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Media scrutiny and the quality of public officials

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  • Daniel Sutter

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    Abstract

    I investigate whether attempts by the media to determine a candidate's fitness for office lowers the average quality of public officials, what I call the media scrutiny paradox. Media scrutiny imperfectly signals heterogeneous candidates' type, but imposes privacy costs and reputational costs on politicians. The quality of office holders falls if the selection effect is adverse and outweighs the screening effect. A low quality information signal, which could result if the media focus on irrelevant aspects of behavior, makes the screening effect small and the media paradox more likely to hold. Individuals of good character might invest more in their reputation and have more at stake from being (falsely) identified as a rapscallion. The actual malice standard established in New York Times v. Sullivan likely increased (relatively) the cost of candidacy for good people and lowered the quality of officials. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2006

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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1007/s11127-006-9025-0
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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Springer in its journal Public Choice.

    Volume (Year): 129 (2006)
    Issue (Month): 1 (October)
    Pages: 25-40

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    Handle: RePEc:kap:pubcho:v:129:y:2006:i:1:p:25-40

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    Web page: http://www.springerlink.com/link.asp?id=100332

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    1. Sendhil Mullainathan & Andrei Shleifer, 2005. "The Market for News," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(4), pages 1031-1053, September.
    2. Alberto Alesina & Alex Cukierman, 1987. "The Politics of Ambiguity," NBER Working Papers 2468, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Sendhil Mullainathan & Andrei Shleifer, 2002. "Media Bias," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1981, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
    4. Dixit, Avinash & Grossman, Gene M & Helpman, Elhanan, 1997. "Common Agency and Coordination: General Theory and Application to Government Policy Making," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 105(4), pages 752-69, August.
    5. Nuno Garoupa, 1999. "Dishonesty and Libel Law: The Economics of the "Chilling" Effect," Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics (JITE), Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 155(2), pages 284-, June.
    6. Geoffrey Brennan & Alan Hamlin, 1995. "Economizing on virtue," Constitutional Political Economy, Springer, vol. 6(1), pages 35-56, December.
    7. Glazer, A. & Hassin, R., 2000. "The Calculus of Stonewalling," Papers 99-00-13, California Irvine - School of Social Sciences.
    8. Crain, W Mark & Goff, Brian L, 1986. "Televising Legislatures: An Economic Analysis," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 29(2), pages 405-21, October.
    9. John Ferejohn, 1986. "Incumbent performance and electoral control," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 50(1), pages 5-25, January.
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    Cited by:
    1. Blume, Lorenz & Voigt, Stefan, 2013. "The economic effects of constitutional budget institutions," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 29(C), pages 236-251.
    2. Jiancai Pi, 2010. "Media Capture and Local Government Accountability," Prague Economic Papers, University of Economics, Prague, vol. 2010(3), pages 273-283.

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