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Policy Persistence in Multi-party Parliamentary Democracies

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  • Pohan Fong

    (Concordia University)

  • Daniel Diermeier

    (Northwestern University)

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    Abstract

    Recent empirical studies by Persson and Tabellini show that, in parliamentary countries with proportional representation, government spending as a fraction of GDP goes up during cyclical downturns but does not come down during cyclical upturns, whereas this ratchet effect is not apparent in countries with other constitutional arrangements. This paper presents a dynamic theory of public finance and shows how the institution of legislative bargaining may lead to the asymmetric movement of government spending. A key assumption is that entitlement programs, once enacted, are in effect until they are reformed. When an economy is hit by a temporary negative income shock, the party that controls agenda setting faces a strong resistance on expenditure cuts. This is because a more stringent entitlement program on any socioeconomic group implies a worse status quo in the future and therefore a permanently lower bargaining power of that group. On the other hand, with a temporary positive income shock, the leading party can easily satisfy its coalition partners by their reservation values and pass a more generous entitlement program to benefit the socioeconomic group it represents.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Society for Economic Dynamics in its series 2007 Meeting Papers with number 248.

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    Date of creation: 2007
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    Handle: RePEc:red:sed007:248

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    1. RIBONI, Alessandro & RUGE-MURCIA, Francisco, 2006. "The Dynamic (In)efficiency of Monetary Policy by Committee," Cahiers de recherche 2006-02, Universite de Montreal, Departement de sciences economiques.
    2. Persson, Torsten & Tabellini, Guido, 1994. "Is Inequality Harmful for Growth?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(3), pages 600-621, June.
    3. Hassler, John & Mora, José V Rodríguez & Storesletten, Kjetil & Zilibotti, Fabrizio, 2001. "The Survival of the Welfare State," CEPR Discussion Papers 2905, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    4. Persson, Torsten & Roland , Gérard & Tabellini, Guido, 1997. "Comparative Politics and Public Finance," Seminar Papers 633, Stockholm University, Institute for International Economic Studies.
    5. Rodrik, Dani & Alesina, Alberto, 1994. "Distributive Politics and Economic Growth," Scholarly Articles 4551798, Harvard University Department of Economics.
    6. Kalandrakis, Anastassios, 2004. "A three-player dynamic majoritarian bargaining game," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 116(2), pages 294-322, June.
    7. Alberto Alesina & Nouriel Roubini & Gerald D. Cohen, 1997. "Political Cycles and the Macroeconomy," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262510944, December.
    8. Persson, Torsten & Tabellini, Guido, 1999. "The size and scope of government:: Comparative politics with rational politicians," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 43(4-6), pages 699-735, April.
    9. Gian Maria Milesi-Ferretti & Roberto Perotti & Massimo Rostagno, 2002. "Electoral Systems And Public Spending," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 117(2), pages 609-657, May.
    10. McKelvey, Richard D., 1976. "Intransitivities in multidimensional voting models and some implications for agenda control," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 12(3), pages 472-482, June.
    11. Hassler, John & Krusell, Per & Storesletten, Kjetil & Zilibotti, Fabrizio, 2005. "The dynamics of government," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 52(7), pages 1331-1358, October.
    12. Meltzer, Allan H & Richard, Scott F, 1981. "A Rational Theory of the Size of Government," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(5), pages 914-27, October.
    13. Baron, David P. & Diermeier, Daniel & Fong, Pohan, 2007. "Policy Dynamics and Inefficiency in a Parliamentary Democracy with Proportional Representation," Research Papers 1960, Stanford University, Graduate School of Business.
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