Seminar Papers, Institute for International Economic Studies, Stockholm University
Separation of powers and accountability: Towards a formal approach to comparative politics
(), Gerard Roland and Guido Tabellini
Abstract: A political constitution is like an incomplete contract:
it spells out a procedure for making decisions and for delegating power,
without specifying the content 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
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.
Keywords: political constitution; Separation of powers; common pool; (follow links to similar papers)
JEL-Codes: H10; (follow links to similar papers)
35 pages, November 6, 1997
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