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Principals, Agents and Human Rights

  • David Cingranelli, Paola Fajardo-Heyward and Mikhail Filippov

This article argues that human rights could be improved by motivating politicians and bureaucrats to put more effort into protecting human rights. It conceptualizes the production of human rights practices as the outcome of two principal-agent relationships that constrain politicians and bureaucrats. Reliance on taxes is a non-electoral, fiscal factor that makes politicians more willing to protect human rights. Increased government revenue, no matter the source, raises bureaucratic compensation and helps create a more accountable bureaucracy. Thus both a higher reliance on taxes and larger state revenues lead to the better protection of human rights. Each fiscal factor promotes a different type of accountability, both of which independently contribute to good human rights practices.

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Binghamton University, SUNY (email:; Canisius College (email:; Binghamton University, SUNY (email: Data replication sets are available at and online appendices are available at

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