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Do Elections Always Motivate Incumbents? Experimentation vs. Career Concerns

  • Ben Lockwood
  • Eric Le Borgne

This paper studies a principal-agent model of the relationship between an incumbent officeholder and the electorate, where the officeholder is initially uninformed about her ability. If officeholder effort and ability interact in the "production function" that determines performance in office, then an officeholder has an incentive to experiment-that is, raise effort so that performance becomes a more accurate signal of her ability. Elections reduce the experimentation effect, and the reduction in this effect may more than offset the positive "career-concerns" effect of elections on effort. Moreover, when this occurs, appointment of officeholders may Pareto-dominate elections.

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Paper provided by International Monetary Fund in its series IMF Working Papers with number 03/57.

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Length: 32
Date of creation: 01 Mar 2003
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:imf:imfwpa:03/57
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  1. Dewatripont, Mathias & Jewitt, Ian & Tirole, Jean, 1999. "The Economics of Career Concerns, Part II: Application to Missions and Accountability of Government Agencies," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 66(1), pages 199-217, January.
  2. Mirman, Leonard J & Samuelson, Larry & Urbano, Amparo, 1993. "Monopoly Experimentation," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 34(3), pages 549-63, August.
  3. Canice Prendergast, 1999. "The Provision of Incentives in Firms," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 37(1), pages 7-63, March.
  4. le Borgne, E. & Lockwood, B., 2000. "Do Elections Always Motivate Incumbents?," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 580, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
  5. John Ferejohn, 1986. "Incumbent performance and electoral control," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 50(1), pages 5-25, January.
  6. Dhillon, A. & Lockwood, B., 1999. "When are Plurality Rule Voting Games Dominance-Solvable?," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 549, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
  7. Gibbons, Robert & Waldman, Michael, 1999. "Careers in organizations: Theory and evidence," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 36, pages 2373-2437 Elsevier.
  8. Wittman, Donald, 1989. "Why Democracies Produce Efficient Results," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(6), pages 1395-1424, December.
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