The Usefulness of Corruptible Elections
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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