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Behavioral Political Economy: A Survey

56 Pages Posted: 9 Oct 2014  

Jan Schnellenbach

BTU Cottbus-Senftenberg, Institute for Economics, Chair for Microeconomics; Walter Eucken Institute

Christian Schubert

University of Kassel

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Date Written: September 30, 2014


Explaining individual behavior in politics should rely on the same motivational assumptions as explaining behavior in the market: That’s what Political Economy, understood as the application of economics to the study of political processes, is all about. In its standard variant, those who played the game of politics should also be considered rational and self-interested, unlike the benevolent despot of earlier models. History repeats itself with the rise of behavioral economics: Assuming cognitive biases to be present in the market, but not in politics, behavioral economists often call for government to intervene in a “benevolent” way. Recently, however, political economists have started to apply behavioral economics insights to the study of political processes, thereby re-establishing a unified methodology. This paper surveys the current state of the emerging field of “Behavioral Political Economy” and considers the scope for further research.

Keywords: behavioral political economy, behavioral economics, rational irrationality, cognitive biases, social norms, voting, paternalism

JEL Classification: D780, D030, A120, D720

Suggested Citation

Schnellenbach, Jan and Schubert, Christian, Behavioral Political Economy: A Survey (September 30, 2014). CESifo Working Paper Series No. 4988. Available at SSRN:

Jan Schnellenbach

BTU Cottbus-Senftenberg, Institute for Economics, Chair for Microeconomics ( email )

Erich-Weinert-Str. 1
Cottbus, 03046

HOME PAGE: http://

Walter Eucken Institute ( email )

Goethestr. 10
Freiburg, 79100


Christian Schubert (Contact Author)

University of Kassel ( email )

Fachbereich 07
Nora-Platiel-Straße 4
34109 Kassel, Hessen 34109

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