nep-pol New Economics Papers
on Positive Political Economics
Issue of 2023‒05‒08
four papers chosen by
Eugene Beaulieu
University of Calgary

  1. Politicians' Social Welfare Criteria: An Experiment with German Legislators By Sandro Ambuehl; Sebastian Blesse; Philipp Doerrenberg; Christoph Feldhaus; Axel Ockenfels
  2. Drought and Political Trust By Ahlerup, Pelle; Sundström, Aksel; Jagers, Sverker C; Sjöstedt, Martin
  3. Should History Change The Way We Think About Populism? By Alan de Bromhead; Kevin Hjortshøj O'Rourke
  4. Politicians, Bureaucrats, and the Battle for Credit By Awad, Emiel; Karekurve-Ramachandra, Varun; Rothenberg, Lawrence

  1. By: Sandro Ambuehl; Sebastian Blesse; Philipp Doerrenberg; Christoph Feldhaus; Axel Ockenfels
    Abstract: Much economic analysis derives policy recommendations based on social welfare criteria intended to model the preferences of a policy maker. Yet, little is known about policy maker’s normative views in a way amenable to this use. In a behavioral experiment, we elicit German legislators’ social welfare criteria unconfounded by political economy constraints. When resolving preference conflicts across individuals, politicians place substantially more importance on least-favored than on most-favored alternatives, contrasting with both common aggregation mechanisms and the equal weighting inherent in utilitarianism and the Kaldor-Hicks criterion. When resolving preference conflicts within individuals, we find no support for the commonly used “long-run criterion” which insists that choices merit intervention only if the lure of immediacy may bias intertemporal choice. Politicians’ and the public’s social welfare criteria largely coincide.
    Keywords: positive welfare economics, politicians, preference aggregation, paternalism
    JEL: C90 D60
    Date: 2023
  2. By: Ahlerup, Pelle (Department of Economics, School of Business, Economics and Law, Göteborg University); Sundström, Aksel; Jagers, Sverker C; Sjöstedt, Martin
    Abstract: Droughts can affect people’s political trust positively, through rallying effects, or negatively, through blame attribution. We examine how drought conditions affect political trust in the context of Africa. We link high-precision exogenous climate data to survey respondents, 2002–2018, and report moderate negative effects of drought conditions on people’s trust in their president. These negative effects increase with the severity of drought conditions. The political economy of favoritism, where some regions are preferentially treated by rulers, should result in heterogeneous effects across territories. We find that trust increases in capital regions and in leader birth regions during dry conditions. In contrast, when droughts take place in such regions, trust levels fall in other regions. This is in line with the idea that capital regions and leader birth regions could be preferentially treated in the aftermath of droughts. Understanding these processes further is important given their salience because of global warming.
    Keywords: Africa; Drought; Afrobarometer; Trust; Climate change; Disasters
    JEL: D74 H70 O10
    Date: 2023–04
  3. By: Alan de Bromhead; Kevin Hjortshøj O'Rourke
    Abstract: This paper asks whether history should change the way in which economists and economic historians think about populism. We use Müller’s definition, according to which populism is ‘an exclusionary form of identity politics, which is why it poses a threat to democracy’. We make three historical arguments. First, late 19th century US Populists were not populist. Second, there is no necessary relationship between populism and anti-globalization sentiment. Third, economists have sometimes been on the wrong side of important policy debates involving opponents rightly or wrongly described as populist. History encourages us to avoid an overly simplistic view of populism and its correlates.
    JEL: D72 N40 N70
    Date: 2023–04
  4. By: Awad, Emiel; Karekurve-Ramachandra, Varun; Rothenberg, Lawrence
    Abstract: How does blaming and crediting affect the implementation of policies and what are the constraints that reputation-concerned politicians face in commenting about bureaucrats? On one hand, politicians may want to claim credit when things go well and deflect blame when outcomes go awry. On the other, the distribution of blame and credit not only affects the politicians' reputation but also those of bureaucratic agencies and potentially their willingness to work over time. To investigate this tension, we develop and analyze a model where a bureaucrat cares about his reputation vis-a-vis an interested audience, and the politician can blame the bureaucrat for failed policies or give credit for successes via cheap talk. We show that the bureaucrat can be induced to exert more effort through blame and credit, but that the politician is constrained in communication by considerations for future effort and her own reputation concerns.
    Date: 2023–04–03

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