DP13919 Politsplaining: Populism Breeds Populism

Author(s): Hans Gersbach, Laurin Köhler-Schindler
Publication Date: August 2019
Keyword(s): Politsplaining - Populism - Elections
JEL(s): D72, D78, D83, H11
Programme Areas: Public Economics
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=13919

We suggest a particular notion of populism. A populist is a politician who engages in so-called "politsplaining": He explains complex developments and assigns weights to potential causes and potential remedies as it best suits his objectives. We present a simple model of politsplaining in which two candidates compete for office. The income of citizens is affected by two shocks (say automation and globalization), but citizens only observe the joint shock impact and cannot identify which shocks occur. By using politsplaining, a candidate turns into a populist and he can reallocate beliefs about the causes of income shocks in the society. This results in two types of consequences. First, a populist may be able to form a majority for measures that are not only inefficient, but are applied in areas in which the underlying cause is not present. Second, a populist forces the other candidate to become populist, but the two populists are not offsetting each other.