Red Tape, Corruption, and Distributive Politics

21 Pages Posted: 24 Sep 2018 Last revised: 11 Oct 2018

See all articles by Aditya Dasgupta

Aditya Dasgupta

University of California, Merced

Tesalia Rizzo

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, Department of Political Science

Date Written: September 4, 2018

Abstract

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

Suggested Citation

Dasgupta, Aditya and Rizzo, Tesalia, Red Tape, Corruption, and Distributive Politics (September 4, 2018). MIT Political Science Department Research Paper No. 2018-19. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3243982 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3243982

Aditya Dasgupta (Contact Author)

University of California, Merced ( email )

P.O. Box 2039
Merced, CA 95344
United States

Tesalia Rizzo

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, Department of Political Science ( email )

77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139
United States

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