Essays in Political Economy
Edited by Susan Rose-Ackerman and Paul Lagunes
Chapter 4: Corruption and democratic institutions: a review and synthesis
Do democratic elections help reduce corruption? Many reformers—both anti-corruption advocates and democracy promoters—hope and believe the answer is yes. Does the evidence support that view? Social scientists have been investigating this and associated questions for at least a quarter-century, and—as is often the case—the answers they have found are not straightforward. Nonetheless, this research has added significantly to our understanding of the relationship between democracy and corruption. This chapter will summarize and synthesize some of that research, offer some tentative conclusions about the democracy-corruption relationship, and identify some of the most important open questions that could and should be addressed in future research. The chapter is organized as follows. Section I considers how democracies and non-democracies might differ with respect to the extent or type of corruption. This section first reviews the various mechanisms by which democracy might affect corruption, and then provides a brief summary of the existing empirical evidence. Section II turns to how differences in electoral institutions—within and across democratic countries—might affect the nature and extent of corruption.
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