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Information, polarization and term length in democracy

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  • Schultz, Christian

Abstract

This paper considers term lengths in a representative democracy where the political issue divides the population on the left-right scale. Parties are ideologically different and better informed about the consequences of policies than voters are. A short term length makes the government more accountable, but the re-election incentive leads to policy distortion as the government seeks to manipulate swing voters' beliefs to make its ideology more popular. This creates a trade off: A short term length improves accountability but gives distortions. A short term length is best for swing voters when the uncertainty is large and parties are not very polarized. Partisan voters always prefer a long term length. When politicians learn while in office a long term length becomes more attractive for swing voters.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Public Economics.

Volume (Year): 92 (2008)
Issue (Month): 5-6 (June)
Pages: 1078-1091

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Handle: RePEc:eee:pubeco:v:92:y:2008:i:5-6:p:1078-1091

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Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/505578

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References

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  1. Eric Maskin, 2003. "The Politician and the Judge: Accountability in Government," Theory workshop papers 505798000000000076, UCLA Department of Economics.
  2. Alberto Alesina & Guido Tabellini, 2007. "Bureaucrats or Politicians? Part I: A Single Policy Task," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(1), pages 169-179, March.
  3. Smart, Michael & Sturm, Daniel M., 2013. "Term limits and electoral accountability," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 107(C), pages 93-102.
  4. Schultz, Christian, 1996. "Polarization and Inefficient Policies," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 63(2), pages 331-44, April.
  5. Anthony Downs, 1957. "An Economic Theory of Political Action in a Democracy," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 65, pages 135.
  6. F. Andrew Hanssen, 2004. "Is There a Politically Optimal Level of Judicial Independence?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(3), pages 712-729, June.
  7. Schultz, Christian, 2002. "Policy biases with voters' uncertainty about the economy and the government," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 46(3), pages 487-506, March.
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Cited by:
  1. Micael Castanheira & Gaëtan Nicodème & Paola Profeta, 2012. "On the Political Economics of Tax Reforms: survey and empirical assessment," Economics Working Paper from Condorcet Center for political Economy at CREM-CNRS 2012-08-ccr, Condorcet Center for political Economy.
  2. Iconio Garrì, 2008. "Politician's Reputation and Policy (Un)persistence," DISCE - Quaderni dell'Istituto di Teoria Economica e Metodi Quantitativi itemq0851, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Dipartimenti e Istituti di Scienze Economiche (DISCE).
  3. Daron Acemoglu & Georgy Egorov & Konstantin Sonin, 2013. "A Political Theory of Populism," Levine's Working Paper Archive 786969000000000654, David K. Levine.
  4. Castanheira, Micael & Nicodème, Gaëtan & Profeta, Paola, 2011. "On the political economics of tax reforms," CEPR Discussion Papers 8507, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  5. Tilman Klumpp, 2011. "Populism, Partisanship, and the Funding of Political Campaigns," Emory Economics 1107, Department of Economics, Emory University (Atlanta).

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