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Why a clean politician supports dirty politics: A game-theoretical explanation for the persistence of political corruption


  • Evrenk, Haldun


Using a theoretical model of repeated political competition among two career politicians, I study the incentives of both the corrupt and clean politicians not to adopt a fully effective reform targeting political corruption. In the setup I study, each politician can credibly adopt the reform as part of his policy platform in the elections. Yet, when the level of political corruption is high, neither politician does so in a Nash Equilibrium. Intuitively, political corruption changes the zero-sum nature of political competition: the reform eliminates the illegal rents of the corrupt candidate and the competitive advantage of the clean candidate.

Suggested Citation

  • Evrenk, Haldun, 2011. "Why a clean politician supports dirty politics: A game-theoretical explanation for the persistence of political corruption," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 80(3), pages 498-510.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:80:y:2011:i:3:p:498-510
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jebo.2011.05.004

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Besley, Timothy & Smart, Michael, 2007. "Fiscal restraints and voter welfare," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(3-4), pages 755-773, April.
    2. Jinhui H. Bai & Roger Lagunoff, 2011. "On the Faustian Dynamics of Policy and Political Power," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 78(1), pages 17-48.
    3. James Andreoni & Brian Erard & Jonathan Feinstein, 1998. "Tax Compliance," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 36(2), pages 818-860, June.
    4. Evrenk Haldun, 2009. "A Duopoly Model of Political Agency with Applications to Anti-Corruption Reform," The B.E. Journal of Theoretical Economics, De Gruyter, vol. 9(1), pages 1-38, December.
    5. Myerson Roger B., 1993. "Effectiveness of Electoral Systems for Reducing Government Corruption: A Game-Theoretic Analysis," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 5(1), pages 118-132, January.
    6. Fudenberg, Drew & Maskin, Eric, 1986. "The Folk Theorem in Repeated Games with Discounting or with Incomplete Information," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 54(3), pages 533-554, May.
    7. Caselli, Francesco & Morelli, Massimo, 2004. "Bad politicians," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(3-4), pages 759-782, March.
    8. Anthony Downs, 1957. "An Economic Theory of Political Action in a Democracy," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 65, pages 135-135.
    9. John Ferejohn, 1986. "Incumbent performance and electoral control," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 50(1), pages 5-25, January.
    10. Haldun Evrenk, 2009. "Three-candidate competition when candidates have valence: the base case," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 32(1), pages 169-169, January.
    11. Marco Pani, 2011. "Hold your nose and vote: corruption and public decisions in a representative democracy," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 148(1), pages 163-196, July.
    12. repec:cup:apsrev:v:71:y:1977:i:03:p:954-963_26 is not listed on IDEAS
    13. Asim Ijaz Khwaja & Atif Mian, 2005. "Do Lenders Favor Politically Connected Firms? Rent Provision in an Emerging Financial Market," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 120(4), pages 1371-1411.
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    More about this item


    Political corruption; Reform; Political agency; Imperfect competition;

    JEL classification:

    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • D78 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Positive Analysis of Policy Formulation and Implementation


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