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A Political Theory of Populism

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  • Konstantin Sonin

    (New Economic School)

  • Georgy Egorov

    (Kellogg School of Management)

  • Daron Acemoglu

    (MIT)

Abstract

Populism is described as an ideology which contrasts the interests of the people and the elite, and calls for defense of the interests of the former. In reality, populist politicians are often seen conducting macroeconomic policies that can be hardly justified by the benefits they provide to the very poorest; in many instances, these policies were far to the left of the majority's preference. In this paper, we explain why even a moderate politician seeking reelection may choose leftist policies. The leftist bias is higher when the polarization is high, or when the political class is predominantly occupied by the rich elite. We extend the model to study the environment where some politicians are corrupt and some are not and reach similar conclusions.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Society for Economic Dynamics in its series 2010 Meeting Papers with number 1246.

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Date of creation: 2010
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Handle: RePEc:red:sed010:1246

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  1. Daron Acemoglu & Georgy Egorov & Konstantin Sonin, 2009. "Political Selection and Persistence of Bad Governments," NBER Working Papers 15230, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Francesco Caselli & Massimo Morelli, 2001. "Bad Politicians," NBER Working Papers 8532, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Daron Agemoglu & Davide Ticchi & Andrea Vindigni, 2006. "Emergence and Persistence of Inefficient States," LABORatorio R. Revelli Working Papers Series 54, LABORatorio R. Revelli, Centre for Employment Studies.
  4. Osborne, Martin J & Slivinski, Al, 1996. "A Model of Political Competition with Citizen-Candidates," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 111(1), pages 65-96, February.
  5. Binswanger, J. & Prüfer, J., 2009. "Imperfect Information, Democracy, and Populism," Discussion Paper 2009-10, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
  6. Tim Besley & Stephen Coate, . ""An Economic Model of Representative Democracy''," CARESS Working Papres 95-02, University of Pennsylvania Center for Analytic Research and Economics in the Social Sciences.
  7. Jeffrey D. Sachs, 1989. "Social Conflict and Populist Policies in Latin America," NBER Working Papers 2897, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Acemoglu, Daron, 2003. "Why not a political Coase theorem? Social conflict, commitment, and politics," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 31(4), pages 620-652, December.
  9. Alberto Alesina & Guido Tabellini, 2007. "Bureaucrats or Politicians? Part I: A Single Policy Task," Levine's Working Paper Archive 321307000000000870, David K. Levine.
  10. Rudiger Dornbusch & Sebastian Edwards, 1991. "Introduction to "The Macroeconomics of Populism in Latin America"," NBER Chapters, in: The Macroeconomics of Populism in Latin America, pages 1-4 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Matthias Messner & Mattias Polborn, 2003. "Paying Politicians," Working Papers 246, IGIER (Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research), Bocconi University.
  12. Callander, Steven & Wilkie, Simon, 2007. "Lies, damned lies, and political campaigns," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 60(2), pages 262-286, August.
  13. Daniel Diermeier & Michael Keane & Antonio Merlo, 2002. "A Political Economy Model of Congressional Careers," PIER Working Paper Archive 04-037, Penn Institute for Economic Research, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania, revised 01 Sep 2004.
  14. Alessandro Lizzeri & Nicola Persico, 2005. "A Drawback Of Electoral Competition," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 3(6), pages 1318-1348, December.
  15. Navin Kartik & R. Preston McAfee, 2007. "Signaling Character in Electoral Competition," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(3), pages 852-870, June.
  16. Eliana La Ferrara & Robert H. Bates, 2001. "Political Competition in Weak States," Economics and Politics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 13(2), pages 159-184, 07.
  17. Alberto Alesina & Guido Tabellini, 2007. "Bureaucrats or Politicians? Part II: Multiple Policy Tasks," Levine's Working Paper Archive 321307000000000875, David K. Levine.
  18. Harrington Jr. , Joseph E., 1993. "The Impact of Reelection Pressures on the Fulfillment of Campaign Promises," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 5(1), pages 71-97, January.
  19. Dornbusch, Rudiger & Edwards, Sebastian, 1989. "The macroeconomics of populism in Latin America," Policy Research Working Paper Series 316, The World Bank.
  20. Schultz, Christian, 2008. "Information, polarization and term length in democracy," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(5-6), pages 1078-1091, June.
  21. Dani Rodrik, 1996. "Understanding Economic Policy Reform," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 34(1), pages 9-41, March.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Francesco Caselli & Tom Cunningham & Massimo Morelli & Inés Moreno de Barreda, 2012. "Signalling, Incumbency Advantage, and Optimal Reelection Rules," CEP Discussion Papers dp1122, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  2. Francesco Caselli & Thomas E. Cunningham & Massimo Morelli & Inés Moreno de Barreda, 2012. "Signalling, Incumbency Advantage, and Optimal Reelection Thresholds," NBER Working Papers 17833, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Ragnar Torvik & Daron Acemoglu & James A. Robinson, 2011. "Why Do Voters Dismantle Checks and Balances?," Working Paper Series 11711, Department of Economics, Norwegian University of Science and Technology.
  4. Egil Matsen & Ragnar Torvik & Gisle J. Natvik, 2012. "Petro populism," Working Paper Series 12812, Department of Economics, Norwegian University of Science and Technology.
  5. Daron Acemoglu & Alexander Wolitzky, 2012. "Cycles of Distrust: An Economic Model," Levine's Working Paper Archive 786969000000000502, David K. Levine.
  6. Darryl McLeod & Nora Lustig, 2010. "Inequality and Poverty under Latin America's New Left Regimes," Fordham Economics Discussion Paper Series dp2010-13, Fordham University, Department of Economics.
  7. Richard Van Weelden & Massimo Morelli, 2012. "Reelection through Division," 2012 Meeting Papers 111, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  8. Manoel Bittencourt, 2010. "Democracy, Populism and Hyperinflation(s): Some Evidence from Latin America," Working Papers 169, Economic Research Southern Africa.
  9. Manoel Bittencourt, 2012. "Economic Growth and Government Debt: Evidence from the Young Democracies of Latin America," Working Papers 201203, University of Pretoria, Department of Economics.
  10. Yakovlev, Pavel & Tosun, Mehmet S. & Lewis, William P., 2012. "Legislative Term Limits and State Aid to Local Governments," IZA Discussion Papers 6456, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  11. Cont, Walter & Hancevic, Pedro & Navajas, Fernando H., 2011. "Energy populism and household welfare," MPRA Paper 35725, University Library of Munich, Germany.

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