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Bureaucrats or Politicians?

  • Alberto Alesina
  • Guido Tabellini

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 tend to be preferable for tasks that have the following features: they do not involve too much specific technical ability relative to effort; there is uncertainty ex ante 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; the policies imply redistributive conflicts among large groups of voters. The reverse apply to the attribution of prerogatives to bureaucrats.

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Paper provided by Harvard - Institute of Economic Research in its series Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers with number 2009.

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Date of creation: 2003
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:fth:harver:2009
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