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Bureaucrats or Politicians?

  • Alberto Alesina
  • Guido Tabellini

Policies are typically chosen by politicians and bureaucrats. This paper investigates the criteria that should lead a society to allocate policy tasks to elected policymakers (politicians) or non elected bureaucrats. Politicians tend to be preferable for tasks that have the following features: they do not involve too much specific technical ability relative to effort; there is uncertainty ex ante about ex post preferences of the public and flexibility is valuable; time inconsistency is not an issue; small but powerful vested interests do not have large stakes in the policy outcome; effective decisions over policies require taking into account policy complementarities and compensating the losers; the policies imply redistributive conflicts among large groups of voters. The reverse apply to the attribution of prerogatives to bureaucrats.

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Date of creation: 21 Nov 2005
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Handle: RePEc:cla:levarc:784828000000000638
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  1. Philippe Aghion & Albero Alesina & Francesco Trebbi, 2002. "Endogenous Political Institutions," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1957, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  2. Maskin, Eric, 2002. "On indescribable contingencies and incomplete contracts," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 46(4-5), pages 725-733, May.
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