Kramon’s study of electoral patronage in Kenya represents a valuable addition to the burgeoning literature on political competition in Africa. The conventional wisdom holds that African politicians often buy voters’ support with cash payments or other perks. For that to work, however, politicians would have to be able to monitor individual votes; otherwise, people might take the money but then vote their conscience. And in fledgling democracies with poorly organ-ized political parties, the ballot is likely to be secret, as parties are often too weak to monitor individual votes. Yet politicians continue to disburse large sums even without any obvious way to confirm that they’ll get what they’ve paid for. Kramon estimates from his surveys of Kenyan voters that the average candidate for Parliament in Kenya’s 2007 elections spent $48,000 on handouts. Kramon’s ingenious solu-tion to this puzzle is that offering such handouts should not be thought of as buying votes at all; politicians instead spend money to signal to voters that they will be generous to their constituencies if elected: a handout from a candidate is more like an initial deposit on a future payment than a quid pro quo. As evidence, Kramon shows a positive correlation between pre-election hand-outs and post-election development spending across Kenyan constituencies.
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