Constitutional Political Economy

, Volume 24, Issue 4, pp 336–351 | Cite as

When and how politicians take ‘scandalous’ decisions?

  • Fabio Padovano
  • Ilaria Petrarca
Original Paper


We study the decisions of a politician who maximizes his probability of being re-elected, which depends on the enactment of legislative instruments defined ‘scandalous’ because of their highly redistributive content. The agents are a politician and the voters; the legislative instruments available to the legislator are ordinary and executive laws, which differ according to their visibility. The theoretical model predicts that ‘scandalous’ legislation tends to be passed at the beginning of the legislature, while ‘non scandalous’, broader legislation, is approved mostly at the end of the legislation. Scandalous decisions, moreover, tend to be implemented by means of less visible executive legislation, while ordinary acts are mainly used to implement non scandalous decisions. This explanation of the genesis of legislation cycles is consistent with the findings of the empirical literature.


Legislation cycle Ordinary legislation Executive legislation Redistribution 

JEL Classification

D83 H71 C21 C73 



Paper presented at the workshop of the Centre Condorcet for Political Economy on “The Political Economy of Redistribution”. We would especially like to thank Vani K. Borooah, Amihai Glazer, Fabien Moizeau and Stanley Winer, the Editor of this review and two anonymous referees for comments and suggestions. The usual disclaimer applies.


  1. Aidt, T., Veiga, F. J., & Veiga, L. G. (2011). Election results and opportunistic policies: A new test of the rational political business cycle model. Public Choice, 148, 21–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Alesina, A., & Drazen, A. (1989). Why are stabilizations delayed? (No. w3053). National Bureau of Economic Research.Google Scholar
  3. Besley, T., Persson, T., & Sturm, D. M. (2010). Political competition, policy and growth: Theory and evidence from the US. The Review of Economic Studies, 77(4), 1329–1352.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Blondel, J. (1990). Comparative government: An introduction. Philip Allan.Google Scholar
  5. Brechler, J., & Gersl, A. (2011). Political legislation cycle in the Czech Republic. IEF Working Paper 21/2011.Google Scholar
  6. Campos, J. E. L. (1989). Legislative institutions, lobbying, and the endogenous choice of regulatory instruments: A political economy approach to instrument choice. Journal of Law Economics and Organization, 5, 333–353.Google Scholar
  7. Denzau, A. T., & Munger, M. C. (1986). Legislators and interest groups: How unorganized interests get represented. The American Political Science Review, 80, 89–106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Hopenhayn, H., & Lohmann, S. (1996). Fire-alarm signals and the political oversight of regulatory agencies. Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, 12(1), 196–213.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Huber, J. D. (1996). Rationalizing parliament: Legislative institutions and party politics in France. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Lagona, F., Maruotti, A., & Padovano, F. (2012). The opposite cycles of laws and decrees. Centre Condorcet for Political Economy Working Paper n. 1/2012.Google Scholar
  11. Lagona, F., & Padovano, F. (2007). The political legislation cycle. Public Choice, 134, 201–229.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. McCormick, R. J., & Tollison, R. D. (1981). Politicians, legislation, and the economy: An inquiry into the interest-group theory of government. Boston: Martinus Nijhoff.Google Scholar
  13. McCubbins, M. D., Noll, R. G., & Weingast, B. R. (1987). Administrative procedures as instruments of political control. Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, 3(2), 243–277.Google Scholar
  14. McCubbins, M. D., & Schwartz, T. (1984). Congressional oversight overlooked: Police patrols versus fire alarms. American Journal of Political Science, 28(1), 165–179.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Moe, T. (1997). The positive theory of public bureaucracy. In D. Mueller (Ed.), Perspectives on public choice (pp. 455–480). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Mueller, D. C. (2003). Public choice III. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Padovano, F. (1995). A positive theory of political collusion and government growth. Ph.D. dissertation, George Mason University.Google Scholar
  18. Padovano, F., & Gavoille, N. (2012). Political legislation cycles in France? mimeo.Google Scholar
  19. Pasquino, G. (1995). Il sistema e il comportamento elettorale. In G. Pasquino (Ed.), La Politica Italiana: Dizionario Critico 1945–1995 (pp. 135–147). Laterza: Bari.Google Scholar
  20. Persson, T., Roland, G., & Tabellini, G. (1997). Separation of powers and political accountability. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 112, 1163–1202.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Persson, T., & Tabellini, G. E. (2003a). Do electoral cycles differ across political systems? Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research.Google Scholar
  22. Persson, T., & Tabellini, G. E. (2003b). The economic effects of constitutions. MIT press.Google Scholar
  23. Rogoff, K. (1990). Equilibrium political budget cycles. The American Economic Review, 80(1), 21–36.Google Scholar
  24. Rosell, M. J. (2010). Executive privilege: Presidential power, secrecy and accountability (3rd ed.). Lawrence: Kansas University Press.Google Scholar
  25. Shi, M., & Svensson, J. (2006). Political budget cycles: So they differ across countries and why? Journal of Public Economics, 90, 1367–1389.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Snyder, J. M., & Ting, M. (2008). Interest groups and the electoral control of politicians. Journal of Public Economics, 92(3–4), 482–500.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Trantas, G. (1995). Comparing legislative instruments across nations. In H. Döring (Ed.), Parliaments and majority rule in Western Europe. Frankfurt/New York: Campus/St Martin’s Press.Google Scholar
  28. Tsebelis, G. (1999). Veto players and law production in parliamentary democracies: An empirical analysis. The American Political Science Review, 93(3), 591–608.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Tsebelis, G. (2011). Veto player theory and policy change: An introduction. In Reform processes and policy change (pp. 3–18). New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  30. Weingast, B. R., & Marshall, W. J. (1988). The industrial organization of Congress: Or why legislatures, like firms, are not organized as markets. Journal of Political Economy, 96, 132–163.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.CREM-CNRS and Condorcet Centre for Political EconomyUniversité de Rennes 1RennesFrance
  2. 2.Department of Political StudiesUniversity Roma ‘Tre’RomeItaly
  3. 3.Department of EconomicsUniversity of VeronaVeronaItaly

Personalised recommendations