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A Political Theory of Populism

  • Daron Acemoglu
  • Georgy Egorov
  • Konstantin Sonin

Populism is described as an ideology which contrasts the interests of the people and the elite, and calls for defense of the interests of the former. In reality, populist politicians are often seen conducting macroeconomic policies that can be hardly justified by the benefits they provide to the very poorest; in many instances, these policies were far to the left of the majority's preference. In this paper, we explain why even a moderate politician seeking reelection may choose leftist policies. The leftist bias is higher when the polarization is high, or when the political class is predominantly occupied by the rich elite. We extend the model to study the environment where some politicians are corrupt and some are not and reach similar conclusions.

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Paper provided by David K. Levine in its series Levine's Working Paper Archive with number 661465000000001179.

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Date of creation: 17 Jan 2011
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Handle: RePEc:cla:levarc:661465000000001179
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  14. Dornbusch, Rudiger & Edwards, Sebastian, 1989. "The macroeconomics of populism in Latin America," Policy Research Working Paper Series 316, The World Bank.
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  16. Daron Acemoglu & Georgy Egorov & Konstantin Sonin, 2009. "Political Selection and Persistence of Bad Governments," NBER Working Papers 15230, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. Matthias Messner & Mattias Polborn, 2003. "Paying Politicians," Working Papers 246, IGIER (Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research), Bocconi University.
  18. Jeffrey D. Sachs, 1989. "Social Conflict and Populist Policies in Latin America," NBER Working Papers 2897, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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