Saturday, September 19, 2009

Market for (smuggled) cultural treasures

Trading in certain kinds of antiquities and "cultural treasures" is regarded as a repugnant transaction in many parts of the world, and governments seek to prevent it in various ways. (For example, France sometimes exercises a right to "preempt" auctions of art it deems important, essentially by exercising a right of first refusal (see footnote 3 in the linked paper). Many countries make exports of certain kinds of "cultural treasures" illegal.

Ray Fisman and Shang-Jin Wei have a paper that attempts to measure how often such laws are flouted (by comparing export declarations and U.S. import declarations--not everything that is illegal to export is illegal to import). It's called "The Smuggling of Art and the Art of Smuggling: Uncovering the Illicit Trade in Cultural Property and Antiques ," AEJ-Applied Economics, 1,3,2009.

It turns out that the level of illegal exports from a country is correlated with how often its UN diplomats violate NYC parking regulations.

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