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Merit-based selection of bureaucrats is central to state capacity building, yet rare in developing countries. Most executives instead favor patronage—political discretion—in public employment. This paper proposes and tests an original theory to explain when executives forsake patronage for merit. The theory exploits exogenous variation in the institutional design of patronage states. In some, constitutions and budget laws monopolize patronage powers in the executive; in others, patronage benefits accrue to the legislature and public employees. When institutions fragment patronage powers and challengers control other government branches, merit becomes more incentive-compatible: it enables executives to deprive challengers of patronage while enhancing public goods provision to court electoral support. Drawing on 130 face-to-face elite interviews, a comparison of reforms in Paraguay, the Dominican Republic and the United States validates the theory. How patronage states are institutionally designed thus shapes their reform prospects: fragmented control over bad government can incentivize good government reforms.
The literature has identified that countries with higher levels of openness tend to present a larger government sector as a way to reduce the risks to the economy that openness entails. This paper argues that there are a number of policies that can mitigate trade-induced risks, many of which do not have the necessary implication of increasing public spending. Yet, many such policies require govern ... (View publication)
This paper examines how the adoption of the Australian ballot (AB), and ipso facto, the transition from the nominal to effective secret vote, shaped the nature of party politics in Brazil. Engaging the literature on political clientelism, the impact of the AB on three outcomes is studied: 1) the ideological leanings of voters at the ballot box; 2) the degree of electoral control enjoyed by local v ... (View publication)
This paper contributes to an agenda that views the effects of policies and institutional reforms as dependent on the structure of political incentives for national and subnational political actors. The paper studies political incentive structures at the subnational level and the mechanisms whereby they affect national-level politics and policymaking at the national level in Argentina, a highly dec ... (View publication)
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