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Why Are There Serial Defaulters? Evidence from Constitutions

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  • Emanuel Kohlscheen

Abstract

Presidential democracies were 4.9 times more likely than parliamentary democracies to default on external debts between 1976 and 2000. In this article I argue that the explanation for the serial defaults by a number of sovereign borrowers lies in their constitutions. Ceteris paribus, parliamentary democracies are less likely than presidential democracies to default on their liabilities because the confidence requirement creates a credible link between economic policies and the executive's political survival. This link tends to strengthen the repayment commitment when politicians are opportunistic. I show that this effect is large in the contemporary world even when the comparison is restricted to countries that are similar in terms of colonial origin, geography, and economic variables. Since a country's form of government is typically chosen at the time of independence and is highly persistent over time, constitutions can explain why debt policies in developing countries are related to individual histories.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by University of Chicago Press in its journal The Journal of Law and Economics.

Volume (Year): 50 (2007)
Issue (Month): ()
Pages: 713-730

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Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlawec:v:50:y:2007:p:713-730

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  1. Robert E. Hall & Charles I. Jones, 1999. "Why Do Some Countries Produce So Much More Output Per Worker Than Others?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 114(1), pages 83-116, February.
  2. Edward L. Glaeser & Rafael La Porta & Florencio Lopez-de-Silanes & Andrei Shleifer, 2004. "Do Institutions Cause Growth?," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 9(3), pages 271-303, 09.
  3. Carmen M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff, 2004. "Serial Default and the "Paradox" of Rich-to-Poor Capital Flows," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(2), pages 53-58, May.
  4. Persson, Torsten & Tabellini, Guido, 2002. "Do constitutions cause large governments? Quasi-experimental evidence," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 46(4-5), pages 908-918, May.
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Cited by:
  1. Cuadra, Gabriel & Sapriza, Horacio, 2008. "Sovereign default, interest rates and political uncertainty in emerging markets," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 76(1), pages 78-88, September.
  2. Giordano, Raffaela & Tommasino, Pietro, 2011. "What determines debt intolerance? The role of political and monetary institutions," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 27(3), pages 471-484, September.
  3. Kohlscheen, E, 2009. "Domestic vs. External Sovereign Debt Servicing : An Empirical Analysis," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 904, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
  4. Sottile, Pedro, 2013. "On the political determinants of sovereign risk: Evidence from a Markov-switching vector autoregressive model for Argentina," Emerging Markets Review, Elsevier, vol. 15(C), pages 160-185.
  5. Christoph Trebesch & Michael G Papaioannou & Udaibir S. Das, 2012. "Sovereign Debt Restructurings 1950-2010," IMF Working Papers 12/203, International Monetary Fund.
  6. Jens Hilscher & Yves Nosbusch, 2007. "Determinants of Sovereign Risk: Macroeconomic Fundamentals and the Pricing of Sovereign Debt," Money Macro and Finance (MMF) Research Group Conference 2006 114, Money Macro and Finance Research Group, revised 24 Apr 2007.
  7. Enderlein, Henrik & Trebesch, Christoph & von Daniels, Laura, 2012. "Sovereign debt disputes: A database on government coerciveness during debt crises," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 31(2), pages 250-266.
  8. Kim Oosterlinck, 2013. "Sovereign debt defaults: insights from history," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 29(4), pages 697-714, WINTER.
  9. Mauricio Drelichman & Joachim Voth, 2011. "Serial defaults, serial profits: Returns to sovereign lending in Habsburg Spain, 1566-1600," Economics Working Papers 1262, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
  10. Schaltegger, Christoph & Weder, Martin, 2013. "Fiscal Adjustments and the Probability of Sovereign Default," Annual Conference 2013 (Duesseldorf): Competition Policy and Regulation in a Global Economic Order 79979, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.

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