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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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File URL: http://www.economics.harvard.edu/pub/hier/2003/HIER2009.pdf
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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
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Handle: RePEc:fth:harver:2009
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  1. Torsten Persson & Guido Tabellini, 1997. "Political Economics and Macroeconomic Policy," NBER Working Papers 6329, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  11. Cukierman, Alex & Alesina, Alberto, 1990. "The Politics of Ambiguity," Scholarly Articles 4552530, Harvard University Department of Economics.
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  15. Holmstrom, Bengt & Milgrom, Paul, 1991. "Multitask Principal-Agent Analyses: Incentive Contracts, Asset Ownership, and Job Design," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 7(0), pages 24-52, Special I.
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  17. Barro, Robert J. & Gordon, David B., 1983. "Rules, discretion and reputation in a model of monetary policy," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 12(1), pages 101-121.
  18. Alberto Alesina & Roberto Perotti, 1996. "Budget Deficits and Budget Institutions," NBER Working Papers 5556, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  20. Alesina, Alberto & Summers, Lawrence H, 1993. "Central Bank Independence and Macroeconomic Performance: Some Comparative Evidence," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 25(2), pages 151-62, May.
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  27. Alesina, Alberto & Gatti, Roberta, 1995. "Independent Central Banks: Low Inflation at No Cost?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(2), pages 196-200, May.
  28. Torsten Persson & Guido Tabellini, 2002. "Political Economics: Explaining Economic Policy," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262661314, June.
  29. Kydland, Finn E & Prescott, Edward C, 1977. "Rules Rather Than Discretion: The Inconsistency of Optimal Plans," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 85(3), pages 473-91, June.
  30. Walsh, Carl E, 1995. "Optimal Contracts for Central Bankers," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(1), pages 150-67, March.
  31. James M. Poterba & Jürgen von Hagen, 1999. "Fiscal Institutions and Fiscal Performance," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number pote99-1, March.
  32. McCubbins, Mathew D & Noll, Roger G & Weingast, Barry R, 1987. "Administrative Procedures as Instruments of Political Control," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 3(2), pages 243-77, Fall.
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