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

  • Jennings, Colin

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.

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Paper provided by Scottish Institute for Research in Economics (SIRE) in its series SIRE Discussion Papers with number 2009-30.

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Date of creation: 2009
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Handle: RePEc:edn:sirdps:106
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  1. David Romer, 2003. "Misconceptions and Political Outcomes," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 113(484), pages 1-20, January.
  2. Fearon, James D., 1995. "Rationalist explanations for war," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 49(03), pages 379-414, June.
  3. Alan Hamlin & Colin Jennings, 2009. "Expressive Political Behaviour: Foundations, Scope and Implications," Working Papers 0918, University of Strathclyde Business School, Department of Economics.
  4. Tabellini, Guido & Alesina, Alberto, 1990. "A Positive Theory of Fiscal Deficits and Government Debt," Scholarly Articles 3612769, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  5. Brennan, Geoffrey & Hamlin, Alan, 1998. " Expressive Voting and Electoral Equilibrium," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 95(1-2), pages 149-75, April.
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  10. Geoffrey Brennan, 2009. "Politics, selection and the public interest: Besley’s benevolent despot," The Review of Austrian Economics, Springer, vol. 22(2), pages 131-143, June.
  11. Mayda, Anna Maria & Rodrik, Dani, 2001. "Why are Some People (and Countries) More Protectionist than Others?," CEPR Discussion Papers 2960, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  12. Feddersen, Timothy J & Pesendorfer, Wolfgang, 1996. "The Swing Voter's Curse," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(3), pages 408-24, June.
  13. Wittman, Donald, 1989. "Why Democracies Produce Efficient Results," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(6), pages 1395-1424, December.
  14. Dani Rodrik, 1996. "Understanding Economic Policy Reform," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 34(1), pages 9-41, March.
  15. Hillman, Arye L., 2010. "Expressive behavior in economics and politics," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 26(4), pages 403-418, December.
  16. Eric Maskin & Jean Tirole, 2004. "The Politician and the Judge: Accountability in Government," Economics Working Papers 0020, Institute for Advanced Study, School of Social Science.
  17. Smart, Michael & Sturm, Daniel M, 2004. "Term Limits and Electoral Accountability," CEPR Discussion Papers 4272, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  18. Aidt, Toke Skovsgaard, 2003. "Redistribution and deadweight cost: the role of political competition," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 19(2), pages 205-226, June.
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  20. Timothy Besley & Michael Smart, 2005. "Fiscal Restraints and Voter Welfare," STICERD - Political Economy and Public Policy Paper Series 06, Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines, LSE.
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  25. John Ferejohn, 1986. "Incumbent performance and electoral control," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 50(1), pages 5-25, January.
  26. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521027922 is not listed on IDEAS
  27. Bryan Caplan, 2007. "Introduction to The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies
    [The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies]
    ," Introductory Chapters, Princeton University Press.
  28. Bryan Caplan, 2002. "Systematically Biased Beliefs About Economics: Robust Evidence of Judgemental Anomalies from the Survey of Americans and Economists on the Economy," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(479), pages 433-458, April.
  29. Persson, Torsten & Svensson, Lars E O, 1989. "Why a Stubborn Conservative Would Run a Deficit: Policy with Time-Inconsistent Preferences," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 104(2), pages 325-45, May.
  30. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521233293 is not listed on IDEAS
  31. Kliemt, Hartmut, 1986. "The veil of insignificance," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 2(3), pages 333-344.
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