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Keefer: Clientelism, Credibility, and Democracy

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Keefer. 2004. Clientelism, Credibility, and Democracy. unpublished.

This paper presents a new approach to the study of clientelism that parsimoniously explains sharply different policy choices across democracies. The analysis integrates a previously unexamined feature of clientelism, the disproportionate role played by repeated, face-to-face exchanges between patrons and clients, into a model of political competition. In countries where voters believe the promises of patrons, if they have them, but not political competitors, targeted transfers and corruption are higher and public good provision lower than in democracies in which political competitors can make credible preelectoral promises regarding both transfers and public goods to a large number of voters. The model helps to explain several puzzles that are explored in the paper: public investment and corruption are higher in young democracies than old; governments in some countries frequently abandon capital spending projects begun by previous governments; democratization has an ambiguous effect on economic growth and the security of property rights; and democratizing reforms succeeded remarkably in Victorian England, in contrast to the more difficult experiences of many democratizing countries, such as the Dominican Republic.