Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Presidential Regimes and Institutional Designs II

I have found more information that can help us understand a little bit better the negative consequences of presidential regimes in Latin America, and why it is hard--to say the least--to assume that the succesful example of the U.S. can be used as a benchmark for the rest of the countries with that kind of political regime.

First, I would like to suggest a study that is particularly relevant for Rosemary. Their subject is the impact of political institutions on corruption. The authors Daniel Lederman, Norman Loayza, and Rodrigo Reis Soares summarize their article as a study that:
[U]ses a cross-country panel to examine the determinants of corruption, paying particular attention to political institutions that increase political accountability. Previous empirical studies have not analyzed the role of political institutions, even though both political science and economics theoretical literatures have indicated their importance in determining corruption. The main theoretical hypothesis guiding our empirical investigation is that political institutions affect corruption through two channels: political accountability and the structure of provision of public goods. The main results show that political institutions seem to be extremely important in determining the prevalence of corruption. In short, democracies, parliamentary systems, political stability, and freedom of press are all associated with lower corruption. Additionally, we show that common results of the previous empirical literature on the determinants of corruption––related to openness and legal tradition––do not hold once political variables are taken into account.
In their analysis of the data, the authors were able to find that:

... the most consistent results regarding the political variables are related to democracy, presidential systems, time of democratic stability, and freedom of press. The estimated coefficients in columns (4) to (8) imply the following relations between these variables and perceived corruption: democracy reduces corruption by 0.7 points; presidential systems in a democracy, as opposed to parliamentary systems, increase corruption by 0.8 points; each additional 20 years of uninterrupted democracy reduce corruption by 0.5 points; and 50 points more in the freedom of press index (as from the level of Turkey to the level of the United Kingdom) reduces corruption by 0.5 points. These main results are robust to the inclusion of the government wages variable in the right hand side, which typically reduces the sample to less than 200 observations.
Go over the article to get the full analysis. Many of you could benefit from it. You can find it here.

Other relevant reading for our understanding on presidential and parliamentary regimes summarizes why is so hard for other countries than the U.S. to run stable presidential polities. The author, Seymor Martin Lipset is one of the heavyweights of social and political science in the United States, and this particular article ("The social requisites of democracy revisited") is a classic of political analysis.

The article, according to its abstract, deals with:

The factors and processes affecting the prospects for the institutionalization of democracy throughout the world are discussed. Because new democracies have low levels of legitimacy, there is a need for considerable caution about the longtermprospects for their stability.

When explaining the failure in Latin America and its success in the United States, Lipset states:

In considering the relation of government structure to legitimacy it has been suggested that republics with powerful presidents will, all other things being equal, be more unstable than parliamentary ones in which powerless royalty or elected heads of state try to act out the role of a constitutional monarch. In the former, where the executive is chief of state, symbolic authority and effective power are combined in one person, while in the latter they are divided. With a single top office, it is difficult for the public to separate feelings about the regime from those held toward the policy makers.

The difficulties in institutionalizing democracy in the many Latin American presidential regimes over the last century and a half may reflect this problem. The United States presents a special case, in which, despite combining the symbolic authority and power into the Presidency, the Constitution has been so hallowed by ideology and prolonged effectiveness for over 200 years, that it, rather than those who occupy the offices it specifies, has become the accepted ultimate source of authority.

This constitutional (legal-rational) legitimacy took many decades to develop. Strong secessionist efforts occurred a number of times before the Civil War (e.g., by New England states during the War of 1812, by South Carolina in 1832, and by leading abolitionists in the 1840s who rejected a Constitution that upheld slavery). The Civil War and subsequent long-term economic growth legitimated the American constitutional regime.
You can find the article here.

Samuels and Eaton published in 2002 "Presidentialism And, Or, and Versus Parliamentarism: The State of the Literature and an Agenda for Future Research". The authors explore these three hypothesis:

  • H1: institutions promoting unilateral executive power and separation of purpose are more likely under presidentialism;
  • H2: the core institutional differences between regime types are necessary and sufficient causes of differences in political output;
  • H3: similar configurations of non-core institutions have a greater impact under presidentialism, thus generating additional differences in political output.

Particularly, this article is valuable, among many other reasons, because it subscribes the claims made by Lederman, Loayza, and Reis Soares about the consequences that presidential regimes have for corruption (take notice Rosemary), but also about the costs of policy building and policy implementation in presidential regimes as compared to parliamentary ones.

[D]espite variation within both presidential and parliamentary regimes, the unity of survival in parliamentary systems limits how responsive legislators can be to lobbies. In contrast, in all presidential systems, separate survival allows legislators to more aggressively court interest groups without risking the fall of the government and losing their jobs. Even in systems where presidents have high powers, the simple right to review legislation in combination with separate survival can lead legislators to demand substantive modifications in response to interest group and other pressures (Eaton 2002). As suggested in our earlier analysis of “resoluteness,” a greater number of entry points for interest groups in presidentialism suggests that the costs to building legislative support for policy-making may be more costly in presidential systems, under both unified and divided government (however, see Persson and Tabellini 1999).

Using a similar logic, scholars have also suggested that corruption may be greater in presidential systems (see e.g. Gerring and Thacker 2001; Kunicova and Rose-Ackerman 2001; Kunicova 2001). This in turn suggests an unexplored answer to the issue of democratic breakdown: holding everything else constant (including fragmentation and polarization), perhaps the separation of powers increases the costs in terms of side-payments of maintaining support for the incumbent government and thus the existing regime. (pp. 36-7)
In other words, presidential regimes are more expensive and less efficient than parliamentary ones. You can access this article here.

Also, for Rosemary, Christina, and Brianne I suggest this piece about Mexico. It is not an article, but a proposal. However, it has plenty of information about recent changes in Mexico that could be helpful for the development of your papers.

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