hero working papers

eparation of Powers and Political Accountability

Number: 100
Year: 1996
Author(s): Torsten Persson (IIES, Stockholm University), Gerard Roland (Universit Libre de Bruxelles) and Guido Tabellini (IGIER, Università Bocconi)

Now in:
Quarterly Journal of Economics, November 1997

Political constitutions are incomplete contracts and therefore leave scope for abuse of power. In democracies, elections are the primary mechanism for disciplining public officials, but they are not sufficient. Separation of powers between executive and legislative bodies also helps preventing the abuse of power, but only with appropriate checks and balances. Checks and balances work by creating a conflict of interests between the executive and the legislature, yet requiring both bodies to agree on public policy. In this way, the two bodies discipline each other at the voters advantage. Under appropriate checks and balances, separation of powers also helps the voters elicit information.