American Politics & Public Policy Workshop: Gregory Huber, “Government Legitimacy and Citizen Behavior: Isolating the Causal Effect of Legitimacy”

Event time: 
Wednesday, April 1, 2015 - 4:00am through 5:15am
Event description: 

“Government Legitimacy and Citizen Behavior: Isolating the Causal Effect of Legitimacy”

Speaker: Gregory Huber, Professor of Political Science, and Resident Fellow of ISPS and CSAP, Yale University

Abstract: A core argument in normative political theory is that features of political institutions and leaders’ choices may imbue government authority with legitimacy. That legitimacy will, in turn, increase the likelihood that citizens obey the law and support the collective efforts of the society as overseen by the state. Such normative arguments underlie some defenses of macro-level institutions like democratic forms of government and micro-level behaviors like civil and community-oriented policing. Across the social sciences, the notion that governmental legitimacy may enhance cooperation and social welfare is a strong and growing area of research. At the same time, we argue that extant research has not provided persuasive causal evidence that legitimacy itself improves outcomes. This is because institutions and choices that enhance legitimacy may also causes changes in instrumental factors. For example, in the area of policing, scholars have argued that when the police behave in a more procedurally fair manner it may improve compliance by enhancing legitimacy. But another possibility is that improved police procedures may reduce the probability of enforcement errors—that is, that those who are guilty are let go or those who are innocent are wrongly punished. In light of this ambiguity, we present novel experiments that allow us to isolate the effect of instrumental and non-instrumental motivations in explaining citizen behavior. Analysis of these experiments provides persuasive evidence that legitimacy itself has a direct effect on citizen behavior.

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