Working Papers

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“Defending the Status Quo? How Reelection Shapes Criminal Collusion in Mexico.”

Abstract How does the ability to run for reelection shape the relationship between criminal groups and local politicians? Examining an electoral reform in Mexico, I argue that reelection can extend the status quo, upon which stable deals between criminal groups and politicians can be negotiated more efficiently. As a result, criminal groups have an incentive to ensure the incumbent retains office, rather than risk being replaced by an unknown quantity. Politicians are more likely to collude with criminal groups and engage in corruption after reelection as both groups work to consolidate their power. To test this theory, I exploit the staggered implementation of electoral reform in Mexico. Using a multi-period difference-in-differences design with an original dataset of attacks on local politicians, I show that criminal groups disproportionately killed candidates in places where incumbents could run for reelection, maintaining the status quo. I also show that the federal government was increasingly concerned about corrupt actions by mayors who could run for reelections, particularly in places where criminal groups are active. Finally, I also examine the behavior of criminal groups after an incumbent wins reelection, suggesting that groups expand their control over illicit markets and focus less on inter-group competition. This project provides a unique and important bridge between understanding the relationship between electoral incentives of politicians, institutional changes, and criminal organizations.
  • Keywords: reelection; institutional reform; organized crime; criminal violence; elections; Mexico

“Violence Incorporated? State Response to Pro-Government Militias in Northern Ireland”

  • Written with: Danielle Villa, Emily Gade, and Sarah Dreier
Abstract Pro-government militias (PGMs) actively participate in conflicts around the world. Yet governments openly support some PGMs, maintain covert links with others, and ignore or actively suppress other militias. Why do states support some pro-government militias and de-legitimize others, particularly when the militias engage in similar behavior? We examine the internal decision-making process of the British government during the conflict in Northern Ireland, analyzing 8,430 recently declassified documents from the Prime Ministers’ security-based Correspondence Files (1969-1974). These documents detail the British government's internal attitudes and behaviors toward more than 20 Loyalist PGM groups. These records clearly outline the state's desire to balance its immediate military needs with more long-term goals of political control. Unable to discern between groups that posed long-term risks and those that did not, the state repeatedly collaborated with specific militias on narrow, short-term agreements to police local neighborhoods and improve public support. We develop a formal model of government decision-making in this process and qualitatively analyze the documents to understand the state's concerns, goals, and actions. This project provides the first internal account of how governments think about and work with PGMs, providing critical insights into how conflicts unfold in real time. By examining this decision-making process, we can shed light on the variation in the relationships of states and PGMs across the globe.
  • Keywords: Loyalist paramilitaries; UDA; UVF; collusion; pro-government militias; qualitative research; Northern Ireland

“Why States Crack down on Some Armed Groups and Not Others: Analyzing Decision-Making within the East India Company “

Abstract Why do states crack down on some armed resistance groups and not others? The consequences of crackdowns can range from successful elimination to exponential violence. Further, states face significant capacity and logistical challenges to investing in repression. Yet, the internal decision-making of this selection process remains obscure, and most studies rely on observable actions to infer this process. To understand how authorities make this decision, I examine the internal, private records of the English East India Company during the first years in which they began governing territory (1769-1773 in Bengal). During this period, the Company selectively repressed a network of armed resistance and criminal organizations, varying with groups' allegiances with certain Indian elite and the Company's relationships with the same individuals. While violent groups aligned with elites who resisted Company rule were repressed, groups that worked with aligned elite were used as auxiliary coercive forces by the EIC. This project provides critical insight into how authorities govern and make decisions in the face of armed resistance.
  • Keywords: East India Company; Historical Political Economy; archival research; crackdowns; armed resistence; Bengal

“Managing An Extractive Empire: How the East India Company Solved Agency Problems”

Abstract To be hired by the English East India Company (EIC), an individual was generally required to be between fifteen and eighteen years old. With little training or local knowledge, employees were sent across the globe, supplied with arms, and instructed to maximize profits. As such, the EIC was plagued by agency problems from its inception. How do organizations solve this challenge? This is particularly acute in economically driven groups, where hiring a profit-seeking employee can both be highly beneficial but also highly risky. Examining the internal communications of the EIC as it shifted from a trading company to a governing authority, I show that the Company was deeply concerned about this issue. As a result, they formed an institutional structure of intelligence sharing and reporting on other's behavior, maximizing transparency and bureaucratizing spying. This project helps us understand how a group's organization shapes its behavior and responses to challenges.
  • Keywords: East India Company; Historical Political Economy; archival research; agency problems; organizational theory

“Arming the Armed: Explaining How Violent Groups Delegate Coercive Authority”

Abstract Violent armed groups around the world formally designate institutions, from specialized coercive institutions to ones that provide services. For groups that seek to reform, remove, or supplant the state, these institutions are a mechanism of direct governance by which the groups can impose a new political or social order. For groups that do not seek statehood, however, these institutions help them achieve their non-political goals, such as economic ones. However, because these groups do not rival the state, they can also co-opt state institutions and govern indirectly. This project examines the trade-off that non-state-seeking groups face when choosing an institutional arrangement. They can govern indirectly, through co-opting state institutions, or directly by developing their own institutions. Indirect governance establishes immediate access to state power but introduces principal-agent problems. When the state is unable to serve a faithful agent, groups may choose to form their own institutions. These can be more effective but also are much more costly to establish and maintain. I examine this conceptualization using qualitative evidence of coercive institutions by criminal groups in Mexico (1990-2010).
  • Keywords: criminal governance; institutions; non-state governance; order

“Divergent Accountability? Competing Principals and Incomplete Contracts”

Abstract How does the introduction of competing principals impact voters' ability to hold politicians accountable? This project builds off of canonical models of democratic accountability, which frame reelection as a chance for voters to solve the moral hazard problem they face with politicians. Here, however, there is a second principal who is also vying for control of the politician, as the agent, but who has fundamentally divergent goals from the voters. This principal also has a different set of skills that they can employ to coerce the official, using both bribes and threats. The politician, therefore, must appraise the risks they face and the value of holding office, given the incentives offered by each of the principals. This model has broad applications, applying wherever principals, armed with differing capacities, compete for control of an agent.
  • Keywords: multiple principals; accountability; moral hazard; delegation; organized crime; formal model

Data Collection

“Digitizing Private Correspondence from the East India Company (1769-1773)”

Abstract The English East India Company (EIC) has been called one of the most well-documented corporations in human history. In this qualitative dataset, I gather all recorded correspondence, internal and external, from the Company records kept at the Asia and Africa Reading Room at the British Library. I particularly focus on the Presidency of Bengal, where the EIC first obtained the rigth to extract land taxes and began to govern as an administrative body during this period. Thus, this period covers one of the most influential moments in Company history -- defining how British colonial policy in India would be organized for more than a century. With more than 4,000 pages of handwritten documents, the first goal of this project is to digitize these letters and clearly record their contents.
  • Keywords: Computer Vision; Natural Languange Processing; Predictive LLM; archival records

“Mapping Criminal Governance”

Abstract How do criminal groups govern? While our understanding of governance by criminal organizations has grown, there is little systematic data to map it. This project seeks to address this gap. Using newspaper articles from _The New York Times_ containing the names of more than 50 randomly selected groups from across Latin America, this project implements a supervised machine learning approach to code more than thirty indicators of criminal governance. This indicators include who is governing (what group or groups), how they are governing (enforcing rules, collecting taxes, distributing goods), and who they are governing (civilians, other criminals, or the state). This project seeks to expand our understanding of criminal governance across the globe.
  • Keywords: Criminal Governance; Latin America; Natural Language Processing; supervised machine learning