Discussion paper

DP14499 Bureaucrats under Populism

We explore the consequences of populism for bureaucrats’ incentives by analyzing a model of delegated policy-making between politicians and bureaucrats. Populist leaders prefer loyalist bureaucrats over competent ones, and this leads competent bureaucrats to engage in strategic policy-making: they sometimes feign loyalty to the current incumbent; and they sometimes implement the correct policy even at the cost of being fired. We show that feigning loyalty becomes more likely as the probability of a populist-loyalist combination increases. We also
show that bureaucratic turnover is higher under populists when the bureaucracy is strong and higher under non-populists when the bureaucracy is weak.


Morelli, M and G Sasso (2020), ‘DP14499 Bureaucrats under Populism‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 14499. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp14499