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Checks and balances: an assessment of the institutional separation of political powers in Colombia

  • Kugler, Maurice
  • Rosenthal, Howard

In this paper, we evaluate the institutional and legal structure of the Colombian government. In particular, we want to assess how a system of institutional checks and balances can be structured to promote the rule of law, preserve property rights, and stimulate economic growth. The 1991 Constitution indeed makes commendable commitments to these objectives. Yet, due to its institutional structure, Colombia is governed in a manner that is both unchecked and unbalanced. The Colombian Constitution is an enormously long document that attempts to reassure all parties that the future will be to their liking. For example, Article 58, which permits uncompensated expropriation for reasons of “equityâ€, might be a substantial deterrent to investment. The nation’s long run economic health may be seriously impaired if peace is bought at the price of widespread concessions with regard to either the process of decision-making about the economy or to the specific content of future government economic policies. One may buy transitory tranquility, which may not translate in to lasting peace, at the price of long-term instability and turmoil. We make recommendations for institutional reform, which aim to mitigate clientelist and populist trends in Colombian politics. To enhance policymaking by reducing the scope for gridlock, we propose measures such as long-term appointments and ballot accountability that eliminate distortions to the voting incentives of both judges and lawmakers. Also, procedures are set forth to limit undue deliberations by the judiciary and to induce institutional status-quo bias. While we support constitutional provisions for the stability of a political process endowed with representativeness, we reject constitutional provisions that attempt to entrench one particular policy outcome. Stationary policy is likely to be both suboptimal and unsustainable in a stochastic and dynamic environment. Keywords; separation of powers, political representativeness, clientelism and gridlock JEL Classification: E61, H11, H77

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Paper provided by Economics Division, School of Social Sciences, University of Southampton in its series Discussion Paper Series In Economics And Econometrics with number 0018.

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Date of creation: 01 Jan 2000
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Handle: RePEc:stn:sotoec:0018
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  1. Alesina, Alberto & Rosenthal, Howard, 1996. "A Theory of Divided Government," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 64(6), pages 1311-41, November.
  2. Poole, Keith T. & Rosenthal, Howard, 1996. "Are legislators ideologues or the agents of constituents?," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 40(3-5), pages 707-717, April.
  3. Klaus Neusser & Maurice Kugler, 1998. "Manufacturing Growth And Financial Development: Evidence From Oecd Countries," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 80(4), pages 638-646, November.
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  6. Brennan, G. & Hamlin, A., 1993. "A revisionist view of the separation of powers," Discussion Paper Series In Economics And Econometrics 9314, Economics Division, School of Social Sciences, University of Southampton.
  7. McCubbins, Mathew D & Noll, Roger G & Weingast, Barry R, 1987. "Administrative Procedures as Instruments of Political Control," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 3(2), pages 243-77, Fall.
  8. Torsten Persson & Guido Tabellini, 1998. "The Size and Scope of Government: Comparative Politics with Rational Politicians," NBER Working Papers 6848, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Torsten Persson & Gerard Roland & Guido Tabellini, . "Separation of Powers and Political Accountability," Working Papers 100, IGIER (Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research), Bocconi University.
  10. Alesina, Alberto & Rosenthal, Howard, 2000. "Polarized platforms and moderate policies with checks and balances," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 75(1), pages 1-20, January.
  11. Lohmann, Susanne, 1992. "Optimal Commitment in Monetary Policy: Credibility versus Flexibility," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(1), pages 273-86, March.
  12. Spiller, Pablo T & Tiller, Emerson H, 1997. "Decision Costs and the Strategic Design of Administrative Process and Judicial Review," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 26(2), pages 347-70, June.
  13. Spiller, Pablo T, 1990. "Politicians, Interest Groups, and Regulators: A Multiple-Principals Agency Theory of Regulation, or "Let Them Be Bribed."," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 33(1), pages 65-101, April.
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