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Smooth Politicians and Paternalistic Voters: A Theory of Large Elections

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  • Marco Faravelli
  • Randall Walsh

Abstract

We propose a new game theoretic approach to modeling large elections that overcomes the “paradox of voting” in a costly voting framework, without reliance on the assumption of ad hoc preferences for voting. The key innovation that we propose is the adoption of a “smooth” policy rule under which the degree to which parties favor their own interests is increasing in their margin of victory. In other words, mandates matter. We argue that this approach is an improvement over the existing literature as it is consistent with the empirical evidence. Incorporating this policy rule into a costly voting model with paternalistic voters yields a parsimonious model with attractive properties. Specifically, the model predicts that when the size of the electorate grows without bound, limiting turnout is strictly positive both in terms of numbers and proportions. Further, the model preserves the typical comparative statics predictions that have been identified in the extant costly voting models such as the underdog effect and the competition effect. Finally, under the case of selfish agents, we are able to extend Palfrey and Rosenthal’s (1985) zero turnout result to a general class of smooth policy rules. Thus, this new approach reconciles the predictions of standard costly voting, both in terms of positive turnout and comparative statics predictions with the assumption of a large electorate environment.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 17397.

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Date of creation: Sep 2011
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17397

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  1. Stephen Coate & Michael Conlin, 2004. "A Group Rule–Utilitarian Approach to Voter Turnout: Theory and Evidence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(5), pages 1476-1504, December.
  2. Aaron Edlin & Andrew Gelman & Noah Kaplan, 2007. "Voting as a Rational Choice: Why and How People Vote to Improve the Well-Being of Others," NBER Working Papers 13562, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Colin M. Campbell, 1999. "Large Electorates and Decisive Minorities," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(6), pages 1199-1217, December.
  4. Krasa, Stefan & Polborn, Mattias K., 2009. "Is mandatory voting better than voluntary voting?," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 66(1), pages 275-291, May.
  5. Jacob Goeree & Jens Großer, 2007. "Welfare Reducing Polls," Economic Theory, Springer, vol. 31(1), pages 51-68, April.
  6. Thomas Palfrey & Howard Rosenthal, 1983. "A strategic calculus of voting," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 41(1), pages 7-53, January.
  7. Anthony Downs, 1957. "An Economic Theory of Political Action in a Democracy," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 65, pages 135.
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Cited by:
  1. Evren, Özgür, 2012. "Altruism and voting: A large-turnout result that does not rely on civic duty or cooperative behavior," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 147(6), pages 2124-2157.

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