“The Birth of Pork: Local Federal Projects and the Construction of Legislative Majorities, 1791-1860,” with Sanford Gordon. 2018. American Political Science Review. 112(3): 564-579.
"Veto Players, Policy Change, and Institutional Design," with Tiberiu Dragu. 2017. Research and Politics. 4(3): 1-6.
Research in Progress
”Political Interventions in the Administration of Justice,” with Carlo Horz.
Abstract: The unbiased administration of justice by the state is often described as a critical element of the rule of law. Yet politicians have obvious incentives to direct prosecutions against their political enemies, while preventing prosecutions of their allies. What conditions determine the degree to which public prosecutors can remain free from political interference? To address this question, we build a game-theoretic model in which an officeholder can choose a level of control over the 'Department of Justice.' The higher the control, the less discretion the Department has in deciding whether to prosecute a third party---who may be either an opponent or an ally. At the same time, the higher the level of control, the lower the amount of information conveyed by the prosecution decision to a third party (e.g., a voter), since the Department endogenously chooses a lower level of effort in investigating the guiltiness of the defendant. We find that a moderately partisan prosecutorial office can aid in deterring political interference because it provides a degree of insurance to the officeholder. The effects of prosecutorial competence and electoral competitiveness are more complicated.
“Causes, Theories, and the Past in Political Science,” with Sanford Gordon.
Abstract: We discuss the importance of historical research from theoretical and causal-inference-based methodological perspectives, and discuss how theory, causal inference, and quantitative analysis more generally can be deployed in historical work.
“The Inefficiency of Justice: Allocative Distortions and "Effective" Property Rights Regimes,” with Catherine Hafer.
Abstract: The roles of market transaction costs and inadequate property rights protections in the (in)efficient allocation of resources are well-known. However, there is little scholarship on the allocative distortions inherently generated even by relatively effective property rights institutions. We show that these distortions emerge because property regimes both allocate rights and decide the means by which these rights may be secured through the legal system. Just as different people can obtain different income streams from the same property because of differences in their personal attributes (time, skill, judgment, money, risk preferences), so will different means of determining the outcomes of disputes call on different human attributes. As a result, different individuals will face different effective costs of securing property rights. Unless the legal system is structured so that these differences in cost correspond exactly to the degree to which individuals possess the attributes necessary to use property efficiently, efficient resource allocation may not occur. We examine the kinds of distortions different enforcement mechanisms generate, explore various possible solutions to this problem, and discuss their limitations.
“When do Citizens Seek Private Enforcement? Evidence from the London Islamic Sharia Council.”
Abstract: Why do members of poor social groups access private enforcement mechanisms, such as tribal or religious councils, instead of the state legal system? Are their choices driven by ideological preferences, or by material considerations such as the relative costliness and effectiveness of each institution? To answer this question, I construct an original dataset of 246 (anonymized) divorce cases adjudicated by the London Islamic Sharia Council, one of the largest and oldest informal Islamic adjudication mechanisms operating in the U.K., between November, 1997 and April, 2001. By combining these data with similar data over the same period from the U.K.'s county court system, and studying the differential effects of economic and political shocks on patterns in the divorce petitions received by each legal institution, I aim to measure the relative effects of ideology and cost concerns on litigants' choice between these two systems of adjudication. I supplement my quantitative analysis with qualitative interviews conducted with the leaders of two Sharia Councils: the Islamic Sharia Council and the Muslim Arbitration Tribunal located in Nuneaton, England.