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The electoral costs of policy commitments

  • Timm Betz (a1)
Abstract

Existing arguments across political science posit that parties in government use domestic and international institutions to lock in their own policy preferences by tying the hands of successors. I demonstrate that these arguments contrast with the assumption of office-seeking parties and therefore portray an incomplete picture of the incentives of governments. The paper emphasizes the trade-off between implementing policy preferences, on the one hand, and exploiting partisan differences for electoral success, on the other hand: locking in a policy takes an issue off the table, but it also undermines a party’s ability to leverage differences to the opposition in elections. Because office-seeking parties need to take into account these electoral consequences, they have a disincentive to tie their successors’ hands. I advance this argument in the context of the establishment of independent central banks, provide empirical evidence, and suggest implications for the literature on international institutions.

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*Corresponding author. Email: timm.betz@tamu.edu
References
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Political Science Research and Methods
  • ISSN: 2049-8470
  • EISSN: 2049-8489
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