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How Do Rights Revolutions Occur? Free Speech and the First Amendment

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  • Chen, Daniel L.
  • Yeh, Susan

Abstract

Does law shape values? We test a model of law and norms using an area of law where economic incentives are arguably not the prime drivers of social change. From 1958–2008, Democratic judges were more likely than Republicans to favor progressive free speech standards. Using the random assignment of U.S. federal court judges setting geographically-local precedent, we estimate that progressive free speech standards liberalized sexual attitudes and behaviors and increased both crime rates and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. We then randomly allocated data entry workers to enter newsarticles of court decisions. Progressive decisions liberalized sexual attitudes and shifted norm perceptions for data entry subjects, but not self-reported behavior. These results present evidence of law’s expressive power – with fundamental implications for decision making in social and political settings and for the empirical predictions of theoretical models in these domains.

Suggested Citation

  • Chen, Daniel L. & Yeh, Susan, 2016. "How Do Rights Revolutions Occur? Free Speech and the First Amendment," IAST Working Papers 16-51, Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse (IAST).
  • Handle: RePEc:tse:iastwp:31022
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Law and norms; expressive law; cultural change;

    JEL classification:

    • J12 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Marriage; Marital Dissolution; Family Structure
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination
    • K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law
    • N32 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - U.S.; Canada: 1913-
    • N42 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation - - - U.S.; Canada: 1913-
    • Z1 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics

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