A Political Theory of Populism

33 Pages Posted: 5 Nov 2010  

Daron Acemoglu

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Economics; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Georgy Egorov

Northwestern University - Kellogg School of Management; NBER

Konstantin Sonin

University of Chicago - Irving B. Harris Graduate School of Public Policy Studies; Higher School of Economics; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Multiple version iconThere are 3 versions of this paper

Date Written: November 5, 2010

Abstract

When voters fear that politicians may have a right-wing bias or that they may be influenced or corrupted by the rich elite, signals of true left-wing conviction are valuable. As a consequence, even a moderate politician seeking reelection choose policies to the left of the median voter as a way of signaling that he is not from the right (while truly right-wing politicians also signal by choosing moderate or even left-of-center policies). This leftist bias of policy is greater when the value of remaining in office is higher for the politician; when there is greater polarization between the policy preferences of the median voter and right-wing politicians; and when politicians are indeed likely to have a hidden right-wing agenda. We show that similar results apply when some politicians can be corrupted or influenced through other non-electoral means by the rich elite.

Suggested Citation

Acemoglu, Daron and Egorov, Georgy and Sonin, Konstantin, A Political Theory of Populism (November 5, 2010). MIT Department of Economics Working Paper, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1703342 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1703342

Daron Acemoglu

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Economics ( email )

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Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Georgy Egorov

Northwestern University - Kellogg School of Management ( email )

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NBER ( email )

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Konstantin Sonin (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Irving B. Harris Graduate School of Public Policy Studies ( email )

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Higher School of Economics ( email )

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Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

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