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Social Welfare, Corruption And Credibility

J. Knott, G. Miller
Published 2006 · Economics

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Abstract Economic development requires that investments by entrepreneurs are not subject to expropriation by government. Unfortunately, public agencies often serve as the instruments by which political elites engage in corruption and extracting rents from the economy. The question is how to design institutions that credibly commit to a stable system of guarantees of property rights and contract enforcement. Principal agent theory and the new public management favor greater accountability of public managers to elected officials or eliminating public agencies through privatization. We argue for institutional designs that provide a degree of public agency autonomy. We show that public agency autonomy is a by-product of the competition between elites in democracies with multiple veto players. We show that transparency, professionalism, and legality help ensure that public managers do not engage in rent-extraction. The institutional design problem is how to induce public managers to serve the public interest without being fully responsive to elected political officials.
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