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Ratio Working Paper No. 321: Busy Doing Nothing – Why Politicians Implement Ineffcient Policies

PublikationWorking paper
Anders Gustafsson, Inefficiency, Reforms, Special Interest Groups, Strategic Obfuscation
Ratio Working Paper No. 321
Ladda ner

Sammanfattning

A substantial body of literature suggests that politicians are blocked from implementing efficient reforms that solve substantial problems because of special interest groups or budget constraints. Despite the existing mechanisms that block potentially efficient reforms, real-world data show that a large number of new programs and policies are implemented every year in developed countries. These policies are often selective and considered to be fairly inefficient by ex post evaluation, and they tend to be small in size and scope. With this background, this paper studies the reasons why a rational politician would implement an inefficient public policy that is intended to obfuscate the difficulties in achieving reforms. The paper uses a simple competence signaling model that suggests that if an effective reform is impossible, engaging in strategic obfuscation through an inefficient program increases the probability of winning a re-election compared to doing nothing at all. This is because an inefficient reform does not lead voters to believe that the politician is incompetent, which a lack of action risks doing. Intentional inefficiency aiming to obfuscate the difficulty of efficient reforms can therefore complement the previous theories’ explanations of political failure.

Gustafsson, A. (2019). Busy Doing Nothing – Why Politicians Implement Ineffcient Policies. Ratio Working Paper no. 321. Stockholm: Ratio.


Liknande innehåll

Subsidy Entrepreneurs: An Inquiry into firms seeking public grants
Artikel (in press)Publikation
Halvarsson, D, Gustafsson, A. & Gustavsson Tingvall, P.
Publiceringsår

2020

Sammanfattning

This paper studies the incentives and characteristics of firms that apply for, and eventually receive, one or multiple governmental grants intended to stimulate innovation and growth. The analysis departs from a contest model in which entrepreneurs are free to allocate their effort between production and seeking grants. The results suggest that highly productive entrepreneurs abstain from seeking grants, moderately productive firms allocate a share of their effort to grant seeking, and low-productivity firms allocate most resources to seeking grants. Due to their efforts in seeking grants, these low-productive subsidy entrepreneurs also have a relatively high probability of receiving the grants. Using comprehensive data over grants from the three largest grant-distributing agencies in Sweden, we find concordant evidence of a negative relation between the probability of receiving a grant and firm productivity. As we go from single- to multiple-grant-supported firms, this negative relation becomes more pronounced.

Busy Doing Nothing – Why Politicians Implement Inefficient Policies
Artikel (med peer review)Publikation
Gustafsson, A.
Publiceringsår

2019

Sammanfattning

A substantial body of literature suggests that politicians are blocked from implementing efficient reforms that solve substantial problems because of special interest groups or budget constraints. Despite the existing mechanisms that block potentially efficient reforms, real-world data show that a large number of new programs and policies are implemented every year in developed countries. These policies are often selective and considered to be fairly inefficient by ex post evaluation, and they tend to be small in size and scope. With this background, this paper studies the reasons why a rational politician would implement an inefficient public policy that is intended to obfuscate the difficulties in achieving reforms. The paper uses a simple competence signaling model that suggests that if an effective reform is impossible, engaging in strategic obfuscation through an inefficient program increases the probability of winning a re-election compared to doing nothing at all. This is because an inefficient reform does not lead voters to believe that the politician is incompetent, which a lack of action risks doing. Intentional inefficiency aiming to obfuscate the difficulty of efficient reforms can therefore complement the previous theories’ explanations of political failure.

Municipally Owned Enterprises as Danger Zones for Corruption? How Politicians Having Feet in Two Camps May Undermine Conditions for Accountability
Artikel (med peer review)Publikation
Bergh, A., Erlingsson, G., Gustafsson, A. & Wittberg, E.
Publiceringsår

2019

Publicerat i
Sammanfattning

The market-inspired reforms of New Public Management have been particularly pronounced in Swedish local government. Notably, municipally owned enterprises (MOEs) have rapidly grown in numbers. Principal-agent theory gives rise to the hypothesis that the massive introduction of MOEs has impacted negatively on the conditions for accountability in Swedish local government. To study this, social network analysis was employed in mapping networks for 223 MOEs in 11 strategically chosen municipalities, covering a total of 732 politicians. The analysis reveals substantial overlaps between principals (representatives of the ultimate stakeholders, citizens) and agents (the boards of the MOEs). Hence, corporatization of public services seems to imply worrisome entanglements between the politicians who are set to steer, govern, and oversee MOEs on the one hand, and the board members of MOEs on the other. The increasing numbers of MOEs may therefore have adverse effects on accountability in important and growing parts of Swedish local government.

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