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The Usefulness of Corruptible Elections

  • Loren Brandt
  • Matthew A. Turner

The belief that elections reduce rent seeking by government officials is widely held, likewise the belief that rent seeking decreases as elections are less subject to corruption. In this paper we develop and test a model in which these beliefs are carefully examined. Our model indicates that, while elections may provide a disincentive for rent seeking, this disincentive (1) need not actually materialise, and (2), is not necessarily correlated with the integrity of the electoral protocol. We next consider the ability of village-level elections in rural China to reduce rent seeking, and the extent to which this ability varies as the elections are more or less corruptible. We find that in practice, even elections that appear quite corruptible provide a strong disincentive to rent seeking. Moreover, our results indicate which types of electoral reform lead to more effective popular oversight of leaders, and which do not.

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Paper provided by University of Toronto, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number brandt-03-01.

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Length: 36 pages
Date of creation: 11 Jul 2003
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:tor:tecipa:brandt-03-01
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  1. Loren Brandt & Scott Rozelle & Matthew A. Turner, 2002. "Local Government Behavior and Property Right Formation in Rural China," Working Papers mturner-02-01, University of Toronto, Department of Economics.
  2. Timothy Besley & Anne Case, 1992. "Incumbent Behavior: Vote Seeking, Tax Setting and Yardstick Competition," NBER Working Papers 4041, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Timothy Besley & Anne Case, 2003. "Political Institutions and Policy Choices: Evidence from the United States," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 41(1), pages 7-73, March.
  4. Banks, Jeffrey S. & Sundaram, Rangarajan K., 1998. "Optimal Retention in Agency Problems," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 82(2), pages 293-323, October.
  5. Torsten Persson & Guido Tabellini, 2003. "Do Electoral Cycles Differ Across Political Systems?," Working Papers 232, IGIER (Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research), Bocconi University.
  6. Besley, Timothy & Case, Anne, 1995. "Does Electoral Accountability Affect Economic Policy Choices? Evidence from Gubernatorial Term Limits," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 110(3), pages 769-98, August.
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