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Separation of Powers and Accountability: Towards a Formal Approach to Comparative Politics

Author

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  • Persson, Torsten
  • Roland, Gérard
  • Tabellini, Guido

Abstract

A political constitution is like an incomplete contract: it spells out a procedure for making decisions and for delegating power, without specifying the contents 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 also 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. These advantages of separation of powers are present both in Presidential and in Parliamentary democracies. Government appointment rules in Parliamentary democracies must be appropriately designed, however, to prevent collusion.

Suggested Citation

  • Persson, Torsten & Roland, Gérard & Tabellini, Guido, 1996. "Separation of Powers and Accountability: Towards a Formal Approach to Comparative Politics," CEPR Discussion Papers 1475, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:1475
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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. 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.
    3. Berthold Herrendorf & Manfred Neumann, 2000. "A nonnormative theory of inflation and central bank independence," Review of World Economics (Weltwirtschaftliches Archiv), Springer;Institut für Weltwirtschaft (Kiel Institute for the World Economy), vol. 136(2), pages 315-333, June.
    4. Laffont, Jean-Jacques, 1999. "Political economy, information and incentives1," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 43(4-6), pages 649-669, April.
    5. Shann Turnbull, 2007. "Analysing Network Governance of Public Assets," Corporate Governance: An International Review, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 15(6), pages 1079-1089, November.
    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.
    7. Piketty, Thomas, 1999. "The information-aggregation approach to political institutions," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 43(4-6), pages 791-800, April.
    8. 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.
    9. repec:kap:ejlwec:v:44:y:2017:i:1:d:10.1007_s10657-015-9486-z is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Incomplete Contracts; Information Revelation; Legislative Organization; Separation of Powers;

    JEL classification:

    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design
    • H11 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government - - - Structure and Scope of Government

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