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A contribution to the theory of pork barrel spending

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  • V.V. Chari
  • Harold Cole

Abstract

In this paper we present a formal model of vote trading within a legislature. The model captures the conventional wisdom that if projects with concentrated benefits are financed by universal taxation, then majority rule leads to excessive spending. This occurs because the proponent of a particular bill only needs to acquire the votes of half the legislature and hence internalizes the costs to only half the representatives. We show that Pareto superior allocations are difficult to sustain because of a free rider problem among the representatives. We show that alternative voting rules, such as unanimity, eliminate excessive spending on concentrated benefit projects but lead to underfunding of global public goods.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis in its series Staff Report with number 156.

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Date of creation: 1993
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedmsr:156

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Keywords: Expenditures; Public;

References

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  1. Mailath, George J & Postlewaite, Andrew, 1990. "Asymmetric Information Bargaining Problems with Many Agents," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 57(3), pages 351-67, July.
  2. Rob, R., 1988. "Pollution Claim Settlements Under Private Information," Papers 19-88, Tel Aviv.
  3. Roger B. Myerson, 1978. "Optimal Auction Design," Discussion Papers 362, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  4. Romer, Thomas & Rosenthal, Howard, 1979. "Bureaucrats versus Voters: On the Political Economy of Resource Allocation by Direct Democracy," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 93(4), pages 563-87, November.
  5. Chari, V V & Jones, Larry E & Marimon, Ramon, 1997. "The Economics of Split-Ticket Voting in Representative Democracies," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(5), pages 957-76, December.
  6. Philipson, Tomas J & Snyder, James M, Jr, 1996. " Equilibrium and Efficiency in an Organized Vote Market," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 89(3-4), pages 245-65, December.
  7. Bengt Holmstrom & Roger B. Myerson, 1981. "Efficient and Durable Decision Rules with Incomplete Information," Discussion Papers 495, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  8. V. V. Chari & Larry E. Jones, 1991. "A reconsideration of the problem of social cost: free riders and monopolists," Staff Report 142, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  9. Ferejohn, John A & Fiorina, Morris P, 1975. "Purposive Models of Legislative Behavior," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 65(2), pages 407-14, May.
  10. Weingast, Barry R & Shepsle, Kenneth A & Johnsen, Christopher, 1981. "The Political Economy of Benefits and Costs: A Neoclassical Approach to Distributive Politics," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(4), pages 642-64, August.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Andres Velasco, 1997. "Debts and Deficits with Fragmented Fiscal Policymaking," NBER Working Papers 6286, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Andres Velasco, 1997. "A Model of Endogenous Fiscal Deficits and Delayed Fiscal Reforms," NBER Working Papers 6336, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Velasco, Andres, 2000. "Debts and deficits with fragmented fiscal policymaking," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 76(1), pages 105-125, April.
  4. Woo, Jaejoon, 2005. "Social polarization, fiscal instability and growth," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 49(6), pages 1451-1477, August.
  5. Marco Battaglini & Stephen Coate, 2007. "A Dynamic Theory of Public Spending, Taxation and Debt," Discussion Papers 1441, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  6. Jones, Mark P. & Sanguinetti, Pablo & Tommasi, Mariano, 2000. "Politics, institutions, and fiscal performance in a federal system: an analysis of the Argentine provinces," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 61(2), pages 305-333, April.
  7. V.V. Chari & Harold Cole, 1993. "Why are representative democracies fiscally irresponsible?," Staff Report 163, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  8. Jess Benhabib & Andres Velasco, 1995. "On the economics of fiscal populism in an open economy," Discussion Paper / Institute for Empirical Macroeconomics 97, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  9. Javier Salinas, 1998. "The Constitutional Political Economy of Public Deficits: The Spanish Case 1," Constitutional Political Economy, Springer, vol. 9(3), pages 235-249, September.
  10. Baqir, Reza, 1999. "Districts, spillovers, and government overspending," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2192, The World Bank.

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