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Separation of powers and accountability: Towards a formal approach to comparative politics

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  • Persson, Torsten

    ()
    (Institute for International Economic Studies, Stockholm University)

  • Roland, Gerard

    (Université Libre de Bruxelles)

  • Tabellini, Guido

    (Bocconi University)

Abstract

A political constitution is like an incomplete contract: it spells out a procedure for making decisions and for delegating power, without specifying the content of those decisions. This creates a problem: the appointed policymaker could use this power for his own benefit against the interests of the citizens. In democracies, elections are the primary mechanism for disciplining public officials. But elections are not sufficient. Separation of powers between executive and legislative bodies helps the voters, in two distinct ways. First, it can elicit information held by the appointed officials and not otherwise available to the voters. Second, by playing one body against the other and by aligning the interest of the weaker body with their own, the voters can induce the two bodies to discipline each other. Separation of power only works to the voters' advantage if it is appropriately designed, however, and it can be detrimental if it creates a 'common pool' problem.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Stockholm University, Institute for International Economic Studies in its series Seminar Papers with number 612.

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Length: 35 pages
Date of creation: 06 Nov 1997
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:hhs:iiessp:0612

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Postal: Institute for International Economic Studies, Stockholm University, S-106 91 Stockholm, Sweden
Phone: +46-8-162000
Fax: +46-8-161443
Web page: http://www.iies.su.se/
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Keywords: political constitution; Separation of powers; common pool;

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Cited by:
  1. Omar Azfar & William Nelson, 2007. "Transparency, wages, and the separation of powers: An experimental analysis of corruption," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 130(3), pages 471-493, March.
  2. Herrendorf, B. & Neumann, M.J.M., 1998. "A non-Normative Theory of Inflation and Central Bank Independence," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 515, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
  3. Wihlborg, Clas, 2005. "Solving the bargaining democracy problem using a constitutional hierarchy for law," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 56(4), pages 655-673, April.
  4. Kausik Chaudhuri & Sugato Dasgupta, 2005. "The political determinants of central governments' economic policies in India: an empirical investigation," Journal of International Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 17(7), pages 957-978.
  5. Piketty, Thomas, 1999. "The information-aggregation approach to political institutions," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 43(4-6), pages 791-800, April.
  6. Brown, David S. & Touchton, Michael & Whitford, Andrew, 2011. "Political Polarization as a Constraint on Corruption: A Cross-national Comparison," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 39(9), pages 1516-1529, September.

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