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Government Gains from Self-Restraint: A Bargaining Theory of Inefficient Redistribution

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  • Allan Drazen
  • Nuno Limão

Abstract

We present a bargaining model of the interaction between a government and interest groups in which, unlike most existing models, neither side is assumed to have all the bargaining power. The government finds it optimal to constrain itself in the use of transfer policies to improve its bargaining position. In a model of redistribution to lobbies, the government finds it optimal to cap the size of lump-sum transfers it makes below the unconstrained equilibrium level. With a binding cap on efficient subsidies in place, less efficient subsidies will be used for redistribution even when they serve no economic function. Analogously, if it must choose either efficient or inefficient transfers, it may find it optimal to forego use of the former if its bargaining power relative to the lobby is sufficiently low. Even if the lobby can bargain over the type of redistribution policy with the government, the inefficient policy may still be used in equilibrium. If policymakers are elected, rational fully informed voters may choose a candidate who implements the inefficient policy over one who would implement the efficient policy and may prefer the candidate with the lower weight on voter welfare We thus offer an alternative theory that explains why governments may optimally choose to restrict efficient lump-sum transfers to interest groups and replace them with relatively less efficient transfers.

Suggested Citation

  • Allan Drazen & Nuno Limão, 2004. "Government Gains from Self-Restraint: A Bargaining Theory of Inefficient Redistribution," NBER Working Papers 10375, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10375
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Allan Drazen, 2002. "Conditionality and Ownership in IMF Lending: A Political Economy Approach," IMF Staff Papers, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 49(Special i), pages 36-67.
    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. Westcott, Paul C. & Young, C. Edwin & Price, J. Michael, 2002. "The 2002 Farm Act: Provisions And Implications For Commodity Markets," Agricultural Information Bulletins 33745, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
    4. Giovanni Maggi & Andres Rodriguez-Clare, 1998. "The Value of Trade Agreements in the Presence of Political Pressures," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 106(3), pages 574-601, June.
    5. Grossman, Gene M & Helpman, Elhanan, 1994. "Protection for Sale," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(4), pages 833-850, September.
    6. Dixit, Avinash & Grossman, Gene M & Helpman, Elhanan, 1997. "Common Agency and Coordination: General Theory and Application to Government Policy Making," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 105(4), pages 752-769, August.
    7. Rodrik, Dani, 1986. "Tariffs, subsidies, and welfare with endogenous policy," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(3-4), pages 285-299, November.
    8. Becker, Gary S & Mulligan, Casey B, 2003. "Deadweight Costs and the Size of Government," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 46(2), pages 293-340, October.
    9. Acemoglu, Daron & Robinson, James A., 2001. "Inefficient Redistribution," American Political Science Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 95(03), pages 649-661, September.
    10. Coate, Stephen & Morris, Stephen, 1995. "On the Form of Transfers in Special Interests," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(6), pages 1210-1235, December.
    11. Drazen, Allan, 2002. "Conditionality and Ownership in IMF Lending: A Political Economy Approach," CEPR Discussion Papers 3562, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    12. Weingast, Barry R & Shepsle, Kenneth A & Johnsen, Christopher, 1981. "The Political Economy of Benefits and Costs: A Neoclassical Approach to Distributive Politics," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(4), pages 642-664, August.
    13. Staiger, Robert W & Tabellini, Guido, 1987. "Discretionary Trade Policy and Excessive Protection," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(5), pages 823-837, December.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Börner, Kira, 2004. "Political Economy Reasons for Government Inertia: The Role of Interest Groups in the Case of Access to Medicines," Discussion Papers in Economics 313, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
    2. Christian Broda & N. Limao & D. Weinstein, 2006. "Optimal Tariffs: The Evidence," 2006 Meeting Papers 381, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    3. Aysan, Ahmet Faruk, 2005. "The Shadowing Role of Redistributive Institutions in the Relationship Between Income Inequality and Redistribution," MPRA Paper 17772, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    4. Aysan, Ahmet Faruk, 2005. "The Role of Efficiency of Redistributive Institutions on Redistribution: An Empirical Assessment," MPRA Paper 17773, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    5. Boerner, Kira, 2005. "Having Everyone in the Boat May Sink it - Interest Group Involvement and Policy Reforms," Discussion Papers in Economics 730, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
    6. Amihai GLAZER & Stef PROOST, 2008. "Capital-intensive projects induce more effort than labor-intensive projects," Working Papers Department of Economics ces0831, KU Leuven, Faculty of Economics and Business, Department of Economics.
    7. Amin, Mohammad & Mattoo, Aaditya, 2006. "Can guest worker schemes reduce illegal migration ?," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3828, The World Bank.
    8. Drazen, Allan & Limao, Nuno & Stratmann, Thomas, 2007. "Political contribution caps and lobby formation: Theory and evidence," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(3-4), pages 723-754, April.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D7 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making
    • F13 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Trade Policy; International Trade Organizations

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