Prof. Bryan Caplan

Econ 410


HW#3 Answer Key


1.  If the SIVH were correct, how would the policy views of the U.S. President, one of Virginia's Senators, and the House Representative for Fairfax predictably differ? (2-3 sentences)


As long as the federal government were paying the bills, the Fairfax representative would want lots of spending for Fairfax; the Virginia Senators would want lots for Virginia, but would not especially favor Fairfax.  The President's concern for Virginia, in contrast, would depend critically upon the size of his majority in Virginia and the probability that Virginia's electoral votes will be decisive.  On average, you would expect the President to care less about Virginia than its Senators, and much less about Fairfax than its representative.


2.  It frequently happens that two senators who represent  the same state disagree.  Is there any way for the Median Voter Theorem to explain this? (2-3 sentences)


On the surface, it looks quite hard to explain this.  Regardless of your account of voter motivation, it seems as if both senators must cater to the same electorate.  However, it should be noted that senators are frequently elected in different years.  They serve 6-year terms, and 1/3 of all senators face an election every 2 years.  So one explanation for senator disagreement is that even though they legally represent the same state, they were selected by slightly different groups of voters.


3.  Pick one country other than the U.S. that you know something about.  Why does it have policies that differ from those in the U.S.?  (2-3 sentences)


Take Canada.  It has higher taxes, more socialized medicine, and more labor market regulation than the U.S., but weaker discrimination and anti-drug laws.  Voter preferences provide the simplest explanation: Canadians are more in favor of "Big Government" than Americans, but they are less worried about discrimination (the minority population of Canada is much smaller), and are less interesting in fighting marijuana use.  Canadian politicians adjust their platforms accordingly.


4.  Suppose the U.S. switched to proportional representation in the House of Representatives.  How would the partisan make-up of Congress change?  How would policy change? (3-4 sentences)


The partisan make-up would definitely change: the Green Party would have some representatives, as would the Reform Party.  The Libertarian Party might get one or two.  In fact, non-traditional parties would probably gain more than their current vote shares suggest, because many sympathizers say they "don't want to waste their vote."  However, I doubt policy would change much.  The non-traditional parties would spend a lot of time complaining, but would be too few in number to change much (and in any case would tend to cancel each other out).


5.  Name one policy of the federal government that you believe a majority of Americans oppose.  How does this policy survive? (2-3 sentences)


Most Americans believe that we spend too much on foreign aid.  In part, though, policy has been moving in the popular direction: foreign aid has been declining as a percentage of the U.S. budget for a long time.  Why doesn't it fall more rapidly?  My best guess is that this would damage politicians' reputations in elite circles - journalism, academia, etc., where foreign aid is much more popular.  Politicians who called for abolition of foreign aid would gain some votes directly; but they would indirectly lose even more by alienating journalists, academics, and other groups who "have the ear" of the general public.


6.  Try to explain why Social Security is such a popular program.  What is your model of voter motivation?  SIVH, sociotropic voting, or what? (3-4 sentences)


It is hard to see this as anything other than sociotropic voting.  Support for SS is not very ideological - it has bipartisan support.  It isn't self-interested - young people who don't expect to collect still support it.  It looks like people basically think "It is best for society if we take proper care of the elderly."