Quarterly Journal of Political Science > Vol 12 > Issue 1

Durable Policy, Political Accountability, and Active Waste

Steven Callander, Stanford University, USA, sjc@stanford.edu , Davin Raiha, University of Western Ontario, Canada, draiha@ivey.ca
Suggested Citation
Steven Callander and Davin Raiha (2017), "Durable Policy, Political Accountability, and Active Waste", Quarterly Journal of Political Science: Vol. 12: No. 1, pp 59-97. http://dx.doi.org/10.1561/100.00016120

Publication Date: 16 May 2017
© 2017 S. Callander and D. Raiha
Formal modelling,  Game theory,  Elections,  Public economics
Durable policyRepeated electionsAccountabilityInfrastructure


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In this article:
Modeling Policy Durability 


The policy choices of governments are frequently durable. From the building of bridges to the creation of social programs, investments in public infrastructure typically last well beyond a single electoral cycle. In this paper we develop a dynamic model of repeated elections in which policy choices are durable. The behavior that emerges in equilibrium reveals a novel mechanism through which durability interacts with the shorter electoral cycle and distorts the incentives of politicians. We find that a government that is electorally accountable nevertheless underinvests in policy, that it deliberately wastes investment on projects that are never implemented, and that the type of policy it implements is itself Pareto inefficient. The first two distortions match evidence from infrastructure policy in western democracies, and the third identifies a distortion that has heretofore not been explored empirically. Notably, these effects emerge solely due to the interaction of policy durability and political accountability, and not from corruption, poor decision making, or voter myopia.