Do Longer Constitutions Corrupt?

65 Pages Posted: 20 Sep 2021 Last revised: 14 Feb 2022

See all articles by Jamie Bologna Pavlik

Jamie Bologna Pavlik

Texas Tech University - Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics

Israt Jahan

Texas Tech University

Andrew T. Young

Texas Tech University - Rawls College of Business

Date Written: February 2022

Abstract

Tsebelis and Nardi (2016) and Tsebelis (2017) report that constitutional length correlates
with lower levels of GDP per capita. They argue that this may be the case because longer
constitutions lead to greater corruption. However, uncovering a causal relationship between
constitutional length and corruption is difficult. On the one hand, political elites may pressure
drafters to include specific provisions that facilitate their rent-seeking efforts. On the other hand,
constitutional drafters may be responding to corruption by including a large number of specific
safeguards. Our aim in this paper is to explore whether there is a causal effect of constitutional
length on corruption. We utilize data from the Comparative Constitutions Project (CCP) to identify
5 cases when a country adopted a significantly longer constitution. For each of those cases, we
compare the subsequent change in corruption to that of a synthetic control. We report evidence of a
significant post-treatment increase in corruption for 3 out of 5 cases (Ecuador in both 1997 and
2008; Venezuela in 1999). However, the 2008 Ecuador result is not robust to a placebo test; and in
the case of Venezuela it is difficult to distinguish a constitutional length effect from a “Chavez
effect” (Grier and Maynard 2016). The evidence that longer constitutions corrupt is weak.

Keywords: Constitutions, constitutional amendments, constitutional length, corruption

JEL Classification: K00, K20, P50, P16, Z13, D73

Suggested Citation

Bologna Pavlik, Jamie and Jahan, Israt and Young, Andrew T., Do Longer Constitutions Corrupt? (February 2022). Free Market Institute Research Paper No. 3925236, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3925236 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3925236

Jamie Bologna Pavlik

Texas Tech University - Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics ( email )

Suite 167, 2625 Memorial Circle
TTU Administration
Lubbock, TX 79409
United States

Israt Jahan

Texas Tech University ( email )

Box 42132
Lubbock, TX 79409-2132
United States
8067783496 (Phone)

Andrew T. Young (Contact Author)

Texas Tech University - Rawls College of Business ( email )

Lubbock, TX 79409
United States

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