NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Bureaucrats or Politicians?

Alberto Alesina, Guido Tabellini

NBER Working Paper No. 10241
Issued in January 2004
NBER Program(s):   EFG   PE

Policies are typically chosen by politicians and bureaucrats. This paper investigates the e fficiency criteria for allocating policy tasks to elected policymakers (politicians) or non elected bureaucrats. Politicians are more efficient for tasks that do not involve too much specific technical ability relative to effort; there is uncertainty about ex post preferences of the public and flexibility is valuable; time inconsistency is not an issue; small but powerful vested interests do not have large stakes in the policy outcome; effective decisions over policies require taking into account policy complementarities and compensating the losers. We then compare this benchmark with the case in which politicians choose when to delegate and we show that the two generally differ.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w10241

Published: “Bureaucrats or Politicians? Part I: A Single Policy Task,” American Economic Review, March 2007, 97: 169-79 "Bureaucrats or Politicians? Part II: Multiple Policy Tasks,” Journal of Public Economics, April 2008, 92, 426-447

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