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A Political Theory of Populism

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  • Georgy Egorov
  • Konstantin Sonin

Abstract

When voters fear that politicians may be influenced or corrupted by the rich elite, signals of integrity are valuable. As a consequence, an honest politician seeking reelection chooses "populist" policies--that is, policies to the left of the median voter--as a way of signaling that he is not beholden to the interests of the right. Politicians that are influenced by right-wing special interests respond by choosing moderate or even left-of-center policies. This populist bias of policy is greater when the value of remaining in office is higher for the politician; when there is greater polarization between the policy preferences of the median voter and right-wing special interests; when politicians are perceived as more likely to be corrupt; when there is an intermediate amount of noise in the information that voters receive; when politicians are more forward-looking; and when there is greater uncertainty about the type of the incumbent. We also show that soft term limits may exacerbate, rather than reduce, the populist bias of policies. JEL Codes: D71, D74. Copyright 2013, Oxford University Press.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Oxford University Press in its journal The Quarterly Journal of Economics.

Volume (Year): 128 (2013)
Issue (Month): 2 ()
Pages: 771-805

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Handle: RePEc:oup:qjecon:v:128:y:2013:i:2:p:771-805

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  1. Daron Acemoglu & Georgy Egorov & Konstantin Sonin, 2010. "Political Selection and Persistence of Bad Governments," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 125(4), pages 1511-1575, November.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Ragnar Torvik & Daron Acemoglu & James A. Robinson, 2013. "Why Do Voters Dismantle Checks and Balances?," Working Paper Series 13913, Department of Economics, Norwegian University of Science and Technology.
  2. Egil Matsen & Ragnar Torvik & Gisle J. Natvik, 2012. "Petro populism," Working Paper Series 12812, Department of Economics, Norwegian University of Science and Technology.
  3. Darryl McLeod & Nora Lustig, 2011. "Inequality and poverty under Latin America’s new left regimes," Working Papers 208, ECINEQ, Society for the Study of Economic Inequality.
  4. Cont, Walter & Hancevic, Pedro & Navajas, Fernando H., 2011. "Energy populism and household welfare," MPRA Paper 35725, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  5. Francesco Caselli & Tom Cunningham & Massimo Morelli & Inés Moreno de Barreda, 2012. "Signalling, Incumbency Advantage, and Optimal Reelection Rules," CEP Discussion Papers dp1122, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  6. Richard Van Weelden & Massimo Morelli, 2012. "Reelection through Division," 2012 Meeting Papers 111, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  7. Manoel Bittencourt, 2012. "Democracy, populism and hyperinflation: some evidence from Latin America," Economics of Governance, Springer, vol. 13(4), pages 311-332, December.
  8. Yakovlev, Pavel & Tosun, Mehmet S. & Lewis, William P., 2012. "Legislative Term Limits and State Aid to Local Governments," IZA Discussion Papers 6456, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  9. Daron Acemoglu & Alexander Wolitzky, 2012. "Cycles of Distrust: An Economic Model," NBER Working Papers 18257, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Manoel Bittencourt, 2012. "Economic Growth and Government Debt: Evidence from the Young Democracies of Latin America," Working Papers 201203, University of Pretoria, Department of Economics.
  11. Caselli, Francesco & Cunningham, Tom & Morelli, Massimo & Moreno de Barreda, Inés, 2012. "Signalling, Incumbency Advantage, and Optimal Reelection Thresholds," CEPR Discussion Papers 8832, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.

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