“Uncertain Policy Implementation with Public Information” [Job Market Paper]
Substantially Complete Working Paper.
Current Draft (As of Sept 17th, 2019)
A repeated finding in the political accountability literature is that incumbents with private information implement policy inefficiently, due to their efforts to signal competence to voters. I consider a model in which the politician’s information is publicly available. Incumbents are either competent or incompetent, but neither the voters nor the incumbent know which. Consequently, learning about the incumbent’s type comes from research about her policies and observing the policy’s outcomes, and no one knows the outcome of the policy in advance. When voters receive a good signal about the incumbent’s policy, it leaves the incumbent with a high reputation, and she does not want to risk it by implementing the policy. When voters receive a bad signal about the incumbent’s policy, it leaves the incumbent with a poor reputation, and she is willing to gamble on implementing her policy for a chance to repair it. This result may provide an electoral explanation for why popular policies are sometimes not implemented, while unpopular policies are, and why failing policies persist. When only the incumbent receives the signal about her policy, she implements it if and only if the signal is sufficiently positive. In this environment, evidence that policy is likely to make everyone better off makes it more likely that the policy passes. Consequently, voters may be better off when institutions are designed to keep policy information private. Further, it suggests that interventions that provide policy information directly to decision-makers may be more effective than those that make information publicly accessible.
“Two Candidate Competition on Differentiated Policy Sets”
Complete, Under Review at Games and Economic Behavior
In the classic spatial model of office-motivated candidate competition, equilibrium exists only if the distribution of voter ideal points has a total median, a condition which is virtually never met. However, in the classic model, both candidates can propose policies anywhere in policy space, and this is a crucial element in proving the necessity of that condition. If each candidate may only propose policies from a subset of policy space, does an equilibrium exist more generally? I consider a model in which each of two office-motivated candidates proposes a policy from a distinct policy set. When the policy sets are convex and one does not contain the proposed equilibrium policy, it need not be the case that the proposed policy is a total median, because any competing proposal must be at least some positive distance away, and may only lie in certain directions; hence, the conditions of Plott do not apply. Instead, it is only necessary for each median hyperplane to lie in a given halfspace formed by the hyperplane separating the proposed equilibrium from the closest policy the opponent can propose. The intersection of all of the halfspaces is the set of guaranteed supporters of the equilibrium policy, that is, the set of voters for whom the equilibrium policy is closer than any alternative the opposing candidate can propose. Hence, the requirement on the median hyperplanes for the proposed policy to be an equilibrium is that one can choose a median voter on each median hyperplane to be a guaranteed supporter of the proposed policy.
“Campaigning to Persuade”
Work in Progress.
When candidates decide which positions to take on major issues, they must always bear in mind the difficulty of selling those positions to the voters. Candidates for office spend enormous resources attempting to persuade voters about the merits of their policy platforms. However, such persuasion is mostly absent from models of spatial competition. While there is a growing literature on Bayesian Persuasion, in which politicians design policy experiments “optimally” to convince voters to support a given idea or candidate, to the best of my knowledge, there is little research on the effect of persuasion on the choice of policy position. If voters’ policy preferences are determined stochastically by the positions of the alternatives offered, what kinds of equilibria would exist?
The answer to this question could provide another explanation for policy divergence, which is a long-standing puzzle in political economy. It could also explain why initially unpopular positions are sometimes victorious and why voters often change their policy positions in relatively short time frames.