pollution.

Improving the Electability of Atheists in the United States: A Preliminary Examination

Improving the Electability of Atheists in the United States: A Preliminary Examination. By Andrew Franks
Politics and Religion, https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/politics-and-religion/article/improving-the-electability-of-atheists-in-the-united-states-a-preliminary-examination/DE3D18F6C40AD6863F75A59674053133#

Abstract: Decades of polling data and recent research have demonstrated the magnitude of anti-atheist prejudice in the United States and its relationship to perceptions of atheists as immoral and untrustworthy. Across three studies, I examine the malleability of bias against atheists in the context of election politics. Informational manipulations of an atheist candidate's stated values (Study 1) and popularity (Study 2) improve participants’ perceptions of the morality and trustworthiness of and likelihood of voting for that atheist candidate, but religiously affiliated participants still prefer a similarly situated Christian candidate. Study 3 shows that participants are more likely to vote for an atheist when the opposing candidate was described as a theocrat. Implications of this research for ameliorating the under-representation of non-religious individuals in government are discussed.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Physical Safety Promotes Socially (but Not Economically) Progressive Attitudes among Conservatives

Napier, J. L., Huang, J., Vonasch, A. J., and Bargh, J. A. (2017) Superheroes for Change: Physical Safety Promotes Socially (but Not Economically) Progressive Attitudes among Conservatives. Eur. J. Soc. Psychol., doi: 10.1002/ejsp.2315
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ejsp.2315/abstract

Abstract: Across two studies, we find evidence for our prediction that experimentally increasing feelings of physical safety increases conservatives' socially progressive attitudes. Specifically, Republican and conservative participants who imagined being endowed with a superpower that made them invulnerable to physical harm (vs. the ability to fly) were more socially (but not economically) liberal (Study 1) and less resistant to social change (Study 2). Results suggest that socially (but not economically) conservative attitudes are driven, at least in part, by needs for safety and security.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Call My Rep! How Unions Overcame the Free-Rider Problem

Murphy, Richard John: Call My Rep! How Unions Overcame the Free-Rider Problem (March 01, 2017). CESifo Working Paper Series No. 6362. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2941381

Abstract: This paper proposes an explanation of why union membership has been increasing in some occupations, despite the opportunity to freeride on traditional union benefits. I model membership as legal insurance whose demand increases with the perceived risk of allegations. Using media reports on allegations against teachers as shocks to perceived risk, I find for every five reports occurring in a region, teachers are 2.5 percentage points more likely to be members in the subsequent year. These effects are larger when teachers share characteristics with the news story and explain 45 percent of the growth in teacher union membership since 1992.

Keywords: unions, teachers, media, insurance

JEL Classification: J510, J450, J320

Increase in own state's minimum wage increases frequency with which low-wage workers commute out of the state

Cross-state differences in the minimum wage and out-of-state commuting by low-wage workers. By Terra McKinnish
Regional Science and Urban Economics, Volume 64, May 2017, Pages 137–147
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.regsciurbeco.2017.02.006
Highlights

•  The federal minimum wage hike compressed cross-border minimum wage differentials.
•  Low wage workers responded by commuting out of states that increased their minimum wage.
•  Results are consistent with a disemployment effect of minimum wage increases.

Abstract: The 2009 federal minimum wage increase, which compressed cross-state differences in the minimum wage, is used to investigate the claim that low-wage workers are attracted to commute out of state to neighboring states that have higher minimum wages. The analysis focuses on Public Use Microdata Areas (PUMAs) that experience commuting flows with one or more neighboring state. A difference-in-differences-in-differences model compares PUMAs that experienced a sizeable increase or decrease in their cross-border minimum wage differential to those that experience smaller change in the cross-border differential. Out-of-state commuting of low wage workers (less than 10 dollars an hour) is then compared to that of moderate wage workers (10–13 dollars an hour). The results suggest that an increase in own state's minimum wage, relative to neighbor's, increases the frequency with which low-wage workers commute out of the state. The analysis is replicated on the subset of PUMAs that experience commuting flows with more than one neighboring state, so that the estimates are identified entirely within PUMA. As a whole, the results suggest that low-wage workers tend to commute away from minimum wage increases rather than towards them.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Unintended Consequences: The Regressive Effects of Increased Access to Courts

Unintended Consequences: The Regressive Effects of Increased Access to Courts. By Anthony  Niblett & Albert  Yoon, University of Toronto - Faculty of Law
Small claims courts enable parties to resolve their disputes relatively quickly and cheaply. The court’s limiting feature, by design, is that alleged damages must be small, in accordance with the jurisdictional limit at that time. Accordingly, one might expect that a large increase in the upper limit of claim size would increase the court’s accessibility to a larger and potentially more diverse pool of litigants.

We examine this proposition by studying the effect of an increase in the jurisdictional limit of the Ontario Small Claims Court. Prior to January 2010, claims up to $10,000 could be litigated in the small claims court. After January 2010, this jurisdictional limit increased to include all claims up to $25,000. We study patterns in nearly 625,000 disputes over the period 2006-2013.

In this paper, we investigate plaintiff behavior. Interestingly, the total number of claims filed by plaintiffs does not increase significantly with the increased jurisdictional limit. We do find, however, changes to the composition of plaintiffs. Following the jurisdictional change, we find that plaintiffs using the small claims court are, on average, from richer neighborhoods. We also find that proportion of plaintiffs from poorer neighborhoods drops. The drop-off is most pronounced in plaintiffs from the poorest 10% of neighborhoods.

We explore potential explanations for this regressive effect, including crowding out, congestion, increased legal representation, and behavioral influences. Our findings suggest that legislative attempts to make the courts more accessible may have unintended regressive consequences.
                                                                   
Keywords: Courts, Regressive effects, Small claims court, Access to justice, Litigant behavior, Public goods, Empirical law and economics, Jurisdiction

Propaganda can be effective at changing the behavior of all citizens even if most do not believe it

Propaganda and credulity, by Andrew T. Little. In
Games and Economic Behavior,Volume 102, March 2017, Pages 224–232
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0899825616301476

Highlights
•   Propaganda can be effective at changing the behavior of all citizens even if most do not believe it.
•   This effect is particularly strong when citizens care a lot about behaving in a similar manner as others.
•    However, the government picks less propaganda when it is more effective.

Abstract: I develop a theory of propaganda which affects mass behavior without necessarily affecting mass beliefs. A group of citizens observe a signal of their government's performance, which is upwardly inflated by propaganda. Citizens want to support the government if it performs well and if others are supportive (i.e., to coordinate). Some citizens are unaware of the propaganda (“credulous”). Because of the coordination motive, the non-credulous still respond to propaganda, and when the coordination motive dominates they perfectly mimic the actions of the credulous. So, all can act as if they believe the government's lies even though most do not. The government benefits from this responsiveness to manipulation since it leads to a more compliant citizenry, but uses more propaganda precisely when citizens are less responsive.

JEL classification: D83

Keywords> Political economy; Propaganda; Authoritarian politics

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Political Persecutions and Social Capital: Evidence from Imperial China

Autocratic Rule and Social Capital: Evidence from Imperial China
Melanie Meng Xue, Mark  Koyama
November 30, 2016
GMU Working Paper in Economics No. 16-50
https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2856803


Abstract:     This paper studies the consequences of autocratic rule for social capital in the context of imperial China. Between 1660-1788, individuals were persecuted if they were suspected of subversive attitudes towards the autocratic ruler.   Using a difference-in-differences approach, our main finding is  that these persecutions led to an average decline of 38% in the number of charitable organizations in each subsequent decade.

To investigate the long-run effect of persecutions, we examine the impact that they had on the provision of local public goods.  During this period,  local public goods, such as basic education, relied primarily on voluntary contributions and local cooperation.   We show that persecutions are associated with lower provision of basic education suggesting that they permanently reduced social capital. This is consistent with what we  find in modern survey data:  persecutions left a legacy of mistrust and political apathy.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 83

Keywords: Social Capital, Institutions, Autocratic Rule, Persecutions, China

Sabotage occurs more often when Green Party candidates fail to win even minor offices

The political roots of domestic environmental sabotage
Benjamin Farrer & Graig Klein
Journal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties,

Volume 27, 2017 - Issue 2

http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/17457289.2016.1247846

Abstract: In this paper, we demonstrate that when environmentalist niche parties compete in a given constituency over a number of elections, but continually fail to win seats, then environmental sabotage becomes more frequent in that constituency. When mainstream tactics fail, radical tactics are used more frequently. Using a new data-set on the success rates of all Green Party candidates in US states, we show that environmental sabotage occurs more often when Green Party candidates fail to win even minor offices. This is true even when we control for other political expressions of environmentalism, such as interest group activity, and when we define ‘success’ through votes not seats. We discuss the implications of this for environmental politics, for social movements and democracy, and for political violence in the US.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

More War for Oil? President Obama dispatches troops to Iraq—and has to listen to the old canards all over again

More War for Oil? By Holman W. Jenkins, Jr.
President Obama dispatches troops to Iraq—and has to listen to the old canards all over again.Wall Street Journal, Aug 12, 2014 7:00 p.m. ET
http://online.wsj.com/articles/holman-jenkins-more-war-for-oil-1407884431

The "no blood for oil" crowd has piped up with surprising speed and noisiness in the short hours since President Obama recommitted U.S. forces to the fight in Iraq.

Steve Coll, a writer for the New Yorker, suggests in a piece posted on the magazine's website that "Kurdish oil greed," whose partner Mr. Obama now becomes, has been a primary factor in making Iraq a failed state. That's apparently because of the Kurds' unwillingness to reach a revenue-sharing deal with Baghdad. For good measure, he refers readers to a Rachel Maddow video, featuring Steve Coll, that argues that the U.S. invaded Iraq to gets its oil in the first place.

John B. Judis, a veteran editor of the New Republic, in contrast is relatively sane under the headline "The U.S. Airstrikes in Northern Iraq Are All About Oil." While nodding toward Mr. Obama's stated humanitarian justifications, he insists oil "lies near the center of American motives for intervention."
There are a few problems with this argument. Oil exists in the hinterland of Erbil, all right, the capital of a stable, prosperous and relatively free Kurdistan that President Obama now is trying to protect from the Islamic murderers of ISIS.

But oil also exists in northwestern Iraq—in fact, vast amounts of oil around Mosul, whose fall did not trigger Obama intervention. Oil is in Libya, where the U.S. quickly took a hike after the fall of Gadhafi. Oil is in Canada, where Mr. Obama, who just fatally risked his legacy with his core admirers by dispatching forces to the Mideast, can't bring himself to choose between his labor and greenie constituents by deciding to approve or veto the Keystone pipeline.

Oil apparently explains nothing except when it explains everything.
Another problem is that Americans are both consumers and producers of oil. So does the U.S. want high or low prices? A bigger producer in recent years, America presumably has seen its interest shifting steadily in the direction of higher prices. Yet acting to protect Kurdish production would have the opposite effect.

But then Mr. Coll especially is ritualizing, not thinking—and what he's ritualizing is a certain leftist hymn about the origins of the 2003 Iraq war. Never mind that if the U.S. had wanted Iraq's oil, it would have been vastly cheaper to buy it— Saddam was certainly eager to sell. Never mind that the Bush administration, after overthrowing Saddam, stood idly by while Baghdad awarded the biggest contracts to India, China and Angola.

It was not a Bushie but Madeleine Albright, in her maiden speech as Bill Clinton's secretary of state, who first laid out the case for regime change in Iraq.

In the same 1997 speech, she explained, "Last August, Iraqi forces took advantage of intra-Kurdish tensions and attacked the city of Irbil, in northern Iraq. President Clinton responded by expanding the no-fly zone to the southern suburbs of Baghdad. . . . Contrary to some expectations, the attack on Irbil has not restored Saddam Hussein's authority in the north. We are firmly engaged alongside Turkey and the United Kingdom in helping the inhabitants of the region find stability and work towards a unified and pluralistic Iraq."

Madame Secretary did not mention oil any more than President Obama did last week. Of course, the catechism holds that, when politicians aren't freely voicing their obsession with oil as Bush and Cheney supposedly did while cooking up the Iraq War, politicians are concealing their obsession with oil. In fact, oil was not yet produced in significant quantities in Erbil at the time. It was the peace and stability that Presidents Bush, Clinton and Bush provided, and that President Obama is trying to restore, that allowed the flowering of Iraqi Kurdistan, including its oil industry.

By now, America has invested 23 years in shielding northern Iraq from the suppurating chaos that seems to flow endlessly from Baghdad and its Sunni-dominated Western suburbs. It's one of our few conspicuous successes in Iraq. Politics, in the best and worst senses of the word, drives every political decision. Despite his palpable lack of enthusiasm, President Obama knows surrender in northern Iraq would be an intolerable disgrace for his administration and U.S. policy. So he sends in the troops.

We come to an irony. The liberal habit of assuming everyone else's motives are corrupt is, of course, an oldie-moldie, if a tad free-floating in this case. But the critics in question don't actually oppose Mr. Obama's intervention, the latest in our costly and thankless efforts in Iraq. They don't exactly endorse it either. The New Yorker's Mr. Coll especially seems out to avoid committing himself while striking a knowing, superior tone about the alleged centrality of oil, which is perhaps the most ignoble reason to pick up a pen on this subject right now.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Lord Morris of Borth-y-Gest Memorial Lecture. By Michael Howard, MP. July 6, 2006

Lord Morris of Borth-y-Gest Memorial Lecture. By Michael Howard, MP
http://web.archive.org/web/20070505062753/http://www.michaelhowardmp.com/speeches/lampeter060706.htm
July 6, 2006


It is a great privilege to have been invited to give this lecture.

Lord Morris of Borth-y-Gest – or John Willie as I recall him being almost universally referred to – was one of the giants of the law when I studied it at Cambridge and during the years when I was making my way as a Junior Member of the Bar.

Superficially we had quite a few things in common. We were, of course, both Welsh. We were both members of the Inner Temple. We had both been Presidents of the Cambridge Union. And we both, and this may be particularly encouraging to some, took second-class degrees in law.

But there, I fear, the similarities come to an end. I could not hope, even to begin to match the distinction of John Willie’s attainments at the Bar, on the Bench and as one of our great appeal judges. Nor, let’s be frank about this, could I aspire to his hallmarks of gentleness, patience and universal popularity.

He was a legend in the land. And not just, of course, for what he achieved in his legal career. At the outbreak of war in 1914, at the age of 17 he joined the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, saw service in France, reached the rank of Captain and was awarded the Military Cross. And it is said that, after being appointed a Law Lord in 1960 he walked down Whitehall to the House of Lords every day, lifting his hat as he passed the cenotaph.

Sadly I never had the honour of appearing before him. But I did meet him. When I was an undergraduate at Cambridge he came to see us to encourage us to go to the Bar.

I cannot pretend that this was a decisive influence on my own career because I had already made up my mind that that was what I wanted to do. So none of the blame for my subsequent career can be laid at John Willie’s door.

The Dictionary of National Biography, in describing his judicial characteristics, says that he was 'vigilant in protecting the freedom of the individual when threatened by the executive' and adds that 'he exhibited judicial valour consistently and in full measure.'

These statements are justified. But they must be interpreted in the spirit and context of their time. Thirty years ago judges were also conscious of the constraints which were imposed on their role.

Since then, that role has been greatly expanded, first as a consequence of the enlargement of judicial review, more recently as a result of the Human Rights Act. It is to that trend, its implications and its consequences that I intend to devote the rest of my remarks this evening.

Over thirty years ago, on a visit to Philadelphia, I fell into conversation with a woman who had recently been given a parking ticket. She had been incensed, so incensed that she decided to go to Court to challenge it.

When she appeared in Court she was rather surprised when the magistrate called all the defendants who were due to appear that day to the bar of the Court. He told them his name and asked them to remember it. Then he said, “All cases dismissed.”

The astonishment of my acquaintance at this development was tempered somewhat when she discovered that a few days later the regular election of magistrates in the city was due to take place. The magistrate before whom she had appeared, albeit rather briefly, was re-elected with the biggest majority in the history of the Philadelphia magistracy.

When I was told that story I reacted, I am sorry to say, with a rather superior disdain. “What can you expect” I asked, “if you elect magistrates and judges? We in Britain would never contemplate any such step.”

Thirty years on I am much less sure. The truth is that during that time the power of judges in this country was increased, is increasing and will increase further, if nothing is done to change things.

For the most part this increase in power has been at the expense of elected Governments and elected Parliaments. Our judges, of course, are unelected. They are unaccountable. They cannot be dismissed, save in the most extreme circumstances, and in practice never are.

Moreover they are appointed without regard to their political background and views are without any public scrutiny, parliamentary or otherwise. I believe that this has, in the past, been one of the great strengths of our judiciary. But as they move, increasingly, to the centre of the political stage how long can this state of affairs continue?

It would be wrong to suggest that this shift in power is entirely new or that it is entirely due to the coming into force of the Human Rights Act.

The Courts have traditionally had the power to curb the illegal, arbitrary or irrational exercise of power by the Executive. But, traditionally this power was exercised with restraint.

The Courts would be careful not to quash decisions because they disagreed on the merits with the decisions under challenge.

There is common consent that during the last 50 years this restraint has been eroded. As the previous Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine put it, in his 1995 Address to the Administrative Law Bar Association:
“The range of circumstances in which decisions may be struck down has been extended beyond recognition.”

That address was essentially a plea for judicial restraint. Indeed in it the future Lord Chancellor referred to what he described as the “constitutional imperative of judicial self-restraint.”

He gave three reasons for it. First he referred to the constitutional imperative – the fact that Parliament gives powers to various authorities, including Ministers, for good reasons and in reliance on the level of knowledge and experience which such authorities possess. Secondly, he referred to the lack of judicial expertise which, he said, made the Courts ill-equipped to take decisions in place of the designated authority. Thirdly, and most pertinently, he referred to what he called the democratic imperative – the fact that elected public authorities derive their authority in part from their electoral mandate.

It is worth quoting his words in full: “The electoral system,” he said, “also operates as an important safeguard against the unreasonable exercise of public powers, since elected authorities have to submit themselves, and their decision-making records, to the verdict of the electorate at regular intervals.”

With respect to Lord Irvine, I couldn’t have put it better myself.

Remarkably enough he even prayed in aid, as one of his arguments against judicial intervention, the fact that it would strengthen objections to the incorporation of the European Convention on Human Rights into our law – the very Human Rights Act which he did so much to introduce.

Rightly describing it as a step which would hugely enhance the role and significance of the judiciary in our society he said this:- “The traditional objection to incorporation has been that it would confer on unelected judges powers which naturally belong to Parliament. That objection, entertained by many across the political spectrum, can only be strengthened by fears of judicial supremacism.”

Lord Irvine was right. My essential objection to the Human Rights Act is that it does involve a very significant shift in power from elected representatives of the people to unelected judges. Members of Parliament, and Ministers are, except for Ministers in the House of Lords like the Lord Chancellor, answerable to their electorates. As I know only too well they can be summarily dismissed by the electorate. They are directly accountable. Judges, as I have already pointed out, are unelected, unaccountable and cannot be dismissed.

The reason why this difficulty arisesin such acute form as a result of the Human Rights Act is because so many of the decisions which our judges now have to make under it are, essentially, political in nature.

Just this week, Charles Clarke, the former Home Secretary, complained that, and I quote:- “One of the consequences of the Human Rights Act is that our most senior judiciary are taking decisions of deep concern to the security of our society without any responsibility for that security.”

What on earth did he expect?

Of course that is one of the consequences of the Human Rights Act. It is an inevitable consequence. It is what the Human Rights Act obliges the senior judiciary to do. It is not the fault of the judges if they perform, as conscientiously as they can, duties which the Government has placed on them.

And it is not as though the Government were not warned.

To select a quote almost at random Appeal Court Judge Sir Henry Brooke predicted that judges would be drawn into making “much more obviously political decisions.” He pointed out that under the Act “for the first time judges would have to decide whether government interference with a human right was 'necessary in a democratic society.’ – and that, of course, is clearly a political value judgement.

How does this arise? In a nutshell the Act requires our courts to apply the European Convention on Human Rights in every decision they make. The rights which the Convention seeks to protect are framed in very wide terms. The Convention was drawn up in the aftermath of the Second World War. Its authors saw it as a safeguard against any revival of Nazism or any other form of totalitarian tyranny. I suspect that many of them would turn in their graves if they were able to see the kind of cases which are being brought in reliance on it today.

None of these rights can be exercised in isolation. Any decision to uphold one right may well infringe someone else’s right. Or it may conflict with the rights of the community at large.

The example that has most recently hit the headlines well illustrates the difficulties that arise.

As David Cameron pointed out in his recent speech on this subject life in the globalised twenty first century world presents two great challenges to governments. The first is to protect our security. The second is protecting our liberty.

We would, I suspect, all agree with his view that 'it is vital that free societies do all they can to maintain people’s human rights and civil liberties, not least because a free society is, in the long term, one of the best protections against terrorism and crime.”

As he said, “The fundamental challenge is to strike the right balance between security and liberty.”

The fundamental question is who is ultimately responsible for striking that balance: elected members of Parliament or unelected judges?

In the cases on terrorism, Parliament twice, after much anxious consideration by both Houses, reached its view. It was not always a view with which I agreed. But it was the view of Parliament.

Yet twice the Judges have held that Parliament got the balance wrong. They thought the balance should be struck differently.

And in doing so they were not deliberately seeking to challenge the supremacy of Parliament. They were simply doing what Parliament has asked them to do.

There are countless other examples. In his recent speech on the subject David Cameron discussed the way in which the Human Rights Act has made the fight against crime harder.

He cited the example of the Assets Recovery Agency, which was set up to seize the assets of major criminals.

The agency has been forced to spend millions of pounds fighting legal challenges brought by criminals under the Human Rights Act.

This has had bogged down cases for years, and the backlog in the courts has grown to 146 uncompleted claims.

The Director of the Agency has directly blamed the human rights “bandwagon” for thwarting its efforts.

He referred to the case of the convicted rapist, Anthony Rice, who was wrongly released on licence and then murdered Naomi Bryant.

The bridges Report set up to investigate the case makes clear that one of the factors that influenced the thinking of officials in dealing with Rice was a concern that he might sue them under the Human Rights Act.

As David Cameron acknowledged there were other elements in the case that had no connection to human rights.

And it is true that any legal challenge by Rice might well have failed.

But it remains the case that officials sought to protect themselves rather than risk defeat in the courts.

The Rice case illustrates a wider trend.

Even without actual litigation, some public bodies are now so frightened of being sued under the Human Rights Act that they try to protect themselves by making decisions that are often absurd and occasionally dangerous.

We saw this recently when the police tried to recapture foreign ex-prisoners who should have been deported and had instead gone on the run.

The obvious thing to do would have been to issue “Wanted” posters but police forces across the country refused to do so on the grounds that it would breach the HRA.

The Association of Chief Police officers says in its guidance to forces: “Article 8 of the Human Rights Act gives everyone the right to respect for their private and family life.....and publication of photographs could be a breach of that.”

According to ACPO, photographs should be released only in “exceptional circumstances”, where public safety needs to override the case for privacy.

These were criminals who had been convicted of very serious offences and who shouldn’t even have been in the UK.

Yet the Metropolitan Police said, “We will use all the tools in our tool box to try and find them without printing their identity – that’s the last recourse.”

Perhaps the most ludicrous recent example occurred a few weeks ago when a suspected car thief clambered onto the roof tops after a high speed chase and began pelting the police who had tried to follow him with roof tiles.

It ended with a siege that would waste the time of 50 police officers, close the street until 9.40pm and culminate in the spectacle of the suspect being handed a bucket of KFC chicken, a two litre bottle of Pepsi and a packet of cigarettes at tax payers expense – all apparently to preserve his “human rights.”

Of course there are examples of cases where the Act has led to results most of us would applaud. But we have to ask whether those results could not have been achieved by effective lobbying of our elected Parliament or a change of Government following an Election.

The Human Rights Act requires the Courts to interpret legislation so that it complies with the Convention if that is at all possible. If in the Court’s view any secondary legislation – passed after due consideration by both Houses of Parliament – is incompatible with the Convention that legislation can be struck down by the Court.

If any primary legislation is held to be incompatible there is a fast-track procedure which would enable the Government to short-circuit the normal processes of parliamentary scrutiny in order to amend or repeal any such legislation.

This surely a direct threat to the very democratic imperative on which the then Lord Chancellor waxed so eloquent 5 years ago.

One of the consequences of this is likely to be the increasing politicisation of judges.

How long, if the Act remains in force, will our present system of selection of judges survive? How long before the political backgrounds of candidates for judicial office become subject to Parliamentary scrutiny? How long before we see demands that these judges submit themselves for election?

The most common argument in favour of the Act is that it 'brings rights home.’ By that its supporters mean that since the Act could in any event be relied upon in an appeal from the English Courts to the European Court of Human Rights it is much better to allow English judges to apply it themselves. Indeed in presenting this argument the impression is sometimes given that the new jurisdiction of the English Courts will in some way replace the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights. This is of course quite untrue. The right to appeal to the ECHR will remain.

I would concede that the previous situation was not ideal.

The ECHR does sometimes reach decisions which are very difficult to understand and sometimes cause considerable frustration.

But there is a remedy for this which the last Government was pursuing. The ECHR recognises the existence of what it calls a 'margin of appreciation.’ By that it means that will make some allowance, in applying the Convention, for the local circumstances and traditions of the country from which the appeal is brought. The last Government had embarked on a campaign to increase this margin of appreciation so that the Court would give greater leeway to countries to decide things for themselves.

Now the very future of the margin of appreciation is uncertain. Academic controversy rages on to whether our courts will apply it. And the ECHR is much less likely to apply it to decisions of our Courts than to decisions of administrative bodies.

It is in this context that David Cameron’s proposal for a British Bill of Rights should be considered.

As Mr Cameron expressly said the existence of a clear and codified British Bill of Rights will tend to lead the European Court of Human Rights to apply, and I would add to enhance, the “margin of appreciation.”

This seems to me to be the key to the continuing application and acceptance of the European Convention. It was intended to be a backstop to ensure that there was no repetition in Western European of Nazi atrocities and to minimise, as far as possible, the danger of future totalitarian outrages. It was not intended to strike down carefully considered judgements by democratically elected authorities of where the balance should be struck between legitimate but competing interests.

The route to this more limited role for the Convention and the Court which adjudicates on it lies through an enhanced margin of appreciation. A British Bill of Rights may well help us to reach this very desirable destination.

It is of course true, as Mr Cameron himself acknowledged, that the drafting of such a Bill would represent a formidable challenge. But this is true of all charters of this kind. If it helps us to achieve a workable solution to our relationship with the European Convention the effort will be well worth while.

And if it also enables us to scrap the discredited Human Rights Act it would be doubly welcome.

As the distinguished Scottish judge, Lord McCluskey predicted, the Act has become:- “A field day for crackpots, a pain in the neck for judges and a goldmine for lawyers.”

It is an experiment that has failed. It should go.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Finance and Poverty: Evidence from India. By Meghana Ayyagari & Thorsten Beck

Finance and Poverty: Evidence from India. By Meghana Ayyagari & Thorsten Beck
World Bank Blogs
Mon, Jul 17, 2013
http://blogs.worldbank.org/allaboutfinance/finance-and-poverty-evidence-india

The relationship between finance, inequality and poverty is a controversial one. While some observers attribute not only the crisis but also rising inequality in many Western countries to the rise of the financial system (e.g. Krugman, 2009), others see an important role of the financial sector on the poverty alleviation agenda (World Bank, 2008). But financial sector policies are not only controversial on the macro, but also micro-level. While increasing access to credit services through microfinance had for a long time a positive connotation, this has also been questioned after recent events in Andhra Pradesh, with critics charging that excessive interest rates hold the poor back in poverty. In recent work with Meghana Ayyagari and Mohammad Hoseini, we find strong evidence for financial sector deepening having contributed to the reduction of rural poverty rates across India by enabling more entrepreneurship in the rural areas and by enticing inter-state migration into the tertiary sector.

Cross-country evidence has linked financial development both to lower levels and faster reductions in income inequality and poverty rates (Beck, Demirguc-Kunt and Levine, 2007; Clarke, Xu and Zhou, 2006). As is often the case with cross-country work, endogeneity concerns are manifold, exacerbated by measurement problems inherent to survey-based inequality and poverty measures.  In addition, cross-country comparisons face limitations in identifying the channel through which financial deepening helps reduce poverty rates. Researchers have therefore turned to country-level studies, which allow better to control for omitted variable and measurement biases.  Richer data on the country level also allow for a better exploration of channels through which finance affects inequality and poverty.

India is close to an ideal testing ground to ask these questions given not only its large sub-national variation in socio-economic and institutional development, but also significant policy changes it has experienced over the sample period (Besley, Boswell and Esteve-Vollart, 2007). We use two of these policy changes as identification strategies in our work. Specifically, we follow Burgess and Pande (2005) and exploit the policy driven nature of rural bank branch expansion across Indian states as an instrument for branch penetration and thus financial breadth. According to the Indian Central Bank’s 1:4 licensing policy instituted between 1977 and 1990, commercial banks in India had to open four branches in rural unbanked locations for every branch opening in an already banked location. Thus between 1977 and 1990, rural bank branch expansion was higher in financially less developed states while after 1990, the reverse was true (financially developed states offered more profitable locations and so attracted more branches outside of the program), as illustrated by Figure 1.

Figure 1: Bank branch penetration as function
of initial financial development

Figure 1: Bank branch penetration as function of initial financial development

As an instrument for financial depth, we use the cross-state variation of per-capita circulation of English-language newspapers in 1991 multiplied by a time trend to capture the differential impact of the media across time after liberalization in 1991. With the relatively free and independent press in India (Besley and Burgess, 2002), a more informed public is better able to compare different financial services, resulting in more transparency and a higher degree of competition leading to greater financial sector development. Figure 2 shows the differential development of Credit to SDP in states with English language newspaper penetration above and below the median.

Figure 2: Bank Credit and English newspaper circulation

Figure 2: Bank Credit and English newspaper circulation
 
Our main findings

Relating annual state-level variation in poverty to variation in financial development, we find strong evidence that financial depth, as measured by Credit to SDP, has a negative and significant impact on rural poverty in India over the period 1983-2005. On the other hand, we find no effect of financial depth on urban poverty rates.  The effect of financial depth on rural poverty reduction is also economically meaningful. One within-state, within-year standard deviation in Credit to SDP explains 18 percent of demeaned variation in the Headcount and 30 percent of demeaned variation in the Poverty Gap over our sample period.  We also find that over the time period 1983-2005, financial depth has a more significant impact on poverty reduction than financial outreach. Our measure of financial breadth, rural branches per capita, has a negative but insignificant effect on rural poverty over this period, though a strong and negative effect over the longer period of 1965 to 2005, which includes the complete period of the social banking policy.
 
The channels

The household data also allow us to dig deeper into the channels through which financial deepening affected poverty rates across rural India. First, we find evidence for the entrepreneurship channel, as the poverty-reducing impact of financial deepening falls primarily on self-employed in rural areas. Second, we find that financial sector development is associated with inter-state migration of workers towards financially more developed states. The migration induced by financial deepening is motivated by search for employment, suggesting that poorer population segments in rural areas migrated to urban areas. The rural primary and tertiary urban sectors benefitted most from this migration, consistent with evidence showing that the Indian growth experience has been led by the services sector rather than labor intensive manufacturing (Bosworth, Collins and Virmani, 2007)
This last finding is also consistent with the finding that it is specifically the increase in bank credit to the tertiary sector that accounts for financial deepening post-1991 and its poverty-reducing effect.


Conclusions

Our findings suggest that financial deepening can have important structural effects, including through structural reallocation and migration, with consequences for poverty reduction. Our findings also have important policy repercussions. The pro-poor effects of financial deepening do not necessarily come just through more inclusive financial systems, but can also come through more efficient and deeper financial systems. Critical, the poorest of the poor not only benefit from financial deepening by directly accessing financial services, but also through indirect structural effects of financial deepening. This is consistent with evidence from Thailand (Gine and Townsend, 2004) and for the U.S. (Beck, Levine and Levkov, 2010) who document important labor market and migration effects of financial liberalization and deepening.
 

References

  • Ayyagari, M., T. Beck and M. Hoseini (2013) “Finance and Poverty: Evidence from India”, CEPR Discussion Paper 9497.
  • Beck, T., A. Demirgüç-Kunt and R. Levine, (2007) “Finance, Inequality and the Poor”, Journal of Economic Growth, 12(1), 27-49.
  • Beck, T., R. Levine and A. Levkov (2010), “Big Bad Banks? The Winners and Losers from Bank Deregulation in the United States”, Journal of Finance, vol. 65(5), pages 1637-1667.
  • Besley, T., and R. Burgess, (2002) “The Political Economy Of Government Responsiveness: Theory And Evidence From India”, Quarterly Journal of Economics 117(4), pages 1415-1451.
  • Besley, T., R. Burgess, and B. Esteve-Volart (2007) “The Policy Origins of Poverty and Growth in India,”  Chapter 3 in Delivering on the Promise of Pro-Poor Growth: Insights and Lessons from Country Experiences, edited with Timothy Besley and Louise J. Cord, Palgrave MacMillan for the World Bank.
  • Bosworth, B., Collins, S. and Virmani, A. (2007), “Sources of Growth in the Indian Economy”, in Bery, S., Bosworth, B. and Panagariya, A. (eds.), India Policy Forum, 2006-07, Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press.
  • Burgess, R., and R. Pande (2005), “Do Rural Banks Matter? Evidence from the Indian Social Banking Experiment”, American Economic Review, vol. 95(3), pages 780-795.
  • Clarke, G., L. C. Xu and H. Zhou, (2006) “Finance and Income Inequality: What Do the Data Tell Us?”, Southern Economic Journal vol. 72(3), pages 578-596.
  • Gine, X. and R. Townsend (2004) “Evaluation of financial liberalization: a general equilibrium model with constrained occupation choice”, Journal of Development Economics 74, 269-307.
  • Krugman, Paul, (2009), The financial factor.
  • World Bank (2008): Finance for All?  Policies and Pitfalls in Expanding Access. Washington DC.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

South Korea: National Security or National Pride Regarding Japan?, by Krista E. Wiegand

South Korea: National Security or National Pride Regarding Japan?, by Krista E. Wiegand
Asia Pacific Bulletin, No. 214
Washington, D.C.: East-West Center
May 22, 2013
http://www.eastwestcenter.org/publications/south-korea-national-security-or-national-pride-regarding-japan

Krista E. Wiegand is Associate Professor of Political Science at Georgia Southern University and a recent POSCO Visiting Fellow at the East-West Center. She explains in this bulletin that "The South Korean government will not be able to deal with the larger issue of security relations with Japan until disputed issues symbolized by Dokdo/Takeshima are sufficiently resolved—and the likelihood of this happening anytime soon is fairly low."

Excerpts:
The first official state function of newly inaugurated President Park Geun-hye was a ceremony on March 1 commemorating Independence Movement Day—celebrating Korean resistance in 1919 to Japanese occupation—where she appealed: “It is incumbent on Japan to have a correct understanding of history and take on an attitude of responsibility in order to partner with us in playing a leading role in East Asia in the 21st century.” Her speech outlined a hard line stance regarding ROK-Japan relations. It also did not help that at the end of March, the Korean Foreign Ministry summoned a high ranking Japanese official in Seoul to strongly protest the inclusion of the islets as being called Takeshima in newly released Japanese school books. Japanese cabinet members then went to Yasakuni Shrine in April which further exasperated matters, resulting in South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se cancelling a proposed visit to Japan.

If Park wants to maintain high approval ratings and not lose credibility regarding her tough position towards Japan, she will have to take into account domestic public opinion on any future security plans with Japan, even under US pressure. Yet, taking this tough approach causes unconstructive tensions in the ROK-Japan-US security relationship, and at a time of recent unprecedented heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula. Moreover, Korea’s role as an increasingly important actor in regional security indicates that Japan and South Korea will have to cooperate more in the future.  They are both democracies, have shared values and interests, and each looks to the United States as the preferred security partner. Park will have to balance Korea’s security interests with domestic opposition to closer ties with Japan, an extremely difficult challenge under current circumstances.

Even if Korean officials are not as supportive of the GSOMIA as their counterparts in Japan and the United States, moving forward on security relations with Japan is critical. Yet, domestic opposition to issues related to Japan has effectively prevented such cooperation. The South Korean government will not be able to deal with the larger issue of security relations with Japan until disputed issues symbolized by Dokdo/ Takeshima are sufficiently resolved—and the likelihood of this happening anytime soon is fairly low. The United States has encouraged better bilateral relations between its two closest allies in East Asia, yet at the same time, the US government has been hesitant to take sides in a dispute that the United States itself inadvertently created as a result of its ambiguity in its role as mediator of the 1951 San Francisco Treaty. President Park and future Korean presidents will have a tough time successfully pursuing any plans of security engagement with Japan as long as the Dokdo/Takeshima dispute and related issues flare up. The United States is in a unique position to influence both Korea and Japan and it should continue to pressure both states to work toward reconciliation.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Are there clear affinities of Communism with Fascism?

Political philosopher John N. Gray on liberals' totalitarian temptation
Times Literary Supplement, Jan 02, 2013:

One of the features that distinguished Bolshevism from Tsarism was the insistence of Lenin and his followers on the need for a complete overhaul of society. Old-fashioned despots may modernize in piecemeal fashion if doing so seems necessary to maintain their power, but they do not aim at remaking society on a new model, still less at fashioning a new type of humanity. Communist regimes engaged in mass killing in order to achieve these transformations, and paradoxically it is this essentially totalitarian ambition that has appealed to liberals. Here as elsewhere, the commonplace distinction between utopianism and meliorism is less than fundamental. In its predominant forms, liberalism has been in recent times a version of the religion of humanity, and with rare exceptions— [Bertrand] Russell is one of the few that come to mind—liberals have seen the Communist experiment as a hyperbolic expression of their own project of improvement; if the experiment failed, its casualties were incurred for the sake of a progressive cause. To think otherwise—to admit the possibility that the millions who were judged to be less than fully human suffered and died for nothing—would be to question the idea that history is a story of continuing human advance, which for liberals today is an article of faith. That is why, despite all evidence to the contrary, so many of them continue to deny Communism's clear affinities with Fascism. Blindness to the true nature of Communism is an inability to accept that radical evil can come from the pursuit of progress.

John Gray is professor emeritus at the London School of Economics

Saturday, January 5, 2013

We, Too, Are Violent Animals. By Jane Goodall, Richard Wrangham, and Dale Peterson

We, Too, Are Violent Animals. By Jane Goodall, Richard Wrangham, and Dale Peterson
Those who doubt that human aggression is an evolved trait should spend more time with chimpanzees and wolvesThe Wall Street Journal,January 5, 2013, on page C3
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323874204578220002834225378.html

Where does human savagery come from? The animal behaviorist Marc Bekoff, writing in Psychology Today after last month's awful events in Newtown, Conn., echoed a common view: It can't possibly come from nature or evolution. Harsh aggression, he wrote, is "extremely rare" in nonhuman animals, while violence is merely an odd feature of our own species, produced by a few wicked people. If only we could "rewild our hearts," he concluded, we might harness our "inborn goodness and optimism" and thereby return to our "nice, kind, compassionate, empathic" original selves.

If only if it were that simple. Calm and cooperative behavior indeed predominates in most species, but the idea that human aggression is qualitatively different from that of every other species is wrong.

The latest report from the research site that one of us (Jane Goodall) directs in Tanzania gives a quick sense of what a scientist who studies chimpanzees actually sees: "Ferdinand [the alpha male] is rather a brutal ruler, in that he tends to use his teeth rather a lot…a number of the males now have scars on their backs from being nicked or gashed by his canines…The politics in Mitumba [a second chimpanzee community] have also been bad. If we recall that: they all killed alpha-male Vincent when he reappeared injured; then Rudi as his successor probably killed up-and-coming young Ebony to stop him helping his older brother Edgar in challenging him…but to no avail, as Edgar eventually toppled him anyway."

A 2006 paper reviewed evidence from five separate chimpanzee populations in Africa, groups that have all been scientifically monitored for many years. The average "conservatively estimated risk of violent death" was 271 per 100,000 individuals per year. If that seems like a low rate, consider that a chimpanzee's social circle is limited to about 50 friends and close acquaintances. This means that chimpanzees can expect a member of their circle to be murdered once every seven years. Such a rate of violence would be intolerable in human society.

The violence among chimpanzees is impressively humanlike in several ways. Consider primitive human warfare, which has been well documented around the world. Groups of hunter-gatherers who come into contact with militarily superior groups of farmers rapidly abandon war, but where power is more equal, the hostility between societies that speak different languages is almost endless. Under those conditions, hunter-gatherers are remarkably similar to chimpanzees: Killings are mostly carried out by males, the killers tend to act in small gangs attacking vulnerable individuals, and every adult male in the society readily participates. Moreover, with hunter-gatherers as with chimpanzees, the ordinary response to encountering strangers who are vulnerable is to attack them.

Most animals do not exhibit this striking constellation of behaviors, but chimpanzees and humans are not the only species that form coalitions for killing. Other animals that use this strategy to kill their own species include group-living carnivores such as lions, spotted hyenas and wolves. The resulting mortality rate can be high: Among wolves, up to 40% of adults die from attacks by other packs.

Killing among these carnivores shows that ape-sized brains and grasping hands do not account for this unusual violent behavior. Two other features appear to be critical: variable group size and group-held territory. Variable group size means that lone individuals sometimes encounter small, vulnerable parties of neighbors. Having group territory means that by killing neighbors, the group can expand its territory to find extra resources that promote better breeding. In these circumstances, killing makes evolutionary sense—in humans as in chimpanzees and some carnivores.

What makes humans special is not our occasional propensity to kill strangers when we think we can do so safely. Our unique capacity is our skill at engineering peace. Within societies of hunter-gatherers (though only rarely between them), neighboring groups use peacemaking ceremonies to ensure that most of their interactions are friendly. In state-level societies, the state works to maintain a monopoly on violence. Though easily misused in the service of those who govern, the effect is benign when used to quell violence among the governed.

Under everyday conditions, humans are a delightfully peaceful and friendly species. But when tensions mount between groups of ordinary people or in the mind of an unstable individual, emotion can lead to deadly events. There but for the grace of fortune, circumstance and effective social institutions go you and I. Instead of constructing a feel-good fantasy about the innate goodness of most people and all animals, we should strive to better understand ourselves, the good parts along with the bad.

—Ms. Goodall has directed the scientific study of chimpanzee behavior at Gombe Stream National Park in Tanzania since 1960. Mr. Wrangham is the Ruth Moore Professor of Biological Anthropology at Harvard University. Mr. Peterson is the author of "Jane Goodall: The Woman Who Redefined Man."