Friday, June 21, 2013

Reflections of a "gripped" voter

In the recent presidential election in Iran, I refrained from supporting the now-president-elect Rouhani, mainly because of very serious allegations of human right violation against him. Many people, including a super majority of my friends, supported him arguing that he was the best choice among the candidates. So, it is fair to say that my friends were “rational” (since they arguably chose the best option) and I was irrational. But my principles did not allow me to support a person with serious human right violations.

Interestingly, two fellow economists have come up with a label for voters like me: a “gripped” voter. This label is coined in a paper that was published in the prestigious Quarterly Journal of Economics on June 14th --ironically, the day of presidential election in Iran.

Gripped voters, according to this article, “are people viscerally opposed to transgressing leaders, who demand transgressors be removed from office, even if removing them would lead to no improvement in the performance of elected leaders. For the most part, these agents are small part of the voting population.”

In the last election, Iranians were “rational”, but with the hefty cost of cultivating a political environment in which the politicians do not fear punishment for their transgressions.

The paper is highly technical, but the introduction of this paper is very readable. It emphasizes the importance of political norms—whether the public holds politicians responsible  accountable for their transgressions, even if they don’t have a better choice. You can download a copy of the paper here (, but here are some excerpts:

"Effective governance is not ensured by the simple presence of formal rules, such as a widely held right to vote in free and fair elections. Indeed, there exists great variation in the quality of governance across democracies. Within long established formal democracies, high levels of corruption are reported in countries such as India, Brazil, and Italy, relative to countries such as Sweden, the United States, and New Zealand. The experience of relatively new democracies in Latin America, Eastern Europe, and Africa
also highlights the gap between the rules and the practice of democracy.

“In this article we treat such differences as arising from differences in political norms. Norms are the modes of behavior characterizing a political culture. They are the specific way political actors are incentivized to engage the gray areas left by formal rules, such as the extent to which office can be exploited for self-enrichment, for career advancement, for the promotion of unworthy cadres, to stand above judicial review, for favoring family, as well as for manipulating the constitution or loosely interpreting it."

1 comment:

AZAR said...

Thanks Mr Beshkar,
that would be invaluable effort if you or somebody else could kindly translate the referred paper in Farsi, at least the introduction part .