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Why Do Voters Dismantle Checks and Balances?

Daron Acemoglu, James Robinson and Ragnar Torvik

No No 1/2013, Working Papers from Centre for Applied Macro- and Petroleum economics (CAMP), BI Norwegian Business School

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 in?uence politicians through non-electoral means. In weakly-institutionalized polities where such non-electoral in?uences, 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 in?uences. When they do so, they are e?ectively 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 in?uence 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.

Keywords: corruption; checks and balances; political economy; redistribution; separation of powers; taxes (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: H1 O17 P48 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Pages: 44 pages
Date: 2013-01
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-cdm, nep-lam, nep-pol and nep-soc
References: View references in EconPapers View complete reference list from CitEc
Citations: View citations in EconPapers (52)

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Related works:
Journal Article: Why Do Voters Dismantle Checks and Balances? (2013) Downloads
Working Paper: Why Do Voters Dismantle Checks and Balances? (2013) Downloads
Working Paper: Why Do Voters Dismantle Checks and Balances? (2011) Downloads
Working Paper: Why Do Voters Dismantle Checks and Balances? (2011) Downloads
Working Paper: Why Do Voters Dismantle Checks and Balances? (2011) Downloads
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