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Democracy, populism, and (un)bounded rationality

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  • Binswanger, Johannes
  • Prüfer, Jens

Abstract

In this paper we aim to understand how bounded rationality affects performance of democratic institutions. We consider policy choice in a representative democracy when voters do not fully anticipate a politician's strategic behavior to manipulate his reelection chances. We find that this limited strategic sophistication affects policy choice in a fundamental way. Under perfect sophistication, a politician does not make any use of his private information but completely panders to voters' opinions. In contrast, under limited sophistication, a politician makes some use of private information and panders only partially. Limited sophistication crucially determines how welfare under representative democracy compares to welfare under alternative political institutions such as direct democracy or governance by experts. We find that, under limited strategic sophistication, representative democracy is preferable to the other institutions from an ex ante perspective.

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  • Binswanger, Johannes & Prüfer, Jens, 2012. "Democracy, populism, and (un)bounded rationality," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 28(3), pages 358-372.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:poleco:v:28:y:2012:i:3:p:358-372
    DOI: 10.1016/j.ejpoleco.2012.02.002
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    Cited by:

    1. Chesterley, Nicholas & Roberti, Paolo, 2018. "Populism and institutional capture," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 53(C), pages 1-12.
    2. Schnellenbach, Jan & Schubert, Christian, 2015. "Behavioral political economy: A survey," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 40(PB), pages 395-417.
    3. Leon, Gabriel, 2014. "Strategic redistribution: The political economy of populism in Latin America," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 34(C), pages 39-51.
    4. Gratton, Gabriele, 2014. "Pandering and electoral competition," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 84(C), pages 163-179.
    5. Giray Gozgor, 2020. "The Role of Economic Uncertainty in Rising Populism in the EU," CESifo Working Paper Series 8499, CESifo.
    6. Binswanger, Johannes & Prüfer, Jens, 2012. "Democracy, populism, and (un)bounded rationality," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 28(3), pages 358-372.
    7. Le Bihan, Patrick, 2015. "Popular Referendum and Electoral Accountability," IAST Working Papers 15-31, Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse (IAST).
    8. Fabrizio Botti & Marcella Corsi, 2019. "La destra populista in Europa: una prospettiva economica (The populist right in Europe: An economic perspective)," Moneta e Credito, Economia civile, vol. 72(286), pages 133-147.
    9. Kishishita, Daiki, 2020. "(Not) delegating decisions to experts: The effect of uncertainty," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 190(C).
    10. Naqvi, Nadeem & Neumärker, Bernhard & Pech, Gerald, 2018. "Consolidated democracy, constitutional stability, and the rule of law," MPRA Paper 86316, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    11. Schnellenbach, Jan & Schubert, Christian, 2014. "Behavioral public choice: A survey," Freiburg Discussion Papers on Constitutional Economics 14/03, Walter Eucken Institut e.V..
    12. Guido Merzoni & Federico Trombetta, 2016. "The cost of doing the right thing. A model of populism with rent-seeking politicians and the economic crisis," DISEIS - Quaderni del Dipartimento di Economia internazionale, delle istituzioni e dello sviluppo dis1602, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Dipartimento di Economia internazionale, delle istituzioni e dello sviluppo (DISEIS).
    13. Emilio Ocampo, 2019. "The Economic Analysis of Populism. A Selective Review of the Literature," CEMA Working Papers: Serie Documentos de Trabajo. 694, Universidad del CEMA.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Strategic sophistication; Democracy; Populism; Sophistication-k beliefs; Accountability; Experts;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • D78 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Positive Analysis of Policy Formulation and Implementation
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness

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