NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Party Discipline and Pork Barrel Politics

Gene M. Grossman, Elhanan Helpman

NBER Working Paper No. 11396
Issued in June 2005
NBER Program(s):   IFM   ITI   PE   POL

Polities differ in the extent to which political parties can pre-commit to carry out promised policy actions if they take power. Commitment problems may arise due to a divergence between the ex ante incentives facing national parties that seek to capture control of the legislature and the ex post incentives facing individual legislators, whose interests may be more parochial. We study how differences in “party discipline” shape fiscal policy choices. In particular, we examine the determinants of national spending on local public goods in a three-stage game of campaign rhetoric, voting, and legislative decision-making. We find that the rhetoric and reality of pork-barrel spending, and also the efficiency of the spending regime, bear a non-monotonic relationship to the degree of

party discipline.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w11396

Published: E. Helpman (ed.) Institutions and Economic Performance. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2008.

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