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Bad politicians

  • Francesco Caselli
  • Massimo Morelli

We present a simple theory of the quality of elected officials. Quality has (at least) two dimensions: competence and honesty. Voters prefer competent and honest policymakers, so high-quality citizens have a greater chance of being elected to office. But low-quality citizens have a “comparative advantage” in pursuing elective office, because their market wages are lower than the market wages of high-quality citizens (competence), and/or because they reap higher returns from holding office (honesty). In the political equilibrium, the average quality of the elected body depends on the structure of rewards from holding public office. Under the assumption that the rewards from office are increasing in the average quality of office holders there can be multiple equilibria in quality. Under the assumption that incumbent policymakers set the rewards for future policymakers there can be path dependence in quality.

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Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis in its series Discussion Paper / Institute for Empirical Macroeconomics with number 134.

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Date of creation: 2000
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedmem:134
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    • Matthias Messner & Mattias Polborn, 2003. "Paying Politicians," Working Papers 246, IGIER (Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research), Bocconi University.
  8. Andrei Shleifer & Robert W. Vishny, 1998. "The Quality of Government," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1847, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  9. Francesco Caselli & Massimo Morelli, 2000. "Bad politicians," Discussion Paper / Institute for Empirical Macroeconomics 134, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
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  14. Tim Groseclose & Jeffrey Milyo, 1999. "Buying the Bums Out: What's the Dollar Value of a Seat in Congress?," Discussion Papers Series, Department of Economics, Tufts University 9923, Department of Economics, Tufts University.
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  19. Christian Harm & Joshua Charap, 1999. "Institutionalized Corruption and the Kleptocratic State," IMF Working Papers 99/91, International Monetary Fund.
  20. Cukierman, Alex & Meltzer, Allan H, 1986. "A Positive Theory of Discretionary Policy, the Cost of Democratic Government and the Benefits of a Constitution," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 24(3), pages 367-88, July.
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  24. Besley, Timothy & Coate, Stephen, 1998. "Sources of Inefficiency in a Representative Democracy: A Dynamic Analysis," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(1), pages 139-56, March.
  25. Pranab Bardhan, 1997. "Corruption and Development: A Review of Issues," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 35(3), pages 1320-1346, September.
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