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Choosing Agents and Monitoring Consumption: A Note on Wealth as a Corruption-Controlling Device

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  • Rafael Di Tella
  • Federico Weinschelbaum

Abstract

There are a large number of cases where corruption has been discovered investigating levels of consumption that appear to be hard to justify. Yet, 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 revised in applications that study corruption. The informativeness of an agent's level of consumption depends on his legal income and initial level of wealth, as conspicuous consumption by wealthy agents leads to little updating of the principal's belief about their honesty. This introduces a tendency to prefer poor agents as they are easier to monitor. More generally, we describe the basic problem of choosing agents and monitoring consumption with the aim of reducing corruption, and discuss features of the practical applications. We show that when there is consumption monitoring and wealth is observed, the effect of higher wealth on equilibrium bribes is ambiguous (and that the political class will exhibit lower variance in consumption than the general population). In settings where formal contracts matter, we show that monitoring consumption introduces a tendency towards low powered incentives (and more generally low wages). We also discuss the role of ability, the tax system, and the way to derive a measure of the value of illegal funds for the agent.

Suggested Citation

  • Rafael Di Tella & Federico Weinschelbaum, 2007. "Choosing Agents and Monitoring Consumption: A Note on Wealth as a Corruption-Controlling Device," NBER Working Papers 13163, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13163
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Kenneth Rogoff, 1985. "The Optimal Degree of Commitment to an Intermediate Monetary Target," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 100(4), pages 1169-1189.
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    9. Rasmusen, Eric, 1992. "An Income-Satiation Model of Efficiency Wages," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 30(3), pages 467-478, July.
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    11. Jean-Jacques Laffont & Jean Tirole, 1993. "A Theory of Incentives in Procurement and Regulation," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262121743, March.
    12. 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.
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    16. Prendergast, Canice, 2000. "Investigating corruption," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2500, The World Bank.
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    Cited by:

    1. Abhijit Banerjee & Rema Hanna, 2012. "Corruption," Introductory Chapters,in: Sendhil Mullainathan & Robert Gibbons & John Roberts (ed.), The Handbook of Organizational Economics Princeton University Press.
      • Hanna, Rema N. & Mullainathan, Sendhil & Banerjee, Abhijit, 2012. "Corruption," Scholarly Articles 8830779, Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
      • Abhijit Banerjee & Sendhil Mullainathan & Rema Hanna, 2012. "Corruption," NBER Working Papers 17968, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
      • Abhijit Banerjee & Rema Hanna & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2012. "Corruption," Working Papers id:4952, eSocialSciences.
      • Banerjee, Abhijit & Hanna, Rema & Mullainathan, Sendhil, 2012. "Corruption," Working Paper Series rwp12-023, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
    2. repec:hrv:faseco:33077931 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Simeon Djankov & Rafael La Porta & Florencio Lopez-de-Silanes & Andrei Shleifer, 2010. "Disclosure by Politicians," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 2(2), pages 179-209, April.
    4. Rodrigues-Neto, José A., 2014. "On corruption, bribes and the exchange of favors," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 38(C), pages 152-162.
    5. Simona Fabrizi & Steffen Lippert, 2012. "Corruption and the Public Display of Wealth," Working Papers 1202, University of Otago, Department of Economics, revised Jun 2012.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design
    • K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law

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