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There is general agreement that democratic institutions shape politicians’ incentives to cater to certain constituencies, but which electoral system causes politicians to be most responsive to narrow interests is still debateable. Some argue that plurality electoral rules provide the greatest incentives for politicians to cater to the interests of a few; others say proportional systems prompt politicians to be relatively more prone to narrow interests. This study suggests that both positions can be correct under different conditions. Politicians competing in plurality systems privilege voters with a shared narrow interest when such voters are geographically concentrated, but when they are geographically diffuse, such voters have greater political influence in proportional electoral systems. Government spending on subsidies in fourteen developed countries provides empirical support for this argument.
London School of Economics (email:
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7 Cox Gary W., ‘Centripetal and Centrifugal Incentives in Electoral Systems’, American Journal of Political Science, 34 (1990), 903–935
8 Cox, ‘Centripetal and Centrifugal Incentives in Electoral Systems’, p. 906
9 Kono, ‘Market Structure, Electoral Institutions, and Trade Policy’; Grossman and Helpman, ‘A Protectionist Bias in Majoritarian Politics’; Persson and Tabellini, The Economic Effects of Constitutions; Lizzeri and Persico, ‘The Provision of Public Goods under Alternative Electoral Incentives’.
10 Persson and Tabellini, The Economic Effects of Constitutions.
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13 Rogowski and Kayser, ‘Majoritarian Electoral Systems and Consumer Power’; Chang, Kayser and Rogowski, ‘Electoral Systems and Real Prices’.
14 Rogowski and Kayser, ‘Majoritarian Electoral Systems and Consumer Power’; Chang, Kayser and Rogowski, ‘Electoral Systems and Real Prices’.
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20 Persson and Tabellini, The Economic Effects of Constitutions.
21 Stephanie J. Rickard, ‘A Non-Tariff Protectionist Bias in Majoritarian Politics: Government Subsidies and Electoral Institutions’, International Studies Quarterly, forthcoming.
22 Grossman and Helpman, ‘A Protectionist Bias in Majoritarian Politics’.
23 McGillivray Fiona, ‘Party Discipline as a Determinant of the Endogenous Formation of Tariffs’, American Journal of Political Science, 41 (1997), 584–607
24 McGillivray Fiona, Privileging Industry: The Comparative Politics of Trade and Industrial Policy (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2004)
25 Hansen Wendy L., ‘The International Trade Commission and the Politics of Protectionism’, American Political Science Review, 84 (1990), 21–46
26 Mansfield Edward D. and Milner Helen V.eds, The Political Economy of Regionalism (New York: Columbia University Press, 1997)
27 McGillivray, ‘Party Discipline as a Determinant of the Endogenous Formation of Tariffs’, p. 604
28 Hiscox Michael J., International Trade and Political Conflict (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2002)
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30 Duchêne François and Shepherd Geoffreyeds, Managing Industrial Change in Western Europe (London: Frances Pinter, 1987)
31 Duchêne and Shepherd, ‘Sources of Industrial Policy’.
32 This may be particularly true in PR systems that require a party to achieve a minimum percentage of votes to receive any legislative seats. Typically, this threshold is between 2 and 5 per cent of the number of votes cast. Parties which do not reach that level of support gain no representation in parliament.
33 Carlsson Bo, ‘Industrial Subsidies in Sweden: Macro-Economic Effects and an International Comparison’, Journal of Industrial Economics, 32 (1983), 1–23
34 This type of spending, often referred to as ‘pork barrel’ spending, frequently reflects discretionary spending decisions. See Persson and Tabellini, The Economic Effects of Constitutions, p. 14.
35 Persson and Tabellini, The Economic Effects of Constitutions, p. 14.
36 Dale T. Mortensen and Christopher A. Pissarides, ‘Taxes, Subsidies and Equilibrium Labour Market Outcomes’ (CEPR Discussion Paper No. 2989, 2001).
37 Mortensen and Pissarides, ‘Taxes, Subsidies and Equilibrium Labour Market Outcomes’.
38 Frieden Jeffry A.Lake David A. and Schultz Kenneth A., World Politics: Interests, Interactions, Institutions (London: W. W. Norton & Co., 2010)
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39 Beghin, El Osta, Cherlow and Mohanty, ‘The Cost of the US Sugar Program Revisited’.
40 These spending data come from the International Monetary Fund's Government Financial Statistics. These data include all fiscal outlays targeted to the manufacturing sector. For example, all subsidies, grants, and subsidized loans provided to the manufacturing sector to support manufacturing enterprises and/or development, expansion or improvement of manufacturing are included. Although conventional government accounts are generally not suitable for comparisons between countries and over time, because they reflect the organizational structures of governments, these data, uniquely compiled by the IMF, allow meaningful cross-national comparisons over time. For additional information, see International Monetary Fund, Government Finance Statistics Manual (Washington, D.C.: IMF, 2001).
41 Rogowski and Kayser, ‘Majoritarian Electoral Systems and Consumer Power’.
42 McGillivray, Privileging Industry.
43 Rodriguez Francisco and Rodrik Dani, ‘Trade Policy and Economic Growth: A Skeptic's Guide to the Cross-national Evidence’, NBER Macroeconomics Annual, 15 (2000), 261–325
44 Milesi-Ferreti, Rostagno and Perotti, ‘Electoral Systems and Public Spending’.
45 Persson Torsten and Tabellini Guido, ‘The Size and Scope of Government: Comparative Politics with Rational Politicians’, European Economic Review, 43 (1999), 699–735
46 Robert Ford and Win Suyker, ‘Industrial Subsidies in the OECD Economies’, OECD Department of Economics and Statistics Working Papers, No. 74 (Paris: OECD Publications, 1990); OECD, Improving the Environment through Reducing Subsidies (Paris: OECD Publications, 1998).
47 International Monetary Fund, Government Finance Statistics (Washington, D.C.: IMF, 2001); Shenggen Fan and Neetha Rao, ‘Public Spending in Developing Countries’, EPTD Discussion Paper No. 99 (Washington, D.C.: International Food Policy Research Institute, 2003).
48 Blais André, ‘The Political Economy of Public Subsidies’, Comparative Political Studies, 19 (1986), 201–217
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50 Busch Marc L. and Reinhardt Eric, ‘Industrial Location and Protection: The Political and Economic Geography of U.S. Nontariff Barriers’, American Journal of Political Science, 43 (1999), 1028–1050
51 It is not, however, a measure of political concentration. At present, measures of political concentration are only possible in the data-rich United States.
52 Unfortunately, due to data limitations mapping the geographic dispersion of manufacturing employment into electoral districts is not possible for even the limited sample of countries under investigation here.
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54 The 14 sample countries are: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
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59 This measure is calculated for each country-election-year. For non-election years, the least squares index from the most recent previous election is used. If two elections occur in the same year, the average of the least squares index (LSq) for that country-year is used.
60 These data are from Joel W. Johnson and Jessica S. Wallack, ‘Electoral Systems and the Personal Vote’, available at http://polisci2.ucsd.edu/jwjohnson/espv.htm (accessed 14 April 2011).
61 Johnson and Wallack, ‘Electoral Systems and the Personal Vote’.
62 Bawn and Rosenbluth, ‘Short Versus Long Coalitions’.
63 Stephanie J. Rickard, ‘Welfare versus Subsidies: Governmental Spending Decisions in an Era of Globalization’ (unpublished manuscript, London School of Economics and Political Science, 2011).
64 Ronald Rogowski, ‘Pork, Patronage, and Protection: How Geographic Concentration Affects Representation of Interests in Small-District Systems’ (UCLA, unpublished manuscript, 1997).
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78 Garrett Geoffrey, ‘Globalization and Government Spending Around the World’, Studies in Comparative International Development, 35 (2001), 3–29
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79 Rickard, ‘Welfare versus Subsidies’.
80 Dixit and Londregan, ‘The Determinants of Success of Special Interests in Redistributive Politics’; Lindbeck and Weibull, ‘Balanced Budget Redistribution and the Outcome of Political Competition’.
81 For example, excluding the United Kingdom from the sample does not change the key results. Similarly, the key results are robust to alternative model specifications including ordinary least squares (OLS) models with Driscoll–Kraay standard errors and the Newey and West estimator with lag length 1. These results are reported in an online appendix.
82 This holds for approximately 10 per cent of the sample.
83 Boix Carles, ‘Setting the Rules of the Game: The Choice of Electoral Systems in Advanced Democracies’, American Political Science Review, 93 (1999), 609–624
84 Cusack Thomas R.Iversen Torben and Soskice David, ‘Economic Interests and the Origins of Electoral Systems’, American Political Science Review, 101 (2007), 373–391
85 Persson and Tabellini, The Economic Effects of Constitutions; Evans, ‘A Protectionist Bias in Majoritarian Politics’.
86 Persson and Tabellini, The Economic Effects of Constitutions.
87 Persson and Tabellini, The Economic Effects of Constitutions, demonstrate that these periods best describe the pattern of electoral system adaptation.
88 If anything, correcting for potential endogeneity appears to reduce the standard errors on the estimated marginal effect of PR.
89 Wacziarg Romain and Wallack Jessica Seddon, ‘Trade Liberalization and Intersectoral Labor Movements’, Journal of International Economics, 64 (2004), 411–439
90 However, Rickard finds evidence that labour mobility mediates the effect of electoral rules on governments’ willingness to provide narrow transfers in violation of GATT/WTO rules. As the costs of adjustment increase, the number of narrow transfers increases in both PR and majoritarian systems.
Rickard Stephanie J., ‘Strategic Targeting: The Effect of Institutions and Interests on Distributive Transfers’, Comparative Political Studies, 42 (2009), 670–695
91 Bawn and Rosenbluth, ‘Short Versus Long Coalitions’.
92 Robert J. Franzese, ‘Effective Representation in Democratic Policymaking’ (unpublished manuscript, University of Michigan: 2008).
* London School of Economics (email: email@example.com). This article was conceived of while the author was a visitor at the Institute for International Integration Studies, Trinity College Dublin. She wishes to thank Philip Lane, Kevin O'Rourke and Ken Benoit for their hospitality, and is particularly grateful to Kevin O'Rourke for his invaluable suggestions and encouragement and to Marius Brülhart for generously sharing his data. An online appendix can be viewed at http://www.journals.cambridge.org/jps; and supplementary tables and replication data are available at http://personal.lse.ac.uk/RICKARD/research.html.
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