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A Political Theory of Populism

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  • Daron Acemoglu
  • Georgy Egorov
  • Konstantin Sonin

Abstract

When voters fear that politicians may have a right-wing bias or that they may be influenced or corrupted by the rich elite, signals of true left-wing conviction are valuable. As a consequence, even a moderate politician seeking reelection chooses “populist’ policies - i.e., policies to the left of the median voter - as a way of signaling that he is not from the right. Truly right-wing politicians respond by choosing more 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 politicians; when politicians are indeed more likely to have a hidden right-wing agenda; 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 show that similar results apply when some politicians can be corrupted or influenced through other non-electoral means by the rich elite. We also show that ‘soft term limits’ may exacerbate, rather than reduce, the populist bias of policies.

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Paper provided by David K. Levine in its series Levine's Working Paper Archive with number 661465000000001179.

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Date of creation: 17 Jan 2011
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Handle: RePEc:cla:levarc:661465000000001179

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Cited by:
  1. 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).
  2. Daron Acemoglu & James A. Robinson & Ragnar Torvik, 2011. "Why Do Voters Dismantle Checks and Balances?," NBER Working Papers 17293, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Francesco Caselli & Thomas E. Cunningham & Massimo Morelli & Inés Moreno de Barreda, 2012. "Signalling, Incumbency Advantage, and Optimal Reelection Thresholds," NBER Working Papers 17833, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. 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.
  5. Darryl McLeod & Nora Lustig, 2010. "Inequality and Poverty under Latin America's New Left Regimes," Fordham Economics Discussion Paper Series, Fordham University, Department of Economics dp2010-13, Fordham University, Department of Economics.
  6. Egil Matsen & Ragnar Torvik & Gisle J. Natvik, 2012. "Petro populism," Working Paper Series, Department of Economics, Norwegian University of Science and Technology 12812, Department of Economics, Norwegian University of Science and Technology.
  7. Daron Acemoglu & Alexander Wolitzky, 2012. "Cycles of Distrust: An Economic Model," NBER Working Papers 18257, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Cont, Walter & Hancevic, Pedro & Navajas, Fernando H., 2011. "Energy populism and household welfare," MPRA Paper 35725, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  9. Richard Van Weelden & Massimo Morelli, 2012. "Reelection through Division," 2012 Meeting Papers, Society for Economic Dynamics 111, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  10. Manoel Bittencourt, 2012. "Democracy, populism and hyperinflation: some evidence from Latin America," Economics of Governance, Springer, Springer, vol. 13(4), pages 311-332, December.
  11. 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.

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