Fire Alarm Fatigue: How Politicians Evade Accountability
45 Pages Posted: 13 Apr 2021
Date Written: March 30, 2021
Independent and objective oversight bodies, congressional committees and the news media, are widely expected to help hold politicians accountable. We develop a model in which an informed oversight body may warn citizens about misconduct by an incumbent. Matching conventional logic about the benefits of caution, high evidentiary standards are necessary for warnings to be persuasive. However, the straightforward connection between caution and efficacy breaks down if we allow for uncertainty about the quality of oversight. With even a small chance of "fake news", caution can backfire, as incumbents strategically manipulate the reputation of the oversight body to destroy effective oversight.
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