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The Usefulness of Corruptible Elections

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  • Loren Brandt
  • Matthew Turner

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Loren Brandt & Matthew Turner, 2003. "The Usefulness of Corruptible Elections," William Davidson Institute Working Papers Series 2003-602, William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan.
  • Handle: RePEc:wdi:papers:2003-602
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. 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.
    2. Torsten Persson & Guido Tabellini, 2003. "Do Electoral Cycles Differ Across Political Systems?," Working Papers 232, IGIER (Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research), Bocconi University.
    3. Banks, Jeffrey S. & Sundaram, Rangarajan K., 1998. "Optimal Retention in Agency Problems," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 82(2), pages 293-323, October.
    4. Loren Brandt & Scott Rozelle & Matthew A. Turner, 2004. "Local Government Behavior and Property Right Formation in Rural China," Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics (JITE), Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 160(4), pages 627-662, December.
    5. Besley, Timothy & Case, Anne, 1995. "Incumbent Behavior: Vote-Seeking, Tax-Setting, and Yardstick Competition," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(1), pages 25-45, March.
    6. Timothy Besley & Anne Case, 1995. "Does Electoral Accountability Affect Economic Policy Choices? Evidence from Gubernatorial Term Limits," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 110(3), pages 769-798.
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    Cited by:

    1. Birney, Mayling, 2014. "Decentralization and Veiled Corruption under China’s “Rule of Mandates”," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 53(C), pages 55-67.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Elections; Property rights; China;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • H0 - Public Economics - - General
    • H7 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations
    • D7 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making
    • Q0 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - General

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