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Sassywood

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  • Leeson, Peter T.
  • Coyne, Christopher J.

Abstract

This paper analyzes trial by poison ingestion, or “sassywood,” as an institution of criminal justice in contemporary Liberia. We argue that effective criminal justice institutions must satisfy three conditions: they must be accessible to citizens, incentivize judicial administrators to pursue justice instead of private ends, and generate useful information about accused criminals’ guilt or innocence. Liberia’s formal criminal justice institutions fail to satisfy these conditions. Sassywood does a better job of fulfilling them. Sassywood is more accessible than Liberia’s formal criminal justice institutions. It provides judicial administrators stronger incentives to pursue justice. And, unexpectedly, it is capable of generating useful information about criminal defendants’ guilt or innocence where Liberia’s formal criminal justice institutions didn’t. The theory this paper provides offers a plausible explanation of why sassywood is a sensible institutional substitute for formal Liberian criminal justice.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Comparative Economics.

Volume (Year): 40 (2012)
Issue (Month): 4 ()
Pages: 608-620

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Handle: RePEc:eee:jcecon:v:40:y:2012:i:4:p:608-620

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Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/622864

Related research

Keywords: Sassywood; Liberia; Ordeals; Superstition;

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References

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  1. Peter T. Leeson, 2009. "The Laws of Lawlessness," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, University of Chicago Press, vol. 38(2), pages 471-503, 06.
  2. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson, 2003. "Unbundling Institutions," NBER Working Papers 9934, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Djankov, Simeon & La Porta, Rafael & López-de-Silanes, Florencio & Shleifer, Andrei, 2002. "Courts: The Lex Mundi project," CEPR Discussion Papers, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers 3344, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  4. Edward L. Glaeser & Andrei Shleifer, 2001. "Legal Origins," NBER Working Papers 8272, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. La Porta, Rafael & Lopez-de-Silanes, Florencio & Pop-Eleches, Cristian & Shleifer, Andrei, 2004. "Judicial Checks and Balances," Scholarly Articles 3451311, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  6. Richard A. Posner, 1979. "A Theory of Primitive Society with Special Reference to Law," University of Chicago - George G. Stigler Center for Study of Economy and State, Chicago - Center for Study of Economy and State 7, Chicago - Center for Study of Economy and State.
  7. Peter Leeson, 2009. "The calculus of piratical consent: the myth of the myth of social contract," Public Choice, Springer, Springer, vol. 139(3), pages 443-459, June.
  8. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson & James A. Robinson, 2002. "Reversal Of Fortune: Geography And Institutions In The Making Of The Modern World Income Distribution," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, MIT Press, vol. 117(4), pages 1231-1294, November.
  9. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson & James A. Robinson, 2001. "The Colonial Origins of Comparative Development: An Empirical Investigation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 91(5), pages 1369-1401, December.
  10. Leeson, Peter T., 2007. "Better off stateless: Somalia before and after government collapse," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 35(4), pages 689-710, December.
  11. Peter T. Leeson, 2007. "An-arrgh-chy: The Law and Economics of Pirate Organization," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, University of Chicago Press, vol. 115(6), pages 1049-1094, December.
  12. Leeson Peter T. & Williamson Claudia R., 2009. "Anarchy and Development: An Application of the Theory of Second Best," The Law and Development Review, De Gruyter, De Gruyter, vol. 2(1), pages 77-96, July.
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