Statesmen, Populists and the Paradox of Competence

22 Pages Posted: 15 Mar 2000  

Hans Gersbach

Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, (CER-ETH); IZA Institute of Labor Economics; CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute); Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Date Written: November 1999

Abstract

Are politicians who are concerned about the public's beliefs regarding their competence and their preferences bad politicians? We consider a model where the public is unsure about the competence of an agent and whether the agent is concerned about the consequences of policy decisions (statesman) or only about the public's beliefs (populist). We show that populists distort their decisions in order to avoid being recognized as incompetent or as populists. If the public bases its reelection decision on competence, policy decisions are extremely distorted. Because of this paradox of competence, voters should reelect candidates mainly based on their beliefs about whether a politician is a statesman. This might explain why politicians are so concerned to be perceived as a statesman.

JEL Classification: D72, D73

Suggested Citation

Gersbach, Hans, Statesmen, Populists and the Paradox of Competence (November 1999). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=212408 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.212408

Hans Gersbach (Contact Author)

Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, (CER-ETH) ( email )

Zürichbergstrasse 18
Zurich, 8092
Switzerland
+41 44 632 82 80 (Phone)
+41 44 632 18 30 (Fax)

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
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Germany

CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

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Munich, DE-81679
Germany

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

77 Bastwick Street
London, EC1V 3PZ
United Kingdom

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