A protectionist bias in majoritarian politics

Gene M. Grossman, Elhanan Helpman

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

90 Scopus citations


We develop a novel model of campaigns, elections, and policy-making in which the ex ante objectives of national party leaders differ from the ex post objectives of elected legislators. This generates a distinction between "policy rhetoric" and "policy reality" and introduces an important role for "party discipline" in the policy-making process. We identify a protectionist bias in majoritarian politics. When trade policy is chosen by the majority delegation and legislators in the minority have limited means to influence choices, the parties announce trade policies that favor specific factors, and the expected tariff or export subsidy is positive. Positions and expected outcomes monotonically approach free trade as party discipline strengthens.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1239-1282
Number of pages44
JournalQuarterly Journal of Economics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 2005


FundersFunder number
National Science FoundationSES 0211748
United States-Israel Binational Science Foundation2002132


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