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The Politics of Asymmetric Extremism

Paper Number: 1455
Creation Date: 07/26/2019

In real-world policymaking, concrete and viable policy alternatives do not just appear out of thin air; they must be developed by someone with both the expertise and willingness to do so. We develop a model that explores the implications of strategic policy development by ideologically motivated actors, who craft competing high quality policies for a decisionmaker. We find that the process is characterized by unequal participation, inefficiently unpredictable and extreme outcomes, wasted effort, and an apparent bias toward extreme policies. When one proposer becomes asymmetrically extreme or capable they develop more extreme proposals, while their competitor moderates their proposals, increasingly declines to participate, and is harmed. Despite this, the decisionmaker benefits due to the increasing quality investments of the more extreme or capable proposer. The model thus provides rationale for why an ideologically extreme faction may come to dominate policymaking that is rooted in the nature of productive policy competition.

Paper Length: 52