Inequality, Uncertainty, and Redistribution
For centuries it has been believed that the extension of the franchise in unequal societies would lead to relatively high levels of redistribution. According to international rankings, how- ever, among the fourteen most unequal countries in the world, nine have been democratic for at least the past fourteen years. A prerequisite for the adoption of redistributive policies is that there be elected representatives who are either committed to or who have an incentive to advocate for such policies. The prospects of such an outcome depend not only on candidates personal policy preferences and motivations, but also how they are perceived by voters. One important feature shared by highly unequal democracies is that they tend to be relatively young, with many new parties and candidates in the political scene. This means elections occur under a high degree of uncertainty about critical information voters need to chose their delegates. Thus, in this paper I develop a model of elections as a game of incomplete information to explore how uncertainty, candidates’ motivation (policy vs. office), and beliefs about their ideological inclinations affect what policy interests are likely to be represented in the political process. I explore the model’s assumptions and outcomes empirically using individual level data for each presidential election in Brazil since democratization.
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