Rational Ignorance, Rational Voter Expectations, and Public Policy: A Discrete Informational Foundation for Fiscal Illusion
This paper demonstrates that rational ignorance, properly defined, allows the possibility that fiscal illusion affects policies in a democracy. The implications of rational ignorance are examined in a setting where voters are assumed to completely understand the fiscal environment and make perfect use of any information that they possess. In this setting, it is demonstrated that ignorance may be rational, manipulated, and generate biased expectations over fiscal parameters. The analysis suggests that the electoral impact of voter ignorance is reduced, but not eliminated by electoral competition. Candidate positions only affect the electoral choices of individuals who are at least partially informed about those positions. Consequently electoral competition tends to generate policies that advance the interests of relatively informed voters. This implies that election based public policies are based upon better information than one would expect based on the widespread fiscal ignorance reported in surveys. However, even in this setting, the votes cast and the policies adopted are affected by the estimated marginal rates of substitution between private and governmental services which can not be unbiased if areas of ignorance remain — even if voters make the very best use of information in their possession. The existence of rational ignorance, once carefully defined, is sufficient to generate policy relevant fiscal illusion. Copyright Kluwer Academic Publishers 2001
If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.
References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Coughlin, Peter J & Mueller, Dennis C & Murrell, Peter, 1990. "Electoral Politics, Interest Groups, and the Size of Government," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 28(4), pages 682-705, October.
- Browning, Edgar K, 1987. "On the Marginal Welfare Cost of Taxation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(1), pages 11-23, March.
- Rogoff, Kenneth, 1990.
"Equilibrium Political Budget Cycles,"
American Economic Review,
American Economic Association, vol. 80(1), pages 21-36, March.
- Cropper, Maureen L. & William N. Evans & Stephen J. Berard & Maria M. Ducla-Soares & Paul R. Portney, 1992. "The Determinants of Pesticide Regulation: A Statistical Analysis of EPA Decision Making," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(1), pages 175-97, February.
- Fremling, Gertrud M & Lott, John R, Jr, 1996. "The Bias towards Zero in Aggregate Perceptions: An Explanation Based on Rationally Calculating Individuals," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 34(2), pages 276-95, April.
- Alesina, Alberto & Londregan, John, 1993. "A Model of the Political Economy of the United States," Scholarly Articles 4552529, Harvard University Department of Economics.
- Roger Congleton, 1986. "Rent-seeking aspects of political advertising," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 49(3), pages 249-263, January.
- Banaian, King & Luksetich, William A, 1991. "Campaign Spending in Congressional Elections," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 29(1), pages 92-100, January.
- Wittman, Donald, 1989. "Why Democracies Produce Efficient Results," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(6), pages 1395-1424, December.
- Browning, Edgar K, 1976. "The Marginal Cost of Public Funds," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 84(2), pages 283-98, April.
- Alesina, Alberto & Cohen, Gerald D. & Roubini, Nouriel, 1993. "Electoral business cycle in industrial democracies," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 9(1), pages 1-23, March.
- Coughlin, Peter & Nitzan, Shmuel, 1981. "Electoral outcomes with probabilistic voting and Nash social welfare maxima," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(1), pages 113-121, February.
- George J. Stigler, 1961. "The Economics of Information," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 69, pages 213.
- Congleton, Roger D & Sweetser, Wendell, 1992. " Political Deadlocks and Distributional Information: The Value of the Veil," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 73(1), pages 1-19, January.
- E. West & Stanley Winer, 1980. "Optimal fiscal illusion and the size of government," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 35(5), pages 607-622, January.
- Heiner, Ronald A., 1988. "The necessity of imperfect decisions," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 10(1), pages 29-55, July.
When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:kap:pubcho:v:107:y:2001:i:1:p:35-64. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Guenther Eichhorn)or (Christopher F. Baum)
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.