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Shirking and sorting in a political market with finite-lived politicians

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  • John Lott
  • W. Reed

Abstract

This paper analyzes principal-agent slack in the context of a political market composed of voters, challengers, and incumbents. The introduction of a last period (via finite-livedness) in combination with voters' imperfect information about politicians' preferences causes time-varying shirking behavior on the part of politicians. Political markets eventually sort out those politicians with significantly deviant policy preferences, potentially providing a solution to the last period problem and enabling politicians to make credible commitments. In the extreme, sorting can insure that it is not worthwhile for potential shirkers to run for office. A systematic relationship between political shirking and number of terms in office may exist, and depends on how quickly sorting takes place. We show that evidence of little if any shirking is quite consistent with politicians having diverse and strongly held policy preferences. In addition, if sorting is a significant feature of political markets, cross-sectional studies will tend to oversample little- and non-shirking politicians compared to longitudinal studies. Reinterpretations of existing empirical work are also discussed. Copyright Kluwer Academic Publishers 1989

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Springer in its journal Public Choice.

Volume (Year): 61 (1989)
Issue (Month): 1 (April)
Pages: 75-96

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Handle: RePEc:kap:pubcho:v:61:y:1989:i:1:p:75-96

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Web page: http://www.springerlink.com/link.asp?id=100332

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  1. Peltzman, Sam, 1984. "Constituent Interest and Congressional Voting," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 27(1), pages 181-210, April.
  2. Benjamin Bental & Uri Ben-Zion, 1975. "Political contribution and policy — Some extensions," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 24(1), pages 1-12, December.
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  4. Adams, James D & Kenny, Lawrence W, 1986. "Optimal Tenure of Elected Public Officials," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 29(2), pages 303-28, October.
  5. Dougan, William R & Munger, Michael C, 1989. "The Rationality of Ideology," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 32(1), pages 119-42, April.
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  8. Alberto Alesina, 1987. "A Positive Theory of Fiscal Deficits and Government Debt in a Democracy," UCLA Economics Working Papers 435, UCLA Department of Economics.
  9. John Ferejohn, 1986. "Incumbent performance and electoral control," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 50(1), pages 5-25, January.
  10. Anthony Downs, 1957. "An Economic Theory of Political Action in a Democracy," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 65, pages 135.
  11. Nelson, Douglas & Silberberg, Eugene, 1987. "Ideology and Legislator Shirking," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 25(1), pages 15-25, January.
  12. Gertrud Fremling & John Lott, 1988. "Televising legislatures: Some thoughts on whether politicians are search goods," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 58(1), pages 73-78, July.
  13. Wittman, Donald, 1977. "Candidates with policy preferences: A dynamic model," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 14(1), pages 180-189, February.
  14. Ryan Amacher & William Boyes, 1978. "Cycles in senatorial voting behavior: implications for the optimal frequency of elections," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 33(3), pages 5-13, January.
  15. Peltzman, Sam, 1985. "An Economic Interpretation of the History of Congressional Voting in the Twentieth Century," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(4), pages 656-75, September.
  16. John Lott, 1986. "Brand names and barriers to entry in political markets," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 51(1), pages 87-92, January.
  17. Peter Coughlin, 1986. "Elections and income redistribution," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 50(1), pages 27-91, January.
  18. George Stigler, 1972. "Economic competition and political competition," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 13(1), pages 91-106, September.
  19. Laband, David N & Lentz, Bernard F, 1985. "Favorite Sons: Intergenerational Wealth Transfers among Politicians," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 23(3), pages 395-414, July.
  20. John Lott, 1987. "Political cheating," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 52(2), pages 169-186, January.
  21. Crain, W Mark & Leavens, Donald R & Tollison, Robert D, 1986. "Final Voting in Legislatures," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(4), pages 833-41, September.
  22. Kau, James B & Rubin, Paul H, 1979. "Self-Interest, Ideology, and Logrolling in Congressional Voting," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 22(2), pages 365-84, October.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Potters, Jan & Sloof, Randolph, 1996. "Interest groups: A survey of empirical models that try to assess their influence," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 12(3), pages 403-442, November.
  2. Alesina, Alberto & Spear, Stephen E., 1988. "An overlapping generations model of electoral competition," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 37(3), pages 359-379, December.
  3. Jason DeBacker, 2012. "Political parties and political shirking," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 150(3), pages 651-670, March.
  4. Colburn, Christopher B. & Hudgins, Sylvia C., 1996. "The influence on Congress by the thrift industry," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 20(3), pages 473-494, April.
  5. Timothy Besley & Valentino Larcinese, 2011. "Working or shirking? Expenses and attendance in the UK Parliament," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 146(3), pages 291-317, March.
  6. Timothy Besley & Valentino Larcinese, 2005. "Working or shirking?: a closer look at MPs’ expenses and parliamentary attendance," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 3609, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  7. René Lindstädt & Ryan Wielen, 2011. "Timely shirking: time-dependent monitoring and its effects on legislative behavior in the U.S. Senate," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 148(1), pages 119-148, July.
  8. Neil Longley, 1999. "Voting on Abortion in the House of Commons: A Test for Legislator Shirking," Canadian Public Policy, University of Toronto Press, vol. 25(4), pages 503-521, December.
  9. Sutter, Daniel & Poitras, Marc, 2008. "Political hierarchies and political shirking," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 65(2), pages 334-356, February.
  10. Beate R. Jochimsen & Sebastian Thomasius, 2012. "The Perfect Finance Minister: Whom to Appoint as Finance Minister to Balance the Budget?," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 1188, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.

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