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A Political Economy Theory of the Soft Budget Constraint

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  • James A. Robinson

    ()
    (Department of Government, Harvard University)

  • Ragnar Torvik

    ()
    (Department of Economics, Norwegian University of Science and Technology)

Abstract

Why do soft budget constraints exist and persist? In this paper we argue that the prevalence of soft budget constraints can be best explained by the political desirability of softness. We develop a political economy model where politicians cannot commit to policies that are not ex post optimal. We show that because of the dynamic commitment problem inherent in the soft budget constraint, politicians can in essence commit to make transfers to entrepreneurs which otherwise they would not be able to do. This encourages such entrepreneurs to vote for them. Though the soft budget constraint may induce economic inefficiency, it may be politically rational because it influences the outcomes of elections. In consequence, even when information is complete, politicians may fund bad projects which they anticipate they will have to bail out in the future.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Department of Economics, Norwegian University of Science and Technology in its series Working Paper Series with number 5605.

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Length: 30 pages
Date of creation: 06 Aug 2005
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:nst:samfok:5605

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Keywords: Political Economy; Investment; Development;

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References

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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Karolina Kaiser & Emmanuelle Taugourdeau, 2013. "The timing of elections in federations: a disciplining device against soft budget constraints?," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 154(3), pages 197-215, March.
  2. Alberto Cavaliere, 2006. "Privatization and Efficiency: from Principals and Agents to Political Economy," Working Papers 2006.99, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei.
  3. Thushyanthan Baskaran, 2013. "Do bailouts buy votes? Evidence from a panel of Hessian municipalities," Economics of Governance, Springer, vol. 14(3), pages 257-278, August.
  4. Enrique Gilles, 2010. "Political intervention in economic activity," DOCUMENTOS DE TRABAJO 007180, UNIVERSIDAD DEL ROSARIO.
  5. Nelly Exbrayat & Thierry Madiès & Stéphane Riou, 2014. "Bailout policy in a globalized economy," Working Papers halshs-00925006, HAL.
  6. Nelly Exbrayat & Thierry Madiès & Stéphane Riou, 2013. "Abram Bergson," Working Papers 1340, Groupe d'Analyse et de Théorie Economique (GATE), Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS), Université Lyon 2, Ecole Normale Supérieure.
  7. Eggleston, Karen, 2008. "Soft budget constraints and the property rights theory of ownership," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 100(3), pages 425-427, September.
  8. Leopoldo Fergusson & James A. Robinson & Ragnar Torvik & Juan F. Vargas, 2012. "The Need for Enemies," NBER Working Papers 18313, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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