Separation of Powers and Accountability: Towards a Formal Approach to Comparative Politics

46 Pages Posted: 18 Nov 2001

See all articles by Torsten Persson

Torsten Persson

Stockholm University - Institute for International Economic Studies (IIES); London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Gérard Roland

University of California, Berkeley - Department of Economics; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Guido Tabellini

Bocconi University - Department of Economics; Bocconi University - IGIER - Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research; Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute for Economic Research (CESifo)

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: September 1996

Abstract

A political constitution is like an incomplete contract: it spells out a procedure for making decisions and for delegating power, without specifying the contents of those decisions. This creates a problem: the appointed policymaker could use this power for his own benefit against the interests of the citizens. In democracies, elections are the primary mechanism for disciplining public officials. But elections are not sufficient. Separation of powers between executive and legislative bodies also helps the voters, in two distinct ways. First, it can elicit information held by the appointed officials and not otherwise available to the voters. Second, by playing one body against the other and by aligning the interest of the weaker body with their own, the voters can induce the two bodies to discipline each other. Separation of power only works to the voters' advantage if it is appropriately designed, however, and it can be detrimental if it creates a "common pool" problem. These advantages of separation of powers are present both in Presidential and in Parliamentary democracies. Government appointment rules in Parliamentary democracies must be appropriately designed, however, to prevent collusion.

Keywords: Incomplete contracts, information revelation, legislative organization, separation of powers

JEL Classification: D72, D82, H11

Suggested Citation

Persson, Torsten and Roland, Gérard and Tabellini, Guido, Separation of Powers and Accountability: Towards a Formal Approach to Comparative Politics (September 1996). CEPR Discussion Paper No. 1475. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=291197

Torsten Persson (Contact Author)

Stockholm University - Institute for International Economic Studies (IIES) ( email )

Stockholm, SE-10691
Sweden
+46 8 163066 (Phone)
+46 8 164177 (Fax)

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE)

Houghton Street
London, WC2A 2AE
United Kingdom

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

London
United Kingdom

Gérard Roland

University of California, Berkeley - Department of Economics ( email )

549 Evans Hall #3880
Berkeley, CA 94720-3880
United States
510-642-4321 (Phone)
510-642-6615 (Fax)

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

London
United Kingdom

Guido Tabellini

Bocconi University - Department of Economics ( email )

Via Gobbi 5
Milan, 20136
Italy

Bocconi University - IGIER - Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research ( email )

Via Roentgen 1
Milan, 20136
Italy

Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute for Economic Research (CESifo)

Poschinger Str. 5
Munich, DE-81679
Germany

HOME PAGE: http://www.CESifo.de

Register to save articles to
your library

Register

Paper statistics

Downloads
40
Abstract Views
4,718
PlumX Metrics