nep-pol New Economics Papers
on Positive Political Economics
Issue of 2012‒09‒16
five papers chosen by
Eugene Beaulieu
University of Calgary

  1. Elections and the Quality of Public Officials: Evidence from U.S. State Courts By Claire S.H. Lim; James M. Snyder, Jr.
  2. Complementarity and the resource curse By Arthur Silve
  3. A Theory of Political and Economic Cycles By Laurence Ales; Pricila Maziero; Pierre Yared
  4. Gens una sumus? – Or Does Political Ideology Affect Experts’ Aesthetic Judgement of Chess Games By Björn Frank; Stefan Krabel
  5. Do Absolute Majorities Spend Less?: Evidence from Germany By Ronny Freier; Christian Odendahl

  1. By: Claire S.H. Lim; James M. Snyder, Jr.
    Abstract: We investigate the influence of electoral rules and voter information in elections on voting outcomes and the quality of public officials, using new data on state court judge elections in 39 states in the U.S. from 1990 to 2010. We find, first, that voting is very partisan in partisan judicial elections – i.e., there is a strong correlation between the Democratic "normal vote'' and the Democratic vote share for judges – but not in non-partisan or non-competitive "retention'' elections. This partisan voting behavior cannot be attributed to clear differences between Democratic and Republican judges in their sentencing decisions, since such differences, if any, are small and not consistent. Second, we find that incumbent judges' quality has little effect on their vote share or probability of winning in partisan general elections. By contrast, it has a substantial effect in non-partisan elections and partisan primary elections. It also has a noticeable effect on their vote share in retention elections, but the magnitude is often too small to affect reelection. Evidence on turnout is consistent with a simple "voting cue'' hypothesis. We find that about 83\% of the voters who vote on the top office on the ballot also vote on judicial elections in partisan elections. In contrast, in nonpartisan and retention elections, only 76\% and 67\% of those who vote on the top office also vote on judicial candidates, respectively. In addition, the amount of newspaper coverage affects voter turnout only in non-partisan elections.
    JEL: D72 D78 H70 K40
    Date: 2012–09
  2. By: Arthur Silve (PSE - Paris-Jourdan Sciences Economiques - CNRS : UMR8545 - Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) - Ecole des Ponts ParisTech - Ecole Normale Supérieure de Paris - ENS Paris - INRA, EEP-PSE - Ecole d'Économie de Paris - Paris School of Economics - Ecole d'Économie de Paris)
    Abstract: This paper discusses how the economic structure and asset ownership shape economic and political outcomes. Using a simple model of the productive sector, I provide theoretical evidence that complementarities between productive assets reduce the stakes of political competition, and therefore reduce the intensity of the conflict over political power. In particular, these results provide a theoretical explanation for the frequent conflicts associated with abundant mineral resources. They are valid in a democratic setting, where this competition is electoral, but also in any other setting, where competition may be of a more violent nature. I then extend this analysis to show that complementarity of productive assets positively influences the willingness of elite groups to invest in property rights institutions, thus providing an economic explanation for why some countries have endogenously developed a context more favorable to business than others.
    Keywords: Complementarity ; Political Economy ; Property Rights ; Conflict
    Date: 2012–09
  3. By: Laurence Ales; Pricila Maziero; Pierre Yared
    Abstract: We develop a theoretical framework in which political and economic cycles are jointly determined. These cycles are driven by three political economy frictions: policymakers are non-benevolent, they cannot commit to policies, and they have private information about the tightness of the government budget and rents. Our first main result is that, in the best sustainable equilibrium, distortions to production emerge and never disappear even in the long run. This result is driven by the interaction of limited commitment and private information on the side of the policymaker, since in the absence of either friction, there are no long run distortions to production. Our second result is that, if the variance of private information is sufficiently large, there is equilibrium turnover in the long run so that political cycles never disappear. Finally, our model produces a long run distribution of taxes, distortions, and turnover, where these all respond persistently to temporary economic shocks. We show that the model's predictions are consistent with the empirical evidence on the interaction of political and economic cycles in developing countries.
    JEL: D82 E62 H21 P16
    Date: 2012–09
  4. By: Björn Frank (University of Kassel); Stefan Krabel (University of Kassel)
    Abstract: This paper presents evidence on biased voting by jurors from the Warsaw Pact countries who ranked high-level chess games. The roots of this bias are probably ideological, as there were no formal benefits for biased voting. Furthermore, this bias is observed only for jurors from Eastern countries, not for those from the West (NATO), and most interestingly, it disappears after the collapse of the Warsaw pact in 1989.
    Date: 2012
  5. By: Ronny Freier; Christian Odendahl
    Abstract: The number of parties in government is usually considered to increase spending. We show that this is not necessarily the case. Using a new method to detect close election outcomes in multi-party systems, we isolate truly exogenous variation in the type of government. With data from municipalities in the German state of Bavaria, we show in regression discontinuity-type estimations that absolute majorities spend more, not less, and increase the property tax rate. We also find weakly significant results for increases in debt. Politically, our results show that the mayor that heads an absolute majority of his own party gains the most, but the party itself does not.
    Keywords: fiscal spending, local election, absolute majority, municipality data, regression discontinuity
    JEL: H11 H71 H72 H74
    Date: 2012

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