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

Daniel Chen and Susan Yeh

No 16-51, IAST Working Papers from Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse (IAST)

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.

Keywords: Law and norms; expressive law; cultural change (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: J12 J16 K42 N32 N42 Z1 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-law and nep-soc
Date: 2016
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