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Credible Communication in Dynastic Government
Journal of Public Economics (2006)
  • Roger Lagunoff, Georgetown University

This paper studies information disclosure in a model of dynastic government. When information about past policy choices comes exclusively from the reports of previous administrations, each administration has an incentive to choose its (suboptimal) one shot expenditure policy, and then misrepresent its choice to its successor. Consequently, it has been suggested that “horizontal accountability,” i.e., a system of governance where auditing functions lie outside the executive branch, can ensure credible disclosure of a government’s activities. This paper suggests a cautious approach to that view. The baseline model examines the reporting incentives of an external auditor who can independently verify the information each period. Even with auditing, credible disclosure is shown to be problematic. Various extensions to this baseline model are examined. In one extension, “liberal” (i.e., those prefering larger government expenditures) and “conservative” (those prefering smaller expenditures) regimes and auditors evolve over time. It is shown that “conservative” (“liberal”) auditors are not credible when the current regime is also “conservative” (“liberal”). Moreover, because information transmission stops when the auditor’s and the regime’s biases coincide, effective deterrents even in the “good” periods (when the auditor’s and the administration’s biases differ) are difficult to construct. In all periods the equilibrium requirement of auditor neutrality constrains the dynamic incentives for efficient policy choices. These constraints are shown to bind away from optimal policies in standard constructions of equilibrium. Various ways in which auditing protocols can overcome these problems are discussed.

  • dynastic government,
  • dynamic policy bias,
  • auditing,
  • auditor neutrality,
  • credible communication
Publication Date
January, 2006
Citation Information
Roger Lagunoff. "Credible Communication in Dynastic Government" Journal of Public Economics Vol. 90 (2006)
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