nep-pol New Economics Papers
on Positive Political Economics
Issue of 2009‒05‒16
six papers chosen by
Eugene Beaulieu
University of Calgary

  1. Democracy and Agricultural Protection: Parametric and Semi-parametric Matching Estimates By Olper, Alessandro; Falkowski, Jan; Swinnen, Jo
  2. The Determinants of Public Deficit Volatility By Luca Agnello; Ricardo M. Sousa
  3. Increasing Voter Turnout: Is Democracy Day the Answer? By Henry S. Farber
  4. Carbon Geography: The Political Economy of Congressional Support for Legislation Intended to Mitigate Greenhouse Gas Production By Michael I. Cragg; Matthew E. Kahn
  5. Why State Constitutions Differ in their Treatment of Same-Sex Marriage By Lupia, Arthur; Krupnikov, Yanna; Levine, Adam Seth; Piston, Spencer; Von Hagen-Jamae, Alexander
  6. What Governments Maximize and Why: The View from Trade By Kishore Gawande; Pravin Krishna; Marcelo Olarreaga

  1. By: Olper, Alessandro; Falkowski, Jan; Swinnen, Jo
    Abstract: We estimate the effect of democratic transitions on agricultural protection in a sample of 74 developing and developed countries, observed in the 1955-2005 period. We employ both differences-in-differences regressions and semi-parametric matching methods, exploiting the time series and cross-sectional variation in the data. Our semi-parametric matching estimates show that parametric methods might underestimate the true effect of democracy on agricultural protection. We find a strong increase in agricultural protection (reduce in taxation) after a country transition to democracy. Specifically a democratic transition increases agricultural protection by about 9 percent points. However, the effect is asymmetric as the effect of leaving democracy on protection is close to zero. The evidence supports the redistributive nature of democratic institutions toward the majority and, therefore, it is not inconsistent with the median voter model of political behaviour.
    Keywords: Democratic Reforms, Agricultural Distortions, Comparative Political Economics, Agricultural and Food Policy, Political Economy, D72, F13, O13, P16, Q18,
    Date: 2009–04–30
  2. By: Luca Agnello (University of Palermo, Department of Economics, Business and Finance); Ricardo M. Sousa (Universidade do Minho - NIPE)
    Abstract: This paper empirically analyzes the political, institutional and economic sources of public deficit volatility. Using the system-GMM estimator for linear dynamic panel data models and a sample of 125 countries analyzed from 1980 to 2006, we show that higher public deficit volatility is typically associated with higher levels of political instability and less democracy. In addition, public deficit volatility tends to be magnified for small countries, in the outcome of hyper-inflation episodes and for countries with a high degree of openness.
    Keywords: Public Deficit, Volatility, Political Instability, Institutions.
    JEL: E31 E63
    Date: 2009
  3. By: Henry S. Farber (Princeton University)
    Abstract: It has often been argued that voter turnout in the United States is too low, particularly compared with turnout in other industrialized democracies, and that a healthy democracy should have higher turnout. One proposal that has been considered by Congress to increase voter turnout is the creation of “Democracy Day,” making Election Day a national holiday. In this study I evaluate the likely effectiveness of an election holiday in increasing turnout by studying how state regulations making Election Day a holiday for state employees affects voter turnout among state employees in those states. I exploit these “natural experiments” in a difference-in-difference context, using various groups of non-state employees as controls. My analysis relies on data from Voting Supplements to the Current Population Survey in November 2004 and 2006. The results are clear. There is no evidence from the “natural experiment” of states providing an election holiday for state employees that such holidays significantly increase voter turnout. I conclude that having an election holiday, by itself, is not an effective strategy to increase voter turnout.
    Date: 2009–02
  4. By: Michael I. Cragg; Matthew E. Kahn
    Abstract: Stringent regulation for mitigating greenhouse gas emissions will impose different costs across geographical regions. Low-carbon, environmentalist states, such as California, would bear less of the incidence of such regulation than high-carbon Midwestern states. Such anticipated costs are likely to influence Congressional voting patterns. This paper uses several geographical data sets to document that conservative, poor areas have higher per-capita carbon emissions than liberal, richer areas. Representatives from such areas are shown to have much lower probabilities of voting in favor of anti-carbon legislation. In the 111th Congress, the Energy and Commerce Committee consists of members who represent high carbon districts. These geographical facts suggest that the Obama Administration and the Waxman Committee will face distributional challenges in building a majority voting coalition in favor of internalizing the carbon externality.
    JEL: Q4 Q54 R1
    Date: 2009–05
  5. By: Lupia, Arthur; Krupnikov, Yanna; Levine, Adam Seth; Piston, Spencer; Von Hagen-Jamae, Alexander
    Abstract: Some states treat a same-sex marriage as legally equal to a marriage between a man and a woman. Other states prohibit legal recognition of same-sex marriages in their constitutions. In every state that has a constitutional restriction against same-sex marriage, the amendment was passed by a popular vote. The conventional wisdom about allowing voter participation in such decisions is that they yield constitutional outcomes that reflect attitude differences across states. We reexamine the attitude-amendment relationship and find it to be weaker than expected. In particular, we show that states vary in the costs they impose on constituencies that desire constitutional change. Some states impose very low costs (i.e., a simple majority of voters is sufficient for change). Other states impose very high costs (i.e., substantial legislative and voter supermajoriries are requires). We find that variations in the legal status of same-sex marriage across US states is better explained by these variations in costs than they are by differences in public opinion. Our method yields an improved explanation of why states differ in their constitutional treatment of same-sex marriage today. Our findings have distinct implications for people who wish to understand and/or change the future status of same-sex couples in state constitutions.
    Keywords: constitutions; same-sex marriage; political institutions; state politics
    JEL: H70 K0 H11
    Date: 2009–04–23
  6. By: Kishore Gawande; Pravin Krishna; Marcelo Olarreaga
    Abstract: Policy making power enables governments to redistribute income to powerful interests in society. However, some governments exhibit greater concern for aggregate welfare than others. This government behavior may itself be endogenously determined by a number of economic, political and institutional factors. Trade policy, being fundamentally redistributive, provides a valuable context in which the welfare mindedness of governments may be empirically evaluated. This paper investigates quantitatively the welfare mindedness of governments and attempts to understand these political and institutional determinants of the differences in government behavior across countries.
    JEL: D72 F1 F13 F5
    Date: 2009–05

This nep-pol issue is ©2009 by Eugene Beaulieu. It is provided as is without any express or implied warranty. It may be freely redistributed in whole or in part for any purpose. If distributed in part, please include this notice.
General information on the NEP project can be found at For comments please write to the director of NEP, Marco Novarese at <>. Put “NEP” in the subject, otherwise your mail may be rejected.
NEP’s infrastructure is sponsored by the School of Economics and Finance of Massey University in New Zealand.