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A Note on Wealth as a Corruption-Controlling Device

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  • Rafael Di Tella

    (Harvard Business School)

  • Federico Weinschelbaum

    (Universidad de San Andrés)

Abstract

In the standard moral hazard model, withholding of effort by the agent is not observable to the principal. We argue that this assumption has to be changed in applications that study corruption. The overwhelming majority of cases where corrupt politicians have been punished involve the detection of consumption levels that appear to be too high. The informativeness of an agent’s level of consumption depends on his initial level of wealth as conspicuous consumption of luxuries by wealthy agents leads to little updating of the principal’s belief about their honesty. This introduces a tendency to choose poor agents as they are easier to monitor. More generally, we show that, even if agents have similar preferences, there are contractual advantages to selecting particular types. We describe the basic problem of choosing agents and monitoring consumption, and discuss a number of features of the practical applications. We show that selecting rich politicians may not help fight corruption and that the political class will exhibit lower variance in consumption than the population. In settings were formal contracts matter, we show that monitoring consumption introduces a tendency towards low powered incentive schemes (and more generally low wages) and that the measure of “moral” costs that is often employed in the literature can be derived (not assumed).

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File URL: http://128.118.178.162/eps/pe/papers/0503/0503003.pdf
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by EconWPA in its series Public Economics with number 0503003.

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Length: 23 pages
Date of creation: 08 Mar 2005
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwppe:0503003

Note: Type of Document - pdf; pages: 23
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Web page: http://128.118.178.162

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Keywords: Choosing agents; monitoring consumption; low wages; moral costs;

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References

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  1. Rose-Ackerman, Susan, 1975. "The economics of corruption," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 4(2), pages 187-203, February.
  2. Grossman, Sanford J & Hart, Oliver D, 1983. "An Analysis of the Principal-Agent Problem," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 51(1), pages 7-45, January.
  3. Rasmusen, Eric, 1992. "An Income-Satiation Model of Efficiency Wages," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 30(3), pages 467-78, July.
  4. Gibbons, Robert & Waldman, Michael, 1999. "Careers in organizations: Theory and evidence," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 36, pages 2373-2437 Elsevier.
  5. Julio Rotemberg & Garth Saloner, 2000. "Visionaries, Managers, and Strategic Direction," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 31(4), pages 693-716, Winter.
  6. Dickens, William T, et al, 1989. "Employee Crime and the Monitoring Puzzle," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 7(3), pages 331-47, July.
  7. Rogoff, Kenneth, 1985. "The Optimal Degree of Commitment to an Intermediate Monetary Target," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 100(4), pages 1169-89, November.
  8. Van Rijckeghem, Caroline & Weder, Beatrice, 2001. "Bureaucratic corruption and the rate of temptation: do wages in the civil service affect corruption, and by how much?," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 65(2), pages 307-331, August.
  9. Besley, Timothy & McLaren, John, 1993. "Taxes and Bribery: The Role of Wage Incentives," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 103(416), pages 119-41, January.
  10. Tirole, J., 1993. "The Internal Organization of Government," Working papers 93-11, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  11. Gary S. Becker & George J. Stigler, 1974. "Law Enforcement, Malfeasance, and Compensation of Enforcers," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 3(1), pages 1-18, January.
  12. Mookherjee, Dilip & Png, I P L, 1995. "Corruptible Law Enforcers: How Should They Be Compensated?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 105(428), pages 145-59, January.
  13. Canice Prendergast, 1999. "The Provision of Incentives in Firms," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 37(1), pages 7-63, March.
  14. Vickers, John, 1985. "Delegation and the Theory of the Firm," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 95(380a), pages 138-47, Supplemen.
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Cited by:
  1. Roberto Cortes Conde, 2008. "Spanish America Colonial Patterns: The Rio de La Plata," Working Papers 96, Universidad de San Andres, Departamento de Economia, revised Mar 2008.
  2. José A. Rodrigues-Neto, 2009. "Sex, Money and Corruption," ANU Working Papers in Economics and Econometrics 2009-500, Australian National University, College of Business and Economics, School of Economics.

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