Does political polarization limit corruption?

Using panel data from the US states, we document a robust negative relationship between state-level government corruption and ideological polarization. This finding is sustained when state polarization is instrumented using lagged state neighbor ideology. We argue that polarization increases the expected costs of engaging in corruption, especially deterring marginal low-level corruption. Consistent with this thesis federal prosecutorial effort falls and case quality increases with polarization. Tangible anti-corruption measures including the stringency of state ethics’ laws and independent commissions for redistricting are also associated with increased state polarization.

That is from a new paper by Michael Melki and Andrew Pickering.  Via the excellent Kevin Lewis.


Checks and balances at work.

I doubt it too. That is, that Obama was more polarizing than Lincoln.

I doubt it too. That is, that Obama was more polarizing than Lincoln.

Competition increases productivity, does it?

Competition here being the possibility of losing an election. Productivity being the ratio of inputs to outputs - something that obviously declines as those running the system siphon off inputs as corruption.

Why doesn't the public and private sector use their world-beating surveillance technology to monitor every politician and every dollar they spend? Put that on a blockchain for everyone to see. Political polarization not necessary.

David Brin is more than two decades ahead of you in that regard.

The Transparent Society: Will Technology Force Us to Choose Between Privacy and Freedom?
by David Brin
openness is freedom's best defense

On the other hand, Trump just retweeted an example of the sort of necessary surveillance required to prevent pay offs in quasi-private public settings, highlighting one reason such surveillance remains uncommon.

The David Brin (com) and archive (org) links for The Transparent Society are not postable

Surveillance at most will deter embezzlement and theft. Things like taking bribes and granting government contracts to family members are more difficult to weed out and require surveillance of individuals.

For that matter, one would have thought that federal government spending at businesses owned by the President would be an obvious thing to disclose to the public but there is apparently little interest from the government in doing so.

We live in an age where openness is no longer considered important. Canceling whatever disturbs someone is much more in tune with the modern age, as deletion has never been easier.

Disclosure, etc, is asymmetric.

Eg, Trump demands his business be secret, but demands his enemies/competitors be spied on because their much greater disclosure than Trump is not proof enough of "corruption", which is for Trump, doing a little of what Trump does commonly. And the GOP backs Trump blindly.

This is a fascinating take... Trump has been investigated more significantly and under much more scrutiny than any prior president, and he still comes out clean.

How do we re-integrate Democrats after the Obama era?

Anyone enjoying today's polarizing environment? For me it keeps things exciting, edgy, and lively, I wouldn't mind four more years of it.

This is has been easily the most enjoyable three years in US political history.

All the right people have been losing their minds. And they come to MR and show it -- every single day!

It would take a heart of stone not to laugh.

Post-impeachment re-election is going to be indescribably great!!



President Donald J. Trump's most valuable asset is his ability to seriously annoy all the right people.

To Date, The Master Magician: Donald J. Trump has made Democrats and media (redundant): Defend terrorism; Defend pedophiles; Defend rapists; Defend blackface; Defend mass murderers

Next, he'll make them attack puppy dogs.

I'm sorry, but I just don't see what is so funny with Trump's behavior and policies. He flagrantly abuses his office for personal and political gain, his policies have literally separated infants from their families, his delayed response to puerto rico very likely increased the number of deaths, and his rhetoric has contributed to a rise in right-wing extremism that puts minority groups of all kinds in jeopardy.

This isn't a game and it isn't funny. People's wellbeing is at stake, which is why so many of us care so deeply about what is happening. To be so cynical and detached from the lives of others as to see what is happening and laugh is disgusting. You're not even making the argument that some policy or other makes the damage worth Trump's presidency; you're just reveling in the destruction of families, institutions and our standing in the world.

>his policies have literally separated infants from their families

Barack Obama's policies, though I agree a complete break with the Obama era is necessary.

>his delayed response to puerto rico very likely increased the number of deaths

Wasn't this found to be a stunt by corrupt Puerto Rican politicians?

>his rhetoric has contributed to a rise in right-wing extremism that puts minority groups of all kinds in jeopardy.

Absolutely fascinating that we've seen a strong rise in left-wing terrorism, a resurgence of anti-Semitism and the KKK amongst the left, but not right.

I'm all for polarization. When politicians are getting along they are conspiring to pick your pockets and meddle in your lives.

When they are punching each other out, the country benefits.

Are you not concerned this polarisation is not just theatre to distract and entertain the masses?

Does this mean the Trump administration is the least corrupted of all time?

Obviously. Only those fully in the deadly grip of TDS would even suggest Trump is corrupting anything at all. The DOJ is finally being run the way the founders envisaged - that is, to the personal benefit of the president.

Please provide evidence.

Don't you watch Fox News?

Trump will test this theory, for his corruption is in plain sight and his polarized followers are unfazed by it; no, not unfazed, motivated by it to increase their polarization and their support for Trump. Corruption is like the coronavirus: it infects anyone who ignores the evidence that is in plain sight.

Provide the evidence.

Did you ever read the Mueller report?

Likely why he's asking for evidence.

As I said above, one would think federal government spending on businesses owned by the current President would be a matter of obvious public interest but no such public accounting exists. Steve Mnuchin has fought attempts to even get to the bottom of Secret Service spending at Trump hotels.

...long standing contracts are suddenly to be re-bid?


Maybe state-level is different, but it seems like the negative-polarization-driven defenses of Trump and Hillary Clinton --- we can't let these corruption charges stick or else it will be victory for the other side --- have acted to embolden, rather than deter, at least Presidential-level politicians towards all sorts of misconduct. One even infamously claimed that he could get away with shooting someone on Fifth Avenue.

Let's be bi-partisan. Obama got away with indirectly killing a US border agent with Fast and Furious, and in 2012 drone killing a US citizen without due process.

If corrupt, incompetent Hillary had won in 2016, the Clinton Foundation likely would now have $14 billion in cash. With no power, the CF is in sharp decline. Facts: Tax records reflect losses of $17 million in 2018 and $16.1 million in 2017. Such things happened because Hillary didn't have the White House to sell to the highest bidder.

That is not actually how we determine the truth in a constitutional democracy, and under rule of law.

We have a system of courts right?

If you want to compare you should of course compare convictions.

I frankly hesitated to add examples, because those with philosophical distance already understand them, and partisans never will.

But if you're up for it, compare the Clinton and the Trump charities. Charges were made against both. Defenses were made that all the charges were political. But in the end one charity was shut down to remove the appearance of impropriety, and the other was ruled illegal and the participants enjoined from further charitable action.

These things are not equal.

At the National level I fear you are correct.

Here in The People’s Republic of Illinois some of us hope that decades of democrat corruption will be prosecuted.

Congrats, you’ve redefined corruption as “who gets away with it.” You’ve also failed to read the article again. Since the article is explicitly saying the opposite.

Try again, read the article, and come back.

As we have seen recently, a charge of ethics violation may in the short term be defended with "that charge is partisan!" But that's not a great defense, and it probably will not hold in the long term. In the long term it will matter whether the ethics violations were real.

And I guess what this paper is actually saying, is that it is important that charges be made. I hope the implication is incorrect that it takes partisanship for that to happen. I would prefer that there were a sufficient pool of people who were interested in ethics all the time. And independent enough to switch their eye to the unethical wherever they may be on the political spectrum.

You misread the paper. Or didn’t read it at all.

Try again

I don't believe you can determine corruption , or, to put it another way, you can't precisely measure it and defining it is highly subjective. Polarization must involve special interests that stoke it. Ideology itself is corruption of decency and civil society, so said Burke.

Find this to be a very odd argument. Are you claiming that the press are only ones who could ever identify and bring charges (which actually stick) against Democrats?

That is, you are suggesting that in partisan enforcement of ethics, Republicans cannot hold up their end?

Sorry man, I think there is a simpler explanation.

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