nep-pol New Economics Papers
on Positive Political Economics
Issue of 2009‒02‒22
eight papers chosen by
Eugene Beaulieu
University of Calgary

  1. Democracy and the curse of natural resources By Antonio Cabrales; Esther Hauk
  2. Rules vs. political discretion: evidence from constitutionally guaranteed transfers to local governments in Brazil By Stephan Litschig
  3. Population Ageing, Inequality and the Political Economy of Public Education By Francisco Martínez Mora
  4. Downsian Model with Asymmetric Information: Possibility of Policy Divergence By Kazuya Kikuchi
  5. Negotiating constitution for political unions By Vikas Kumar
  6. Political Selection of Firms into Privatization Programs - Evidence from Romanian Comprehensive Data By Adam Szentpeteri; Almos Telegdy
  7. Democratization is the determinant of technological change By Coccia Mario
  8. Individuals' Voting Choice and Cooperation in Repeated Social Dilemma Games By Annamaria Nese; Patrizia Sbriglia

  1. By: Antonio Cabrales; Esther Hauk
    Abstract: We propose a theoretical model to explain empirical regularities related to the curse of natural resources. This is an explicitly political model which emphasizes the behavior and incentives of politicians. We extend the standard voting model to give voters political control beyond the elections. This gives rise to a new restriction into our political economy model: policies should not give rise to a revolution. Our model clarifies when resource discoveries might lead to revolutions, namely, in countries with weak institutions. Natural resources may be bad for democracy by harming political turnover. Our model also suggests a non-linear dependence of human capital on natural resources. For low levels of democracy human capital depends negatively on natural resources, while for high levels of democracy the dependence is reversed. This theoretical finding is corroborated in cross section regressions.
    Date: 2009–02
  2. By: Stephan Litschig
    Abstract: Can rules be used to shield public resources from political interference? The Brazilian constitution and national tax code stipulate that revenue sharing transfers to municipal governments be determined by the size of counties in terms of estimated population. In this paper I document that the population estimates which went into the transfer allocation formula for the year 1991 were manipulated, resulting in significant transfer differentials over the entire 1990’s. I test whether conditional on county characteristics that might account for the manipulation, center-local party alignment, party popularity and the extent of interparty fragmentation at the county level are correlated with estimated populations in 1991. Results suggest that revenue sharing transfers were targeted at right-wing national deputies in electorally fragmented counties as well as aligned local executives.
    Keywords: Bureaucracy, institutions, redistributive politics, electoral competition
    JEL: H77 D72 D73
    Date: 2008–08
  3. By: Francisco Martínez Mora
    Abstract: Population ageing has triggered concerns about the sustainability of public systems of education. The empirical evidence is still inconclusive, whereas some theoretical results present a somewhat optimistic view (Gradstein and Kaganovich, 2004; Levy, 2005). The present note re-examines the political economy of public education in an ageing society, using the classical median voter model. The normative analysis shows that elderly households introduce distortions that render political outcomes inefficient except in rare circumstances. It is then explained that the interplay among the political and financial consequences of ageing gives rise to a non-linear, and possibly non-monotonic (inverted-U shaped) relationship between spending per pupil and the share of childless households in the population. Income inequality is shown to play a crucial role of in the process, revealing that ageing has a stronger tendency towards underprovision in economies with high inequality. The implications for the empirical literature are discussed.
    Date: 2009–01
  4. By: Kazuya Kikuchi
    Abstract: This paper presents a model of Downsian political competition in which voters are imperfectly informed about economic fundamentals. In this setting, partiesfchoices of platforms influence votersf behavior not only through votersf preferences over policies, but also through formation of their expectation on the unknown fundamentals. We show that there exist pure-strategy equilibria in this political game with asymmetric information at which the two partiesf policies diverge with positive probability. This result is in contrast with the well-known median voter theorem in the classical model of Downsian competition. We also study refinement of equilibria, and identify the perfect equilibria (Selten, 1975) and the strictly perfect equilibria (Okada, 1981). The Nash equilibria with the strongest asymmetry in the partiesf strategies are proved to be strictly perfect.
    Date: 2009–02
  5. By: Vikas Kumar (Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research)
    Abstract: This paper provides a cradle-to-grave model for political union between two unequally endowed states. We introduce negotiated, contested, and time-consistent contested constitutions to address various classes of merger problems. Merger agreement is shown to be path dependent and, in some cases, time inconsistent. The possibility of contest constrains the set of mutually agreeable tax rates and provides stability to a constitution. Demographic heterogeneity constrains the set of mutually agreeable mergers. Rent extracted by technologically advanced province for transferring technology to the backward province in a union is shown to be increasing in complexity of technology but bounded from above. The model can also support the possibility of historical cycles of political geography. The main contribution of this paper is to highlight the role of technology gap and unequal distribution of resources in all the above cases.
    Keywords: Bargaining, Constitution, Contest, Political Union
    JEL: C72 C78 D02 D72 D74 F51 K39
    Date: 2008–11
  6. By: Adam Szentpeteri (Central European University, Eotvos Lorand University); Almos Telegdy (Institute of Economics - Hungarian Academy of Sciences)
    Abstract: Exploiting a unique institutional feature of the early Romanian privatization setup, when a group of firms was explicitly barred from any privatization, we test how politicians select firms into privatization programs. Using a comprehensive dataset that includes all firms inherited from socialism, we estimate the relation between pre-privatization firm characteristics (the information known to politicians at the time of decision making) and the effect of privatization on employment, efficiency and wages. We argue that other objectives, such as revenue maximization or bribe collection were of secondary importance in the early Romanian privatization. Using the estimated coefficients, we simulate the effect of privatization on non-privatizable and privatizable firms, including in the latter group both privatized and not privatized enterprises. The simulations show that politicians expected the reduction of employment by 5.2 percent of the non-privatizable group, as a consequence of privatization. Contrary to this expectation, employment in the privatizable group was likely to grow by the same proportion. We do not find such discrepancies in the expected change in firm efficiency, as the simulated efficiency effect of privatization is large and positive for both groups of firms, and it is around 40 percent. The analysis does not support the hypothesis that wages played an important role in privatization decisions. These results do not change qualitatively if the privatizable group is disaggregated into privatized and not privatized groups. Our study suggests that employment concerns played the key role in selecting firms for privatization, even if efficiency gains had to be sacrificed.
    Keywords: Privatization, Government objectives, Firm behavior, Romania
    JEL: L33 P26
    Date: 2008–12
  7. By: Coccia Mario (Ceris - Institute for Economic Research on Firms and Growth, Moncalieri (Turin), Italy)
    Abstract: The purpose of this paper is to analyze the relationship between democracy and technological innovation. The primary findings are that most free countries, measured with liberal, participatory, and constitutional democracy index, have higher technological innovation than less free and more autocratic countries, so that the former have a higher interaction among social, economic and innovation systems with fruitful effects on economic growth and the wealth of nations. In fact “democracy richness” in these countries displays a higher rate of technological innovation. In addition, democratization is an antecedent process (cause) to technological innovation (effect), which is a major wellknown determinant of economic growth. These findings lead to the conclusion that policy makers need to be cognizant of positive association between democratization and technological innovation to sustain modern economic growth and future technological progress in view of the accelerating globalization.
    Keywords: Democratization, Technological Innovation, Patents, Royalty Licenses Fee, Economic Grow
    JEL: F00 O33 O34 O57 P00
    Date: 2008–12
  8. By: Annamaria Nese; Patrizia Sbriglia
    Abstract: In this paper we explore the relationship between the individual’s preference for cooperation and the establishment of cooperative norms. Our aim is to provide an experimental test of the evolutionary hypothesis (see Carpenter, 2004, Fehr and Gachter 2002; Gintis 2000; Boyd, Bowles, Gintis and Richerson 2003; Bowles and Gintis 2004), according to which individuals are prepared to punish defectors in experimental social dilemma games because they want to enforce a social (“altruistic”) norm which may conduce to increasing their future payoffs, as in the case of sanctions against free riding behaviour. According to this line of research , the high levels of cooperation we observe in our societies can, therefore, be strictly related to the establishment of social norms which are able to enforce and maintain cooperation in the long run. We study the results of two experiments in which the individuals decided both whether to participate in a common project and the institutional rule according to which the profits of the project had to be shared among each of the participants in the group. They could choose between 1) a regime where gains were shared equally, regardless of individuals’ contributions and without sanctions and rewards (System A); 2) a regime where individuals were paid according to their marginal contribution, but the profits of the investments were lower than in the other contexts (System B); finally 3) a regime in which gains were shared equally (as in System A), but individuals were allowed to punish (and\or reward) free riding (cooperative) behaviours as in Sefton, Shupp and Walker (2007). Before the experiments took place, our subjects were required to fill a questionnaire composed of four sections, where their attitude to cooperate and their opinions on civic values and free riding behaviours were thoroughly explored. We then monitored the behaviour of potential free riders and cooperators in the game and their institutional choices. Our results partly contradict the evolutionary hypothesis in as much as System A and B received the largest shares of votes in almost all rounds and they were voted by free riders and cooperators alike. Thus, most individuals do not like sanctions (incentives) against defectors and free riders (cooperators), and their institutional preferences do not seem to be related to their willingness to cooperate. The inspection of individual data, however, reveals some interesting points. In fact, we can assert that System C was mostly chosen by cooperative individuals in response to observed free riding behaviour. Furthermore, when a cooperative individual chose C, she would tend to punish free riders and reward cooperators. Our conclusion is that, as far as the institutional choices are concerned, beside the profit motivations underlined in the evolutionary hypothesis, the ethical and cultural unobserved individual preferences play an important role. There is a number of individuals (limited in our experiments, ranging between 15 and 30 per cent of the entire population) who see cooperation as the “right” thing to do, and therefore are prepared to implement institutional rules that may favour this collective outcome. Most people in our experiments did not share these same values.
    Keywords: public good games, experiments, voting choices
    JEL: C90 C91
    Date: 2009–02

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