Markets in votes: Alienability, strict secrecy, and political clientelism

Politics, Philosophy and Economics 18 (2):193-215 (2019)
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Standard rationales for the illegality of markets in votes are based on concerns over the undue influence of wealth and the erosion of civic responsibility that would result from the commodification of votes. I present an alternative rationale based on how the mere alienability of votes alters the strategic setting faced by political actors. The inalienability of votes ensure the strict secrecy of voting, that is, the inability of voters to communicate credibly to others the content of their votes. In doing so, it diminishes the credibility of all political actors’ clientelistic promises to reciprocate. By drastically reducing the transaction costs of vote exchanges, the legality of markets in votes would thus exacerbate the detrimental effects of political clientelism on the quality of democratic governments.



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