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Why Do Voters Dismantle Checks and Balances?

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  • Daron Acemoglu
  • James A. Robinson
  • Ragnar Torvik

Abstract

Voters often dismantle constitutional checks and balances on the executive. If such checks and balances limit presidential abuses of power and rents, why do voters support their removal? We argue that by reducing politician rents, checks and balances also make it cheaper to bribe or influence politicians through non-electoral means. In weakly institutionalized polities where such non-electoral influences, particularly by the better organized elite, are a major concern, voters may prefer a political system without checks and balances as a way of insulating politicians from these influences. When they do so, they are effectively accepting a certain amount of politician (presidential) rents in return for redistribution. We show that checks and balances are less likely to emerge when the elite is better organized and is more likely to be able to influence or bribe politicians, and when inequality and potential taxes are high (which makes redistribution more valuable to the majority). We also provide case study evidence from Bolivia, Ecuador, and Venezuela consistent with the model. Copyright 2013, Oxford University Press.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Oxford University Press in its journal Review of Economic Studies.

Volume (Year): 80 (2013)
Issue (Month): 3 ()
Pages: 845-875

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Handle: RePEc:oup:restud:v:80:y:2013:i:3:p:845-875

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  1. Daron Acemoglu & Georgy Egorov & Konstantin Sonin, 2011. "A Political Theory of Populism," Levine's Working Paper Archive 786969000000000281, David K. Levine.
  2. Daron Acemoglu & Davide Ticchi & Andrea Vindigni, 2011. "Emergence And Persistence Of Inefficient States," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 9(2), pages 177-208, 04.
  3. Caselli, Francesco & Morelli, Massimo, 2004. "Bad politicians," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(3-4), pages 759-782, March.
  4. Eliana La Ferrara & Robert H. Bates, 2001. "Political Competition in Weak States," Economics and Politics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 13(2), pages 159-184, 07.
  5. Daron Acemoglu & James A. Robinson & Thierry Verdier, 2004. "Alfred Marshall Lecture: Kleptocracy and Divide-and-Rule: A Model of Personal Rule," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 2(2-3), pages 162-192, 04/05.
  6. Daron Acemoglu & James A. Robinson, 2006. "Persistence of Power, Elites and Institutions," NBER Working Papers 12108, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Gene M. Grossman & Elhanan Helpman, 1992. "Protection For Sale," NBER Working Papers 4149, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Colin Xu, Lixin & Li, Wei & Zhen-Wei Qiang, Christine, 2001. "The Political Economy of Privatization and Competition: Cross-Country Evidence from the Telecommunications Sector," CEPR Discussion Papers 2825, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  9. Roger B. Myerson & Daniel Diermeier, 1999. "Bicameralism and Its Consequences for the Internal Organization of Legislatures," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(5), pages 1182-1196, December.
  10. Alessandro Lizzeri & Nicola Persico, 2004. "Why Did the Elites Extend the Suffrage? Democracy and the Scope of Government, With an Application to Britain's "Age of Reform"," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 119(2), pages 705-763, May.
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  1. Paradoxes of democracy in LA
    by UDADISI in UDADISI on 2013-02-16 02:01:00

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