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A Theory of Government Procrastination

Author

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  • Taiji Furusawa
  • Edwin L.-C. Lai

Abstract

We present a theory to explain government procrastination as a consequence of its present-bias resulting from the political uncertainty in a two-party political system. We show that under a two-party political system the party in office tends to be present-biased. This may lead to inefficient procrastination of socially beneficial policies that carry upfront costs but yield long-term benefits. However, procrastination is often not indefinite even as we consider an infinite-horizon game. There exist equilibria in which the policy is implemented, and in many cases carried out to completion in finite time. When the net social benefit is large, there is no procrastination problem. When the net social benefit is small, the policy can be procrastinated indefinitely, though there may co-exist some gradual implementation equilibria. When the net social benefit is intermediate in magnitude, there are all sorts of procrastination equilibria, including gradual implementation. The theory predicts that a government with a more strongly predominant party tends to procrastinate less.

Suggested Citation

  • Taiji Furusawa & Edwin L.-C. Lai, 2011. "A Theory of Government Procrastination," CESifo Working Paper Series 3680, CESifo Group Munich.
  • Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_3680
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    File URL: http://www.cesifo-group.de/DocDL/cesifo1_wp3680.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Ted O'Donoghue & Matthew Rabin, 2001. "Choice and Procrastination," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(1), pages 121-160.
    2. Marina Azzimonti, 2011. "Barriers to Investment in Polarized Societies," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(5), pages 2182-2204, August.
    3. Jinhui H. Bai & Roger Lagunoff, 2011. "On the Faustian Dynamics of Policy and Political Power," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 78(1), pages 17-48.
    4. George Loewenstein & Drazen Prelec, 1992. "Anomalies in Intertemporal Choice: Evidence and an Interpretation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 107(2), pages 573-597.
    5. David Laibson, 1997. "Golden Eggs and Hyperbolic Discounting," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(2), pages 443-478.
    6. Acemoglu,Daron & Robinson,James A., 2009. "Economic Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521671422.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    Keywords

    present-bias; procrastination; policy implementation;

    JEL classification:

    • C70 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - General
    • D78 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Positive Analysis of Policy Formulation and Implementation
    • D60 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - General

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