Democracies delegate substantial decision power to politicians. Using a model in which an incumbent can design, examine and implement public policies, we show that examination takes place in spite of, rather than thanks to, elections. Elections are needed as a carrot and a stick to motivate politicians, yet politicians who are overly interested in re-election shy away from policy examination. Our analysis sheds light on the distance created in mature democracies between the political process and the production of policy relevant information; on the role played by probing into candidates' past; and on the possibility of crowding out desirable political behaviour by increasing the value of holding office.

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Tinbergen Institute Discussion Paper Series
Tinbergen Institute

Swank, O., & Visser, B. (2003). Do Elections lead to Informed Public Decisions? (No. TI 03-067/1). Tinbergen Institute Discussion Paper Series. Retrieved from