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World Justice Project

Author: James J. Heckman

The World Justice Project, sponsored by the American Bar Association, seeks to broaden and institutionalize the network of organizations and individuals committed to advancing the rule of law.  The project consists of three related initiatives leading up to a plenary conference, the World Justice Forum, to be held in Vienna, Austria in July 2008: (1) multidisciplinary outreach conferences, (2) development of a rule of law index, and (3) a research program involving a conference of experts studying various aspects of the rule of law.

The World Justice Project convened a preliminary workshop of leading academics, held at the American Bar Foundation on November 6, 2007, in order to lay the groundwork for its research program.  Under the leadership of James Heckman and ABF Director Robert Nelson, the World Justice Group and the American Bar Foundation are assembling an interdisciplinary group of leading scholars.  Participants were asked to write short position papers (2-3 pages) and to select readings of their work to constitute the preliminary workshop.  Participants will expand on their position papers or edit existing papers or works in progress for presentation at a second workshop in January or February 2008.  These papers will be the subject of the World Justice Forum and will be published in an edited volume on the rule of law.

The research group will address the following broad topics:

  • What is the good life?  What constitutes well-being?  Are there universal principles that should be adopted for the rule of law?  How should the concept of the rule of law be adapted to different cultural and historical contexts?
  • What is the relationship between the “rule of law” (variously defined) and economic and social development?  What are the causal relationships between the rule of law and social progress?
  • What policies or positions should be advocated based on this causal knowledge?  How can a rule of law system contribute to advances in areas such as human rights, health, and education?
  • What is the relationship between the rule of law and corruption, and governance more generally?  How can an effective rule of law system be developed in the face of corruption, and how can it contribute to its decline?
  • What is the relationship between the rule of law and regulation, including its effects on bankruptcy, corporate and finance law, labor market regulation and corporate governance?

 There will be no attempt to force a consensus.  The goal will be to state the issues clearly and present frontier knowledge.

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