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A Theory of Political Entrenchment

  • Saint-Paul, Gilles
  • Ticchi, Davide
  • Vindigni, Andrea

We develop a theory of endogenous political entrenchment in a simple two-party dynamic model of income redistribution with probabilistic voting. A partially self-interested left-wing party may implement (entrenchment) policies reducing the income of its own constituency, the lower class, in order to consolidate its future political power. Such policies increase the net gain that low-skill agents obtain from income redistribution, which only the Left (but not the Right) can credibly commit to provide, and therefore may help offsetting a potential future aggregate ideological shock averse to the left-wing party. We demonstrate that political entrenchment by the Left occurs only if incumbency rents are sufficiently high and that low-skill citizens may vote for this party even though they ratio-ally expect the adoption of these policies. We also discuss the case where the left-wing party may have the incentive to ex-ante commit to not pursue entrenchment policies once in power. Finally, we show that, in a more general framework, the entrenchment policies can be implemented also by the right-wing party. The comparative statics analyzes the effects of state capacity, a positive bias of voters for one party and income inequality on the incentives of the incumbent party to pursue entrenchment policies. The importance of our theory for constitutionally legislated term limits is also discussed. The theory sheds light on why left-wing parties or politicians often support liberal immigration policies of unskilled workers, are sometime in favor of free trade with less developed economies and of globalization more generally, or fail to reform plainly "dysfunctional" public educational systems damaging the lower classes.

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Paper provided by Toulouse School of Economics (TSE) in its series TSE Working Papers with number 12-284.

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Date of creation: 30 Mar 2012
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Handle: RePEc:tse:wpaper:25745
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  1. Gilles Saint-Paul, 1993. "On the Political Economy of Labor Market Flexibility," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1993, Volume 8, pages 151-196 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Romer, Thomas, 1975. "Individual welfare, majority voting, and the properties of a linear income tax," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 4(2), pages 163-185, February.
  3. Acemoglu, Daron & Ticchi, Davide & Vindigni, Andrea, 2009. "Persistence of civil wars," POLIS Working Papers 130, Institute of Public Policy and Public Choice - POLIS.
  4. Acemoglu, D. & Ticchi, D. & Vindigni, A., 2006. "Emergence and Persistence of Inefficient States," Papers 12-02-2006, Princeton University, Research Program in Political Economy.
  5. Acemoglu, Daron & Golosov, Mikhail & Tsyvinski, Aleh, 2011. "Power fluctuations and political economy," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 146(3), pages 1009-1041, May.
  6. Tim Besley & Stephen Coate, . ""An Economic Model of Representative Democracy''," CARESS Working Papres 95-02, University of Pennsylvania Center for Analytic Research and Economics in the Social Sciences.
  7. Timothy Besley & Torsten Persson, 2009. "The origins of state capacity: property rights, taxation and politics," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 33768, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  8. Daron Acemoglu & Davide Ticchi & Andrea Vindigni, 2008. "A Theory of Military Dictatorships," Carlo Alberto Notebooks 74, Collegio Carlo Alberto.
  9. Abdul Ghafar Noury & Simon Hix, 2007. "Politics not economic interests: determinants of migration policies in the European Union," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/13418, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  10. Anna Maria Mayda, 2004. "Who is Against Immigration? A Cross-Country Investigation of Individual Attitudes toward Immigrants," Development Working Papers 187, Centro Studi Luca d\'Agliano, University of Milano.
  11. Robert J. LaLonde & Robert H. Topel, 1991. "Labor Market Adjustments to Increased Immigration," NBER Chapters, in: Immigration, Trade, and the Labor Market, pages 167-199 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Alesina, Alberto, 1988. "Credibility and Policy Convergence in a Two-Party System with Rational Voters," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 78(4), pages 796-805, September.
  13. Abdurrahman Aydemir & George J. Borjas, 2011. "Attenuation Bias in Measuring the Wage Impact of Immigration," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 29(1), pages 69-113, 01.
  14. Alberto Alesina & Stephen E. Spear, 1987. "An Overlapping Generations Model of Electoral Competition," NBER Working Papers 2354, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Gilles Saint Paul, 1999. "The political economy of employment protection," Economics Working Papers 355, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
  16. Krusell, Per & Rios-Rull, Jose-Victor, 1996. "Vested Interests in a Positive Theory of Stagnation and Growth," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 63(2), pages 301-29, April.
  17. Harrington, Joseph E, Jr, 1993. "Economic Policy, Economic Performance, and Elections," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(1), pages 27-42, March.
  18. Weisbach, Michael S., 1988. "Outside directors and CEO turnover," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(1-2), pages 431-460, January.
  19. 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.
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