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Majoritarian Incentives, Pork Barrel Programs, and Procedural Control

David P. Baron
American Journal of Political Science
Vol. 35, No. 1 (Feb., 1991), pp. 57-90
DOI: 10.2307/2111438
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2111438
Page Count: 34
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Majoritarian Incentives, Pork Barrel Programs, and Procedural Control
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Abstract

Inherent in majority rule institutions is the incentive to particularize benefits and to collectivize costs, and this majoritarian incentive can lead to the adoption of economically inefficient distributive programs. These inefficient, or pork barrel, programs are often said to occur under a norm of universalism in which benefits are distributed among all legislative districts. The distribution of particularistic benefits is studied in the context of a legislative model that reflects the sequential nature of proposal making and voting. The set of distributive programs that a legislature will adopt in a perfect Nash equilibrium is characterized, and although inefficient programs will be adopted, the distribution of benefits is majoritarian and not universalistic. The set of programs that will be adopted depends on the amendment procedure used by the legislature, and the set corresponding to a closed rule that prohibits amendments includes very inefficient programs. Through the use of procedures, however, the legislature is able to control the extent of the inefficiency. For example, allowing amendments under an open rule limits, but does not eliminate, the inefficiency of the programs that would be adopted by the legislature. From an ex ante perspective, the legislature prefers an open rule to a closed rule for those policy jurisdictions in which inefficient programs can be expected to be proposed.

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