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Do Elections Always Motivate Incumbents? Learning versus Re-election Concerns


  • Le Borgne, Eric
  • Lockwood, Ben


This Paper studies a principal-agent model of the relationship between officeholder and an electorate, where everyone is initially uninformed about the officeholder’s ability. If office-holder effort and ability interact in the determination of performance in office, then an office-holder has an incentive to learn, i.e., raise effort so that performance becomes a more accurate signal of their ability. Elections reduce the learning effect, and the reduction in this effect may more than offset the positive ‘re-election concerns’ effect of elections on effort, implying higher effort with appointment. When this occurs, appointment of officials may welfare-dominate elections.

Suggested Citation

  • Le Borgne, Eric & Lockwood, Ben, 2004. "Do Elections Always Motivate Incumbents? Learning versus Re-election Concerns," CEPR Discussion Papers 4664, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:4664

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Ades, Alberto & Di Tella, Rafael, 1997. "National Champions and Corruption: Some Unpleasant Interventionist Arithmetic," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 107(443), pages 1023-1042, July.
    2. Evenett, Simon J. & Hoekman, Bernard M., 2005. "Government procurement: market access, transparency, and multilateral trade rules," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 21(1), pages 163-183, March.
    3. Dimitri Mardas & Nikos Varsakelis, 2000. "Public procurement policy and the Czech industry," International Advances in Economic Research, Springer;International Atlantic Economic Society, vol. 6(3), pages 488-497, August.
    4. Hoekman, Bernard, 1998. "Using International Institutions to Improve Public Procurement," World Bank Research Observer, World Bank Group, vol. 13(2), pages 249-269, August.
    5. Mauro, Paolo, 1998. "Corruption and the composition of government expenditure," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(2), pages 263-279, June.
    6. Abbott, Kenneth W. & Snidal, Duncan, 2000. "Hard and Soft Law in International Governance," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 54(03), pages 421-456, June.
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    8. Pranab Bardhan, 1997. "Corruption and Development: A Review of Issues," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 35(3), pages 1320-1346, September.
    9. Charles Sabel & Sanjay Reddy, 2007. "Learning to Learn: Undoing the Gordian Knot of Development Today," Challenge, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 50(5), pages 73-92.
    10. Alam, M S, 1995. "A Theory of Limits on Corruption and Some Applications," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 48(3), pages 419-435.
    11. Claudio Orrego & Carlos Osorio & Rodrigo Mardones, 2001. "Technological Innovation in Public Sector Reform : Chile's Public Procurement e-System," World Bank Other Operational Studies 11403, The World Bank.
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    Cited by:

    1. Christos Kotsogiannis & Robert Schwager, 2006. "Political Uncertainty and Policy Innovation," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 8(5), pages 779-805, December.

    More about this item


    career concerns; citizen-candidate; effort; elections; incomplete information; learning;

    JEL classification:

    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • D78 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Positive Analysis of Policy Formulation and Implementation
    • H41 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Public Goods
    • J44 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - Professional Labor Markets and Occupations
    • J45 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - Public Sector Labor Markets

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