Contrary to what news reports might suggest, the majority of politicians behave ethically and are never subject to investigations. Is this because of the elaborate system of rules Congress has constructed to regulate the conduct of its members as well as the fear of electoral reprisal? Drawing on economic literature on the behavior of firms, Glenn Parker answers no. He argues that members of Congress behave ethnically not because of the fear of punishment but because of their concern for their reputations. He draws parallels between politicians and businesses, since both stand to suffer significantly when accused of wrongdoing. Just as business' poor behavior can cause brand names to be tarnished, prices to plummet, and future business to disappear, dishonest politicians stand to sacrifice the human capital invested in their careers, and premiums for honesty, such as electoral security and prestigious post-elective employment. Parker explores public attitudes toward the behavior of members of Congress and shows how those attitudes shape the way members conduct their professional lives.
Written from the perspective of public choice, this book offers a novel approach to the question of how to keep politicians honest.
Glenn R. Parker is Distinguished Professor of Political Science at Purdue Univeristy. He is the author of "Congress and the Rent-Seeking Society".
List of Figures and Tables ix Acknowledgments xi Introduction 1 Chapter 1 What is Opportunism and How Do We Control It? 15 Chapter 2 How Reputations Control Cheating in Economics and Politics 38 Chapter 3 Problems in the Market for Legislators 55 Chapter 4 Hypotheses, Measurement, and Data 71 Chapter 5 Constraining Opportunism through Self-Policing 85 Chapter 6 Reputational Capital and Job Security; or, If Trustworthy Legislators Are at a Premium, Are They Paid One? 103 Chapter 7 Weaknesses in Reputational Controls 124 Conclusion 139 Appendix 1 Most Important Characteristic for Legislator to Possess: Examples of Category Content 151 Appendix 2 Examples of Categories of Employment 153 Appendix 3 Codes for Identifying Faithful Agents 154 Appendix 4 Lifetime Judicial Appointments: 1965-1996 156 Appendix 5 Examples of Prestigious Post-Elective Employment Positions 157 Appendix 6 Electoral Defeat and Post-Elective Employment for Senators in the Analysis 158 Notes 159 References 169 Name Index 177 Subject Index 179