The Trade-off between Governance and Checks and Balances
Strong checks and balances aimed at protecting citizens from government abuse of power are key features of well performing democracies. Nevertheless, some presidents have enjoyed strong and often explicit popular support when they undermined these controls. We present a formal model of the trade-off between control on the executive and delegation to analyze voters' decision on the strength of checks and balances. We argue that voters may support their loosening, even when this allows rent extraction, if they are convinced that checks on the executive are blocking necessary reforms. We discuss several cases of strong presidents in Latin America who, alleging that radical reforms were necessary, obtained popular support that allowed them to loosen checks on the executive. Some of these presidents had a pro- and some an anti-market reform agenda so, as our model suggests, voters' willingness to remove checks and balances can emerge under both right- and left-wing executives.
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- Timothy Besley & Torsten Persson, 2011. "Pillars of Prosperity: The Political Economics of Development Clusters," Economics Books, Princeton University Press, edition 1, number 9624, March.
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