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Revealed Political Power

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Abstract

This paper adopts a \revealed preference" approach to the question of what can be inferred about bias in a political system. We model an economy and its political system from the point of view of an \outside observer." The observer sees a nite sequence of policy data, but does not observe either the citizens' preference pro le or underlying distribution of political power that produced the policies. The observer makes inferences about distribution of political power as if political power were derived from a wealth-weighted voting system with weights that can vary with the state of the economy. The weights determine the nature and magnitude of the wealth bias. Positive weights on relative income in any period indicate an \elitist" bias in the political system whereas negative weights indicate a \populist" one. As a benchmark, any policy data is shown to be rationalized by any system of wealthweighted voting. However, by augmenting the observer's observations with polling data, nontrivial inference is possible. We show that joint restrictions resulting from the policy and polling data together imply upper and lower bounds on the set of rationalizing biases. These bounds can be explicitly calculated and can be used to discern instances of elitist bias; in other times they show populist bias. Additional restrictions on the preference domain can rule out the unbiased benchmark case of equal representation. Classification-JEL Codes: C73, D63, D72, D74, H11

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Georgetown University, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number gueconwpa~10-10-01.

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Date of creation: 10 May 2010
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Handle: RePEc:geo:guwopa:gueconwpa~10-10-01

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Postal: Marcia Suss Administrative Officer Georgetown University Department of Economics Washington, DC 20057-1036
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Keywords: wealth-bias; elitist bias; populist bias; weighted majority winner; rationalizing weights; "Anything Goes Theorem";

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References

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  1. Tasos Kalandrakis, 2008. "Rationalizable Voting," Wallis Working Papers WP51, University of Rochester - Wallis Institute of Political Economy.
  2. Debreu, Gerard, 1974. "Excess demand functions," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 1(1), pages 15-21, March.
  3. Bourguignon, F. & Verdier, T., 1997. "Oligarchy, Democracy, Inequality and Growth," DELTA Working Papers 97-10, DELTA (Ecole normale supérieure).
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  5. Stephen Coate, 2001. "Political Competition with Campaign Contributions and Informative Advertising," NBER Working Papers 8693, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Gans, Joshua S. & Smart, Michael, 1996. "Majority voting with single-crossing preferences," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 59(2), pages 219-237, February.
  7. Campante, Filipe, 2007. "Redistribution in a Model of Voting and Campaign Contributions," Working Paper Series rwp07-045, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  8. Chiappori, Pierre-Andre & Rochet, Jean-Charles, 1987. "Revealed Preferences and Differentiable Demand: Notes and Comments," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 55(3), pages 687-91, May.
  9. David Austen-Smith, 1987. "Interest groups, campaign contributions, and probabilistic voting," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 54(2), pages 123-139, January.
  10. Szenberg, Michael & Ramrattan, Lall & Gottesman, Aron A. (ed.), 2006. "Samuelsonian Economics and the Twenty-First Century," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199298839.
  11. Prat, A., 1998. "Campaign Spending with Office-Seeking Politicians, Rational Voters and Multiple Lobbies," Discussion Paper 1998-123, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
  12. Mantel, Rolf R., 1974. "On the characterization of aggregate excess demand," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 7(3), pages 348-353, March.
  13. Degan, Arianna & Merlo, Antonio, 2009. "Do voters vote ideologically?," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 144(5), pages 1868-1894, September.
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Cited by:
  1. Ruediger Bachmann & Jinhui Bai, 2010. "Government Purchases Over the Business Cycle: the Role of Economic and Political Inequality," NBER Working Papers 16247, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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