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Elections and the Strategic Use of Budget Deficits


  • Roland Hodler


We present a model in which a conservative incumbent with preferences for low public spending can strategically run a budget deficit to prevent the left-wing opposition candidate from choosing high public spending if elected, and possibly also to ensure his own reelection. We find that the incumbent never manipulates the opposition candidate’s public spending if he can ensure his reelection; and that a conservative incumbent who runs a budget deficit to ensure his reelection may somewhat paradoxically choose high public spending before the election.

Suggested Citation

  • Roland Hodler, 2009. "Elections and the Strategic Use of Budget Deficits," Department of Economics - Working Papers Series 1074, The University of Melbourne.
  • Handle: RePEc:mlb:wpaper:1074

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Caballero, Ricardo J. & Yared, Pierre, 2010. "Future rent-seeking and current public savings," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 82(2), pages 124-136, November.
    2. Marco Battaglini & Stephen Coate, 2008. "A Dynamic Theory of Public Spending, Taxation, and Debt," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(1), pages 201-236, March.
    3. Alberto Alesina & Guido Tabellini, 1990. "A Positive Theory of Fiscal Deficits and Government Debt," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 57(3), pages 403-414.
    4. Kenneth Rogoff & Anne Sibert, 1988. "Elections and Macroeconomic Policy Cycles," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 55(1), pages 1-16.
    5. Tabellini, Guido & Alesina, Alberto, 1990. "Voting on the Budget Deficit," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(1), pages 37-49, March.
    6. Alberto Alesina & Alex Cukierman, 1990. "The Politics of Ambiguity," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 105(4), pages 829-850.
    7. Bruno Biais & Enrico Perotti, 2002. "Machiavellian Privatization," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(1), pages 240-258, March.
    8. Hodler, Roland & Loertscher, Simon & Rohner, Dominic, 2010. "Inefficient policies and incumbency advantage," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(9-10), pages 761-767, October.
    9. Milesi-Ferretti, Gian Maria & Spolaore, Enrico, 1994. "How cynical can an incumbent be? Strategic policy in a model of government spending," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 55(1), pages 121-140, September.
    10. Besley, Timothy & Coate, Stephen, 1998. "Sources of Inefficiency in a Representative Democracy: A Dynamic Analysis," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(1), pages 139-156, March.
    11. Alessandro Lizzeri, 1999. "Budget Deficits and Redistributive Politics," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 66(4), pages 909-928.
    12. Per Pettersson-Lidbom, 2001. "An Empirical Investigation of the Strategic Use of Debt," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 109(3), pages 570-583, June.
    13. Arnaud Dellis, 2009. "The Salient Issue of Issue Salience," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 11(2), pages 203-231, April.
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    Cited by:

    1. Linda Gonçalves Veiga & Francisco José Veiga, 2014. "Determinants of Portuguese local governments’ indebtedness," NIPE Working Papers 16/2014, NIPE - Universidade do Minho.
    2. Agustín Molina-Parra & Diego Martínez-López, 2015. "Do federal deficits motivate regional fiscal (im)balances? Evidence from the Spanish case," Working Papers. Collection A: Public economics, governance and decentralization 1503, Universidade de Vigo, GEN - Governance and Economics research Network.
    3. G. Bellettini & P. Roberti, 2016. "Politicians' coherence and government debt," Working Papers wp1087, Dipartimento Scienze Economiche, Universita' di Bologna.

    More about this item


    Voting; Budget deficits; Public Debt; Political Economics;

    JEL classification:

    • H62 - Public Economics - - National Budget, Deficit, and Debt - - - Deficit; Surplus
    • H63 - Public Economics - - National Budget, Deficit, and Debt - - - Debt; Debt Management; Sovereign Debt
    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • C72 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Noncooperative Games


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