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Representative versus Direct Democracy: The Role of Informational Asymmetries

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  • Anke Kessler

Abstract

The paper studies the relative merits of direct and representative legislation in a setting where voters are uncertain both with respect to the likely consequences of different policies and with respect to the political preferences of their fellow citizens. Under representative legislation, the latter translates into uncertainty on the elected official's future policy intentions which involves a loss of control. The resulting discretionary power, however, also leads officials to endogenously acquire competence on the issues they oversee and specialize in policy formation. Policies determined in representative democracies are therefore better tailored to relevant contingencies but less close to the preferences of a majority than those determined in popular ballots. It is shown that the extent of the resulting trade-off depends on the set of alternatives among which the policy is to be chosen. Two extensions, referenda and the possibility of re-election, are briefly considered.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by University of Bonn, Germany in its series Bonn Econ Discussion Papers with number bgse18_2000.

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Length: 35
Date of creation: Nov 2000
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:bon:bonedp:bgse18_2000

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Postal: Bonn Graduate School of Economics, University of Bonn, Adenauerallee 24 - 26, 53113 Bonn, Germany
Fax: +49 228 73 6884
Web page: http://www.bgse.uni-bonn.de

Related research

Keywords: Direct Democracy; Representative Democracy; Constitutional Choice; Delegation; Asymmetric Information;

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References

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  1. Mariano Tommasi, 1995. "Why Does it Take a Nixon to go to China?," UCLA Economics Working Papers 728, UCLA Department of Economics.
  2. Frey, Bruno S, 1994. "Direct Democracy: Politico-economic Lessons from Swiss Experience," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(2), pages 338-42, May.
  3. Philippe Aghion & Jean Tirole, 1994. "Normal and Real Authority in Organizations," Working papers 94-13, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  4. Friedrich Schneider, 1999. "Die Entwicklung der Sozialpolitik in repräsentativen und in direkten Demokratien: Königsweg oder Sackgasse? Einige Bemerkungen aus der "Public Choice"-Perspektive," Swiss Journal of Economics and Statistics (SJES), Swiss Society of Economics and Statistics (SSES), vol. 135(III), pages 387-406, September.
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  7. Feld, Lars P. & Kirchgassner, Gebhard, 2000. "Direct democracy, political culture, and the outcome of economic policy: a report on the Swiss experience," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 16(2), pages 287-306, June.
  8. Tim Besley & Stephen Coate, . ""An Economic Model of Representative Democracy''," CARESS Working Papres 95-02, University of Pennsylvania Center for Analytic Research and Economics in the Social Sciences.
  9. Matsusaka, John G & McCarty, Nolan M, 2001. "Political Resource Allocation: Benefits and Costs of Voter Initiatives," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 17(2), pages 413-48, October.
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  11. Osborne, Martin J & Slivinski, Al, 1996. "A Model of Political Competition with Citizen-Candidates," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 111(1), pages 65-96, February.
  12. Besley, Timothy & Coate, Stephen, 1998. "Sources of Inefficiency in a Representative Democracy: A Dynamic Analysis," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(1), pages 139-56, March.
  13. Feld, Lars P. & Matsusaka, John G., 2003. "Budget referendums and government spending: evidence from Swiss cantons," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(12), pages 2703-2724, December.
  14. Lars P. Feld & John G. Matsusaka, 2000. "Budget Referendums and Government Spending: Evidence from Swiss," CESifo Working Paper Series 323, CESifo Group Munich.
  15. Harrington, Joseph E, Jr, 1993. "Economic Policy, Economic Performance, and Elections," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(1), pages 27-42, March.
  16. Rexford Santerre, 1989. "Representative versus direct democracy: Are there any expenditure differences?," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 60(2), pages 145-154, February.
  17. Feld, Lars P & Savioz, Marcel R, 1997. "Direct Democracy Matters for Economic Performance: An Empirical Investigation," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 50(4), pages 507-38.
  18. Castanheira, Micael, 2002. "On the (Non) Paradox of (Not) Voting," CEPR Discussion Papers 3126, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  19. Steunenberg, Bernard, 1992. "Referendum, Initiative, and Veto Power: Budgetary Decision Making in Local Government," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 45(4), pages 501-29.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Christian Schultz, 2003. "Information, Polarization and Delegation in Democracy," EPRU Working Paper Series 03-16, Economic Policy Research Unit (EPRU), University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
  2. Dimitrios Xefteris, 2011. "Referenda as a Catch-22," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer, vol. 37(1), pages 121-138, June.
  3. Justina AV Fischer & Antonio Rodriguez-Andrés, 2008. "Political institutions and suicide: A regional analysis of Switzerland," TWI Research Paper Series 33, Thurgauer Wirtschaftsinstitut, Universität Konstanz.
  4. Lars P. Feld & Gebhard Kirchgässner, 2003. "The Role of Direct Democracy in the European Union," CESifo Working Paper Series 1083, CESifo Group Munich.
  5. Lars P. Feld, 2004. "The European Constitution Project from the Perspective of Constitutional Political Economy," Marburg Working Papers on Economics 200415, Philipps-Universität Marburg, Faculty of Business Administration and Economics, Department of Economics (Volkswirtschaftliche Abteilung).
  6. Buehler, Benno & Kessler, Anke, 2010. "Ideologues: Explaining Partisanship and Persistence in Politics (and Elsewhere)," CEPR Discussion Papers 7724, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  7. Mario Jametti, 2014. "Weathering the Global Financial Crisis - Is Direct Democracy of any Help?," IdEP Economic Papers 1405, USI Università della Svizzera italiana.
  8. George Tridimas, 2012. "Constitutional choice in ancient Athens: the rationality of selection to office by lot," Constitutional Political Economy, Springer, vol. 23(1), pages 1-21, March.
  9. Castanheira, Micael & Nicodème, Gaëtan & Profeta, Paola, 2011. "On the political economics of tax reforms," CEPR Discussion Papers 8507, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  10. John Matsusaka, 2005. "The eclipse of legislatures: Direct democracy in the 21st century," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 124(1), pages 157-177, July.
  11. John G. Matsusaka, 2005. "Direct Democracy Works," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 19(2), pages 185-206, Spring.
  12. George Tridimas, 2010. "Referendum and the choice between monarchy and republic in Greece," Constitutional Political Economy, Springer, vol. 21(2), pages 119-144, June.
  13. Fischer, Justina AV, 2009. "Development of Direct Democracy in Swiss Cantons between 1997 and 2003," MPRA Paper 16140, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  14. Gebhard Kirchgässner, 2009. "60 Jahre Grundgesetz der Bundesrepublik Deutschland: Einige Bemerkungen zu Demokratie und Föderalismus in Deutschland aus schweizerischer Perspektive," University of St. Gallen Department of Economics working paper series 2009 2009-28, Department of Economics, University of St. Gallen.
  15. Simon Hug, 2009. "Some thoughts about referendums, representative democracy, and separation of powers," Constitutional Political Economy, Springer, vol. 20(3), pages 251-266, September.
  16. Tridimas, George, 2007. "Ratification through referendum or parliamentary vote: When to call a non-required referendum?," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 23(3), pages 674-692, September.

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