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Bad Apples: Political Paralysis and the Quality of Politicians

  • Gabriel Leon

Why do elected officials often suffer from political paralysis and fail to implement thebest policies available? This paper considers a new yet intuitive explanation thatfocuses on the quality of the politicians competing to replace the incumbent. Thekey insight is that a 'good' incumbent with preferences identical to those of arepresentative voter will want to keep corrupt politicians out of office; she may do soby distorting her policy choices to signal her type and win re-election. The value ofsignalling and staying in office increases with the fraction of corrupt types in thepopulation of politicians. Electing good types may therefore not be enough to ensurethat the best policies are implemented, especially when corrupt politicians arecommon. This provides a new explanation for why political failure is particularlysevere in corrupt democracies.

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File URL: http://sticerd.lse.ac.uk/dps/eopp/eopp13.pdf
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Paper provided by Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines, LSE in its series STICERD - Economic Organisation and Public Policy Discussion Papers Series with number 013.

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Date of creation: Aug 2009
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Handle: RePEc:cep:stieop:013
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://sticerd.lse.ac.uk/_new/publications/default.asp

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  1. Caselli, Francesco & Morelli, Massimo, 2000. "Bad Politicians," CEPR Discussion Papers 2402, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. List, John & Sturm, Daniel M, 2004. "How Elections Matter: Theory and Evidence from Environmental Policy," CEPR Discussion Papers 4489, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  3. John Mcmillan & Pablo Zoido, 2004. "How to Subvert Democracy: Montesinos in Peru," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 18(4), pages 69-92, Fall.
  4. Timothy Besley & Michael Smart, 2005. "Fiscal restraints and voter welfare," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 3769, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  5. Lopez, Edward J, 2003. " Term Limits: Causes and Consequences," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 114(1-2), pages 1-56, January.
  6. Timothy Besley & Andrea Prat, 2006. "Handcuffs for the Grabbing Hand? Media Capture and Government Accountability," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(3), pages 720-736, June.
  7. Aidt, T. & Dutta, J. & Loukoianova, E., 2003. "Policy Myopia," Cambridge Working Papers in Economics 0344, Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge.
  8. Adams, James D & Kenny, Lawrence W, 1986. "Optimal Tenure of Elected Public Officials," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 29(2), pages 303-28, October.
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