Diffusion everywhere: dumb and dumber edition

In an article on national tax blacklists recently published in Governance, J. C. Sharman has the brilliant idea of looking at the replication of errors as evidence of diffusion. The best example involves Venezuela literally copying and pasting Mexico’s legislation:

[T]he Venezuelan legislation made reference to the wishes of the Mexican legislature and the need to be consistent with the Mexican constitution. Worse still, the original Mexican list had included Venezuela, and thus by copying the Mexican list, Venezuela succeeded in blacklisting itself.


4 thoughts on “Diffusion everywhere: dumb and dumber edition

  1. And where is now the theoretically sophisticated diffusion mechanism to explain that? And if there is one, how could it be any more useful than just the assumption of some state employees trying to maximize their leisure, i.e. just a rank and file rational choice assumption? Is there ANY advancement in calling this diffusion? I don’t think so.

    • The diffusion literature assumes that the policy choices of one country are influenced by the policy choices of other countries, and this extreme example shows that the assumption is more than plausible. Then the diffusion approach proceeds to ask what the nature of the process is. Some arguments make strong claims of rationality, and the example shows the limits of this reasoning.

  2. This paper was very interesting to me, since I’m a student still trying to understand how PoliSci works and why it is different from a pub debate (Blum & Schubert, Politikfeldanalyse, 2008, page 141).
    First: The case about Venezuela blacklisting itself – the smoking gun – is really extreme and I immediately wanted to “see” it. I found the resolutions cited on page 632, and effectively in the first you find PaTau (Palau in the second) and all the small islands which, so Sharman, have no reason to be there. But the smoking gun isn’t there, neither could I find the paper submitted by M. Langer to the International Tax
    Planning Association Conference 2003 in Cannes, which should contain the source (I expected a law, resolution, official bulletin or so) of this serious accusation.
    Then I found another document by Sharman written in 2005 for the trust industry where the smoking gun is presented without Venezuela being named and the remark “One story told us informally by several independent interview sources”. Now, is this empirical evidence or gossip?
    Second: If the well documented fact that Argentina, Portugal and Venezuela copied the Mexican list – including the typo on Palau – is sufficient to make a paper if properly embedded in a theoretical context, could I in the future argue that very rich people actually choose their place of residence because of tax rates by looking closer at Wollerau (SZ), where there isn’t anything interesting but low taxation and many wealthy newcomers (some famous are Ospel, Grübel and Federer)?
    Third: Even if my two questions may give another impression, I really appreciated this paper and learnt something from it. I’m just trying to understand what is empirical evidence in PoliSci and what isn’t. Thanks.

    The first resolution:

    The second resolution:
    The summary of the Cannes meeting:
    The document written for the trust industry:
    Former post on this blog about Tax competition in Switzerland and related empirical evidence.

    • Interesting–and troubling–that you couldn’t find a primary source for the claim made Sharman.

      Now, I take most of the empirical information in that article as interesting examples, but certainly not as definitive proofs of anything. I also agree–if that’s your point–that the evidence is not really systematic, which is a problem I have with much of the policy transfer literature (related to, but distinct from, the policy diffusion literature).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s