Machiavellian Fair Play: Electoral Incentives to Implement Programmatic Transfers
49 Pages Posted: 5 Aug 2020
Date Written: July 8, 2020
If a welfare transfers policy is programmatic (it is non-partisan, transparent and persisting), is it irrelevant for politicians' electoral fortunes? I study a probabilistic voting model with symmetric uncertainty in which an incumbent politician, of high or low competence, can design a programmatic transfers policy that supports low income citizens but which shrinks the per-period budgets for public goods provision. In my framework, competent politicians can perform better at the provision of public goods and transfers are less informative about their underlying ability. I show that these conditions allow the incumbent to reap electoral rewards through the strategic allocation of the budget. When the incumbent increases the budget to public goods by reducing transfers, two effects arise: his performance in office today would reveal more information about his identity (an informativeness effect), and voters' anticipation of narrow transfers tomorrow would increase the salience of political selection (an stakes effect). From the incumbent's viewpoint, these two effects go in opposing directions and, as a consequence, the equilibrium transfers policy emerges from their optimal balance. Finally, I explain how existing studies on the effects of programmatic transfers are unlikely to be able to measure its electoral impact.
Keywords: Elections, Experimental Design, Information, Public Goods, Transfer
JEL Classification: C90, D72, D82, D83, H41, I38
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation