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Rational Ignorance is not Bliss: When do Lazy Voters Learn from Decentralised Policy Experiments?

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  • Schnellenbach Jan

    (Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg, Alfred-Weber-Institut für Wirtschaftswissenschaften, Grabengasse 14, 69117 Heidelberg, Germany)

Abstract

A popular argument about economic policy under uncertainty states that decentralisation offers the possibility to learn from local or regional policy experiments. Often, an analogy between market competition as a discovery procedure and political competition is used to corroborate this argument. We argue that political learning processes are not trivial and do not occur frictionlessly: Voters have an inherent tendency to retain a given stock of policy-related knowledge which was costly to accumulate, so that yardstick competition is improbable to function well particularly for complex issues, if representatives’ actions are tightly controlled by the electorate.We show that factor mobility does have the potential to endogenously disturb equilibria on regional markets for political theories, and therefore does provide for improved political learning processes compared to unitary systems. But the results we can expect are far from the ideal mechanisms of producing and utilising knowledge often described in the literature. In particular, collective learning may occur in the relatively efficient region, while the status quo may be fortified in the relatively inefficient region.

Suggested Citation

  • Schnellenbach Jan, 2008. "Rational Ignorance is not Bliss: When do Lazy Voters Learn from Decentralised Policy Experiments?," Journal of Economics and Statistics (Jahrbuecher fuer Nationaloekonomie und Statistik), De Gruyter, vol. 228(4), pages 372-393, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:jns:jbstat:v:228:y:2008:i:4:p:372-393
    DOI: 10.1515/jbnst-2008-0406
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Policy decentralisation; fiscal competition; model uncertainty; collective learning;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • H73 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - Interjurisdictional Differentials and Their Effects
    • O31 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Innovation and Invention: Processes and Incentives
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness

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