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Referenda as a Catch-22

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  • Xefteris, Dimitrios

Abstract

The result of a referendum delivers a significant amount of information about social preferences to each composite member of the society. This paper argues that, beyond this obvious fact, the choice not to offer a referendum by an authority, although permitted to do so, may enhance as well the information individuals posses about social preferences. The addition of a referendum option in the rules of a game, that is, by enabling the authority to offer referenda at will, results in an assured re-election of authorities that implement socially beneficial policies, and in a decrease of the re-election probability of authorities that implement socially obnoxious policies. In a sense, by allowing an authority to offer referenda, an inescapable Catch-22 is introduced in the game, which inhibits the re-election of a measure of "bad" authorities and, thus, confirms that one of the main benefits of a democratic institution is the preservation of "good" authorities in power.

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Paper provided by University Library of Munich, Germany in its series MPRA Paper with number 17084.

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Date of creation: 01 Sep 2008
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Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:17084

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Keywords: referendum; democracy; catch-22;

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  2. Anke Kessler, 2005. "Representative versus direct democracy: The role of informational asymmetries," Public Choice, Springer, Springer, vol. 122(1), pages 9-38, January.
  3. Bruno S. Frey & Alois Stutzer, 2000. "Maximising Happiness?," German Economic Review, Verein für Socialpolitik, Verein für Socialpolitik, vol. 1(2), pages 145-167, 05.
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  5. Caillaud, Bernard & Tirole, Jean, 2007. "Consensus Building: How to Persuade a Group," IDEI Working Papers, Institut d'Économie Industrielle (IDEI), Toulouse 435, Institut d'Économie Industrielle (IDEI), Toulouse.
  6. Bruno S Frey & Alois Stutzer, 2000. "What are the sources of happiness?," Economics working papers, Department of Economics, Johannes Kepler University Linz, Austria 2000-27, Department of Economics, Johannes Kepler University Linz, Austria.
  7. Thomas Romer & Howard Rosenthal, 1978. "Political resource allocation, controlled agendas, and the status quo," Public Choice, Springer, Springer, vol. 33(4), pages 27-43, December.
  8. Bruno Frey & Alois Stutzer, 2000. "Happiness Prospers in Democracy," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, Springer, vol. 1(1), pages 79-102, March.
  9. Esteban Klor & Eyal Winter, 2007. "The welfare effects of public opinion polls," International Journal of Game Theory, Springer, Springer, vol. 35(3), pages 379-394, February.
  10. Feld, Lars P & Savioz, Marcel R, 1997. "Direct Democracy Matters for Economic Performance: An Empirical Investigation," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 50(4), pages 507-38.
  11. Anthony Downs, 1957. "An Economic Theory of Political Action in a Democracy," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, University of Chicago Press, vol. 65, pages 135.
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Cited by:
  1. Enriqueta Aragonès & Santiago Sánchez-Pagés, 2014. "Incumbency (dis)advantage when citizens can propose Abstract:This paper analyses the problem that an incumbent faces during the legislature when deciding how to react to citizen proposals such as the ," UB Economics Working Papers, Universitat de Barcelona, Facultat d'Economia i Empresa, UB Economics 2014/314, Universitat de Barcelona, Facultat d'Economia i Empresa, UB Economics.
  2. Aragonès, Enriqueta & Sánchez-Pagés, Santiago, 2010. "The disadvantage of winning an election," SIRE Discussion Papers, Scottish Institute for Research in Economics (SIRE) 2010-21, Scottish Institute for Research in Economics (SIRE).
  3. Enriqueta Aragonès & Santiago Sánchez-Pagés, 2010. "The disadvantage of winning an election," UFAE and IAE Working Papers, Unitat de Fonaments de l'Anàlisi Econòmica (UAB) and Institut d'Anàlisi Econòmica (CSIC) 811.10, Unitat de Fonaments de l'Anàlisi Econòmica (UAB) and Institut d'Anàlisi Econòmica (CSIC).

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