John McMillan and Pablo Zoido [...] use bribe prices in Peru to see "which of the democratic checks and balances--opposition parties, the judiciary, a free press--is the most forceful"? They found thatMontesinos paid a television-channel owner about 100 times what he paid a judge or a politician. One single television channel's bribe was five times larger than the total of the opposition politicians' bribes. By revealed preference, the strongest check on the government's power was the news media.
Precariuosly though, media's function as a "check and balance" has now, as it seems, been severly degraded. As indicated by what media has conveyed to the public, it really looks like it has given up its freedom. From Counterspin Central: The unofficial "FIRST AMENDMENT ZONE.":
'Do you think Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq was DIRECTLY involved in planning, financing, or carrying out the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, or not?'
Taken Sept. 2-4.