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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 in?uence politicians through non-electoral means. In weakly-institutionalized polities where such non-electoral in?uences, 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 in?uences. When they do so, they are e?ectively 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 in?uence 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 and econometric evidence on voter attitudes from a Latin American survey consistent with the model.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Centre for Applied Macro- and Petroleum economics (CAMP), BI Norwegian Business School in its series Working Papers with number 0010.

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Length: 44 pages
Date of creation: Jan 2013
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:bny:wpaper:0010

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Keywords: corruption; checks and balances; political economy; redistribution; separation of powers; taxes;

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  1. 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.
  2. Francesco Caselli & Massimo Morelli, 2000. "Bad politicians," Discussion Paper / Institute for Empirical Macroeconomics 134, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
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  6. Persson, Torsten & Roland, Gerard & Tabellini, Guido, 1997. "Separation of Powers and Political Accountability," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(4), pages 1163-1202, November.
  7. Daron Acemoglu & James A. Robinson, 2008. "Persistence of Power, Elites, and Institutions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(1), pages 267-93, March.
  8. Eliana La Ferrara & Robert H. Bates, 2001. "Political Competition in Weak States," Economics and Politics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 13(2), pages 159-184, 07.
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  10. 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.
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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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Cited by:
  1. Thorvaldur Gylfason, 2012. "From Collapse to Constitution: The Case of Iceland," CESifo Working Paper Series 3770, CESifo Group Munich.
  2. Xavier Debrun & Tidiane Kinda, 2014. "Strengthening Post-Crisis Fiscal Credibility: Fiscal Councils on the Rise — A New Dataset," IMF Working Papers 14/58, International Monetary Fund.

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