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Published June 2000 | public
Journal Article

Economic Retrospective Voting and Incentives for Policymaking


This paper explores the possibility that the punishment–reward strategy known as economic retrospective voting provides incentives to pursue good economic policies. By "good" we mean policies that enhance efficiency and reduce economic rents. The key hypothesis is that in those countries whose electoral arrangements and governing institutions yield high clarity of responsibility, a resultant high level of retrospective voting should compel incumbent parties to be more vigorous in the pursuit of efficiency-enhancing policies, or at least less vigorous in creating rents. In countries where the clarity of responsibility is low, the more tenuous linkage between economic performance and electoral success should leave incumbent governments less motivated to promote efficiency and to eliminate rents. As hypothesized, countries low in clarity of responsibility appear to be more inclined to subject their economies to over-regulation and to engage in higher levels of transfers and subsidies. On several other policy dimensions, however, there were no discernable differences between high and low clarity of responsibility countries.

Additional Information

© 2000 Elsevier. An earlier version of this paper was delivered at the Conference on Economics and Elections: Comparisons and Conclusions, Sandbjerg, Denmark, 23–26 August 1998. I would like to thank Mike Alvarez, Frank Baumgartner, Sam Kernell, John Ledyard, Michael Lewis-Beck, Lynn Maurer, Donald Wittman, and especially Martin Paldam for their comments and criticisms.

Additional details

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