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Calvo and Murillo: Who delivers

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Calvo and Murillo. 2004. Who delivers? Partisan clients in the Argentine electoral market. AJPS 48: 742-57.

Abstract

"Why do some parties fail to benefit from patronage in pork-ridden political systems? This article analyzes the interaction between patronage and partisanship to explain why some incumbents are more likely to benefit from pork politics than others.We explain such differences by focusing on political parties' access to resources (supply side) and voters' dependence on fiscal largesse (demand side).We show how these differences affect the patron's choice of public sector wages and employment. We use subnational level data to show different electoral returns from patronage for the two major political coalitions in Argentina--Peronism and the UCR-Alianza--and their effect on preferences over public sector wages and employment."

Argument

Parties benefit more from clientelism depending on supply and demand. For this article, "patronage" refers to giving public sector jobs to supporters. Note that this implies a lack of civil service reforms. In brief:

  • Supply side: Electoral and fiscal institutions (varying across Argentina's regions) determine how much pork a region's winning party can provide.
  • Demand side: Different parties have different constituencies (i.e. they serve different types of workers and different income groups--and low-income groups are most responsive to small amounts of pork), which affects how much and what kind of pork is demanded.
  • Supply and demand interact so that different parties have different opportunities to benefit from patronage and pork.

Supply Side

Some parties have an advantage in supplying patronage. In Argentina, electoral rules overrepresent rural areas (much like the Senate in the US overrepresents unpopulous states). Thus, although the Peronists and their main rivals (the Radicals) are competitive in presidential elections, the Peronists actually control a disproportionate number of local governments (because the Peronists have their support in the more numerous rural provinces). As such, the Peronists have more access to patronage.

In Argentina, the central government raises all taxes, then shares the revenues with the provinces according to a standard formula. The rural provinces get more than their share--again, this gives the Peronists greater access to patronage.

Demand Side

When giving out government jobs, parties face a trade-off: They can give a few high-paid jobs to high-skilled workers, or they can give lots of less-paid jobs to less-skilled workers (note that workers don't value public jobs unless there is a wage premium). The Radicals have lots of middle-class and upper-class supporters; they're not going to be very attracted to a public sector job unless it pays well. But the Peronists have lots of poor supporters. As a result of this difference in demand, the Peronists can use patronage to buy off lots more supporters than the Radicals can.

And as Figure 1 (p 744) shows, the biggest public-sector wage premiums go to people with 5-10 years of education--the less-skilled people who tend to be Peronists.