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Information, polarization and term length in democracy

  • Schultz, Christian

This paper considers term lengths in a representative democracy where the political issue divides the population on the left-right scale. Parties are ideologically different and better informed about the consequences of policies than voters are. A short term length makes the government more accountable, but the re-election incentive leads to policy distortion as the government seeks to manipulate swing voters' beliefs to make its ideology more popular. This creates a trade off: A short term length improves accountability but gives distortions. A short term length is best for swing voters when the uncertainty is large and parties are not very polarized. Partisan voters always prefer a long term length. When politicians learn while in office a long term length becomes more attractive for swing voters.

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File URL: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/B6V76-4RFJ4GX-1/1/921f021808bed58f577c1ff503aae2c7
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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Public Economics.

Volume (Year): 92 (2008)
Issue (Month): 5-6 (June)
Pages: 1078-1091

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Handle: RePEc:eee:pubeco:v:92:y:2008:i:5-6:p:1078-1091
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/505578

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  1. Eric Maskin & Jean Tirole, 2004. "The Politician and the Judge: Accountability in Government," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(4), pages 1034-1054, September.
  2. Alberto Alesina & Guido Tabellini, 2007. "Bureaucrats or Politicians? Part I: A Single Policy Task," Levine's Working Paper Archive 321307000000000870, David K. Levine.
  3. Michael Smart & Daniel M. Sturm, 2006. "Term Limits and Electoral Accountability," CEP Discussion Papers dp0770, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  4. Schultz, Christian, 2002. "Policy biases with voters' uncertainty about the economy and the government," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 46(3), pages 487-506, March.
  5. : Christian Schultz, . "Polarization and Inefficient Policies," Discussion Papers 93-16, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
  6. Anthony Downs, 1957. "An Economic Theory of Political Action in a Democracy," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 65, pages 135.
  7. F. Andrew Hanssen, 2004. "Is There a Politically Optimal Level of Judicial Independence?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(3), pages 712-729, June.
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