In an economy with weak economic and political institutions, the major institutional choices are made strategically by oligarchs and dictators. The conventional wisdom presumes that as rent-seeking is harmful for oligarchs themselves, institutions such as property rights will emerge spontaneously. We explicitly model a dynamic game between the oligarchs and a dictator who can contain rent-seeking. The oligarchs choose either a weak dictator (who can be overthrown by an individual oligarch) or a strong dictator (who can only be replaced via a consensus of oligarchs). In equilibrium, no dictator can commit to both: (i) protecting the oligarchs' property rights from the other oligarchs and (ii) not expropriating oligarchs himself. We show that a weak dictator does not limit rent-seeking. A strong dictator does reduce rent-seeking but also expropriates individual oligarchs. We show that even though eliminating rent-seeking is Pareto optimal, weak dictators do get appointed in equilibrium and rent-seeking continues. This outcome is especially likely when economic environment is highly volatile.
We present results from an experiment with multiple public goods, where each good produces benefits only if total contributions to it reach a minimum threshold. The presence of multiple public goods makes coordination among participants more difficult, discouraging donor participation and decreasing the likelihood of any public good being effectively funded. Applied to the case of fundraising, the results show how overall donations and the number of effectively funded projects may both decrease as the total number of projects vying for funding increases. The analysis considers whether making one of the contribution options salient, either through its merits or by arbitrarily choosing one to feature during the experiment, helps overcome the increased coordination problem. The results have implications for the growing popularity of crowdfunding websites, and suggest benefits to these sites from helping donors compare and identify the most promising projects. © 2015 Elsevier B.V.
We study how administrative boundaries and tax competition among asymmetric jurisdictions interact with the labor and land markets to determine the economic structure and performance of metropolitan areas. Contrary to general belief, cross-border commuting need not be welfare-decreasing in the presence of agglomeration economies that vary with the distribution of firms within the metropolitan area. Tax competition implies that the central business district is too small and prevents public policy enhancing global productivity to deliver their full impact. Although our results support the idea of decentralizing the provision of local public services by independent jurisdictions, they highlight the need of coordinating tax policies and the importance of the jurisdiction sizes within metropolitan areas. © 2015 Elsevier B.V.
We develop a model of pork-barrel politics in which a government official tries to improve her reelection chances by spending on targeted interest groups. The spending signals that she shares their concerns. We investigate the effect of such pandering on public spending. Pandering increases spending relative to a non-accountable official (one who does not have to run for reelection) if either the official's overall spending propensity is known, or if it is unknown but the effect of spending on the deficit is opaque to voters. By contrast, an unknown spending propensity may induce the elected official to exhibit fiscal discipline if spending is transparent.