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The Countervailing Effects of Competition on Public Goods Provision: When Bargaining Inefficiencies Lead to Bad Outcomes

  • JESSICA GOTTLIEB (a1) and KATRINA KOSEC (a2)
Abstract

Political competition is widely recognized as a mediator of public goods provision through its salutary effect on incumbents’ electoral incentives. We argue that political competition additionally mediates public goods provision by reducing the efficiency of legislative bargaining. These countervailing forces may produce a net negative effect in places with weak parties and low transparency—typical of many young democracies. We provide evidence of a robust negative relationship between political competition and local public goods using panel data from Mali. Tests of mechanisms corroborate our interpretation of this relationship as evidence of legislative bargaining inefficiencies. To explore the generalizability of these findings, we analyze cross-country panel data and show that political competition leads to better (worse) public goods provision under high (low) levels of party system institutionalization. The paper sheds light on why political competition is only selectively beneficial, and underscores the importance of considering both the electoral and legislative arenas.

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Copyright
This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Corresponding author
*Jessica Gottlieb, Assistant Professor, Bush School of Government & Public Service, Texas A&M University, jgottlieb@tamu.edu.
Katrina Kosec, Senior Research Fellow, International Food Policy Research Institute, k.kosec@cgiar.org.
Footnotes
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We thank Cesi Cruz, Tewodaj Mogues, Ken Opalo, Pablo Pinto, Daniel Rogger, Emily Sellars, Rebecca Weitz-Shapiro, and three anonymous reviewers for excellent comments on earlier drafts as well as feedback from participants at UCLA’s Comparative Politics Seminar, the UH Political Economy Conference, the World Bank’s Annual Bank Conference on Development Economics (ABCDE), and the WPSA meeting. We are grateful to the DNCT and ODHD in Mali for generously sharing their data. For financial support, we thank the Center on Conflict and Development, a USAID Development Lab at Texas A&M University; the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions, and Markets, led by IFPRI; and Innovations for Poverty Action’s (IPA's) Peace and Recovery Program. We thank Miguel Eusse, Charles Hintz, Brian Holtemeyer, Gregory A. Klein, and Jie Song for outstanding research assistance as well as Tidiani Diabaté and the team at IPA Mali for successful implementation of the qualitative data collection. Replication files are available at the American Political Science Review Dataverse: https://doi.org/10.7910/DVN/VKOMCK.

Footnotes
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