Political uncertainty and the forms of state capture

Nathan Canen, Rafael Ch, Leonard Wantchekon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


This paper studies when and why firms prefer more direct forms of state capture (i.e., directly capturing tenured state officials who implement policy, as bureaucrats) to more indirect ones (i.e., using intermediaries, such as elected officials, to influence bureaucrats). First, we propose a principal–agent model under political uncertainty. Firms can induce market distortions by making transfers to incumbents, but such incumbents may be displaced in an election. Direct capture acts as an insurance for the firm, guaranteeing that its paid for distortions are kept in place even when the incumbent loses. We then show that policies thought to decrease state capture, such as improved bureaucrat selection, can have little to no effect once substitution towards indirect control is accounted for. We test the model's predictions using a novel database on contractual arrangements between politicians, political brokers and businessmen in Benin. As proposed by the theory, we find that an increase in political uncertainty is associated with an increase in direct forms of capture. We conclude that electoral competition is not a sufficient mechanism to curb firms’ control of government when they can switch forms of state capture.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number102972
JournalJournal of Development Economics
StatePublished - Jan 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Development
  • Economics and Econometrics


Dive into the research topics of 'Political uncertainty and the forms of state capture'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this