Papers in Progress
“A Social Signaling Theory of Human Rights NGOs”
An important motive (I will argue the central motive) for donating to charity is to obtain private benefits, particularly social status and prestige. According to the signaling theory of charity, donors receive status benefits not for the consequences of their donation on welfare outcomes, but for what the donation signals about their underlying socially desirable traits. This finding leads to several implications for the study of human rights NGOs (HRNGOs), which I develop and test in this paper. First, a de-emphasis on welfare outcomes between donor and NGO leads to the adoption of evaluation policies that are designed to further enhance reputational benefits to the donor, rather than to further optimize the impact of the HRNGO on welfare outcomes. Second, NGO accountability standard-setting is designed to better serve donor reputation and is disconnected from welfare outcomes. The empirical test supports the social signaling theory of HRNGOs: in order to raise funds, HRNGOs do not need to cost-effectively advance the welfare of the stated beneficiaries. Donors pay for status benefits, and as a result, HRNGOs seek to benefit donor reputation.
“Human Rights Treaty Obligations and State Commitment” with Wayne Sandholtz (under review)
Why do some human rights treaties receive rapid and near universal commitment from states while others take decades for the majority of states to ratify? Research on human rights treaty commitment analyzes the costs of ratifying treaties in terms of regime type and other state-level attributes. But little scholarship to date has analyzed the effects of treaty design, in particular, the substance of treaty obligations, on the likelihood of ratification. We analyze new data that code every provision of ten global human rights treaties for the strength and precision of the obligations they contain. We classify obligations that are strong, precise, and that require domestic action as “demanding.” We hypothesize that treaties containing more of these demanding obligations would be seen as more costly to ratify because they imply potentially greater policy adaptation or compliance costs. Event history analyses are consistent with that hypothesis.
"Productive Pacifists: The Rise of Production-Oriented States and Decline of Territorial Conquest" with Jonathan Markowitz, Benjamin A.T. Graham, and Christopher J. Fariss (under review)
Scholarship suggests the profits from conquest have decreased over time. Given this, why were some states faster to abandon profit-motivated conquest, and why are some still seeking wealth from territorial control? We argue that regime type and land-rent dependence influence a regime’s preference for territory. The more autocratic the regime and the more it depends on rents extracted from land (i.e. the more land-oriented the economy), the greater its willingness to invest in territorial conquest. We develop a novel measure of land-orientation, with 200 years of data, to evaluate the linkages between land-orientation, regime type, and conquest. We find robust evidence that regime type and land-orientation are linked to territorial competition across a variety of model specifications. The global reduction in land-oriented states offers a plausible explanation for the decline in the number of large-scale territorial conquests. Our findings also explain why some states retain strong economic motivations for conquest.
"The Role of NGOs in Drafting Human Rights Treaties: Imprecision or Socialization?" with Barbara Koremenos
The Continent of International Law (Koremenos 2016) assumes a strategic bargaining model between states during treaty negotiation. One finding is that states use imprecise language to solve severe distribution problems when trying to codify and export norms. However, in the human rights context, NGOs are often closely involved in negotiations, sometimes even drafting the initial treaties. How does the introduction of non-state actors into the model influence or modify the rational design of human rights legal agreements? We probe three possible conjectures. (1) Treaty language becomes less precise given that states must accommodate yet another actor with more extreme preferences. (2) NGOs socialize states into adopting preferences closer to theirs, mitigating the distribution problem and resulting in more precise language. (3) Optional protocols accommodate the preferences of NGOs. We map the drafting process of human rights treaties, tracking the evolution of imprecise language and the addition of optional protocols as NGOs and other states work to both draft treaties as well as socialize the negotiating states. We aim to uncover whether NGOs socialize states and thereby help create precise human rights treaties or, if the introduction of NGOs works against their very aims and forces states to adopt imprecise language.
Popular Press Publications
"The Virtue Economy," Quillette, January 31, 2019