Feb 15, 2013

Paradoxes of democracy in LA

From a thought provoking new-paper [a 2013 version is here] by Acemoglu, Robinson and Torvik, "Why Do Voters Dismantle Checks and Balances?"
In this paper, we provide a simple theory of equilibrium checks and balances, highlighting why, under certain circumstances, voters may prefer less rather than more checks and balances. At the center of our theory is the following observation: in weakly-institutionalized polities, checks and balances, by reducing politician rents, make them "cheaper to buy" or easier to influence by an organized rich elite through bribing, lobbying or other non-electoral means. This makes checks and balances a double-edged sword: what makes them valuable to voters - limiting politician rents - also makes them potentially dangerous to the majority.
I thought the authors did not take into account ideology, but actually they did, somehow. And my impression is that by taking into account ideology they also took into account history. They discuss the cases of Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador more closely. 

Naturally there are rationality assumptions all around the paper, some behavioral politics should play a role as well. 

HT: Maximo Rossi. 

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