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Referenda as a Catch-22


  • Dimitrios Xefteris



The result of a referendum delivers a significant amount of information about social preferences to each composite member of the society. This paper argues that, beyond this obvious fact, the choice not to offer a referendum by an authority, although permitted to do so, may enhance as well the information individuals posses about social preferences. The addition of a referendum option in the rules of a game, that is, by enabling the authority to offer referenda at will, results in an assured re-election of authorities that implement socially beneficial policies, and in a decrease of the re-election probability of authorities that implement socially obnoxious policies. In a sense, by allowing an authority to offer referenda, an inescapable Catch-22 is introduced in the game, which inhibits the re-election of a measure of "bad" authorities and, thus, confirms that one of the main benefits of a democratic institution is the preservation of "good" authorities in power.
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Suggested Citation

  • Dimitrios Xefteris, 2011. "Referenda as a Catch-22," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 37(1), pages 121-138, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:sochwe:v:37:y:2011:i:1:p:121-138
    DOI: 10.1007/s00355-010-0483-4

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Enriqueta Aragonès & Santiago Sánchez-Pagés, 2014. "Incumbency (dis)advantage when citizens can propose Abstract:This paper analyses the problem that an incumbent faces during the legislature when deciding how to react to citizen proposals such as the ," UB Economics Working Papers 2014/314, Universitat de Barcelona, Facultat d'Economia i Empresa, UB Economics.
    2. Aragonès, Enriqueta & Sánchez-Pagés, Santiago, 2010. "The disadvantage of winning an election," SIRE Discussion Papers 2010-21, Scottish Institute for Research in Economics (SIRE).

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D02 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Institutions: Design, Formation, Operations, and Impact
    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness


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