, Volume 52, Issue 2, pp 169-186

Political cheating

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Abstract

This paper shows that how a politician votes is unrelated to whether he faces re-election. This contradicts the universal agreement by economists that political behavior is constrained by the threat of re-election. Contrary to the existing work on ideology, I show that ideology can prevent rather than cause opportunistic behavior. My discussion of ideology can explain why the last period does not affect how a politician votes but only how often he votes. Besides providing an explanation for how politicians can internalize the long-run returns to investments through ideology, my results show that political parties have no effect on how retiring congressmen vote. Finally, I shall try to argue that politicians are search and not experience goods.

The author would like to thank W. Mark Crain, Paul Evans, Gertrud Fremling, and the participants in seminars at the Dartmouth College, Montana State University, Yale Law School, University of Houston and Texas A&M University for their comments. The theoretical and empirical parts of this paper were presented respectively at the 1985 and 1986 Public Choice Meetings. Jim Van Beek provided valuable research assistance. Any errors are the author's.