Publications

The Political Economy of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act: An Exploratory Analysis” (with Alan Sykes). Journal of Legal Analysis 9.2 (2017): 153-182. 

“Targeted Killings: Does Drone Warfare Violate International Law?” Journal of Public and International Affairs (2011): 68-87.
 

Working Papers

"For Safety or Profit? How Science Serves the Strategic Interests of Private Actors." Accepted, American Journal of Political Science

  • Science is central to the regulation of risk. But who provides the science on which risk regulations are based? Through an in-depth empirical analysis of domestic health and safety standards, this paper shows how private actors use scientific information to acquire preferential outcomes. I develop a formal model delineating conditions under which firms will seek stricter standards on their own products, and I reveal how companies can acquire these outcomes through the strategic provision of information. To test the theory, I track changes to U.S. agrochemical standards over a two-decade period. I also introduce firm-level petition data and historical evidence to test the mechanism directly. My findings provide new insight into the strategies companies use to benefit from regulations, while also forcing us to reevaluate what it means for regulations to be based on science.

“The Domestic Impact of International Standards” [email for latest draft]

  • Regulations are no longer a purely national affair. International standards now exist across a broad range of regulatory arenas, including those that may be central to domestic values, such as the regulation of health, safety, and the environment. Although a number of studies have looked at the domestic impact of globalization more generally, few studies examine the effects of international standards specifically. This paper investigates this issue, with an empirical focus on the regulation of pesticides. Using original data on changes to US regulations between 1996 and 2015, the study explores whether international standards have led to a weakening or strengthening of domestic rules. It finds that, contrary to the fears of many scholars, international standards have not pushed the United States towards laxity but instead have, if anything, led to stricter domestic regulations overall. The results not only contribute to the broader literature on the domestic effects of globalization, they also allay concerns that international standards could serve primarily as a regulatory ceiling, encouraging nations to sacrifice caution for economic gain.

“Exerting Influence Through Information: How Private Actors Win Preferential Policies Internationally" [email for latest draft]

  • A commonly cited benefit of policymaking at the international level is that it reduces the ability of special interests to benefit themselves at the expense of the greater good. Indeed, international agreements are often viewed as an intentional hands-tying device by governments seeking to free themselves from domestic political pressures. Yet the belief that international policy setting is insulated from domestically influential groups rests on the assumption that the mechanism of influence is specific to a national setting. What happens when these groups' influence stems not from their political clout but rather from their informational advantages? I argue that under these circumstances we should not expect international actors to perform any better than their domestic counterparts. In order to test this, I empirically evaluate the ability of agrochemical firms to win preferential outcomes domestically and internationally. I introduce a dataset that quantifies changes to thousands of agrochemical regulations across two decades, both in the U.S. and at the international, standard-setting level. I show that due to agrochemical companies' monopoly on relevant information, these actors have been as successful at winning their preferred regulatory outcomes internationally as they have domestically. My findings offer a counter to the claim that moving decisions to the international level is an effective strategy for reducing the influence of special interest groups.

“Stealing in Stealth: How Regimes Differ in Their Strategies of Expropriation” (with Jane Esberg) [email for latest draft]

  • A substantial literature concludes that democracies are less likely to engage in sovereign theft than autocracies. However, little attention has been paid to the strategies of theft regimes employ. We theorize that when democracies steal, they ought to utilize different methods than their autocratic counterparts. Using a dataset containing all expropriations of foreign direct investment that occurred in developing countries between 1960 and 2007, we show that rather than rely on outright nationalization, democracies are more likely to use methods such as forced sale or contract renegotiation, tools which are harder to detect and easier to justify to both the electorate and to potential investors. In fact, while democracies may be less likely than autocracies to nationalize foreign investment, they are as likely as autocracies to engage in more subtle forms of theft. Our findings suggest that by bundling types of expropriation, scholars may be overlooking important differences in regime strategies. Moreover, as overt forms of sovereign theft become increasingly less common, there may be reason to suspect that the democratic advantage in protecting foreign investments could be coming to an end.

"Trade Preferences for the Modern Age: Weighing Free Trade Against Regulation" (with Elisabeth van Lieshout) [email for latest draft]

  • As tariffs internationally move closer to zero, trade agreements have increasingly begun to focus on non-tariff barriers such as regulation. Public debate over recent trade treaties reflects these changes, with both opponents and supporters of the agreements emphasizing their potential regulatory effects. Yet research into both political rhetoric and public attitudes on trade remains focused entirely on politicians’ and citizens’ preferences over the increased movement of goods, with no appreciation for the regulatory changes that these larger trade flows would require. This limits our understanding of the domestic politics of future trade agreements, since public preferences over the regulatory elements of an agreement may not align with preferences over an agreement’s trade effects. Our study seeks to address this shortcoming in the existing literature. We collected and analyzed U.S. Congressional floor speeches on pending trade agreements and conducted a nationally representative survey experiment of the U.S. voting population. Our findings suggest that although both politicians and voters place a greater emphasis on the traditional, economic effects of trade agreements, certain behind the border measures also frequently enter into the discourse and can have a significant impact on voters’ willingness to support a given trade treaty.

“The Politics of Labeling: Modeling Consumers and Firms in an International Economy” [email for latest draft]

  • This paper provides a new framework for understanding regulatory outcomes in the area of consumer goods. I present a simple model, which shows that when consumers care about product quality but are unable to differentiate high and low quality goods, higher quality producers will have an incentive to lobby the government for mandatory labeling laws. At the same time, producers of lower quality goods will want to lobby against such labels, as the absence of full information allows them to free-ride on the reputation of the higher quality producers. In a departure from standard theories of regulation, I account not only for firm interests but also for the role of consumers. In addition, the model introduces international dynamics, showing how the labeling laws of a major trading partner can change domestic firms’ utility functions, at times resulting in a regulatory outcome that would not have otherwise occurred. Finally, the model demonstrates that consumers’ ability to influence regulation need not be constrained by collective action problems. This suggests that the frequent assumption of consumer irrelevance in determining regulatory outcomes has often been overstated in the literature.

Book Project

"Precaution in the Private Interest"