nep-pol New Economics Papers
on Positive Political Economics
Issue of 2023‒08‒21
nine papers chosen by
Eugene Beaulieu, University of Calgary

  1. Electoral College and Election Fraud By Georgy Egorov; Konstantin Sonin
  2. Much ado about nothing: voting in the sixteenth-century Republic of Genoa By Maria Cristina Molinari
  3. Keep your Enemies Closer: Strategic Platform Adjustments during U.S. and French Elections By Rafael Di Tella; Randy Kotti; Caroline Le Pennec; Vincent Pons
  4. Voters, Bailouts, and the Size of the Firm By Schilling, Linda
  5. The Electric Telegraph, News Coverage and Political Participation By Tianyi Wang
  6. Proxy Selection in Transitive Proxy Voting By Jacqueline Harding
  7. Identifying Partisan Gerrymandering and Its Consequences: Evidence from the 1990 US Census Redistricting By Navid Sabet; Noam Yuchtman
  8. Favoritism by the governing elite By Asatryan, Zareh; Baskaran, Thushyanthan; Birkholz, Carlo; Hufschmidt, Patrick
  9. Politicians' social welfare criteria - An experiment with German legislators By Ambuehl, Sandro; Blesse, Sebastian; Doerrenberg, Philipp; Feldhaus, Christoph; Ockenfels, Axel

  1. By: Georgy Egorov; Konstantin Sonin
    Abstract: One frequently overlooked aspect of the U.S.-style electoral college system is that it discourages election fraud. In a presidential election based on the popular vote, competing political parties are motivated to manipulate votes in areas where they hold the most significant influence, such as states where they control local executive offices, legislatures, and the judiciary. However, with the electoral college system in place, the incentives for fraud shift to swing states where the local government is politically divided, and fraud is therefore more difficult and costly. Our theoretical model elucidates why the electoral college system provides more effective protection against election fraud compared to the popular vote system. While polarization makes fraud more likely, it does not affect the superiority of the electoral college system.
    JEL: D73 D78 H83 P16
    Date: 2023–07
  2. By: Maria Cristina Molinari (Department of Economics, University Of Venice CÃ Foscari)
    Abstract: When the constitution of the Republic of Genoa was rewritten in 1528, the traditional distinction between nobili and popolari was abolished and the now unified ruling class was organised into 28 groups called alberghi, which were granted equal political representation by an elaborate and bizarre voting mechanism. Using data on the composition of the Genoese nobility in 1528, we simulate the rounds of voting, nominations, and sortition of the electoral protocol to reveal how they determined the allocation of power. Our analysis shows that the constitutional reform could not succeed in bringing concord to the nobility, as the system was heavily biased towards the popolari (later renamed nobili nuovi), who could gain control over all key magistracies. We also show that the use of the alberghi for office allocation made the system less favourable to the nobili nuovi, but only marginally so. These results help explain the persistence of political instability in Genoa after the 1528 reform, and they shed light on the voting system reforms that followed.
    Keywords: Early modern elections, factionalism, Genoese alberghi, voting protocols
    JEL: D72 N43 C63
    Date: 2023
  3. By: Rafael Di Tella; Randy Kotti; Caroline Le Pennec; Vincent Pons
    Abstract: A key tenet of representative democracy is that politicians' discourse and policies should follow voters' preferences. In the median voter theorem, this outcome emerges as candidates strategically adjust their platform to get closer to their opponent. Despite its importance in political economy, we lack direct tests of this mechanism. In this paper, we show that candidates converge to each other both in ideology and rhetorical complexity. We build a novel dataset including the content of 9, 000 primary and general election websites of candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives, 2002-2016, as well as 57, 000 campaign manifestos issued by candidates running in the first and second round of French parliamentary and local elections, 1958-2022. We first show that candidates tend to converge to the center of the ideology and complexity scales and to diversify the set of topics they cover, between the first and second round, reflecting the broadening of their electorate. Second, we exploit cases in which the identity of candidates qualified for the second round is quasi-random, by focusing on elections in which they narrowly win their primary (in the U.S.) or narrowly qualify for the runoff (in France). Using a regression discontinuity design, we find that second-round candidates converge to the platform of their actual opponent, as compared to the platform of the runner-up who did not qualify for the last round. We conclude that politicians behave strategically and that the convergence mechanism underlying the median voter theorem is powerful.
    JEL: D72 P0
    Date: 2023–07
  4. By: Schilling, Linda
    Abstract: I present a political economic theory, explaining bailouts for failing firms in the presence of non-voters (foreigners). The governing politician uses the bailout as a tool to sway voters for maximizing re-election chances. Bailouts partially leak to foreigners at the firm and are also financed by tax-paying foreigners outside the firm. I show, larger failing firms are granted larger bailouts even if the additional size is due to having more foreign stakeholders (``too-big-to-fail- lookalike''). Yet, among equally sized firms, the firm with more voting-stakeholders receives the larger bailout, contradicting social optimality. Besides firm size, also voting rights cause bailouts.
    Keywords: political finance, bailouts, economic voting, probabilistic voting, vote-share maximization, too-big-to-fail, socially optimal bailouts, partial suffrage
    JEL: D72 G3 G32 G33 G35 G38 P16
    Date: 2023–07–12
  5. By: Tianyi Wang
    Abstract: Using newly digitized data on the growth of the telegraph network in America during 1840-1852, the paper studies the impacts of the electric telegraph on national elections. I use proximity to daily newspapers with telegraphic connections to Washington to generate plausibly exogenous variation in access to telegraphed news from Washington. I find that access to Washington news with less delay had a robust positive effect on voter turnout in national elections. For mechanisms, I provide evidence that newspapers facilitated the dissemination of national news to local areas. In addition, text analysis on more than a hundred small-town weekly newspapers from the 1840s shows that the improved access to news from Washington led newspapers to cover more national political news, including coverage of Congress, the presidency, and sectional divisions involving slavery. The results suggest that the telegraph made newspapers less parochial, facilitated a national conversation and increased political participation. I find little evidence that access to telegraphed news from Washington affected party vote shares or Congressmen's roll call votes.
    JEL: D72 L82 L96 N41 N71 O3
    Date: 2023–07
  6. By: Jacqueline Harding
    Abstract: Transitive proxy voting (or "liquid democracy") is a novel form of collective decision making, often framed as an attractive hybrid of direct and representative democracy. Although the ideas behind liquid democracy have garnered widespread support, there have been relatively few attempts to model it formally. This paper makes three main contributions. First, it proposes a new social choice-theoretic model of liquid democracy, which is distinguished by taking a richer formal perspective on the process by which a voter chooses a proxy. Second, it examines the model from an axiomatic perspective, proving (a) a proxy vote analogue of May's Theorem and (b) an impossibility result concerning monotonicity properties in a proxy vote setting. Third, it explores the topic of manipulation in transitive proxy votes. Two forms of manipulation specific to the proxy vote setting are defined, and it is shown that manipulation occurs in strictly more cases in proxy votes than in classical votes.
    Date: 2023–07
  7. By: Navid Sabet; Noam Yuchtman
    Abstract: We empirically identify politically-motivated redistricting and its consequences, studying the effects of changed electorate composition on US congressional district boundaries and on political outcomes. We exploit the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA), which legalized millions of immigrants, changing local electorates without changing demographics — legalized immigrants were already counted in the census. Where Democrats controlled the 1990 redistricting process, higher IRCA populations were associated with more spatially distorted districts. Consistent with theory, Democrats packed Hispanics (their ardent supporters) into majority-minority districts. House delegations had more Hispanics suggesting that partisan gerrymandering, in this case, served the historically disadvantaged.
    Keywords: gerrymandering, minority political representation, immigrant legalization, state governance
    JEL: D70 P00 J10
    Date: 2023
  8. By: Asatryan, Zareh; Baskaran, Thushyanthan; Birkholz, Carlo; Hufschmidt, Patrick
    Abstract: In this paper, we study the extent to which ministers engage in regional favoritism. We are the first to provide a comprehensive analysis of a larger set of the governing elite, not just focusing on the primary leader. We manually collect birthplaces of this governing elite globally. Combining this information with extended nighttime luminosity and novel population data over the period from 1992 to 2016, we utilize a staggered difference-in-differences estimator and find that birthplaces of ministers globally emit on average roughly 9 % more nightlight. This result is predominantly attributable to the African sub-sample. We find no evidence that the measured effect is driven by, or induces, migration to the home regions of ministers. The size of our data set lets us investigate heterogeneities along a number of dimensions: political power, ministerial portfolio, and the institutional setting.
    Keywords: Favoritism, elite capture, spatiality, luminosity, population, democracy
    JEL: D72 H72 H77 R11
    Date: 2023
  9. By: Ambuehl, Sandro; Blesse, Sebastian; Doerrenberg, Philipp; Feldhaus, Christoph; Ockenfels, Axel
    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: C9 D6
    Date: 2023

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