The Small World Effect: Legislative Size and Political Resistance to Anticorruption Reform

Wednesday, July 12, 2017
Gilbert Scott Building - Room 656A (University of Glasgow)
Denis Saint-Martin , Political science, Université de Montréal
Legislative ethics reform is promoted as a major anticorruption policy to foster political integrity in representative institutions. Macro theories of institutional development suggest that declining public trust puts legislatures under growing pressures to adopt formal ethics codes and rules to restore their reputations. But micro theories predict that self-enforced informal norms of conduct are highly change-resistant, and that politicians in legislatures will resist switching to formal ethics rules enforced by third-parties “Folkways” and informal norms of “etiquette”, embodied in traditions of “honourable gentlemen” or “esteemed colleague”, are notoriously sticky. In this paper, I will put this hypothesis to the empirical test and investigate the effect of legislative size on ethics reform in Europe and elsewhere. Smaller parliaments and the typically smaller upper chambers are expected to favor more informal and collegial solutions to problems of misconduct because their members are more interconnected. This should make smaller legislative bodies more capable to resist formal ethics changes than their larger equivalents.