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Why Do Voters Dismantle Checks and Balances?

Author

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  • Ragnar Torvik

    () (Department of Economics, Norwegian University of Science and Technology)

  • Daron Acemoglu
  • James A. Robinson

Abstract

Voters often dismantle constitutional checks and balances on the executive. If such checks and balances limit presidential abuses of power and rents, why do voters support their removal? We argue that by reducing politician rents, checks and balances also make it cheaper to bribe or infuence politicians through non-electoral means. In weakly-institutionalized polities where such non-electoral infuences, particularly by the better organized elite, are a major concern, voters may prefer a political system without checks and balances as a way of insulating politicians from these induences. When they do so, they are effectively accepting a certain amount of politician (presidential) rents in return for redistribution. We show that checks and balances are less likely to emerge when the elite is better organized and is more likely to be able to infuence or bribe politicians, and when inequality and potential taxes are high (which makes redistribution more valuable to the majority). We also provide case study evidence from Bolivia, Ecuador and Venezuela and econometric evidence on voter attitudes from a Latin American survey consistent with the model.

Suggested Citation

  • Ragnar Torvik & Daron Acemoglu & James A. Robinson, 2013. "Why Do Voters Dismantle Checks and Balances?," Working Paper Series 13913, Department of Economics, Norwegian University of Science and Technology.
  • Handle: RePEc:nst:samfok:13913
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    File URL: http://www.svt.ntnu.no/iso/WP/2013/1_checksbalances1_RT.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Timothy Besley & Torsten Persson & Marta Reynal-Querol, 2016. "Resilient Leaders and Institutional Reform: Theory and Evidence," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 83(332), pages 584-623, October.
    2. Jan Fałkowski & Katarzyna Metelska-Szaniawska, 2015. "Przyczyny ustanawiania i stabilność konstytucji państwa - perspektywa ekonomiczna," Gospodarka Narodowa, Warsaw School of Economics, issue 3, pages 79-105.
    3. repec:kap:expeco:v:20:y:2017:i:2:d:10.1007_s10683-016-9490-3 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. repec:eee:poleco:v:53:y:2018:i:c:p:1-12 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Xavier Debrun & Tidiane Kinda, 2017. "Strengthening Post‐Crisis Fiscal Credibility: Fiscal Councils on the Rise – A New Dataset," Fiscal Studies, Institute for Fiscal Studies, vol. 38, pages 667-700, December.
    6. Sonali Jain-Chandra & Tidiane Kinda & Kalpana Kochhar & Shi Piao & Johanna Schauer, 2016. "Sharing the Growth Dividend; Analysis of Inequality in Asia," IMF Working Papers 16/48, International Monetary Fund.
    7. Kotschy, Rainer & Sunde, Uwe, 2017. "Democracy, inequality, and institutional quality," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 91(C), pages 209-228.
    8. Vlaicu, Razvan & Whalley, Alexander, 2016. "Hierarchical accountability in government," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 134(C), pages 85-99.
    9. Ceren Baysan, 2017. "Can More Information Lead to More Voter Polarization? Experimental Evidence from Turkey," 2017 Papers pba1551, Job Market Papers.
    10. Thorvaldur Gylfason, 2012. "From Collapse to Constitution: The Case of Iceland," CESifo Working Paper Series 3770, CESifo Group Munich.
    11. Rodriguez Acosta, Mauricio, 2016. "Essays in political economy and resource economic : A macroeconomic approach," Other publications TiSEM 1e39ef1b-43a2-4f95-892c-6, Tilburg University, School of Economics and Management.
    12. Martin Ardanaz & Carlos Scartascini, 2014. "The economic effects of constitutions: do budget institutions make forms of government more alike?," Constitutional Political Economy, Springer, vol. 25(3), pages 301-329, September.
    13. Karakas, Leyla D., 2016. "Political turnover and the accumulation of democratic capital," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 44(C), pages 195-213.
    14. Rafael Di Tella & Julio J. Rotemberg, 2016. "Populism and the Return of the “Paranoid Style”: Some Evidence and a Simple Model of Demand for Incompetence as Insurance against Elite Betrayal," NBER Working Papers 22975, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    15. repec:eee:pubeco:v:152:y:2017:i:c:p:93-101 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item

    Keywords

    corruption; checks and balances; political economy; redistribution; separation of powers; taxes;

    JEL classification:

    • H1 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government
    • O17 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Formal and Informal Sectors; Shadow Economy; Institutional Arrangements
    • P48 - Economic Systems - - Other Economic Systems - - - Political Economy; Legal Institutions; Property Rights; Natural Resources; Energy; Environment; Regional Studies

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