Political and Judicial Checks on Corruption: Evidence from American State Governments

EPRU Working Paper No. 2005-12

29 Pages Posted: 12 Oct 2005

See all articles by James E. Alt

James E. Alt

Harvard University - Department of Government

David Dreyer Lassen

University of Copenhagen - Department of Economics

Date Written: September 2005

Abstract

The paper investigates the effects of checks and balances on corruption. Within a presidential system, effective separation of powers is achieved under divided government, with the executive and legislative branches being controlled by different political parties. When government is unified, no effective separation exists even within a presidential system, but, we argue, can be partially restored by having an accountable judiciary. Our empirical findings show that divided government and elected, rather than appointed, state supreme court judges are associated with lower corruption and, furthermore, that the effect of an accountable judiciary is stronger under unified government, where government cannot control itself. The effect of an accountable judiciary seems to be driven primarily by judges chosen through direct elections, rather than those exposed to a retention vote following appointment.

Keywords: separation of powers, corruption, rent seeking, checks and balances, political institutions, judicial independence, rule of law

JEL Classification: D72, D73, P48

Suggested Citation

Alt, James E. and Lassen, David Dreyer, Political and Judicial Checks on Corruption: Evidence from American State Governments (September 2005). EPRU Working Paper No. 2005-12. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=816045 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.816045

James E. Alt

Harvard University - Department of Government ( email )

1737 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

David Dreyer Lassen (Contact Author)

University of Copenhagen - Department of Economics ( email )

Studiestraede 6
DK 1455 Copenhagen
Denmark
+45 3532 4412 (Phone)
+45 3532 4444 (Fax)

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