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Bureaucrats or Politicians?

  • Alesina, Alberto F
  • Tabellini, Guido

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 are preferable for tasks that do not involve too much specific technical ability relative to effort; there is uncertainty 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. We then compare this normative benchmark with the case in which politicians choose when to delegate and we show that the two generally differ.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 4252.

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Date of creation: Feb 2004
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:4252
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  1. Persson, Torsten & Tabellini, Guido, 1997. "Political Economics and Macroeconomic Policy," CEPR Discussion Papers 1759, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. Alberto Alesina & Roberto Perotti, 1996. "Budget Deficits and Budget Institutions," IMF Working Papers 96/52, International Monetary Fund.
  3. Mathias Dewatripont & Ian Jewitt & Jean Tirole, 1999. "The Economics of Career Concerns, Part I: Comparing Information Structures," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 66(1), pages 183-198.
  4. Tim Besley & Maitreesh Ghatak, 2005. "Competition and incentives with motivated agents," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 928, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  5. Torsten Persson & Guido Tabellini, 2002. "Political Economics: Explaining Economic Policy," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262661314, June.
  6. Seabright, Paul, 1994. "Accountability and Decentralization in Government: An Incomplete Contracts Model," CEPR Discussion Papers 889, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  7. Oliver Hart & Andrei Shleifer & Robert W. Vishny, 1997. "The Proper Scope of Government: Theory and an Application to Prisons," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(4), pages 1127-1161.
  8. Alberto Alesina & Alex Cukierman, 1990. "The Politics of Ambiguity," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 105(4), pages 829-850.
  9. repec:oup:restud:v:66:y:1999:i:1:p:199-217 is not listed on IDEAS
  10. Aghion, Philippe & Alesina, Alberto & Trebbi, Francesco, 2004. "Endogenous Political Institutions," Scholarly Articles 4481498, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  11. Christian Schultz, 2003. "Information, Polarization and Delegation in Democracy," CESifo Working Paper Series 1104, CESifo Group Munich.
  12. Timothy Besley & Stephen Coate, 2003. "Elected Versus Appointed Regulators: Theory and Evidence," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 1(5), pages 1176-1206, 09.
  13. Putnam, Robert D., 1988. "Diplomacy and domestic politics: the logic of two-level games," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 42(03), pages 427-460, June.
  14. Alesina, Alberto & Gatti, Roberta, 1995. "Independent Central Banks: Low Inflation at No Cost?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(2), pages 196-200, May.
  15. Kenneth Rogoff & Anne Sibert, 1986. "Elections and Macroeconomic Policy Cycles," NBER Working Papers 1838, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Edward L. Glaeser & Andrei Shleifer, 2001. "The Rise of the Regulatory State," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1934, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  17. Eric Maskin, 2001. "On Indescribable Contingencies and Incomplete Contracts," Economics Working Papers 0008, Institute for Advanced Study, School of Social Science.
  18. Cukierman Alex, 1992. "Central Bank Strategy, Credibility, And Independance: Theory And Evidence," Journal des Economistes et des Etudes Humaines, De Gruyter, vol. 3(4), pages 10, December.
  19. Alan S. Blinder, 1999. "Central Banking in Theory and Practice," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262522608, June.
  20. Persson, Torsten & Tabellini, Guido, 1993. "Designing institutions for monetary stability," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 39(1), pages 53-84, December.
  21. Kenneth Rogoff, 1985. "The Optimal Degree of Commitment to an Intermediate Monetary Target," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 100(4), pages 1169-1189.
  22. Rogoff, Kenneth, 1990. "Equilibrium Political Budget Cycles," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(1), pages 21-36, March.
  23. Torsten Persson & GĂ©rard Roland & Guido Tabellini, 1997. "Separation of Powers and Political Accountability," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(4), pages 1163-1202.
  24. repec:oup:restud:v:55:y:1988:i:1:p:1-16 is not listed on IDEAS
  25. Kydland, Finn E & Prescott, Edward C, 1977. "Rules Rather Than Discretion: The Inconsistency of Optimal Plans," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 85(3), pages 473-91, June.
  26. John Ferejohn, 1986. "Incumbent performance and electoral control," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 50(1), pages 5-25, January.
  27. Barro, Robert J. & Gordon, David B., 1983. "Rules, discretion and reputation in a model of monetary policy," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 12(1), pages 101-121.
  28. repec:nbr:nberbk:pote99-1 is not listed on IDEAS
  29. repec:oup:restud:v:66:y:1999:i:1:p:183-98 is not listed on IDEAS
  30. McCubbins, Mathew D & Noll, Roger G & Weingast, Barry R, 1987. "Administrative Procedures as Instruments of Political Control," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 3(2), pages 243-77, Fall.
  31. Walsh, Carl E, 1995. "Optimal Contracts for Central Bankers," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(1), pages 150-67, March.
  32. Alesina, Alberto & Summers, Lawrence H, 1993. "Central Bank Independence and Macroeconomic Performance: Some Comparative Evidence," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 25(2), pages 151-62, May.
  33. Holmstrom, Bengt & Milgrom, Paul, 1991. "Multitask Principal-Agent Analyses: Incentive Contracts, Asset Ownership, and Job Design," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 7(0), pages 24-52, Special I.
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