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Shirking and sorting in a political market with finite-lived politicians

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  • John Lott
  • W. Reed

Abstract

This paper analyzes principal-agent slack in the context of a political market composed of voters, challengers, and incumbents. The introduction of a last period (via finite-livedness) in combination with voters' imperfect information about politicians' preferences causes time-varying shirking behavior on the part of politicians. Political markets eventually sort out those politicians with significantly deviant policy preferences, potentially providing a solution to the last period problem and enabling politicians to make credible commitments. In the extreme, sorting can insure that it is not worthwhile for potential shirkers to run for office. A systematic relationship between political shirking and number of terms in office may exist, and depends on how quickly sorting takes place. We show that evidence of little if any shirking is quite consistent with politicians having diverse and strongly held policy preferences. In addition, if sorting is a significant feature of political markets, cross-sectional studies will tend to oversample little- and non-shirking politicians compared to longitudinal studies. Reinterpretations of existing empirical work are also discussed. Copyright Kluwer Academic Publishers 1989

Suggested Citation

  • John Lott & W. Reed, 1989. "Shirking and sorting in a political market with finite-lived politicians," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 61(1), pages 75-96, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:pubcho:v:61:y:1989:i:1:p:75-96
    DOI: 10.1007/BF00116763
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    2. J. Sebastian Leguizamon & George R. Crowley, 2016. "Term limits, time horizons and electoral accountability," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 168(1), pages 23-42, July.
    3. Jochimsen, Beate & Thomasius, Sebastian, 2014. "The perfect finance minister: Whom to appoint as finance minister to balance the budget," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 34(C), pages 390-408.
    4. René Lindstädt & Ryan Wielen, 2011. "Timely shirking: time-dependent monitoring and its effects on legislative behavior in the U.S. Senate," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 148(1), pages 119-148, July.
    5. Daniel J. Smith & George R. Crowley & J. Sebastian Leguizamon, 2021. "Long live the doge? Death as a term limit on Venetian chief executives," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 188(3), pages 333-359, September.
    6. Alesina, Alberto & Spear, Stephen E., 1988. "An overlapping generations model of electoral competition," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 37(3), pages 359-379, December.
    7. Besley, Timothy & Larcinese, Valentino, 2005. "Working or shirking? A closer look at MPs’ expenses and parliamentary attendance," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 3609, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    8. Robi Ragan, 2013. "Institutional sources of policy bias: A computational investigation," Journal of Theoretical Politics, , vol. 25(4), pages 467-491, October.
    9. Timothy Besley & Valentino Larcinese, 2011. "Working or shirking? Expenses and attendance in the UK Parliament," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 146(3), pages 291-317, March.
    10. William R. Dougan & Ivette Jans, 1993. "Twain's Law of Politics," Rationality and Society, , vol. 5(4), pages 518-536, October.
    11. Neil Longley, 1999. "Voting on Abortion in the House of Commons: A Test for Legislator Shirking," Canadian Public Policy, University of Toronto Press, vol. 25(4), pages 503-521, December.
    12. Colburn, Christopher B. & Hudgins, Sylvia C., 1996. "The influence on Congress by the thrift industry," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 20(3), pages 473-494, April.
    13. Bronars, Stephen G & Lott, John R, Jr, 1997. "Do Campaign Donations Alter How a Politician Votes? Or, Do Donors Support Candidates Who Value the Same Things That They Do?," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 40(2), pages 317-350, October.
    14. Monica P. Escaleras & Peter T. Calcagno, 2009. "Does the Gubernatorial Term Limit Type Affect State Government Expenditures?," Public Finance Review, , vol. 37(5), pages 572-595, September.
    15. Donald Wittman, 2009. "How Pressure Groups Activate Voters and Move Candidates Closer to the Median," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 119(540), pages 1324-1343, October.
    16. Melvin J. Hinich & Michael C. Munger, 1992. "A Spatial Theory of Ideology," Journal of Theoretical Politics, , vol. 4(1), pages 5-30, January.
    17. Sugato Dasgupta, 2009. "The disciplining role of repeated elections: some experimental evidence," New Zealand Economic Papers, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 43(2), pages 165-190.
    18. Jason DeBacker, 2012. "Political parties and political shirking," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 150(3), pages 651-670, March.
    19. Sutter, Daniel & Poitras, Marc, 2008. "Political hierarchies and political shirking," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 65(2), pages 334-356, February.
    20. Frey, Bruno S. & Eichenberger, Reiner, 1996. "To harmonize or to compete? That's not the question," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 60(3), pages 335-349, June.

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