High on CELS
Best paper I saw: Amanda Geller and Jeffrey Fagan, Doubling Down on Pot: Marijuana, Race and the New Disorder in New York City Street Policing. The original title was better: Pot as Pretext. The idea is that if you look at the surge of pot related arrests in NYC, a pattern emerges: using pot misdemeanors as a method of social control, with strong racial undertones. The paper offers another perspective on the optimism expressed by many that legalization is around the corner, in turn prompted by polling data about its popularity. To the extent that mere pot possession is now an important tool in order maintenance policing, the costs and benefits of its legalization seem different. Indeed, the surprise of the paper is how well pot works as a method to get guns off the streets and out of the hands of felons (Volokh Conspirators’ perfect storm of bad outcomes). Plus, Geller/Fagan’s data visualization is amazing (though the best stuff, with maps, is not in the paper). Well worth reading, especially if you, like me, didn’t know that this was happening.
Runner Up: Yannis Bakos, Florencia Marotta-Wurgler and David Trossen, Does Anyone Read the Fine Print? Testing a Law and Economics Approach to Standard Form Contracting. Remarkable dataset of 90,000 visitors to software sites, assembled by one of those firms that installs tracking software on your computer in return for compensation. The research question is how often to people read EULAs before entering transactions. It’s my sense that the results (almost never) give a huge, though expected, boost to the ALI Software Principles. Consider it in tandem with Zev Eigen’s work on adhesion contracts, and the outlines of a research program are clear.
Best paper I wish I’d seen: Shareholderism: Board Members’ Values and the Shareholder-Stakeholder Dilemma, by Amir Licht, Renee Adams and Lilach Sagiv. They did an experimental survey on real board members, albiet from Sweden. Basic findings: board members have unique and stable values about corporate governance that aren’t those of the general public.
Most Potential To Be Brought Up in a 2012 Presidential Debate: The Economics of Rape: Will Victims Pay for Police Involvement, by Emily Owens and Jordan Matsudaira. Just your classic little economics project analyzing how making victims pay for rape kits affects the likelihood of reporting a rape to the police. The dataset? Wasilla, Alaska, during Sarah Palin’s tenure as mayor.
Obvious Finding: Police recruits are more likely that members of the public at large to think that mistaken acquitals are a worse problem than mistaken convictions. (Logically, this can’t be true, as mistaken convictions mean that a criminal is walking free.) Non-obvious findings from the paper: the modern racism scale predicts the likelihood of making a bad decision to shoot an unarmed but threatening stranger, but the IAT doesn’t.
Reaction to Suckers? I need a better set of anecdotes about suckers and contracts.
Reaction to Punishment Realism? If you like this, our torture results are going to knock your socks off. Stay tuned!
Cool Poster? Black and Spriggs, The Depreciation of Precedent on the U.S. Supreme Court. So cool. I wish they’d coded for the age of precedent in the briefs, since I think the inputs are dispositive. Notable as well was Eisenberg et al., The Decision to Award Punitive Damages: An Empirical Study. Sure, the results are interesting, and part of Ted’s holy war with the ridiculous folks at the Chamber of Commerce. But the nice thing was that after a study, I concluded that Ted’s poster had the best ratio of expenditure on the poster : vistors. Given that he’d photocopied pages from the paper and put them on a board, my guess was a dollar spent per 20 visitors. The mean in the room was more like 1 : 1.
Trend: More instruments, less law.
Thanks to Dan Klerman, Mat McCubbins, Gillian Hadfield, Tom Lyon, Dan Simon and Matt Spitzer for putting together a great program!