A Theory of Political Entrenchment

Gilles Saint-Paul, Davide Ticchi, Andrea Vindigni

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Can an incumbent political party increase its chances at re-election by implementing inefficient policies that harm its constituency? This paper studies the possibility of such a phenomenon, which we label political entrenchment. We use a two-party dynamic model of redistribution with probabilistic voting. Political entrenchment by the Left occurs only if incumbency rents are sufficiently high. Low-skill citizens may vote for this party even though they rationally expect the adoption of these policies. We discuss: the possibility of entrenchment by the Right; the scope for commitment to avoid entrenchment policies; and the effect of state capacity, income inequality and party popularity on the likelihood of entrenchment. We illustrate our theory with a number of historical examples.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1238-1263
Number of pages26
JournalEconomic Journal
Issue number593
StatePublished - Jun 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics and Econometrics

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    Saint-Paul, G., Ticchi, D., & Vindigni, A. (2016). A Theory of Political Entrenchment. Economic Journal, 126(593), 1238-1263. https://doi.org/10.1111/ecoj.12215