By: Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm -
The role of a positive example in creating a “demonstration effect” has long been noted in the fields of political science and international relations, with one of the classic examples being the American Revolution that was closely followed by the French revolution. We’re seeing it now on a near daily basis in the Middle East and North Africa. From Egypt to Bahrain, Morocco, Yemen, Algeria and Libya, people who spent generations under autocratic rule are suddenly finding the will to mount massive demonstrations to challenge their respective regimes. From a single successful example (Tunisia went first), the idea spread outward like a drop of ink in a glass of water. One day, a revolution seems impossible, and the next day it has a chance: “if the Tunisians and Egyptians can throw off a dictator, then so can we!” and the dominoes fall. So if you are an autocratic ruler, situated in the North of Africa or the Middle East, chances are you have some concerns about anything that could prompt the citizenry to follow that example.
I don’t want to overwork the analogy, just to bring the topic back to litigation...but I will: If you are a defendant corporation in the pre-trial phase, you may be thinking along similar lines: “We can’t settle this case, because once we take that first step, there will be so much blood in the water that we’ll be settling other cases for decades…” There is, of course, some practical truth to that. But the question is – for both Middle East unrest and the demonstration effect of potential settlements: What is it about a positive example that motivates folks to think it could apply to them as well?