Red Tape, Corruption, and Distributive Politics
21 Pages Posted: 24 Sep 2018 Last revised: 11 Oct 2018
Date Written: September 4, 2018
This paper investigates the distributive politics of red tape, the time-consuming bureaucratic hurdles and minutiae attached to the pursuit of government benefits and services. A simple model suggests that red tape has potentially progressive effects when it is utilized as a mechanism to screen out high-income individuals with high opportunity costs of time by a social welfare maximizing social planner. When implemented by a corrupt bureaucrat, however, red tape is also regressive, screening out poorer individuals who may be willing to pay but are constrained in their ability to pay the bribes required to clear red tape. This provides arbitrage opportunities for clientelist intermediaries who specialize in cutting red tape in exchange for the political loyalty of poor voters.
Keywords: Red Tape, Corruption, Distributive Politics
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