Economic Reform and Dynamic Political Constraints

Dewatripont, M.; Roland, G.
October 1992
Review of Economic Studies;Oct92, Vol. 59 Issue 4, p703
Academic Journal
In this paper, we examine the impact of political constraints on economic reform plans, with special reference to the transition from centrally planned to market economies. We analyse the problem of an agenda-setting reform-minded Government facing a bureaucracy or industrial sector for which allocative efficiency requires redundancies and an increase in work intensity. The Government also tries to minimize the rents conceded to its heterogeneous workforce. We examine two types of political constraints: unanimity rule and majority rule, both in a one-period and a two-period horizon. The main results are the following. First of all, we show how adverse selection and time-consistency may generate the widely-observed feature of gradualism as an ingredient of an optimal reform. Second, under a majority rule, it is shown to be possible for the Government to obtain a majority vote for a reform scheme that intertemporally hurts majority interests. Indeed, the Government can improve rent extraction through the strategic use of the threat of future proposals: the group which expects to be in the minority tomorrow may accept concessions, while its votes can be used to extract rents from another group. These results suggest that, in a dynamic context, democratic constraints should not be overestimated as an obstacle against efficiency-enhancing economic reforms. The results of this paper may throw some light on the political economy of current reforms in Eastern Europe.


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