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The Good, the Bad and the Populist: A Model of Political Agency with Emotional Voters

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  • Jennings, Colin

Abstract

This paper attempts to extend existing models of political agency to an environment in which voting may be divided between informed and instrumental, informed and ‘expressive’ (Brennan and Lomasky (1993)) and uninformed due to ‘rational irrationality’ (Caplan (2007)). It constructs a model where politicians may be good, bad or populist. Populists are more willing than good politicians to pander to voters who may choose inferior policies in a large-group electoral setting because their vote is insignificant compared with those that voters would choose were their vote decisive in determining the electoral outcome. Bad politicians would ideally like to extract tax revenue for their own ends. Initially we assume the existence of only good and populist politicians. The paper investigates the incentives for good politicians to pool with or separate from populists and focuses on three key issues – (1) how far the majority of voter’s preferences are from those held by the better informed incumbent politician (2) the extent to which the population exhibits rational irrationality and expressiveness (jointly labelled as emotional) and (3) the cost involved in persuading uninformed voters to change their views in terms of composing messages and spreading them. This paper goes on to consider how the inclusion of bad politicians may affect the behaviour of good politicians and suggests that a small amount of potential corruption may be socially useful. It is also argued that where bad politicians have an incentive to mimic the behaviour of good and populist politicians, the latter types of politician may have an incentive to separate from bad politicians by investing in costly public education signals. The paper also discusses the implications of the model for whether fiscal restraints should be soft or hard.

Suggested Citation

  • Jennings, Colin, 2009. "The Good, the Bad and the Populist: A Model of Political Agency with Emotional Voters," SIRE Discussion Papers 2009-30, Scottish Institute for Research in Economics (SIRE).
  • Handle: RePEc:edn:sirdps:106
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10943/106
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Kräkel, Matthias & Nieken, Petra & Przemeck, Judith, 2014. "Risk taking and investing in electoral competition," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 33(C), pages 98-120.
    2. Guido Merzoni & Federico Trombetta, 2016. "The cost of doing the right thing. A model of populism with rent-seeking politicians and the economic crisis," DISEIS - Quaderni del Dipartimento di Economia internazionale, delle istituzioni e dello sviluppo dis1602, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Dipartimento di Economia internazionale, delle istituzioni e dello sviluppo (DISEIS).
    3. Felix Arnold, 2013. "German MPs' Outside Jobs and Their Repercussions on Parliamentary Effort," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 1340, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
    4. Schnellenbach, Jan & Schubert, Christian, 2015. "Behavioral political economy: A survey," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 40(PB), pages 395-417.
    5. Costas-Pérez, Elena & Solé-Ollé, Albert & Sorribas-Navarro, Pilar, 2012. "Corruption scandals, voter information, and accountability," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 28(4), pages 469-484.
    6. Leon, Gabriel, 2014. "Strategic redistribution: The political economy of populism in Latin America," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 34(C), pages 39-51.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Political Agency; Expressive Voting; Rational Irrationality; Democratic Inefficiency; Populism;

    JEL classification:

    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior

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