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Authoritarian Judicial Politics in Historical Taiwan, 1950s-70s

February 10 @ 9:00 am 10:00 am JST

Event co-organized with the Cambridge University Press Taiwan Studies Series

Registration required!

Author: Howard Liu (Essex), Greg Sheen (NYU Abu Dhabi), Ching-Hsuan Su (Academic Sinica), Hans H. Tung (National Taiwan University), Yi-ting Wang (National Cheng-Kung University), Wen-chin Wu (Academia Sinica).

Book abstract: We study Taiwan’s judicial politics during its authoritarian period between 1956 and 1975. In the 2000s, the literature on nominally democratic institutions of authoritarian countries (Brownlee, 2007; Gehlbach and Keefer, 2011; Ghandi, 2008a, 2008b; Magaloni, 2008; Wright, 2008) has demonstrated both theoretically and empirically that these institutions—including authoritarian legislatures and parties—make authoritarian regimes more durable and more successful, among other things, in achieving higher economic growth rates. The first-generation literature, however, seldom addressed the issues regarding the judicial institutions in authoritarian regimes. Authoritarian judicial institutions at least touch upon two critical theoretical puzzles. First of all, why do dictators need to create judicial institutions with certain formal procedures for trying political criminals? Second, what is the political logic of adjudication and sentencing in dictatorships? We answer these two questions by developing a game-theoretic model for deriving hypotheses and bringing them to the new data on Taiwan’s authoritarian period to be released last year by the Taiwanese government. Regarding the former, we focus on the power-sharing dynamics among political elites, and derive conditions under which judicial institutions arise as an equilibrium. Moreover, empirically, the new dataset on Taiwan’s judicial politics under the martial law between 1956 and 1975 provides an exceptional window of opportunity for understanding the variation both across cases and individual criminals.

Discussants: TBD.

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