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The political cost of reforms (preliminar version of working paper number 1360: Uncertainty, electoral incentives and political myopia)

This paper formalizes in a fully-rational model the popular idea that politicians perceive an electoral cost in adopting costly reforms with future benefits and reconciles it with the evidence that reformist governments are not punished by voters. To do so, it proposes a model of elections where political ability is ex-ante unknown and investment in reforms is unobservable. On the one hand, elections improve accountability and allow to keep well-performing incumbents. On the other, politicians make too little reforms in an attempt to signal high ability and increase their reappointment probability. Although in a rational expectation equilibrium voters cannot be fooled and hence reelection does not depend on reforms, the strategy of underinvesting in reforms is nonetheless sustained by out-of-equilibrium beliefs. Contrary to the conventional wisdom, uncertainty makes reforms more politically viable and may, under some conditions, increase social welfare. The model is then used to study how political rewards can be set so as to maximize social welfare and the desirability of imposing a one-term limit to governments. The predictions of this theory are consistent with a number of empirical regularities on the determinants of reforms and reelection. They are also consistent with a new stylized fact documented in this paper: economic uncertainty is associated to more reforms in a panel of 20 OECD countries.

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Paper provided by Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra in its series Economics Working Papers with number 1250.

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Date of creation: Jan 2010
Date of revision: Jun 2011
Handle: RePEc:upf:upfgen:1250
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  1. Prat, Andrea, 2003. "The Wrong Kind of Transparency," CEPR Discussion Papers 3859, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. Daniel Diermeier & Michael Keane & Antonio Merlo, 2002. "A Political Economy Model of Congressional Careers," PIER Working Paper Archive 04-037, Penn Institute for Economic Research, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania, revised 01 Sep 2004.
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  4. Alberto Alesina & Silvia Ardagna & Francesco Trebbi, 2006. "Who Adjusts and When? On the Political Economy of Reforms," NBER Working Papers 12049, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  9. Jens Høj & Vincenzo Galasso & Giuseppe Nicoletti & Thai-Thanh Dang, 2006. "The Political Economy of Structural Reform: Empirical Evidence from OECD Countries," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 501, OECD Publishing.
  10. Claudio Ferraz & Frederico Finan, 2009. "Motivating Politicians: The Impacts of Monetary Incentives on Quality and Performance," NBER Working Papers 14906, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  14. repec:oup:restud:v:66:y:1999:i:1:p:199-217 is not listed on IDEAS
  15. Giovanni S. F. Bruno, 2005. "Estimation and inference in dynamic unbalanced panel-data models with a small number of individuals," Stata Journal, StataCorp LP, vol. 5(4), pages 473-500, December.
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  18. Drazen, Allan & Eslava, Marcela, 2010. "Electoral manipulation via voter-friendly spending: Theory and evidence," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(1), pages 39-52, May.
  19. Marco Buti & Alessandro Turrini & Paul Van den Noord & Pietro Biroli, 2010. "Reforms and re-elections in OECD countries," Economic Policy, CEPR;CES;MSH, vol. 25, pages 61-116, 01.
  20. Edward L. Glaeser & Giacomo A. M. Ponzetto & Jesse M. Shapiro, 2004. "Strategic Extremism: Why Republicans and Democrats Divide on Religious Values," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 2044, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  21. repec:oup:restud:v:55:y:1988:i:1:p:1-16 is not listed on IDEAS
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