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Protection for Sale

  • Grossman, G.M.
  • Helpman, E.

We develop a model in which special interest groups make political contributions in order to influence an incumbent government's choice of trade policy. In the political equilibrium, the interest groups bid for protection, and each group's offer is optimal given the offers of the others. The politicians maximize their own welfare, which depends on the total amount of contributions collected and on the aggregate welfare of voters. We study the structure of protection that emerges in political equilibrium and the equilibrium contributions that are made by the different industry lobby groups, and show why these groups may in some cases prefer to have the government use trade policy to transfer income rather than more efficient means. We also discuss how our framework might be extended to include endogenous formation of lobby groups, political competition between incumbents and challengers, and political outcomes in a multicountry trading system.

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Paper provided by Tel Aviv in its series Papers with number 21-92.

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Length: 40 pages
Date of creation: 1992
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:fth:teavfo:21-92
Phone: 972-3-640-9255
Fax: 972-3-640-5815
Web page:

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  1. Grossman, Gene M & Helpman, Elhanan, 1994. "Protection for Sale," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(4), pages 833-50, September.
  2. John Douglas Wilson, 1990. "Are Efficiency Improvements In Government Transfer Policies Self-Defeating In Political Equilibrium?," Economics and Politics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 2(3), pages 241-258, November.
  3. Rodrik, Dani, 1986. "Tariffs, subsidies, and welfare with endogenous policy," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(3-4), pages 285-299, November.
  4. Flam, Harry & Helpman, Elhanan, 1987. "Industrial policy under monopolistic competition," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(1-2), pages 79-102, February.
  5. Bernheim, B Douglas & Whinston, Michael D, 1986. "Menu Auctions, Resource Allocation, and Economic Influence," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 101(1), pages 1-31, February.
  6. Hillman, Arye L & Ursprung, Heinrich W, 1988. "Domestic Politics, Foreign Interests, and International Trade Policy," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 78(4), pages 719-45, September.
  7. Hillman, Arye L, 1982. "Declining Industries and Political-Support Protectionist Motives," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 72(5), pages 1180-87, December.
  8. Mayer, Wolfgang, 1981. "Theoretical Considerations on Negotiated Tariff Adjustments," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 33(1), pages 135-53, March.
  9. Van Long, Ngo & Vousden, Neil, 1991. "Protectionist responses and declining industries," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(1-2), pages 87-103, February.
  10. Ronald Findlay & Stanislaw Wellisz, 1982. "Endogenous Tariffs, the Political Economy of Trade Restrictions, and Welfare," NBER Chapters, in: Import Competition and Response, pages 223-244 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Baldwin, Robert E., 1984. "Trade policies in developed countries," Handbook of International Economics, in: R. W. Jones & P. B. Kenen (ed.), Handbook of International Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 12, pages 571-619 Elsevier.
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