Election cycles of economic policy measures: An empirical test of the votemaximizing hypothesis.
A special characteristic of the economic theory of democracy lies in the assumption of the behaviour of politicians: they are not as much striving for the advancement of public interest but display much rather a behaviour of utility maximization. It is their goal to win the next elections. Public preferences are taken into consideration only because voters seem to favour the political party whose election pledge most closely corresponds to their own ideas. Assuming further that voters are forgetful, we can derive the hypothesis that governments set popular (i.e. vote capturing) economic policy measures ahead of elections and unpopular ones right afterwards. In this paper we test this hypothesis using the increase of political prices and the development of certain categories of public expenditure as explanatory variables.
Administered prices and public tariffs proved greatly dependent upon the timing of elections. For all of the tariffs under examination a statistically significant predominance of increases (unpopular) could be observed shortly after elections. The extent of the increase, however, does not appear to have any correlation with the election date.
As to popular government expenditures, only subsidies have been paid clearly in line with election cycles in the period under consideration.
As to further spending categories, our hypothesis appears to be directionally confirmed, yet the data available is infufficient for a statistically significant proof. Besides, especially in the case of Austria, other factors seem to be important in the determination of economic policy measures as well. Some reasons are given in this paper.