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Electoral Incentives, Public Policy, and the New Deal Realignment

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  • Robert K. Fleck

Abstract

This paper develops a model of the effects of electoral incentives on policy, then applies the model to the New Deal realignment. In the model, policy is the outcome of an agenda-setter game between the president and legislators. Specifically, the president sets policy subject to legislative approval. The president’s ability to concentrate benefits in states with high electoral payoffs depends in part on his or her power to influence legislators’ prospects for reelection. Regression analysis shows that New Deal spending and roll call voting patterns in the House of Representatives support the model. Historical accounts of other aspects of New Deal policy, including labor and civil rights issues, are consistent with the model. Together, the theoretical results and the empirical evidence help to explain several striking features of the policy and politics of the 1930s, including (i) why a government dominated by the Democratic Party would provide high benefits to swing states and much lower benefits to the traditionally Democratic South, (ii) why favoritism of swing states increased from the 1933–1934 period to the 1937– 1938 period, (iii) why favoritism of swing states decreased from 1938 to 1939, and (iv) why, with the rise of the conservative coalition in Congress in the late 1930s, it was the representatives from traditionally loyal Democratic districts that created the strongest Democratic opposition to Roosevelt and the New Deal.

Suggested Citation

  • Robert K. Fleck, 1999. "Electoral Incentives, Public Policy, and the New Deal Realignment," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 65(3), pages 377-404, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:sej:ancoec:v:65:3:y:1999:p:377-404
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    Cited by:

    1. Price Fishback, 2017. "How Successful Was the New Deal? The Microeconomic Impact of New Deal Spending and Lending Policies in the 1930s," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 55(4), pages 1435-1485, December.
    2. Larcinese, Valentino & Snyder, Jr., James M. & Testa, Cecilia, 2006. "Testing models of distributive politics using exit polls to measure voter preferences and partisanship," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 3605, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    3. Ronald N. Johnson & Gary D. Libecap, 2003. "Transaction Costs and Coalition Stability under Majority Rule," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 41(2), pages 193-207, April.
    4. Fishback, Price V. & Kantor, Shawn & Wallis, John Joseph, 2003. "Can the New Deal's three Rs be rehabilitated? A program-by-program, county-by-county analysis," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 40(3), pages 278-307, July.
    5. Larcinese, Valentino & Snyder, James M. & Testa, Cecilia, 2013. "Testing Models of Distributive Politics using Exit Polls to Measure Voters’ Preferences and Partisanship," British Journal of Political Science, Cambridge University Press, vol. 43(04), pages 845-875, October.
    6. Price Fishback & Samuel Allen & Jonathan Fox & Brendan Livingston, 2010. "A Patchwork Safety Net: A Survey Of Cliometric Studies Of Income Maintenance Programs In The United States In The First Half Of The Twentieth Century," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 24(5), pages 895-940, December.
    7. repec:ebl:ecbull:v:8:y:2007:i:3:p:1-5 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Price V. Fishback & John Joseph Wallis, 2012. "What Was New About the New Deal?," NBER Working Papers 18271, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Fleck, Robert K., 2013. "Why did the electorate swing between parties during the Great Depression?," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 50(4), pages 599-619.
    10. Bateman, Fred & Taylor, Jason E., 2003. "The New Deal at war: alphabet agencies' expenditure patterns, 1940-1945," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 40(3), pages 251-277, July.
    11. Zachary Horváth & Brian David Moore & Jonathan C. Rork, 2014. "Does Federal Aid to States Aid the States?," Growth and Change, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 45(2), pages 333-361, June.
    12. Robert K. Fleck, 2008. "Voter Influence and Big Policy Change: The Positive Political Economy of the New Deal," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 116(1), pages 1-37, February.
    13. Jason Taylor & Fred Bateman, 2007. "Does the distribution of New Deal spending reflect an optimal provision of public goods?," Economics Bulletin, AccessEcon, vol. 8(3), pages 1-5.

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