If Brazil or any another country contemplating major electoral reforms were to trade in its current configuration of electoral rules for another configuration, what would the consequences be in terms of the quality of governance? Would the resulting benefits of such a transformation exceed its attendant costs?
Providing answers to such questions, even tentative ones, is no mean feat. Consider a reform in ballot structure, the principal focus of this book. There are many dimensions of representation for which a reform in ballot structure might matter – party discipline, the nature of constituency service, and political corruption – just to name a few. Therefore, in order to get a handle on the impact of a reform in ballot structure, considerations of time and comparative advantage would demand that analysts narrow the scope of analysis to a small subset of these dimensions. In this book I have tried to do just that, dedicating my attention exclusively to political corruption.
And yet the challenges to inference go beyond establishing a sufficiently narrow academic focus. One must also be forthcoming about the limitations of contemporary political analysis. The study of macro-level institutional change in the social sciences offers us no randomized trials, and even if it did, there is no guarantee that the average effect of institutional change identified in a given sample would correspond to the outcomes that would emerge in Brazil or any other country contemplating reform.