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Public Goods Equilibria under Closed – and Open – List Proportional Representation

Date: 16/01/2020

Publication: SAGE Journals



Building on past research, this paper develops a game theoretic model to study the provision of local public goods under closed- and open-list proportional representation (CLPR and OLPR). The core results suggest that, all thing equal, legislators will provide voters with higher levels of public goods in OLPR than in CLPR systems. However, two intervening variables condition the institutional comparison: the district magnitude and electoral volatility. Firstly, public goods effort increases as district magnitude increases in OLPR systems, while it tends to decrease as magnitude increases in CLPR systems. Indeed, when district magnitude is 2, the two systems are often indistinguishable. Furthermore, the distinction between OLPR and CLPR weakens when electoral volatility is low, such that neither system generates high levels of public goods effort. In addition to their relevance for political economy, the paper’s results provide game theoretic foundations for a series of theoretical conjectures found in Carey and Shugart’s (1995) seminal study of electoral institutions and legislative personalism (Incentives to cultivate a personal vote: A rank-ordering of electoral formulas. Electoral Studies 1995; 14(4): 417–439).