A Commitment Theory of Populism

51 Pages Posted: 14 May 2021

See all articles by Massimo Morelli

Massimo Morelli

Bocconi University

Antonio Nicolò

University of Padua - Department of Economics; University of Manchester

Paolo Roberti

Free University of Bozen-Bolzano - Faculty of Economics and Management

Date Written: April 1, 2021

Abstract

We propose a theory of populism as simplistic or unconditional commitment. Economic crises as well as social and cultural threats may be responsible for increased demand of simple credible policies, and reduced trust in the ability and reliability of representative politicians without policy commitments. We show under what conditions politicians choose to supply simplistic commitments in equilibrium and how this choice interacts with competence, antielite rhetoric and complementary fake news strategies. Whenever an equilibrium exists with one party choosing populist commitments and the other choosing delegation to experts, the former is always the one displaying lower moral universalism. Nationalism, closed border policies and protectionism are examples of commitment demands that reflect reduced moral universalism. When the desire for simple commitments increases, there can be also low political information when uncommitted politicians win.

Suggested Citation

Morelli, Massimo and Nicolò, Antonio and Roberti, Paolo, A Commitment Theory of Populism (April 1, 2021). CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP16051, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3846138

Massimo Morelli (Contact Author)

Bocconi University ( email )

Via Roentgen 1
Milan, 20136
Italy

Antonio Nicolò

University of Padua - Department of Economics ( email )

via Del Santo 33
Padova, 35123
Italy

University of Manchester ( email )

Arthur Lewis Building
Oxford Road
Manchester, M13 9PL
United Kingdom

Paolo Roberti

Free University of Bozen-Bolzano - Faculty of Economics and Management ( email )

Via Sernesi 1
39100 Bozen-Bolzano (BZ), Bozen 39100
Italy

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