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Serving the Public Interest


  • Thomas Markussen

    (Department of Economics, University of Copenhagen)

  • Jean-Robert Tyran

    (Department of Economics, University of Copenhagen)


We present a model of political selection in which voters elect a president from a set of candidates. We assume that some of the candidates are benevolent and that all voters prefer a benevolent president, i.e. a president who serves the public interest. Yet, political selection may fail in our model because voters cannot easily tell benevolent from egoistic candidates by observing their pre-election behavior. Egoistic types may strategically imitate benevolent types in the pre-election stage to extract rents once in office. We show that strategic imitation is less likely if the political system is likely to produce good governance. That is, if benevolent candidates are common, if the president has little discretionary power, and if the public sector is effective. We analyze the role of institutions like investigative media and re-election and show that they can improve or further hamper political selection, depending on the parameters of the political game.

Suggested Citation

  • Thomas Markussen & Jean-Robert Tyran, 2010. "Serving the Public Interest," Discussion Papers 10-11, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:kud:kuiedp:1011

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    Other versions of this item:

    • Thomas Markussen & Jean-Robert Tyran, 2010. "Serving the Public Interest," NRN working papers 2010-21, The Austrian Center for Labor Economics and the Analysis of the Welfare State, Johannes Kepler University Linz, Austria.

    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Thomas Markussen & Jean-Robert Tyran, 2017. "Choosing a Public-Spirited Leader. An experimental investigation of political selection," Discussion Papers 17-04, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.

    More about this item


    political selection; elections; social preferences; political leadership;

    JEL classification:

    • D64 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Altruism; Philanthropy; Intergenerational Transfers
    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design
    • H0 - Public Economics - - General

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