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Sunlight Disinfects? Free Media in Weak Democracies

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  • Leopoldo Fergusson

    ()

  • Juan F. Vargas

    ()

  • Mauricio A. Vela

    ()

Abstract

Free media may not favor political accountability when other democratic institutions are weak, and may even bring undesirable unintended consequences. We propose a simple model in which politicians running for office may engage in coercion to obtain votes. A media scandal that exposes these candidates increases their coercion effort to offset the negative popularity shock.This may result in the tainted politicians actually increasing their vote share. We provide empirical evidence from one recent episode in the political history of Colombia, the `parapolitics' scandal featuring politicians colluding with illegal armed paramilitary groups to obtain votes.We show that colluding candidates not only get more votes than their clean competitors, but also concentrate them in areas where coercion is more likely (namely, areas with more paramilitary presence, less state presence, and more judicial inefficiency). Harder to reconcile with other explanations and as a direct test of the effects of media exposure, we compare tainted candidates exposed before elections to those exposed after. We find that those exposed before elections get as many votes as those exposed once elected, but their electoral support is more strongly concentrated in places where coercion is more likely. Our results highlight the complementarity between different dimensions of democratic institutions.

Suggested Citation

  • Leopoldo Fergusson & Juan F. Vargas & Mauricio A. Vela, 2013. "Sunlight Disinfects? Free Media in Weak Democracies," DOCUMENTOS CEDE 010487, UNIVERSIDAD DE LOS ANDES-CEDE.
  • Handle: RePEc:col:000089:010487
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    File URL: http://economia.uniandes.edu.co/publicaciones/dcede2013-14.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Matthew A. Gentzkow & Jesse M. Shapiro, 2004. "Media, Education and Anti-Americanism in the Muslim World," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 18(3), pages 117-133, Summer.
    2. Leopoldo Fergusson & James A. Robinson & Ragnar Torvik & Juan F. Vargas, 2016. "The Need for Enemies," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 126(593), pages 1018-1054, June.
    3. Daron Acemoglu & James A. Robinson, 2008. "Persistence of Power, Elites, and Institutions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(1), pages 267-293, March.
    4. Matthew Gentzkow & Jesse M. Shapiro, 2006. "Media Bias and Reputation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 114(2), pages 280-316, April.
    5. Petrova, Maria, 2008. "Inequality and media capture," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(1-2), pages 183-212, February.
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    Blog mentions

    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Development that Works: Sunlight disinfects, but beware of the shade!
      by Guest blogger in Eval Central on 2013-02-26 17:55:33
    2. El sol desinfecta, pero cuídese de la sombra
      by Guest blogger in Hacia el desarrollo efectivo on 2013-02-26 17:55:04
    3. Un Estado feliz
      by Blogoeconomia in La Silla Vacía on 2016-02-29 01:39:08

    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Piolatto, Amedeo & Schuett, Florian, 2015. "Media competition and electoral politics," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 130(C), pages 80-93.
    2. repec:dgr:kubcen:2013072 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Ruben Enikolopov & Maria Petrova & Konstantin Sonin, 2018. "Social Media and Corruption," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 10(1), pages 150-174, January.
    4. Cortés, Darwin & Santamaría, Julieth & Vargas, Juan F., 2016. "Economic shocks and crime: Evidence from the crash of Ponzi schemes," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 131(PA), pages 263-275.
    5. Dario José Salcedo Monroy, 2015. "Local Media: Expansion of Radio and Political Accountability. Evidence from Colombia," DOCUMENTOS CEDE 012566, UNIVERSIDAD DE LOS ANDES-CEDE.
    6. Horacio A. Larreguy & John Marshall & James M. Snyder, Jr., 2016. "Leveling the Playing Field: How Campaign Advertising Can Help Non-Dominant Parties," NBER Working Papers 22949, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. repec:tiu:tiucen:2013072 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Leopoldo Fergusson & Pablo Querubín & Nelson A. Ruiz & Juan F. Vargas, 2017. "The Real Winner's Curse," DOCUMENTOS CEDE 015279, UNIVERSIDAD DE LOS ANDES-CEDE.
    9. Leopoldo Fergusson & Carlos Molina & James A. Robinson & Juan F. Vargas, 2017. "The Long Shadow of the Past: Political Economy of Regional Inequality in Colombia," DOCUMENTOS CEDE 015445, UNIVERSIDAD DE LOS ANDES-CEDE.
    10. Carreri, Maria & Dube, Oeindrila, 2016. "Do Natural Resources Influence Who Comes to Power, and How?," CEPR Discussion Papers 11136, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    11. Vargas, Juan & Villaveces, Marta-Juanita, 2016. "Rural Property Tax Revenue in the Face of Economic Concentration and Political Competition: Evidence from Colombia," Research Department working papers 945, CAF Development Bank Of Latinamerica.
    12. Francesco Sobbrio, 2014. "The political economy of news media: theory, evidence and open issues," Chapters,in: A Handbook of Alternative Theories of Public Economics, chapter 13, pages 278-320 Edward Elgar Publishing.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Media; Democracy; Elections; Colombia; Civil Conflict; Coercion.;

    JEL classification:

    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • D74 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Conflict; Conflict Resolution; Alliances; Revolutions
    • L82 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Services - - - Entertainment; Media
    • P16 - Economic Systems - - Capitalist Systems - - - Political Economy of Capitalism

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