nep-pol New Economics Papers
on Positive Political Economics
Issue of 2019‒10‒07
eleven papers chosen by
Eugene Beaulieu
University of Calgary

  1. Gender bias and women political performance By Michela, Cella; Elena, Manzoni
  2. Populism, the Backlash against Ruling Politicians and the Possible Malfunctioning of Representative Democracy By Mario, Gilli; Elena, Manzoni;
  3. Vote Buying in the US Congress By Ulrich Matter; Paolo Roberti; Michaela Slotwinski
  4. Taxes and Turnout By Felix Bierbrauer; Aleh Tsyvinski; Nicolas WERQUIN
  5. Preference Shocks that Destroy Party Systems By Enriqueta Aragonès; Clara Ponsatí
  6. Homo Oeconomicus im Treibhaus Erde: Umweltpolitische Herausforderungen aus polit-ökonomischer Perspektive By Mause, Karsten
  7. Eat Widely, Vote Wisely? Lessons from a Campaign Against Vote Buying in Uganda By Christopher Blattman; Horacio Larreguy; Benjamin Marx; Otis R. Reid
  8. The Political Economy of the Prussian Three-class Franchise By Becker, Sascha O.; Hornung, Erik
  9. Do anti-poverty programs sway voters? Experimental evidence from Uganda By Blattman, Christopher; Emeriau, Mathilde; Fiala, Nathan
  10. Trade Tariff, Wage Gap and Public Spending By Michele G. Giuranno; Antonella Nocco
  11. How Polarized are Citizens? Measuring Ideology from the Ground-Up By Draca, Mirko; Schwarz, Carlo

  1. By: Michela, Cella; Elena, Manzoni
    Abstract: We model voters' gender bias as a prejudice on women's competence coming from a distorted prior. We analyse the effect of this bias in a two-period two-party election in which voters care about both ideology and competence. We find that female politicians are less likely to win office but, when elected have higher competence on average. As a consequence, they choose to seek re-election more often. We also show that if parties endogenously select candidates, the effect of gender bias is stronger, in that we observe fewer female candidates and elected politicians, and of higher competence. This holds even when parties are not biased.
    Keywords: gender bias, elections, female politicians.
    JEL: D72 D91 J16
    Date: 2019–06
  2. By: Mario, Gilli; Elena, Manzoni;
    Abstract: The aim of this paper is to investigate the links between lack of trust in ruling politicians and the functioning of a representative democracy. Within a standard principal-agent model of democracy, we show how lack of trust by citizens as reflected by passive beliefs updating may lead to the malfunctioning of representative democracy. We highlight how de facto accountability crucially depends on out-of-equilibrium beliefs, and that this is indeed descriptive of a substantive feature of public opinion that affects the functioning of democracy. Specifically, we show that effective accountability needs more than simple retrospective voting, as it requires voters to believe in the existence of good politicians that always choose according to voters’ interests, so that a deviation from bad policies can happen only because the leader is congruent. In this case, the unique equilibrium is an efficient one that maximizes voters’ welfare. However, if, on the other hand, the citizens share an overall lack of trust in ruling elites, then there is another inefficient equilibrium, where even the congruent politician behaves badly because of the adverse but rational voters’ behavior. This inefficient equilibrium does not depend on fake news or on distorted beliefs or, again, on voters’ heterogeneous preferences, since the voters' perfectly observe the quality of the policy implemented by the government, are fully rational and share the same interests. This result might contribute to explain the increasing negative perceptions on the working of democracy as due to a self-fulfilling equilibrium.
    Keywords: Government Performance, Democracy, Representation, Out-of-equilibrium Beliefs.
    JEL: H11 D72 D78
    Date: 2019–08
  3. By: Ulrich Matter; Paolo Roberti; Michaela Slotwinski
    Abstract: We assess the influence of moneyed interests on legislative decisions. Our theory predicts that the vote outcome distribution and donation flows in a legislature feature a discontinuity at the approval threshold of bills if special interest groups are involved in vote buying. Testing the theoretical predictions based on two decades of roll-call voting in the U.S. House, we identify the link between narrowly passed bills and well-timed campaign contributions. Several pieces of evidence substantiate our main finding, suggesting that moneyed interests exert remarkably effective control over the passage of contested bills.
    Keywords: legislative voting, campaign finance, special interest groups, lobbying, forensic economics
    JEL: D72 D78
    Date: 2019
  4. By: Felix Bierbrauer (University of Cologne); Aleh Tsyvinski (Yale University); Nicolas WERQUIN (Toulouse School of Economics)
    Abstract: We develop a model of political competition with endogenous turnout and endogenous platforms. Parties face a trade-off between maximizing their base and getting their supporters out to vote. We study the implications of this framework for non-linear income taxation. In equilibrium, both parties propose the same tax policy. This equilibrium policy is a weighted combination of two terms, one reflecting the parties' payoff from mobilizing their own supporters, one reflecting the payoff from demobilizing the supporters of the other party. The key determinant of the equilibrium policy is the distribution of the voters' party attachments rather than their propensity to swing vote. Our analysis also provides a novel explanation for why even left-leaning parties may not propose high taxes on the rich.
    Date: 2019
  5. By: Enriqueta Aragonès; Clara Ponsatí
    Abstract: We propose a two party electoral competition model to analyze the effects of an exogenous shock over voters’ preferences on the strategic policy choices of the parties. We find that if the shock affects voters’ ideology regarding an issue that is already salient, then both parties strategically adapt their already moderated policy choices in the direction of the new median voter. However, if the shock changes the relative issue salience, then both parties strategically shift their policy choices from their ideal points towards the ideal point of the median voter of the newly salient issue. The asymmetry of the distribution of the voters preferences, that is possibly intensified by the shock, produces a disadvantage for one of the parties, which is forced to implement a large policy shift. We argue that a large policy shift may break a party internal balance among its different factions, which in turn may produce important disruptions in the party system. We illustrate our arguments with an analysis of recent events in Catalonia and the UK.
    Keywords: preference shock, relative salience, party consistency
    JEL: D72
    Date: 2019–09
  6. By: Mause, Karsten
    Abstract: This paper draws attention to three challenges for environmental policy that are rather neglected and only rudimentary addressed in the current discourse on the topic of climate protection and environmental protection. Section 2 discusses how "fake news" poses a problem for environmental policy. Section 3 addresses the question of how to deal with the existing "knowing-doing gaps" in some environmental policy contexts. Finally, Section 4 highlights the difficulties of a global and fair environmental policy. These challenges are considered from a politico-economic perspective, more specifically, through the lens of Public Choice Theory/New Political Economy.
    Keywords: Climate Protection, Environmental Protection, Environmental Policy, Public Choice Theory, Political Economy.
    JEL: D72 H23 O44 P16 Q5 Q54
    Date: 2019–09
  7. By: Christopher Blattman; Horacio Larreguy; Benjamin Marx; Otis R. Reid
    Abstract: We estimate the effects of one of the largest anti-vote-buying campaigns ever studied — with half a million voters exposed across 1427 villages—in Uganda’s 2016 elections. Working with civil society organizations, we designed the study to estimate how voters and candidates responded to their campaign in treatment and spillover villages, and how impacts varied with campaign intensity. Despite its heavy footprint, the campaign did not reduce politician offers of gifts in exchange for votes. However, it had sizable effects on people’s votes. Votes swung from well-funded incumbents (who buy most votes) towards their poorly-financed challengers. We argue the swing arose from changes in village social norms plus the tactical response of candidates. While the campaign struggled to instill norms of refusing gifts, it leveled the electoral playing field by convincing some voters to abandon norms of reciprocity—thus accepting gifts from politicians but voting for their preferred candidate.
    JEL: C93 D72 O55
    Date: 2019–09
  8. By: Becker, Sascha O. (Monash U and U Warwick); Hornung, Erik (University of Cologne)
    Abstract: Did the Prussian three-class franchise, which politically over-represented the economic elite, affect policy-making? Combining MP-level political orientation, derived from all roll call votes in the Prussian parliament (1867–1903), with constituency characteristics, we analyze how local vote inequality, determined by tax payments, affected policymaking during Prussia’s period of rapid industrialization. Contrary to the predominant view that the franchise system produced a conservative parliament, higher vote inequality is associated with more liberal voting, especially in regions with large-scale industry. We argue that industrialists preferred self-serving liberal policies and were able to coordinate on suitable MPs when vote inequality was high.
    Keywords: Inequality, Political Economy, Three-class Franchise, Elites, Prussia JEL Classification: D72, N43, N93, P26
    Date: 2019
  9. By: Blattman, Christopher; Emeriau, Mathilde; Fiala, Nathan
    Abstract: High-impact policies may not lead to support for the political party that introduces them. In 2008, Uganda's government encouraged groups of youth to submit proposals to start enterprises. Of 535 eligible groups, a random 265 received grants of nearly $400 per person. Prior work showed that after four years, the Youth Opportunities Program raised employment by 17% and earnings by 38%. Here we show that recipients were no more likely to support the ruling party in elections. Rather, recipients slightly increased campaigning and voting for the opposition. Potential mechanisms include program misattribution, group socialization, and financial independence freeing voters from transactional voting.
    JEL: N0
    Date: 2018–12–01
  10. By: Michele G. Giuranno; Antonella Nocco
    Abstract: This paper studies the interplay between the wage gap and government spending in a small open economy facing a shock in trade policy. We consider a specific factor model with an export sector, which uses skilled labour, and an import-competing sector, which uses unskilled labour. We find the conditions under which there exists an inverse (direct) relation between trade lib-eralization (protection), which increases (decreases) the skilled-unskilled wage gap, and the level of government expenditure. We also show how either an unbalanced distribution of political bargaining power, or tariff revenue co-financing public spending may break this direct relation.
    Keywords: wage gap, trade liberalization, positive political economy
    JEL: F15 F16 H50
    Date: 2019
  11. By: Draca, Mirko (University of Warwick); Schwarz, Carlo (University of Warwick)
    Abstract: Strong evidence has been emerging that major democracies have become more politically polarized, at least according to measures based on the ideological positions of political elites. We ask: have the general public (‘citizens’) followed the same pattern? Our approach is based on unsupervised machine learning models as applied to issueposition survey data. This approach firstly indicates that coherent, latent ideologies are strongly apparent in the data, with a number of major, stable types that we label as: Liberal Centrist, Conservative Centrist, Left Anarchist and Right Anarchist. Using this framework, and a resulting measure of ‘citizen slant’, we are then able to decompose the shift in ideological positions across the population over time. Specifically, we find evidence of a ‘disappearing center’ in a range of countries with citizens shifting away from centrist ideologies into anti-establishment ‘anarchist’ ideologies over time. This trend is especially pronounced for the US.
    Keywords: Polarization, Ideology, Unsupervised Learning. JEL Classification: D72, C81.
    Date: 2019

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