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The Political Economy of Government Responsiveness: Theory and Evidence from India

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  • Timothy Besley
  • Robin Burgess

Abstract

The determinants of government responsiveness to its citizens are a key issue in political economy. Here, we develop a model based on the solution of political agency problems. Having a more informed and politically active electorate strengthens incentives for governments to be responsive. This suggests that there is a role for both democratic institutions and mass media in ensuring that the preferences of citizens are reflected in policy. The ideas behind the model are tested on panel data from India. We show that state governments are more responsive to falls in food production and crop flood damage via public food distribution and calamity relief expenditure where newspaper circulation is higher and electoral accountability greater.

Suggested Citation

  • Timothy Besley & Robin Burgess, 2002. "The Political Economy of Government Responsiveness: Theory and Evidence from India," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(4), pages 1415-1451.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:qjecon:v:117:y:2002:i:4:p:1415-1451.
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1162/003355302320935061
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Timothy Besley & Anne Case, 1995. "Does Electoral Accountability Affect Economic Policy Choices? Evidence from Gubernatorial Term Limits," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 110(3), pages 769-798.
    2. Timothy Besley & Stephen Coate, 2003. "Elected Versus Appointed Regulators: Theory and Evidence," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 1(5), pages 1176-1206, September.
    3. La Ferrara, Eliana, 2002. "Inequality and group participation: theory and evidence from rural Tanzania," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 85(2), pages 235-273, August.
    4. Timothy Besley & Robin Burgess, 2000. "Land Reform, Poverty Reduction, and Growth: Evidence from India," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 115(2), pages 389-430.
    5. Alberto Alesina & Reza Baqir & William Easterly, 1999. "Public Goods and Ethnic Divisions," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(4), pages 1243-1284.
    6. Edward Miguel, 2001. "Ethnic Diversity and School Funding in Kenya," HEW 0012001, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    7. Ahluwalia, Deepak, 1993. "Public distribution of food in India : Coverage, targeting and leakages," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 18(1), pages 33-54, February.
    8. David Strömberg, 2004. "Radio's Impact on Public Spending," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 119(1), pages 189-221.
    9. Narayan, Deepa & Pritchett, Lant, 1999. "Cents and Sociability: Household Income and Social Capital in Rural Tanzania," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 47(4), pages 871-897, July.
    10. Holbrook, Thomas M. & Van Dunk, Emily, 1993. "Electoral Competition in the American States," American Political Science Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 87(4), pages 955-962, December.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • H11 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government - - - Structure and Scope of Government
    • H41 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Public Goods
    • I38 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Government Programs; Provision and Effects of Welfare Programs
    • P26 - Economic Systems - - Socialist Systems and Transition Economies - - - Political Economy

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