When Do Middlemen Matter? Experimental Evidence on Corruption in India, forthcoming in Governance

​Corruption is a persistent problem in developing countries, and recent scholarship suggests that middlemen play an important role in corrupt acts. Yet, while intermediaries can reduce transaction costs in illicit exchange, they also increase agency costs and reduce benefits to others. The involvement of middlemen may thus vary. I argue that middlemen are most likely to engage in, and benefit from, the subset of corruption transactions that are repeated frequently, but not by the same parties. I test the implications of this argument using survey experiments administered to a large sample of politicians and bureaucrats at multiple levels of government in India. I show that middlemen are critical, but far from ubiquitous. Intermediaries are more relevant where corrupt deals are frequent but involve unfamiliar potential principals. My results suggest that anti-corruption efforts must pay greater attention to the type of corruption and the incentives of middlemen.

Whose Money, Whose Influence? Multi-level Politics and Campaign Finance in India, Forthcoming in Devesh Kapur and Milan Vaishnav, Eds., The Costs of Democracy: Political Finance in India, Oxford University Press.​

Those who affect the outcomes of elections—via financial or other means—often have greater access to elected officials. Yet, we frequently have little information about the dynamics of elections, let alone the relationship between campaigns and subsequent sway over officials. I draw on surveys of politicians to illuminate three key aspects of campaign dynamics in India: differences in campaign costs across levels of government; variations in funding sources across levels; and the role of various actors in providing other forms of campaign assistance. I find, first, that financial support from political parties is relevant only at high levels of elected office, whereas personal resources dominate at lower levels. Second, a substantial portion of all respondents highlights the role of illicit funds in campaigns. Finally, sources of non-financial assistance—e.g. for voter mobilization—differ across levels of government. 

Typologies of Corruption: A Pragmatic Approach, 2015, in Susan Rose Ackerman and Paul Lagunes, Eds., Greed, Corruption, and the Modern State: Essays in Political Economy, Edward Elgar.

​The goals of this chapter are threefold: first, to highlight issues of conceptualization and measurement in the existing literature on cor- ruption that limit our ability to cumulate knowledge about corruption’s causes, effects, and the potential for reform. Second, to argue for a more explicit but pragmatic approach to typologies of corruption that should improve our ability to cumulate knowledge while not limiting the analytic endeavor. And, third, to present a new typology of corruption that is intended to facilitate analyses specifically aimed at identifying those indi- viduals with a vested interest in existing forms of corruption. 

eGovernment and Corruption in the States: Can Technology Serve the Aam Aadmi? 2012, Economic and Political Weekly

This analysis offers a comparative evaluation of one-stop, computerized citizen service centers in various Indian states. I find that the outcomes of policies related to e-governance in India are not correlated to conventional variables such as economic development. Instead the extent to which political parties in power expect such policies to affect their current and future electoral statuses, particularly via threats to corrupt rents, affects implementation.

People’s Movements in India. 2012. In Atul Kohli and Prerna Singh, eds. Routledge Handbook of Indian Politics. Routledge. 

Foreign Policy and the Success of India’s Democracy. 2012. In Corinna Unger and Andreas Hilger, eds. India in the World, 1947-1991: National and Transnational Perspectives. Peter Lang International Academic Publishers. 

What is the role of foreign policy in domestic politics? This chapter poses this question to the case of India, and to the specific ways in which the links between foreign and domestic policy may shed new light on the nature of India’s democracy. The “surprise” of successful democratic politics in India has garnered significant public and academic attention, but the explanations provided have focused almost exclusively on the nature of domestic characteristics and institutions. I posit that an analysis of India’s foreign relations in the period between Independence and the economic reforms of the 1990s can further extend our understanding of the ways in which India’s democracy was consolidated. In particular, an evaluation of the contribution foreign policy made to the availability of resources for offsetting the social costs of industrial development, as well as to the nature of domestic political competition, helps to highlight the need for more explicit attention to the relationship between international and domestic politics. 

Explaining Cross-National Variation in Government Adoption of New Technologies. 2011. International Studies Quarterly, 55(1): 267-280

​New information and communication technologies provide governments with opportunities to deliver public services more effectively to their citizens. But we know little about the reasons for variation in the adoption of these technologies across countries. Using cross-national data on government use of information technologies to reform public service delivery, or eGovernment, I argue that politicians’ expectations about the effects of more transparent service delivery on established patterns of rent-seeking play an important role in shaping variation in the character of reforms. I show that the level of preexisting corruption in a country is a robust predictor of eGovernment outcomes, with more corrupt governments less likely than their less corrupt peers to implement high-quality public service reforms using information technology. This finding contrasts with those analyses that emphasize the role of economic conditions or regime type in explaining technological diffusion.

Why Get Technical? Corruption and the Politics of Public Service Reform in the Indian States. 2010. Comparative Political Studies, 43(10): 1230-1257.

​The emergence of new information and communication technologies in the 1990s offered governments opportunities to deliver public services more effectively to their citizens. Yet national and subnational authorities have employed such technologies in highly uneven ways. Drawing on a new data set of technology policy adoption by Indian states, the author argues that political calculations drive variation in the timing and scope of technology policies. Politicians weigh the expected electoral benefits from providing new goods to citizens against the expected electoral costs of reduced access to corrupt funds because of increased transparency. The author shows that the level of bureaucratic corruption in a state is the best predictor of both when states implement policies promoting computer-enabled services and the number of services made available. This finding contrasts with arguments that posit economic or developmental conditions, or alternative electoral and institutional characteristics, as the major drivers of technology investment.

Political Incentives and Policy Outcomes: Who Benefits from Technology-Enabled Service Centers? 2009. Proceedings of the IEEE/ACM International Conference on Information and Communication Technologies for Development (ICTD2009). 

Understanding Concepts of ‘Development’ and Linkages to Deployment Strategies in ICT4D in India. 2007. In A. Palackal and W. Shrum, eds. Circumventing the Digital Divide: Lessons from Kerala Experience. Rawat Publications: Jaipur (co-authored with Renee Kuriyan). 

ICTs have been drawn into the ‘development’ field as potential tools for poverty alleviation and economic and social development. There is not, however, a single accepted definition of ‘development’ in ICT for development (ICT4D) projects. The lack of a single definition has implications for the design, implementation, and evaluation of ICT4D initiatives. Our goal in this paper is to problematize ‘development’ in these projects. Based on our analysis of Indian rural kiosk initiatives, we argue that variations in institutional definitions of development can lead to different strategies for deployment and implementation of projects. We examine the different philosophies of development and project goals of three ICT4D kiosk initiatives, including projects initiated by a nonprofit organization (Datamation Foundation), a private business (n- Logue), and a state public-private partnership in Kerala (Akshaya). We emphasize the case of Kerala to highlight the challenges associated with implementing projects under broad definitions of ‘development.’ Through this analysis we conclude that depending on how development is conceptualized and incorporated into ICT4D strategies, there are important social and economic tradeoffs to consider in the achievements of project goals and outcomes. This is important for both policy makers and researchers to consider in their design and evaluation of ICT4D initiatives. 

Will Information Technology Reshape the North-South Asymmetry of Power in the Global Political Economy? 2005. Studies in Comparative International Development, 40 (2): 62-84 (co-authored with Steven Weber).

​Digital technologies are sufficiently disruptive to current ways of doing things to call into question assumptions about the “inevitability” or “natural state” of many economic processes and organizational principles. In particular, the impact of digi- tal technologies on our conceptions of property rights has potentially dramatic im- plications for the North-South divide and the distribution of power in the global political economy. Drawing on recent experiences with open-source property rights regimes, we present two scenarios, the “imperialism of property rights” and the “shared global digital infrastructure,” to highlight how debates over property-rights could influence the development of the global digital infrastructure and, in turn, contribute to significantly different outcomes in global economic power. 

​Will the Digital Revolution Revolutionize Development? Drawing Together the Debate. 2005. Studies in Comparative International Development, 40 (2): 95-110 (co-authored with Taylor Boas and Thad Dunning).

This article returns to the broad question that motivates this special issue of Studies in Comparative International Development: Will the Digital Revolution constitute a revolution in development? In addressing this issue, we explore a number of common themes emphasized by the different contributions: the future of the North-South divide, the role of the state in promoting digital development, the transferability and adaptability of specific information and communication technologies, the challenges and potential benefits of controlling digital information, and the developmental effects of digitally enabled communities. We argue that the Digital Revolution’s ultimate impact on development will depend on several key variables, including the extent to which these technologies foster within-country linkages among different sectors and socioeconomic classes; the degree to which new technological applications may be customized or transformed to advance local development; and the outcome of political contests between organized interests that are promoting different ways of organizing and governing the global digital economy. While it is difficult to fully assess a transformation while living in the midst of it, research on the social, political, and economic implications of the Digital Revolu- tion will constitute an important agenda for development scholars in the years to come.  

Articles, Book Chapters, & Working Papers