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Political and Judicial Checks on Corruption: Evidence from American State Governments

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  • James E. Alt

    (Department of Government, Harvard University)

  • David Dreyer Lassen

    (Department of Economics, University of Denmark)

Abstract

The paper investigates the effects of checks and balances on corruption. Within a presidential system, effective separation of powers is achieved under divided government, with the executive and legislative branches being controlled by different political parties. When government is unified, no effective separation exists even within a presidential system, but, we argue, can be partially restored by having an accountable judiciary. Our empirical findings show that divided government and elected, rather than appointed, state supreme court judges are associated with lower corruption and, furthermore, that the effect of an accountable judiciary is stronger under unified government, where government cannot control itself. The effect of an accountable judiciary seems to be driven primarily by judges chosen through direct elections, rather than those exposed to a retention vote following appointment.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Economic Policy Research Unit (EPRU), University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics in its series EPRU Working Paper Series with number 05-12.

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Length: 20 pages
Date of creation: Aug 2005
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:kud:epruwp:05-12

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Keywords: separation of powers; corruption; rent seeking; checks and balances; political institutions; judicial independence; rule of law;

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References

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  1. Besley, Timothy J. & Coate, Stephen, 2000. "Elected Versus Appointed Regulators: Theory And Evidence," CEPR Discussion Papers 2381, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. Torsten Persson & Guido Tabellini & Francesco Trebbi, 2001. "Electoral Rules and Corruption," NBER Working Papers 8154, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. John Ferejohn, 1986. "Incumbent performance and electoral control," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 50(1), pages 5-25, January.
  4. Di Tella, Rafael & Fisman, Raymond, 2004. "Are Politicians Really Paid Like Bureaucrats?," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 47(2), pages 477-513, October.
  5. Edward L. Glaeser & Raven Saks, 2004. "Corruption in America," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 2043, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  6. Hanssen, F Andrew, 2000. "Independent Courts and Administrative Agencies: An Empirical Analysis of the States," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 16(2), pages 534-71, October.
  7. Edward L. Glaeser & Claudia Goldin, 2004. "Corruption and Reform: An Introduction," NBER Working Papers 10775, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Laffont, Jean-Jacques, 2001. "Incentives and Political Economy," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199248681.
  9. F. Andrew Hanssen, 2004. "Is There a Politically Optimal Level of Judicial Independence?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(3), pages 712-729, June.
  10. Edward L. Glaeser & Raven Saks, 2004. "Corruption in America," NBER Working Papers 10821, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Goel, Rajeev K. & Nelson, Michael A., 2013. "Effectiveness of whistleblower laws in combating corruption," BOFIT Discussion Papers 9/2013, Bank of Finland, Institute for Economies in Transition.
  2. Adriana Cordis, 2009. "Judicial checks on corruption in the United States," Economics of Governance, Springer, vol. 10(4), pages 375-401, November.
  3. Noel Johnson & Courtney LaFountain & Steven Yamarik, 2011. "Corruption is bad for growth (even in the United States)," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 147(3), pages 377-393, June.
  4. James E. Alt & David Dreyer Lassen, 2010. "Enforcement and Public Corruption: Evidence from US States," EPRU Working Paper Series 2010-08, Economic Policy Research Unit (EPRU), University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
  5. Rajeev Goel & Michael Nelson, 2011. "Measures of corruption and determinants of US corruption," Economics of Governance, Springer, vol. 12(2), pages 155-176, June.
  6. Akee, Randall K. Q. & Jorgensen, Miriam & Sunde, Uwe, 2012. "Constitutions and Economic Development: Evidence from the American Indian Nations," IZA Discussion Papers 6754, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  7. Bernardo Mueller & Lee Alston & Carlos Pereira & Marcus Melo, 2008. "The Choices Governors Make: The Roles of Checks and Balances and Political Competition," Anais do XXXVI Encontro Nacional de Economia [Proceedings of the 36th Brazilian Economics Meeting] 200807181549410, ANPEC - Associação Nacional dos Centros de Pósgraduação em Economia [Brazilian Association of Graduate Programs in Economics].
  8. Elena Costas-Pérez & Albert Solé-Ollé & Pilar Sorribas-Navarro, 2011. "Corruption scandals, press reporting, and accountability. Evidence from Spanish mayors," Working Papers 2011/9, Institut d'Economia de Barcelona (IEB).
  9. Noel Johnson & William Ruger & Jason Sorens & Steven Yamarik, 2014. "Corruption, regulation, and growth: an empirical study of the United States," Economics of Governance, Springer, vol. 15(1), pages 51-69, February.
  10. Costas-Pérez, Elena & Solé-Ollé, Albert & Sorribas-Navarro, Pilar, 2012. "Corruption scandals, voter information, and accountability," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 28(4), pages 469-484.
  11. 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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