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We consider the optimal choice set of candidates standing for elected office. The decision dimensions are in the number of candidates standing for election, the experiential base of the candidates standing for election as measured by the length of prior experience held by the candidates, and the proportion of candidates with such prior experience. We find that while there are benefits that accrue to having a larger choice, the optimal number of candidates is strictly finite. Second, to justify an increase in the optimal length of prior experience requires strong increases in the ratio of benefits that accrue from additional experience to the cost of abuse of privilege. The conditions under which an increase in the length of prior experience can be justified are where the cost associated with abuse of privilege is negligible. This would require the development of appropriate formal (legal and constitutional) and informal (civil society) institutions that ensure that abuse of office remains negligible. Finally, we allow the number of electoral candidates, the length of their prior experience, as well as the proportion of candidates with experience to vary. Under this choice problem optimal pairings of length of experience and the proportion of candidates with prior experience may not exist. Hence, societies may be condemned to suboptimality even should the political system prove to be amenable to change, rendering disaffection endemic to the political system. Copyright 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

DOI identifier: 10.1111/j.1468-0343.2009.00354.x
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