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The Weak State Trap

Author

Listed:
  • Leopoldo Fergusson
  • Carlos A. Molina
  • James A. Robinson

Abstract

Development outcomes come in ‘clusters’ that seem difficult to exit. Using original data from Colombia, we present evidence of the interconnection between two critical political components: state weakness and clientelism. State weakness creates the right environment for clientelism to flourish. Clientelism sets in place a structure of incentives for politicians and citizens that is detrimental to building state capacity. We show that vote buying, as a measure of clientelism, and tax evasion, as a measure of state weakness, are highly correlated at the micro level. We also report evidence that both practices are widely accepted in society, a result consistent with a deeply entrenched relationship of mutually reinforcing influences. Finally, we propose a set of mechanisms that underlie the hypothesis that a weak state and widespread clientelism are part of a political equilibrium with multiple feedback loops. Our results suggest that state weakness is a trap that is likely hard to exit.

Suggested Citation

  • Leopoldo Fergusson & Carlos A. Molina & James A. Robinson, 2020. "The Weak State Trap," NBER Working Papers 26848, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:26848
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    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • D73 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Bureaucracy; Administrative Processes in Public Organizations; Corruption
    • H26 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Tax Evasion and Avoidance

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