NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Kosher Pork

Allan Drazen, Ethan Ilzetzki

NBER Working Paper No. 16667
Issued in January 2011
NBER Program(s):   IFM   POL

Both conventional wisdom and leading academic research view pork barrel spending as antithetical to responsible policymaking in times of crisis. In this paper we present an alternative view. When agents are heterogeneous in their ideology and in their information about the economic situation, allocation of pork may enable passage of legislation appropriate to a "crisis" that might otherwise not pass. Pork "greases the legislative wheels" not by bribing legislators to accept legislation they view as harmful, but by conveying information about the necessity of policy change, where it may be impossible to convey such information in the absence of pork. Pork may be used for this function in situations where all legislators would agree to forgo pork under full information. Moreover, pork will be observed when the public good is most valuable precisely because it is valuable and the informed agenda setter wants to convey this information.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w16667

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