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Would Moving the Capital to Chicago Make Illinois Less Corrupt?

It might help—state governments can sometimes be more corrupt when the capital is far away from the major cities.

Illinois capitol

photo: E. Jason Wambsgans / Chicago Tribune

Given that Chicago politics is code for pretty much anything anyone thinks is corrupt or even impolitely aggressive, it might sound like a counterintuitive notion. But a working paper from the National Bureau of Economic research finds a correlation between corrupt state politics and capital cities that are far removed from the center of population.

This info comes via Brad Plumer. The paper has been floating around awhile, long enough for seasoned observers like Rich Miller and James Krohe, Jr. to note its counter-intuitiveness. Krohe’s argument? Illinois is corrupt because it’s Southern.

It’s an interesting paper, and the authors offer some compelling evidence that having the state’s political center far from its population centers results in less news coverage of state politics than it would otherwise get. The consequence can also and reduce overall voting.

It’s an idea worth throwing in the mix, if not as much for Illinois as states generally, but I don’t know how far I’d take it. Illinois has a lot of political and cultural structures underlying its Chicago-centric corruption (like notoriously weak campaign-finance laws) which Shane Tritsch detailed in 2010.

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