Bad Politicians

46 Pages Posted: 11 Oct 2001

See all articles by Francesco Caselli

Francesco Caselli

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - Department of Economics; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Massimo Morelli

Bocconi University

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: October 2001

Abstract

We present a simple theory of the quality (competence and honesty) of elected officials. Our theory offers four main insights. Low-quality citizens have a 'comparative advantage' in pursuing elective office, because their market wages are lower than those of high-quality citizens (competence), and/or because they reap higher returns from holding office (honesty). Hence, voters may find themselves supply constrained of high-quality candidates. Second, bad politicians generate negative externalities for good ones, making their rewards from office increasing in the average quality of office holders. This leads to multiple equilibria in quality. Third, incumbent policymakers can influence the rewards of future policymakers, leading to path dependence in quality: bad governments saw the seeds for more bad governments. Fourth, quality-constrained voters look for the optimal mix of honesty and ability, and this may lead to a negative correlation between these two qualities across political entities.

Suggested Citation

Caselli, Francesco and Morelli, Massimo, Bad Politicians (October 2001). NBER Working Paper No. w8532. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=286957

Francesco Caselli (Contact Author)

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - Department of Economics ( email )

Houghton Street
London WC2A 2AE
United Kingdom

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

London
United Kingdom

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Massimo Morelli

Bocconi University ( email )

Via Roentgen 1
Milan, 20136
Italy

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